Chemical toilets: portable, around in the living memory of everyone reading this essay and probably the most frequently used option in vans, campervans and motorhomes.
But, there is a much better way. Even if you aren’t that bothered with the environment, even if you have a delicate nature when it comes to dealing with the waste we all produce, and even if you are a composting loo virgin, they are a much better option. In a recent visit to the lovely British made Kildwick composting toilets we put our heads (ahem) together to address the myths we've heard around using a composting loo in a campervan, motorhome, or other small space.
By the way, at time of writing I'm not sponsored or affiliated with any particular brand, although I have been thrilled with the way my own Kildwick composting toilet has worked.
Now the vision is clear and the design objectives are ready from of your campervan conversion dream, as discussed in part one. The next step is to integrate and refine the work so far into the form of actual building plans. Let’s give the dream a reality check.
When planning a campervan self-build, every opportunity is open. Open space with Murphy bed and mobile yoga studio? Space for a family of 6? USB points for all your gadgets with storage for sports gear?
A conceptual plan is essentially a guide for the entire process, the first step in differentiating a dreamer from a builder. Read on to create one for yourself.
This is the second part of the top 10 lessons learned on the way to converting my first van to a campervan, the ones I knew even before buying the van. See Part I here. Online articles were enormously motivating for me during this project, I hope you find something here for you as well. Let’s get right to it.
If you are new to self-build projects, the start of your van conversion journey will also mark the beginning of a slide down a magical black hole of tool geekery. Phrases like ‘offset angled keyless drill chuck’ will not only have meaning, they will become exciting. Even now, I’ve been dreaming of an elegantly engineered German ratchet spanner and bit set for months, and plan to reward myself with the object of my affection on the other side of an upcoming build milestone.
But be warned, fair self-building warrior: tool lust is a dangerous mistress who will transmogrify a few cheeky trips down the local hardware shop into a dusty void where your bank account used to be. Discipline is needed.
When converting a van to a campervan for the first time, a big question is where to start. Like many inexperienced van builders, in the early days I lost many hours into a wormhole of internet timespace in an effort to find a answer.
But, it’s not the most important question. Not at all.
What makes the difference between kicking back with a cuppa in your new cosy rolling home and hawking your 32% finished project on a Facebook group is not how you will get started, but how you will continue.
In late July 2015 I bought a secondhand panel van to convert to a campervan. I don't have any formal training in carpentry, plumbing, electrics or engineering (except that half a school year when I was 14, thanks Mr. Archer!).
On the journey to converting my van into a little castle on wheels there have been a lot of lessons. It’s not far wrong to say I’ve now built at least 3 vans: the two vans worth of practice, failures and re-dos and then the third one where everything works. My accuracy, speed and techniques improved massively as I went along - not only because of practical experience, but also because learning general ways of approaching design/build problems which could then apply to other challenges.
Over the next two blogs I’ll share the top 10 lessons learned over the course of building the campervan. These are the big themes uniting all the little moments of clarity earned on the way.
Who's writing this, anyway?
Me, Feta Brown, who dreamed of building a camper van retreat for an embarrassingly long time. In 2015 I plunged into doing just that. Now am enjoying my fully functioning camper van with solar powered array, woodburner, sofa bed, lovely kitchen and composting toilet. I want to empower you to build your own retreat on wheels by sharing my journey and top tips from experts in their fields.