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Van Tour and Build

The Van:

2015 Ram Promaster 2500, 159″ wheelbase.

We purchased our van used on Facebook Marketplace with 40k miles. In its former life, it was a handicap passenger van. The L-track and rubber floor was already installed, it came with plastic interior panels, and back seats for passengers.

After the initial purchase of the van, we wanted to build it out without breaking our budget. We tried to use things that we already owned and were very critical before we made any purchases. So far, we’ve put about $2,500 into the van with our simple build.
Before we go into the details, here’s a video tour:
We bolted 2x6s to either side of the van using the threaded holes already in place from the wheelchair seatbelts. We got the idea to use Ikea bedrails from All we had to do was screw the brackets into the board, set the bedrails in, and put the plywood on top. No fancy woodwork needed and we had a bed in an afternoon. We opted to use foam camp pads we already owned. Since our bed was so high, we didn’t want to sacrifice any more headroom with a big mattress and we’ve found that our foam camp pads offer enough cushion for us.

Clothing storage:
We had some milk crates sitting around which we screwed into our plywood bed. We have 2 milk crates each with a couple more bags on top for additional layers. We added tiny bungees to keep our clothes from falling out of the crates when we drive. They mostly work.
We attached a cargo net to the underside of the bed to store our laundry bag and down layers. This would otherwise be dead space above the bikes and storage tubs.
The two big cabinet doors made this toolbox a winner over a typical toolbox with all drawers. We bolted it down using the L-track. We keep our stove, dishes, and toiletries in the drawer. We keep our food and pots and pans in the cabinet space. The fully enclosed cabinets keeps our food safe from any critters.

Coleman camp stove- 2 burner stove runs off propane and has worked great so far. We can cook inside on the tool bench counter or outside on our foldable table.

RTIC Cooler- we opted to go with a cooler rather than a refrigerator. This is a more affordable option. In addition to the cost of a refrigerator, we would’ve needed a bigger battery and potentially another solar panel to keep it running. Buying block ice is a must and we’ve learned what produce is heartier and what we need to eat within a couple of days. We don’t typically buy meat, so keeping our food super cold isn’t a big deal.

Outdoor foldable table- this was a random find at Aldi for $15. Complete with 4 stools.
Rear seats:
Finding a van with rear seats was a bonus. We can travel with friends and we use them every day for sitting and eating in the van. They’re also our step up to the bed. Shoes and electronics go under the seats.
We looked at our electrical needs and calculated that we could use less than 25Ah on a power-heavy day (charge phones, Garmins, laptop, fan on for 12hrs, lights on for 4hrs). Accounting for 2 days without charging, that means we needed 50Ah of usable battery capacity. For our budget, lead acid technology made more sense, so we purchased a 100Ah battery (you can only use half of the capacity of lead acid batteries to avoid damaging the cell).
Our battery is charged with a 100W solar panel on the roof. This is a separate system from the starter battery. We considered adding a battery isolator to use the alternator to charge this auxiliary battery, but so far the solar panel has worked well to keep it charged. We’ll see how it does over the winter months. Our solar charge controller can handle up to 300W of solar, so adding another panel or two is an option.

Fan and lights:
Maxxair fan. This required a 14″ square hole in the roof. It’s the base model with 4 speeds. The black cover is translucent and lets a little light in.

We have LED puck lights and light strips wired up to the battery. These are on dimmer switches by the sliding door.

One of our main goals was to be able to haul 4 bikes with all the wheels on. We were okay with sacrificing some head room to accomplish this. For each bike we screwed a piece of 2×4 with garage bike hooks to the bottom of our bed. The bikes roll in backwards and the handlebars rest on the hooks.

We can fit 4 large tubs that hold bikepacking/camping gear, extra bike parts and bike maintenance supplies, and sewing stuff for bike bags.

We have lots of hooks around for more storage.

Bug nets- we purchased bug nets that are meant for a screen door and trimmed them to fit- we were set within 10 minutes. They come with adhesive velcro strips that we stuck around the door. The magnets along the opening are convenient.
Awning- we started out without an awning since it’s a bigger purchase, we wanted to see if we could get by without it. After a couple days of rain in our first week where we had to pack up our outdoor table and cook setup, we started researching our awning options. The Moonshade was a reasonable price and the setup is simple. It packs down to the size of a camp chair.
Water Filter- 10L MSR gravity filter works great if we’re set up by a water source. When there isn’t a sturdy tree branch around, we can set it up on our bike work stand.

We have a small solar shower that we’ve used a couple times, but we’ve been fortunate to have friends who’ve provided showers and a driveway while we’re on the road. Thanks to everyone who has supported us!

1 thought on “Van Tour and Build”

  1. Pretty awesome article. I’m looking into doing exactly the same. So need to get a van first and then set it up to haul my bikes just like you have. I don’t need all the bell and whistles.
    thanks again and have fun out there.

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