Downgrading from a 4 bedroom, 2-bathroom house to a small 2356mm x 5267mm x 2175mm van is bound to feel intimidating. But with careful planning and preparation, there’s a place for everything.
Renee is a 33-year-old wedding planner and coordinator from Australia. Her van life journey began in November 2019, after she embarked on an adventure with a couple of friends who live in vans full-time. Eventually, she arrived home at her 4-bedroom, 2-bathroom, house on a hill and started thinking ‘why am I living in a house? How does this house serve me?’. Soon after, Renee decided that she wanted to follow in her friends’ footsteps by converting to a nomadic life.
So that’s exactly what she did. Renee sold her house and purchased a Mercedes Benz Sprinter van, which she’s named SaVANnah. She’s been living in the van full time since April 2020 and loves being able to wake up in a new location every morning. Renee felt trapped in her old life, but living in a van has provided her a new sense of purpose.
The fit-out process started in January 2020. Renee designed and built the van with the help of Tiny Home Campers. She says it was a pretty expensive build, so she was determined to ensure it exceeded all of her expectations. Her top tip is to take your time and plan everything. She spent months writing down what she needed, what she wanted, and what was non-negotiable. As part of this process, she even kept a log of everything inside her home and how often she used it. This helped her to plan exactly what she needed to buy for the van.
If you’re apprehensive about taking the plunge and converting to van life, Renee’s best advice is to get out of your own way. While she was in the process of deciding whether to sell her home and buy a van, Renee noticed herself being overly critical. When she took a step back and actually looked at her reasons, she realised she was making excuses. You only have one life, so if van life is something you want to do, then just go for it!
Follow Renee on Instagram: @the_perfect_van_plan
- Mercedes Benz Sprinter 414 Long Wheelbase and High Roof.
- Fully loaded she weighs 4060kg.
Kitchen and Appliances
- Microwave – Renee hates cooking, so having a microwave in her van was very important to her.
- 2-burner hob.
- Fridge freezer.
- Overhead cupboard.
- 2 x 3-seater sofas – Allows Renee to have guests over for dinner, host games nights, etc. The seats fold into a double bed, which is where Renee sleeps. She’s grateful that she decided to go for a foldable rather than a fixed bed because it allows for extra space and functionality.
- Moveable table – The tabletop sits atop a metal pole, it is lifted off to form the base of the bed. Two runners on each side of the tabletop allow it to be pushed all the way over to one side. This means Renee can easily walk down the whole length of the van. She came up with this design because she didn’t want to feel like you have to squeeze to get past.
- 4 x overhead cupboards.
- Toilet – Renee’s toilet is similar to a standard caravan toilet. The removable tank sits inside the long cupboard in her hallway. The toilet is for liquids only, no solids. It flushes like a normal toilet bar from the fact that you cannot flush toilet paper.
- The interior of the bathroom is lined with waterproof sheeting from Bunnings.
Power and Electrical
- USB ports
- 240v plug sockets
- 600-watt solar array
- 200 Ah Lithium batteries
- 1600w Inverter
- 40-amp DC 2 DC
- 45-amp solar controller
- Enerdrive ePro battery monitor.
Heating and Cooling
- No windows – Unlike most other vans, Renee purposely designed her van to have no windows. This is because camping laws in Australia are quite restrictive. If you park a campervan overnight in a parking lot, you’re likely to be handed a hefty fine. Therefore, Renee wanted her van to be as discrete as possible. The absence of windows means that from the outside it looks like a regular van, rather than a camper.
- Maxx Air Vent – In summer, Australia can reach soaring temperatures. So Renee needed to think of a way to keep her van cool without relying on windows. She decided to install a Maxx air vent onto the roof of her van. The fan has a built-in rain sensor, so if Renee has the vent open at night and it starts to rain while she is asleep, it will automatically close.
- Sirocco 360 Fan – This sits on the wall on an adjustable hinge so you can direct it wherever you want. It also features a lock system to prevent it from moving while you’re driving.
- Carmec hot water system.
- 110kg fresh water.
- 60kg greywater.
- Water monitoring system – This handy little dashboard tells Renee how much water she has in each tank, which gives her plenty of time to plan refills.
Cabinetry and Finishes
- Electronic magnets – Renee was conscious about ruining the aesthetic of her van by tying her cupboards with bungees. Instead, she put electronic magnets on all of the heavy drawers and cupboards to prevent them from opening while she’s on the move.
- Pine doors – Renee built her bathroom door and 2 tiny cupboard doors with treated pine wet fence paneling from Bunnings.
- Floor-to-ceiling cupboard.
- Wardrobe – This features a rail across the top for Renee’s clothes. Along the bottom, she stores excess food items.
- 2 x tiny cupboards underneath the sofas – These store electrical cords and extension leads.
- Shoebox – This is intended to store muddy shoes. Renee didn’t want mud trailing through her van when she comes back from muddy walks.
- Fake grass step – This helps to remove sand from your feet and shoes.
To watch the full tour of Renee's van, check out my YouTube channel: