It’s been about two and a half years since we brought our campervan home and we still get excited packing it up and going on trips. It’s gotten a little easier and faster to leave for a trip now, thanks to the bins that we keep in the house and a list we continually revise. It’s surprising how little we really need! One of our concerns before we bought it was that our campervan was going to be an expensive mistake that sat in our driveway because we no longer wanted to use it or have need for it. That has certainly not been the case! We didn’t have plans to live in it (at least not at this time), it was a means to get us to enjoy the great outdoors more before our daughter was all grown up. Our main purpose of the campervan is still for trips, but we’ve been using it to haul material for our home projects, and it has been great as our home-away-from-home during our daughter’s long tournament days. Even for day trips, having a self-contained vehicle allows us to hang out in secluded spots with everything close at hand. We love our campervan – dent, dings, rust stains and all.
Campervan Interior Change:
We recently gave the interior a small “makeover” by adding wall paper, rugs and new pillow coverings. It has brightened up the grey and maple wood interior and feels much cozier. I added self adhesive wall paper with a birch design to break up all the “wood” and give the interior an accent wall. The addition of the wall paper has got to be my favorite change! This wallpaper is self-adhesive AND removable (there are tons on Amazon to choose from). A white plush throw blanket on the back of the gaucho sofa added some coziness. I ended up making removable pillow covers out of a fleece blanket that we already had, which added more coziness and a needed pop of color.
There are many tutorials for removable envelope DIY pillow covers (just google it).
One of the items we use most in the van is paper towels/napkins. By hanging a roll of paper towels on the wall it became easier to access and saved storage space in the van by not using up limited drawer/cabinet space. Basically, we screwed in two hooks to the wall. Then threaded a bungee cord with small carabiners (at both ends of the cord) through the paper towel tube and attached the carabiners to the hooks. Not fancy, but super easy! It works great for having paper towels close at hand and not wasting storage space. The paper towels don’t unravel during driving thanks to the bungee cord.I couldn’t resist purchasing a coffee maker through an Amazon lightning deal for the van. It was such a good deal and we’ve used it so much that it’s practically paid for itself (no more drink stops) – not only to make coffee, but heat up hot water for any hot beverages. We used the hook and bungee method to secure the coffee maker and it stays on the counter without rattling for easy use (suction cups on the bottom of the coffee maker helps also).
The wood bathroom door worked decently well. It was sturdy and felt like a solid barrier between the back “bathroom” area and the main cabin area, but there were some issues we learned from the two and a half years we used it. The door, no matter how much we secured it with bungee cords and foam blocks continued to rattle during driving. It wasn’t too bothersome, but it was rattling nonetheless. All the little noises from everything in the van added up, so we wanted to address this issue. Also, we had to squeeze by the door each time before we could close it. It worked ok, just not ideal. We liked the door because it provided a nice alley to let light in from the back door windows. So, we decided to remove the door and exchange it with a thick curtain keeping the same configuration as before so that there was still an alley to let in light, but no rattling and it was easy to get by the “door.”
I made a thick “double” curtain using two heavy, light-blocking panels that I sewed back to back. I found grey curtains at Home Goods and they caught my eye because of the slight sheen and heavy material.
I sewed velcro to one side of the curtain edge and stuck a matching velcro tape to the wall to keep the curtain closed on one side. A bungee cord connected to two carabiners at the top was threaded through “the opening” that I sewed and were clipped into two eye hooks on either side. I attached a clippable hook in the middle to hook in to a preexisting latch (to secure the penthouse top when driving) to keep the middle from sagging. This has worked very well so far. Works like the door, but much easier to maneuver around and no rattling!
After making the bathroom “door,” I used the rest of the curtain to sew a holder for all the little odds and ends that we seem to accumulate.
Removed ladder and added cargo netting:
I didn’t mind having the ladder where it was, it held our pillows and it looked good, but my 6’1″ hubby hit his head on the heavy metal ladder one too many times and he quickly came up with a different solution. The ladder, even when secured, rattled a bit when driving (it was also very heavy). My hubby bought a cargo net and attached it with several bungee cords (leave it up to my hubby to find bright red bungee cords : ) ). It holds our blankets and pillows nicely when we are driving, doesn’t give my hubby a bump on the head, and it doesn’t rattle at all. I should mention that we can get up to the penthouse bed area by using the edge of the counter as our “stepping up” point. For us, there is no need for a ladder, but this might not be the best way for everyone.
The table that Sportsmobile included was not one that we used often because it was hard to set up and put away. The table top had to be stored in the back which made it hard to access, the table was wobbly and the metal pieces were hard to pull apart when disassembling the table. Last year we found a foldable bamboo table (KingCamp4 4-fold heavy duty bamboo table with carry case) that is sturdy, and folds up very compact with a nice carry case so that we can store it in the main cabin area. We can set it up pretty quickly and it looks nice as well. We love using it, and now we can get it set up in under 30 seconds.
We’ve also made some changes to winterize our campervan, and I will explain how we did it in an upcoming post. It’s made a huge difference in maintaining heat in the van.
All of these were not very big or expensive changes (or additions), but they’ve made a huge impact on how we feel about the space. It feels like we’ve put our stamp on the living space and it feels more like our space. What’s changed for me is that the campervan really feels like home now. When I look at it, it doesn’t just make me think of future possibilities, it also makes me remember the times we’ve had in it. Like a home.
Window broken and getting our van window fixed:
Even though it is not our primary residence, we consider this our home away from home, and we’ve gotten quite attached. So, when our van got broken into at the back of a Marriott hotel in Sacramento in broad daylight, we were heartbroken. Someone broke the van window and stole our stuff. We felt violated in a place we considered safe and secure. The things that were really of no value to someone else like our toiletries and clothes were taken and had to be replaced. It was more of a pain than anything (although it adds up when you have to buy everything at once), but things like my daughter’s volleyball sweatshirt that she got at a tournament which couldn’t be replaced were the things that we were sad about. I still miss my favorite yoga pants from Target that I had for five years (I’m sure they have a lot of street value)! The window in the back of our Sprinter van was actually difficult to replace. I wanted to point out that we were surprised that the Sprinter window was not something places had in stock (even in a big city like Sacramento). We ended up having to tape up our window (with black duct tape) and drive the van home. It took a number of days for a new window to be ordered and delivered to the dealer before we could get it fixed. This would not be the ideal situation if you are traveling and not close to home. We don’t bring anything of value with us on our trips, but it has gotten us thinking about security in the van and taking steps to make us feel safer.
Review of the campervan:
Since this is a review of our campervan, I wanted to say a few words about the things we love and the things we may want to change or have done differently.
Things we continue to love:
We continue to use the heater extensively for our cold weather trips, and every time we don’t freeze our tookases off we are so grateful for it. (more specific info about the heater in a previous post).
Awning (Fiamma, retractable):
An awning adds so much real estate to the van when we set up the table and chairs under it. It’s great for providing shade from the sun and shelter from the rain if we want to cook outside on our table. However, the amount of times we’ve used the awning is still very little. Many campsites that we’ve been to are not set up to accommodate sitting next to your vehicle. There is usually a barrier in the way or it feels weird sitting close to the campground road rather than farther into your campsite. My hubby has mixed feelings. When we’ve needed it, he’s very happy we’ve had it, but other times he wishes we were more “stealth.” An awning definitely identifies your vehicle as a campervan. In some instances you don’t want to stand out as a recreational vehicle, but then it’s not necessarily a bad thing. I personally really like having it and being able to sit outside. I’m hoping that we’ll be able to use it more in the future.
I hate to admit it, but we use our microwave quite often, especially, during winter trips when we don’t really want to cook outside. The small microwave is just perfect when we want to heat something up and don’t want to go through the motions of cooking on the induction stove (which we still like to do when there is time). We’ve learned to cook everything in the microwave, even scrambled eggs. I know, scary!
Large side window:
One of my favorite things about the campervan is the large factory side window. The window doesn’t open, but it’s our main viewing window from inside the van and it has allowed us to hang out in the comfort of the van and look out at some incredible scenery. To think we were going to go for a custom (much smaller window) that opened. Thank goodness we didn’t. The two smaller windows, provide plenty of cross breeze.
Things we might change:
It would be nice to have solar power just so that we wouldn’t have to worry about the refrigerator draining all the power. It’s ok now, but we do have to watch the battery levels. We’ve been known to take a drive to charge our batteries, but we’ve been better about battery usage (by turning the fridge off at night with refreezable ice packets in it, making it into a cooler). The best option for solar power would have been if we had included this from the beginning. It seems it’s a bit more challenging (for us at least) to add it at this point, but it’s not off the table yet.
We are still toying with the idea of switching to a compostable toilet although the Porta-Potti from Thetford is working pretty well now that we found some better products for it. Emptying it is still not our favorite thing to do, but it is so convenient having a bathroom in the van that it somehow makes it worth the hassle. Two products that we use now has made a big difference: easy to dissolve toilet paper and a deodorizer/waste digester (Walex BIOTROPBG holding tank deodorizer and waste digester).
Leaving time for maintenance and upkeep:
The upkeep on the campervan includes routine maintenance like cleaning the water tanks/pipes, waxing the roof, washing the exterior as well as keeping the interior clean and dry (microwave and fridge cleaning is a must). Keeping things stocked, and switching out items that get old is important in being able to pack up and leave quickly. As of now, the maintenance part is still fun as we focus on the anticipation of a future trip. It has gotten easier and it helps having a checklist. Leaving time to do this has allowed us to go on impromptu last minute trips and therefore, we’ve gotten more use out of the campervan. Less time the campervan just sits on our driveway, the better!