Travel Tips: Converting Rental Into DIY Camper Van

I’m sure you’ve all seen the #vanlife hashtag by this point, and if you’re reading this post it’s probably because you’re kinda, sorta, curious about it. If you’re anything like me though you probably aren’t all the way sold yet. I get it, you’re not ready to drop a ton of cash and time building out a van for a quick little road trip. Well, I came up with the perfect solution a few years back and we have done it a few times already. Follow the steps below to learn how to convert your rental car into a quick and easy DIY camper van.

Ford Expedition DIY Camper Van Alaska


Do research on the available rental SUV and van models from each rental company in the area you live or the location plan to visit. Find out which ones have seats thats that fold all the way flat, or if you can rent them with the seats already removed. If you’re renting near your own home you can always pull the seats out yourself and leave them at your home base until you return. Once you’ve done your investigating, reserve whatever the cheapest SUV or van you can find.

Converting Rental Ford Expedition SUV to DIY Camper Van


Bringing all of the right equipment and gear on your trip is crucial to make the conversion process simple and stress free. You want to have your new mobile home be as a comfy and functional as possible without needing to buy a ton of stuff on the road to get setup. Whether you’re flying to a destination and renting there or leaving from your home base, you’re going to want to pack yourself as many of the things below that you can fit:

  • air mattress - try a full size blow up mattress for 2 or a simple backpacking pad if you’re flying solo

  • sleeping bag - any type will do, but the lighter and more compact the better

  • pillow case - stuff your pillow case with your extra clothes for an easy pillow

  • LED light rope - the goal of this is simply better night lighting inside the vehicle

  • battery bank - bigger the better for charging laptops, phones, cameras, etc

  • head lamp - any kind will do. a flashlight could work as a substitute

  • backpacking stove - going for small and light for cooking and boiling water

  • cook set - pot, bowl, coffee cup, utensils, for eating and drinking

  • multi-tool - useful for just about anything and everything

  • water bottle - pretty straight forward, holds water, you drink it ;)

  • ziplocks - bring both big and small

  • mini bungee cords - strapping, tying, hanging, holding, they’ll get used for sure

Ford Expedition DIY Sleeper Camper Bed Conversion


Now this next step is going to vary a bit depending on whether you’re leaving from your home base or if you’re flying into a destination and renting a vehicle there. Some of these things you can bring from home if you’re renting locally to where you live and some of these things you will need to purchase on arrival at your destination if you’re leaving from elsewhere. We will break down the different options below.

  • cooler - if you can’t bring one then a basic styrofoam cooler is a cheap & easy option

  • ice - keeps your food chilled, you get the point

  • gas - you wont be able to fly with gas so you will need to get some gas for your stove

  • food - stock up on simple food and snacks that are easy to prepare

  • spices - salt and pepper is a must after that it’s up to you

  • water - we always buy a bunch of cheap big jugs of water with the built in spigot so we can drink, cook and wash easily without worrying too much

  • construction paper - hit the art store & pick up black construction paper

  • tape - any tape will do, but the stronger the better

Ford Expedition DIY Stealth Camper Van Conversion


Now that you have all of your gear and your vehicle it’s time to bring it all together and convert this bad boy. First step is to fold down or remove all of the seats besides the front two. The next step is to get stealthy and black out all of the rear windows with the black construction paper and tape you bought. Once, you’re fully in stealth mode, then you’re going to want to blow up your mattress and roll out your sleeping bags. Now that the bed is made, it’s time to string up the led light rope so that you can actually see once the sun sets. Plus, what is #vanlife without the twinkle lights photo?! Using the bungee cords can help with hanging the lights but it will be different in each ride depending upon how the ceiling of the vehicle looks. The last thing to do is to organize your remaining gear, food, clothing and bags wherever you want it all to be for easy access while posted up or packed tight for driving around.

Converting Rental SUV to DIY Camper Van


The hard part is behind you, now you’re all setup for the road. The last step is to pick your route and head out! Have fun, enjoy yourself, and get the hell out of your comfort zone!

Alaska Denali National Park Flannel