Travelling in a DIY camper has long been a popular choice for weekend excursions, holidays and long-term travels. With van life becoming hype, the idea of living in a campervan is constantly growing. While many will automatically connect van travelling with camping or backpacking, travelling or living in a camper can quite easily become very luxurious by including some of the top features in our DIY camper.
What Are The Top Features That We Wouldn’t Want to Miss for the World?
We have experience with camping and backpacking, and while they both have bounds of freedom, they are all very far apart. Travelling or living in a van means that you can travel in style without giving up too many of the comforts that you would leave at home when camping or backpacking. You can quite easily customise your temporary home to include most, if not all, of your creature comforts.
With a bit of research and trial, we have come to live and travel out of an extremely versatile and personalised home. After living for two years in our self-built campers, there are some features that we couldn’t live without.
1. Thetford Duplex
The Thetford duplex oven has been a game changer for us living in a van. We no longer feel restricted by what we can and can’t make when it comes to meal times.
Including an oven and a grill makes the Thetford duplex a no-brainer. Not only are we able to cook pizzas and lasagna in the oven, but we can also make a perfect past bake or cheese toasty with the grill function.
This oven was our top choice as it came easy to install with a single gas connection and 12v or click ignition options while boosting a sleek finish once installed. We never feel the need to worry while using this oven, coming from a trusted brand with good safety features and a generous warranty.
Ventilation is an important consideration when travelling or living in a van. Good ventilation is crucial for comfort in warm weather and when moisture levels are high.
The Maxxfan Deluxe ventilator is the base of ventilation for our camper, in combination with a Dometic Mini Heki roof hatch and Climair wind deflectors. Ventilation is never an issue, even in bad weather, with the Climair wind deflectors allowing us to keep the windows slightly open while keeping harsh wind or rain from entering the van.
A Dometic Mini Heki is a great addition to any campers’ ventilation system. Fitting into a standard roof hatch size of 40x40cm, it gives us the ability to have fresh air coming in from above, no matter the weather. The roof hatch comes with a sleek cover that incorporates a mosquito net and a blackout option. Please note there are different options depending on the roof thickness.
To finalise our ventilation system, we installed a Maxxfan Deluxe, which is a great addition to our van. This ventilator has options to blow air in or out, with 10 speeds and functions, almost silently. Mounting is convenient, fitting into a standard roof hatch size of 40x40cm with an easy-to-put-together design. The ventilator comes with a remote control and colour options of white, black, or transparent to match any interior. A Maxxfan is a valuable investment for any camper.
3. Dometic CRX
Not many households go without a fridge, so why should you while you’re travelling on the road?
The Dometic CRX range is one of the best on the market, providing multiple size options at a very reasonable price. We chose the Dometic CRX 65 over the rest for 3 main reasons:
- It has an optional freezer compartment which can be installed/removed easily.
- The low power usage consumes only 27 amps per hour on average.
- The shape and design of the Dometic CRX 65, were perfect to maximise our cooling in the space we had allocated.
With a neat design and an optional mounting frame to create a seamless installation, we can highly recommend this fridge.
4. Klarstein Stove
Generally, campervans will have a stove top incorporated, whether that be portable or built-in. Most camper-specific stove tops are not so aesthetically pleasing and lack functionality.
The Klarstein stovetop is not specifically designed for campers, though it works much better in practice:
- The installation of this stove is very practical, using double-sided tape to mount it onto a clean surface.
- There is a connection for the gas supply and an optional connection for 210-240v for automatic ignition.
- Unlike standard camper stoves, the Klarstein stovetop has enough space to comfortably use both flames simultaneously.
- Provides additional safety with flame-out detection.
5. Sliding Bed
In our first campervan, we had a fixed bed in the width of the van, meaning our bed was only 1.75m long. This was sufficient, though not recommended for long-term travels. This time we got creative to come up with a sliding bed design. With the help of a welder, we made a two-piece unit to utilise our space efficiently while maintaining a practical and comfortable sleeping area.
The first frame is 1.4m x 1.75m, which makes the fixed frame, and the second frame is 70 cm x 160 cm to make the sliding section. With a set of heavy-duty slides and some bed slats, a full-length bed can be made. We had custom cushions made which fit our seats and doubled as the foot of the bed.
6. USB Dimmable Lights
A campervan is a small space making multi-functional items very convenient.
This next item is exactly that. A bed light that is low profile, adjustable, dimmable and houses a USB plug. Finding a bed light with all of these features can be difficult, we knew what we wanted so we searched until it was found.
This light boosts a neat low profile and easy mounting kit. The USB plug is very reliable and conveniently placed. You can use a small touch button to change the light between 3 brightness and off.
Having a shower in a camper is not necessary, though it is one of the things that completes our home on wheels.
When travelling in a campervan, you have many options for showering at gyms, campsites or community centres, though there’s nothing quite like using your shower on the road. It is very possible to manage with a solar shower or an outside shower, though this means your soap and water will be left on the ground which is not always appreciated.
We decided to have a full built-in shower. Starting with a 70x70cm shower tray, we marked the location and cut holes to connect a drain pipe through the floor. Next was to frame the walls and cover them with stylish PVC wall panels. Once the shape had been made we installed a Maxxfan Dome on the roof to provide light and ventilation.
For the door, we used a self-retracting shower door, the price is a little high though it works brilliantly at keeping the water inside, with a stylish and compact finish. The installation is very easy with a click-together system and 2 slug screws to tighten when everything is in place.
You can use any shower head and mixer that you like, many come as a complete set though we used a separate shower head and mixer to fit the style of our home.
8. Sliding Door
The sliding door was an innovative feature of our camper. We wanted something that would provide ease of access between the front and back of our van while providing good insulation and privacy.
To make the doors we used a base plate of 9mm plywood, covered with tongue and groove planks to match the style of our van.
With 2 doors made we used this sliding door system which came with a set of rollers and a top and bottom rail to make a sturdy, lightweight frame. A pair of foot locks were used to lock the doors in place while we are driving.
9. Truma B10 Boiler
Cold water is perfectly fine in a camper though what better way to feel more at home than having running hot water?
The Truma B10 is easy to install with the right placement. Using a small amount of gas, we can heat 10L of water to 50 degrees celsius within 30 minutes. The boiler is well insulated so the water stays warm for hours after heating. This means you can easily wash your dishes throughout the day or enjoy a quick shower at a lovely temperature.
Will You Include These Features in Your DIY Camper?
Many of the items listed above are beyond the necessities for a simple camper van, though for us these things create the ultimate comfort in our home. Many of them are simple to install or make and require minimal attention while you are on the road. Giving you more freedom to travel wherever you want without relying on campsites or camper facilities.
If you enjoyed reading this post, then you may be interested in checking our blog pages. We have covered a range of topics about Van Life, Van Build, Van Travel, and our Van Buddies, where we share our experiences from living in a campervan for the past two years. You can follow us on Instagram or Facebook to stay up to date with our latest posts and to take a closer look into our daily lives.