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Recommended Products for a DIY Camper Van – What I Used

By May 10, 2018 March 21st, 2019 Miles Van Camper, Van Build Series

As anyone who’s build a DIY camper van can attest, getting the best parts for your build is extremely time consuming. For me it was a constant challenge to find products that worked in my design, functioned well, looked good and performed at a high level.

Note: this list was updated in February 2019 to reflect the materials used on my latest build. I will keep updating this page as I discover new things!

Often, I didn’t even know the name for the thing I was trying to find! What is that thing called that allows a cable to go through a hole and create a waterproof seal? A “gland”? Oy! Let’s just say that wasn’t the first thing that came to my mind. Anyway, I hope this saves you some time and gives you more confidence in your build out!

Whenever possible I purchased through Amazon to take advantage of Prime shipping and I tried to provide the Amazon link for each item in the table below.

I didn’t list things that are commonly found at hardware stores like lumber, basic plumbing parts, fasteners, etc. Instead, I focused on items that were more van camper specific that required research to decide between the options available.

I wrote another post on why I chose the Promaster and I’ve also provided my complete electrical plan/diagram. I’ll be adding more posts over time to the blog!

Electrical System
Victron BMV-700 Battery Monitor This device uses a “shunt” off the negative bus of your battery bank to provide loads of useful information on the state of charge, voltage and current draw from the battery(s). You can also buy a bluetooth adapter for it if you want to see this kind of information on your mobile device using their app.
Progressive Dynamics PD50B2T2GN AC/DC Load Center I like the way this combined both circuit breakers for my 120 volt AC loads and fuses for my 12 volt DC loads into one unit. I painted the exterior of mine white to match better. It seems hard to find these and I’m not sure why. It comes in an ugly brown colored plastic. I spray painted mine white to match.
Blue Sea Systems SI-ACR Automatic Charging Relay (ACR) This device connects the vehicle battery to my house battery bank until the voltage drops below 12.75 volt. So, when the engine is running the alternator can be charging the house batteries as well as the vehicle battery. This “SI” version supports up to 120 amps. I used the “ML” version in my first van because the Promaster’s alternator is rated at 220 amps. However, in practice I rarely see over 90 amps flowing into the batteries when driving/charging with the alternator.
Blue Sea Systems 200 Amp “MEGA” AMG Fuse This fuse bolts right onto the positive “terminals” on the van battery (which is located below the driver seat cab area). So, it’s a simple way of fusing that wire run to the ACR (above) without needing a fuse holder/etc. I keep an extra one of these with my other spare fuses.
200 Amp ANL Fuse Holder with Fuse I used a couple of these to protect wiring such as between the ACR and house battery bank and between the house battery bank and the positive bus bar. Again, I like to have a few of these fuses in the van in case they need replacing.
AIMS Power 2000 Watt Pure Sine Inverter Charger This is a beast of an inverter with the ability to push out 6000 watts for a brief period of time. This is useful for “starting” my rooftop AC. In my first build I used Xantrex Freedom 1800 watt inverter and it was perfect but could not start the AC.
Remote Control Panel for AIMS Power Inverter This is virtually required to control the inverter (turn it on, etc.)  if it’s installed in a place where you can’t get to it and use the controls on the unit itself. It’s ugly but does the job! It also indicates AC voltage “in” (shore power) and a few other things.
Renogy 200 Watt Solar “Kit” This “kit” includes 2x 100 watt panels, cables, mounting brackets and a 30A PWM “Wanderer” charge controller. I ended up selling the controller and upgrading to a MPPT version (below).
Renogy Rover, 30 amp MPPT Charge Controller I wanted the added effeciency of this MPPT controller (instead of the PWM one that came with the “kit” above.
Dual USB & “Cigarette Lighter” Power Outlet Panels I used a few of these in various places for flexible 12 volt power options. I like that I can combine these with “decora” style 110v AC outlets into one “box” and one switch plate. This creates a really clean looking 110v and 12v combo power areas.
USB Power Outlet Panels I used a few of these in various places also. The difference between this one and the one above is that it’s USB only – no cigarette lighter jack. It has the same ability to be combined with “decora” style 110v outlets for clean looking power areas.
250 Amp Bus Bars with Covers I used two of these; one red one for the positive bus and another black one for the negative bus. I like that these particular versions come with a cover.
Renogy, 12v, 200 Amp Hour AGM Deep Cycle Batteries I used 2x of these for a total of 400 amp hours of capacity. Keep in mind that AGM batteries should not be discharged below 50% so, in reality, I have about 200 amp hours of usable power. I had about 150 amp hours in my first build and never really ran into issues, so this extra capacity is a bonus.
12v DC LED Dimmer Switches I like the way these look and integrate into the van and the fact that they have both an on/off switch and slider/dimmer.
Link Solar Weatherproof ABS Double Cable Entry I used this on the roof for the solar cables (positive and negative) to enter the van.
weBoost Drive 4G-S Cell Phone Signal Booster This system has an outside antenna and an indoor “cradle” that you can put your phone or MIFI into to bootst the cell signal for better data speeds. The cable goes through the roof with this “single” gland entry on the roof. There is now a newer version of this product here.
Dimmable LED Gooseneck Reading Lamp These are installed on both sides of the bed/loft area. You touch a button on the fixture to turn it onto a “nightlight” mode (blue LED light) or press it twice to turn on the light itself. If you touch and hold it will dim up or down.
Acegoo Recessed Ceiling Light (4-Pack Super) These are the lights that are in the ceiling of the main living space. There are a total of 6x in that space operated by a dimmer switch and I also have one in the bathroom/shower area on it’s own dimmer switch.
30 Amp “Twist Lock” Shore Power Inlet Standard shore power connection installed on the driver’s side of the van.
Weatherproof RV Outlet Cover I liked the way that this looked and how it functions. You can open one “side” (use one outlet) at a time. It seems to be more fitting than the standard outdoor outlet covers designed for homes.
Ancor 12 AWG Duplex Flat Wire I used this wire for most of my 12 volt DC loads.
2/0 AWG Welding Cable I used a bunch of this in both black and red color for my connections between the vehicle battery and the house batteries and from the batteries to the inverter and bus bars, etc..
Notes:
I used 3 conductor, 14-gauge “SO” wire for most of my 120 volt AC runs – in particular extension cords from the hardware store cut to length. It’s flexible and worked great compared to “romex” type wire. I also read in many places that you don’t want to use solid copper wiring (stranded copper is better) since it could break from all the vibration in an RV setting. That said, the major RV manufacturers use solid copper “romex” on their rigs all the time.
Propane System
Manchester Tank 5.9 Gallon Capacity This is a replacement tank used on VW Eurovan Campers from 1995-2001. It has a smaller diameter than the other RV style Manchester tanks (8″ versus 10″) which is essential for where I located it underneath the van – just in front of the rear axle. It was quite difficult to wrestle it into that spot and I had to sort of bend the emergency brake cables out of the way but it did fit and is nice and tucked away without affecting the van ground clearance at all. By putting the tank in this locaton you need a remote fill kit like the one listed below.
Nashfuel Remote Propane Fill Kit with Mounting Bracket Because my propane tank is installed deep underneath the van I needed this “remote fill kit” to be able to fill the tank from the side of the van. The panel is mounted at the bottom of the van body on the drivers side (that side has the water fill and shore power inlets as well). I fouund it difficult to install this and test for leaks but it does work well and the kit comes with all the parts you need.
Manchester Tank G12846 LP Gas Tank Remote 90° OHM Sender This thing is installed onto the tank (above) and sends the tank level to my SeeLevel tank monitoring system. Super handy!
Mr. Heater Two Stage Regulator I like that this comes with a plastic cover.
Atwood Dual Carbon Monoxide and LP Gas Detector/Alarm Great to have this two-in-one unit. It’s installed just front of the galley above the “step/heater cover”. Propane gas “sinks” so you want to install any LP gas detector low to the ground.
Cooling and Heating
Maxxair 0007000K MaxxFan with Remote Installed over the bed/loft. It has 10 speeds and can either “pull” air into the van or “push” it out. I love this fan!
Special “Adapter” For Roof Fan on a Promaster This adapter matches the ribs/profile of the roof of the van and provides a flat surface to install a roof vent or Maxxfan, etc.
Coleman Mach 8 “Cub” Air Conditioner When you spend time in Florida and the south, you gotta have AC. My inverter is capable of “starting” and running this unit but I would only do that for very short periods of time. It’s really there for when I have shore power. This “cub” version is their smallest and lowest profile unit at 9200 BTUs which is about 11.7 amps AC or 1270 watts at 120 volts AC. If you have a smaller inverter, I’ve heard that you can buy a device like this that allows it to “start” with lower electrical draw. Motor loads like this AC need much more power to “start” than when they’re running.
AC Ceiling Assembly This “ceiling assembly” is the inside part that is sold seperately for some reason.
Propex HS2800 Propane Furnace Very compact fully vented furnace. I have it installed just behind the driver’s seat with it’s thermostat above the galley. There is an air intake hose and an exhaust hose that are routed through the floor of the van. I haven’t used it much but after living in places like Florida for over ten years, I’m not down with being cold. This is a 9700 BTU heater that only draws 1.6 amps DC.
Plumbing
click here to read a post about my plumbing system
JR Products K7112-6-A City Water and Tank Water Fill with Key Lock I like that this locks and has a “cut out” for a hose so if you are connected to “city water” you can close the panel while the hose is connected. That said I almost never use a city water connection and find it easier to just fill up the water tank. This also comes with a “check-valve” to prevent the city water connection from back flowing. This is installed next to the shore power inlet on the driver’s side of the van.
33 Gallon Fresh Water Tank It’s great to have a lot of fresh water on board. This is installed under the bed on the driver’s side near the wheel well. The entire fresh water system (tanks, lines, etc.) is inside the van for all season camping.
1-1/4″ Fresh Water Fill Hose Just a 5′ section of this hose. This is WAY better than the stuff you find at the hardware store for this purpose. It’s flexible yet strong. If you look at RVs and boats, this is the standard hose used but I could not find it anywhere and didn’t know what to search for!
Small RV-Style Sink Trap I used this trap on my galley/kitchen sink with a 3/4″ flexible drain line to the grey water tank.
Custom Roto-Molding H45 Grey Water Holding Tank This 35 gallon capacity tank is installed underneath the van on the passenger side. This is one of the many “weight balancing” tactics I used. Since the fresh water tank is on the driver’s side, this was installed on the passenger side. It was also a major challenge to fit a large enough tank underneath the van with all the “stuff” that is down there and with the shower/sink drains linking up correctly. This tank has a 3″ connection for the “outlet” (see below) and I used these 1-1/2″ grommets to connect the drain and vent lines.
Valterra T50 3″ Hub x 3″ Bay Grey Water Drain Valve Standard 3″ grey water tank drain that uses standard drain/sewer hose. I use this sewer hose and it works great.
Valterra 46″ Sewer Hose Carrier I have this installed on the underneath of my bike/cargo carrier and it stores the grey water tank draining hose. Very handy way to store this outside the van.
Isotemp SPA 15L Marine Water Heater This is a clever system designed for boats. The water is heated “automagically” as you drive by having the van’s coolant lines run through a heat exchanger. If you are not driving, there is a 750 watt AC heating element that runs off my inverter or shore power. I wired through this switch with an LED indicator light by the galley so I “remember” that the AC heating eleemnt is on and so I can reach around and turn it off when driving. The 5.3 gallon tank is super well insulated so it maintains the temperature of the water for long periods of time after driving. Another great feature is that it heats the water up to 190 degrees (f) – way hotter than you’d want to use and there is a “mixing valve” out the outlet that mixes cold water with the hot from the tank to a specified temperature. This significantly extends the capacity of the 5.3 gallons. Some have reported getting nearly twice that in hot water. It also aids in recovery time if you need to heat the tank with the electric element. Finally, this tank effectively adds about 5 gallons to my total fresh water capacity. So, with the 33 gallon tank and this additional 5 gallons of stored hot water, I have about 38 gallons of available water on board.

I wrote a blog post about this water heater and the installation process here.

Garnett Technologies SeeLevel II Tank Monitor I’m very happy with this tank monitoring system. It works by placing one of these flexible “sender” units on the outside of the tank you’re monitoring. You cut it to size to accomodate the height of your tank according to the instructions and then hook it up to the monitor panel and it works like magic. Because they’re on the outside they don’t seem to have the issues that the tank monitors installed on the inside of tanks do and, even if they fail, they can be replaced easily. This particular unit also has a switch to turn on/off my water pump. Finally, it can display the propane tank’s “sender” unit as well (see details on that above in the propane section). I don’t have a black water tank so that button does not function.
SHURflow 3.0 Revolution Water Pump This is my fresh water pump. The panel SeeLevel II panel above has a switch that is connnected to this relay which actually controls power to the pump itself.
SHURflo 182-200 Pre-Pressurized Accumulator Tank SHURflo says the pump I use doesn’t need an “accumulator” which maybe true but I find it really smooths out the flow. It’s pretty inexpensive and simple to install so I would recommend using one.
3M Filtrete Maximum Under Sink Water Filterk This water filter is installed under the bed so it doesn’t take up space in the under-sink cabinet. There are some valves to control the water supply to it and from it. I have it connected to this faucet that is installed next to the sink. Very convenient to have filtered water right out of a tap.
Fontanna Compact Exterior Shower This outdoor shower is installed in the cabinetry accessed from the back doors.
Notes:
Of course, in addition to these “major” components there are hundreds of connection parts and hoses. During this build I lived a few blocks from an Ace Hardware store which was so lucky. I was there at least once a day. Especially in plumbing you need one of everything! In this build there is 1/2″, 3/8″, 3/4″, 1″, 1-1/4″ and 1-1/2″ lines and a mix of Pex, copper, braided hose and PVC. So you need connectors and tools and glues and everything for each of them.
Shower/Bathroom
KES L6701 Single Handle Shower Valve Nice and compact mixing valve for the shower. It was tough to find something small enough to fit into my “shallow” wall cavities – the standard household units are too big.
Niagra Massage Low Flow Shower Head Super low flow 1.5 GPM flow conserves water but “feels” like a standard shower head. A standard “low flow” shower head is 2.5 gallons per minute so this is considerably more efficient.
1-1/2″ Hepvo Trap This clever “trap” performs the function of a standard “p-trap” to prevent odors from escaping from the grey holding tank but in much less space. It also prevents water from “back flowing” into the shower when driving. These can be installed vertically or horizontally. In my case it’s installed horizontally just below the shower pan.
Lippert Components 210371 White 24″ x 32″ Rectangular Right Handed Drain Shower Pan This tiny shower pan is the perfect size in my opinion. I coupled this with shower walls I built with plywood that is covered with a thin plastic sheeting to make a waterproof wet bath.
SHUB 36″ Wide x 62″ Tall Shower Door I love how this basically disappears into its “cassette” when not in use and takes up very little space compared to a standard “door” that is in the way when open and often rattles when driving.
3-Chamber Soap/Shampoo Dispenser A nice way to organize your soaps and shampoos and keep them secure when driving.
Soap Holder Nicely designed and does the job.
Oceanair Marine Dryroll Protective Toilet Roll Dispense It’s important to keep your toilet paper dry in a wet bath! This thing is awesome and very clever – it sort of feeds the toilet paper out when you lift the lid – giving you something to grab onto and then retracts it (rolls it up) when you close the lid.
Thetford Curve Cassette Toilet I’m really happy with this toilet system and that I don’t have to deal with draining a black tank. I used this mounting plate to secure it to the shower floor which keeps it in place while driving but also allows it to come out of the space if you want to remove it when showering. I leave it in the bathroom when showering. There is just enough space in front of the toilet to stand when showering or you can use the toilet of as a seat while showering. I also recommend this toilet paper which is both substantial enough to “get the job done” but also dissolves well!
Galley
Dometic SMEV MO0911 Combination 2-Burner Propane Cooktop With Sink This is a great product that I really like both in terms of design and function. The only negative is that it doesn’t have electronic ignition. The other SMEV products generally do. However, it’s simple to light with a lighter. I use this space-saving RV drain/trap with the sink/strainer.
Water Faucet for Sink Simple and compact size works well for my space.
Norcold DE0061R, 7 Cubic Feet Refrigerator I wanted a much bigger refrigerator/freezer than you normally find in van campers, one that had a separate freezer compartment and that allowed for enough space “above” it for the microwave. This unit meet all those criteria and it’s very well built. The frig comes with black door panels which I used as templates to create new door panels from brushed alumimun. The frig is 5.3 cubic feet and the freezer is 1 cubic foot. Like most of these RV/marine refrigerators, it uses the super energy effecient Danfoss compressor.
Lagun Table Mount This is an extremely versatile table mount that moves in just about every direction and can lock into place while driving. I used an IKEA “Grevsta”, 15×30″ stainless steel “door” from their kitchen department as the table top.
Stainless-Steel Microwave 1.0 cu ft. with Trim Package I didn’t have a microwave in the first build but it will be an awesome feature. It’s installed just above the refrigerator.
3″ x 6″ “Peel and Stick” Aluminum Tiles I used these brushed aluminum tiles as the backsplash in the galley area. I think they look great and compliment some of the other aluminum and stainless steel components and they were very easy to use and install. I was able to cut them cleanly with a chop saw.
Notes:
The galley cabinets, and both set of drawers under the bed are IKEA kitchen cabinets that have been modified to work in a van. Many people have raised concerns about using cabinets like this but they have held up amazingly well and are very strong in this environment. THey also look great and have the advantage of being replaced or repaired at any IKEA store. As an example, I forgot to latch a drawer before driving away from a camp site and after breaking hard it flew out and broke against the floor. All I had to do was visit the next IKEA along the journey and replace that single drawer which took about 30 minutes. Had that been a custom-built drawer, I would have had to find a place and tools to completely rebuild it. I will be writing an entire post on using IKEA kitchen cabinets in a camper van build! In addition to their cabinets, I used a few “cover panels” for walls so that they would match the finish. The results look really great to me.
Miscellaneous
Custom Fit Insect Screen for Slider Door It’s a really nicely designed system. There are strong magnets on the front side (closest to the passenger seat) that you can pull open to get in and out quickly. You can also unzip the screen on both the front and rear sides and roll it up to open up the space. It installs easily with Velcro so the entire thing can be removed or re-installed in a few minutes. The company, out of Canada, makes them for Promasters, Sprinters, Transits and other vans.
Lonseal “Antique and Ivory” Vinyl Flooring I don’t think wood or engineered wood flooring makes sense in a van with all the moisture, dirt, mud and traffic it encounters. In my first build I used vinyl tiles which were really nice and I loved the way they looked, but the variances in temperature caused very slight gaps in between the tiles that was not ideal. For my second build I choose Lonseal sheet vinyl. This is designed for marine applications so it’s very well made and durable. I like how the “ivory” lines in the flooring accentuate the clean lines of the rest of the design.
Fold Up Cup Holder Love these things and used them on both sides of the bed/loft.
Driver Side Swivel Seat Adapter This is the Sportscraft version imported from Europe. They’re very heavy duty but not the easiest to use. I wish there was a better option on the market. I’ve heard good things about the “Swivels-Are-Us” seat swivels but have not used them personally. I also used the passenger side version on my van.
3M Thinsulate Insulation I used Thinsulate insulation throughout the van along with some Great Stuff (expanding foam) in hard-to-reach places. There is much debate on what is the best insulation method. I’m quite happy with the results of the Thinsulate. It was amazing how much reduction of road noise this created. According to the vendor, Hein, who is active in the van conversion community, you need about 50 linear feet. So, this is an expensive approach for sure but it goes up really easy. I did the entire van in a day. I also used Noico sound deadening mat on the van walls/ceiling and wheel wells before insulating with the Thinsulate.
Curt Class III Hitch for the Promaster – 2″ Receiver This was much easier to install than I thought. Took about an hour. I used this kit for the wiring.
Hitch-Mounted Cargo Carrier This is the cargo carrier that works well for transporting bikes and that I can use as a “deck” off the rear doors when the bikes are off. I’ve also used it to carry paddle boards and other “cargo”. Combined with the Yakima Backswing (just below) it allows you to keep your bikes/cargo on the rack and access/open the rear doors by swinging the entire thing out of the way. Check out my blog post about this here.
Yakima Backswing This clever “swing away” hitch adapter allows the cargo/bike carrier (just above) to swing out of the way to access/open the rear doors. Check out my blog post about this here.
Richter 445 European Style Mesh Pocket I used these “mesh pockets” on each side of the bed/loft area. They’re adjacent to some USB charging outlets and are the perfect size to store you phone/mobile device while charging at night and a few personal items like glasses/etc.
Mesh Map Pocket This larger mesh pocket is is mounted on the wall that forms the bath/shower just below my gauges/panels and is perfect for maps/notebooks.
Mesh Oranizers The final thing in the “mesh department” are these organizers which I fastened to the gally wall that is directly behind the driver’s seat. I used a few of them here and they’re super handy for things like binculars, frisbees, flashlights and other miscellany.
Kikkerland Rhino II Step Stool This clever step stool folds up super small – enough to stow away behind the toilet in the bathroom and I use it to get in and out of the van, up into the loft area and as an “extra seat” up against the bathroom wall adjacent to the slider door. Very handy item! I have a special “slot” to store this in the cabinet under the refrigerator.
3-Piece Cab Window Insulation/Curtains These are a great way to cover up (and insulate) the front windows and windshield. They roll up easily and are stored above the storage bin above the cab.
Dicor Self-Leveling Lap Sealant (4-Pack) This is the stuff I used to seal up all the stuff on the roof like the vent fan and solar panel brackets. Everyone swears by this stuff and so far it’s held up great!
#8 Screw Caps (White, 100 Pieces) I used these extensively to “hide” screwheads that couldn’t be countersunk. They work really well and can be painted. Anotehr little thing that ended up being hard to find the “right” product for.
C.R. Laurence FW395R Sliding Door Window Installing this window into the sliding door (which didn’t come with a window from the factory) was one of the first things I did. It’s terrifying to cut a giant hole in a new van but I figured it would be “downhill” from there if I started with that!
Products That I Did Not Use But Seem Awesome
I’ll be adding to this list regularly as I research and discover things!
8.5′ Telescoping Ladder I’ve seen many people use these ladders to get up to their roof for tasks like cleaning your solar panels for increased output, etc. Some day I would like to find a way to store this easily. Perhaps on the back doors.
European Style Windows I really like the look of these windows, the way the entire window area opens and how they have an integrated screen/shade. Checkout this post on the Promaster Forums that details their installation including lots of photos.
Zero Breeze Portable AC Unit This thing looks very cool. I might have opted for it instead of a rooftop unit if I had known about it. Appears to be super energy efficient and can even run off it’s own battery.
Danhard, 12-Volt, Non-Rooftoop Air Conditioners
AND
Proair, 12-Volt, Non-Rooftoop Air Conditioners
AND
Cruise n Comfort, 12-Volt, Non-Rooftop Air Conditioners
Some alternatives/options for air conditioners that, unlike most RV-style AC units run off 12-volt electricity and are not installed on the roof. I don’t have experience with them but have heard of them being used in camper vans. Proair even has instructions on how to install their units into various vans including Sprinters and Promasters.
Small, Corner-Mounted Vessel Sink I decided I didn’t want to take up any space in my wet bath/shower with a sink – it’s fine for me to use the sink in the galley instead. However, if you’re looking for something compact and attractive, this one looks very good.
Laundry POD I’m intrigued by this hand-powered laundry device. I don’t really like hanging out in laundromats and another van person recommended this unit. Seems like a good solution and small enough to stow away easily.