Professional carpenter and wood worker Ryan Wells has recently turned his hand to converting utility vans into smart campervans. The Seattle-based motor-home enthusiast recently converted a 2015 Ram Promaster into a multi-purpose adventure van. Dubbed the Ryda Van, the conversion accommodates two occupants and boasts beautiful bespoke woodwork, smart fold-away furniture and rooftop solar panels.
idea started out with a few ideas to combine a weekend adventure
van, a weekday cargo work van, and also a place to showcase
woodworking," Wells tells New Atlas. "We tested the
Sprinter, Transit, and Promaster and liked the size and feel of the
Promaster best. We also chose this van because of the 136 inch
wheelbase that fits in most parking spots. We also wanted some key
features such as a reverse camera with sensors, windows in the rear
and a color that wasn't contractor white."
The Ryda Van conversion was designed to suit Wells' needs as a cargo/work van in conjunction with using it for weekend getaways. The 60-sq ft (2.15-sq m) interior features a double fold-down Murphy bed, fold-away table and chairs for two, bookcase, hidden storage, compact kitchen, 320-W solar system, hardwood oak floors, cedar accent ceiling, butcher block counter-top, dual propane burner, 33-quart (31-liter) refrigerator/freezer, LED lighting, curly maple veneer and walnut cabinetry.
"I did the build when I had free time, so it took quite a while, about a year all up," says Wells. "Once I installed the Murphy bed, we were able to use it for trips while it was still being finished. The 320-watt solar system setup was new to me, so that took a lot of time and research."
One standout attribute of Wells' design compared to other campervans and DIY conversions is that the Ryda Van has been converted with the goal of optimal floor space. The large, open and central space allows Wells to pack the van with work materials, or serve as a multi-purpose zone when traveling with his wife. All of the interior furniture elements fold up and out of the way, while there is enough space for occupants to walk around and cook comfortably in the compact kitchen.
Wells reveals that his fold-down bed is the most asked about feature of the build. The bed is built with a piston lift system and counter balancing to ensure smooth operation, and is only 16 in (406 mm) wide when packed away in the up position. Opposite the bed wall is another bespoke feature wall, complete with a large flip-down dining table and two flip-down chairs that sit either side. The unit also features a bookcase and lots of storage.
"I like the intimacy and challenge of small space design and storage," says Wells. "If you design properly, you can fit all your essential items. We are able to fit everything in our storage while traveling and still not have anything on the floor."
So far Wells has taken the Ryda Van to Alaska on a trip that was over 5,000 mi (8047 km); a three week Southern California coast trip; two week Rocky mountain mountain bike trip; a winter snowboard trip from Washington State to Colorado, and countless local trips in Washington, Oregon and British Columbia.
Due to the popularity of the Ryda Van build that cost Wells US$5,000 in materials all up, he has redirected the focus of his woodworking business to van conversions and has been inundated with requests. We look forward to seeing his future builds, so stay tuned.
"I am currently working on two builds now and plan on a new build for my wife and I in the future. We are having a child in December, so I plan on making a kid friendly design."