a Blog About Adventure Travel for Kite-Surfing and Cycling with a Custom Built Van
Van Lighting Ideas
Van Lighting Ideas

Van Lighting Ideas

Van Lighting Ideas

When we purchased our van, it had already been converted to a camper-van once before. The space was previously very limited and it didn’t match our travel needs for kiting, biking, and traveling with our dog, “Honey.” It was in need of a serious remodel.

However, as we remodeled the space to fit our needs, we decided not to do much with the electrical system that was already in place. We replaced some shoddy electrical wiring here and there, re-crimped some connections, but some of the van lighting ideas worked out really well for us in the new build. So we only changed what we needed to.

Overall, adding some simple LED lighting to your van is an inexpensive way to really level-up your custom van-build. Whether it is with LED runner lights near the floor, LED speaker lights, LED reading lights or LED overhead lighting. It really makes a difference.

WARNING: You may notice an emphasis on the acronym LED (Light Emitting Diode) in this post!!!

Overhead lights

It was important for us to have bright overhead lights. Our van initially came with 2x LED ceiling light fixtures; one in the front and one in the middle. Generally, we haven’t done much to change these lights. We rotated them and moved them around a bit to accommodate the ceiling board storage and for shower lighting.

However, we did add a couple of extra overhead lights, an additional one in the front for cooking and one in the very back. Otherwise, these gems are great and inexpensive. They provide a lot of light without using a lot of electricity.

There are a lot of overhead LED lighting options out there, but we recommend going with something simple.

Van LED Overhead Lights
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LED Overhead Lights

Reading light

Over our headboard area, we added a 12V reading light. It has an easy tap on fixture, with three levels of brightness and a red light. It works well for evenings when one person is tired and the other is still up. The light is also great for lower light levels in the morning as you are getting ready. We are not always up for super bright lights first thing in the morning. This is important if you are sharing your small van quarters with someone else.

Van Reading Light
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Reading Light

Extra Flashlights

Although we have plenty of interior lights, it is always great to keep some flashlights handy. We have a few go-to flashlights that we always keep in the van. 

  • First, we always keep a keychain flashlight on all of our key sets. 
  • Next, we keep a large LED flashlight for walking the dog in the evenings.  
  • Finally, we keep a small USB lantern in the van for when we have the power switched off and just need light for a few minutes. 

All three lights come in handy every time we travel. I would recommend having at least one of these types of flashlights. 

Van lighting ideas
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Flashlights for the Van

Slider Door Light

All vehicles come with an automatic light when you unlock or open the doors. We have incorporated this light into our van-build and replaced the standard bulb with an LED bulb. It has been extremely useful when arriving back to the van after dark. A light is on for navigating our way to the power switch. When building your custom van, I highly recommend keeping this light and incorporating it into your design.

Van lighting ideas
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Exterior Van Light

Two lights were added to our build by the previous owner that we really enjoy. The first is an exterior light or what we call the “porch light.” It is a basic exterior light that would go under an awning if we had one. It runs off of the van’s power system and is controlled by a switch in the van. This is a great light for when we are cooking dinner outside in the evenings. We also use it when there is a strange noise outside and we want to see what is going on without opening the door. 

Just be careful driving in tight quarters around trees!!! This is our second one, the previous one was taken out by a branch. We recommend using silicone to help with your installation process for this light, considering that it is exposed to the elements outside.

Van Porch Light
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Porch Light

Rear Door lights

The second light that was added by the previous owner, was a set of LED light strips on the inside of the rear doors. When both rear doors are open, they light up the garage space in the back. This was a really clever idea and is wired directly into a pressure switch on the door itself that activates once the doors open. These lights are so bright, they make finding your gear and packing up in the dark really easy. 

You can find a variety of similar direct current 12V LED lights strips on Amazon for this install.

Van lighting ideas
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Van Lighting Summary List

Recommended LED Lighting

  • Overhead LED Lights x4
  • Reading Light x1
  • Rechargeable LED Flashlight x1
  • USB Rechargeable LED Lantern x1
  • Keychain Light x2
  • LED Interior Dome Light Bulbs (to replace incandescent bulbs)
  • LED Porch Light x1
  • Rear Door Lights (LED strip lighting x2)

Helpful Tools for Installing LED Lights

  • Wire Crimper
  • Side Cutter
  • Electrical Connectors
  • Shrink Tubes
  • Mini Heat Gun
  • Electrical Tape
  • 12V Insulated Wire (wire gauge/thickness is up to you and varies, depends on distance, etc.)
  • Circuit Checker/Volt Meter (always important!)
  • Silicone (for exterior applications)

These van lighting ideas have made building and traveling in our van really easy. We always use LED lights to limit the pull on our electrical system. The less power we use, the more we can travel without a recharge! 

We would love to hear about your van lighting ideas! What do you use for van lighting? Please share in the comments below. ~KiteBikeVan

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