Building a Camper Van

You basically have two choices if you want a RV based on a sprinter: Either start with an empty shell and build your own (This is what this page is about) or buy one from the various upfitters that are specialized in building Camper Vans. There are a couple of things that will turn a raw Cargo (or passenger) van into a full camper. This page is an overview of the individual steps that should help you building a camper van.

Sound deadening

Drive any Cargo Van and the first thing that you will notice is that the noise level inside is much higher than your average passenger car. The raw Sprinter Cargo van is basically a metal box on wheels with some basic sound deadening in the cab where the driver and passenger sit. Once you’re on the road, the empty metal box starts rattling and the wind adds to the overall noise level inside the van. Sound deadening materials reduce the noise level so that you can actually listen to your car stereo or have a conversation without shouting to your passenger. Here’s the post about Sound deadening a Sprinter Camper Van and one about reducing road noise by adding sound deadening material to the rear wheel arches.


The next step in camperizing your van is insulate the inside from the cold or heat outside. Not only you will have a nicer climate inside the van when camping and driving, a good insulation will also save you some money when you look at cooling and heating systems: you can install a smaller A/C system if you did a good job insulating your Sprinter. For the details on insulation check out this post.


You probably spend more time camping in the summer time, so keeping the Sprinter cool while camping is important. The most obvious choice is installing a rooftop A/C unit but depending on the climate zone you want to travel in a more simple solution like a fan might be an easier (and cheaper) choice. To get some additional shade you can install an awning.


Even in summer time nights can be chilly. The most simple solve for this is a good sleeping bag but if you’re like me you want you don’t want to step out your sleeping bag in the morning when it’s ice cold around you. A diesel powered heater or a heat pump can solve this problem for you.

Electrical (Shore & Batteries)

If you want to use more than a simple phone charger, you should invest in a good electrical system in your van. For most rooftop A/C’s you need 120V AC power. Since your choice of a RV is a Sprinter you probably want to have a cooktop and a small TV to watch movies on rainy days. All that requires either being parked and connected to an electrical outlet or it needs to be powered by the 12V DC system in your van. To use your AC powered tools in your van you might want to install some AC outlets.


To charge your house batteries you can either use the alternator while driving, a charger while plugged into shore power or Solar panels. I personally like the idea of using solar because it’s free (once you paid for the installation of the solar panels and wiring) and you don’t have to think about it: When you have some light, the panels will charge your batteries.


The whole point of a Camper van is to live in it and in my book, sleeping is the most important part of it 🙂 I personally need a comfy bed to have a good nights sleep – that’s why I prefer a Sprinter RV over tent camping.


Even if you take only the basics with you, you need some safe storage space in your van. This section talks about cabinets, storage drawers and other storage ideas in your Sprinter and how you build them.


Depending on your cooking skills you might want to have a fridge, a microwave or a cooktop in your van.


Port-a-potty or full bathroom with shower. Here I’m looking into the options available and will show you some ideas of other people that built their own RV’s.


Things that aren’t covered above, for example, removing an installed bulkhead dividerinstalling additional windows, updating the speakers, or adding recliner seats for the passengers in the back.

4 thoughts on “Building a Camper Van

  1. I’m looking at getting a 2500 cargo version for camper. I’m a climber but also work a professional job, what I’m wondering is 140 big enough. I live simply, have few cloths and gear. My ideal build out would be a bed in back with storage underneath, and simple counter with stove top and fridge underneath. My other concern is 158 too big to drive around the city compared to 140? it looks so much bigger in pictures. Finally my last concern that I’ve been tossing around is t1 or nc3? each has it pros and cons. It seems that I’m finding t1s between 2004 and 2006 ad nc3 2007 and 2008 within my price range. I’m looking at picking one up around 200k miles. As I’ve heard they reliably can go 500k plus.

    1. For a single person a 140 is plenty of room. I have a 158 tall 3500 and I don’t have any issues driving it around town but I also have a family of four 🙂 And yes, with regular service they’ll run forever.

  2. I am trying to find someone who can install an ac unit and a power strip in a van. Any recommendations?
    Susan Harrington

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