Video: This Budget DIY Camper Van is Surprisingly Functional \u0026 Beautiful – Van Life Tour
>>DANIELLE: Hey everyone, in this video, we're meeting up with Heather and Curtis to tour their DIY Sprinter van conversion. They are a creative couple who decided that living in a van was the best way to pursue their artistic goals without the pressure of renting or owning a home. The only catch is that they didn't have a big budget for their conversion. So they bought a rusty old Sprinter van and they used a mix of reclaimed and secondhand materials and things they found at the dollar store and IKEA for their build. I think they surprised even themselves with how nice and functional the conversion ended up being.
So let's go check it out! This video is sponsored by NordVPN. We will give you more information about them at the end and a discount code for a great deal on their VPN service. [Music Playing] >>CURTIS: The name of our van is we've named him Charles Darvan after our favourite exploring geologist, which is cool and a little "nerdy", I would say. So our van is a 2006 Dodge Sprinter and we got him for $10,000 CAD which is incredibly cheap for a Sprinter van and then the rest of the build we did for about $10,000 CAD again, and that's all-inclusive with like building supplies, solar, everything. [Music Playing] >>Heather: So we didn't know what we were doing and we didn't really have a lot of money to do it. So we did use a lot of reclaimed materials. A lot of the reclaimed material did come from my sister's property. So it makes me think of family and we also "Frankensteined" some furniture pieces. This used to be a dresser in my dad's house, and he didn't need it anymore.
So we brought that in and it just is a way for us to remember things from our past life. We have some furniture from our old apartments. They help us remember the journey because you got to remember where you started, to appreciate where you are. This is my kitchen. It is more counter space than I had in our bachelor apartment in the city; and Curtis and I worked in the food industry before, so we like to cook. We have a rare oven to cook from and the top two burner stove. It runs off propane and we keep our 5 pound propane tank under here. A lot of the design elements that you'll see are actually to cover things up in the build because it was a DIY process. So it was a huge learning curve but some of those I think are our favorite things like these support beams and this lovely magnet cupboard door which hides the kitty litter. We just use these jugs for drinking water and then we reuse them and replace them every few months. We've got a Shurflo 12-volt pump and he lives under here with the water tanks, so we have two 23 litre fresh water tanks and then one 23 litre grey water which means we just dump our grey water more often and then it runs up into our trusty sink.
The sink actually was pulled out of an old RV from one of those reclaimed shops which we discovered doing the van build and we got a couple of things from there. So pretty much everything in the van is either IKEA, dollar store, Value Village, reclaimed wood, or ripped out of an old RV. If you've got any kind of reclaimed furniture stores near you, super cheap and easy because then we didn't have to make drawers. One of the big things that we debated going in and kind of freaked out about was our fridge because people go with coolers and that really wasn't going to work for us because either you're using ice or it's not cold enough and we had hoped to have a freezer. And then we didn't have the money for a Dometic or the really nice legit fridges that are 12 volt.
But we found this, it was an eco-friendly fridge from a Best Buy store for 88 Canadian dollars, which is cheaper than any of the bar fridges. And then we. Everything gets hooked. We did place it on a bit of foam because it's got a compressor in it. So I think sometimes that can vibrate but it's been fine for us and having a bigger fridge and having it be really cheap, was really nice too. So now we enter the family room or the living space. So we went with a Lagun table leg, which was very hard to find in Canada, but also necessary. It really is the nicest thing. So it allows us to have a table that can move around with us. So the table is almost what led to the rest of the design. Curtis and I are not extreme sports people. So we didn't need a big garage. So we did go with the couch bed because we wanted to socialise and we wanted to hang out. So we basically have the L-shaped setup that you see sometimes so that you can really curl up. Actually, both of us can like lay down in various different seating positions. [Music Playing] So this is just a memory foam mattress.
These slats just slide out and then we take these two extra cushions and fill the gap in and then we have one just smaller than a double mattress but it works well for us because it's what we ended up with and it's very comfortable because I'd never had memory foam. So it is actually the most comfortable bed I've had so far. So one of the biggest things that people wonder about is and we wondered about is where you keep the bedding when you're not using it. So we keep it in here, in a bedding cupboard. So I think nobody ever talks about the seams in the mattress. When you put the pillows together, it can be really uncomfortable. So we just fold a big blanket down on top instead of putting a fitted sheet around, makes it a lot easier; and this cupboard door also is ripped out of an old RV with the hardware so that was definitely just easier than getting it and then it's part of our whole clothing unit. This actually was easier than I thought it was going to be, downsizing; and Curtis and I have the same amount of space.
So this is my side and actually this is another one of those just using what we had to secure things. And then this actually is an Ikea piece that we had that we built into the van. So again anywhere we could avoid making a drawer or actually building a thing, we did. We just used something pre-made. This is Rain. She is the van cat. She guards it, in her way; and she's sort of the biggest reason we ended up doing van life instead of digital nomad life was because we couldn't handle being away from her. But I don't know if every cat would work in a van, but she was always harness friendly. >>CURTIS: So we have thermostats for both cold and hot. So if it's winter, we can leave the diesel heater on safely without having to worry about her and then in the summer, the fan actually has a thermostat too which is supposed to keep it at room temperature. In both conditions, she's looked after and then we have a little cooling mat and we always leave her water out. So for heat, which is especially important in the winter, we have a diesel heater.
When we were building, budget was very important to us, so we wanted to keep our cost as low as possible. So we actually got one of the Chinese knock off heaters that you can find on Amazon and it actually works really good. It's a little noisier I think than the Espar that we've seen but it still hooks directly into our diesel tank. So we don't have to worry about fuel or anything. It's just the instructions were very poorly translated but other than that, it works fine. It has a little thermostat back in the back that we can control it to a fair degree. This is our bathroom. We have this nice door, which we built ourselves and it's actually very, very crooked but it works. We have a little Camco cassette toilet in there and it works pretty good. I'm not gonna lie and say that it doesn't smell sometimes but you have to be really close and it's after you just used it.
So most of the time, you don't even know that it's in there and the two parts just come together and you just have to dump the bottom part and just keep the top part filled with water. But then when we use it, we have this which goes across there. It gives us a little bit of privacy. We still know what we're doing in here, but it's private enough. It was one of those decisions that when we were thinking about van life and watching all of the videos. Every time that somebody didn't have a bathroom, it made us think – what do they do? Do they always have to go to a Walmart or a Tim Hortons to use the bathroom? and it was something that was very important to us. This comes out. This is all filled with fresh water in here.
And then this just pivots out and I can just pour it either into an open septic tank which we've been lucky because our in-laws have a septic tank. We can just open a door and pour it in or into a pit toilet or a porta potty. For our energy, we have 4×100 watt panels on the roof that we got from a company called Grape Solar out of Oregon and they have been really good with customer service, but the whole kit came with the panels, an inverter and a charge controller. Then the entire system comes down to these and they're 250 amp hour, packaged together and it's very, very overpowered for our needs. And we also hook up to our alternator. So we also charge when we're driving. We could do a lot more with the system for sure. >>HEATHER: We also have these windows which were actually a really important part because we have one fan. We didn't have any ventilation coming in through the back.
So we knew we needed to put something that opened back here just to suck the air in. So these were actually ripped out of an old RV and they really are great. They open and close and they make it seem like a retro RV. They are definitely not Sprinter windows. Another thing I really enjoy that was a late addition is the one feature wall of our van. So the criteria is it has to be special to us and be able to hang. This is a piece of my artwork. Then also we've got things from nature, things from family. So we've just got little pieces that show us, that show what matters to us, and the people that matter to us. [Music Playing] >>CURTIS: We have graphic and web design company called Whole Picture Media and we also do some social media consultation with that and then I make some royalties from a comedy album that I recorded years ago and I put some short stories and fiction stuff online and Heather has her Etsy store where she sells her artwork. So we just have a bunch of different revenues trickling in and that's how we make a living. [Music Playing] >>HEATHER: What had driven us to search for a different way of life is that Curtis and I are artists and we were performers in comedy mostly and I painted and Curtis writes and we were working in hospitality.
So we were already not doing our passion job. So we just started budgeting and started downsizing and eventually realized that we love to travel. We love to be creative. We needed to change things up. So this lifestyle allows us the time to focus on what we want to do which not everybody gets a chance to do and we're very thankful to even have the opportunity to think about that because it's something we've seen on our travels. It's a luxury to say "I'm going to leave my job". Fortunately being in the hospitality industry, we can always pick something up if we have to. But knock on wood, we've been one year employed by ourselves and it's going well, still here. [Music Playing] >>DANIELLE: If you want to follow Heather and Curtis, you can check out their YouTube channel, which is called Travels of Heather and Curtis. We also want to thank NordVPN for sponsoring this video.
NordVPN is a virtual private network service that you can activate to get a secure connection when you're using the Internet We use them all the time when we travel because of all the public WiFi networks we use and it makes us feel more secure when we log into important accounts. Using NordVPN is also a great way to make sure you're using the internet without censorship because you can choose the country that you're browsing the internet from regardless of where you are in the world. For example if we're in Canada and we want to browse the Internet as though we're in the US we can select a server in the US and browse as though we're there. And there's also no bandwidth limit so you can use it as much as you want.
If this sounds like something that might be helpful for you, NordVPN is offering our audience 75% off a three year plan which ends up being just $2.99 a month. To get the deal, you can go to NordVPN.com/exploringalternatives and use exploringalternatives discount code to get an extra month free. So again, you can get 75% off when you go to nordVPN.com/exploringalternatives and use the exploringalternatives discount code to get an extra month free. We will put all of this in the video description below if you want to check it out. Thanks so much for watching and we'll see you next time..