After a long 4 months of researching and hard work…The ‘Ramble On’ Van is ready to roll and call home whilst we road trip around the USA!
Here are the details on our Ram Pro Master 2500 Camper Van conversion and build.
Amazon.ca became our savior for all the odd items we needed for the van conversion, but we tried to buy locally as much as possible. The guys at Windsor plywood in Function Junction, Whistler enjoyed our progress reports when we popped in to pick up more supplies.
We chose a 2015 Ram Pro Master 2500, high roof, 136 WB.
One of the big factors with the van was ensuring it would fit in our parking space at home. Our parking space snugly fits a Toyota Tacoma and the Ram Pro Master 2500 is roughly the same footprint.
The Ram Pro Master 2500 is front wheel drive, so better in snowier conditions, and the external total clearance is lower than other alternatives, like a Sprinter which is rear wheel drive, but with the same internal height.
The Ram Pro Master 2500 is wider than other alternatives too, meaning we can sleep across the van rather than along it (as long as you are under six foot…), and reduce the area taken up by the bed.
For now, we are planning on mostly using the van for bike trips, but as we are also keen skiers we wanted to keep our options open for potential winter trips. We aimed to have the insulation for down to -5 degrees-ish. After hours of research, reading what felt like 100 opinions, info and build details, and taking into consideration weight, durability, ease of use, toxicity and R values, we settled on:
Layer 1: Sound deadening
Firstly to reduce the road and general noise whilst sleeping in the van we installed some <a href="http://Pyle 36 sq. ft. Premium Car Sound Deadening Mat Butyl Automotive Sound Deadener Mat, Audio Noise Insulation and Dampening Pad, Black (PNVBD3621)” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”>Pyle Premium Car Insulation Audio Sound Deadening material, Foam Self-adhesive Mat. The Sound deadening also has some (very little) insulation properties. It has a rough R-value of 1.
Layer 2: Double reflect
After applying the sound deadening, we attached Double Reflective Roll Insulation with spray adhesive EVERYWHERE that was getting cover by the paneling. The van looked like a spaceship at this stage, especially with all the wiring. It has a rough R-value of 3.
Layer 3: Insulation
I’m not going into the full reasons for our insulation choice, every van project is different, and there is plenty of info out there on the inter-webs. The main considerations were vibrations/material breakdown, toxicity in a confined space, water absorption (we living the Pacific Northwest), ease of use/insulation and accessibility of materials in British Columbia/Canada.
We ended up using:
IKO 1-1/2 inch Polyisocyanurate Insulated Sheathing for most of the walls. It has an R-value of 9.
IKO 1 inch Polyisocyanurate Insulated Sheathing for the ceiling and panels by the bed (to save 1 inch on the bed length and height). It has an R-value of 6.
Climaloc Plus 2 inch Recycle denim and cotton for all the nocks and awkward spaces. It has an R-value of 8.
All of the insulation was attached to the van frame using <a href="http://LePage Heavy Duty Spray Adhesive, 468g (1726250)” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”>LaPage heavy duty spray adhesive (similar to the 3M 90 spray – the 3M 77 isn’t strong enough) and Great Stuff expanding foam (the normal stuff is easier to work with then the Pro type FYI).
All the insulation was cover with plastic sheeting and Tuck Tape to vapor barrier (Layer 4).
Our total R-value on the van ranges from roughly R11 to R14.
The beauty of the Ram Pro Master 2500 is the width of the body. Shane is 178cm and Kate is 160cm tall. With the 1-inch insulation installed and carpeted walls, there is 191cm width between the upper side panels. Enough space to make the bed across the van. A smaller bed meant a shorter van needed.
We then placed a 1/2 inch piece of plywood for the bed platform and got a 5-inch memory foam mattress from Ikea.
Walls, Ceiling, and Flooring
The two main materials we used on the walls for the van conversion were 5mm door skin plywood and marine carpet.
We meticulously cut some crazy shapes to fit around the panels and walls in 5mm door skin plywood…There are no straight edges in the Ram Pro Master 2500. Then all the plywood was treated with a few layers of varnish (Minwax Polyurethane Varnish).
We used the marine carpet around the bed space to maximize the available space (the plywood would have made us lose another 2 inches of width in the van) and we also used the carpet on odd/awkward spaces around the van to finish the coverage that the plywood didn’t cover and remove the chill from the metal van walls. All the carpet was stuck down with LaPage heavy duty spray adhesive.
We used cedar paneling and extended it over the edge of the plywood walls at 45 degrees to make a seamless join. The cedar paneling was an extra expense (and pain to install), but well worth it to finish the look of the van conversion.
Our original plan was to remove the aftermarket installed floor and replace it with insulation, plywood, and vinyl. However, on closer inspection, the aftermarket floor installed turned out to be heavy duty glued down. We opted to keep it in and just lay the double reflect, 1/2inch plywood, and some very sexy (read clear-out priced) peddle dash vinyl flooring. Thankfully you can’t see much of the flooring. Not perfect, but we weighted up losing inches of headroom vs the extra insulation, and the headroom won.
We installed <a href="http://Dream Lighting RV LED Recessed Down Light 2W Warm White Black Shell Pack of 6” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”>6 ‘Dream Lighting’ RV LED Recessed Down Light 2W lights, on 3 separate circuits to the ceiling.
Possibly the scariest element of the whole van build – cutting the hole in the roof for the fan. We installed a Maxxair 12V Roof Top Fan/Vent above the bed.
Solar and batteries
On the roof we have installed a 180cm by 120cm solar panel that will generate 260 watts. This connects to 2x 105 amp hour batteries via a ACOPOWER 30A MPPT Solar Charge Controller 100V input Tracer A Series 3210A With LCD Display with a Blue Sea Systems ST Blade Fuse Block and a BEP 701 Battery Disconnect Switch.
To hold the bikes in place whilst we drive around we got the Rocky HotRod fork braces. The Rocky HotRod had better reviews then the cheaper alternatives on the market and on initial testing are really easy to use, despite the tight set up for getting the bikes in and out of the van. We are holding the rear wheels down with a simple Velcro strap attached to the floor.
As with the whole build, the cabinets are custom to fit the van and our needs. We measured over and over again and drew up lots of designs to utilize every millimeter of space and enable multiple uses of some of the drawers. Kate is now pretty pro with ‘sketch-up’…
We need the draws under the bed to be strong and sturdy, and to withstand shaking around whilst driving the convered van and living in a confined area.
Under the bed
‘Short legs Kate’ needs a step to get up onto the 92cm high bed, so we built the bottom larger drawer to function as a step too – it’s also a bonus seat! It has a hinged lid and is on wheels. There are also 2 drawers above and a shelving set to the side with a bungee mesh net front.
As the drawers under the bed are facing forward and there will be a decent amount of load in them, we used heavy duty locks, similar to marine style ones, to ensure that if we have to emergency brake that they don’t come flying out at us. We used Amarine-made Marine Boat Stainless Steel 2″ Flush Pull Hatch Latch locks on the top drawers and Draw Latch Lock on the bottom drawer, with bumpers on the rear to keep it in place whilst driving.
Kitchen drawers and cupboards
We custom built 3 drawers and 2 cupboards, with the fridge on a wheeled platform in the kitchen. All the drawers have slide proof mats inside and have Uxcell 60 mm Long Cupboard Cabinet Door Brass Double Ball Catch Latch inside to stop them opening whilst we drive around in the Ram Pro Master 2500.
We installed a small flat bottom sink (thanks Simon!) with a Valterra RP800 Chrome Rocket Hand Pump. The cupboard under the sink has the 6 gallon freshwater and 6-gallon grey water canisters with plumbing attached to the hand water pump above.
As we don’t plan on going crazy off-road, and want to be able to use the portable fridge for other adventures, not just in the Van, we got a 45 liter Whynter FM-45G. We built a custom draw for it to sit in, with wheels underneath.
We used a 3/4 inch birch plywood piece for the counter-top that we stained with a custom design (Kate got arty one evening), and then sealed with a million layers (8 actually) of Minwax Polyurethane Varnish.
Other storage and accessories
We used medium weight linen curtains (thanks Mel!) with a simple pipe and bracket runner system. The curtains will provide some light coverage and a barrier from the chill from the front windows.
We customer made the window shades out of leftover double reflect material and good old gorilla tape…no thing goes to waste!
We have an 8x10foot Eclypse II Rainfly which attaches to 2 pegs on the roof of the van and it spreads out and is secured with tent poles and guide rope.
Grand final piece!
So here is the Ram Pro Master 2500 van conversion finished and ready to roll!!!!