Van Life Tour – Solar Powered Off-Grid Camper Van on a Budget

in this video we’re giving you a tour of our budget campervan conversion for the past three years and the summers we’ve been using this campervan to live in to work and to travel it’s a 2002 Ford e-150 and we bought it originally for $5,000 Canadian when we first got it it was just a passenger van with a bunch of seats in the back so we removed those and we created on a really low budget just a nice functional livable space before getting to the tour we want to say a quick thank you to Squarespace for sponsoring this video we’ll give you more information at the end now let’s go take a look at our camper van so when you first come in we have the kitchen lounge and entrance over here we built a little drop-leaf table so it just opens up like this on this door we have some soft storage we actually made this out of a shoe rack and we cut it up into several different pieces and used it pretty much everywhere in the van this is kind of the kitchen stuff so we got spices some cutlery can opener those hand sanitizer here and down here we have our water purifier our curtains rubbing alcohol some garbage bags over here is our trusty cooler very low-tech food storage we don’t actually put ice in it because it’s too complicated and annoying so we mostly buy food that doesn’t need refrigeration but for fresh fruits and vegetables and things like that we try to buy them every couple days and eat them right away for water we have a total of five gallons of water so we just carry two of these big jugs here these will usually last us a few days and that’s the one thing that we got to keep up with really is every time that we can fill up water we because running out really sucks for cooking we just have a small butane stove over here’s our clothes basket this is where Matt and I keep both of our clothes so it gets pretty messy pretty quickly and this is definitely not an ideal way to store clothing it’s it drives us a little crazy trying to keep everything organized so that’s why we put this blanket on top and then it makes it look like it’s tighter than it really is this is probably the weirdest thing in our campervan I’ll reveal it now we have a toilet right in the middle of the whole van so we just line the bucket with a biodegradable plastic bag and we put wood chips on top of anything that we do in there we never pee in here because mixing the two can make it smelly so we use a pee bottle instead because we made the toilets so enormous we’re able to store toilet paper and the box of bags in there and some wood chips as well our first summer in the van was really really hot and we were very uncomfortable we had this thermometer and sometimes the needle was all the way off the chart because it was so hot in here so we came up with a few different things so that we could be a little bit more comfortable in here first we are always looking for shade and that helps a lot so that the van doesn’t heat up too hot the second thing is this really cheap sunshade that goes on the windshield and it’s the best 10 or $15 we’ve ever spent we put it up everywhere we go and it just helps keep the Sun out of the van we bought this little fan that’s a lifesaver and it runs off of our solar power battery and it can run all day and all night and it hardly uses any power and then probably the most important thing is last year we installed this roof vent it’s just a little round one you just pop it open that runs off of our 12-volt battery and you can just turn it on here and so that way when we have the side windows open it’s sucking hot air out and drawing fresh air in and creating a lot of air circulation and so this way the van is probably 10 or 20 degrees cooler than it was that first summer another thing we did is we added a piece of foam and a carpet to the floor to make it more comfortable so when you’re in a van where you can’t stand up you end up being on your knees all the time looking through the cooler folding clothes and basically doing all of your day-to-day living and so you can see here we’ve got a area rug a little piece of foam and then there’s the original carpet there and just having those three layers makes it a lot more comfortable to live in here for the bed we built a super simple platform with a piece of plywood four by six and then some two by four four legs this was a super simple construction we’re actually surprised that it’s still holding but this we’ve had no problems with this whatsoever the only thing that we did change is we added two strips at each end just to solidify where we sit all the time and then we also bolted it to the frame of the van and this is definitely our favorite feature of the whole van is our retractable bed so it has three positions bed for sleeping super lounge for lounging and then work mode which is how we set it up when we spend a ridiculous amount of hours sitting and working at the computer so basically this is a really simple system that we’ve developed there’s two sets of sticks two different heights this is workaholic mode with the tall sticks so we just remove these two stick we can then put the shorter ones in and as you can see it’s really strong we glued and screwed a piece of wood here and all the weight is onto that piece of wood so it’s really strong and then we just remove all the sticks to go into full sleeping mode and just to show you how it works we glued and screwed another strip of plywood here put some pretty heavy-duty door hinges and then it’s just another piece of plywood like this that’s on the hinges and because we have a pretty thick futon we don’t feel this bump at all another thing we love about this van is all the windows so sometimes when we’re apart by a lake or by some mountains we just get a beautiful panoramic view and then we also sometimes get an amazing view of a Walmart parking lot there’s more soft storage like I showed you earlier with that shoe rack we put some here which have our little piece of soft storage on the side of our bed and then we also have more soft storage back here we store most of our stuff under the bed so we have these long plastic bins that we can pull out like this this one has warm clothing for the shoulders seasons and flannel sheets and over here we have our tool box and in this other plastic bin we have extra parts and other tools that we might need to fix the bin so we tried to find a storage spot for every item but the reality is that this is a tiny space and that wasn’t quite possible so we just end up shuffling things around so at night we might put some of our bags in the front seats some stuff might go back here and yeah that’s just the reality for power we installed 300 watts of solar panels on the roof and we have a 155 amp hour battery stored right here underneath this table this is our charge controller our inverter is down here and then we plugged in a power bar so we can plug in our laptops and it’s a little bit easier like this and we love it we’ve been using it a ton it’s provided a lot more power than we thought it would we can both use laptops all day and one thing that we would like to add is a small 12-volt fridge and I’m pretty sure the system could totally handle that side note we got the flexible solar panels but if we were to do it again I don’t think we would get the flexible solar panels they don’t seem to last as long and as you can see on the roof here they seem to be a little bit damaged after three years and I just don’t think it’s as good of an investment as the rigid solar panels another modification we did last year is this fabric that we added to the ceiling so we just took an old bedsheet and then we took some old pieces of wood to finish it and mount it onto the top for privacy all the windows are tinted there’s also some blinds that came with the van we added some curtains and then we also added just a metal string across here and some homemade curtains to cut off the cockpit from the to the van down here we have a carbon monoxide detector and then up there we have a smoke detector as you can see we kept this can’t prevent conversion really simple and low-tech we didn’t want to install any really complicated systems probably the most complicated and expensive thing we put in was the solar power system which we love and we’ve used every single day that we’ve been in the van but a cheaper way to get the same amount of power would have been to just install one house battery and have it hooked up to our alternator since we do so much driving we love this camper van it feels just like home in here we spent three amazing summers living and working and traveling in this van we did buy a van that has turned out to need a lot of repairs every summer so that can definitely get expensive and annoying when we’re on the road and we need to stop constantly to get things fixed and often we’re in a rush because we’re working and we can’t necessarily stop to learn how to fix things ourselves so we have considered buying a newer van that would maybe need fewer repairs and we’ve also noticed that when we’re spending long days editing in the van it can start to feel a little long just being in this seated position all day long and so we do want to look into getting a high-top van that we could stand up in but that luxury does have a pretty hefty price tag so we’re kind of at the point where we’re looking at alternatives and we haven’t quite decided what we’re gonna do yet one thing that has saved us a lot of money with this van is the fact that it’s pretty stealthy it’s not the stealthiest van out there but we’ve never been kicked out of any place where we’ve stealth camped and so we have been able to save a lot of money by not staying in so many campgrounds again we want to say big thank you to Squarespace for sponsoring this video and in case you’re wondering sponsorships like these helped us fund the channel and keep it going if you’re looking into creating a new website Squarespace is basically a one-stop shop that makes it easy to build a website even if you have no experience you can get domain names website templates and set up an online store all in one place and they even have 24/7 customer service it’s just a really nice platform that’s easy user friendly and it’s great for people like us who don’t really know anything about building websites you can start your free trial today at and you can also get 10% off your first purchase if you go to Squarespace comm slash exploring alternatives be sure to subscribe to our channel we post a new video every Sunday


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