Vanlife: The van conversion pt 1

MoMo, our van, is an Opel Movano from 2009. The Movano (badged as Vauxhall Movano in the UK) is similar to the Renault Master and the Nissan Interstar. Our’s has a manual gearbox and runs on diesel. We have the version with windows all around and with 9 seats originally, so I guess it’s more of a mini-bus really.

When we started the conversion, we didn’t use a design drawing and the plans were made up as we went along. Unfortunately the documentation of our build became quite inadequate, but here are som pictures from the early days.

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First we removed 4 of the seats and the panels on the walls and in the ceiling. Then we insulated the van using XPS200 foam and sleeping pads. We also added plastic pipes in the walls for future electrical wiring.

A lot of people put a waterproof layer between the insulation and the inner wall panels to stop condensation from affecting the car body, but we didn’t bother with that. We reasoned that the van will be passé for other reasons before rust from the inside will be a problem. It remains to be seen if we are right or wrong…

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The inside of the beams, where we couldn’t fit any foam, were filled with glass wool stripes meant for insulating windows. Glass wool normally absorbs moisture, but we used the kind of stripes that are wrapped in plastic film.

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Since Danne is a blacksmith, a lot of the interior in our van is made of steel, that we have covered with wood to make it more cozy. We are suckers for cabins and cottages and the look that we’re after is inspired by Scandinavian folk, pinewood and nature.

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When the insulating was finished we put pinewood panels in the ceiling. For the walls we reused the original panels. They are far from beautiful, but quite discrete and we think they look ok. We wanted to use wood but we had to keep the weight down, and also, wood panels would probably take up a little more space.

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The interior setup we decided for was sofas with a table that can be turned into a bed. In the beginning we went for a U-shaped sofa which made for a huge bed, approx. 2 x 1,75 m, but when we tried it out we found that we could actually lay comfortable from side to side. As we felt we needed all the living space we could get, we then removed the “bottom of the U” sofa section.

Of course the kids needed somewhere to sleep too, and we opted for removable bunkbeds. In the picture below you get a glimpse of the stainless steel brackets attached to the beams above the windows, that are part of our bunk bed solution. In the next Conversion blog post I will tell you more about it.

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Vanlife: My spectacular life

There are plenty of Vanlife accounts on Instagram full of cute retro vehicles in eternal sunsets, never-ending backdoor views of mountains or beaches (or both at the same time!) and young, beautiful people with tiny butts in even tinier panties, telling us stories about quitting their jobs and following their dreams. A true vanlifer travels the globe full-time with a perfect tan and without a care in the world.

I’m not aspiring to be one of them.

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This was our first trip with the van, just after we bought it and before we had started the conversion. We knew right away that we were on to something.

To be honest we don’t travel that much. And we never travel very far. How could we? We have full-time jobs and the kids go to school. Many of our nature experiences are mediocre in comparison. And though I admit there are times when I think life would be a little more awesome with a thigh gap, I don’t have one, and I probably never will. And carefree..? Nope. Ever heard of mosquitos, rain and number 2?

My social media content might lead you to believe that my life is spectacular and adventurous. And it is! Sometimes. Because my content is my life. It’s a relatively small part of it though and sure, there is a non van-related every day life going on between the Instagram posts. But that doesn’t take away the fact that we have amazing experiences when we are on the road. I choose to focus on, and nurture the parts that makes my life spectacular.

So I guess I aspire to be someone that shows you that life can be kinda nice even if you don’t travel nonstop, wake up every morning to a scenic view and fit in a size XS bikini…

Vanlife: Mobile Living Made Easy

Last fall we started a collaboration with Dometic that gives us the opportunity to try the HBG 2335 cook top. Dometic’s slogan says Mobile Living Made Easy, and we can certify that their statement is right on point.

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With the installation of the kitchen area with the built in the cook top, we went from our morning coffee taking 15 minutes to make, to ready in 5!

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One of my favorite things about the cook top is the space efficient design with a lid, that gives us extra workspace when the hob is not in use. For us, it’s a must that every little inch in the van can be used to the max. Also, the kids thinks the glass lid looks sooo classy!

The guys at Dometic interviewed us about… well, vanlife of course 😉 You can read it here.

Vanlife: What’s going on out there?

Since we are four persons and two dogs in the van, it gets crowded. We need to be creative with the use of space, so of course we’re taking advantage of the outside of the van too.

Danne is a blacksmith/welder and he has made a giant roof rack that covers MoMo’s entire roof.

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 Attached to the rack is a 160 w solar panel that actually provides us with all the power we need, during spring, summer and early fall. How amazing is that!?

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We have an awning for protection against rain and sun (like to much sun would be a common problem in Sweden!? Not really…). Awnings are expensive and also quite sensitive to wind, so ours is extra-equipped with a rafter and a tie down kit.

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Things we don’t use on a daily basis, like tents, hiking boots, skis and fishing equipment we store in a big Thule roof box. It swallows heaps of our favorite stuff. Thule’s slogan is Bring Your Life and that’s what we do!

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The platform we use to access the roof box doubles as a tiny roof top terrace where I go to enjoy the view, or escape from household chores. If you look closely at the picture below you can also spot our hanging table top that we attach to the slide door with strings and hooks when we need it.

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Danne made a ladder and a bike rack too, that I’m going to tell you more about in another post.

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Vanlife: The Swedish vanlife community

This will sound cheesy I know, but one of the things I love about vanlife is that it actually brings people together. It’s a community, both IRL and online.

I’m usually not a very social person, and most of the time I prefer to be with just my family. But last summer we went to a Van Meetup hosted by Jesper who runs the feature account Vanlifescandinavia on Instagram, and his friend Adam, and we had an amazing time!

We were a group of maybe 40 people or more, age 6 to 60+, from Sweden and abroad, that got together at a really beautiful location called Kinnekulle Quarry, in southern Sweden. About 30 vans, a camp fire, scenic views, a bunch of dogs roaming around off leash and an improvised music gig with harmonica and electric(!) guitar in the middle of the night.

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It was a really special event with good vibes and high tides, and I think the main reason to that was that people had this sense of belonging, a shared feeling of community. It was truly sweet. ❤️

Jesper and Adam are planning a new meetup in august called Burning Van, and I will post more about it when the event is up and running.

When it comes to online communities, the Facebook group Vanlife Sverige feels like the digital hub of Swedish vanlife. It’s created by Bella and Carl, the couple behind the vanlife blog Swewanderlust, has a little over 900 members and is constantly growing.
It’s a meeting place for people to get in contact, discuss conversions and vanlife issues, get and give tips about places to go, share pictures and so on. It’s also in this group we find information about meetups and gatherings. Bella and Carl are doing a great job as admins, which makes the group a really positive and generous hang out.