How to do a half (kick) ass van build

Vansion Build: Phase One
Anything worth doing is worth doing right. This is exactly why I decided to do an incredible half ass van build for phase one. Let me explain. This phase of the van build will take us just a few thousand miles over the next three months. A perfect dry run period to learn some things about our currently desired layout. Before Lisa gets carried away with power tools and hacking holes in my van for windows and vent fans, we would like to make absolutely SURE that’s what we want.

Empty Soup Can
The shell of the van I bought resembled more of an empty tin can than anything else. I’ve been told I’m hung like a soup can, so Vaniel and I initially had that in common…. Anywho, a tin can bumping down the road makes a considerable racket, especially when you are INSIDE it. What to do about this? Sound dampening! We used 80mil Noico butyl sound deadener from Amazon. Cut it into strips with kitchen shears and firmly applied it with a roller to the ceiling, walls and wheel wells. A few hours of this and my forearms were nice and swoll. A side benefit is that my soup can is now tin and butyl! Maybe Lisa and I won’t have to scream to hear each other while driving down less than perfectly paved roads.

van build sound deadening

Insulate and Suffocate
Goal: Keep warm in the winter and cool in the summer while ensuring the air’s moisture from Lisa’s mouth breathing, along with my ripe farts, don’t condensate on the walls of the van and create rust over time. I chose 1″ thick polyiso insulation and Great Stuff spray foam to achieve this result. While I created cardboard templates to fit the panels of the van, Lisa cut the insulation to fit. Before firing up my giant silly string gun, we temped everything into place with wood to ensure everything could be held securely into place while the foam cures. Once you start spray foaming, you gotta move quickly and finish the job before it cures inside your gun and clogs it all up.

Using the Great Stuff Pro Gun was a TON of fun. I applied the Great Stuff to the insulation across the top, sides and in vertical strips. This ensures that any moisture that condensates on the interior surface of the van’s metal can weep out the bottom. Wait a few minutes for the foam to cure and then remove the temporary wood. Spray foam was then applied to the tops and sides at the perimeter of the polyiso boards. This bridges the gap between the insulation and the van’s structural members, arguably creating a continuous vapor barrier at the insulation’s interior surface, thus minimizing the likelihood of condensation. Science yo! As for the roof fans to push my methane gas from the van? Sorry, Lisa that’s part of the Phase 2 build!

Tractors and Foam
I went into Tractor Supply Co and bought aluminum loading ramps. I almost bought some overalls too but they didn’t have my flavor. Some fasteners, lumber, an Amazon foam mattress and voilĂ ! Now we have a sweet low profile bed and room for toys below. The Promaster has plenty of girth….or width whatever you wanna call it. The beauty in this is we can fit our full size mattress sideways instead of front to back, saving lots of precious space in the van. SUCK IT Sprinter Snobs!

Piss and Shit
Dig a hole, hit a rest stop, pee behind a tree (Yup, Lisa does it too!). Sometimes, however, #2 calls when your vanmate is sleeping and you are boondocking on the side of a public road. I’ve witnessed Seattle’s homeless pinching a loaf on the side of the road. We may not have a flushing toilet, but we aren’t savages. Porta potty to the rescue! Yes, it’s exactly what you are thinking. Same blue water as the one you recently destroyed at that music festival but much, much smaller. It’s called a Camco 5.3 gallon travel toilet. $60 shipped from Amazon. We will play paper, rock, scissors to decide who gets to empty it every week. Also, I built a little plywood box for it 🙂

Hydrate and Nourish:
6 gallon plastic jug and MSR 10 liter dromedary/solar shower for water. We top these off whenever we get a chance from a hose or whatever. The jug fills our camel baks, water bottles and is used for cooking while the dromedary is hung from one of the side doors and is used for cleaning our dishes and our bodies. We are told if we leave the dromedary out in the sun all day, it will get nice and warm for a shower….TBD. Our previous cooler was a total joke. It melted ice faster than the desert sun and the lid collapsed every time I sat my healthy white ass down on it. The Coleman 70qt Xtreme was recommended as a value by outdoorgearlab……and it looks pretty bad ass. We have more luxurious plans for the Phase 2 van build, but we will get by with this for a while!

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Oh, That’s Cute!
All this is for nothing if it’s not aesthetically appealing. If I don’t get 100 likes on Insta, I’m gonna throw a fit, rip it all out and start all over. Anyone who knows me, knows @white_ninja_colin (take me seriously!), and knows how sensitive I am to my loyal social media audience. But really, once we decided Phase 1 build was functional AF we decided it was actually pretty cute too….so we made it even cuter! The little details make this project fun to build and fun to share.

Preventing Panty Explosions
As Lisa explained in her post, I had panties hanging from my ears after slamming on the brakes last time. We love using the big plastic bins for organizing, but they need to stay put. To prevent future panty explosions, Lisa and I developed and implemented a proprietary technology we like to call the “cleat method”. Fortunately, the cargo flooring that came with the van will be replaced during the phase 2 build. This allows us to screw whatever we want down to the floor without worrying about swiss cheesing the floor with holes. For securing shelving etc. to the walls, we are are using a  ratchet strap, bungee cords and some zip ties.

Will it Work?
Like it or not, we are van dwellers now. Do your best and fake the rest. Or as they said in my previous line of work, do your best and caulk the rest! There will be lessons to learn along the way, and the point of this initial trip is to take note of each and implement them into our Phase 2 van build.

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Author: Colin

The man with the plan. Rock climber, hiker, map-lover, main driver. Official planner of our time with Vaniel. Favorite Podcast: The Sharp End.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Spinach Nipples says:

    God you look good in that shower

  2. AJ says:

    Is that piss or franzia in that bag your holding… loving phase 1 – edge of my seat.. can’t wait for more.

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