Campervan Planning and Design

In a few months, or maybe a little longer you could be setting off on your maiden journey in your very own self-built campervan!  Getting the planning correct will assist you in all aspects of your campervan build, and the enjoyment you have thereafter.

Campervan design

Your plan will be likely to change and be on-going until the end of the build.  There are many factors to consider at this early stage.  We suggest you look at our conversion guides to get an understanding of what will be required for your campervan conversion.


What do you want from your campervan?

A good place to start is to determine how many people will be using the campervan. It may be for a family of four, however, you may at times want to take extra family members or friends with you.  You may want to include extra seats and accommodation for this purpose.

What will you be taking with you?  Well-designed storage is key to a good campervan conversion.  As well as space for clothes, food and other essentials you may need space for bicycles, kayaks or even a motorcycle.  Storage is not limited to the inside of your van conversion.  Roof racks, bike racks and kayak racks are a great way to store your equipment externally.

What facilities do you want on your campervan?  You may just need a bed, kettle, and space for your surfboard.  A fully functioning kitchen and bathroom will obviously require a lot more planning, a larger van and a more substantial budget.

How you will be using your campervan is also another important factor.  Many like to utilise a campsites electric hook up.  Others may want to camp off-grid, which will usually require a combination of power for the lights, equipment and other appliances that you will have on-board.  You may want a water heater for a hot shower, a heater for chilly nights and a television for rainy days.  A typical van conversion will utilise a mains hook up facility, a leisure battery, and a gas supply.  Generators and solar panels are also a good means to provide additional power.  The power requirements will then be determined by how you want to camp and what appliances you install on your campervan.

Mercedes Sprinter campervan

Which van for your camper conversion?

At this stage you should have a good idea of what you want from your campervan.  If you haven’t already you can research the type of van you will require for your campervan conversion.  A larger vehicle will be great for accommodation and to house your gear, but will restrict where you can travel and park. The height of the vehicle is also very important.  If you are tall you may want to stand-up whilst cooking or washing up. A taller camper gives you more storage space.  The downside of a taller campervan is the restrictions you will face at car parks, under low bridges and if you like a drive-thru, you may have to get out of your camper to collect your takeaway!

There are a few ways of creating extra space for your campervan.  A simple awning can provide extra living space and accommodation.  A fixed roof can increase the amount of height on your camper conversion.  These are usually installed on smaller vehicles for this purpose.  An elevated or pop top roof is a great way to provide extra height and accommodation to a camper conversion.  A roof tent is also another great way to provide extra space in a campervan or other conversion vehicle.

Read our blog on campervan roof tents: Roof tents and annexes

Campervan Conversion Budget

You can now consider all the items you will need to get a budget for your van conversion.  This will include the conversion vehicle, all the components required and any professional costs.   This is likely to go over your budget, don’t worry there are ways to address this.   You could scale down your campervan build to suit your budget.  Another way is to get a more basic vehicle ready, and then have plans for phase two or three in the coming years.  This will allow you to get out in your campervan and enjoy it whilst improving it year after year.

Campervan Conversion Companies

Using campervan conversion companies for the more difficult tasks will allow you to concentrate on what you can do and get you touring more quickly.  Seat belts are an important part of any conversion and we would usually recommend that these are fitted by a professional.

campervan budget

When making your Campervan budget make sure to do your research! There are many companies and suppliers out there providing all kinds of campervan accessories and products, so shop around. You can then itemise costs based on your research and get a really good idea of the overall campervan budget you will require.

Power and Services, Layout & Design

The design of your internal layout will be very much influenced by all of the components that make up the network of services and power in your campervan.  It is usual to house many of the appliances, tanks, heaters, pipes and electrics near to each other, due to the way the interact together.  To have a shower you will need water from the tank, which is pumped using mains hook up or the leisure battery, a gas or electric powered heater heats the water, the water is then directed to an external waste tank.  The sink also requires hot water using the same equipment.  If this was located far from the shower then this would require excess pipework which takes up room and ducting space, and may also impact the performance of the water pump.

planning a campervan

If you are using gas you will legally require a gas bottle tank compartment with has drop out holes.  It would be prudent to situate any gas consuming appliances near to the gas compartment.

You will also need access to the pipes, appliances, tanks etc., for service and inspection  Also, consider the location of the external supply points for mains hook up, water supply and any access hatches for waste disposal, such as the cassette toilet unit.

This will likely be the most difficult part of your campervan design.  If you are not confident then you may consider using a professional for the design and installation of your power and services.

Don’t forget the important things like insulation, ventilation and where you will situate your windows.

Once this stage has been thoroughly considered you can concentrate on the more fun things of the campervan design.  The bed, kitchen, décor and paintjob are all areas where you can use your creativity to make a unique van conversion that will give you pleasure for years and years.

installing campervan windows
Our guide on campervan windows