Promaster kitted out as campervan for under $1,000
San Francisco-based campervan novice Grace Aquino and her husband Marlon have recently converted a low-roof 2017 Ram Promaster cargo van into a carefree camper. What's more the couple stuck to a tight furnishing budget of just US$1,000, by predominantly fitting out the camper with products sourced from IKEA. Dubbed Flippie, the DIY camper conversion boasts all the necessities and basic comforts for van life.
The duo chose to purchase the used 2017 Ram Promaster mainly for its open 60 sq ft (5.6 sq m) of interior space and glass side window. Although this model has a low roof line, it is a suitable standing height for both Grace and Marlon, without the need to stoop.
“When we bought her [2017 Ram Promaster], our immediate thought was to hire professionals to build it for us knowing how little experience we have in building anything!” says Grace Aquino in her blog, The Sweet Savory Life. “We called a few companies who build camper vans and realized just how expensive it is. So we’re down to doing it ourselves as our only practical choice. My husband and I have zero knowledge in building anything. Well, except for a few IKEA cabinets he’s assembled in the past. So we thought why not use IKEA in building our van? Not only is it inexpensive but also easy to build and mount.”
The couple bought styrofoam insulation and foil liner from Home Depot to insulate the bare walls of the van and exercise mats from Walmart were used to cover the flooring. The next step saw them clad the interior walls with IKEA Skadis peg boards. Fortuitously, existing horizontal wood panels allowed the pair to easily affix the boards to the walls.
“We were lucky that these wooden panels were already installed when we bought the van” says Aquino. “We used two peg board sizes 22 x 22 in (three pieces) and 30 x 22 in (seven pieces) to fill both walls in total of 10 pieces.”
With the basics installed, they were able to map out the essential furnishings and work out what they really needed for long term living in the van. Apart from the obvious choices like a bed and kitchen, the pair decided to include a desk, cabinets and drawers. They decided to place the double bed behind the cockpit, allowing them to take advantage of the side window. This also allowed them to create a rear kitchen, giving them additional working space and easy access for outdoor dining.
Additional features of the Flippie van include a Nemo Helio portable camping shower, overhead storage above the bed, a Sunnersta mini kitchen and interior curtains separating the cockpit from the bedroom, as well as providing privacy throughout the entire van for night time use. The double bed can also be transformed into a sofa lounge during the day, with the adjacent sliding side door opening up the interior of the van to the outdoors.
“We needed some storage but not that much,” says Aquino. “Also, I wanted a rear kitchen (very uncommon) and a desk (considered a luxury for many van designs) in the van. We mostly choose IKEA furniture that are light that is either made of plastic or metal. The vibrations of a constantly-moving vehicle can easily break some of the heavy wooden IKEA cabinets.”
The couple's interior build budget and IKEA essentials included:
- Insulation Kit $34.98
- 3M Spray Adhesive $12
- Underlay $38.98
- Sorbus Interlocking Mat $90
- Skadis White Peg Boards $163.90
- Balkarp Sleeper Bed $149.00
- Besta Burs Desk $199
- Trones Shoes Storage $24.99
- Raskog Cart $29.99
- Nemo Helio Shower $89.00
- Sunnersta Mini Kitchen $121
- Luxhult Overhead Cabinet $40
That being said, there were additional essentials that were not included in the tight $1,000 budget and are must haves for traveling or long term living in a camper van. Thus the couple have also since included a compact fridge, eco power station and ottoman storage/sofa. The eco power station alone set the duo back $700 and has been an essential inclusion, although they do need to recharge it at an external power supply every couple of weeks.
“After an exhaustive few months of trying to figure out our floor plan, we figured how little we knew about how this new living situation would look like for us,” says Aquino. “It turned out that Flippie is a continuous work in progress. It evolves with us as we navigate through this new nomadic lifestyle. And quite frankly, Flippie’s versatility is my favorite part of her.”