This section looks at converting your van with specific sports / activities in mind.
Converting a campervan for a sport
Many folk convert vans specifically for certain sports or leisure activities - combining the all important aspects of transport and accommodation in one. There is nothing better than finishing a long day on the hill walking or biking, a hard session in the surf or at your nearest playhole and being able to get changed in a warm van, make some food, put some tunes on and crack open the beer knowing in one quick move you can put the bed up and will be right where you need to be again tomorrow morning. Oh, yeah and it doesn't cost you a penny.
Below I've had a think about key activities and what these could mean for your van conversion, how this effects the layout, what you might want to put in your van and of course, one of the key issues, how to safely store that kit which is all important to your sport?
If you have converted your own van with just these things in mind, let us know. As these sections develop, I hope to post photos, layouts, links to blogs etc.
CAMPING - some thoughts on a campervan conversion for camping trips
You have a campervan - camping will never be the same again! Gone are the days of deflating lilo's, not quite thick enough thermarests, leaking narrow tents not to mention trying to erect your tent and keep it held down in a force 5. Undoubtedly if you like to get remote, campervans have their limits, you can't take them up that mountain ridge! However, campervans definitely improve the comfort side of camping and you can take most of the luxuries you like without being limited by what you can carry on your back.
Camping doesn't really require any special tricks over and above a standard van conversion. You want adequate storage for all your clothes and cooking equipment and a good bed. Possibly, the sitting area is pretty important depending on how chilled you like your camping and rigging up some kind of proper lighting could be an idea. The main thing I can think that you might want is to be able to attach an awning. Certain van makes can have built in awnings but you can also get freestanding ones which come in all shapes and sizes and will pretty much attach to any van make. There should be plenty of storage under the bed / seat area for deck chairs, a table, beachball, disposable BBQ, frisbee, whatever you fancy.....
KAYAKING - some thoughts on a campervan conversion for kayaking
This was one of the main considerations when I converted my van. Although I was also thinking about, surfing, windsurfing, skiing and climbing kit. I'm afraid I drew the line at bikes and have yet to find a good solution for including mountain bikes on top of everything else. However, there is a good blog from someone who has just looked at a van conversion specifically for mountainbiking though so have a look (Mountainbike campervan conversion blog
Number one here was the possibility to get kayaks in the van if needed. The main thing here was designing the back seat with a wide open frame so boats can be slid underneath. Depending on the set up I can get one or two boats in easily on the floor and still use the bed, seat and stove as set up. More than 2 boats and I need to push the seat right forward. If needs be however, 4 boats, paddles, kit and everything else for a 3 month trip can be stored in the back of the van for ferry journeys and being left overnight in a city.
The other main thought for kayaking is wet kit and more importantly, what to do with it! The option I've gone for is sealable storage crates and dry bags under the bed to keep it sealed away from the sleeping area (and hanging up outside to dry wherever possible!).
If you were setting up a campevan solely for kayaking though here are some more thoughts:
- Paddle box - built into the units, some kind of storage cupboard the length of the van for keeping paddles from getting scratched and crushed.
- Drying area / wardrobe - a cupboard specifically for hanging wet kit and sealing it off from the van living area. Possibly with a draining hole to allow water out of the van and even some kind of heat source.
- Roofrack + ladder - have the option to put all you kit, especially boats on the roof. A ladder is super useful for getting up there but be warned might also offer temptation to someone else....
- Cubby hole storage for straps and paddling essentials like duck tape. Somewhere near the back or side door so they are accessible.
SURFING / WINDSURFING - some thoughts on a campervan conversion for surfing or windsurfing
A lot of the ideas for a kayaking campervan conversion also apply for surfing and windsurfing, specifically with regards wet kit. However, anyone who surfs will know how fragile surf boards can be. Getting a ding from being pasted on a reef is one thing but denting your board while transporting it in your van is a bummer! The main thing here is good, secure storage for your boards.
I've seen a range of layouts but all work on some sort of rack system, either suspended from the inside of the roof (in a high top) or more often some sort of frame down the side of the van for racking up boards. This can be at floor or roof height leaving the bed and seat level space for work surfaces or cupboards. I'd take the time to put in little blocks and padding.
This will reduce the space for other stuff considerably but if surfing is your thing it is worth it. Much the same applies to windsurfing kit, especially sails. The main issue here is the whole reason for having a number of sails is to give you variety - so you can end up having anything from a 4m to 7.5m and everything in between to store. You can either go with one big space for sails (and masts) or even create one big rack partitioned to fit different sizes and remember you might be able to make use of diagonal dimensions so that kit isn't sticking into your living space too much. Windsurf sails are a nightmare for introducing damp into your van - its amazing how much water a sail can hold and ideally you want to isolate that water and dampness from your bedding and living area. Difficult to do without creating a dedicated box for wet kit. I end up taking every opportunity I can to take damp stuff out of the van rather than leaving it to fester for days on end.
Get a good clothes line set up for outside your van. This should just mean some good rope and then you can use part of your rig, an old pole, whatever. One final consideration for any sport where you spend lots of time by the sea is salt water. This is more of a maintenance thing but it is probably worth giving your campervan a good washdown after any long trip to try and keep rust at bay.
SKIING / SNOWBOARDING - some thoughts on a campervan conversion for skiing or snowboarding
I have stayed in my van in a ski resort but it was April time and I reckon temperature would limit how long you could really stay in your campervan for i.e. I don't fancy a whole season in a van unless I ever had one large enough to contain a hot tub! With this in mind, warmth will be the number one consideration.
As a must I'd say you need a good heater, on a thermostat which you are confident in leaving on all night if needs be (see the article on room-sealed heaters
). No point in having all that heat if it is just radiating out of your windows and van sides so really good insulation is also a must, including insulated window mats
In terms of kit storage, skis and snowboards should be easy to slide under the bed. Building a storage box would however be one better. An upright, wardrobe type cupboard with a rack for poles, skis and boards would allow you to securely store your kit but also allow gravity to do its thing with snow melt. Having dry, warm clothes and boots is pretty key to snowsports so I'd recommend at least getting boot warmers with a cigarette lighter plug-in and having fixing points in the van to hang jackets, salopettes etc. Having some way to hang your boots upsidedown and let the heat in would be ideal - I've seen friends fashion a wooden board with dowling at a 30deg angle to hook the boots over. This just hangs over the back of one of the seats overnight. In general, light, heat and therefore power is crucial so think about setting up a good power system. You could even get fancy, set up a table and clamp and run a small travel iron for waxing and repairs!
MOUNTAIN BIKING / CYCLING
CLIMBING / WALKING - some thoughts on a campervan conversion for climbing or walking
Ok, so these are slightly different activities but I've put them together as they often involve similar amounts of kit and there is some crossover e.g. when does mountaineering stop being hill walking and start being climbing... Anyway, somewhere good to store your rucksack, climbing ropes, crampons and axes is a must and preferable somewhere these can dry out (along with your soaking wet waterproofs if you've been walking in Scotland in the summer!!). A storage wardrobe with hanging space at the back of the van would be good. With specific hooks for the axes and rope and a way to secure these from swinging around. Similar to all the sports above, a source of heat is pretty useful. The skiing boot drying rack would work well for those ice climbing boots.
I reckon one of the most important things after a long day in the mountains though is a good bed and good seating. Sacrificing a little storage for a good sized bed and the all important seat swivels is a good move. Obviously for the most obsessive climbers out there some climbing holds bolted to your campervan ceiling or the outside could be an option!! (I'd love to see if this has been done by anyone). A roof rack as a minimum (if it's wide enough) lets you hang off and do pull ups.