Not long after we flipped our first budget sprinter van conversion from our 2019 50-state road trip, we realized we missed the flexibility of being able to travel and boondock across the country on a whim, so we decided to convert another Mercedes Sprinter 170WB Crew Van. With the experience from our first build, more cash to fund the build (our first build was a budget build at $5,000 and this time we spent $10,000 with key upgrades being in the electrical department), and more time on our hands, we dreamed up van build 2.0. You can read about some of the lessons learned from our first build here. The result of van build 2.0 is Yeti, a 2020 170WB Sprinter Crew Van conversion that accommodates our growing family of five!
Unique features of our build-out include:
- Factory seating for five (super important to us for safe installation of child car seats)
- Queen+ sized (halfway between a queen and a king) upper platform bed
- Lower full sized bed that can be removed to serve as a gear garage (with plenty of space under the upper bed for mountain bikes)
- Kitchenette with fridge, stovetop, farmhouse sink, and plenty of cabinet space
- Hidden portable toilet, full-sized hamper, full-sized trash can (with kids, it’s important to have dedicated space for all the waste!), and on-board shower set-up
- Front swivel seats (and car seat!) with a removable dining table for five
Like other van builds, the van also featured a self-supporting, off-grid power system including 200 amp hours of lithium batteries powered by either shore power, alternator charging, or 200 watts of solar. panel, The van is also fully insulated and has two Maxx Air fans to maximize ventilation and cooling.
Let me take you on a tour of our van! I have tried to be as detailed as possible on the build and link exact or similar items where possible. Can you believe that we got almost everything for our van build off Amazon?! Except the lumber and hardware, which we got from Home Depot. You can check out a complete parts list to tackle a build of your own on our Van Build 2.0 shopping list.
You can also watch a video tour of the van.
And here are the build plans with the layout and dimensions:
Okay now to the details of our second build!
As I mentioned above, one thing that is unique about our van is that it is a crew version with the second row, factory bench seat left installed to accommodate our three littles in their car seats. Because we knew the bench row would be taking away from living space in the back, we opted for the 170″ wheelbase van. What’s nice about the three-wide bench seat is that still allows for room to maneuver around it from front seats to back of van with all the doors shut. Also, because of the crew row of seats, our van has large windows on the door and opposing side.
We decided to take advantage of all of that seating by making it convertible into a dining space. To do so, we bought swivel bases from Amazing Auto to turn the front seats around to face the factory bench and then fitted removable table legs between the seats and fashioned a 16″x30″ wooden tabletop from birch plywood. The top and legs pop in and out and store snuggly between the bench seat and the window when not in use. One conundrum we were running into was how our littlest would eat with us since she is still rear-facing. We found this super awesome Evenflo Gold 360 revolving car seat that solved that problem perfectly. It faces backwards while we are driving, and swivels to forward facing when we are eating.
Behind the bench seat there is a kitchenette along the opposing wall. We shortened the bed to 76″ in length this time around (technically this is the width of a king and we cut the other side to fit using a bread carving knife). This meant that our bank of kitchen cabinets was a bit longer than our last built at 52″ long. We also adjusted the depth slightly to accommodate our Dometic CRX-65 12-volt DC fridge, so they are 21.75″ deep. Side note, we have decided we prefer the Vitrifrigo 1.8 cubic foot 12-volt DC fridge from our previous build. It’s very similar in size, but the layout of the inside shelves is better for stocking the fridge full. We decided to forego the toe kick this time to lower the overall height to 31.5″ high. Though we did enjoy that space for housing shoes in our previous build, we like that it doesn’t overlap the window this time, is easier to use by the little ones, and it made for a better delineation between the bed and the kitchen, which we designated with a hexagon tile backsplash.
This time Brad custom made the cabinetry with shaker style doors from birch plywood instead of us ordering prefab from Cabinet Now, which saved a bunch of costs, and honestly worked out better overall. I love how they turned out! He also custom fit the middle lower cabinet to house a pull-out trash can by affixing the cabinet door to the front side of the metal sliding on this simple human pull out trash can. There is a drawer above the fridge and above the trash can; one being our utensil drawer and the other being the bathroom drawer. We dropped in a one-burner induction stove, which conveniently it’s depth doesn’t effect the drawers functionality and the stove can also be pulled out to use at a campsite if desired. We chose to use this beautiful matte stone sink this time and install it as a farmhouse sink. The cabinet underneath houses a 7-gallon grey water tank with extra room for storage.
We went with butcherblock countertops again (we actually had this slab leftover from our previous build), but decided to stain them using the General Fishes Java gel stain and poly them this time instead of going with the natural butcherblock seal. You can read more about everything I learned about staining butcher block countertops here.
Here are the detailed lower cabinet dimensions:
We also added a 120″ bank of custom made upper cabinets in this build (five 24″ wide cabinets). You can watch a how-to video on that on my IGTV here. The cabinets stick down 14.75″ to the edge of the stock headliner and protrude 10.25″ out from the wall.
At the sliding door you’ll notice that Brad extended the flooring a bit over the step to give us some extra space. This added 30″ of floor space. We also installed these sliding metal wire baskets from Target, which fit perfectly between the rails under the bench seats, which is where we put our shoes.
Opposite the kitchen is a 17″x33″ bench that hides our portable toilet and full-sized hamper. If I learned one thing from the last van build, it was that a dedicated space for waste (laundry hamper and trash can) was essential when traveling with kids. Our particular toilet is the Porta Potti Curve. This was a super convenient portable toilet with removable base for easy emptying in a rest area. The bench height is 18″ (without the cushion), but the side piece only comes up 16″ with a 2″ lip on the lid to make it easy to sit on the toilet. Also, the end of the bench is removable by industrial strength Velcro for emptying the cassette toilet.
A lot of people have asked about bathroom privacy. We did not feel the need to do anything special because life with young kids inevitability means no privacy anyways. But you could install some hooks on the wall/ceiling and hang a blackout shower curtain if you desire more privacy.
To save time on making a custom bench cushion, I purchased this porch swing cushion and only had to modify one side to shorten it to the right length. I was super excited that I was able to salvage the existing sides with piping and zipper, so there was minimal sewing needed to resize the cushion; basically just sewing the leftover siding to the fourth edge after cutting down to size.
In the back we went with a two fixed bed setup this time around with the parents on top and the little ones underneath. The upper platform bed was mounted at 36″ high, which left enough room underneath for a potential gear garage with enough height for mountain bikes and also left enough headroom on top for adults to sit up on their bed (one thing I learned in the last build was that headroom was very important for me).
The upper platform bed is made from seven 2×8 deck boards suspended between two support banks running the length of each side (these housed the electrical and water as well as additional storage), so it is extremely sturdy. For the mattress we purchased this 5″ thick, king-sized memory foam mattress, which we placed sideways to serve as a 76″ length and then cut with a bread carving knife to fit the width at that height (67″). We sleep on the bed longways in the back, though shorter folks could sleep on sideways as a king width. We used a Beddy’s queen sized bed set for our bed and love how easy it is to make the bed in the morning! A Beddy’s bed set is like a glamourous sleeping bag bed, which is really convenient since the sides of the bed butt up against the walls in the van, so it would be really difficult to keep the bed made up nice otherwise. We love our Beddy’s so much, I asked to join their affiliate program, so if you are interested, here is a code for 15% off your order: SAMANTHAH
For the lower bed we purchased this folding full-sized foam mattress, which fit perfectly in-between the wheel wells. When we are traveling to a camping site, we can fold the mattress up to be able to fit great in the back. Another alternative would be to purchase this twin/full adjustable metal frame to lift the mattress off the floor about 7″ and provide for additional gear storage underneath. We got the girls these super cute camper themed sheets for their bed.
Like I mentioned above, we created to banks / supports that run the length of the bed on each side of the van around the wheel wells. The space from the wheel wells forward (40″) has been turned into built-in shelving, which we use for the girls clothes, books, and toys. The space behind the wheel wells (36″) is walled off and hides the electrical and water systems.
The driver side bank houses the water system, which includes this 21-gallon fresh water tank which made for as narrow as possible bank around the wheel well, a Shurflo water pump system (water pump and accumulator), and this Camplux tankless propane hot water heater with shower attachment that affixes to the back door.
The passenger side bank houses the electrical system, which includes two 100-amp hour lithium Renogy batteries set up in parallel (this was one of our main upgrades in van build 2.0 to lithium batteries and a complete Renogy electrical setup). There’s also a Renogy invertor charger, alternator charger, and solar charger kit for 200 watts of solar as part of the electrical set-up. A complete parts list for the electric system can be found on our Van Build 2.0 shopping list.
The walls and ceilings are insulated with 3M Thinsulate and lined with shiplap boards from Lowes, which we attached directly to the metal using liquid nails and self-tapping screws, instead of a ribbing installation method. We counter sinked the screws and filled with wood filler to give the boards a seamless look. We painted the walls and cabinetry a bright white (Maui Mist by Behr) to brighten up the space.
We installed recessed lighting throughout the van including undermount lighting on the upper cabinets and under the upper bed. We saved the factory headliner for our ceiling and loved how clean and seamless it makes the ceiling to wall transition. There are two Max Air fans for cooling and air flow. Our last van came with a generator-powered AC unit, but we found it overkill, so we stuck with just the double fan system this time, though we did pre-wire the van (with a heavy gauge wire) for possible future installation of a 12V AC unit.
The floor is insulated with 3/4″ foam board. We reused the factory subfloor. Then we installed this luxury vinyl plank floor on top.
You can watch how-to videos for the insulation, flooring, lights, walls, and more on my Instagram Reels here.
Finally, we purchased magnetic insulated blackout shades for all of the windows in the van from Xplr Outfitters. It might be shocking to note that these were the most expensive purchase for the build. But they are essential for privacy and temperature regulation, so we decided to splurge on top of the line ones. We love these, especially how they snap in a folded up position at the top of the windows.
We are so in love with this build and think it’s the perfect layout for our family! Here’s some more pictures of Yeti!
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