Campervan from Campervan North America on the road near Yellowstone National Park

Want to build your own camper van? In this series of blog posts, we'll talk about how to do that.

If you've never used a camper van or motorhome before, you'll want to spend some time renting a few different types, or borrowing a friend's. Nowadays an excellent source for short-term rentals of North American camper vans and motorhomes is RVShare, a Web site where people who own their camper van or motorhome can list it for rental when they're not using it (you can also check out this post about twenty Sprinter RV rental outfits you may not know about).

When you're renting an RV, think about the following questions relevant to designing your own RV:

  • Where will you be camping? If in a campground or RV park, you'll have ready access to electric power and water and sewage hookups, perhaps bathrooms and grocery stores too. If in the forest or "wild camping", you'll need to generate and store your own power in your RV.
  • How much space do you need inside the vehicle? How many people are you sleeping, where do you like the beds placed, and are you okay with  setting up beds every night and taking them down in the morning?
  • How big can the campervan be? Do you need it be more maneuverable for narrow back roads, high clearance for crossing streams and rough roads, fitting in parking spaces in cities and your driveway at home, and how high can it be?
  • What kind of empty space do you need inside a motorhome? If there are 2-4 people, you'll need empty floor space and aisle space to not bump into each other every moment.
  • How much light do you need? Light can come from interior task lights and overhead lights, but also from windows and skylights. However, windows gain and lose heat rapidly, and require window coverings and screens or openings for ventilation.
  • What kind of interior equipment do you like or need? Could you get by with a cheaper, simpler 12V electrical system with just DC appliances, or do you prefer a full-featured AC/DC electrical system with 120VAC appliances?
  • How many beds do you need, and how big do they need to be? 
  • What kind of tanks will you need for your  camper van? Besides a freshwater tank, if you want plumbing in your RV that includes a sink, toilet or shower, you may need waste tanks for both "gray" (used water from sinks and showers) and "black" waste (solid and liquid waste from toilets). These tanks all need to be located somewhere inside or below the vehicle.
  • Do you need a permanent toilet in a bathroom inside your campervan? Or is it okay to have a portable toilet ("porta-potty") that's in a cabinet, which you just pull out when you need? Maybe you'll just use toilets in town or dig a "cat-hole" in the forest.

There are many more questions you might ask yourself when using an RV before you build your own - keep notes on all the things you like or don't like about the RVs you've used, and make sure to rent a few different kinds of RVs before you decide which type is the best for you.


Build a campervanCamper vansDiyRenting a camper van
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