How to convert a van for off-road travel

When you’re interested in taking a van and travelling with it, it’s necessary to get it prepared. A van comes as either an empty shell when it’s a cargo van, or if it’s a former minivan then complete with rear seating too. This is the starting point.

Here are some tips on what to do with your van before heading out on your travels.

how to convert a van

Start with what you’ve got

Look at the van to see what you’re starting with and plan from there. If it is a van that has extra seating which needs to be removed to create a living space, that’s the first thing to do.

Sometimes, you can move in with only a few cosmetic changes. However, gutting much of the interior is often necessary to clean it up, remove any issues in an older vehicle and start from scratch. This process can take a few days or several weekends, but it does reveal any hidden issues that can be attended to before hitting the road.

Add some insulation for the walls

No van will be warm enough at night.

Even in the summer, it will benefit from some added insulation in the walls. Metal vans heat up during the day but the rapidly falling temperature in the evening and overnight is shocking. It’s rare that taking a trip in a van when you’re sleeping in it at campgrounds either in the UK or abroad will be warm enough without adding a couple of layers of wall insulation.

There is some debate on whether the artificial interior walls should be sealed with the insulation between the metal outer frame and the second interior wall. It can trap morning condensation when it’s sealed, which is an issue in some colder climates.

Build out a bed

Build out a bed frame to support a memory foam mattress. A wooden frame that is tall enough to provide space is best. With the basic frame in place and the memory foam mattress (and pillow) sitting atop of it, you’re all set for a cosy night in.

Below the bed frame, add containers for extra storage. Usually, some of these are accessible from below the bed facing the interior and the rest are accessible when opening the back doors.

Toilet and shower arrangements

Taking a trip in a van, you have to think about your toilet and shower arrangements.

Some people purchase a portable toilet. Others look for a Starbucks, public facilities or other places with a toilet they can use. With showers, some people build a shower stall inside if it’s large enough like a Sprinter or Transit van. Other people get a membership with a nationwide gym chain where they can access showers as a member.

Getting insured for the UK and/or European travels

Be sure that you have adequate cover for your van when travelling in the UK or around Europe. It’s best to get the most coverage that you can, so look for fully comprehensive policies.

A website like can provide a van insurance quote for your van’s make and model. They compare insurance providers to present the best policy offers. When entering your number plate on their site, they pull in a variety of quotes here. Then it’s a simple matter of picking the best one for you.

As long as you leave enough time to prepare a van before you set off, the trip will go far smoother. You’ll also save money versus being unprepared and trying to fix things on the road.







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