Considering a van conversion? After settling into van life full time for a little over 6 months, I have 3 ideas you should consider:
Quality sleep is super important to maintain physical and emotional health, daytime performance, and brain function (NIH, 2012). So, to me, designing a sleep space that fits people comfortably is really important. When designing my sleep space I made 2 errors: overcrowding and a short bed.
Because I am a particularly organized person, I pushed hard for lots of storage cabinetry and space during Amelia’s build. This included lining the sleep space with overhead cabinets. While I do not regret this organizational focus, I do think I compromised my tight sleep space. After tucking in a 6 inch thick memory foam mattress (so my bum would not hit bottom), I have about 16 inches of head space remaining. 16 inches in not much! The first few times I tried to crawl out of bed, my head developed a few lumps and bumps. Thankfully, I have subconsciously created a “duck first, then rise and shine” habit.
Next, Amelia is a 2500 170 Mercedes Sprinter van. Bare (without insulation and walls installed), she measures 79.7 inches wide. After the interior was finished, she measures roughly 66 inches wide. This means that unless a person is 66 inches or less, he/she will not fit horizontally comfortably. The bed also measures approximately 64 inches long. So if anyone taller than 64 inches tries to position themselves lengthwise, their feet will hang off of the edge. To remedy this dilemma, I tend to sleep diagonally and have plenty of room. 2 problems arise here. First, when more than one person tries to sleep on the bed there is not enough room. Having two bodies in this space is like fitting sardines in a can. There is no repositioning without almost giving the bed buddy a black eye or gut karate chop. Second, I believe the short bed might limit the resale value of Amelia (not that she is for sale, but I like to think ahead most of the time). Anyone taller than me may not want to have to sleep horizontally.
Sleep space lessons:
Less is More
Because I planned to live in my van full time, I chose to include as many bell and whistles as I could squeeze in. I opted to include a couch that turned into a guest bed, a full size kitchen, lots of cabinetry, and swivel chairs with a table. Most of those upgrades I am extremely happy with (especially my large fridge), but the one thing I wish I would have paid more attention to was my movable space. I found it was difficult to move freely around the cabin. Even dressing was a challenge because space was so tight. Simply walking down the isle, I would bump my hips on the counter. After much contemplation, I decided to take the couch out and see how its removal affected the floor plan. That was an agonizing decision. Made of a beautiful, quality grey micro suede material and foam cushioning, it was one of the beautiful features of the original van build. But, I love it gone! I love how much movable space I have gained! Now I have enough room to stretch out on the floor after a long day, stash extra gear, and dress without bumping into the counter. #vandog was bummed to loose her perch, but I made up for it by buying her a soft dog bed. Unfortunately for guests, they will now have to bring their own pad to sleep on the floor instead of the cozy bed, but it's a sacrifice I am willing to make!
Consider a 4x4
(Especially if you live in 4 seasons)
When I bought Amelia, I researched a plethora of van options, types, and specs. I decided for budget reasons to forgo the 4x4 upgrade (it was roughly a $10,000 difference in van price). The dealership dude mentioned “UPS” and “Fedex” have been using Mercedes sprinters for years in places with severe weather conditions (l am pretty sure he name dropped Alaska) with no problems. I bought into his pitch and went for the rear wheel drive only. After weathering half of a winter here in North Idaho, I really, really wish I would have upgraded to the 4x4. Chains are frustrating and time consuming to apply. There is no denying the security that a four wheel drive vehicle with solid tires brings in snowy, icy, and slushy conditions. There is a company out there that can convert 2 wheel drive vehicles into 4 wheel drive, but the cost is not insignificant. I highly suggest considering a 4x4 rig if you live in an area that receives anything other than mild weather conditions. Peace of mind is worth the extra cost.
Amelia’s floor plan is amazing. I have all of the storage I need and I love it, but I am reminded again and again that sometimes “less is more.” I read somewhere, “you do not live in your van, but out of it.” I mostly agree with that statement, but you will probably spend some time hanging out inside away from the elements, so make sure you pay attention to the space you allow for yourself to move about.
Cheers till next time!
“Minimalism is about creating space
to live simply and meaningfully;
it’s about living intentionally.”
-Laurie Buchanan, PhD-
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NIH). (February 22, 2012). Why sleep is important. Retrieved January 17, 2017 from https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/sdd/why
This is the story of life with "Amelia" my 170 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van home. The adventure is just beginning. Join me as I share experienes and van lessons.
Check Out My