The Best Way To Make Your Van Into a Simple Camper

Updated on March 21, 2018
Titia profile image

Titia travels in the summer on business and spends nights camping on farms in her van. She has a system for van camping that works.

Turning My Van into a Temporary Camper

We own a 13-year-old Ford Transit Van with a double high roof, which we use for all kind of things and one of them is using it as a one person camper. I'm a sheep breeder and an inspector of our very rare Dutch sheep breed called Drenthe Heath Sheep. In summer (July and August) I have to travel through my country during the weekends to our Association members/breeders to inspect their sheep. So I need sleeping accomodations. As I don't like a hotel or B&B, I turn my big van into a temporary one-person camper. I just love camping; I love to be totally independent and I love nature.

I Travel All Over My Country

On the map below you can see where I have to travel to in my country during the months July and August. Most of these trips involve a more than two hour drive from my home and sometimes a 5 hours drive just to get there. Inspecting sheep the whole day long is exhausting, and I would get in trouble if I had to drive long hours first, then inspect the whole day, and then drive long hours back. I would fall asleep in the car and we don't want that to happen.

As I like to go trout fishing, I always search for a fishing pond in the area where I have to be and then search for a nice small campground nearby. I don't like the big, noisy family camping sites, because they have strict rules on when to arrive and when to leave and most of the time they don't correspond very well with my movements. In The Netherlands, an organization called SVR Camping Sites provides addresses of mini-camping sites at active farms. Those are small sites of 10 to 15 places max, and you can camp either in the meadow or in the orchard. They don't charge much for one night, and all have nice and clean toilets and showers, plus electricity. I just love to camp there.

Map of The Netherlands
Map of The Netherlands

Camping at a Farm

Some farmers in The Netherlands give campers the opportunity to camp on their property. Very often they're still active farmers where the guests can see farm animals like cows, chickens, pigs, sheep and horses.

Then there are the mini-camping sites, run by private persons who happen to have an overload of land.

They all have to play by the rules of the camping law, and they're much cheaper and certainly more peaceful than the big family camping sites.

Most of them are a member of a coordinating organization called "Camping at the Farm." You can become a member by paying them a small fee each year (10 Euros) and then you get a reduced price at all the mini and farm camping sites.

camping at a farm
camping at a farm | Source

Make a 'What Do I Need' List

When you plan to turn your van into a temporary camper, you need to make a 'what do I need' list. What you need depends on how basic you are willing to camp or what form of luxury you think you can't do without.

My 'what do I need' list:

1. Bed

2. Portable toilet

3. Cooler

4. Water container

5. Electricity converter

6. Butane Gas Cooker

7. Pots, cutlery, and cleanng stuff

8. Extra lights

9. Window covers (if you need them)

10. Heater for cold nights

1. A Bed to Sleep In

It Is Easier to Sleep in a Normal Bed

As I am not a young teen anymore and since I have had two hip operations, it is not so easy for me to sleep on a mattress on the floor, because then I have some trouble standing up again.

A couple of years ago I found this lovely small bed, which fits into my van perfectly. The braces (I hope that's the right word) where it stands on, can be folded when I have to stash it when not in use.

A pro for using a regular bed is that you have room underneath to store some stuff.

A normal size bed in my van
A normal size bed in my van | Source

I Used to Take the Dogs with Me

I used to take my dogs and then I used a different kind of bedding because they needed their benches to sleep in. We set the benches apart from each other and put an old flat door on top of it and on top of that I put the mattress. I needed a setup to get into my bed and I had to move slowly, because the benches would move a bit with me, but the dogs got used to that and they loved camping with me.

I don't take them along anymore, because I have to travel in summer and it's getting too hot in the van for the dogs and some camping sites won't allow dogs and most fishing ponds won't allow them and then they had to stay in the van all the time and I didn't like that.

Travelling with the dogs
Travelling with the dogs | Source

2. A Portable Toilet

A Portable Toilet Can Be Very Convenient

Well, you know, once in a while a woman has to go to the room where even the Queen is alone and those rooms are not always directly available when you're travelling on the road. So at one time I stumbled upon this 2.6 gallon portable toilet which I immediately bought and I have used it ever since to my great satisfaction. I love being selfsupporting. Today I even take my portable toilet along when I'm not camping in my Van, just because it can be so convenient at times you know.

When you're planning to buy such a toilet don't forget to buy the necessary chemicals too. You need them to keep your toilet clean.

My portable toilet
My portable toilet | Source

3. A Cooler

You need at least one cooler

An Electric Cooler Is a Must....When Temps Are High

When you're on the road for a couple of days, you need at least one cooler to keep your stuff from getting cooked before its time. I take along two coolers and a whole bunch of ice packs. I use the non-electric cooler for my own stuff and the electric cooler when I catch some trout or salmon. I love to go fishing in between sheep inspection.

The Koolatron P25 26-Quart FunKool Cooler below looks exactly like the electric cooler I use. These coolers can either run on your car battery through a cigarette lighter or on electricity when I'm at a camping site.

Electric Cooler
Electric Cooler | Source

Ice Packs - You'll Need More Than One

I always take a load of ice packs with me, because they keep the cold in much longer. Sometimes I'm lucky to hit a camping place where I can put them in the freezer for the night. Sometimes I fill empty bottles with water and put them in the freezer. They function like ice packs too.

4. A Fresh Water Container

Don't go away without a fresh water tank of some kind

Don't Spare on a Fresh Water Container

A fresh water container is a must when you're travelling long distance and are camping in a Van.

You need it to fill your portable toilet and to clean all kinds of other stuff, so you have to take at least one reasonable size fresh water container with you. Choose one that's not pliable, but rather firm, because it should be able to stand a bit of rough handling.

I use a water container like this 7-Gallon Rigid Water Container only mine has no filter. I've never seen those in my country, but if I had a choice, I would've bought one with a filter. Why? Because you could end up in a situation that you have to drink the water and then it's always safer to have filtered water available.

Water container
Water container | Source

5. An Electricity Converter

Make sure you buy the right one

You Might Need an Electricity Converter

When camping in Europe you need an camping electricity converter in order to be able to get electricity in your camper or van on a camping site. Most camping sites have a lower voltage than the normal 220 in houses in Europe. I don't know if that's the same in the USA or other countries outside of Europe.

I use a normal cable reel and then I need either this converter or they put the cable directly into a socket. I have two cable reels, so I can cover quite a bit of distance, because sometimes the electric point is a bit far from where I can stand.

Electricity converter for camping sites in The Netherlands
Electricity converter for camping sites in The Netherlands | Source

6. A Butane Portable Gas Stove

Portable Butane Gas Stove for Cooking

I used to take only cold food like buns, butter, cheese, some pastry, fruit with me and then in the evening I bought some French fries or something like that, but those were not always available and sometimes I just fancied something hot to eat. So I bought a one pit burner to cook my own hot meal.

I just love my Portable Butane Gas Stove. I can make some hot coco, or boil some eggs and even cook a meal. Sometimes I take a small pack of those pre-baked French fries with me and then bake them in a little frying pan. Then you have baked potatoes in the shape of French fries.

Butane Gas Cooker
Butane Gas Cooker | Source

7. Cutlery and Cleaning Stuff

Don't Forget the Cutlery and Cleaning Stuff

You might think you don't need that much when you go camping for one or two nights, but take it from me, if you don't have it, you sure going to miss it.

I once forgot a spoon and a knife and you don't want to know how I ate my meat and pudding. I use a crate that's always packed with all the things I need. So when I have to go on a trip, I just take that crate and I've all the stuff I need.

Pots, pans and cleaning stuff
Pots, pans and cleaning stuff | Source

8. Lights

Some Extra Lights Might Come in Handy

This van doesn't have much light in the back and if I use the lights too or my car battery will die. At a camping site when I have electricity I take along an old floor lamp so I can read a few pages before going to sleep.

Having some extra flashlights is important when you have to go outside in the middle of the night. I always carry at least one, but two is better.

Lamps
Lamps | Source

9. Window Covers

You Don't Want Peeking Toms at Night When You Have to Undress

In my Van I have windows at three sides, the front, the back and the side door. I use old, but nice bed sheets to cover the windows and they stay in my 'tool' crate, so I'll never forget them. I also use them when I have to use the portable toilet.

In the back I span elastic binders and I hang the sheet over them. In the front and on the side I use clamps to tighten the sheets. It's very easy to hang them and very easy to take them off.

I also take some extra blankets, because it can be rather cold at night, especially in Fall season.

Window covers
Window covers | Source

10. A Portable Heater

For the cold days

It Can Be Quite Cold in Autumn or Winter

Because I do not travel only in the summer, but also in the fall season and winter too, I needed something to keep me warm from the time I stopped driving and going to bed. So I went to this local camping shop and they had those cute little fan heaters, specially made for campers. Mine looks almost the same as this Ceramic Fan Heater and the beautiful part is that it's very safe, because when you accidentally knock it over (happened to me more than once) it immediately stops, so nothing can get burned. The moment you lift it from its 'feet', it stops; put it down and it runs again.

I never let it run at night, because I'm warm enough under my eiderdown and a fleece blanket on top of that, but it's very agreeable during the evening when I'm watching TV or read a book.

Alpina-ceramic-heater
Alpina-ceramic-heater | Source

Organizing Your Stuff

organized
organized

Organizing Saves a Lot of Time and Space

I keep all the stuff I need for these short trips in separate boxes, so I don't have to go looking for stuff when I have to leave. All has its own place, even my fishing gear. I once forgot my bag full of clothing and it was a four day trip, so first thing in the morning I had to find a store like Walmart, to get some shorts, t-shirts, underwear, toothbrush, toothpaste and more. You always discover something missing when you're too far away to turn back to pick it up. I keep a special set of bedding stored with my camping stuff.

My temporary Camper
My temporary Camper | Source

Update April 2, 2016

Starting New Adventures in My New Van

From today on my dear old blue Van will be history. She will be replaced by a younger version. After 19 years of joy I have to say goodbye, because her body is rusting away. To get her through the yearly inspection this year would cost us a huge amount of money, but that will only help us for a short time, because once it starts the rusting process will go on forever. We'll face the same next year.

A Van like ours is hard, if not almost impossible to find in the second hand market. Last month we stumbled upon one that would certainly fit our need. It's not as high as the present one, but high enough for me to go around in. It's 12 years old but has a very low mileage, so we decided to buy it and will trade-in our old van. Today I will drive my Van for the last time and I must confess: I'm totally not happy about it. After 19 years this van has grown on me.

My new Temporary Camping Van
My new Temporary Camping Van | Source

Questions & Answers

    © 2011 Titia Geertman

    Love to read your Comments

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      • Virginia Allain profile image

        Virginia Allain 

        3 years ago from Central Florida

        We did some camping in our converted van about 25 years ago in Australia. It worked pretty well for some outback treks.

      • profile image

        Lynn Klobuchar 

        4 years ago

        Comprehensive! You are busy. Hope it's lots of fun, too.

      • Titia profile imageAUTHOR

        Titia Geertman 

        4 years ago from Waterlandkerkje - The Netherlands

        @Nancy Hardin: I could have slept in a VIP cottage at the local Center Parc Holiday Resort. It was offered to us to use it this weekend for free. Four of the other inspectors are sleeping in the cottage, but I prefer my van. Did some fishing tonight and caught two big trouts (about 1 kilo each).

      • Nancy Hardin profile image

        Nancy Carol Brown Hardin 

        4 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

        Sounds like you're well equipped for just about anything. Great that you can be self-sufficient on the road. Take care, and thanks for sharing.

      • flinnie lm profile image

        Gloria Freeman 

        4 years ago from Alabama USA

        Hi you know I think this is the prefect way to travel. I love the way you have your van setup. Great pictures. I don't watch much tv, so my Kindle Fire would travel with me. Thanks for sharing.

      • Titia profile imageAUTHOR

        Titia Geertman 

        5 years ago from Waterlandkerkje - The Netherlands

        @GardenerDon: I don't think there were even kindles at the time I got my lenco tv. I like to read too, but I don't like the electronic gadgets like Kindles. I like to hold the old fashioned book in my hands and smell the paper and ink. I collect children's illustrated school books, among other books and my oldest school book is one from 1904. I think I could easily fill a library with the books I have.

      • GardenerDon profile image

        Gardener Don 

        5 years ago

        The only thing I'd do different is trade the portable TV for a Kindle! I'm more of a reader than a TV watcher & reading seems more in tune with the whole concept of camping to me. Loved your pics!

      • profile image

        nhoudek 

        5 years ago

        Some really great ideas. Thanks.

      • profile image

        kimadagem 

        5 years ago

        This is a really well done lens. Thank you for all the great ideas.

      • am23g23 profile image

        am23g23 

        5 years ago

        Very nicely put together lens! I enjoyed going through it!

      • a2zcamping profile image

        a2zcamping 

        5 years ago

        Love it. Very down to earth and humorous to boot. Made me smile.

      • profile image

        DebMartin 

        5 years ago

        Thanks for the memories. I used to travel/camp in a van and I loved every minute of it. Blessed.

      • tonybonura profile image

        Tony Bonura 

        5 years ago from Tickfaw, Louisiana

        I love camping, but I have never done it in van; I've always slept in tents or (rarely) under the stars. I really liked this lens a lot. I especially liked the way you used the way you outfitted your van to build Amazon.com modules for those same items. Hope you have a lot of sales from this lens. :-)

        TonyB

      • Titia profile imageAUTHOR

        Titia Geertman 

        5 years ago from Waterlandkerkje - The Netherlands

        @anonymous: Hi, thanks for visiting my article. The clamps are not attached as in permanent. There are ridges in my van and I just fold the sheets over it and put the clamp on top. At the back I use elastic cord and hang the sheet over it. Good question, I'll need to explain that better.

      • profile image

        anonymous 

        5 years ago

        Hi,

        A question, how are the clamps that hold your curtains up attached to the car?

      • CampingmanNW profile image

        CampingmanNW 

        5 years ago

        I love any form of camping. Thanks for a great and complete lens.

      • profile image

        WeirdStuff 

        5 years ago

        Perfect complex lens, I just need to get some van and let's go!

      • TonyPayne profile image

        Tony Payne 

        5 years ago from Southampton, UK

        I always wanted a campervan, and these days it's a lot easier to work on the road, with internet and mobile phones and satellite television. You seem to have things worked out really well in your van, I think camping like this is really practical, and a lot cheaper than using a hotel.

      • Knuckledown LM profile image

        Knuckledown LM 

        5 years ago

        I dream of owning a Campervan...one day maybe...come and see my lens, they're not about camper vans, i'll do that one when I eventually get one :)

      • robertzimmerman2 profile image

        Robert Zimmerman 

        5 years ago from SE Florida, USA

        I think I would make sure the toilet and cooler were different colors. Don't want to mix that up in the middle of the night! Great topic!

      • pinkrenegade lm profile image

        pinkrenegade lm 

        6 years ago

        Well written lens. You've covered everything about camping/road trip.

      • Lady Lorelei profile image

        Lorelei Cohen 

        6 years ago from Canada

        Just fluttering over once again. I sure miss the camping van that we had as it was so nice to just pull over to the side of the road for a nap if needed. They really are a handy vehicle to have if you travel.

      • profile image

        anonymous 

        6 years ago

        Titia, it looks like you can be completely self-sufficient in your van when you travel. I would think staying warm would be one of the biggest challenges when you have five degree below temps. I can see where the heaters are a must! I enjoyed your lens.

      • profile image

        anonymous 

        6 years ago

        what a great write up on this topic, who hasn't slept in the vehicle, right!

      • profile image

        anonymous 

        6 years ago

        I enjoyed this so much, camping in a van looks homey to me. Love how you put the dogs pens under the bed to save space.

      • yourselfempowered profile image

        Odille Rault 

        6 years ago from Gloucester

        Interesting lens! Blessed. :)

      • Linda BookLady profile image

        Linda Jo Martin 

        6 years ago from Post Falls, Idaho, USA

        I also have a van. I haven't used it as a camper yet but I bought it with that idea in mind.

      • Paul Ward profile image

        Paul 

        6 years ago from Liverpool, England

        I love your lenses that are about you managing life - Angel Blessed.

      • Craftymarie profile image

        Marie 

        6 years ago

        Extremely informative and personalised lens. Really well put together and a good read. I have blessed it.

      • glenbrook profile image

        glenbrook 

        6 years ago

        Love the lens, but I think I'd go with a station wagon or maybe a 62 F-100 with a camper shell:)

        Cheers,

        glockr

      • profile image

        RinchenChodron 

        6 years ago

        A person after my own heart. I have an old 1986 Toyota Hippie van - it even has flowers painted on it and a bed in the back. During warm weather I camp in mine as well. Enjoyed this lens. Nice to meet you.

      • KiwiSanet profile image

        KiwiSanet 

        6 years ago

        I enjoyed your lens.I loved camping with our van. We had an 8 seater Mitsubishi Delica which we used for camping trips around New Zealand. The two back seats folded more or less flat into a double bed. We added some padding for a more comfortable sleep. The more we went away the more organised we got. We sold the van more than 3 years ago and I still miss the van and the good time we had with it.

      • Lady Lorelei profile image

        Lorelei Cohen 

        6 years ago from Canada

        I love it. This is my style of camping...in a van. I actually believe it to be so much safer than a travel trailer as you can just hop into the front seat and drive away if there is a need to. Thank you for this delightful peek into your world.

      • profile image

        TravelingRae 

        6 years ago

        Blessed by a Squid Angel 8/9/11

      • profile image

        pawpaw911 

        6 years ago

        Very resourceful. Interesting lens.

      • littlelotus profile image

        littlelotus 

        6 years ago

        very interesting.....you must have had lots of fun camping around...... :):) I never tried camping but it looks like so much fun :)

      • Titia profile imageAUTHOR

        Titia Geertman 

        6 years ago from Waterlandkerkje - The Netherlands

        @justholidays: I had a lot of fun, but I'm not done yet, second round of inspections starts next weekend and then in September or October I have to go to Luxembourg.

      • Titia profile imageAUTHOR

        Titia Geertman 

        6 years ago from Waterlandkerkje - The Netherlands

        @LisaAuch1: Thank you so much.

      • Titia profile imageAUTHOR

        Titia Geertman 

        6 years ago from Waterlandkerkje - The Netherlands

        @LisaAuch1: Don't know if benches will hold the weight of two people, but you can always make something easy to set up for your bed and put the dogs beneath it. Those sheep inspection weekends are always little holidays for me. My hubby is staying home to take care of the house and the other animals. He only likes sheep when I serve them on his plate LOL

      • Titia profile imageAUTHOR

        Titia Geertman 

        6 years ago from Waterlandkerkje - The Netherlands

        @Shoputopian: You're welcome, glad you enjoyed it.

      • justholidays profile image

        justholidays 

        6 years ago

        I hope you had fun travelling through the Netherlands with your van :)

      • LisaAuch1 profile image

        Lisa Auch 

        6 years ago from Scotland

        ....-Blessed by a passing Angel-....

      • LisaAuch1 profile image

        Lisa Auch 

        6 years ago from Scotland

        I love this! We are lookingat buying a camper van and found a double transit fitted out, basic but just what we need, and now we can see how the dogs get on with you make us even more excited about this! you have a wonderful lifestyle i love the picture of your dogs looking over the fence! Dinner!

        Wonderful page on how to convert your VAN!

      • Shoputopian profile image

        Karnel 

        6 years ago from Lower Mainland of BC

        What a great idea, we are in the process of considering purchasing a van so I found this very helpful, thanks for sharing...

      • profile image

        anonymous 

        6 years ago

        Loved all you post.You are one fantastic lady.

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