Van Dreamings: A Walk Through Our Current Set Up

in travelfeed •  6 months ago

I'm never hapier than when I'm living in a vehicle. There's need to be stationary, of course - the pull of having a home base is always there even for the most itinerant of us - but Iong too for the road. My happest times are in small spaces, perhaps because it's a cocoon of sorts, or that I'm in constant motion which suits the more airy parts of my identity that hate to be bound and trapped.

I thought I'd walk you through our van set up as J. drives us north to the Flinders Ranges. Distances are huge here. To journey takes hours, so I like to write here in between, a bluetooth keyboard on my lap. I can touch type and look at the view at the same time. And many of you have't seen the inside of our van and have asked for more photos, so here it is!

Kitchen Set Up

This set up changed across time as we tested it and figured out what we needed and what worked. I was insistant on two things - that I could stop anywhere on the road to make a coffee without havening to re-arrange things too much to get to the kettle and cooker, and that it went at the back rather than inside the van. We also knew we wanted to build a removable box so that we could take it out and put it in the landrover or, en route, we could put it under a gazebo or camp shelter away from the van if the weather was inclement. Here in Australia we have a lot of free camps, picnic areas, old huts with tables and fireplaces and so on where this is possible.

For this more portable solution, we also decided on a spirit stove - this one runs off metho or meethylated spirits. It means we don't a have a cumbersome gas tank and pipes to fiddle with - it's all very compact. We have been absolutely thrilled with this stove and wouldnt go back to gas. We also have two metal guards that clip onto the sides should it be super windy. In the below photo you can also see the flip out side table which gives us extra space and folds down when we dont need it.


There are two long benches on either side of the van over the wheel arches, and we made hatches so that we can esily access what we need from the back. So, on once side I have crockery, big cutlery like tongs and spoons, and a tupperware container for small cutlery. I also keep the spices here and sauces, as you want those easy access to add to your meal.

In the white box itself we keep frying pans, a saucepan, a billy, the aeropress for coffee and two mugs. Oh, and a colander. Basically everything we need to cook with.


In the above photo you can see the 'transformer' version where we can attach to the back via a long bolt. This gives us much more bench space so I tend to set it up like this for dinner. It kinda blows me away how much cooking space it gives us - so much so that we rarely take down the table in the ski tube we keep on the roof (that also has chairs snorkels, wetsuits, the solar panel and so on).


When we pack up, the waer but sits neatly in front of another two water containers iin the side boxes if we are going bush in places we need to be more self sufficient. We did keep it behind the passenger seat in the front but we had to have a bit of a shuffle around, as you'll see in a minute.

The BedRoom


No, we don't sleep widthways across the bed! This is set up as the 'day bed' - under the doona there are the bits of foam that 'jijsaw' in to make the bed. Those pieces sit where the kitchen benchtop is! So as soon as we get up in the morning, the foam gets tucked under the doona, the sheets tuck under the shorterned bed, and I stay under the warmth of the covers whilst Jamie makes me a coffee. It's a perfect arrangemnt. It's also possible to configure this to have two benches and a table in the middle on a telescope pole, but we found we just didn't use it and the space under the bed is valubale for putting boxes of firewood, shoes, the dirty laundry bag and my camera bag. It also means that we do't have to put the doona and bedding in the long box along the wheel arches, and can use that for wine and beer storage (I call it the cellar) , fishing rods, spare firewood, newspaper, spare food like UHTmilk and cans and so on. In fact we have so much space we can survive for weeks without going to a shop I reckon, although fresh food is a bit harder of course.

Books, Clothes and Other Storage Solutions


In every vehicle I've lived in (and there's been a few we have had room for books, so this one is no different. I also have a wire basket there for fruit - on this trip, mangoes and avocadoes. If we carry more books, this gets taken out and strapped to the table underneath with an octopus strap.


The slide out drawers are easy to clean and fit alot of food. The top shelf in this cupboard has first aid, and other sundries like playing cards, earplugs, bushcraft knives and tucked up the back, a few bottles of wine.

To the left of this is the space for our old Engel 12vo fridge, and under that, a sliding drawer that we used to fit J's clothes (mnd hang off the back of a passenger seat in a big overnight bag). However, the fridge broke, and our new fridge is heaps bigger as I wanted to be able to carry enough fresh food to last for at least a week, which the Engel couldnt do. So now our clothes all just get stuffed in the fridge receptacle and the space underneath we can't really access without pulling the fridge out. That's okay though as we put emergencey supplies in there and other camping equipment. I can fit at least a slab of beer under there, or a carton of coconut milk with room left over for plenty of other things. It kinda blows my mind how much stuff we can store in this van - far more than you'd expected. She is like the Tardis in that way.

12 Volt Set Up

Ireally love this fridge. Ican fit ridiculous amounts of food in it - enough for a week. We eat a lot of fresh vegetables so it's important. There are two batteries - There is a deep cyle battery which is charge from a split charging system so when the car is runig it charges up that battery as well. WE also have a solar charger which we can plug the solar panel in (which is kept in the ski tube on the roof)so we can charge that battery too. We can also have voltmeters and ammeter behind the drivers seat so we can see what the current being drawn from teh battery and how much volatage is in there. We can also plug other 12V things in here too, like the shower (oh man I love my 12 volt shower) and we can also run an inverter off this to charge laptops. The days of having an esky full of ice are well and truly gone. Yay.


One of the things we really love about this van is the fact we insulated it - there's foil board or insulated bats underneath wipe clean ply panels and the floor is also insulated. We have been in minus temperatures in this baby and with a hot water bottle and each other, have been toasty whlst those outside in tents froze. There's also no drip of condensation at all except for teh windows but you can't help that. The other thing I love is that little bit of bench space to put things on at night like books or the laptop and if it's raining I can make lunch inside too.

I hope you enjoyed this little tour of the van. I did think abut dtubing it but we're headed busy and this post will go on shcedule in STeempeak so I doubted I'd be able to upload a Dtube out here. Please ask any questions - we're old pros at van life and vehicle life and are happy to help.

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Oh, @mountainjewel, I will make a Dtube when everyoone has forgotten this one hahaaha! Yep, we are total old pros at this - we've done up more vehicles and caravans than you can count. Endless thinking about small spaces!

@andabout that sounds fabulous. I do have lots of tips, but it depends what you are after. What kind of vehicle are you moving into? Is it already set up? Are you doing it yourself? One thing I thought of is don't underestimate the value of a pee bucket :) Sometimes you just dont want to go outsidee in the middle of the night! But really, you need to consider utilising every bit of space. I also make sure the kitchen is by a door so you can get burning things out FAST!!! In the UK/Europe of course things are a little different to here - we can get by with a largely outdoor kitchen in most spots. Wouldl love to hear more about your plans!! And certainly more than happier to advise - I absolutely love making tiny spaces. I definitely woudl invest in a 12 v fridge. Where are you planning to live?

@walkerland @goldenoakfarm thankyou! And goodness, it is pretty awesome lying in bed whilst your cuppa is made for you :) And the view changes all the time. WE often feel quite clever indeed as everythiing works so perfecdtly.

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Thank you so much @riverflows your time and kindness, I am so grateful for!♥♥♥
We are planning to buy a secondhand van, we don't know yet which van, and then build ourselves the tiny home. It will be used to live full time for minim 2 to 3 years in the Uk and europe, while we look for land to buy and build a natural sustainable house. Land in the UK is a bit expensive for us so we are looking to buy somewhere in the Mediterranean countries.
We are low maintenance minimalist used to tiny spaces. If you have any recommendations about which van and what do you find useful and not so useful to have living in a small space... Did you build the interior yourself? Any advises? We have four seasons here...
I am bit all over the place with the project.. We will start this journey march next year, until then we will plan out everything.
I have been traveling for the last six months with very poor data and limited time online so is very hard to do long research.. I am very aware that you have very useful post that can guide me, so I thought once I return to the Uk in the end of this month and have access to wifi go and do a proper research and read the the articles that you wrote and I missed, then come back to you with clearer questions!
All my love and support♥♥♥

What a cool and cozy set up you've created. Great Van I love it. I really think its clever that you can stay snug and warm and get coffee in bed. :)

We've always been tent campers and that can be so tedious having to unpack everything and repack plus it is never truly all that comfortable sleeping on the ground (especially when you are hiking in and going lightweight so no foam pads to lie on).

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Great setup you have there.

So so so so awesome and inspiring van and article, the van is cute, practical and gave me tons of ideas. Me and my beloved are planing to get a van soon and covert it in a tiny home while we look for land, the place to settle and build a off grid homestead. I got really excited with your post. Do you have any tips for someone who have never lived in a tiny place and is about to move into one soon?
Lots of love light and blessings♥♥♥

That van is so cool! What a wonderful and creative use of space, providing the amount of comfort and utility you want. I am VERY impressed!

I upvoted your post.

Best regards,

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Oooh oh! make a dtube vid! literally zooming in over here to see the ins and outs of your setup. very inspring! you two are awesome! obvs old pros and a lot of experience, thought and care went into this design!! xoxo

Great use of space! Above all, it strikes me very much like living on a boat... everything has its place, and has to be tied down, and NO room for "slack" that isn't absolutely necessary.


@whitelightxpress That's it EXACTLY. It is remarkable how much one can fit in if it's organised well.

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oh I so want a little van again to go off on adventures with my 3 girls, I had a Toyota hi-ace in Australia back in the day, a lovely pop up it was, called her Amanja. you both done a great job on this little home away from home xxx


@shottshotts oh cheers, that would be awesome wouldn't it? Good luck with that! We have also got a SEries 3 landrover we are doing up to go on trips with as well - J. is giving her a big overhaul but we're looking forward to setting her up for journeys!

@truck-lifefamily, so cool!! I'd love to see photos. You must have been really young! Did you go all the way arouund and up the centre too? How long were you here for? Yeah, a lot of crew used to have those Toyotas but you dont see a lot of them anymore. Those and the starwagons. We used to have a Ford Econovan. Anything you can put a bed in and go! Now we are older we like our creature comforts, especially the 12V fridge!!!

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Great set up! I would love to own a 4x4 Sportsmobile van one day so seeing tours of vans like this always interests me. Happy travels!!!

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Oh man! That's way bigger than I imagined, and organized too! And there's no duct tape!

I feel bad that I came here to read this post right before bed time, now I'm going to dream with land rovers or sail boats and freedom.


Hey @mrprofessor, I put this together just for you! I don't think it's that bad you are dreaming of sailboats and landrovers - sounds like a pretty good dream to me!!!

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It is the beeeeeeeeeest dreams, until we wake up and face reality \o\o\o\

I don't know why I pictured the van smaller, but it turns out to be super comfy.

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