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Live in a Dodge High-top Conversion Van

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By Van Guy

In the summer of 2007 I was lucky enough to join a gathering of some of the members of the Yahoo VanDwellers group who live in their vans. There I met Van Guy (picture above). He had bought this nice Dodge Hi-Top conversion van and converted it into a great camper van. I was so impressed with his work I asked permission to take pictures and he graciously agreed, but he didn’t have time to write anything. So back then I wrote this article about his camper conversion for the website and I’m going to re-run it now as a Golden Oldie!! I think (at least I hope!!) my writing and photography has improved since then.
He built his bed behind the driver’s seat with storage underneath. Notice the green cooler and Coleman 2-burner propane stove under the bed. A 13 inch TV is mounted on the wall above the bed. He wired the van for 110 volt for when he was in campgrounds with electricity. On bottom left of the picture above is his 110 volt electric heater mounted on a cabinet.
One question all vandwellers have is how to have privacy and cover the windows. Van Guy used Reflectix to both provide privacy and shade the windows from solar gain. Reflectix has a heavy layer of aluminum foil on the outside and bubble wrap on the inside. It does a great job of keeping the heat from the sun out in the summer, keeps warmth in during the winter, and provides perfect privacy.

This view of the front passenger door shows how he mounts the Reflectix. He screwed in channels above, below and on one end of the window and just slides the Reflectix into the channel when he wants to use it, and it is easily removed when traveling.

This view of the front passenger door shows how he mounts the Reflectix. He screwed in channels above, below and on one end of the window and just slides the Reflectix into the channel when he wants to use it, and it is easily removed when traveling.

Living or traveling in a van requires very efficient use of all of its tiny space. Van Guy built cabinets along the wall opposite his bed, and near the roof on the sides and across the back. Notice the use of cardboard boxes held in by bungee cords. This helps with organization and keeps the weight of the van down.
The kitchen counter gives him a large work area where he puts his propane stove to cook. On the wall to the left is his inverter. Above it is the power center everything plugs into. The white object on the bottom left is a water purifier.
His kitchen works very well. There is enough room for anything he needs to do, and everything is easy to reach and at hand. The sink is behind the partition as we will see below.
You can't really see it, but between the drivers seat and the bed is his house battery in a sealed box. The box is vented outside for safety.

You can’t really see it, but between the drivers seat and the bed is his house battery in a sealed box. The box is vented outside for safety.

The passenger seat swivels. In the picture above it is turned around toward the back. Van Guy bought the swivel base from J.C. Whitney and installed it himself. Later he found a cheap one in a wrecked class B at a junk yard. A good reminder (if too late in this instance) to search for parts at junk yards.
Here is his sink where he does his washing. He originally put in a hand pump but didn’t like it so he just keeps water in one gallon jugs. The sink drains into a 5 gallon water bottle underneath it for easy disposal.
Looking toward the front of the van, you can see a microwave in the storage area above the driver’s area that came with the high-top roof.
You would think that the partition which separates the back area from the front would make the van feel smaller and cramped, but it doesn’t. In fact, it makes it feel more homey and comfortable; counter-intuitive, but true. Under the bed you can see more water stored in a milk crate.
Wanting more ventilation, he mounted a fan in one of the back doors. The window opens outward for when he turns it on.

Wanting more ventilation, he mounted a fan in one of the back doors. The window opens outward for when he turns it on.

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  1. Lucy

    WOW, what wonderful conversion, I love it is one of my favorites. It’s so homey & cozzzzzz y !!!
    Thank you Bob for posting it.
    My regards, Lucy.

    • Bob

      My pleasure Lucy.

  2. BobBski

    Great looking set up. 🙂

    • Bob

      Thanks Bobski!

  3. Calvin R

    Great inspiration. Van Guy has a knack for design.

    • Bob

      Calvin, do you remember him, that was the gathering in Ohio those many years ago!

      • Calvin R

        I do indeed! At the time, I didn’t realize how simple his setup was because I was a little dazzled by the functionality. Now I realize that he got a great deal of use from relatively little construction work.

        • Bob

          It’s been a long, strange journey eh!!

          • Calvin R

            It certainly has been. Still is.

  4. Stephanie Bennett

    Can he stand up in there?

    • Bob

      Stephanie, that was a long time ago and I don’t remember for sure, but I doubt it since he is tall. I am in a low top van and I have to stoop and surprisingly you adapt to it fairly easily.

  5. Calvin R

    Hmmm. I’m not seeing new comments. I’ll try leaving another and see what happens.

    • Lucy

      Perhaps during the long weekend people is partying not taking time for blogging.

      • Calvin R

        No, it’s a site issue. I have posted since then.

        • Lucy

          So…we need to ask Bob to contact the server & tell them to get their act together. LOL.

          • Calvin R

            He has been working on it.

  6. Dem lo xo

    Wow, It’s good idea

    • Bob

      Thanks Dem! Bob

  7. Curtis

    Okay so call me lame but I’ve never heard of vandwellers until a few days ago when a friend of mine mentioned it! I think it’s absolutely awesome and wow you guys would survive a zombie apocalypse better than the rest of us! LOL I wish I had the courage to try this out someday.

    • Bob

      Curtis, it does take a leap of faith and some courage, but man, nearly everyone who does it is so amazed at what a better life it is. How important is freedom and happiness to you? They’re waiting! Bob

  8. Penny

    Looking for class B Penny…apprehensive but inspired.

    • Bob

      Penny, I’m really glad to hear that, I think a Class B is one of the very best choices–well balanced. It’ll have all the comforts but still be tiny, easy to drive and get decent MPG. Bob

  9. Magdalena

    Hi Bob,
    I’m a 65 year old woman with a very little pension, so I can’t effort to live in a haus. But I don’t mind because I am an adventurer.
    Some 20 years ago I converted a VW van all by myself into a very simple camper and did several cross country trip with it.
    Van-dwelling seems very attractive to me for the rest of my life, however by now I don’t have a physical/mental strength to do a conversion myself.
    I am very easily overwhelmed by the information I am gathering and find myself unable to focus.
    Would you know anyone who would willing to help me -for some compensation- to build a camper and becoming a VANDWELLER!

    • Bob

      Magdalena, I don’t know anyone who does professional builds except for a few companies and they are tremendously expensive. You can do a lot with just used furniture, in fact you can do the whole build just by shopping at thrift stores. If I were you I’d find a local handyman and show him pictures of a build you like and he should be able to do most of it for you–it’s just basic carpentry.

      • Samantha Damm

        I had the same question, so thanks for answering this. Simple carpentry isn’t all we need, right? Wouldn’t we need to create a way to open doors from the inside and install some electrical? I would want to install a fan, as well. It’s almost the year 2020 and I’ll bet it’s easier to find help these days. Hard to find someone you can trust, so referrals would be nice. I live in Oregon, and purchased a 21 foot new trailer to live in, but I want to be mobile and not far from my family all the time. I am considering becoming a vandweller now I’ve had 3 years experience of tiny living lifestyle. I would love it. Thanks for all you to to help share this lifestyle. I loved the documentary you were in!

  10. John

    That inspires me to try converting a van of my own.. I feel like all I need is the night sky and a fire: that’s home to me.

    • Bob

      That’s just about the way it is for me John. You definitely should convert one! Bob

  11. Magdalena

    Thank you Bob, I’ll look for a handyman/carpenter.

    • Bob

      Let me know how it works out for you. One thing that will help is to find a conversion you like on my website or elsewhere online and print out the pictures so you both have the same mental image of what you are after. Any decent handy man should be able to adapt it to your van. Bob

  12. Joshua

    I live in Wisconsin, so the term van dweller is common. My wife could be a van dweller but I am definitely an office dweller.

    • Bob

      Thanks Joshua.

  13. Bryan

    It’s nice to see that you don’t necessarily need to spend a small fortune on an full-fledged RV in order to get out on the road. I’ll get there one day, after my ducks are all in a row.

    • Bob

      Bryan, it really doesn’t take that much money to get a decent van, but the key is to have a good emergency fund.

  14. Cindy

    Hi, everyone! Cindy here. The last couple weeks I have I been looking into van dwelling, origianlly looking into tiny house living. A little info. about myself, then my question. I am in the city; the Dallas area, and have to stay here until family situations change. A little info. about me…I am still working. I have a new, bare boned shed on a plot of land in CO., that I camp in at least once a year, counting the days until I can retire there. However, I have 5 more years til then and really don’t want to continue to pay housing every month. I am currently working a menial part time job until a permanent full time job happens, hopefully soon (I have a job interview this week, wish me luck). I have a small nest egg I am tapping into every month to get me through, however, am finding out, after ordering your book, “How to Live in a Car, Van or RV, I can do the v-dwelling now! A potential new job offers a free, onsite gym with all the amenities including a gym, so the shower thing will be no problem. I have camped in tents and a pop out camper all my life, and am familiar with “roughing it”, so I don’t think I will have huge issues space wise. My biggest concern is the hot Texas summers, and having two small dogs that would be in the van while I work.
    Here is my question. If I get an air conditioner with the separate battery to power it while the engine is not running, can it be run on low all day for the dogs while I’m at work. The van will be parked in a covered parking garage so will be shaded, but temperatures still reach upper 90’s to sometimes 105 degrees in the heat of the Texas summer. Obviously, if I can’t find a solution for my four legged kiddos, I may have to find a cool doggy daycare, but that will be very expensive…I thank you for any input you can give me. I am very excited about this change of lifestyle, and have already started purging my “stuff”. I have until May before I have to decide to renew my lease. I am also looking into the type of van that would work for me.

  15. tobias

    Having a good emergency fund is critical as you say Bob.
    Things tend to break up when you need them the most 🙂

  16. Jay Lee

    This actually looks like an incredible way of life. I’d love to try it some day, but for now I’m stuck in the rat race with young kids going to school etc. Once they grow up and leave the house though I’d definitely be tempted!

  17. Amy

    Hi Bob,
    Thank you so much for having this site and all the wonderful sharing of information!
    I’m looking to converting my 08 dodge caravan into a living space and have been reading everything I can get my eyes on. Would love a class B, but already have van from mom days and now that kids are basically independent really cool young adults starting their own lives, I figure my ” little red wagon,” will work just fine.
    The one question I have and cannot seem to find any information on is: how are people mounting or securing what they are building whether it be bed or shelving to the van? In cargo vans I see that furniture is screwed into floors or walls, but in minivans it appears that the furniture is basically just sitting on the floor and I can’t help but think a hard break, fast turn or accident would send everything dangerously flying about!
    And again, I cannot find any information regarding this. Seems to be a silent subject or so obvious and I’m completely missing!
    Can you help me out with what you know regarding this please.
    Blessings and safe travels, Amy

    • Bob

      Amy, it is much likely to go flying than it looks. But the easiest thing is to get “L” brackets from Walmart and use self-tapping sheet metal screws to screw them int the furniture and into the floor and walls.

  18. Aiden Carter

    I learned something new today from your share! That inspires me to try converting a van of myself.. I feel like all I need is the night sky and a fire; that’s home to me. Thank you very much for your post…

  19. Ralf scooter

    Congratulations, its my dream to live in a dodge and travel around the world !
    Have a nice day

  20. joydob

    The feeling of freedom and independence in that van must be great 🙂

  21. Michael Canfield

    I can imagine that living in the van can be a different and interesting experience for me and I would like to take a try on it!

  22. David Owen

    Thank you Bob for this article. I’ve been a full time rv’er nomad for work the last 11 yrs. I started out with a very small TT. And my third TT is 37ft 5th wheel. WAY too big for me. I’m glad to find your videos and website. I have been looking to downsize and simplify while still travling for work for awhile. This will hopefully allow me to work less and travel more for leisure. My Goal is to be at RTR next time with shuttle bus rig. Thank you ! David

  23. Krystal Patterson

    I would like for you to give us some comments on the power station that are out there. I have a 12 volt arb refrigeratorand was thing of using this to charge it with.

  24. David

    It’s a really a different experience. that’s great.

  25. Mary

    HI Bob, I send links to your videos to friends often and tell them you are one of my heroes. You succeed in helping people help themselves. What a wonderful contribution that is and a satisfying life.
    As I recall from one of your videos you prefer personally a Chevy van. I want a white (steath potential) 6 cylinder (better MPG) Chevy van. But should I get a high top or add a high top from a donor van? I do want or think I want to be able to stand up. Is cost the only consideration? I am thinking something between the years of 2005-2014 with no more miles than 60K.
    I still work full time but am prepping for the big leap and want to do the conversion myself and/or with a carpenter friend. If you could share the best specs in your personal opinion for the actual van itself that would be helpful.

  26. Liz

    I don’t see any provision for a toilet. Is there one in this conversion?

  27. Behçet Tolga

    I am from Turkey(I guess this proves how famous this site is!) Vandwelling is kind of the natural way of life due to my nomadic-ish genes. It becomes definitely more imperative considering the expensive life in US. We were shocked to witness the pricey tags here and so many people struggling with their finances in a such advanced country.
    I am sure those founding fathers had a different interpretation of independence. Anyway, we are travelling with our RV thru US, currently in LA, hope to see you all in Quartzsite in January.

  28. Helen Manriquez

    I need to know the order that conversion steps shd be done in. I will start insulating myself..what needs to go next after insulation? When does solar/wiring need to be done? I am a single retiree(woman) with no construction skills so will have to arrange to hire help as I can financially. I need A/C for my dog if I have to go in store for food/supplies. Please help! Email me please??? Thank you!

  29. Ann Taylor

    It’s a really a different experience. that’s great.

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