After my friend Luke posted about our van, a lot of people asked me some details about how the van is set up. Since I can't give everyone a real-life tour , I thought I would make a little list of my 10 favorite things in the van. However, I ended up having 12 favorites...
So here are 12 things I love about our "Rolling Pimento" van.
Solar Panels and Goal Zero Battery :
We have two 100W solar panels on the roof of the van that power a Goal Zero battery (Yeti 1250 Solar Generator). It’s literally the best thing. We have enough power to power the fridge, the lights, the fan, our computers and phones and from time to time, we can even crank out an espresso. Obviously, it's also eco-friendly, which I think is pretty rad.
We have a stripe of lights that is taped on the ceiling and go around the whole perimeter of the van. It is awesome to have good luminosity in your “rolling house” and the best part about those lights is that they use approximately 0 to 0.5 W of energy to work. With a little remote, you can easily change the intensity of light depending on the time of the day and how you feel.
We use an ARB fridge. It’s a great fridge because there is enough room in it to put food for 2 people for about 2-3 days. It doesn’t use much energy…I’d say about 40W during 30 seconds, once every couple hours. The best about this fridge is the way it is set up. It’s on a little plank with wheels, so we roll it in and out of a “slot” to use it - it's easy and room efficient. Thanks to the genius guy from who we bought the van!
The “Swivel bike rack”:
You want a bike rack but you also want to be able to open you back doors and have access to your storage? You need RAK Attach. It’s a swivel attach that can go with any kind of bike racks and it allows you to swing the bike rack out of the way when you want to open the back doors.
The Swivel passenger seat:
Talking about swivels, the seat one is pretty convenient. Swivel it around and you’ve got a pretty sweet “hang out” area. Hard to understand how great it is until you actually swivel it for the first time and get to hang out in the living area.
Hand pump sink:
Ours is linked to a 5 gallons water tank and we use it mostly to wash the dishes. Honestly, if I had to do it again, I’d make the sink a little bigger (big enough to fit a plate in it). But it is still great to have it even if it’s small. We don’t have a grey water tank; instead, there is a little hole in the van and the water drops directly outside. It’s cool because we never have to empty a grey water tank. However, we make sure to not throw food scraps or chemical products in there.
Here's how it works: You pump it with a little built-in-foot-pump, it builds some pressure inside the reservoir, and you can enjoy a nice shower with good pressure! You want it hot? Just add some boiling water in the reservoir. This portable shower is the best. It doesn’t take much room in the van and it is enough for about 6 showers. After that 6 showers, you just need to fill it up again. You can’t beat taking a shower outside under a sky full of stars!!
We have a roof fan that we use quite a lot to freshen up the air. However, if we could, we would have AC in the van. In the summer it gets really toasty in there. It is fine to sleep at night because we crank up the little fan, but during the day, honestly...just get AC! That's the next upgrade we need to do.
Talking about temperature, another good thing to have is a little propane heater. When you sleep in cool places, it can be fun to turn on Mr. Buddy a few minutes to warm up the van while having dinner or before going to sleep.
They make some really expensive mosquito nets for Sprinters, but we just made our own and it was super easy. It’s awesome to have when it’s mosquito season; it allows you to enjoy some fresh air without being eaten by the mosquitoes.
We use this queen mattress. It is comfortable and it folds on itself so it is super easy to store. If you want a van, my advice would be to have a bed that is easy to build at night and to store in the morning. You’re going to do it everyday, so you don’t want it to be complicated. Ours never completely goes away, so we can leave the pillows and blankets on it during the day. However, when it is folded, it takes up only half the space of when it’s 100% opened, so we still have a lot of free space in the day.
If you like cooking and eating good food, having a portable BBQ in your van is a good idea. When we are in the van, we eat outside most of the time, so having the BBQ allows us to diversify the way we eat a little bit. Not only can we grill things, but we also put our cast iron inside and close the lid of the BBQ to use it as an oven.
Now this part is the most important of all. If you ride bikes, you want to have enough room in your van to store the bikes inside. Even if you have a sweet rack, sometimes you will have to store them inside, so make sure you have enough room. Our storage is at the back and it is located under the bed. Here are a few tips we found to optimize the storage:
- Bed height: Make sure the bed is high enough to put bikes under it. Or low enough so you can sit on the bed without hitting the ceiling with your head… One or the other. Don’t put your bed at a middle height, because you won’t be able to sit on the bed or put bikes underneath.
- Hooks: Drill a bunch of hooks and use bungee cords to hold your stuff in place in the back of the van. Bungee cords are simple to use, they don’t take up any space and they are versatile.
- Bike tools: We installed some tools on the doors (see picture) and it is super convenient to have access to tools easily.
- Nets: They are good to store your stuff and they don’t take up any room. Not just in the storage area at the back of the van, but even on the walls inside the van.
- Cupboard + drawers: If you have a cupboard, it’s awesome if there is a drawer in it. It facilitates the access to your stuff. We have a cupboard/drawer with all our utensils and plates and another one that we use as a pantry. If you have drawers, make sure you have a way to close them tight; we use a magnet system.
All in all, the very best thing about having a big van is that it allows David and I to go on small trips and adventures without having to go in hotel rooms, but while still being comfortable. But, the VERY, VERY best thing about it, is that it makes long distance driving way more fun... The truth is, I rarely have to drive because David does most (read all) of the driving. That means I can just prepare lunch, stretch and hang out in the living area while he drives! :)
Basically, my advice would be: if you are thinking about it, just go for it and get one. But don't quit everything to get a van before trying it first. Personally we prefer using it only for small trips. That's just us though, do whatever floats your boat!
Click on the photo below to see the whole picture gallery :)