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Van life
Van life
Original photo by Nadia Allen

Kickstarting your van life: Kitchen building

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Brighton chapter.

Have you been dreaming of pulling up next to Lake Annecy in a cute little van half-way through your six week tour of Europe? Despite it feeling hugely overwhelming to get there, it is so doable! Hopefully I can give you some tips that will lead you one step closer to creating your dream van lifestyle.  Two years ago I decided to embark on the journey of renovating and traveling in a van due to always wanting to travel but in a sustainable and budget friendly way. If you have been dreaming about joining me on this journey, continue reading for some tips of what to do and what not to do when creating your van life.

If you are following Kickstarting Your Van Life then welcome back! If you’re new here, firstly hello! And secondly, make sure to check out the previous articles. Recently we discussed the basic steps of designing your layout and prepping your van for renovation. Today we are going to venture one step further and start the renovation of the kitchen area because what is the point of having a home on wheels if you can’t have the meal on wheels included. I am going to include all the products and where to find them for your kitchen area that I personally used for mine but remember to always look around and do a bit of research so that you get equipment that is suitable for your needs and your van. It does not matter what your van looks like to begin with, the final outcome is what counts! For comfort this is what my van looked like at the start, gorgeous right?

Image of van before conversion
Original photo by Milly Struthers

To the left of the picture you will see the basic frame for what was going to become my Michelin star restaurant. The van came with an old fashioned gas stove and a pump sink, obviously this was going to get a mega upgrade. I personally purchased a kitchen set that came with everything I pretty much needed in order to cook food and wash up. After some serious searching around and looking at what set ups other van lifers recommended, I purchased a universal kit from Jackson Leisure for £359.95, it pretty much has every single thing you would need for a camper kitchen. This set up allows you to choose your sink orientation and the family run business has a wide variety of options for you to browse upon. I mention the sink orientation in terms of health and safety. Yes even living off-grid in a cool van needs some health and safety. Realistically you would want your hobs closest to a window or door. Reason being is for ventilation and risk of fire if there was to ever unfortunately be one.

If you do not have a basic frame for your kitchen set up, it is probably best you get one built before trying to do any plumbing. Check this out if you’re needing to build your frame, remember again to ensure you have an isolation section for your gas bottle! For my van I wanted to fit the kitchen set up onto a worktop that also has an extendable attachment where I can prep and dish up yummy food. THINK BUDGET. I was very fortunate enough to find some off-cut pieces of worktop on Facebook market place (a holy grail may I add in terms of all things budget). I came into ownership of three reasonable size of worktop for the grand total of £75, Bargain! Now it is time to fit everything together.

Calling in on a favour from a reliable carpenter, my beautiful worktop was cut to size and fitted in place with the sink and hob ready to be fitted within it. For those who are doing it by themselves, my trustee carpenter used circular saw, jigsaw drills, chisels and a good old hammer when fitting and cutting the worktop. Now I personally do not know a plumber, so the fitting of the sink and even the gas bottle to the stove rested solely on my clueless shoulders. When I say YouTube will be your closest friend during van renovation, I firmly mean it. Following another episode of (a few) tears and near give ups, I had my sink and my gas all connected and securely in place. The feeling of accomplishment this gave me as a young woman was empowering! Safety check, once you have connected your gas to your cooker, please get a gas check done by a professional to ensure there are no leaks.

With the building blocks of my kitchen complete and everything safely connected and working, it was time to accessorise. Firstly, the surrounding area of my kitchen space I placed adhesive tiles to give it a warm feel other than painted plywood. In terms of space, I was seeking far and wide for camping pots and pans that fitted within each other. For everything else such as, utensils, cutlery etc, you have complete free game over that. Only you know exactly what your van will be used for and what you will need in terms of kitchenware and in honesty pretty much any part of your van. Also, unless you are in the middle of the Sahara desert, when you’re on your travels and you realise you need something the chances of you being able to find a store is most likely so do not stress!

In the next article, we will be discussing the all important sleeping arrangement for your van and the endless options you could have! Have any questions about van life? Send me a question HERE and have it featured in the next article. All responses are 100% anonymous.

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Illustration by Monique Aimee via Giphy!
milly struthers

Brighton '23

I am a female van traveller with the desire to explore the world and interact with a range of people and engulf myself in new cultures. Reflecting shared female and queer issues across all race and ethnicities within my articles Creating a safe and open space in my writing where individuals can relate or emphasis with what is being written and most importantly feel connected and that their not alone in their experiences.