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My Glampervan Promaster van conversion, named Eve, is at last ready for adventures! She went into the shop in early February with a completion date scheduled for early April. But COVID-19 struck and everything slowed down.
I wasn’t sure when the van conversion would be completed, but Glampervan instituted safe working practices for its employees and kept its shop running. Yay Glampervan. My delivery date moved to May 1 – barely a delay. And now Eve is here and I can show you all the nitty-gritty details. They are pretty darn awesome.
Why a Glampervan?
Eve is a pretty sweet build. Price-wise she is low to midrange, compared to other custom models and B Class RVs that can range upwards of $200,000. Sprinter-based camper vans, for instance, are always more expensive because the Sprinter van base (new) ranges from $50,000-60,000. Eve is built on a Ram Promaster base which runs almost half that new. There are several reasons to choose a Promaster over a Sprinter, but cost and ease of repairs are two. I found my 2019 Promaster for $26,600 (before taxes) last December and described that experience in an earlier post.
My Glampervan build cost $65,000, which is close to the max their deluxe build. I opted for almost all of the possible features Glampervan offers. About the only thing I did not get is the juiced-up sound system because I mostly listen to audiobooks and who needs surround sound for that? Also, when I listen to anything I am likely to use my earphones. My total cost was $91,600. Not cheap by any means, but far below what most comparable build charge.
Glampervan’s core build is about $28,000 and gets a person going with the insulation, 340 W solar panels, a 2-Li battery-based electrical system, basic lights and fans, and a bed. That would be a good option for a more modest cost and would get you on the road and leave a lot of room for DIY customization.
Admittedly, before I decided to go with Glampervan, for about a nanosecond I considered building my own van. I’m so impressed with all the women doing DIY builds! I fantasized myself as Rosie the Riveter wielding power tools with aplomb. But I knocked that dream out of my head as fast as it entered. I’m in my 7th decade of life now and one bit of self-knowledge I’ve acquired is that I am NOT a DIYer. Bless your heart if you are. I’ll root you on and cheer your success. But if I was going to have a van before I turned 100, I needed to have someone else build it.
I get it that many women don’t have 50-100 grand to buy a van. The DIY projects are amazing to watch and I found one that only cost the owner $1000.00 on top of the van purchase. One thing I love about the van life is the broad range of price points to get started and ultimately upgrade to.
Even if you’re not looking for a fully glamped-up van, I hope the detail shown below will help inspire the DIY in your souls. For more information on DIY vans check out gnomadhome.com.
Glampervan has put a lot of thought into their van’s design and continually modify and improve their functionality. I hope some of the features you see here will spark ideas for your build.
And now let’s tour Eve
Overview of my Glampervan Promaster van conversion
Glampervans are built on a 136-inch wheelbase, high roof van Dodge Ram Promaster. This allows standing for persons under 6 foot or so, and a maneuverable wheelbase for city U-turns and parking. About the only it can’t do is go into most parking garages. It is super easy to drive and park.
Customers supply the Promaster to Glampervan and they build the van based on a choice of preset menu options. In Eve’s case, I supplied a barely used 2019 Promaster 2500 with about 6000 miles. The 2500 model gives enough oomph to carry the weight of the conversion, while the 1500 model is a bit underpowered and the 3500 model is more than required. You can read all about the purchase of this base van, and why I chose a Promaster base vehicle in the posts “Meet Eve, My Virgin Glampervan.” and “Ten Reasons Why I Chose a Glampervan to Start My Van-life.”
Above are overviews of a Glampervan from the outside, showing the window options, roof deck, solar panel and awning.
I opted to include the roof deck because I wanted to take fun photos like the one at the top of this article. OK, not just for the photo op, but also to have a place to scan the horizon, and sit to watch the sunset. Navigating the ladder and balancing once I am up on top also helps me face and tackle my fear of heights.
Honestly, I wasn’t sure about the deck when I ordered my van. The deck is one of the last features I added, but I’m glad it’s there. The antislip coating and handy grab handle next to the top of the ladder make it easier to use than I anticipated. I find it pretty easy to get up and down – something I was concerned about when I added it.
The three added running boards make it super easy to get in and out of all the doors.
The awning is a manually operated Fiamma brand.
Also, around the outside are a collection of “porch” and off-road lights. The 4 porch lights are on a dimmer switch located by the sliding door. These come in handy when you’re parking off-road at night.
Underneath and not photographed is the addition of rear end Sumo Springs which augment the rear suspension and help add stability when driving. I found the van very easy to drive. It is, of course, top-heavy so there is no speeding around curves, but I’m not rushing to get anywhere anymore.
I’ve been monitoring my gas mileage and so far, with a couple thousand miles under her wheels, Eve is averaging 14.2 MPG. The range has been from 10.2-16.1. This averages city and highway; fully loaded and almost empty.
Windows, doors, and walls, oh my!
When I bought Eve she only had windows in the cab. I must say I did not like driving with no rear windows at all. Fortunately, that time is behind me as Glampervan installed two windows in the back doors, a large screened window on the slider, and another 12″x30″ screened galley window. I almost did not get the galley window installed but I am so glad I did. When I took my practice run out to Joshua Tree National Park, the cross breeze helped keep it nice and cool inside.
All the windows come with custom made, magnetized, insulated covers. They store nicely above the cabin and are super easy to pop on when I want the van blacked out or better insulated. The construction and insulation of the walls, ceiling, and floor create a fantastic temperature sound and vapor barrier. The floor is a gray vinyl.
Insulation and window installation
Screens and shades
Additional features I opted for included custom screen “doors” for the rear and slider. This allows me to sleep with the rear doors open. The rear screen door provides an opaque cover to the garage below the bed and a screen for the top half by the bed. The screens keep out flies and mosquitos, which wasn’t an issue in Joshua Tree, but it will be essential for some destinations because, if there is even one mosquito in the state, it WILL find me. Guaranteed.
The screens doors easily roll up and have straps to attach them near the ceiling. This is the same for a drop down, zippered cab-cabin privacy and black out screen.
These screens and window coverings allow for a complete black-out if needed, especially for “stealth” camping. I suppose it also works well for people sleeping in, but I am an early riser. The cab-to-cabin screen also helps keep the cabin cool, especially if you are taking a quick break in the middle of the day.
All Glampervans are set up for solar power, (340w panel) and all newer conversions have a minimum of 2 (max 3) Li batteries (2 x 100 AH usable capacity Battle Born brand) and a 2000s sine-wave inverter charger.
The solar panels and battery charge levels are all monitored by a blue-tooth linked phone app and small panel above the galley.
I tried to figure out exactly “how much” battery power I would need ahead of time. Yeah, I started listing appliances and amp-hours and watts – I went full on OCD overdrive, but you know what? I have come to the conclusion it wasn’t worth it. The electricity draw on your batteries is so variable: it’s dependent on outside temperature, the fluctuating demand of an appliance, the amount of solar energy coming in and more. The bottom line for me was – are two batteries enough for me to live and cook the way I want to? I did multiple experiments while on my test trip and ran multiple small appliances to cook breakfast and dinner.
How much battery power is enough?
I have, in addition to the hot water heater: lights, chargers for my computer, phone and iPad, an electric kettle, induction burner, instant pot and egg cooker. Cooking dinner (pasta, hamburger, steak, etc.) typically drew about 5-10% of my battery power at the end of the day. I was usually between 60 and 75% “full” when I went to bed and never went below 35% by morning. So for me, a fairly moderate electricity user, the 2 batteries look like they will be more than adequate.
If I do end up wanting more power, i can have a third battery installed, but I don’t see that looking likely.
Advantages of Li batteries
Li batteries are more expensive to purchase than lead-acid batteries but over the long haul, they are less expensive. One site suggests it costs about $110/year to use a 100 Ah Li-battery versus $204/year for an equivalent usable capacity lead-acid battery.
Li batteries have a long lifespan. Mine should last about 10 years. They also need no maintenance which is exactly what I want. I am not a DIYer nor a fixer-upper so I want easy peasy please.
With lead batteries you can let them fully discharge with no serious consequences, unlike lead-acid batteries that need to remain at least 50% charged.
The only downside of Li batteries that I have discovered is they don’t charge when it is below freezing temperatures. Since I have no intention of spending any time in cold weather, and I can drive off to warmer parts whenever I need to (and charge my batteries while I drive), I don’t see this as a concern I need to worry about. So I won’t.
I don’t do cold. Nope. I spent enough years living in the midwest and am no stranger to cold, but I am just done with it. So if the temperature starts eeking down under 50, I am going to want some heat. Fortunately, my Promaster van conversion has central heat.
There is a Webasto Air Top 2000 ST 7000 btu heater that vents out from under the passenger seat. It runs off the gasoline in my tank and the reostat is by the side door. It is so easy to use.
The 90-degree temperature in Joshua Tree wasn’t conducive to running the heater, but I did test it out. It needs to run about 30 minutes once/month to stay in good form. The periodic running keeps the innards from gumming up with moisture and such. This is the one piece of equipment that needs a little bit of care to keep in top condition, so I’ve set a repeating date in my calendar to run it the recommended 30 minutes once/month. It’s on the same schedule as my dogs’ heartworm preventative. The first of every month is a very busy time.
Another technicality to note about the heater is that high altitudes require some adjustment of the airflow, but the instructions for doing this are easy. I may be up above 5000 feet occasionally so I will need to test this out at some point.
If the heat fails though, I will have a cozy down comforter to curl up under and I can always drive to warmer parts.
It’s all in the little details
The attention to detail Glampervan took when arranging all the controls and switches in the van is impressive. For example, this is the panel next to the bed and the sliding door. I can easily adjust the heater, safely stow my coffee mug, dim the lights, and charge my devices, all from the comfort of my bed.
The ceiling has some very cool features
Who thinks much about ceilings? Glampervan does. It is constructed of an attractive aluminum paneling with L-tracks set in the seams. I had no idea about L-tracks before my van but now I am a huge fan. Glampervan uses them to install a couple of handy handles to make moving around the bed easier. They also include several accessories (hooks and rings) that make hanging bits and bobs from the ceiling very efficient.
L-tracks aplenty make hanging things a breeze.
In this image of the ceiling over the bed the L-tracks with the handles and a hanging ring are shown. The little red gadget hanging from the ring is my Garmin mini-Inreach. This is a small satellite communicator that allows me to check in with family even when I have no cell signal (as in most of our National Parks). I have the minimal plan (about $11.00/month) that allows me to send preset texts to a list of family members. It also has an SOS feature so I can call for help from anywhere on the planet. Best to be prepared, especially when traveling and hiking alone. I’ll be writing more about safety in another article so stay tuned.
With my inreach hanging right by my bed I won’t misplace it and I can easily charge it up. It also reminds me to check in.
This view of the ceiling also shows one of the two ceiling fans. The one over the bed also has a remote control so it’s easy to operate even when you are not in bed. The fans were pretty quiet and can run the flow out or into the van making environment control a dream.
This is a view of the front aspect of the ceiling with more well-positioned L-track, the second fan, and one of the numerous LED puck lights. The stowage space above the cab for the window covers is also shown as is the rolled up black out screen.
The galley is design perfection
I love my kitchen at home. But Eve has my new dream kitchen. I appreciate the versatility and every efficiency Glampervan designed. I’ve camped in a small travel trailer and never liked the tiny propane stove that took away potential counter space and was a pain to keep clean. Glampervan solved all the issues I had with my old travel trailer kitchen.
Let’s do a deep dive.
Starting at the top
There are two overhead cabinets with doors opening up (pantry right and left, above). I use these to store food, dishes, and coffee making supplies. Note the silver “knobs.” These push in to leave a flat surface and lock the doors and drawers in place. No one likes their stuff to fall out all over the place if a door accidentally opens during travel. That has never happened to me. Not once. Nope. Never. OK – maybe once. Also, take a gander at the wood. All the cabinets are a gorgeous lite stained, 12-ply maple plywood. Impressively, Glampervan took great care to match the grain everywhere. The woodwork is gorgeous, solid, and top quality.
Love these knobs
I love the drawer and cabinet knobs in my Glampervan. The left photo shows one in the closed position. Press on it and it changes to the open position.
These knobs make it easy to see at a glance what is open – so no accidents when driving. If the knobs are all pushed in you are good to go.
Below is a photo with the pantry cupboards open. This is real life, between trips and with no staging. When I am traveling this is where I’ll also stow bread, cereal, spices, and canned goods. The plastic bins keep things from jostling around too much during driving and make it easier to find and use items.
Above is the under-cabinet space. the backsplash has a stainless steel finish which makes it easy to attach magnetic hooks like those on the right. That’s where I keep my keys so I don’t misplace them. The paper towel dispenser is attached to the bottom of the cabinet.
The mirror has a magnified side in case you want to see all your nose hairs in detail.
I wasn’t sure I really needed the galley window and added it at the last minute, but I am glad now that I have it. It turns out there are many times I want to peek out both sides and catch a brilliant sunrise or sunset. The screen also helps with ventilation and catching cross-breezes.
Counters and surfaces
Below is a view of the galley with the Lagun table set up for use with the passenger seat. Both seats swivel easily to provide seating for dining, working, or whatever. There is a double 120 outlet (green label) on the bottom of the drive’s seat and a small extension cord (purple label) that makes plugging in appliances and my laptop easy peasy. Additionally, the little fold-up surface is handy for placing an appliance when in use, keeping the counter surface above available for prep work and serving. You can see a hint of the refrigerator through the notch.
The refrigerator is an electric Dometic 65 liter top-down model. After much deliberation, I decided on a single chest instead of a fridge/freezer combo because I wanted the extra refrigeration space and would only eat ice cream if I had a freezer. Even though I would enjoy ice cream on demand, it’s better that I save it for a roadside treat.
After using it for a while, I can say the top-down configuration much easier to use than a front opening model that sits near the ground. In addition, the temperature stayed cold and even, despite the desert heat. I’ve used propane-powered refrigerators in the past and find them difficult to turn on and keep cold, especially in the desert. I am an enthusiastic convert to the electric chest refrigerator for an RV.
The photo above shows the counter with the sink closed (and before I moved in so it’s nice and tidy). In addition, this picture shows the Sunbrella upholstery of the mattress without bedding and the upholstered insets for the “head” and “foot” boards.
The sink covering opens and the faucet swings up to make a nice roomy place to wash up. Gray water is collected into a six-gallon tank. The electric hot water heater is 2.5 gallons, more than ample for all of my uses. Water gets nice and hot; hotter than home – so be careful. I also found I could turn the water heater/pump off at night or when I wasn’t using it and it stayed very hot. I will test this in a colder climate too, but so far I am very impressed.
Lower galley cabinets & drawers
The under sink drawer is U-shaped to accommodate the sink. This provides 3 regions for stowing utensils. If you haven’t noticed yet, Eve’s decor is the same purple and green of my web site. My favorite color combination.
I love my bright green silicone cooking tools and the snazzy zippered pack of luminescent flatware. The latter includes a metal straw and chopsticks and is perfect for stowing in my backpack for hikes.
Two deep cabinets under the sink region of the galley (see labeled photo above) store my small appliances and some taller tubs of kitchen pantry items. My primary cooking appliances include an induction burner, small Instant Pot, and toaster oven. Eve’s electrical system handles all the appliances (one at a time) and I can cook most meals draining less than 10% of my stored power. The use of portable electric appliances instead of a built-in stove is a huge improvement in design for small van living.
Pots & pans drawer
Finally, there is one last storage drawer in the galley to show you. I call it my pots and pans drawer. It’s huge – room enough for all my pots and pans and more.
This drawer is where I keep what is looking to be one of my favorite gadgets, my Egguroo egg cooker. It’s easy to make eggs for breakfast with virtually no clean up (soft, medium, or hard-boiled). Seven eggs can be cooked at a time and excess stored to use for salads and snacks later on. The electrical draw was tiny to cook 7 eggs – 0.2 volts.
All the drawers and cabinets have bottoms with a non-adhesive liner. This protects all that beautiful wood and keeps items from sliding around.
When I took my pilot trip out to the Joshua Tree desert, I was concerned about having enough water. But it turned out I had plenty. The van has a 20-gallon tank enclosed in a beautiful maple cabinet that functions as an added seat. This turns out to be my favorite seat, as it is a perfect place to watch the world go by from the side door. Check out the placement up above.
There is an additional bracket on the tank to allow another configuration for the Lagun table.
Below, a front-to-back view of the water cabinet is shown. It fills easily from the top; the wood top swings up to reveal the wide screw lid to the tank. A nice added feature is the cut out that allows you a view of the water level without opening anything up. Even though you can safely drink the tank water, I brought separate drinking water on my desert trip (2 gallons/day). I always kept 2 gallons in the refrigerator so it would be cold. Ultimately, my 20-gallon water tank easily lasted for 7 days of dry camping. Without refilling, I cooked, washed dishes, and cleaned up with it. It even handled two showers including hair-washing during and about 15% of the tank remained at the end of the trip. Shoot, I could have taken another shower.
Like all the under bed cabinets, the cleaning supply cabinet is 20 inches deep (14″ wide and 12″ tall) so it stows a lot of stuff.
Under the bed – so much space
The space options under the Murphy bed provide an amazing amount of organizable storage. Above all four doors are shown open. Three cabinets have pull-out bins for storage. I keep my shoes and jackets and some hiking supplies in the lower right bin. Above that, my toiletries and other miscellaneous supplies are stowed. The top left bin holds items I may want to reach from the bed, namely a little lap desk, writing materials, books, etc.
What everyone wants to know about…
In the lower-left cabinet is my portable loo. It seems one of the most critical questions is “How do you go to the bathroom?” I get it, it was my main question at one point too. Turns out it is super simple. Eve comes with a Camco 2.6 gallon portable cassette toilet. The photo on the left shows the toilet as it is used, with the lid down. To flush, just pull the little blue and white handle. Shown in the middle photo is the detached bottom cassette, where waste is stored. The flush pull handle opens the white disc in the center. On the right, the ready-to-dump cassette is pictured with the handle up. Just carry the cassette to a flush toilet or outhouse, pour out the goodies, and you are good to go.
And now for those inquiring minds, here’s the nitty-gritty …
I have the bladder of an almost 60-year-old woman. Unfortunately, that means I usually have to pee during the night, so this porta-potty got some use (I know, TMI, but people want to know how this works). To make disposal easier, I only collect pee into the cassette. Solid waste (that is a polite term for poo, and we all have to poo) is rather yucky to dispose of from the cassette so when needed, you can use compostable refuse bags lining the toilet boil to collect it. Ultimately, dispose of the bags like any diaper or dog waste bag. Because I have dogs, including a 135 pound Newfoundland, bagging waste is no biggy.
To use you just “flush” one into the cassette holding tank. it couldn’t be easier.
Advantages of being self-contained (with a toilet on-board)
Having a self-contained van often comes in handy, meaning your van has a toilet. With Covid lockdowns in place, many rest areas are closed and gas stations are not allowing customer access to their restrooms. The ability to go anywhere and anytime makes travel a lot easier.
To add flexibility, I have joined Harvest Hosts and Boondockers Welcome, two private subscription groups that give campers access to free or almost free sites to stay overnight. Harvest Hosts has over 1000 attractions (farms, breweries, distilleries, wineries, museums, golf courses, etc.) that have signed up to host 1 or more overnight campers. The caveats are two – you promise to spend about $20.00 at the attraction (by food from the farm, a bottle of wine, dinner, or whatever) and you must be self-contained, meaning you have a toilet aboard.
Boondockers Welcome is a little different. People just volunteer to be hosts and members can access the network of hosts to find a place to overnight. Unlike some RV parks, vans are allowed, but they must be self-contained. I had to send them a photo of my toilet to confirm this.
In my opinion, it really helps to have a toilet on board. Never leave home without one.
No blackwater, but yes to greywater
The “blackwater” tank is the bottom part of the cassette toilet, so no dump stations needed. But there is a 6-gallon greywater tank that does need to be emptied. If you forget, don’t worry, the overflow drain prevents disasters. Not that that has happened to me.
It’s super easy. The drain is on the driver’s side of the van in front of the rear wheel. Just place a bucket under the drain and turn the lever. Dispose of the water appropriately and you are good to go.
Heat tape prevents the freezing of the water lines in cold weather. Because I am not doing cold weather I didn’t pay a lot of attention to the details on this, but it’s all in the manuals (and I did read them).
The comfy cozy bed
OMG, I love the Glampervan bed. First, I had it upholstered in purple Sunbrella fabric. So pretty.
Second, the entire bed platform functions like a Murphy bed so you can lift up the platform to stow tall items like bikes or what-have-you. Most likely, I will keep my bed configuration as shown in these photos 99% of the time, but it’s nice to have flexibility.
Third – the mattress is 6″-thick, high-quality memory foam and it is as comfortable as my bed at home. My 5 foot 10-inch body can easily stretch out on the queen-size mattress. The fabric-wrapped head bumpers and decorative fabric panels inlaid around the wood add to the beauty of the van’s interior.
This is a view of the bed platform from underneath. The holes are cut out to allow for air circulation and also cut down on weight.
The knobs and rails under the bed platform are used to hold the cabinets in place. Cabinet placement can be reconfigured so they face towards the back and can be moved to anywhere along the rail. If you need to haul something, they can also be completely removed
Did I say how much I love the bed?
The perfect place to lounge
I love to read and drink my morning coffee in bed so I added this memory foam bed chair. Too bad I couldn’t find one in purple and had to make do with a neutral gray. Most of all, I love the cup holders placed at all four corners of the bed. I bought the Joshua Tree mug as my first van souvenir. Fortunately, I was able to find a purple mug.
The “clothes closet”
The above bed cabinets are used to store my clothes and some books. At first, this looked problematic. I envisioned clothes falling out everywhere, necessitating refolding and repacking each time I dressed. Ultimately, I opted to stash my wardrobe in packing cubes. Luckily, I could find these in SSSNOOlife colors.
Below I show both cabinets opened with the packing cubes neatly stacked. Because each bag has a duct tape label (purple of course), I can quickly pull out what I need. The small cubes on top hold socks and underwear and other small things, while the larger cubes hold work out clothes, long pants, shorts, dress up, casual tops and sweats. This system works fantastically to keep everything organized and accessible when there is no closet or chest of drawers.
And now to the rear end
The under bed storage accessible from the rear doors I call my “garage.”
The garage is well laid-out. On the right, there is a fire extinguisher, and below some shallow storage as well as a bit of extra long storage, perfect for the awning rods. In addition, it’s also a perfect place for my hiking sticks and the rear window covers.
The center space is the catch-all for large water bottles and a couple of baskets containing tools and stuff I don’t use much. In addition, I stow my folding chair, yoga mat, and foam roller here.
On the left top I keep my bucket and wheel chucks. the spare tire and jack are also on this shelf in the back.
The left bottom has my leveling blocks and the shower.
Using the shower
Showering is super easy. To hold the shower faucet, there is a gorgeous maple box that attaches with a magnet to the left side wall (so much attention to detail by the Glampervan folks). I attach a tarp to each door with a magnetic hook and clothesline (yes, I found a purple clothesline). This gave me adequate privacy for a National Park, but many places I would not need the tarp.
I used my bucket to collect water and shampoo from my hair and used quick-dry towels to dry off. Most body-products are greywater safe and can be disposed of in the soil, so I just dumped my bucket under some nearby rocks..
The shower hose box is shown to the right and the hose is shown attached to the water source on the left. To my delight, it was super easy to use.
Because my first trip was dry-camping in a desert environment for 7 days, I was conservative with water use. On days I did not shower I wiped down with baby wipes – indispensable. While I don’t think I smelled, I camp alone so all I know is I didn’t offend myself.
Leveling a van
Vans and RVs need to be parked as level as possible. Not only will you detect a sloping van when you sleep (as you roll off), but some systems, like the heater, function best when flat. This task can feel intimidating. Or it felt intimidating to me. I’ve done it before with a travel trailer, two people, a level, and lots of bits and pieces of wood and blocks. It was a pain.
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And that’s a wrap
I hope this in-depth tour inspired your vision for your van – whether with ideas for your DIY build or by showing you what a mid-priced custom build can include. Do you have a favorite feature in your van? If so, please share them in the comments. I LOVE looking at van photos.