a Blog About Adventure Travel for Kite-Surfing and Cycling with a Custom Built Van
5 Van Build Mistakes to Avoid
5 Van Build Mistakes to Avoid

5 Van Build Mistakes to Avoid

5 Van Build Mistakes to Avoid

Although we didn’t build our custom camper van from scratch, we did a significant remodel after we bought it. Getting our van exactly the way we wanted it has been a journey. Some of the initial mistakes we made in our remodel could have been avoided, saving both time and money. Here are “5 Van Build Mistakes” to avoid.

Table of Contents

1. Metal Locks and Hardware

When designing our closets and cupboards, we knew that they would need to be locked while driving, but we weren’t prepared for the noise. Choosing the right latches and door hardware was an experiment to say the least. We tried magnets that didn’t remain closed. Then we tried a variety of metal latches and hooks, but the rattling while driving was insane. Finally, we found flexible rubber latches that hold the doors tight and don’t make noise. Additionally, we lined the inside of each door and door frame with adhesive neoprene rubber. Now we can hear each other or the radio while on the road. 

1 van build mistake to avoid - metal locks and cabinet hardware
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Metal Locks are so Loud.

2. Inefficient Framing on Storage Spaces

The original design for our storage space included framing out each box with 2×2 boards. This design was incredibly inefficient and unnecessary (sure they were strong, but at a cost). The space inside the box was large enough, but we weren’t able to get to it because the framing was often in the way… 

On later remodels, we became much more efficient with our framing. Instead of attaching the exterior box walls to the frames, we attached the walls directly to each other. There was plenty of strength in just the walls and we didn’t lose space around the edges. This concept helped a ton when building our shower and overhead storage unit. 

We opted not to use construction adhesive for our van build. Instead we pre-drilled everything and counter-sunk our screws. If you ever decide to do a remodel on your van and take things apart, you will find that things put together with construction adhesive can be a nightmare to get apart.

3. Cargo Nets are the Worst

We haven’t come to an agreement on this, but Jade hates cargo nets. They are such an inefficient use of space. When there is nothing in them, they look great. As soon as you start using them to store cargo, they slump and bulge and get in the way. 

Originally, we had a cargo net separating our garage space under the bed with our living space. The cargo net was pointless. As soon as we were on the road, everything was sliding up and under the cargo net to the front. With life jackets, wetsuits, and booties it was always bulging and in the way, making it almost impossible to get to the bed. Needless to say, one of our first remodels cut the cargo nets.

What are your thoughts on cargo net storage? Are Cargo Nets Cool or Pointless? This is debatable (similar to the advantages and dis-advantages of cargo pants).

4. Not Enough Storage

Our first van remodel was very minimalistic. All we had was a bed and a set of shelves. After the first couple of days of travel, we quickly realized that we needed more storage space. Our clothing and food containers were everywhere as soon as we hit the road. “Honey,” our sweet furry sidekick, didn’t enjoy boxes of food sliding around with her in the back.

On later remodels, we added more storage for food, water, stove, fridge, clothing, and emergency equipment. With each addition, we were still able to keep our space open without constantly tripping over our gear. You will most likely need more storage than you think. It is a small space after all.

1 van build mistake to avoid - not enough storage
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Chaos of Not Enough Storage

5. Not Enough Casual Seating

When we first remodeled our custom camper van, we thought that the bed folding into a couch was going to be enough seating. We were wrong. It turns out when you are trying to change or to have a meal together, it is nice to sit upright. Adding bench seating opposite the slider door was a huge improvement. Now we can sit and have lunch or dinner together without getting food all over our bed. When it is raining or snowing we have more places to relax. If you are designing your layout, be sure to add a couple of extra places to sit comfortably.

Still a work in progress: Laundry Storage

We haven’t figured this out quite yet, but we have a few ideas. Having a place to store your wet, sweaty, and sticky clothes is definitely important. You don’t want to put them back in with your clean clothes and you definitely don’t want them stinking up the whole van. We definitely recommend having a place for laundry and garbage.

These are “5 Van Build Mistakes” that we should have avoided. What are some mistakes that you have made in building out your van?

Have fun designing and building your van and let us know how it goes. Thanks for reading! ~KiteBikeVan

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