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Camper van conversion guide books and courses

Which van conversion guide book or course is the best?

I’m the type of person that likes to plan things to the n’th degree, and it’s that personality that has me looking for some great van conversion resources long before we’ve even purchased our van!

I like to do my research beforehand so that I can learn as much as possible before committing my hard earned cash.

So with that in mind, I’ve been looking out for best courses and books that will help me when converting our van to a campervan.

You’re probably aware that there is loads of help out there, but a large portion of it is geared to USA/Canada or UK audience.

Looking through the open rear doors of a converted campervan.

I’d love it if there were an Australian campervan conversion course, but alas, I haven’t been able to find one.

So everything listed below is either US or UK based, unless I’ve stated otherwise. (Basically only the Van Build book, the WeSeekTravel article and the Salty Vanventures YouTube channel are Australian.)

I’ve gone through my library of courses, ebooks and even blog posts and YouTube channels, to find the resources that will help fellow Australians converting their own campervans.

This article contains affiliate links where we may receive a commission if you choose to buy from them. Please see our Affiliate Disclosure for more information.

Please note, all of the reviews below are from my own experience either going through the course materials, reading the books and blog posts or watching the YouTube channels. I have bought (or been given) every one of these resources and gone through them myself.

Campervan Conversion ‘How To’ Courses

Van Conversion Academy

By Ben and Katie from Two Wandering Soles

You can see from Ben and Katies website (TwoWanderingSoles.com) that they have lots and lots of really comprehensive information on their site, and this course is no different. 

They go into a lot of technical explanations and diagrams to explain the water, electricity and propane (LPG) systems. They have lots of ‘don’t forget about this’ tips and things they’ve learnt from their personal experience.

The blueprints in the resources section give a really good oversight to how everything works and I think it’s great for beginners to understand how everything works together.

Of  course, a lot of their product recommendations are USA based and their units of measure are in imperial, but I’m sure we’re all used to having to convert.

The contents are listed out below, but you can find a bit more detail about each of the sections on their course page.

Contents

  1. Choose your van
  2. Design your van
  3. Maxxair Fan
  4. Window Installation
  5. Sound Dampening Material
  6. Subfloor
  7. Insulation
  8. Electric System
  9. Solar System
  10. Walls, ceiling and cabinets
  11. Composting Toilet
  12. Water System
  13. Propane System
  14. Kitchen
  15. Bed & Benches
  16. Storage
  17. Flooring
  18. Resources
    • Van build planner
    • Van build budget tracker
    • Van conversion costs
    • Floor plan blueprint
    • Electric system blueprint
    • Water system blueprint
    • Propane system blueprint

✓ Step-by-Step Instructions
✓ Video Tutorials
✓ Blueprints you can copy!
✓ Tips & Recommended Products
✓ Exclusive Facebook Group 
✓ Lifetime Access

Price: USD $297


Van Life Academy

By ProjectVanLife.com which has come out of their big Instagram following.

I don’t know if the creator, Henry Cooper, has a van himself or is just curating all the content. 

The course content tends to feel a little disjointed but it has some good contributors.

Overall I think the course is in-depth and comprehensive, if somewhat disjointed. But for the price, I think it’s great that you have multiple contributors.

The contents are listed out below, but you can find a bit more detail about each of the sections on their course page. 

Contents

  1. Preparing for van life
  2. Planning your van build
  3. The Build
  4. Build tutorials – these are a bit like a course within the course. From experienced people with actual build experience.
    • Nate Murphy – has much of the same information as his Van Conversion Guide (below) but it seems to be in a lighter format here. Even if you do get this course, I recommend getting Nate’s book as it is more comprehensive.
    • Jayme and John from GnomadHome.com – some great information here that is not replicated on their own website (that I can see)
    • Mitch Cox – YouTube videos and the series is unfinished
    • Peter Thuli – just an overview of his build and photos – more content coming.
  5. Life on the road
  6. What’s next

The course consists of 97 lessons divided into 5 Modules with 100,000+ words, 40+ videos, and 4 different conversions (neatly organized) so you have more than enough information to execute on.

Price: USD $97


How to Convert a Campervan

(Complete Course for 2022)

Shane from Ireland – hosted on Udemy

This course takes you through the process of building this van. He has videos for each section of the build and explains what he did.

The videos are short and succinct, but relevant only to what he did. There’s nothing on installing a toilet or shower so I think this course would be most useful if you want your van to look similar to his.

Contents

  1. Planning
  2. Prepare the van
  3. Electrics – preparation
  4. Electrics – Installation
  5. Insulation & Wooden skeleton frame
  6. Wood panelling
  7. Carpentry
  8. Electrics – permanent hook-up
  9. Gas
  10. Everything else

3.5 hours on-demand video
3 articles
1 downloadable resource
Full lifetime access
Access on mobile and TV

Price: AUD $34.99


Van Conversion Guide Books

Van Build

A guide to designing, converting and self-building campervans and motorhomes.

By Ben and Georgia Raffi

An American/French couple who converted their van in Australia. They’ve also completed a van build in France and have updated the book with a few more things that they’ve learnt and added to their new build.

This book is quite good in my opinion. It has lots of step by step pictures, good diagrams of how everything fits together and well laid out.

There is a bit of fluff, like at the beginning of each section they list out all the tools and supplies you’ll need for that project, but even I don’t need to see a picture of a drill and a roll of electrical tape.

The kindle version is only AUD $12 on Amazon so I think it’s worth it. Just be aware, it hasn’t been properly formatted for kindle (my version bought November 2021 wasn’t anyway) so there’s no contents page for you to jump to each section. It’s like one big PDF that you have to scroll through.

Contents

  1. Introduction – why this book, is van life for you
  2. Plan – choosing your van, design the layout, make critical decisions, design electrical, plumbing and gas systems
  3. Get ready – tools, order parts, ‘know-hows’ for plumbing, electrical and gas
  4. Build your van in 21 days
    • Fan installation
    • Solar panels
    • Electrical roughing
    • Wall insulation
    • Shower framing
    • Fresh water tank
    • Grey water tank
    • Plumbing part one
    • Electrical system
    • Ceiling – insulation and framing
    • Hanging cabinets
    • Shower tray & fan
    • Shower wet panels and framing
    • Plumbing part two
    • Outdoor shower
    • Bed frame
    • Painting and staining
    • Kitchen
    • Sofa
    • Storage and floors
    • Finishes
    • Gas system
    • Awning installation
  5. Conclusion – top tips

Price: AUD $12

Van Conversion Guide Version 12

By Nate Murphy

I purchased the ebook directly off his site https://www.thevanconversionguide.com/shop  but it’s PDF and the contents aren’t linked (which is a bit of a pain cos it means you have to scroll through to the page you want), so I recommend getting the kindle version. (However, if you buy the ebook off his site then you’ll get any updates for free.)

A comprehensive book by someone who’s done the hard yards, and Nate is well known in the van community for his guide book and his YouTube channel.

The book has been updated continuously and includes all sorts of vans and options. He is based in the UK though, so keep that in mind.

There are also video guides to help you through some of the steps. 

Contents

  • Introduction 
  • Ebook-only Video Guides
  • Choosing a type of van
  • Second-hand Vans
  • Regulations 
  • Layout and Design 
  • Colour scheme 
  • Feature choice
  • Phases and ordering 
  • Installing a window
  • Fixings and Wiring set-up
  • Preparation studwork
  • Insulation 
  • Cladding & Danish Oil
  • Bulkhead Openings 
  • Bed designs 
  • Water Systems 
  • Building Furniture 
  • Kitchen Tiles 
  • Making Drawers 
  • Installing a roof vent 
  • Fridges 
  • Gas System 
  • Gas Compliant System Installing LPG Safely in a Self-Build Campervan
  • Gas regulations for van conversions 
  • How to test your LPG installation 
  • MY GAS SYSTEM 
  • LPG Inside your van – Safety Notes 
  • Heating System
  • Electronics 
  • Electrical Installation 
  • Solar System
  • Attaching the panel to the roof 
  • Split Charger 
  • Shower & Toilet
  • Built in shower – Pros, Cons & How to install one 
  • Toilets 
  • Windowsills & Black out blinds 
  • Lean-on bed-side cupboards 
  • Raised Cupboards 
  • Above the Cab & Bathroom Cabinet 
  • Fold-down cupboard 
  • Fabric panels and Side Lights
  • Waste storage 
  • Chair & Upholstery 
  • Better Upholstery 
  • Sound system 
  • Safety & Security 
  • Security 
  • Finishing touches 
  • What worked really well (latest van) 
  • Commonly Asked Questions & Answers 
  • Parts and bill of materials 
  • Key Parts List 
  • Other build advice 

Price: USD $18

This is what you should buy…

So let’s just cut through all the wiffle waffle… having gone through all these resources, here are my recommendations for which van conversion guide book and course you should buy:

Van Conversion Academy – ugh, of course the most expensive thing is the one that I recommend first. <face palm>

Of all the courses and books, I have found this one to be the most comprehensive, well laid out, supported by excellent documentation and it’s the newest too, having only been released in 2021.

The ‘extra’s’ that are included are not gimmicky things like checklists that you sometimes get with other courses, but actually useful and informative resources.

I love the blueprints, they really help me, a non-mechanical person, to understand how all the bits go together. Maybe if you’re already pretty smart with how plumbing and electrical go together you won’t be as impressed. But this course, in my opinion, gives you what you want/need in a ‘how to convert a campervan’ course like this.

Buy the Van Conversion Academy course here.

Next, I would recommend getting Nate Murphy’s Van Conversion Guide. I wouldn’t say this is a replacement for the Van Conversion Academy course (not at all), but for the price point, you get a lot of information.

Buy the ebook or kindle version (not the hard copy which I think you can get on Amazon) because there are links to the videos. At about $25 AUD it’s a really good resource.

Buy the Van Conversion Guide book here.

Okay, and now on to some of the resources that are freely available on the internet… for free.

Free Resources

Posts

You know, you can actually get heaps and HEAPS of info, for free, on the many campervan and van life blogs on the net.

But it can be a little bit hard to sort through, which is why courses and books are so popular. Here are a couple of really helpful and comprehensive posts that may be enough to get you started. Or at least give you an idea of what you’re in for.

https://www.weseektravel.com/diy-van-conversion-australia/ Olly’s covid lockdown project was converting a 2013 Ford Transit LWB High Roof into a full-time campervan. In this massive post he walks through each step of conversion process.

https://www.parkedinparadise.com/how-to-live-in-van/ – there is A LOT  of information in this blog post with lots of links out to more of their content.

https://gnomadhome.com/build-your-van/ – excellent in-depth post on all the different options you have when converting a van. It’s a big affiliate post, but it’s still really informative and helpful.

https://www.thewaywardhome.com/category/van-life/build-a-van/ – Kristin has just oodles of van life information on her site. She’s been living part-time in a small van (other part-time on a sail boat) and has just bought a new Sprinter that she’s also converting. So I expect to see even more campervan conversion content coming out soon.

YouTube Channels

With so much content on YouTube I’m sure I don’t actually need to write up a list. You can just do a search using keywords like: campervan conversion, how to build a campervan, how to convert a campervan…. etc. This will lead you to a tonne of accounts and you’ll then need to wade through the information that’s relevant to you and your build.

Here are a couple that I think are good:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCSqGj5KgpYFD0R-nCHqh_OQ
Salty Vanventures are Australian based so at least you know the information in this channel is relevant to us.

https://www.youtube.com/c/VanKookz/videos
Van Kookz have lots of ‘how to’ videos, you just have to be aware that they’re based in North America so things will be a little bit different.

Conclusion

So there you have it, my round up of the van conversion guide books and courses that I have.

In case you skipped straight to the bottom, my recommendations for the paid van conversion resources are:

Van Conversion Academy (course)
&
Van Conversion Guide (book).

But if you’re on a super tight budget, just get as much info as you can out of the all the free resources.

Have you found any van conversion resources that you think are great?