The Van is Done

Quick update. The van is done. There are no further show stoppers that would prevent me / us from moving to a nomadic lifestyle.  Many small issues, but nothing mission-critical.

The electrical system is complete. We have 700W recharging 428Ah, fans and fridge running 24/7, and rarely do we ever get below “full” (12.84V) overnight. I’ve never seen it get below 12.6V except when the induction stove is running; after which it returns to higher levels in due course. Continue reading “The Van is Done”

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”

Van Build – Rebuild / Superstructure

Those of you who have been around here for a while will remember my original build. I had an extendable slats-based bed on the left side, a rudimentary kitchen forward of that, and nothing on the right side.

This layout didn’t suit me well for a number of reasons: Continue reading “Van Build – Rebuild / Superstructure”

Van build: Superstructure

I decided to tear out my van bed and kitchen and more-or-less start over. The insulation and paneling are good, so I’m leaving those.

You may recall the bed I had built previously (see below left). The weight was all on one side, it wasn’t anchored very well to the van structure, and we almost never collapsed it into bench mode even when driving. Furthermore, I chose the openable bench design because I wanted a hallway to get to the back door, but I never use it, which makes it pointless. Finally, in the event of a head-on collision, not much is keeping it from flying forward.

Continue reading “Van build: Superstructure”

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:

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”

2017 GMC Savana 3500: My New Van

I haven’t been posting much lately because I actually picked a vehicle, started the modifications to it, and started going on camping trips to prepare for the Van Life. But I feel bad for disappearing all of a sudden, so here’s the van.

It’s only been two months, but I’ve gotten a fair amount of work done, and the wife and I have gone on a few dry camping trips. Not proper dispersed camping / boondocking, as we’ve been in campgrounds; but no hookups.  I think I may have to ease into boondocking over time; my experiences in the backroads have not been great so far. Continue reading “2017 GMC Savana 3500: My New Van”