The small campervan I built while travelling the US

Getting started

Last summer I traveled the US in a ’96 Ford Explorer which had a small bed with some storage space underneath, nothing too fancy, but building it and then travelling with it was a delight.

As a developer, I get to do a lot of planning and building, and I like that very much. However, I dabbled in some basic carpentry and masonry, and I realized that building stuff in the physical world (rather then the digital world) brings me even more joy and more of this flow feeling.

I’ve been around NZ for 9 months now, and I’ve decided that I’m going to spend my summer travelling around the Islands of NZ in a self-contained campervan which I’m going to build in the upcoming month.

I got my ’96 Toyota Hiace a month ago. During this month I worked on the design in order to be able to kind of know what tools, materials and products I’m going to use. From my experience, when building something, especially for the first time, you want to clear as much uncertainties as you can. It sounds obvious, but sometimes I’m too eager to start working, and end up redoing it. Keep in mind that sometimes the design stage takes longer then the building stage itself, which is almost always a good sign.

My ’96 Toyota Hiace AKA Dominga

So this blog will cover the process of building my campervan. First, it will be a good memory. Second, it can be a good reference for anyone who wants to build their own campervan. Third, it will help me gather my thoughts and even avoid mistakes as I drill down into details while writing the posts.

I intend to write a post before every stage. In those posts I will go over the design, the tools, and the materials I’m going to use, and explain the process of doing that.

The first stage will be more of a cleaning stage, as the current carpet and the wood pallets under it smell a bit like cooking oil (the van was probably owned by a Fish & Chips shop at some point). 
I Will remove the carpet and pallets, clean the van floor underneath, and put a new carpet and pallets. I’m going to try and get those from a the Second Treasures shop. If not, then one of the local hardware stores will do the trick.

The second stage will be building most of the kitchen, which means building table, adding a sink, hooking up the water system (fresh water tank, through a sink using a manual pump and a tap, into a grey water tank). 
The kitchen will also have a relatively big drawer that will hold all the cooking and eating gear, but I will build it in a later stage.

The third stage will be building the bed. I came up with a design that allows me to fold the bed into a couch using hinges, or access some of the less frequently used storage space underneath. This stage will probably also be the stage in which I’m going to cover the walls with some thin plywood, just to make it neat and somewhat insulated, but I haven’t decided if i’m going to do that and how, but by the time I will write the post about it, I will probably have a more tangible plan.

The fourth stage will be building the storage spaces. The big kitchen drawer I mentioned earlier, the less frequently used storage under the bed, the clothes storage, the toilet storage and some shelving units on both sides of the bed.

The Fifth stage will be final touches and equipping the van with camping gear and other essential travelling stuff. All the rooms I lived in until now point out that I’m a bad interior designer. I will try to change that in this project, specifically in this stage, but I can’t promise anything.

The Sixth and last stage will be getting the self-containment certificate, which means taking the van to a certified inspector that makes sure the van has everything it needs to be self-contained (basically, a certain amount of fresh water and a waste water system, and a toilet that’s accessible when the bed is made, i.e not folded)

I hope that you will find this blog helpful, I will do my best to keep it as informative as I can.