• Zoe

The Van Plan 1- Eating

Updated: Nov 7, 2020

I'm sure I'm not the only one who's started some mad DIY project during lockdown.

Instead of using this time wisely to study for my medical degree(!), the lack of being able to travel really got to me (not top priority with everything that's been happening, I know, but having booked an Easter weekend in Bruges and a 9 day trek through the mountains in Iceland that I didn't get to go on, I have definitely been getting itchy feet).

Mum bought a Citroen Berlingo years ago to convert into her own mini-camper, but managed to convince Dad to join her in her travels and upgraded to a proper van before she ever got started and it's just been our normal car ever since. So I thought how better to use lockdown than to convert it into a mini camper! I've been having a hard time at med school for a while, so the idea of a big road trip after I graduate is definitely something to help get me through the last stretch until finals.

A (much newer) Berlingo in all its glory.

However, having only a basic level of DIY skills I really wasn't sure how to go about it. The Berlingo is a little baby, so I knew I couldn't build much into it like some people do in their vans. Having read about a million blogs and joined some Berlingo Camper FB groups, I decided to opt for a very basic, low bed that could fold into a chair and that would give me plenty of headroom.

My bed folded into chair position

The bed was super easy to make because all I had to do was make some boxes to fit in each footwell, which would let me store things underneath and would level the floor for sleeping on. I used wood that used to be shelves in our old shed and some old white wood primer I found in another shed.

Footwell storage underneath the bed

I then got a single futon mattress from the attic which folds into three sections, allowing me to turn the bed easily into a chair.

Trying out my new bed, with help from my gal amber.

Next was the kitchen situation. I considered building something permanent into the van like on this blog:

However, I decided I wanted something more flexible, because although I plan to do the trip alone, I want to have space for friends to visit and stay in the van too.

So I decided to make a kitchen box.

A box to store all my cooking equipment and stove, which had the ability for me to cook on was what I was looking for.

Something along the lines of this.

Again, I went hunting in the shed and found an old drawer which I cut in half, then stacked the 2 pieces on top of each other and reinforced the sides with additional scrap wood.

The old drawer I used to create the kitchen box.

Trying to reinforce the drawers.

I made a lid for the top out of a window from the old shed, which can fold out to become a preparation surface or windbreak when the stove is in use. The lid was fixed on with hinges from the old shed door, which I cleaned up with a wire brush (ouch, I learned the hard way how sharp this is!).

Trialling the lid and checking the cooker fits for storage.

Then I gave the whole thing a few coats of paint (using the same free primer as before)...

...and added some awesome Portuguese style heat-proof tile stickers that I got from Amazon.

Next, I decided to focus on storage. I decided I would make some shelves for the back windows which could screw directly into holes already in the plastic panelling.

Trying out the shelves

You can sense a theme, as I again used some old wood I found in the shed, some screws that were laying around in the shed, painted it with primer and used up some scraps of the tile stickers.

A finished shelf with my insulating blind cover made from an old atlas and poly pockets.

For more storage, I secured some big cargo nets to the inside of the roof that I bought from Ebay, and one on the inside of the boot for shoes.

Utilising every bit of space with my roof nets.

We already have a roof box that never gets used (you guessed it, in the shed), which I thought would be great for storing stuff out of the way. However, looking online for the right roof rails to secure it was a challenge! There's bars and rails and it's impossible to work out which ones will actually fit your car!!! This is where the Berlingo camper FB page came to the rescue. I posted asking for advice on what type of roof rails people had fitted on their Berlingos, and a super kind fellow mini-camper happened to have some spare!! She sent them to me for free, and I just paid postage which was so nice of her! Getting them on was an absolute nightmare which involved drilling through metal, bright red silicon squirting everywhere and some ominous creaking from the car as we tightened the bars on, but finally we did it! Now I just need some cross bars to actually fit the roofbox (and hopefully my bike).

Job well done, the roof rails are on!

Total spend so far- £47.24 (£8.99 for tile stickers, £22 for roof rail postage (mad expensive I know, but they're super long),16.28 for 3 cargo nets.)

Note: I earn a small amount of commission from any links posted above.


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