The layout of my van was based on lots of research and my general needs. For the main part it will be one to two people travelling in my van. The van can take three people legally so I wanted to have the potential to sleep three if I really needed it.
The Bed To start with I was looking at a fold-away beds but, I changed my mind and went for a fixed bed for the following reasons;
The bed in my van makes a great social hang-out space
A fixed bed means I can just buy the same Ikea double mattress I used to have – I really liked the firmness and its not too expensive. A proper mattress – what a luxury!
The van is primarily for sleeping, therefore my main aim is to have a van good for sleeping
If I want to eat around a table – I can do this outside. Mostly I plan to be spending time in nice natural environments. Actually having been on the road for a few months now, even when I had a couple of other climbers hanging out – we just ate in the van as it was cold outside! It was totally fine and the bed makes a nice place to hang out and watch movies anyway.
I do not want to have to assemble and take down my bed every day.
Having a permanent bed means underneath the bed is solid storage space – this means you do not have to have cupboards on the ceiling. This keep the weight distribution low (nice for taking corners) and more importantly it makes the van feel less cluttered. Its a nice clean space.
Under bed storage – apart from the battery and electronics area it gives a significant amount of space.
If you are shorter you can probably go for a side-to-side bed, but mine is long ways. I wanted to put ‘lean on’ cupboards down the side – plus the Transit is not wide enough for me to sleep width-ways. Some panel vans are wider so it is an option depending on what you choose.
Where you put your window/s will define some of the other elements of your design. As I wanted to keep my van stealthy I chose to only put in one other window. This is opposite the sliding door meaning that I can see out both sides of the van when it is open.
I chose not to put windows in the back doors – it is just tell-tale of a camper van so I decided not to go there. plus I wanted it to feel really cosy in the sleeping area.
Fewer windows also means you can better insulate the van.
Kitchen unit position
Again you have lots of choices but I put mine where I did for the following reasons;
Filling LPG; having the kitchen unit by the slider door means I can easily put the LPG filler nozzle on the side where I fill up with diesel.
I wanted to have the recliner chair beside the window – it is nice to sit there with the view!
I can have the kitchen unit over hang the step by a few inches – making a little more out of the space I have in the van (note you cannot have it too close to the slider door or you cannot get to the handle!)
Probably one of the more ‘discussed’ aspects of my layout is the fact that I have separated the cab out of the van interior. Many people keep this open and have a swivelling ‘captains’ chair (or two) giving them more seating and giving the van a larger area. When done well this can make the whole van feel more spacious and can be a good option for a van conversion.
That said this does come with it’s downsides;
The front of the van gets really hot. It is basically a mini greenhouse and the effect of this can make the whole van much hotter in summer and colder in winter.
To counteract this people put big foil things in the window to reduce the heat.. but they only work partially
The big foil things are not stealthy at all
You have to put big foil things in the windows every time you park in the sun (which will be required for the solar panel)
Blocking out the light coming in during the mornings when you want to sleep and stopping light getting out when you are stealth camping is much harder
Having a divided bulkhead gives me the following advantages;
Stealthier look – all the time
No daily put-in/take out insulation from the sun
By cutting the cab out of the living space the van it does not feel like you are living inside a van – I find this really nice
It is easy to make it dark and no light escapes through to the cab
I have an insulated slider panel so, if I want to access the cab without going outside, let more light in or let the sun warm up the van on a cold day – it is easy to do so
The windows in the cab not only heat up the van – but they are a great way to loose your precious heat in winter. Not for me!
The windows in the front do not get condensated as much (from moisture created in the living space) making leaving to drive in cold weather a bit easier
It is nice to let the cab get nice and hot to dry towels or heat up a solar shower without leaving things outside
Security is improved; you cannot get in to the body of the van from the cab – typically the easiest part to break into
I can put the kitchen and recliner chair in the locations that I wanted
Saves money – swivel chairs are expensive
The downsides are just to do with the overall space and seating – but the efficiency it allows, and the position I can now put the kitchen pretty much makes up for it in my eyes.
Plus, I really do love that it does not feel like a van when you are inside.