Author: Carey deVictoria-Michel
A major appeal of experiencing life in a van is the simplicity that comes with it. It is a small space to travel in, which makes van storage a big deal. Although, it could mean travelling with less and filtering down to the things we need and really want to have on the road.
Storage space is a major consideration in the designs created at Freedom Vans. During the design phase with clients, our team will discuss what the van will be used for, what things will the owners want to bring with on the road, and what are the must haves? Storage space is going to look different for clients who are mountain bikers, surfers, hikers, or remote office van dwellers. Whatever it is you decide to do on the road, a common theme will be that you will need less than you think you will.
Less is More Mentality
The reality of living in a van is that you have less space. Although, isn’t this why people decide to hit the road? To travel more lightly and live more simply? When it comes to storage, try and remember that simplicity can help us enjoy the natural environments that you will get to bring the van to.
Advice that we would like to offer at Freedom Vans is that you do not need as many things as you think you do. You do not need as much storage as you think you need. If you are having trouble slimming down your packing list for your van, take a look at Marie Kondo’s book on ‘The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing’.
A helpful way to decide how you will design your van storage features is to first consider what activities your days on the road will be filled with. Then, what things and equipment you will need to be able to do those activities. Remember to try and skim down on the things that you can possibly go without.
Storage Design Features:
Now, let’s look at design features of Freedom Vans’ conversions and go over what features to consider for storage space and usage. For an overview of storage in different spaces of the van, we will look at the upper cabinets, head liner, under seat storage, kitchen galley and garage.
Key storage potential for you to think about will be the space around your head and on the ceiling. At Freedom Vans, there is almost always some sort of upper cabinet installed along one or both sides of the van. An important aspect to consider for this is that upper cabinets will make the van top heavy. Top heavy vans can affect how the van drives and maneuvers, and over all you will want to keep weight well distributed and fairly low for the top of the van.
These spaces are also some of the easiest van storage spaces to access. Consider using these for food storage, clothing, toiletries, daypack gear, etc. Essentially, try storing items in these spaces that you will need on a regular basis.
Freedom Vans makes sure to utilize the headspace in the cab of each van. Reference the photo examples in the gallery below. A built in head liner creates more storage in an otherwise un-utilized space. It also ends up being a very useful storage spot, as it sits in an easily accessible spot. In addition it can also be designed to fit the aesthetics of the interior of the van.
It can end up fitting quite a lot. Since it is an oddly shaped space, try packing lots of soft goods in there. Such as jackets, blankets, sleeping bags, pillows, privacy curtains, etc.
Under Seat Storage
It is generally a good idea to build any seating as a storage space, as well. Seats and bench seats can pretty easily double as storage. One thing to consider is that a top opening seat storage will be more difficult to access than a front opening. These storage spaces will be a bit more difficult to access in general. So, consider storing items that you won’t need on a regular basis. Such as books, spare batteries, bulk food, tarp, tire chains, first aid supplies, engine oil, etc.
Take a look through the photo gallery below to see examples of seat storage from conversions in our shop. Bench seats are a popular route to go with, and overall are very functional.
The kitchen galley area of your van will, of course, have cabinets and drawers for storage. Our design team here usually builds drawers and cabinets based off of what the clients might want to store. Some clients may want a cabinet with dimensions to fit a wok or a blender. Also, drawers might be designed to fit particular dishware or silverware for a client.
When you stock your kitchen appliances, try and get items that are compact and will fit well in that space. Here’s a list of few suggestions:
- Collapsible dishware.
- Mini bin trash can. Rectangular bins will fit best.
- Swedish dishcloths. These are highly absorbent and durable.
- Paper towel holder.
The garage space is one of the most important aspects of a van conversion with Freedom Vans. It is the backbone of a functioning adventure mobile. For a little more context, the garage space usually sits below the bed platform and is accessed from the back doors of the van. This is meant to be a space to functionally fit all the adventure gear you will need on the road. If you are out getting muddy and romping all day, you can come back and store your dirty gear in the garage and then enjoy a cozy, more clean living space.
The dimensions of the garage space in the back of your van can be made to fit the gear you are going to be using. At Freedom Vans, we have made many garage designs for specific adventure usage. Our team has designed massive drawers to fit a client’s surf gear. Bed heights are usually built to the max height for a mountain bike for clients who are big bikers. We have specific slide out drawers dimensions for different bikes and skis. And, in a recent build we designed ski rack mounts to easily store skis from the top of the garage.
Below is a photo gallery of different garage designs made for different types of adventure.
Some clients have excess gear that makes most sense to store on the exterior of the van. You might have seen heavy duty bags that hang on the back doors or roof containers/skyboxes. Note that roof containers might reduce your gas mileage because the van becomes less aerodynamic. Roof racks can also be useful storage for gear like paddle boards, boats, or snow gear.
Of course, it is also good to know a few tricks to keep your things nice and tidy. Sure, everyone’s style is different. There are those who toss their socks in a big pile in a drawer, and there are those who neatly roll their matching socks and stack them together nicely. Either way, here are few suggestions to keep your things stored nicely.
- Roll your clothing, instead of folding. A helpful approach can be organizing your clothing in cloth or mesh zippable bags. Things tend to move and shift around a lot, but this can be good way to easily organize your shirts, pants, socks, etc.
- Hooks placed in the right places can be a great way to easily store. Try hooks that fold up to be flush to the wall.
- There are organization pouches that hang from walls or on the back of a passenger seat. You can use shoe storage pouches, or you can find different sizes for different uses.
- Try mesh pouches that you can hang on the inside of a cabinet drawer.
- Velcro. Velcro can be used to secure small items that you always put back in the same spot.
You might find that you pack the van for the first trip, and then realize you never touched a third of the things you packed. The first few road trips will probably help you filter down to the essentials. Even doing a little review once a month can be helpful at any point to keep things slimmed down during van adventures. It will pay off to consider what items will go in the van in the design phase. In the long run though, after a good number of explorations in your van, you will get that system dialed to your needs.
If you would like to finish with a few video tour examples of van storage spaces, take a look at the links below. Kyleigh, co-owner of Freedom Vans, takes the viewer through a few storage spaces in previous builds. The minute marker will take you directly to that section in the tour.
– 2:53 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dJdf3DKHUCI
– 12:44 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qWthGZBPUsE
– 6:12 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XDq-FHXmtI8
-9:37 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EcKl7WujE0E – Tour Tom and Kyleigh’s personal Freedom Van.