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Discussion Starter #21
Another thing I have to ponder is windows.

I was initially thinking a skylight would be nice, but might be hard to fit 400w solar, fan, maybe an evap in the future, and a skylight. Also skylights are pricey. What windows would y'all recommend for semi-stealth yet still livable? Thinking passenger door would be nice for living light and driving. Rear door windows I'm not quite sold on, but might make driving easier. Side bed windows... meh - are these really useful to have?
 

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There is no such thing as semi-stealth! Your van either looks like a work van or an RV. People who care about who/what you’re doing aren’t easily fooled.
 

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Discussion Starter #23
There is no such thing as semi-stealth! Your van either looks like a work van or an RV. People who care about who/what you’re doing aren’t easily fooled.
I say "semi-stealth" as someone who lives in SF and sees very very many stealth and non-stealth campers everywhere. Depending on where they are. There are full on RVs running generators during the day at the park down the block. There is a camp of tents down the other block. Other places one might want to "fit in" more. But I think there are many places where something that looks like a van at first glance, yet seems to be an RV on closer inspection, would fly for a few nights. Thus "semi-stealth". I don't think we are gonna fool any Karens with solar on our roof, and I'm fine with that risk. But I don't want every random passer-by to be a potential tattle-tale. I think my van with a few upgrades could pass in my neighborhood for a week or two before some busy-body felt it's their duty to get rid of me.
 

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Thanks for the thoughts. As far as conveniences going away, we are both comfortable with backpacking for a couple nights, but I don't think my wife wants the extended backpacker experience for several weeks at a time. We are good with minimal conveniences though.

"wet area" - I intend to buy a composting toilet, sink with gray water, and shower outside when available.

"paper plates" - We would much rather use plastic dishes than make waste. When we backpack I use a few ounces of water to wash our 2 dishes, and I drink the gray water. A few extra ounces for the convenience of basically RV living seems reasonable.

"water system" - Like I said, when we backpack for a few nights we are fine. But for more than that I would need (very much like) to proper wash my hair, and I'm not gonna cut my hair. I will put in a proper water tank.

"reheat food" - We always cook food. Never had a microwave dinner in my life, nor do I want to start now, but I might install a 600 watt microwave for leftovers. A portable cheapo coleman seems reasonable, and could be moved outdoors for cooking when weather is nice.

"bed and bench become one, bikes outside most of the time" - I am mostly set against this, but this may be SF bias - I've had several bikes stolen. From 3rd floor balcony, from being locked up in well lit attended downtown garage in the middle of the day, from inside a store when I turned my back for 20 seconds. I like my bikes secure, but might consider sketching up a layout with bikes outside while we are awake and in the middle of nowhere. But still, they would need to be inside if we are near town or asleep. Also the raised bed provides extra storage options. Something to think about.

"Electrical too small" - This I really have no idea. I'm a structural engineer. In other words, I hate black magic such as electricity. I was thinking 2400 Wh (2-12V 100Ah LiFePO4 batteries), 400 watts solar, battery to battery charger (I have a 220 amp alternator if that makes a difference), charge converter, fuse box. The fancy ass batteries save space vs the older lunks and last more charge cycles with less maintenance. Basically I just assigned a space as a "design development" placeholder. It could spread out if needed.

Here is a revised layout idea. The fridge by the door was scrapped - Top open fridges are pretty long and I like the cook stove by the door, plus trying to balance weight a bit by keeping the fridge on the driver side. Open to revisions of course. Scrapped the convertible bed. The rear workstation could be stand up at the bed, or pull out while sitting on the toilet box. I may have to chamfer the counter to provide easy access, but that shouldn't be too bad since fridges are typically not super deep (from a quick google search of various models). View attachment 65794
I was mostly just throwing out ideas to see where your design edges are. It sounds like your "design basis" is fairly well understood.

The only downside of a composting toilet is that it really only deals well with #2 and not really that well with #1. They are also somewhat humidity dependent.

The mental transition of "camping" vs "we are in an RV" can indeed complicate things.

Some people will make a space to test the interior design using cardboard boxes. Even without the van you can do a lot of mocking up prior to it arriving.

I have been helping a friend with the electrical / solar aspects of his van not far from Franklin Square. It is an interesting area, and you are right - there is every type of RV / van / tent living imaginable in that area. Theft is also a major challenge.

A lot of people who are outdoor oriented also go to Tahoe in the winter. As long as you keep the Li batteries in the 40 - 110 F range, they will work the way that you expect them to.

Power wise, 2000 watts is roughly the equivalent of one breaker circuit in a home. Essentially the capability of one home duplex outlet, but similar to a home, this can be spread out to multiple outlets for convenience. 1000 watts can work for a minimalist situation, but probably would be a bit light for an extended use mobile office.

Electrical designs can be conservative or stretched, just like structural engineering.

Most batteries on the market, regardless of the labels, are designed to support 500 watts each, so a 2000 watt inverter would ideally be paired with 4 batteries. The storage capacity of these batteries is a separate matter.

I have a small operation in Livermore and offer some modular electrical options for times when installation time is critical. If nothing else it might provide some design ideas.

 

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I say "semi-stealth" as someone who lives in SF and sees very very many stealth and non-stealth campers everywhere. Depending on where they are. There are full on RVs running generators during the day at the park down the block. There is a camp of tents down the other block. Other places one might want to "fit in" more. But I think there are many places where something that looks like a van at first glance, yet seems to be an RV on closer inspection, would fly for a few nights. Thus "semi-stealth". I don't think we are gonna fool any Karens with solar on our roof, and I'm fine with that risk. But I don't want every random passer-by to be a potential tattle-tale. I think my van with a few upgrades could pass in my neighborhood for a week or two before some busy-body felt it's their duty to get rid of me.
I have some solar panels on my work van that power it all. It took the local police and neighbors a while to adjust, but they did.

The other aspect was how many people thought that I had converted the van to an EV and the panels were powering it.
 

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Thanks for the thoughts. As far as conveniences going away, we are both comfortable with backpacking for a couple nights, but I don't think my wife wants the extended backpacker experience for several weeks at a time. We are good with minimal conveniences though.

"wet area" - I intend to buy a composting toilet, sink with gray water, and shower outside when available.

"paper plates" - We would much rather use plastic dishes than make waste. When we backpack I use a few ounces of water to wash our 2 dishes, and I drink the gray water. A few extra ounces for the convenience of basically RV living seems reasonable.

"water system" - Like I said, when we backpack for a few nights we are fine. But for more than that I would need (very much like) to proper wash my hair, and I'm not gonna cut my hair. I will put in a proper water tank.

"reheat food" - We always cook food. Never had a microwave dinner in my life, nor do I want to start now, but I might install a 600 watt microwave for leftovers. A portable cheapo coleman seems reasonable, and could be moved outdoors for cooking when weather is nice.

"bed and bench become one, bikes outside most of the time" - I am mostly set against this, but this may be SF bias - I've had several bikes stolen. From 3rd floor balcony, from being locked up in well lit attended downtown garage in the middle of the day, from inside a store when I turned my back for 20 seconds. I like my bikes secure, but might consider sketching up a layout with bikes outside while we are awake and in the middle of nowhere. But still, they would need to be inside if we are near town or asleep. Also the raised bed provides extra storage options. Something to think about.

"Electrical too small" - This I really have no idea. I'm a structural engineer. In other words, I hate black magic such as electricity. I was thinking 2400 Wh (2-12V 100Ah LiFePO4 batteries), 400 watts solar, battery to battery charger (I have a 220 amp alternator if that makes a difference), charge converter, fuse box. The fancy ass batteries save space vs the older lunks and last more charge cycles with less maintenance. Basically I just assigned a space as a "design development" placeholder. It could spread out if needed.

Here is a revised layout idea. The fridge by the door was scrapped - Top open fridges are pretty long and I like the cook stove by the door, plus trying to balance weight a bit by keeping the fridge on the driver side. Open to revisions of course. Scrapped the convertible bed. The rear workstation could be stand up at the bed, or pull out while sitting on the toilet box. I may have to chamfer the counter to provide easy access, but that shouldn't be too bad since fridges are typically not super deep (from a quick google search of various models). View attachment 65794
I like your new layout 👍

Setting elevations (such as the bed) for ergonomics & to be able to get 2 bikes under the bed takes finesse & tweaking inches. I think you mentioned you are a Structural P.Eng so you may be use to building standards for design, however I will comment that such standard constraint thinking can be a hinderance for conversion van design. Design is everything here & unless you have done it at least once before 60+ hours of research may seem like a lots, but it really is minor (I have more hours researching just my van heating system - went with a Propex HS2800 after considering diesel). We have a CRL window in the slider a love it (install photos on our build thread).


Our build has a similar layout; here are a few photos & hope it gets the creative thoughts flowing for you & your wife

I still do not know the size of your van? This is a pretty important piece of the equasion for me in order to provide ideas.

65795


65796
 

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KOV is right. Don't waste any effort or resources on hiding the fact that it's a campervan. Just install whatever windows or vents you want to be comfortable.
There are so many people doing the van/RV thing that, unless is says Amazon on the side or it's obviously a work van with ladders and PVC pipes on the roof, no one will be fooled for even a minute. In fact, unless it is an obvious work or shuttle van, most people will assume it's a camper van right off the bat. And if you have solar panels and a roof vent, fuggettabottit.
Just install windows, you'll be glad you did.
Also, I like your 2nd design.
 

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KOV is right. Don't waste any effort or resources on hiding the fact that it's a campervan. Just install whatever windows or vents you want to be comfortable.
There are so many people doing the van/RV thing that, unless is says Amazon on the side or it's obviously a work van with ladders and PVC pipes on the roof, no one will be fooled for even a minute. In fact, unless it is an obvious work or shuttle van, most people will assume it's a camper van right off the bat. And if you have solar panels and a roof vent, fuggettabottit.
Just install windows, you'll be glad you did.
Also, I like your 2nd design.
I agree with KOV & RnR & my van is white with 1 window & 1 white roof fan, & 1 white/ss shore power plug. I could put “trade” vinyl company advertising on it, but I really do not think I am fooling anyone;

Now this is a thing,,,

 

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They don't want people in RVs, traveling, out in the real world, interacting with real people.
They want everyone locked in their house, ordering everything online and being brainwashed by their television.
Just put windows in your van and go live life.
The people that would call the police on you are all hiding in their house with masks and tinfoil hats anyway.
 

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Look on the bright side though:
if there is a concerted effort to hassle and discourage the whole vanlife craze that's sprung up in the last few years and get people back in their houses, plugged into their TV and dying of diabetes and heart disease (so they can sell them more meds and turn their brains to mush with "news" and "reality" shows),....
just think how many more lightly used vans will be for sale in the next few years.
(y)
 

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The people that would call the police on you are all hiding in their house with masks and tinfoil hats anyway.
Exactly & they are not really all that scary ... But the ones hiding in their vans with masks on😳

We live in a Ridiculous World & IMO it is best to get out there & enjoy it as much as we can.

As My Brother use to tell me (referring to the World with mock fear), nobody is getting outta here alive !!
 

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If it were me, same needs/design,....
I would have a full window in the slider for the blindspot while driving and view while parked. I'd have a full window behind the driver seat for views while parked/sitting at the table and I'd want it to open.
I'd have at least one bunk window over either side of the bed, that opens and put the roof fan in the sunroof stamping right behind the cab, so I could open the window over the bed at night and the fan would pull air across the bed.
 

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Another thing I have to ponder is windows.

I was initially thinking a skylight would be nice, but might be hard to fit 400w solar, fan, maybe an evap in the future, and a skylight. Also skylights are pricey. What windows would y'all recommend for semi-stealth yet still livable? Thinking passenger door would be nice for living light and driving. Rear door windows I'm not quite sold on, but might make driving easier. Side bed windows... meh - are these really useful to have?
You have a better chance for a leak in a skylight than a window same for dripping condensation.

I really like the CRL windows that are specifically made for the PM vans. We only have one in the slider, and are very happy with it. Our van is a bit of a cave; not for “stealth” reasons, but custom built for how we use our van.

RnR made some good “window” points above & if that is how we used our van we would not be shy to put windows in it. We use our van to travel & sleep in. We do not cook in the van. We do not shower in the van. We rarely eat in the van. We to take our private small space with us on adventures mostly into the wild parts of North America (not big cities - but we have stayed in our van in LA & other major metros). We literally wanted a Private Travel Cave.

Not that there is any validity to this statement; but we feel that our van is more secure with less windows - in reality it probably is not (but people can not look inside it)
 

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If you're dispersed camping it doesn't matter. I you are staying overnight at a flying J or interstate rest area, no one cares or is interested in you. They're all there for the same reason.
The only reason to care about "stealth" is so you can park in places where you shouldn't be.
And if you are, then it doesn't matter if it looks like a camper or plain white work van. You shouldn't be there.
 

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Discussion Starter #36
The reason to be "stealth" is to park in places where certain NIMBYs think I shouldn't be. Not to park places where I actually shouldn't be. It's really not that hard to find places without a 7 ft height restriction and that's in SF.

Ok, sliding door window is a no brainer. Can always cover it with insulation at night, and can't build cabinets on the door anyway. I'll leave the driver side as is. A vent/window at the bed makes sense also.
 

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I have my 500W solar + 2 Maxxair vents + a large skylight/hatch (I have a 16''x30'' version of Bomar Low-Profile P Series Deck Hatch) on my 159 roof. For city style living with the windows covered, the hatch is critical - it gives awesome natural light so I don't feel I'm in a cave. It's one of the best features of my van. Highly recommend hatch for what it seems like you might be doing. And this is a boat hatch so water impenetrability is highly valued.
 

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Stealth is a strange thing, that has been covered at length in the past. I'll add a few observations.
Most people are not as observant as you might thing, but if anyone is looking hard enough they will know.

I think a white van without windows can blend in at places where a white van is not out of place regardless of a few solar panels on the roof. But if it is someplace someone doesn't want you, they also probably don't want a white delivery or contracting van parked either.

My van has no windows, but two roof vents and 4 solar panels, otherwise the only indication it is an rv is a small shore power inlet on the back that really doesn't stick out all that much. I've had one incident of a window knock by the police at 5am (I didn't answer and they left, but I couldn't get back to sleep). My prior van was obviously an RV with roof air, vents in the side or furnace, water heater, etc and in 4 years I have zero incidents, for one year I parked in many of the same places I parked the new van.

I am not sure it matters as much as people think. One the other hand, I have been asked several times if my van was really an RV when parking at RV parks, both paid and unpaid free RV parking at the casino I use a lot. No trouble just curiosity really. Ended up giving a couple of tours.
 
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