Favorite Upgrades to Our Sprinter Camper Van Buildout

Making new friends and meeting a bunch of blog readers at Sprinterfest in June 2016.

Hanging with folks at Sprinterfest in June 2016. It was awesome to meet a bunch of blog readers in person!

As we’ve traveled in our Sprinter van the last few years, we’ve made a list of upgrades to make. This post details recent favorites that I’ve finally had the wherewithal to complete since we landed in Portland in late April.

I considered my initial van buildout effort in 2013 a prototype design. Our goal was to use the van for a few months to nail down specifics, be it water usage or storage for my chia pet collection. After many months on the road, we loved some things – I’d sell a kidney to keep the sliding bike drawers – and other things needed improvement.

Without further ado, here are recent upgrades/additions I’d highly recommend incorporating into your camper van buildout. Happy van building, y’all.

The Upgrades

Sink and water system

The sink cranking out running water!

The sink cranking out running water!

Favorite item first! We finally leapfrogged pre-Mesopotamian civilization and officially have running water. It only took us a few years to pull the trigger…

Why didn’t we do a sink right away? Our rationale was two-fold: 1) Before investing in a water system, we wanted to see how much water we used and 2) The idea of drinking from a plastic water tank made my cancer radar ping like crazy.

For 2.5 years, we simply used four 1-gallon glass jugs as our water source. It worked fairly well, but capacity was obviously limited and doing dishes wasn’t very fun. (Ok, it sucked!)

In a burst of vanspiration, I bought all the components for a water system from the folks at Van Specialties. Then I took 17 trips to the hardware store and *presto* running water!

Water tank installed. The top line is a 3/8″ vent line through the floor; the top fill nozzle plug is a 1″ plumber test valve that expands when the wing nut is twisted. The bottom drain has a hose attachment when needed.

There are lots of full posts out there about how to install a water system, but here are the basics. If you don’t have a local camper van store, I’ve linked to the same items online.

  • Dometic folding-lid sink
  • 25 gallon freshwater tank mounted over the rear wheel well using metal plumbing strapping. Many people use jugs under the sink, but this takes up valuable storage space inside the main living area. I simply drilled three holes (fill, drain, and line to pump) and used 1/2″ fittings. Super easy!
    Note: I chose to fill the tank by opening the rear doors rather than cutting another hole in the van. It’s easy to fill with a 25′ expandable hose like this, and the fill hole is sealed with a 1.125″ “plumber test valve.”
  • 3 GPM Shurflo pump wired to 12V power with a $7.50 switch in between. A smaller pump would work fine as well!
  • Gray water is currently routed to 2.5 gallon holding jug that we empty each night. After 2 months traveling with it, there’s no stink and it’s easy to empty anywhere. Do the polite thing and don’t drain your water onto the ground through a hole in the floor.
  • Drinking water from the original 1-gallon glass jugs (just say no to buying bottled water!)

I’ll end with this: put in a sink and running water. Just do it. Stop pretending you like doing dishes squatting over a bin and join the all the fancy people with their high-tech running water.

Hot Water Propane Shower

eccotherm propane shower

Upping the hygiene game with hot showers!

As an additional upgrade, I added an Eccotemp L5 propane shower to the back door of the van. For ~$100, the inconceivable luxury of a hot shower entered our lives. (Hot showers rule! We should have hot showers at home!)

I didn’t want a hooked-up shower all of the time though. Enter quick-connect fittings. Using an array of them from Amazon, I created a system that takes 30 seconds to set up, but doesn’t leave the back of the van a mess the rest of the time.

If you already have the Eccotemp shower, a propane tank with regulator hose, and a water hose, below are all the quick connect fittings you’ll need. Enjoy those hot showers!

By the way, dig these kinds of posts? Sign up for the free 2x/month Traipsing About newsletter for van talk, outdoor adventures, and life hacks.

Cell Phone Signal Booster

The weBoost and internal/external antenna. It's about 8" square.

The weBoost and internal/external antenna. It’s about 6″x8″.

Some people are lucky enough to completely disconnect from the world while they travel. Our double-edged sword is that while we can travel long-term, I’m still working at least a little bit most days.

It sucks to watch a fading cell signal right when I need it most, and that’s where the weBoost comes into play. It’s not for everyone, but if you are working remotely and don’t want to be tethered to wifi at a coffee shop, this is what you need. I got the Drive 4G-X, but there are other models as well. They work for all cell phone networks and will also boost wifi hotsports if you use one of those. (I’ve switched to only using data from my cell phone for simplicity.)

This handy device allows us to camp in remote places where 1 bar of Edge trickles in from somewhere over a ridge. The weBoost will turn that into a few bars of 3G, enough to send emails without praying to the internet gods that your communiques are being delivered. (Ok, you caught me – I only need this so I can post fake yoga poses at sunset on Instagram.)

The install was incredibly easy and didn’t even require drilling any holes. Just a magnetic antenna on the roof and a quick wire splice to wire to 12V power. Cancer-fearing person that I am, I put our booster on a switch so that I only turn it on when I need to check in on work.

One caveat regarding its performance is that it doesn’t create cell signals out of thin air. If you’re in the bottom of some canyon where all signals are dead, you’re done.

Storage shelf above the front seats

Headliner half shelf in final installed position.

Headliner half shelf in final installed position.

If you have the high roof Sprinter like us, you’re wasting a shit ton of space. RB Components, which fabricates many high-quality aftermarket Sprinter parts, has a solution. Sure, I could build my own with hours of effort, but the need to manufacture brackets, pull out the headliner, and deal with a weird shape sounded terrible. So I bought one.

Update: These days, I would use the wayyyy cheaper kit that my buddy Sean created. For a little legwork on your part, it’ll save you hundreds of dollars on an otherwise very expensive shelf.

The shelf is awesome! Others agree. Last weekend we went to Sprinterfest, a big gathering of Sprinter owners near Portland, and the shelf was the biggest hit in our van. Do yourself a favor and buy one. We’re planning to store camera equipment, physical therapy gear (foam rollers, etc), and at least three watermelons up there.

If you want to drop some coin, RB Components has two options: a full shelf that mounts at visor level and a “half shelf” that mounts six inches higher. I opted to keep some head room and go with the half shelf.

If there’s a downside, it’s that the shelf is exactly forehead height if you’re 5’10”. Chelsea forced me to install pipe insulation on the edge to avoid knocking myself out. My forehead thanks her already.

Bike repair stand attached to van

Close up of the bike repair stand install.

Close up of the bike repair stand install.

How many times have I worked on my bike with it leaned against a rock, tree, or dog? Too many to count.

Well, NO MORE! I bought this Park Tool bike stand and installed it on the right rear door near the hinge. The door can still swing 270 degrees and also clear our awning when it’s out, but I don’t have to open all the rear doors to work on a bike.

To mount the stand, I drilled a couple holes and installed two 3/8″ rivet nuts. Whammo, I’m officially a mobile bike repair business!

Bike repair stand and side table showing their utility after a MTB ride.

If you travel in a van and ride bikes a lot, I insist that you immediately do this too. If not, men with straitjackets will descend upon you very, very soon. You’ve been warned.

For the record, I stole this brilliant idea (among others) fair and square from my friends Jon and Pamela, the Roaming Robos.

Drop-down table from side cabinet

Table dropped down. The cut-out is for the stove.

Table dropped down. The cut-out is for stove access.

In an attempt to not stink up the van like a rolling chuckwagon, we mostly cook outside using our portable camp stove. Sometimes this is on picnic tables, but often we are in the middle of nowhere without a table.

Our initial cook table was a pull-out shelf with the camp stove on it. This worked well but was a bit small to hold anything except the stove. With upgrades in full swing, I decided to build a drop-down side table, as inspired by my buddy Michael.

The table is 24” x 28” and is supported by a piano hinge attached to the cabinet. A magnet holds the table vertically and two small chains support the outside edge when in use. Some aluminum trim and it looks pro! Or at least usable.

Table in vertical position with magnet holding it in place.

Table in vertical position with magnet holding it in place.

Detail of the table in horizontal position.

Detail of the table in horizontal position.

A less powerful blender

This may sound random, but we also replaced our travel blender. The trusty Vitamix now stays home and we roll with a Ninja blender. Why?

Our Vitamix pulls 1,650W. With our 12V/210 A/H battery system, anything <80% charge while trying to use the blender would make the 2000W inverter error out. I decided a lower wattage appliance made more sense. At 1000W, the Ninja is perfect and is already facilitating iced smoothies after long rides in the summer heat. Update: after upgrading to lithium batteries, we’re good to GO.

Fantastic Vent upgrade

When we first bought our van, we wanted the rain sensor and variable speed vent fan. Too bad I ordered the wrong one… The rain sensor isn’t such a big deal, but only having 3 speed settings – tempest, tornado, and hurricane – created some serious drafts even on the lowest setting.

Luckily, there’s an upgrade kit that replaces the old kit. Pop out a few screws on the original, disconnect some wires, swap wires around until the sparking stops, and *presto* you’ve got a new fan. This is a 30 minute project that I’m glad I did.

The one thing that threw me (not mentioned in the instructions) is that it’s necessary to sync the fan and remote control. Here’s the instructions on that.

Pffft, who wants to see a picture of a vent fan? Here's a waterfall in Oregon instead.

Pffft, who wants to see a picture of a vent fan? Here’s a waterfall in Oregon instead.

Isotherm fridge efficiency enhancer

This cool upgrade improves the efficiency of our Isotherm fridge, our van’s biggest power draw. The claim is that it’s 30-50% more efficient; I’ll update this later when I have hard data. (Why, I’d like to know, doesn’t Isotherm just install this as a standard item in their fridges?)

At first glance, this project was slightly intimidating. Turns out it’s simply drilling one hole through your fridge and rewiring a few things. Two things the 44 page instruction manual didn’t mention: 1) If you have an original thermostat with a light, it’s easier to simply reuse the housing and install the new guts in that to keep the light. 2) The thermostat in our fridge was connected to a temperature sensor in the freezer compartment. I didn’t know what to do with this and wound up just snipping the tube. It gave off a hiss, but nobody died.

Watch this Youtube video that some kind soul created if you’d like step by step instructions. I didn’t bother watching/reading anything and it worked out ok!

All-Terrain Tires

4×4 Sprinters are badass. I’d argue that most people don’t need one, however. Who wants to rally their home over stuff better traversed by a Jeep Wrangler?

Our 2013 van is the 2WD option and we’ve driven 30,000 miles on the smooth stock tires. From gnarly access roads in Gooseberry Mesa in Utah to steep fire roads, we’ve covered a ton of ground with no issues.

Still, there are times when some extra traction would help. When our tires started looking frayed, I researched options. Wildcountry, Toyo, BF Goodrich, and others were all on the table.

In the end, I went for the ones that practically every Sprinter owner uses – the BFG 245/75/16 T/A KO2s. After all, no need to get creative when Sprinter Van Diaries and others can drive gnarly South American roads on their BFGs.

After rumbling about for a couple months on them, I can attest that these tires are 1) grippier 2) give a better, softer ride and 3) are slightly noisier. Mileage after two tanks of fuel has us between 19-20 mpg, within 5% of our previous mileage. Worth it for increased badassity and peace of mind.

Note: I also used black Plasti-Dip to “murder out” (see how hip to the jive I am with lingo?) the rims and front/rear Mercedes logo. This was purely aesthetic and I LOVE IT. Don’t listen to the internet claims that it takes 5+ cans to do this . You’ll need two and you’ll have enough to spray the neighbor’s mailbox and kid to boot.

Admit it – the rig looks way more badass like this! (Camped in the Bob Marshall in NW Montana.)

Warmer interior lights and gear garage light

Our interior LED lights from West Marine work great. I dig having them individually switched and they look clean. The downside is that their color temperature is cold – around 3,500-4,000 Kelvin.

A nice, warm light is around 2,700K, which is a much friendlier tone (and also what Chelsea wants). Since my aim is always to keep my awesome wife happy, I searched…and searched…and couldn’t find exactly what I wanted.

Enter LED filters used for photography! I found this $7 sheet of photo paper from B&H Photo, cut out a few circles to insert between the LED bulb and the clear light cover, and we are now bathed in a warm yellow-orange glow in our cozy space. Huge improvement!

Trailer hitch for rear-mount bike rack

Our bikes all fit inside the van, but sometimes I’m traveling or doing a day ride with buddies whose bikes are different sizes. (Or I want to haul 6 bikes!) I typically don’t leave the bike rack on the back, but this easy install hitch is cheap and requires zero drilling. I installed it in less than 15 minutes with a minimum amount of cursing. Recruit a friend to help!

LED light bar for gear garage

I also added this 12V LED lightbar on a switch to the rear storage garage. It was hard to find what I wanted with a switch, but this bar from superbrightleds.com is awesome.

The light bar doing its job. All four bikes loaded up the night before heading out!

The light bar doing its job. All four bikes loaded up last night before heading out!

Increased/improved storage for gear garage

Our gear garage holds our four bikes, but it also contains a ton of stuff for backpacking, climbing, and around camp (hammock, chairs, slackline). To make things super easy to access and maximize the storage space, I added a number of cabinets and structures.

-U-shaped platform over the right rear wheel well to support two camp chairs. It’s 8”x12.5”x36” and I screwed two L-brackets to the top to hold the chairs in place. Wasted space, used!
-For cooking, these days we use a sweet little microwave and an Instantpot! Lithium batteries rule.
-Cabinet over the center sliding drawer behind the bike handle bars (see above shot).
-Another cabinet behind the center, slide-out storage array. This is easily accessed from inside the van and is where we’ll store our backpacking, bike touring, and climbing gear, plus another big area for miscellaneous items.

You don't fit into the storage garage of a Sprinter without staying limber. Here we are hanging with our buddies Nikki and Jakob from Sprinter Van Diaries.

Ah, cheesy pictures rock. Here we are hanging with our buddies Nikki and Jakob from Sprinter Van Diaries on their way through town.

Remote switch for inverter

Our inverter is tucked at the back of a cabinet. With some recent additions, accessing it was a bit tougher, so I bought this remote switch. Cut a 2” hole, plug in a telephone jack wire between the two, and you’re done. $20 well spent!


Can’t believe how much I love this thing! No longer can I pull the lazy card after a ride – “ohhh, I can’t be bothered to pull out the stove and heat up burrito ingredients.” My days of cold meals are over!

For the install, I simply added an outlet in a storage cubby below our bed. Then I slid a 0.5 CF Whirlpool microwave in and WHAMMO, life was simpler.

Odds and Ends

  • Sliding carriage bolts to hold rear sliding drawers in place. Under acceleration uphill, they’d sometimes break free from the ball catches I used in the past. No more!
  • Two 12V USB chargers by the bed for charging phones and other devices without running the inverter
  • Magnets to hold countertop storage boxes in place


That’s a wrap! I’ll update this post with other mods as I do them, but I have no plans for any more at this time. Just lots of traveling in the van and mountain biking my legs off!

What favorite van upgrades would you add to this list?

Don't worry, I don't spend ALL my time working on the van. Here's a shot of my buddy Nate during a mountain biking trip we took to Central Oregon. 100 miles of riding in 3 days made for some tired legs!

Don’t worry, I don’t spend ALL my time working on the van. Here’s a shot of my buddy Nate enjoying a view of the Cascades during a bike trip to McKenzie River.

46 replies
  1. Cheryl Ziering
    Cheryl Ziering says:

    Love to read your posts, Dakota ☕ …so entertaining, funny ???? and informative ???????????? Have fun on your next adventure ???? ???? ???????????????? with that spunky, protective???? wife!
    Hi, Chelsea ???? ???????? What an adventurous life you are having!
    Love you! Aunt Cheryl ???? ???????? ???????????? ????

  2. Joe Neiheisel
    Joe Neiheisel says:

    Are you sure you don’t want to build mine? Love the bike stand idea. Still trying to figure out water. My roof drags tree branches all the time; I want to put solar panels up there, but will they get damaged? I’m also second guessing the rear windows; it seems like the bed will block out most of the light.

    • Dakota
      Dakota says:

      Ha, nice try! I’ll do your buildout for $180k, but I get to use subcontractors…

      I’m digging the 20 gallon tank over the rear wheel well, plus 4 gallons inside in glass jugs for drinking water. Definitely do solar! The glass coating on them is scratch resistant and ours have been fine. If 10.6 million other van owners can avoid trees, so can you. Good luck with the build!

  3. danika Williams
    danika Williams says:

    I livein Eugene and was trying to find info about this sprinter fest online a few months back but came up with nothing current. Can you share a link so that i can attend next year?

  4. Jaye Vaughan
    Jaye Vaughan says:

    The one thing I cannot find great ideas on, despite trying for over two years now, is how to create a small bathroom within a van space. Not a porta-potty out in the open for emergencies, mind you. But a small “bathroom”…the porta-potty is fine…but we’re looking for a way to create privacy. All ideas welcome! LOVE YOUR VAN. Well done. Thank you for all the excellent ideas and links!

    • Dakota
      Dakota says:

      Thanks for the kudos. Glad you found my write ups helpful! Yeahhhh, that’s a tough one. We decided against an in-van toilet solution and use nature’s rest areas (buried very well) or various cafes, restaurants, rest stops, whatever. In all the time we’ve traveled, we’ve never needed a porta-potty and I’m very glad we didn’t hack out space in our design for one. Maybe give it a shot without one first and add later if needed? Sorry, that’s all I’ve got. Happy trails!

    • Conner
      Conner says:

      Hey, not currently a van owner but I’ve been drawing things up for a while and I came up with what I thought was a cool idea. Right behind the driver seat, have a section of counter that folds up and keep the cassette toilet under it. On the ceiling above, install a half circle shaped shower curtain track, attach curtain to wall on one side and put Velcro or magnets on the other side. Install vent fan over the toilet instead of the center of the van and boom, you have a bathroom and an odor control plan. 🙂

    • Ken
      Ken says:

      I built a sturdy wall 28 inches ahead of rear door on drivers side 30 inched wide. I fastened a bifold door with piano hinge to sturdy wall. center of door opens outward and trailing edge limps against front half. Rear edge of door attaches to Sprinter door. This allows access (many Grandchildren) from outside of van or from inside. Just an idea.

  5. Eric Munsing
    Eric Munsing says:

    We’re beginning our electrical build-out! If you were starting from scratch, is there anything that you would do differently about your inverter system to allow it to run at lower battery loads? We foresee using the electric kettle fairly often, which is also a significant load. We just ordered 200W of solar with an MPPT charge controller, and are working on speccing out some AGM batteries (thinking 200-250Ah) and an inverter. Recommendations?

    • Dakota
      Dakota says:

      Hey Eric! I think it’s more of a function of battery capacity (i.e. high voltage when the battery capacity is topped off) than the inverter, so it may just take adding a couple batteries to the system. What I’d recommend is to get a 1000W water boiler instead of the 1500W standard. We switched our blender to 1000W variety and it has worked great, even at lower voltage. Good luck with the build!

  6. Eric M
    Eric M says:

    Did you debug what exactly in your electrical system was causing your inverter to reset with te high current draw? Given that you said that it was dependent on battery state-of-charge and thus probably not associated with a current surge over the inverter’s power limit, something must have been causing a voltage drop from the 12.2V initial level to below the 10.5V minimum required by the inverter. I wonder whether this was internal losses in the battery during high-current discharging, or voltage drop on your lines to the inverter- did you ever stick a voltmeter on your terminals or the inverter clamps to see where the drop was? Was the relatively frequent inverter reset the reason your stalled the remote switch, or do you find yourselves turning the inverter off to eliminate the idle load?

    • Dakota
      Dakota says:

      Nope, no debugging. Just swearing! It runs worse when the temps are low and our batteries aren’t topped off. I don’t think it’s voltage drop since I used gigantic lines to the inverter. We installed the remote switch so we could turn it on/off easily when we aren’t using it. Glad I did!

    • Dakota
      Dakota says:

      Nope! With two rivnuts, I didn’t think it was needed. So far, so good. I know some people put a chunk of plywood behind it, but with all the sound deadening and other things sealing that compartment, I didn’t have access to it.

  7. Lyle
    Lyle says:

    Fantastic posts and insight. One thing that’s I’m struggling to figure out are cabinets. I love the ones that Outside and Van Specialties seem to use all the time – they’re wooden with bottom lifting doors, but I can’t seem to source those anywhere. Are they making them on their own? I see those in so many builds.

    • Dakota
      Dakota says:

      Glad you found it helpful. All the companies that I know custom-build their stuff with in-house templates, but they use off-the-shelf hardware. Cabinets are certainly a pain, which is one of the reason I didn’t put any in our van! That said, I’m considering doing one over the sink on the driver’s side. Good luck – let me know what you find!

  8. Stuarto
    Stuarto says:

    Dakota – Thanks for all …ALL of your shared links and product info. We’ve started the plans for a Sprinter 4×4 crew van w/ 144″ WB. I’ve been thinking about the building sequence, various considerations for this or that and your comments have been very helpful. Unless I hear good facts and reason for other energy, I’m going all diesel for fuel-heat-cooking (a la marine technology) & solar panels. Remote locations and minimal loads are high on our list. Your comments of travel & freedom are inspiring. Thanks again.

    • Dakota
      Dakota says:

      Excellent, glad it helped! Sounds like you’re doing good research beforehand and know what you want, which is most of the battle. If you swing through Oregon, drop and line and we’ll go for a ride (if we’re around). Cheers to van life!

  9. Dennis
    Dennis says:

    Hi Dakota,

    Nice to see you guys have gone to an actual water system w/ sink. Does make dishes a lot easier. I also like the signal booster idea. We’ll definitely be adding one of those to our rig before we head off for our next outing.

    We loved the mobile bike workstand idea, and installed one on our rear door as near to your location as we could determine from your photo. Very handy for working on the bikes, but we noticed a lot of flex in the door sheet metal when a bike is on the stand. We decided we have to move it to a slightly lower location, one where we can add a backer plate behind the door sheet metal. Otherwise the Park stand is like your door limiter: why doesn’t every adventure Sprinter have this??

    A couple questions about your water system.
    Do you use the big reservoir for drinking water, or just water for dishes, cleaning, etc.?

    Do you use any kind of water filter for the water going into the big reservoir?

    Have you done any periodic disinfection of the system, and if so how did you do it?

    By the way, we finally gave up on the Nemo pump shower. Great when it works, but we’ve had a lot of problems with ours not pressurizing, and with kinked lines stopping the water flow. I know it can work, but in practice it was more trouble than we wanted to deal with.



    • Dakota
      Dakota says:

      Huh, weird – the bike stand works well for me with the bolts into the rivnuts. Then again, I have lightweight bikes 🙂 We use 4 1-gal glass jugs for drinking water, though we’d use the 25 gal water system in a pinch. The only filter is a debris filter in the pump. We haven’t disinfected the water tank yet, but I’ll probably just use diluted bleach and rinse it out a few times like most RV owners do. RE: the Nemo – I’ve realized I can hook a hose up to the sink faucet (if I take the main part off) and use that to pump water from the 25 gal tank. SCORE. Works really well, though of course it’s a cold water shower.

      • Dennis
        Dennis says:

        We’ve only used the workstand with our road bikes, a steel ‘cross bike and an old Softride Solo – not the lightest, but not that heavy either. We reinstalled the workstand just below the lower right door hinge with a backing plate, and if feels much more solid. The site of the original install shows a minor but distinct bow in the sheet metal.

        Re. water. I hadn’t considered separating drinking water from “everything else” water, but we could easily do that, which would solve the treatment issue. Sounds like you’re doing what we’ve done for decontaminating lines and tanks – dilute bleach solution with multiple rinses afterwards. We have a basic particle/carbon block cartridge filter for the source water, which should help.

        I saw pics of your Sprinter out in the snow. Did you guys actually camp in the cold? We put our Sprinter to bed in December ’cause we live through Great Lakes winters. We start putting the camper back together next week for our return to the road in early March.

        • Dakota
          Dakota says:

          Yep, we’ve camped many times in sub-freezing temps. Not sure what’s going on behind the interior paneling, but I hope it’s ok 🙂 Did you see my other comment with additional info?

  10. Charles
    Charles says:

    Hey Dakota,

    Any feedback on the Isotherm Fridge upgrade? I have the same model as you.
    Considering making the purchase.


    • Dakota
      Dakota says:

      I still think it’s worth it! Takes the pressure off your solar/charging needs, which is a good thing. My friends at roamingrobos.com have a bit of a writeup somewhere on their blog about it too. Hope Bham is treating y’all well! Still need to get up there to ride. This summer…

  11. Kim
    Kim says:

    Hi Dakota! Thanks for all the great info on your van! I am just starting the research process on doing a conversion (or buying one or having one built). Seems like our uses would be similar to yours. Wondering about how the rig itself is treating you? I’ve heard there’s issues with the Sprinter diesel engines … difficult and expensive to maintain, etc. Debating about Sprinter vs Ford Transit vs Dodge Promaster. Any insights would be greatly appreciated!

    • Dakota
      Dakota says:

      Howdy Kim! Our Sprinter is still quite new (only 35k miles on it), so I’m not sure how helpful my experience will be. That said, we’ve had zero issues at all with the exception of the EGR valve (exhaust gas recirc), which Mercedes replaced under warranty since it was a known issue. The limited number of shops that can work on Sprinters makes it a bit of a headache for maintenance sometimes if you’re rolling full-time, but we were able to make it work. Read up on the forums is my advice – there’s lots of data there, I’d guess. Good luck!

    • Dennis
      Dennis says:

      Just thought I’d add to Dakota’s reply. We purchased a used 2014 Sprinter 144″ high roof as the basis of our camper build. We’re just shy of 52,000 miles, and so far no issues. We did a major service about 1000 miles ago – lube joints and hinges, oil and filter change, etc. Other than that, nothing. Major services are expensive; I imagine repairs would be as well. However, they also are rare, like 15K between service intervals. Keep the DEF topped up (a diesel thing, surprisingly easy to find once you’re looking), check the oil periodically, and it should be fine.

      As for the other commercial vans, both appear nice new designs. I’ve seen one camper build on a Promaster, so I know people are doing it. I just love the torque and long range of running a diesel. We’re getting 20 – 21 mpg on the highway, 24 – 26 mpg on slower runs; with a 25 galling tank that makes for long times between refuel stops. Also, the Sprinter drives really well for such a large and heavy vehicle. The others may as well. Worth trying out. I think the Sprinter will continue to measure up quite well next to the newcomers.

  12. Pat Matson
    Pat Matson says:

    OK, finally got around to reading this blog of yours!
    On the Bike repair stand attached to van: Does it stay in place or do you remove it when you close the door? Seems like you would need to remove it, no?
    Since I saw you lasted we have added drawers from Ikea & face fronts from them & then used child safety magnets to close them:
    & used a 40lb rate magnet to hold close the large drawers for the kitchen storage.
    They have kept closed just fine & they keep the face clean.
    Hope to see you B4 the year runs out & fill you in on our next adventure.
    Keep the Rubber Side Down & the Sunnier Side up!

    • Dakota
      Dakota says:

      What’s up, Pat! Bike repair stand: there’s a base that stays attached to the door and a removable clamping mechanism that I pull off to close things up.

      Glad you’re getting it done! Have a great travel season.

  13. Dennis
    Dennis says:

    Not exactly a van upgrade, but a useful addition…


    This slow cooker draws less than 1000W at max, so we can run it off our inverter. It pulls a lot of battery, but my wife had the brainstorm that we could assemble a meal daytime, and do the cooking while we were driving – pulling power from the system while putting power back via the van alternator. This is very helpful for shoulder-season trips, where days are short and sun angle is not the best for solar charging. Plus, when you reach camp at day’s end, often at dusk or in the dark, supper is prepared! Just grab plates and the beer growler and call it a night. We now have a set of slow cooker recipes that we rotate for spring or autumn trips.

  14. Kipp
    Kipp says:

    Love your site! Thanks for all the great tips.

    Quick question on the Weboost: do you store it inside when you’re not using it? Or do you leave the magnet up top full time?

    If its hardwired, how did your run the wire from the roof into the van?


    • Dakota
      Dakota says:

      What’s up, Kipp! Glad the site is helpful.

      We just keep the WeBoost antenna on the roof at all times. All good 2 years in! As for routing, ours is hardwired. You can take it right out the top right of the sliding door under the trim by the passenger door pillar. Worked great and didn’t require any more drilling through the van (I’ve done enough of that…).

      Good luck and happy trails!


  15. Ashley
    Ashley says:

    Thanks for the info. We’re in the research phase. The van will be my mom ride/adventure van. You mentioned that 4wd isn’t a must. We live in San Diego and plan to do most of our travel during the summer, as I am a teacher. What are your thoughts on 4wd?

  16. Dennis
    Dennis says:

    Hey Dakota,

    Just finished our first trip with the T/A KO2s on the rig. Noise: not that different. Handling: a bit squirrelly, especially on grooved pavement, but actually a bit better than the (admittedly old) stock tires for rain. On the dirt roads of Michigan’s UP the T/A KO2 rock! Fuel economy might be off a little, but also could be headwinds on this trip. We’ll have more data next month..

    • Dakota
      Dakota says:

      Howdy Dennis, glad they are working well! I found the ride quality softer and the road noise not too bad. Definitely better grip for sandy roads or backing up on ruts/mud, but mostly it’s about looking cool in the parking lot!

    ROGER TAFF says:

    i was wondering how the bike stand is holding up using the 3/8″ rivets? i saw your install and i think it’s a great idea, but before i started drilling i wanted to see how it’s holding up.

    • Dakota
      Dakota says:

      Howdy Roger, all good with the 3/8″ rivets! It flexes slightly, but works fine. If you’re concerned with that, you could add a small reinforcement piece of wood or metal behind it. Cheers!


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