I love Violet the campervan. She is perfect, yet I’m always modifying her. I guess that is the way many relationships are… both constant and changing at the same time.
Although her main “bones” were forged at Wayfarer Van Conversions in Colorado Springs in 2018, I have been adding and subtracting to her build since that time. Some of the changes that I made that I thought would be great actually turned out to be ho-hum, while other changes that I thought would be so-so turned out to be great additions.
I understand that what works for me may not be someone else’s cup of tea. However, I offer the following as an idea springboard for potential new van builders. You may disagree with me; you do you.
Violet is constantly changing so it is likely that she will be further modified as time goes on. Her most recent addition is a Moodshade, but it isn’t mentioned in today’s post. Why? Because I haven’t set it up yet so I don’t feel that I can share my honest opinion.
You will also note that I’m not including any links. I’m not interested in making a few pennies by being an “affiliate.” I’m just trying to spread the gospel of the wonders of life in a van.
Let’s look at some of the good and the less good changes that have been made to Violet the campervan.
I have 400 watts of solar on Violet’s roof. That is the maximum that I’m able to fit, but if I could have more I would add more. On a clear sunny day, I have an abundance of free power. However, on a cloudy day, the panels may only generate 25-50 watts of electricity. I like having panels on the roof, although they are more difficult to orient than free-standing ones. Yet, they are always working and I never have to set them up. I also have a folding panel that I can use…but frankly I haven’t done so in 4 years. The roof panels have been enough and when the skies are cloudy I just conserve a little more.
I installed a side window on Violet’s sliding door and I’m grateful that I have it every time I drive her. Not only does the window add light to her cabin it also gives visibility when I”m backing Violet out of a driveway or parking space.
I also added these rear windows, but I almost always keep them covered. If I had to do it again I would have forgone the expense of adding them.
The yellow arrow points to Violet’s rain guards. I think that this simple addition is a must. I can crack the windows open around an inch for ventilation. No rain gets in and the windows look completely closed from an outside observer’s point of view.
Anyone who owns a campervan will tell you that having a fan is needed. Small USB-type fans can work in a pinch, but a roof exhaust fan is a game-changer. This is a Fantastic Fan vent fan, which was the popular brand when I added it. Now, many vandwellers put in a similar Maxxair fan. These fans don’t use a lot of power, but their use is constant. They can drain your house battery if you leave them on continuously. You can save some power by running them at a lower speed. However, I find that running them at full tilt makes the biggest cooling difference. I usually run mine for several bedtime hours which is enough to cool things off.
This little door stop was easy to install and allows me to open my sliding door 1/3rd of the way. In the past, if I wasn’t on perfectly level ground I only had two choices, fully open or fully closed. I really like this addition. I found the stop on Amazon.
Here we have the tale of two modifications. I thought I would really like to have a sink, but I never use it. It is more practical for me to carry water in jugs and I wash my dishes using the “vinegar method.” I added the induction burner so I could reclassify Violet as an RV; I had planned on removing it once I passed the inspection. However, I have found that the little burner works great and I use it all of the time.
When boondocking I like to listen to the radio, however, I don’t want to run down my car’s starter battery by using the in-dash system. Additionally, I can’t get good reception using a portable radio inside Violet’s metal shell. This year I mounted an antenna on her roof and installed an inexpensive second car radio which uses Violet’s house battery for power. It has been a very welcome addition.
I also put in an aftermarket cruise control. It was surprisingly easy to install and it has been a fantastic addition on long highway trips.
This BlueParrott trucker-style Bluetooth headset wasn’t cheap, but it was definitely worth the money. It does a great job at canceling road noise for the person on the other end and is far superior to anything else that I have tried including AirPod Pros. If you like to make calls while you are driving I would advise getting one of these.
There are a couple of things to note in this photo. The bed platform was built by Wayfarer. It works well, but I wish that the mattress was just a bit thicker. My friend and I build the organization box below the bed and that has worked out great. I’m one of those “everything in its place” kind of guys and I love having separate areas for my pantry (the wicker baskets), storage (the Rubbermaid containers on the left), and the fridge. My Dometic fridge is on a slideout and that gadget has worked well. However, its price has gone up since I bought it and so I would consider a Chinese clone in the future. We also converted the Wayfarer “boot box” into the van’s power center and it houses a Bluetti AC200 1.7 kilowatt Solar Generator. I’m pretty happy. with the Bluetti and I wrote a complete review on it a few weeks ago. Yet, I’m always looking for more power.
I didn’t like the stock radio so I changed it out for this Kenwood unit which has built-in GPS. Why have a dedicated GPS unit when I could just use my phone? Because I’m often in places where I don’t have a good enough cell signal for the map app to work. This radio also gave me Car Play and many other features that I like. Its addition was definitely a plus.
I had the dealer install this trailer hitch when I bought the van. It has many uses, but I have never used it.
The yellow circle highlights my WeBoost cell booster antenna. I think this was a marginal purchase as it was expensive yet only slightly useful. It can take me from being able to sporadically send a text message to being able to do so more consistently. However, other important tasks like loading web pages can still be impossible.
Another feature that I added “right away” was an external power port. It turns out that it is easier to run an extension through the sliding door. Additionally, I mostly boondock so I don’t have access to AC power much of the time. The port above the power connector is a water inlet that I had to add to have Violet classified as an RV. I used the port once to demonstrate that it worked and I have not used it since.
My wife loves having the front seat swivel. It is a relatively simple DIY project to re-mount the seat.
These are just a few of the modifications that I have made to Violet the campervan. It is my hope that it will help new van owners decide on some of the additions that they may want to make.