Affordable DIY Van Awning

We planned on getting a Fiamma F45 S awning for Gidget, we even bought the special mounts from Aluminess to mount it, but after going on a few trips now we’re not so sure anymore. At a cost of around $1000 the Fiamma awning is expensive enough to make us think twice about it.

For the type of adventuring we do, always on the move seeing sights, we don’t tend to set up camp in anyone spot for very long. And if we do park it for a few days, a quick deploying awning isn’t crucial.

At about $140, our DIY awning can be deployed in about 15 minutes and cost significantly less than the Fiamma option.

Van Cooking With An Instant Pot

So it is official, the Instant Pot is my new favorite van cooking appliance. Unless you have been living under a rock recently, you have probably heard some talk about the Instant Pot. Food bloggers are all about this multifunctional appliance. Numerous cookbooks are all over Amazon, I even saw a few the last time I went to Costco. Pressure cooking has become mainstream, thanks to this device.

The Instant Pot is numerous devices in 1. It can be used as a rice cooker, pressure cooker, slow cooker, steamer, sauté, yogurt maker, and food warmer. The mini size will make up to 6 cups (12 cups cooked) of rice at once, keep food warm for over 10 hours, and has a 24 hour delay start timer. Have I peaked your interest yet?

Rear Door Storage

An adventure van always needs more storage, you can never have enough, that’s probably the one thing we have learned while using Gidget.

Easily accessing surf related items from the back doors was an area that needed improvement so we added some mesh pockets to the back door.

Vanlife Skincare

I’m not sure what it is about telling people you are staying/living in a van, but usually women’s minds immediately go to beauty and hygiene questions. How do you wash your hair? Where is the toilet? How much water do you have?

Now, we don’t live in the van full time (yet), but I (Tricia) like to have it fully stocked with all of my skin care needs. The whole point of the van was to not have to “pack” to go on weekend getaways or weeklong trips. You can argue, why is your skincare routine any different when staying in a van? Well there are some additional things when staying in a van that you need to worry about. The number 1 item being water. Our van only has a 10 gallon water tank which goes FAST (the average American uses about 17 gallons per shower). So my skin care routine typically revolves around keeping my water consumption down. Here is how I do it, plus some other additional items I keep in my beauty bin.

Redoing The Bed A Third Time

Originally we installed the bed perpendicular to maximize the space in the living room of Gidget. This was never ideal as we are both pretty tall (Matt 5’11” – Tricia 5’10”), but we could have made it work. After the original install it squeaked like crazy so we even redid the whole platform.

When we installed the folding bench seat, we were left with a large gap between the bed and the seat. This created the perfect opportunity to turn the bed parallel in the van to give us more sleeping room. Third time’s a charm, right?

Adding Extra Seats

The biggest con of getting the cargo version of the Ford Transit is that it only comes with two front seats. With only two seats it makes hanging out in the “living room” hard to do. It also prevents us from taking friends with us on adventures.

So we added a Freeman Handi-Flip folding bench seat. Now Gidget has a total of 4 seats with seat belts.

We had help with the install to make sure it was safe. If you decide to install an aftermarket seat we strongly encourage you have it done professionally.

Adding Light Bars To The Roof Rack

Any respectable adventure van needs a light bar, it’s just a given. And now that Gidget has a rack to mount lights on there was nothing stopping it from happening.

There are some very expensive light bars out there and they are probably great but would be serious overkill for our needs. We just need a little extra light when traveling on dirt back roads, particularly in Baja.

So we found some affordable ones on Amazon that had decent reviews and so far we are very happy with them.

Roof Rack and Ladder

For extra storage and a place to mount the solar panel we decided to install an Aluminess roof rack and ladder. From order to install took about 2.5 months. Actual installation took about 5 hours at the Aluminess headquarters in San Diego.

Ford Transit Customer Connection Points

Ford Transits come with 1 60A fused Customer Connection Points (CCP) as standard and up to 3x 60A may be fitted depending on vehicle configuration. If you are ordering a custom Transit you can get 3 CCPs by ordering the upfitter switches (option 67C).

If your Transit only has 1 CCP you can add the missing 2 by ordering kit part number BK2Z-14S411-A. CargoVanConversions has a good write up covering the installation process.

Ford Transit Upfitter Switches

When ordering a custom Ford Transit you can add Upfitter Switches, also called auxiliary or accessory switches. These switches allow you to control accessory items like lights, winches, or inverters with factory looking switches.

The switches are simple on/off style with an indicator light located in the center console between the driver and passenger seats. If the key is in the ignition or run position and the switches are turned on (flipped up), they provide a 12 V and 20 A max output.