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We are on our third Sprinter and our second camping conversion. I have a taste for high end Sprinter conversions but a budget more in line wiht a working mom. Here are 5 items that we used in our first van and will definately be using again!
1. Maxx Air Fan and vent adapter
We live in the Pacific Northwest where fans are for more than comfort. With that being said, there is nothing better than the feel fresh air while sleeping.
Don’t be intimidated by self-installation. We have done it successfully -twice and don’t have any regrets.
Here are a few tips:
1. DIYvan in Hood River sells an adapter. We have used it each time and wouldn’t want to install a fan without it! Check it out!
2. Safety glasses are needed.
3. Check the weather report – your van will have a hole in it all night while the sealant dries
4. The anticipation and fear is the hardest part. This improves after the first cut.
5. New blades are worth the money.
6. The roof may get scratch but no one can see up there anyway.
2. Cupboard Hinges / Cabinet Door Lift Pneumatic Support
It doesn’t take long to realize that cupboard hinges are a key to happy van life. There is nothing worse than plates falling off shelves, food spilling, or listening to squeaking hinges. I couldn’t be more happy with our hinges. We picked them up on Amazon and have never looked back!
Here are the two products we love!
80 Degree Folding Sofa Bed Cabinet Hinge Spring Hinge (2 Pieces)
DerBlue 4 Pcs 200N/45lb Gas Strut Lift Support Cabinet Door Lift Pneumatic Support
3. 80/20 Aluminum
80/20 is easy to install, strong, versitle, and we love it. We have used it for everything from a roof rack to secure interior features, including cabinets.
Stay Tuned …
Finally, stay tuned for more “must-haves” and even some “don’t need” items. We are waist deep in DIY electric and hope to have many useful tips to share. Wish us luck!
Roost Vans specializes in DIY products for Sprinter van conversions. They have innovative designs and make beautiful vans. We modeled our second conversion after thier vans and are about to install a DIY electical system that they are developing! Check them out on instagram or the web and stay tuned for our electrical installation.
You can start a conversation, read posts, and search for threads. You may enjoy browsing the forum in your spare time because you never know what you haven’t even thought of yet!
Check these guys out on youtube. They have videos showing how to disassemble and re-assemble your van! Even after taking about two other vans, we still need these video! Re-assembly is never as easy as you expect! They also have conversions kits, accesories, and custom conversions.
Good old fashioned google in invaluable when doing a DIY Sprinter van camping conversion! All of the questions and answers are out there somewhere. You just have to find them.
There are tons of vanlife, van conversion, Sprinter van facebook groups. I don’t always love these groups and some are better than others but for the most part, they are worth joining.
These guys are also located in Oregon and offer products for sale, vans, and custom conversions. They are super nice and environmentally minded!
The bottom line:
Have fun! Be patient! Don’t be afraid to give your ideas a try! Don’t expect perfection on the first try but don’t settle when something could be better. You will change and so will what you want from your van. That is okay. Be flexible and embrace the evolution. Try and try again.
Mostly, don’t wait, take an adventure now! It will be great!
We drive from Oregon to Ontario and back each summer. Typically, we spent several weeks on the road and explore everywhere from British Columbia to Colorado. This year is different. We are in Colorado, halfway to Michigan. Here are some reflections from the first half of our trip: 8 things to consider when traveling during a pandemic.
1. Camping is more complicated than usual when traveling during a pandemic.
The first night on the road: Campground #1 was closed. The local Walmart did not allow overnight parking. Campground #2 was full but we drove in anyway and the camp host pointed us towards a spot that was open due to a cancellation. We felt so lucky! In the morning was drove to the day use area and it was pretty much full. We were able to snag a spot to the side and hike in an area away from the river.
The second night we were in Utah. I cannot speak to the situation at Utah State Parks because we arrived in Ogden around 10:30 and Utah State Park campgrounds close and lock gates at 10 pm.
We broke one of our own unwritten rules and ended up at a KOA. Again, we were lucky! It was barely occupied, clean, spacious, and had affordable tent sites for our van. It was pouring rain and we were lucky to be self sufficient.
The third night we opted to stop driving at around dinner time. We were at Dinosaur National Monument and stayed at the campground. It was easy and great. The hosts came over to welcome us, which would have been great if they had been wearing masks. Overall, it was still a hit!
2. Be prepared to be amazed and scared.
We left a highly mask and social distancing compliant town in Oregon in order to travel and see our families. It turns out that the rest of the world is going on with their lives and not necessarily very compliant.
I was almost immediately shocked by the lack of masks compliance. We haven’t been in any stores or even gas stations but I have been watching people go in and out of places as we drive through. We spotted 1 mask the entire time we were in Utah. Eastern Oregon was the same. Steamboat Springs and Summit County Colorado were a bit better but, overall, I was horrified and a bit scared.
3. Bring more food and drinks than usual.
I packed food and drinks for weeks. This includes snack size bags of chips, M & Ms, Diet Coke, Gatorade, and all the provisions that you would usually run into a gas station to pick up. We have not been in a gas station or store and do not intend to change that.
4. Consider a camping conversion that includes a toilet.
Again, we have not been into gas stations, campground bathrooms, stores or restaurants. This is probably self explanatory.
5. You may feel guilty at times.
I find myself feeling like I need to justify why we are traveling.
During a remote work meeting while on the road, I felt the need to explain why we chose to travel and every precaution we are taking. I did not do that but I still want to call the people in that meeting and tell them all about it.
It is easy to find myself reviewing these points in my own mind in order to justify this trip.
6. You may find yourself judging others while traveling during a pandemic.
I find myself judging other people behaviors which is kind of funny because they could be judging me as I drive by with my out of state plates.
A playground full of mask-less adults and kids without social distancing while driving through Salt Lake City had me judging them for sure. I am aware that this is neither appropriate nor helpful.
7. Empty parking lots are more appealing than ever before.
CD and the kids spent two hours in a National Forest Service Parking lot in Utah. I was on a phone call and they set up hammocks and cooked lunch. They were happy.
I cooked lunch on a our camping table in the parking lot of an abandoned department store in Idaho. We ran laps to the lamp post and back. It wasn’t our usual picturesque lunch at a park or splash pad but it was okay.
8. You will wonder if traveling during a pandemic was the right choice.
This is impossible to know. We will just do our best to keep clear minds and hearts.
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Are you looking for a DIY alternative to Sprinter factory roof rails? If so, we can help.
Check out our step by step guide to self installation of roof rails in your Sprinter camper. Enjoy!
Part no. 1575 from 8020.net (for the roof rails themselves)
Heat gun, rented from local hardware store
5/16″ counter sink bit
Drill Press, borrowed from a neighbor
5/16″-18 flat head bolts, 1 inch long
5/16″ Fender washers
5/16″ Lock washers
3 in 1 oil
Total cost in 2020 was under $150 (excluding items we already had or borrowed)
Make a jig for using with the drill press.
This is dependent on the drill press or equipment that you are using. I do not claim to be an expert on this but here is a picture of what we used.
Place the 8020 on its side on top of the van and mark the 8020 at the center of each plug.
We used a mechanical pencil in order to have a very specific line for reference.
Use 3 in 1 oil to lubricate each drill site on the 8020.
Align 8020 in the jig and drill it at each line.
Consider looking in your drill manual in order to set it to the correct speed.
Check the weather report for rain. If the weather looks promising prepare the 8020 and get ready to remove the plugs from the roof.
Use the heat gun to soften the glue and remove the plugs one by one.
A second person can help by pushing the plugs from inside the van. Be aware that the plugs and surrounding metal will be hot!
Clean the roof but be aware that by the time you get up there with the 8020, it will be dusty again!
Dry fit the 8020 and bolts on the Sprinter roof.
Use a round file if fine adjustments are needed.
Line the 8020 with butyl tape. Be aware that the front and back of van have a slight curvature so you may need to double layer the butyl tape at the ends.
Additionally, be awarethat your local hardware store may try to substitute putty for butyl tape. Stick with real butyl tape. There is a huge difference!
We ended up ordering more butyl tape online and waiting two days with holes in our roof because we ran out and could only get putty tape locally. This was less than ideal!
Using butyl tape, line the 5/16-18 screws and the 8020 drill holes in order to fill any potential gaps during installation.
With the 8020 on the roof, poke a hole through the butyl tape with a nail.
Step 12: Sprinter Roof Rails
Apply bolts and hardware and tighten. A second person may help by holding the hardware from the inside of the van.
Sprinter Roof Rails, Installation Complete!
Congratulate yourself on another Sprinter DIY project complete!
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Its 2020 and CD has been working on the van while social distancing. It was half taken apart but still put together enough for a day trip. I decided that today was the day that we would break out of isolation.
I woke up and quickly packed snacks, jackets, and even travel games. CD put the head liner back in the van and used the shop vac to touch up the interior. The kids were buckled in and I was choosing our road music . Then, our battery was dead.
We don’t know why it was dead. The interior lights had been disconnected while CD was working. Does anyone know if the electric step could drain the battery over time? In any case, we don’t know why it was dead. We tried to jump it with our mini van but didn’t have any luck.
We changed our plan, put everything in the Sienna and headed to Mary’s Peak. We were sure it was closed and it was. The road was gated 5 miles or so from the peak. There were 4 or 5 cars parked at the trail head near the gate. We felt good about going for a walk here in terms of social responsibility in the face of the pandemic and opted to avoid the trail and duck the gate.
It was a great choice. The road was empty. We walked for a couple of hours. The kids smiled more than they have in weeks. They kicked rocks, raced imaginary dogs, built pretend fires, and fetched sticks for each other.
This was a day like I used to have when I was running fifty miles per week. There were endless things to see that I never noticed from my car. Everything was interesting and new. An owl seemed to be hiking with us. We didn’t see it but its calls were unmistakable. The trees were greener, the sun was warmer, and even gun shots from the shooting range sounded nice.
We started our hike on the road at about noon. When we returned at nearly 3:00, the parking area was overflowing with cars. As a health care worker, I immediately felt guilty about going out during these times. Then I remembered that we haven’t gone out since this March 12, 2020 when we went skiing.
Today, we only saw one other family walking on the road and we hugged our respective edges when we passed. We didn’t get near anyone in the parking lot. We ate snacks in our car. I would have felt horrible if we had been on a single track trail walking past all of the people that arrived in all of those cars.
We were lucky. Walking the road was a great choice for us and we were able to enjoy it while still feeling like we were doing the right thing.
Back to working on the Van.
Tonight, as I write this, the Sprinter battery is charged and all is well. We had been trying to jump it using 12 gauge cables and we needed more power. When we got home from Mary’s Peak, our neighbor tossed us his jumper cables from a socially responsible distance while standing on his homemade pickle ball court. By the time the kids and I sat down for dinner, CD was busy drilling holes in 80/20.
I look forward to taking the Sprinter the next time time we break out of home isolation.