Van Build Progress Update

Progress on the van build has been slow but steady. I’ve been working on this thing for about a year, and it’s almost done. Progress has been stifled somewhat by a combination of scheduling conflicts, extreme weather, and the laziness that is inherent to all computer programmers.

This update is for those of you who do not follow my build on YouTube. I update that far more often, for some reason.

Looks like my last update was in February. I was working on the superstructure at the time. I have long since finished it, including the dinette and side cabinets. Continue reading “Van Build Progress Update”

Iterative Development: A software metaphor for van builds

I am a software developer, specializing in relational database development. In software development, we have processes (“methodologies”) that help us maximize the quality of our product. While there are many different methodologies and permutations thereof, they usually look something like this:

  1. Gather requirements (what does the customer want?)
  2. Analyze requirements (what do these requirements mean?)
  3. Design (how should we solve their problem?)
  4. Development (build it)
  5. Test (test it)
  6. Integration (make it work with other things, if applicable)
  7. Deployment (deliver / install / configure the product)

Problems can arise in any step along the way. When they do, you bring those problems back to step 1 and repeat. The loop continues until there are no new requirements / problems (or the project runs out of money). Continue reading “Iterative Development: A software metaphor for van builds”

Verizon Beyond Unlimited hotspot plan

I chatted with a salesperson from Verizon Wireless and got a number of concerns addressed and questions answered. Thought some of it might be helpful here. I looked into Verizon specifically because they’re known for having the best coverage in rural areas, and I plan to spend a lot of time in the middle of nowhere.

  1. 4G/LTE speeds are somewhere from 5Mbps to 50Mbps, but usually between 5 and 12. She couldn’t answer this with a number so I had to go look it up.
  2. The Beyond Unlimited plan is truly unlimited. However, once you use > 22 GB / month, you will be deprioritized if you’re on a congested tower. When you get deprioritized, you will be stuck at 3G speeds (600Kbps). You will never be charged or disabled for extra usage, no matter how much. The 22GB limit is reduced to 15GB if you get the regular Go Unlimited plan instead of Beyond Unlimited.
  3. If the tower you’re on is not congested, you will still get the full 4G LTE speeds (or whatever your signal will carry), no matter how much you use. It is unclear how they define “congested”.
  4. If you get just the hotspot, it’s $85/mo if you enable paperless billing and auto pay. There are discounts beyond that if you also have phone(s). She quoted me $20/mo if I’m also paying for two phones.
  5. 4G/LTE hotspots are able to connect to 3G-only towers, if that’s all they can find.
  6. Hotspots support plenty of devices connected at the same time; 10 to 20 of them depending on the device types.
  7. Once you reach your 15GB or 22GB limit, only the hotspot is deprioritized; phones are not.
  8. Verizon allows signal boosters, but you are required by law to register them. Which gets tricky since you’re supposed to tell them where you’ll be using it.
  9. You can buy a “Data Boost” once a month. It will increase your limit by 5GB for $35.
  10. If you travel to Mexico or Canada, the plan is 512MB/day instead of 15-22 GB/mo. However, if more than 50% of your talk, text, or data usage in a 60-day period occurs in Canada or Mexico, they may limit or remove your service in those countries.

I also found this FAQ which frankly answers more questions than she did. Hope this helps.

Note: I am not a Verizon customer yet, but I plan to be as part of my transition into vanlife. When I do, after I’ve had enough time to evaluate it, I’ll either update this post or add a new post. Hopefully I’ll remember to link it from here.

Building the Bed

We all need somewhere to sleep. I saw some great bed designs on the Internet, where the bed can be extended for sleep, but be retracted to save on space during the day. I decided to use this model for mine.

I chose cedar for the legs, as I’ve heard it repels some crawling insects. I chose redwood for the slats because it’s strong, and because I couldn’t find the size I wanted in cedar. Have I mentioned I’m lazy?

Every slat is screwed in with 3-4 big wood screws. Mistake: I didn’t make them a uniform width, so the bed came out slightly trapezoidal. The back is about 1.5 inches wider than the front. Continue reading “Building the Bed”

Paneling the Walls

The van needs walls. It came with walls, but they’re sheet metal, they’re not insulated by default, and any screws would go straight through to the exterior, adding safety hazards and making rain come inside. I needed to install my own.

Bob did a bit of paneling in one of his insulation videos:

He also does some wall corner work in his Roof video:

tl;dr: Here’s my video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ltbvSnJeu2A

I found some plain white wood panels at Home Depot, and they were nice enough that I wasn’t going to bother looking very hard for a nice wood style. The white reflects more light, and the lack of texture makes it more forgiving of mistakes. As with apparently everything at Home Depot, they’re in  4×8 foot sections. I used 3 of them for the walls.

I had made a stencil of one of the ribs, on a scrap sheet of XPS insulation. Using this stencil, I was able to identify where the solid parts of the ribs were, and screwed the panels into those spots. Continue reading “Paneling the Walls”

Insulating the Walls

As you would expect, a lot of the decisions I made were based on information I’ve found on the Internet. In particular, I found Bob’s videos on van insulation particularly helpful, especially considering I bought almost exactly the same van he did.  Here are his insulation videos for context:

Rolling Earth-Ship also did a good series of videos on Insulation, and also with almost exactly the same van:

As for my own project, let’s begin with the empty template. Here’s what the inside of the cargo bay looked like before I had done anything to it:

You may notice I got the model with the extended wheelbase, so it’s slightly longer than most Savanas. I didn’t think it would be comfortable to cram two people into the short model. Continue reading “Insulating the Walls”

Fulltiming / Vandwelling Maintenance

Vehicle maintenance is more important than ever, and now you have to deal with house maintenance on top of that. It’s not just oil changes and tire rotation; your vehicle’s owner’s manual has important maintenance that needs to be done after 30K miles, 50K, etc. Sometimes it seems that most vehicles don’t get this very necessary work done. Continue reading “Fulltiming / Vandwelling Maintenance”

How to sleep better in your RV

Light:

  • Rise and sleep with the sun.
  • Block out outside light with Reflectix, window covers, fan cover, etc.

Noise:

  • Park somewhere quiet and level.
  • Wear ear protection, like you do at the gun range.
  • Park a reasonable distance from running water (as the USFS will tell you anyway, I think 100-200′) and other noise sources.

Continue reading “How to sleep better in your RV”

Heating Pros and Cons

Heat Pump

Pros:

  • Dry heat reduces moisture
  • Electric, so good when you have hookups or a generator

Cons:

  • Uses lots of power
  • Expensive to run
  • Probably can’t use them when boondocking
  • Won’t work below 40F
  • Noisy
  • No basement heat
  • Large

Built-in Furnace

Pros:

  • Heats up quickly
  • Routed throughout the vehicle
  • Uses propane
  • Included in many RVs
  • Heats the basement
  • Vents externally
  • Expandable fuel source

Continue reading “Heating Pros and Cons”

Backup Systems

Things are going to break. Things are going to fail at the worst possible time. Therefore it’s critical to have backups for everything, especially if you’re going to be dispersed camping in the middle of nowhere.

Below is a list of things you’ll need to consider, and some options for each one. For each system, you should consider having at least two choices while you’re on the road. These are just the ideas I’ve found. Continue reading “Backup Systems”