When James first purchased his van, we had no intention of taking it away for weekend trips. It was purchased to be a work van when he was taking the steps to start his own air conditioning business. However, we decided to take it away on our very first road trip to Seal Rocks and we loved every minute of it! The van was just a shell with a raised floor and a mattress on it. We decided to start our van conversion after this trip.
Our van is a 2015 Hyundai iLoad. It was purchased brand new. Basically an empty metal frame, with just the two front seats and dashboard built in ready to go. We slowly started decking it out, in two minds as to whether it would be a work van or a holiday van. Once we started taking more and more trips away, the van conversion really began!
We covered the interior with wooden panels. Most of the wood was spare, although we did purchase some of it. We cut, sanded and varnished the wood before drilling it into the van’s interior with the help of a very good friend! We then varnished the wood using a varnish we found underneath the house at James’ parents. The wood now has a lovely warm, homely tone to it.
For the floor, we used a dark, charcoal carpet. We just measured it out to size and cut it up! We then then into the van’s metal floor and kept in place with some neat non slip angles.
The extra wood, carpet and non slip angles were purchased from Bunnings Warehouse.
The bed sits on top of our storage space. The storage space below is 400mm high, leaving just the right amount of space above the bed for us to sit up. We have a campervan mattress and a foam underlay which adds that extra bit of soft cushion!
The mattress and foam underlay were purchased from Clark Rubber.
Our main fridge is a Dometic Waeco CFX 40. It’s 41 litres. This size works great for us and fits everything we need. Fresh fruit, veggies and tall water bottles included!
Our second fridge is more of a console cooler. We keep this one in the front with us and it sits on the middle seat. We love our cold drinks and this cooler is perfect for that. The model we have is a Dometic Waeco Bordbar TB 08. It’s 8 litres.
Both of our fridges were purchased from Anaconda.
We decided to install a little “overhead cabin”. This was a great inclusion to our van and is the perfect place for easy to reach items. We like to store our spare bed sheets and Turkish towels in here.
Lighting and Fan
The roof of the van has 5 LED lights evenly spaced which dim using a controller. There’s also a light underneath the overhead cabin which we find really useful at night. Or when there’s not enough natural light shining into the van when we are looking for something.
The fan was a welcome addition! It’s not too loud either so we love using it during those hot nights in tropical North Queensland. The exact model is the 12V Caframo Maestro Variable Speed Fan.
The lights and fan are all wired down one side of the van, and into the battery box. James wired these up himself which he is qualified to do. We recommend leaving this to an Electrician.
The LED lights were purchased from Whitworths. The fan can be purchased here also, however, we found it MUCH cheaper on eBay! $60 AUD cheaper to be exact. I’d recommend looking up all products on eBay before you purchase in-store. Chances are they will be online.
The (battery) box
A wooden box sits directly next to our bed containing our sealed dual battery. It also holds our little tool box, laptop chargers and other small bits and pieces we want to keep out of the way, but don’t want to lose.
The battery setup
Our van has a dual battery set up. The second battery is 125 amp/hr. This runs our USB charging ports, lighting, fridge and fan. We also use a 1000w inverter. This converts power to 240v which can run our laptops, hair straightener, battery drills and even our NutriBullet.
This awesome setup was put together by James with a bit of extra help from our friends family business, Walkers Auto Electrics. The inverter was an addition, purchased at Repco.
There is nothing better than our solar power! We have a 120w folding panel. It gets A LOT of use. Especially when we are set up in a location for a long period of time – like our stay in Rainbow Beach!
The solar panel was purchased from Jaycar Electronics.
We purchased an intelligent battery charger so we could plug in to powered sites if we wanted to (or needed to!) While we were in Palm Cove we had a couple of cloudy days and decided this was a good investment. We’re constantly using our laptops for James’ photos and print store, as well as my content writing business, so we’re always using our dual battery to charge them up. When you’re working from the road like we do, having the battery charger ensures we’re always fully charged.
This was purchased from Autobarn. We use the Voltage 12v 8amp.
Solar tube shower
An awesome friend of ours helped us put this together. We used 110mm PVC pipe as well as 45 and 90 degree bends. We sanded and spray painted these black. Tap fittings were used on the ends, giving us access to 40 litres of backup water. The best thing about it? It sits on top of the van, out of the way and the water is warmed from the sun.
All of these materials were purchased from Bunnings Warehouse.
Pull out kitchen
The kitchen is an absolutely amazing addition to our van conversion and perfect for life on the road! It pulls out so we can stand up and use the cooktop at just the right height. There is a storage compartment underneath our Primus 2 Burner Stove which is where we keep our pots and pans. There is another larger storage compartment to the left of the cooktop which stores all of our dry food, plates, bowls, cups and containers. The cutlery and utensils are kept behind the cooktop in wooden boxes.
The placement of our kitchen came in super handy when we were in the Daintree Rainforest. As it’s a rainforest, it was rare to be cooking a meal when it wasn’t raining! Since the pull out kitchen is at the back of the car we could cook in the rain and the boot door acted as a roof.
The sliding tracks were purchased from Bunnings Warehouse. The stove was purchased at Anaconda.
One of our best purchases we made was our awning. I don’t know what we would have done without it! As soon as we arrive anywhere, setting it up is the first thing we do. Living in a van means there isn’t really any time you are actually “indoors”. The next best thing is having shade to sit underneath, whether you are eating lunch, working on your laptop, or just setting in for the afternoon.
We purchased the van without any side windows. We ended up getting some installed! This was a great idea as it let out some natural light and we didn’t feel so boxed in.
We also made the decision to have the windows tinted. We chose the darkest possible tint. At night, no one is able to see in even if we have our lights on or are using our laptops.
My mum made some curtains up for the back window of the van. She also helped us with some curtains that run behind the front seats and also the side windows. We love that we can block out any unwanted light and have some privacy.
There are two main spaces for storage. One being underneath our bed. The left side perfectly fits our surfboards. We also use this area to store items like our beach umbrella and our spare clothes and shoes.
Our second storage space is on the roof. We have the large Ridge Ryder Hybrid Roof Tray where we can store our bigger items. We installed this to our roof rack ourselves, however you can pay for the installation. A Dune 4WD Desert Sand 150 Litre Storage Box sits on top of the grate and holds items that aren’t valuable or needed often.
The roof tray was purchased from BCF, and the storage box was from Anaconda.
James came up with this cool idea to install an air vent into the top of our car! He literally sawed into the roof to install it. We purchased a low profile hatch which is actually for boats but it works fabulously.
The air vent was purchased from Whitworths.
Van conversion essentials
The items we believe to be essentials to complete a van conversion are:
- Gas bottle – we have the 2kg which lasts weeks!! We usually only use it to cook our dinners. It can be refilled at BCF, plus many other places. We use the Gas Finder app if there isn’t a BCF nearby.
- Tool box – incase we want to make additions or alterations to our van or if anything breaks.
- 4WD recovery tracks and snatch strap – these haven’t been used yet, but will be a lifesaver if we ever get ourselves bogged.
- Space for water – bring plenty of it!
- Fridge – a must have! We’ve seen a couple of people with eskies, and it’s really just not worth it.
What we packed
The exact list of what we packed would go on forever. Download this Van Life Packing List as your guide!
The travel plan
When we are travelling in our van a plan is kind of non existent as we take each day as it comes! However, the long term goal is travel all the way around Australia’s coastline and outback gems! You can keep up to date with all of the Australian travel destinations we visit as I’ll continue to share them as we go.
Considering a van conversion of your own?
If you’re planning on doing a van conversion yourself I’ll leave you with a few tips. First of all, GO FOR IT! It’s such an amazing way to travel and see all of the places you’ve been dreaming of but can’t quite afford because accommodation is so costly. Secondly, it’s such a free way of exploring. You literally have your ‘home’ with you and therefore have everything you need right there and then. You can pick and choose where you want to visit and just drive there whenever you please.
Exploring Australia or your home country at your own pace is such a great wait to experience all of the amazing places on offer. It’s one of the best ways to travel and something we’ll continue to do forever.
If you have any questions about our van setup, ask me in the comments below!