I’ve been fielding quite a few questions about the van conversion lately.
Things like what is it, who did it, what are my must haves, what wasn’t I so keen on. And, of course, what modifications have we made so far.
I figured I’d chuck all the answers in this post and then I can just keep adding stuff as we go along 🙂
What sort of van is it?
It’s a 2016 VW Transporter T6 LWB 4 Motion auto with a pop top.
We bought it already converted from Gumtree, it was owned by a guy in Sydney who had the fit out done by Campervans Australia in Albion Park Rail near Wollongong.
The reasons we chose this particular van.
It had anchor points for two child seats which was a must have as our two kids are still too young for a booster seat.
It fits into a normal car space which was also a must as it doubles as my every day run around car too so it has to be able to do shopping and preschool etc.
It sleeps four and seats four which seems to be as rare as hens teeth, weirdly. There were heaps that slept four and seated two which makes no sense. Unless you are inviting other campers in once you get to the campsite I guess, which isn’t the plan.
It’s a 4 motion so it can go a little more offroad than your standard two wheel drive and I liked the idea of it being less likely that I would get bogged when I was solo with the kids somewhere a little further out.
What do I love about the van?
I can stand up comfortably and cook when the roof is popped.
There are three large flyscreen windows in the pop top which let in a heap of fresh air and light and keep the mozzies out.
I don’t have to share my bed with the kids! They sleep up in the roof and I sleep downstairs in the fold out bed where the back seats are. It also means they can be asleep upstairs while I potter around downstairs with the lights on without disturbing them.
The fact that it fits into a regular car space.
It’s diesel so I get about 800kms out of a tank which means less stopping for fuel. Awesome when you are on a mission and/or your kids have crashed out in the back.
It’s a 4 Motion so it can get a little bit off road.
The passenger seat is a captains chair so I can spin it around and use it as my work nook once the kids are asleep.
It a 2016 model, not quite as photogenic as the old Kombi’s this is true but it’s so good not worrying about breaking down!
I can get from the drivers seat to the back, and vice versa, without having to get out which is awesome when it’s raining or you are somewhere you don’t feel safe and just want to get outta there quickly.
The awning is a Fiamma F45 S and it’s super easy and quick to set up and pack up by myself.
It has reversing sensors that beep which makes it heaps easier to park then a small car with no sensors. Just back up slowly until it beeps and bingo, you’re in.
There’s a shower at the back which is perfect for rinsing off grubby kids before bed. The tank only holds 50 litres of water so if you don’t have access to water you have to be pretty careful with using it but it does make things easier.
What didn’t/don’t I love about the van.
The microwave and the space it took up. It was stashed in it’s own cubby hole and to be honest, we aren’t plugged into power enough to actually use it.
The TV and the space it took up. As above, it was on the bench and took up so much space. Its also got in the way of using the tap so I got rid of it. I figure if we get the urge to watch something on the road we can use the laptop.
Having to set up and pack away the beds every time we stop for the night. I do gaze longingly at the amazing pictures on Insta and dream of the day that the beds can be set up permanently. At the moment though, it’s a price I’m willing to pay to have a smaller vehicle that I can get around in easily by myself.
The fact that the water pump and the hot water system were on the same switch which meant that every time I wanted to use the tap I had to also start heating water which smashed through the charge in the batteries.
The motorised roof lifting mechanism. It was awesome until it blew out while I was a couple of hundred kms from home and the roof got stuck down.
The solar panels on the roof are awesome but they are also fixed so if I wanted to park in shade the batteries would run low after about 24 hours. It also meant that once the sun had shifted half way through the day we got no more charge until the next day as the angle of the roof is so steep.
The gap between the awning and the van was big enough to let a heap of water pour into the van when the sliding door was open.
The fact that we have to pull the car seats out to make the bed up and then of course, put them all back in again before we drive off. This is one of the things I’m not going to be able to change and it’s definitely worth keeping in mind when you are deciding on your set up.
Now I understand why people get around with a small tow vehicle, it used to confuse the hell outta me but I tell you what, being able to jump in a car and drive away from camp without packing the whole camp up would be AMAZING.
What have we added or modified so far…
We added a bed rail upstairs.
The plan was always to sleep the kids up top and us downstairs but we couldn’t do this in the beginning as they were so little and we couldn’t risk having them fall out overnight.
We had a friend build a bed rail into the base of the bed in the roof. Absolutely game changing!
Now I can have them asleep up top and still potter around downstairs without waking them up. Have a look at how we did it by reading how we added the bed rail.
Microwave and TV-
We got the microwave and the TV taken out straight away and created a whole lot of extra space.
We aren’t plugged into power enough to use the microwave very often and we don’t have either of these things in our house anyway so it was a no brainer. We gained a whole lot of bench space and a wine cupboard too 🙂
Manual Lift Roof –
After the catastrophe with the roof mechanisms carking it I had it turned back into a manual lift when popping the roof. So much better.
Now I don’t have to worry about getting stuck in the middle of nowhere with the roof stuck up or down.
12 Volt Fan –
This has been a relatively new addition and I wish I was onto it earlier!
We got the Sirocco II Cabin Fan – 3 Speed – 12V / 24V – 18cm (White) from CaravansPlus and added an extra long cable so it can be moved around the van while plugged in.
It uses hardly any power and has a timer so you can set it to switch off a few hours after you crash out.
Portable Solar Panel –
This is another new addition and probably one of the best so far.
We have added another 100W of solar with a long extension cord that allows me to catch the sun wherever it is for the whole day.
It also means that I can park it in the shade when it’s hot and still charge the batteries.
I got a KICKASS 100W 12V Portable Solar Panel & Solar Charger, like the fan it’s not the cheapest option but I’m glad we paid a bit more as it works a treat. Love it.
Portable loo –
This was one of those things I swore I wasn’t going to do and then I did and I wish I went there sooner.
We grabbed the Thunder Down Under from BCF for about $40 and I buy the biodegradable bags and sachets online from Tentworld.
The sachets turns three litres of liquid into gel and cancels out odours too.
The whole set up has been a lifesaver with two kids who I have had to toilet train on the road.
We put a rubber gutter between the awning and the van to stop the rain pouring in when the sliding door is open.
The one we got was similar to this Fiamma awning rain guard. There was a fair bit of silicon involved but so far so good.
Plastic Tubs –
I was originally going to get a big built in drawer under the bed at the back but when I went down to the guy who was doing it for me he gave me some sound advice, to use plastic tubs instead.
This covers a couple of bases, as well as being a whole lot cheaper than the original plan.
I can carry the tubs in and out of the house when I am packing and unpacking or when I rock up at a friends place which makes it a whole lot easier. I have no idea how I was planning on getting everything to the drawer in the first place.
The tubs also double as a kids bath, esky and wet clothes storage among other things.
Tailgate Tent –
This was another game changer.
I had an issue with space to put the kids car seats once I had taken them out and set up the bed. They fit under the awning and I can use them as camp chairs for the kids but they were taking up too much space when we set up long term.
Now I can stash the kids seats and the loo in the rear tent and everything stays dry and out of the way.
It also creates a little more space and airflow in the van as you can leave the back door open while you sleep without getting eaten by bugs.
I got the tailgate tent from Southern Spirit Campervans in Brisbane.
What’s still on my wish list?
Mozzie Screens –
I recently got a mozzie screen for the back door but i haven’t used it yet so the jury is out, I’ll keep you posted.
Now I would really like two for the front door windows and one for the sliding door.
Hanging Fruit Basket –
I always have the issue of wanting to keep my fruit out of the fridge cos the space is limited but then not wanting to jam it in the cupboard either.
At the moment I put it in a fruit bowl but the lack of air flow combined with the temp in the van means it all spoils really quickly.
I bought this hanging fruit net/basket thing the other day but haven’t yet worked out what to attach it to.
Fly Screen Awning Cover –
I’ve been holding off on this as I try to limit the amount of stuff that I have to carry around and pack and unpack each time.
In saying that, I reckon this would be awesome to have when we are setting up for a while in one spot and we want to hang outside without getting eaten alive.
I think having little kids, one of whom reacts badly to mozzies is what has kept it on the list so far even though it might be a bit of gear overkill.
I would love to hear of anything that you added to your set up that was a game changer, let me know in the comments below…
Same goes for if you have any more questions about our set up, fire away!
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Thanks for the great info, what about push-bike racks?
No worries 🙂 You got me there! They are on my wish list and I forgot to add them. Still trying to work out if and how we can fit 4 bikes somewhere. To be continued…