The Build Begins

Lister seems to be getting used to the idea of having a new, larger home on wheels. Today the actual work began, though not in ways you might expect. I’ve ordered a ton of stuff for the new van. Some of it arrived today. Some won’t arrive until next week. So I started with what I have and could get easily.

One great thing about the early part of building a camper van is that you have an empty cargo van to get large building materials. You can barely see the six sheets of polyiso insulation on the floor, which will go on the flat parts of the walls (where the windows would go in a passenger van) and the roof. This should be enough according to my measurements, but if it isn’t, it only costs about $16 for a four-by-eight foot, one-inch thick sheet, so I can get more. These same sheets barely fit inside my trailer right now, where I’m storing them until I install them. Since my bike has a covered parking space, I might as well use my trailer as a shed for the moment.

I also placed an order for one box of Havelock Wool. Unlike the fiberglass insulation used in houses, wool won’t soak and retain moisture, and it still insulates even if it gets wet. It’s expensive, so I plan to use it only to fill in the nooks and crannies where I can’t fit the polyiso insulation. That’s still the entire top and bottom of the walls, and polyiso actually insulates better than wool anyway, so the combination of the two should work well. This van will be much better insulated than my old one.

Insulation is extremely important for several reasons. The obvious one is keeping me warm in cold weather. Another reason is to help keep the heat out in hot weather, including right now. Unless I have the front and back doors open, Smokey II turns into a sauna rather quickly during the day, so adding insulation now will keep me more comfortable inside as I continue the build. I’m looking forward to getting the ventilation installed, and solar panels on the roof will capture the sunlight and keep much of my living space in the shade. Also, now is the time to install insulation, on the bare metal walls of the van before anything else goes in. Then I can put in pretty wall coverings, furniture, wiring, etc.

Amazon had made a delivery by the time I got back, including my new kitchen counter and sink. It’s actually intended for cleaning fish, but the flat counter space and the sink in one compact unit make it the perfect start to my new kitchen.

I tried putting it in a couple of different places to see how I felt about it. Putting it next to the side door duplicates the setup I have in my old van. I liked having access to water and the sink from both inside and outside. The side door is so large that I don’t need the full width of the doorway to get in and out. But I also tried it behind the driver’s seat. This could work, but I’m also planning to put my electrical stuff behind the driver’s seat since the vehicle battery is already right under it. Water and electricity don’t mix very well.

Then I test fit my existing fresh and grey water jugs with the table next to the side door. Look at how perfectly they fit, both under the table and in the side of the van. The back leg of the table is right up against the rear wheel arch, so that pretty much determines where the table will go. I’ll need to make a block to fit in the step to support the leg that’s just hanging there in empty space. That won’t be a problem.

The table/sink came with a faucet intended to attach to a garden hose. Instead, I think I’ll pick up one of those USB-powered pump faucet things. I used one in my very first van but lost it in the fire. They’re actually cheaper than the hand pump faucet I use now, and more convenient to use. I’ll just have to figure out how to mount it.

This Amazon delivery also included my new blackout curtains. The front one fits perfectly behind the seats, with a couple of magnets to stretch it out to either side as the van body flares out toward the bottom. During the day I can bundle it up with a small bungee I threaded through a couple of holes in the body of the van.

The side curtain doesn’t fit quite as well, but I can work with that. I measured the window to be 42 inches wide, but the curtain doesn’t quite cover it completely, letting a little bit of light bleed around the edges. I need to get more magnets, and then I can use both curtains included in the set to cover the full width of the window. I can’t use a curtain rod here because there’s almost no clearance between the sliding side door and the side of the van when the door is open. (In the reflection in the window, my hand is sticking out to shield the camera from sun glare, in case you’re wondering.)

The back curtains work perfectly, again held up by magnets. These are obviously a bit too long for the back windows, but I can cut or pin the bottom parts up to get them out of the way. I’m not sure whether to use a second curtain rod instead. I may try taking down my front curtains and trying that rod in the back.

I don’t need privacy or stealth in a van that I haven’t even built out yet. But the curtains arrived first, so I worked with them and found they’ll work well when I’m ready to roll. It’s one thing I won’t have to figure out later.

Then I got distracted by the Blue Angels buzzing the house. Seriously. Sun ‘n’ Fun, the second largest fly-in in the country after Oshkosh, is happening here in Lakeland this week, and everyone is practicing and performing. We’re so close to the airport that we’ve been getting buzzed by everything from ultralights to World War II fighters to the Blue Angels themselves. It got to a point where I was jumping out of the van to watch them fly by so often that I gave up trying to work, pulled up a chair, and watched the free air show over the yard.


  1. As to your window/curtain/light bleed, maybe you could try strip magnets. Like the kind used in fridge doors? They aren’t as strong, but with more area coverage, they might do the trick.


    1. A good thought, but the real problem is that the curtain itself isn’t quite wide enough. But, it came in a pack of two, so with a few more magnets I can use both curtains, overlap them, and get all the coverage I need.


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