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  • Nate Murphy

Shane’s Beautifully Hand-Crafted Wooden 2013 Mercedes Sprinter Van Conversion

Do you ever feel trapped in your current lifestyle, stuck in a monotonous routine of working, eating, sleeping? Do you long for a more purposeful life?

All of us joke about selling our belongings and starting again, but what if I told you it’s easier than you’d expect?

About Shane

Shane has always been a go-getter. By the age of 19, he’d quit college and found a full-time job. By 25, he’d bought his own house. From an outsider’s perspective, he had everything – a stable job, a car, a house, dogs. But he was deeply unhappy.

After years battling against anxiety, depression and PTSD, Shane decided he’d had enough. He felt that a lot of his issues were linked to living in a house, he felt trapped. You see, in 2012 Shane lost his home to Hurricane Sandy. At the time he was completely devastated. He’s determined to never find himself in that situation again.

So, right before his 30thbirthday, Shane decided to take the plunge and sell his house. With the money, he bought a 2013 Mercedes Sprinter 170” extended van. Almost instantly, he started to reap the benefits of nomadic life. He wanted to go out into the world and find himself. The van gave him that opportunity.

As it stands, Shane has been living in his van for around 1 year and he has no plans to return to his former lifestyle. Right now his main focus is his podcast, which aims to inspire others to get out of the routines they’re stuck in.

Follow Shane on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/shane.dennnis/

Follow Shane on TikTok: https://www.tiktok.com/@shane.dennis

Listen to Shane’s Podcast: https://anchor.fm/shane115/

Check out his van conversion website: https://dogwoodconversions.com/

Specifications

  • 2013 Mercedes Sprinter 170″ Extended Van

  • 152,000 miles

Kitchen and Appliances

  • Sink– The sink is small but deep enough to fit all of his pots and pans.

  • Butcher block countertops– Shane is an avid cook and worked as a chef for around 3 years, so it was important for him to have a lot of counter space. Therefore, he chose 1½ inch thick butcher blocks. He thought these would compliment the Cedarwood he used for the cupboards.

  • 120-volt fridge– Initially Shane had a Dometic 12V DC fridge. However, he quickly realised it wasn’t big enough for his needs. He was having to go to the store every three or four days, which was restricting his ability to go completely off-grid. For this reason, he upgraded to a bigger fridge that can hold enough food for around 2 weeks. The only downside is that the new fridge is 120V, so it runs off the inverter.

Sleeping

  • Sofa bed– To maximise space, Shane opted for a sofa that converts into a queen-sized bed. To make the bed, he pulls out a runner of wooden slats from underneath the couch and then folds down the four-inch memory foam sofa cushion. Shane is six foot and he says there’s plenty of room in the bed for him plus his two dogs.

Power and Electrical

  • USB outlets

  • LED spotlights– These are controlled via light switches located on the side of the sofa base. The lights are on individual circuits, so Shane has full control over how many he wants to be turned on or off.

  • Inverter

  • 3 x 100-amp hour batteries

  • 4 x 100-watt solar panels– Located on the roof of his van, the solar panels generate more than enough electricity for Shane’s fridge, lights, and everything else that he uses daily.

  • Renogy Adventurer Solar Charge Controller.

Heating and Cooling

  • Maxx Air Fan– This remote-controlled fan can be used to push hot air out and pull cold air in. With the window open and the fan going, the van can maintain a nice breeze. Although Shane prefers to cook outside, the Maxx air fan can also act as a ventilator when he’s cooking inside.

Water System

  • 30-gallon water tank

Storage

  • Overhead wooden cupboards

  • Floor-to-ceiling cupboard

Cabinetry and Finishes

  • Cedarwood cupboards– Shane chose to use Cedarwood in his van because it’s lightweight, repels insects and has a nice smell. He also loves the visual appeal of the knots.

  • Mercury mosaic tiles– These teal-coloured mermaid tiles are Shanes favourite part of the van. He designed the entire kitchen around them and even chose matching sofa cushions.

  • White tiles– At first, Shane considered putting the teal mermaid tiles all the way around the van, but he was worried it would be too intense. On the adjacent side of the van, therefore, he opted for plain white rectangular tiles.

  • Bamboo ceiling– After many hours staring at the ceiling, Shane decided to create a roof using bamboo as he’d never seen it done before. His roof is made from square bamboo mats, which can be easily removed to allow access to the wiring or ceiling space.

Exterior

  • Water spigot– If Shane needs to wash, he attaches a hose to the spigot and uses it as an outside shower.

Special Features

  • Camp stove– Instead of a traditional oven or stove top, Shane cooks most of his food outside on a camp stove.

  • Dog corner– Shane decided to keep the back of the van open so that his dogs have somewhere to play. This back corner is where he stores their toys, food and water bowls.

Pros of Van Life

  • Flexibility– For Shane, having the ability to wake up and drive anywhere he wants has done wonders for his mental health. The other week, for instance, he missed the ocean – so he got up and drove to the ocean. That’s all there was too it.

Cons of Van Life

  • Water– Finding a water source has proven to be trickier than expected. With time, Shane has got better at spotting water spigots, but he still sometimes struggles. Typically, he has to rely on glacier stations, which aren’t ideal because he has to manually fill up his water tank using 5-gallon jugs.

  • Sleeping– Sometimes it can be difficult to find a legal place to sleep. Shane mostly sleepy in national forests. He’s been living in the van for 1 year, and has had good and bad experiences. During his first week he chose to sleep in a Walmart parking lot, but in the middle of the night he was woken up by some young kids banging on his van, which was pretty terrifying.

  • Solar power– If you’re in cloudy or rainy climates, it can be difficult to generate a good amount of solar panel.

To see the full van tour, check out my YouTube channel:


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© 2019 Nate Murphy

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