safari camper van at camp
The Road

Camper Van Beginnings – Finding Inspiration

camper van conversion interiorI spent a good chunk of last fall and the winter roaming in a 1994 GMC Safari camper van conversion with a throw together bed. The bed was comfortable, I had a fair amount of storage and it worked as a warm place to crash between hikes, hunts and fishing trips.

Although it was functional, doing any long term living in there was a bit difficult. There are a few things that could make a huge difference so I decided to step things up a bit.

The 1994 AWD Safari Van Backstory

I found this van in an alley with a barely visible sale side hanging on the interior dash. I had to really work to read the number. I called and bought it for 900 bucks with 190k miles on it. It had a high top and was at one time a wheelchair van. I pulled the rear seats, threw down a half rotted piece of plywood (found in another alley) for a floor and  build a bed from scrap wood. One 10 dollar cabinet, foam padding on the bed and I was set. I also added new tires and a new front differential as the old one was leaking and binding. The van had sat idle for a good year or two before I found it.

alberta van campingI made a 10 day camping trip to Alberta, spent a good chunk of the summer sweating out nights in with the windows open and spent most of October and November chasing deer and elk in Montana.

I drove to Reno for Christmas then did another couple of weeks up the Oregon coast. Overall, the van performed great on these trips. I pushed the limits driving backroads and has some interesting looks from other hunters in big trucks as I plowed through snow and maneuvered around rocks.

Desired Camper Upgrades


camper van kitchen
Temporary kitchen solution for the Oregon trip.

The biggest downside was not having a good place to sit and work. I just couldn’t get comfortable for long periods of time. The other was needing to setup the stove every time I wanted to cook. The ability to wake up and turn on water for coffee without leaving bed would be amazing. Here’s the list of upgrades I want based on experience in the van and a ton of research in forums, videos online, etc.

  • Couch that converts to bed
  • Swivel front seat
  • Dedicated kitchen
  • Overhead cabinets
  • Place to store fly rods safely
  • Heat and ventilation
  • ARB Awning with extra room attachment
  • More clearance and AT Tires.
  • Portable power supply

I decided to jump in with my less than adequate carpentry skills and get after it. I’ll be posting more on the progress and steps I am taking. After watching a ton of great conversion guides and videos, I think this might serve as inspiration for those of you who have a tight budget and want a functional interior without all the reclaimed lumber and crazy expensive/complex upgrades. The biggest thing for me is a little organization, a good place to sit and work on my computer, better clearance for off-road driving and a little more temperature control.