Alice, yep we finally named our campervan, only a year after buying her as a nine-seater minibus. Officially she is a Vauxhall Vivaro, and we finished the final conversion to a camper a week ago.
Last year we did a temporary conversion to see what layout we would like and what would be best suited to our usage. I was absolutely convinced I would like a static bed at the back. I am so glad we tested it first because, yes, I did like it, it did give us a fair bit of storage underneath, but it literally took over the whole back of the van and minimised other areas for usage.
New campervan layout and conversion
Temporary campervan layout
So almost a year later, we dismantled the temporary conversion, worked out a new redesign and started on March 16th. I don’t know what delusion we were under, but somehow we were convinced we would have it all done over the St Patrick’s Bank Holiday weekend here in Ireland.
We very quickly learned that would not be the case. The van was 99% complete and packed on April 7th, so 4 days became 21 days, and now looking back, of course, it would take that amount of time. We were insanely optimistic and had no idea what we were actually at.
So the stage we are at now is that we have spent four nights in the camper, and it is safe to say it all works perfectly for us, adding a few bits, as in kitchen storage. We knew we needed to, but without using the kitchen area, we didn’t know precisely what would be the most efficient use of space. Making coffee and tea is a priority, so having the equipment at hand to do that was decided on.
The build was definitely a learning curve, and being that it was our first actual conversion, we are both delighted with the outcome, as is Missy.
I am planning in the future to break down the steps of the build, what we bought, and where we sourced everything. But, covering all of that in one blog post would go on forever. I did loosely document it in my Instastories, and I will leave a link here if you would like to see a quick overview. https://www.instagram.com/stories/highlights/17891467073516999/
So over the next few weeks, I will be detailing each of the stages, from gutting the van to the finished item with total costs.
I just want to reflect on what we decided on as a priority for the build and if we achieved it in this post.
But firstly, why the name Alice? On our first morning in the camper, we had coffee and looked out at the waves crashing into the Easky shoreline. A little later, while tidying up after breakfast, Alan was bending up and down, putting everything back in its place. Watching him reminded me of the ‘Eat Me, Drink me’ section from Alice in Wonderland because our van has a low roof. It looked like Alan had just eaten the cake and grown enormous. And so, Alice became her name.
So back to what we wanted:
Firstly, we needed lights and places to charge phones, laptops, camera batteries, etc., to comfortably work in the van. So that was definitely one box ticked; everything worked smoothly over our first weekend in Alice.
The second was a good kitchen area with running water and a built-in gas cooker that was easy to access and use. The easier it is to cook in the van, the less we will eat out and have takeaway coffees. So again, that area was ticked. We had only one takeaway coffee over the weekend.
Third, a proper working table, this was more Alan than me. I have a tendency of working with the laptop on my knees. So he decided on a table that was moveable with one fixed leg. It is connected in just two steps, and I am happy Alan insisted on it because it works really well and is the perfect height to comfortably eat at and work on. I was a bit aghast at the one hundred euro price tag of the leg, to begin with, but it was definitely worth every penny.
Next was a useable couch with multiple areas to sit at and an easy to set up bed area. We decided to repurpose our first static bed and created an L shaped seating area. It comfortably sits three people, or in our case, two people and our Springer Missy. Because we positioned it against the driver side back door, we can have an entire window to enjoy the view from, and it gives us easy access to storage and the electrics from both inside and outside. The bed section is slatted wood that pulls level to the L shape creating a full bed.
Finally, lots of storage, but most importantly, storage that could be easily accessed. We had lots of storage in the first temporary build. But, I had to keep shimmying under the bed and pulling out different boxes and bags. Inevitably, the thing I would want was always in the last bag I pulled out. In this build, I wanted a place for everything and for it to be easily accessible.
We started by making a list of activities we like to do, swimming, yoga etc., things we needed, clothes, eating, cooking, hygiene etc. Once we had the list, we started creating spaces.
Starting with the bed, we actually lost 7.5cms in height, which may not seem a lot, but in a small van, it’s loads. However, we did get in a complete wardrobe with two huge areas, one each and a toilet section at the base. This meant we didn’t have to store any clothes under the couch/ bed, where we kept everything and the portable toilet in the old van build.
We have everything for cooking stored under the kitchen area, including water, gas, and a food box. Being vegan, we eat fresh each day, so we don’t need much food storage.
Then apart from that, we wanted to do everything right, the main structure of the van and everything on our list needed to have a good foundation in place. The flooring, walls, insulation, roof vent, fan, and running the electrics to every area we wanted to use. Keeping a neutral colour tone to make the small space feel as spacious as possible and choosing hard-wearing flooring, textiles, and curtains that just worked, no fiddly bits of organising before using.
So far, I can happily say we have ticked everything on our list. The items we put in our storage areas need tweaking, I always overpack, and I’m currently on a journey towards my own minimalist needs, which is a work in progress. I will be fine-tuning as the weeks’ progress.
We’re looking forward to a summer of van life in Ireland over the next few months. Next week’s post will cover the prep for the insulation, floor, roof vent and carpeting of the walls, alongside a second post exploring Ireland in our van and how we get on with the choices we have made during the build.
Till next week…