We built a house on wheels without much prior experience, and it turned out pretty great. If you still doubt your abilities, everything you need is available online, the rest is in your brain, hands, tools and at the DIY Store.


This is a series of posts to share our experience on our build. We hope it might be helpful for your own build, or for motivation. Links to dedicated articles will be added as we publish them.

🚐 Rig✏️ Layout🧹Prep🌤 Insulation🛠 Build💧 Water⚡️ Electricity🌡 Heating & Cooling

The backstory

After Backpacking for years, we had enough relying on others to cover long distances. Getting harassed for a nail clipper in airports or being passenger for hours in an overloaded rusty vehicle, carelessly driven on a dangerous road is only fun for a short while.

We wanted to keep traveling with a similar level of immersion, but in our own terms. At first it was supposed to be on trail motorbikes or in a tiny Suzuki Samurai with a rooftop tent, but lockdowns pinned us down right after we came back to see our families for Christmas. To make the best of this stupid idling, we made a house in a former German Polizei van.

ua car in Malaysia
Transports in many places around the planet

Choosing the right vehicle

Picking the right rig is a painful mix of budget, needs, luck, and much more. Defining what you are going to do with it will steer you towards the proper rig. Maybe you got into vans by seeing sexy retro VW on Instagram with hotties showering or showcasing they gym gains. They most likely rent them (the VWs), since longer travels in them could quickly become a mechanics nightmare.

We needed a vehicle that could leave the beaten path, a lot of space, reliability. That left us with few options, and the Sprinter was clearly the best of them. The next article is dedicated to fantastic rigs, and where to find them.


Select the layout

There's only so much you can fit in a vehicle, and a limited amount of ways to organise it. This is a story of tradeoffs and concessions. Your ideal layout will depend on your rig, if you want to have a bathroom, how many passengers you have, how many seats you need, your height, if you are willing to have convertible beds etc.

In the next article I will explore the main layouts in vans, and what's cool about them, along with our own experience.


Build preparation

If you are brave or wealthy enough to start on a new vehicle, you won't need much prep for your build. But most (first) conversions are made with used vans, especially for those who want older rig (insert rant about unreliable modern vehicles with fancy gadgets, useless gimmicks and ugly unnecessary complex designs).

There is a long and careful step of gutting the vehicle, cleaning up, treating rust, plucking holes, fixing mounts etc. In the next article I'll try to cover all there is to know, at least what we faced before even starting the build.



Insulation is the battle between external and internal temperature – think about a black car under the sun. You want to trap the heat in winter and reflect it in summer, which is hard in a metal box with greenhouse style windshield. I have seen many good ideas and a loads of nonsense about what can be found on the internet on the subject.

We went with Armaflex, an efficient, lightweight and easy to install sort of foam roll. It allowed us to completely cover the metal body, with barely any gap or thermal bridge.

In the next article I'll try to cover the most common solutions, mistakes, and how we insulated our van.


The actual build

To help us making choices, we build the thing with a few things in mind (roughly in this order): Practicality, limited weight, comfort, cost efficiency. Walls, floor, storage, this long step is where miscalculations and approximations become obvious. Sometimes frustrating, often satisfying, this is the magic of seeing something coming into shape with your own hands.

The dedicated article might mostly be a picture time-lapse of the build. We'll talk about tools, pitfalls to avoid.



We have a 100 L – 22 gal tank of freshwater located on the floor between the wheels. It's inside so the water won't freeze in subzero conditions, but low to keep the gravity centre as low as possible, and centred for better weight distribution.
Grey water is in a smaller tank, located underneath the chassis, where the spare wheel used to be.

There is no black water tank since our toilet is composting. Warm water will be made by an electric boiler, but due to pandemic and ships doing drifts in Suez, the whole continent is sold out.

A simple pump is handling the circuit. Refills are done from an outside outlet. We will add filters in the near future to make sure the water is always clean.



This is a serious topic, screwing up this one could end up in flames. None of us wanted to dive into this topic, so we left it to professionals. They help us tailor the size of the installation, then did the final wiring and tuning. It was also useful since France is a regulation-heavy country, and you never know if a meaningless thing you did is not going against some penpusher cunt's obsession for rules.

We are both working on our computers with clients that rely on us, so we made sure we have enough electricity supply. We have 3x175 Watt solar panels and 2x200Ah battery. Batteries will last for a whole week without sun, and if needed, will also charge when the engine is running.


Heating & Cooling

We have a diesel heater (Eberspächer) that burns fuel from the main tank and flows hot air through the dashboard vents. Cooking with the stove is also strong enough to warm up the place quite well for a few hours until we go to sleep under a massive duvet.

Heat is managed through ventilation, airflow, parking in the shade, reflecting blinds on windows and a small fan. I would say heat is definitely the hardest to fight.

beginning of the build
The van is empty, build shall commence!

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