Mike & Shannan with Backroads Vanner
Mike & Shannan with Backroads Vanner

Video: From Cargo Van to Camper Van

Take a tour inside this Chevy cargo van turned “Stealth Camper Van!”

After years of driving this Chevy Cargo Van as a work vehicle, Mike customized it for camping and traveling this great country of ours! This is how you live the #VanLife in simplified style!

Mike has been called “The Practical Vanner” due to his niche for adding useful and practical applications to the van. While some vans are more for show, this one is for travel and adventure!

From the looks of this van, ladder rack and all, you’d never think it was a camper van… and that’s how we like it! Stealth!

Come along with us as we show you some of the cool things Mike did to customize this Chevy van. **Be sure to hit play on the video above or view it on our YouTube Channel.

Custom Van Cabinets & Van Space:

After removing the cargo van’s metal shelves and starting with a clean slate, Mike set to work on envisioning the layout for the “new” camper van. He first lined the entire van with insulation and put 3/4-inch plywood on the floor and covered it with vinyl. He then added plywood to the walls and ceiling and covered them with 1/2-inch foam and tooled vinyl. Next, he designed all the custom cabinets and sofa/bed area in cardboard. This was a great way to see how things fit – could he sit on the bench without hitting his head? – was there room to open doors and drawers? – all the things you might think of asking about living in a small space. Once he had the layout just right in cardboard, he began custom building everything from scratch in 1/2-inch, 9-ply plywood. He built a closet, cabinets and full-extension drawers. He built 2 sofas with underneath storage bins that can accommodate a center table for working, playing cards or eating. A board slides in the center and the back sofa cushions can be placed on top to form a solid bed area just right for comfy nights in the wilderness. He even thought to add a nightstand!

Van Tech:

In addition to the layout and structure, there’s a lot of nifty electronic gadgets included as well. Mike installed a drop-down 12-volt TV in the back with a DVD player, a rearview camera, a Fan-Tastic Fan, and electrical plugs throughout with a deep cycle 12-volt marine battery for backup power and a 1500-watt power inverter. Currently, we have a Goal Zero Boulder 30 Solar Panel, a Goal Zero Nomad 20 Solar Panel and a Goal Zero solar power generator that we just love. Eventually, Mike will also add permanent solar panels to the roof so that we can capture the power from the sun while we are driving and not just when we stop and put the portable solar panel out.  Watch for our videos on that project coming soon!

Custom Van Bug Screens:

When you’re out in the woods, bugs come with the territory so Mike also custom created snap-on screens that cover the back of the van when both doors are opened and a screen for each front window.  This not only allows us to get a great breeze and fresh air, but we keep the bugs out as well.  The screens also come in handy when using the the Fan-Tastic Fan because having ventilation helps the fan circulate the air better, whether we are moving air in or out.

Custom Van Canopy Awning System:

In addition to all the wonderful interior amenities, this van has a unique exterior amenity as well. Since this used to be a work vehicle, there was already a ladder rack installed. From that base, Mike custom designed and built an incredible canopy awning system that connects to the ladder rack. Mike’s canopy system provides shade over the entire van, and still allows use of the Fan-Tastic Fan and the ability to carry kayaks and other equipment on the roof. This canopy is so strong, it withstood tornado-force winds from a tornado that came within 2 miles of Mike while at a music festival in Arkansas. After the storm passed through the area, the entire festival grounds were a sea of broken and tattered canopies and awnings. Mike’s was one of the only canopies still standing… and not just “standing,” it didn’t have a rip or tear to be found. Because Mike has received so many requests for more information on this canopy, and because he loves the usefulness and functionality of it, he wants to share with you all the details on how to make one yourself!  Stay tuned for a video about the custom van canopy system that Mike designed and built – coming soon!


Watch the video to see all of this, and more, for yourself.

 ***Be sure to click the play button to watch the video or watch it on YouTube here!!!

Want to see more of Our Van?

About Our Van Our Custom Van Canopy


Get The Van & Travel Related Products We Mention Above At These Stores:

Click on any of the links above to go directly to the products mentioned (products we actually use and love); or click on logos below to go to the manufacturers’ home pages.

JCWhitney.com Camping World