Self Build Campervan – Nissan NV200 – Original Thoughts


Self build index here

After the sale of our beloved campervan, we’ve missed not having a little van to go away in 🙁  But we know that we need to do different than we did before as the old van was unbeatable in terms of what it offered in its footprint.   We have explored many ideas, each has pro’s and con’s and we think we’ve come up with something – a self build campervan on a Nissan NV200 van….

What is the idea?

Well, for our lifestyle having 3 vehicles is stupid, so we want 2 – max.  And, both need to be usable daily.  The old van was usable daily as it was fairly small, but it wasn’t “tiny” and would not get into low car parks.

In our travels, we like discreet exploring and wild camping, and just getting out and about, so we need something capable of being a campervan without looking like one, having it blend in to surroundings, yet be small and self contained.

We like snowboarding and winter camping; we like mountain biking and cycling, so we need something suitable for outdoor activities.

We don’t tend to sit around all day in the van on campsites, and as we can go cycle-camping with a small tent and 20kg of luggage each; or backpacking with 10kg of luggage each, a small “camper van” is fine for us – we don’t need huge amounts of space as if we are somewhere, we tend to go out and explore and use the van as just a cook and sleep base.

So for something smaller, say <4.5m long, <1.75m wide and <1.9m tall (thus <2m with skylights) there isn’t much choice – and the van with the best load space for the footprint is the Nissan NV200.

What is the plan?

We will get a new Nissan NV200, top tekna spec (Aircon, Bluetooth, cruise control, satnav etc), and do a DIY conversion that would include:-

  • Full winterisation and insulation
  • Stealth conversion, so hard to tell from outside
  • Water, Waste onboard
  • Gas cooking
  • Diesel heating
  • 4 belted seats
  • small double bed
  • Fridge
  • Kitchen sink
  • Leisure batteries and solar, all van running on 12v
  • 240v charger and hookup (though expect not to use)
  • LED lights
  • Privacy glass windows (with insulation)
  • Skylights
  • Furniture, wardrobe etc
  • “Professional finish”

That is the idea, so if we go ahead it will be interesting how much we can do!  And my DIY skills tend to be better in my head than in real life….

Why a self build?  And Pro’s & Con’s

Self build for 2 reasons – 1 – I like a project; and 2 – not seen any vans out there that meet our requirements.  Yes, you can pay someone to do exactly what you want – but why?  My view is lets try, and worst case we pay people to help out when we get stuck or cock up.

Yes, a self build will be a lot cheaper, but in reality the van will be worth a lot less than a pro conversion even if we do a good job.  So the savings made are carried over on resale value.  If the conversion is pro quality then the loss wont be as bad and you may make some money, but probably not when the amount of labour is taken into account.  So we’re not doing it with money saving/making in mind

Surely the van is too small etc etc

Maybe!  But its planned to be a stealthy well equipped camping car and not a motorhome.  There is a difference.  We can still envisage going away for month long trips and mainly wild camping, so it should be big enough.  It’ll be bigger and better equipped than our cycling tent that we use for 6+ week trips.

Everyone is different, and everyone has different needs and wants, so we know it wont suit everyone, but hopefully with 1500 nights camping and cycling over 10 years we should be experienced enough to get it right for us.  If not, we sell it and try something else.

Do we know what we are doing?

Nope!  But what could go wrong?!  We’ve spent months researching, reading and planning.  The SBMCC forum is a great source of ideas and information, and the help received there even in planning stages has clarified our thoughts and shown us what can be done.  So with the internet to help – anything is possible!