It's no surprise Sprinter conversions based on the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van are a hit. This truly is the van for the ultimate van camper. Here are a few reasons why:
A Sprinter van conversion all starts with a Mercedes Sprinter, which is like a blank canvas ready for paint (that is, once its been gutted). Your picture perfect camper is there somewhere, but you've got a lot of planning to do before you grab your brush...
You'll need to design a floorplan that suits you, and choose the right RV equipment for your camping needs. And will it be a do-it-yourself conversion, or will you have a conversion company do the work for you? Hopefully by the time you finish this article you'll have a more complete picture of what the ultimate Sprinter camper will look like.
Every house has a plan and so should every Sprinter conversion. Deciding on a floorplan and what RV equipment to install won't be easy. However, the more thought you put into the design, the smoother the building process will go.
Will you perform the work yourself, or hire a specialist to do part, or all of the van conversion for you? Either way, here are several questions you'll want to ask yourself first...
How many will it sleep? You can easily create sleeping areas for 1-4 people, and by using bunk beds in the rear in addition to bench seating up front (which can convert to a bed) you could potentially sleep 6. Other bed options include a fold-down bed (which folds up and out of the way when not in use), a sofa that converts into a bed, or a bed that is attached to the ceiling and can be lowered for use.
12-volt power? To avoid draining the Sprinter's starting battery, you'll want to install an auxiliary 12-volt DC system to power the lights, water pump, fan, furnace, refrigerator, and any other equipment you'll use with an inverter such as a TV, computer, microwave, etc. Deep cycle batteries such as AGM batteries are best as these are completely sealed and need no maintenance. The batteries can be charged by various methods such as:
Will you be RV boondocking? If you plan to camp without campground hookups for an extended period, consider outfitting your Sprinter conversion with an RV solar panel charging system. Using the sun is the best way to charge your batteries when boondocking. Up to 4 solar panels will easily fit onto a Sprinter van roof. If you plan on using an air conditioner, or other high powered device, you'll also need to install a generator or carry along a portable generator.
Do you commonly stay at campgrounds with hookups? Then you'll probably want to install an AC electrical system so you can plug into shore power at your campsite. This will allow you to use 110-volt appliances without a generator or inverter. If you want to charge your camper's batteries while plugged into AC power, you'll also need to install an RV converter/charger.
Are you headed for the back roads? A Sprinter van isn't exactly a Jeep, but it sure isn't a "Class A Castle" either. Its small size will enable you to go places few RVs would dare tread. A shorter 144" wheelbase Sprinter conversion will be better suited for rough roads. And keeping the weight down by not going overboard on the conversion will help too. Running boards will decrease your ground clearance so keep that in mind. Replacing the stock tires with off-road versions will give you much better traction. And if you really want to tackle the hills, Sprinter 4X4 conversions are available.
Propane or not? Propane is the fuel most commonly used for the RV stove, furnace, hot water heater, and three-way refrigerator. However, there are alternatives. You can find stoves and heaters that use diesel fuel instead of propane - perfect for a Sprinter conversion as you already have the diesel. These are made by two companies, Webasto and Espar.
Another option, if you're plugged into shore power, is to use a microwave or electric hot plate for cooking and a small electric heater for warmth. For hot water, small portable propane water heaters are available. And instead of a three-way refrigerator, you can use one that runs off 12-volt DC power - provided you have an adequately sized battery bank and a reliable means to charge your batteries.
Where will the water go? Unless you prefer dry camping in the literal sense (I apologize for my dry humor), some sort of water system is a must. This means installing a water tank, water lines, and water pump. It's recommended that the water tank be installed inside the Sprinter van to keep it better insulated and to prevent freezing. You'll want to situate the tank for easy filling. If you'll be doing some extended RV boondocking, consider a larger tank. But watch your water weight as each gallon of H20 weighs 8.3 lbs.
What about waster water? If you want to bring along the kitchen sink (or the shower), a grey water holding tank is needed. The size will all depend on how long you camp and how fast you fill it - but a capacity slightly lower than that of the freshwater tank is typical for RVs.
What about a toilet? Most Sprinter conversions do without a permanent toilet and instead use a portable toilet such as the Thetford Porta Potti. This type of portable commode can be emptied into a regular toilet or at an RV dump station. If installing a permanent toilet, the black water holding tank must be mounted directly below the toilet.
Floors, walls, windows, and insulation? You'll have to decide what types of materials to use for the floors, walls, and insulation on your Sprinter conversion. And if you want to install RV windows you have several options including:
Ventilation? For ventilation, screen windows can be installed. And a roof vent with a fan is a superb way to extract heat and keep the fresh air flowing.
A do-it-yourself (DIY) Sprinter conversion is a great way to save money and get all the features you want in a Sprinter van camper. You won't have to settle for factory configurations. When you build it yourself you'll have full control over the design. And completing a project of this magnitude can be extremely satisfying.
With the growing popularity of the Sprinter van, several companies are now in the business of doing Sprinter conversions. Whether you want a full blown RV decked out with all the features of a large motorhome, or a simple Sprinter camper with little more than a place to sleep, you can leave the work to the experts.
Here you'll find companies that build Sprinter conversions and offer you a few options, as well as some that do complete custom Sprinter conversions. Whether you build it yourself or not, seeing what's already out there will give you several ideas on how to get started. Good luck in your quest to create the ultimate Sprinter conversion!
Still hungry for more juicy tidbits on the Sprinter RV? You've come to the right place. Here's what's on the menu. And if you still have a craving for more, check out the Sprinter RV Forum, where you can ask questions and share info with other visitors.