I am a retired airplane product development engineer. I live in “Big Sky” country near Bozeman Montana.
We have enjoyed RVing over the years, but lost our last RV in a highway crunch.
One thing we did not enjoy about RVing was the 10 mpg gas bills and the 2 lbs per mile of CO2 emissions.
So, this site is about getting back into RVing with a smaller footprint. In our case we have converted a relatively efficient RAM ProMaster van into an RV that gets 20 mpg (twice our old RV). The conversion is described in mind numbing detail here… I’ve also tried to gather information here on many approaches to efficient RVing. If you have or know of projects that you think would fit in well here, please let me know.
I like doing hands-on projects, especially ones that involve building prototypes to test new concepts. Here are a couple of my past prototypes:
July 8, 2015
We’re thinking of doing a Promaster conversion and I want to say THANK YOU for putting together such a comprehensive and understandable guide! The project already feels less daunting…
Sounds good — keep us posted on how you are doing.
Congrats for your well documented web site, your openness to share your knowledge, and your diplomacy in communicating back to questions.
Hope you get to enjoy your nice RV, seems you also enjoy the pleasure of building stuff,you may miss your workshop while traveling.
I think you have me figured out — looking for a new project 🙂
We are about to head down to the Gulf for a month in the PM — that should be fun too.
I have looked at many DIY van conversion websites and You Tube videos and yours is the best.
After many years of camping we sold the big 5th wheel and plan a similar conversion in the summer of 2018.
I will be analyzing your every comment and photo this winter.
Thank you so much for providing this information.
Thanks Boyd — keep us posted.
Gary looks like you have such an interesting life, approach and web site.
I have undertaken a conversion with two high school seniors which is well underway and I was undereducated, informed and overly optimistic from the get go.
I was wondering if you knew anyone in the Boston area that I could consult with to get the van over to he/she and get some short terms fixes before I can come take a tutorial in Montana!!1
Wish I could help, but don’t know many people in the conversion business. But, I do think there are good people doing this kind of work — just not easy to locate.
I’d suggest posting your question on the ProMaster, Sprinter, and Ford Transit forums — they are all pretty active with lots of people engaged in conversions. They might know someone who could help.
I spent an enjoyable evening reading through your process. I noticed that questions, comments are almost exclusively from men. I envy you this vehicle, have wished for a similar tiny self=contained for years. When a pup tent got to be a little too low, I modified a Toyota van (the original introduction with the seats over the motor) with a pull out bed/bench and a portapotty and lots of crate storage. It was also my main vehicle, and of course didn’t cook in it unless it was raining !
Anyway, in my experiences, there needs to be a place to hang things–clothes, wet jackets, dog leashes, etc. Also, storage for cooking equipment and supplies is terribly minimal. If you like to go remote, as you indicate, and don’t live on granola bars, you can’t take a whole lot of food variety. Third, how about a hinged flip-up counter top piece, a large as the adjacent bed will allow, for work space. And I know you are trying to keep open space, but netting or a small hammock hung from the ceiling would make a place for the “junk” that accumulates on the bed.
I think you have a very accommodating spouse who enjoys travelling in this way as much as you do! Good tripping to the three of you!
This is actually our 4th RV (first conversion done from scratch), so we have a pretty good idea what works for us, which is simple and open. But, the great thing about converting a van yourself is that you can tailor it exactly to your needs/wants.
One thing we did consider seriously was to raise the bed area in the back so that there would be a wall to wall storage area in the back under the beds and floor — this makes for a lot of storage. But, for now anyway, we decided we did not need that much storage.
Our last RV was a nice Coachman class B (about the same size as the ProMaster but half the mpg). But, it suffered from what a lot of commercial RV makers feel is their need to stuff in every feature and convenience known to mankind. It had a dinette that made into a bed that looked cool, but made an awful bed. It had lots of storage and a shower…, but that all took up a lot of space and made it feel very confined.
So, we ended up completely redoing the interior to take out a lot of stuff and put in a comfortable fixed bed. This worked great for us, but I’m sure others would want a different solution.
Lots of ideas out there. Some examples of what others have done here: https://www.buildagreenrv.com/diy-rv-conversions/diy-van-conversions/
The forums for Sprinter, Transit and ProMaster all have some good builds to look at, and Pintrest is also a good source of ideas.
Hope you will share what you come up with with the rest of us.
If you are looking for DIY teardrop sites this site is great It even have Teardrops that are made of foam and canvas.
That looks like a really good one — tons of good info.
Will add a link to it when we get back home.
Thanks — Gary
oh, boy, mike, wouldn’t we ALL love to do that!?!?!?!? i am responding because
i, too, just bought a ’16 ford transit. i think you will have to buy Gary a lot
more than lunch, or a coffee, for such information. it is HARD to come by,
believe me. is there such a thing as a “simple” conversion? we need to form a club – really! i live in CA, but if Gary would go for such a meeting, i’d hop a plane to Bozeman in a heart beat. good luck on your adventure, mike, and all good wishes. i would love to follow your conversion plans.
Hey Jean — did you work out the bunk vs sofa issue OK?
My name is Mike. Just came across your awesome site and noticed you’re in Bozeman, as am I. I’m doing a simple conversion on a ’16 ford Transit. I was wondering if I could bribe you into a cup of coffee or lunch sometime (I’ll buy! ) and pick your brain about some of your experience with solar/ electrical and insulation, as I have almost ZERO experience with any of this stuff. Started insulating with Polyiso recently but haven’t had time to work on things much, but in the next few weeks I’m going jump on things. Would love to chat conversion stuff in person and hear your thoughts.
I’ll leave my email and hopefully you might be up for that.
Would be glad to get together.
We are out of town for a couple weeks, but if you could drop me an email in a couple weeks, we could arrange a talk.
email is BuildAGreenRV@gmail.com