No matter what type of vehicle you use or where you are located, living in a van is all about the freedom that you will feel while you are on the road. When you live on the road, you can live your life on your terms and go wherever your van takes you with no restrictions. When you have a stealth van, you can rest wherever you want and not be noticed by anyone.
For your van stealth build, you need to plan and design your van layout carefully, choose to have fewer windows, get window covers, choose neutral colors for your van, place your belongings strategically, consider getting a solar panel, and keep any gear that you may have inside your van.
Knowing your van stealth build is important if you want to go unnoticed while you are sleeping at night. In this article, I will talk about the build you should follow and what vehicle you can choose for a van stealth build. I will also talk about where you shouldn’t stay when you are stealth living, the difference between regular van and stealth van build, and what you should know about staying safe while you are van stealthing.
The Build That You Should Follow for Van Stealthing
When it comes to your van stealth build, there are plenty of things that you can do during and after the van build process. The van build process will help you blend in and not draw a lot of attention to yourself while you are on the road. Following the right design and layout for your van stealth build is key for you to blend in and go unnoticed.
Plan and Design Your Van Layout
When thinking of your floorplan, you need to start with a piece of graph paper and draw out the layout that you want for your vehicle. Now, it doesn’t have to be the exact design that you want, but the purpose of this step is to get the proportions as close as possible. Make sure that you mark where you want doors or windows placed in your van.
Choose to Have Fewer Windows
Some people are critical of the idea of a van with very few windows as it can feel claustrophobic for them. However, if you want to build a stealth van, opting for fewer windows is the key.
The main benefits of having side and/or rear windows in your van can offer increased security, privacy and also help keep the vehicle and the contents insulated. Aside from that, it provides simplicity as you don’t need curtains for the said windows.
The best layout is to have one side with windows while the other side doesn’t have any. For sprinter vans, they have factory-installed rear windows and a big sliding door which is perfect for a fewer window build.
Get Window Covers for Your Van Stealth Build
When it comes to van stealthing, it is best to cover the windows with some kind of material or curtains. The goal is not to let anyone see the inside of your van while you are sleeping or just hanging out inside. You can get reflectix window covers to cover your windows, but you can buy blackout curtains if you don’t like reflectix windows.
Aside from the side windows, you can also place blackout curtains between your cabin and your living space. For some vanlifers, it is a necessity, especially if you don’t make covers for your driver and passenger doors. The curtains can add a layer of privacy.
The best blackout curtain is the Zenpo vehicle detachable simple curtain. It is made with polyester materials and has a rod pocket style. It has a two curtain body with a cloth size length of about 85cm and sides about 75cm.
This curtain has six pieces code about 180cm code stopper and two pieces mounting hooks. It also comes with a belt velcro that makes it easy to move.
The Zenpo vehicle detachable simple curtain is available on Amazon for $29.90.
Color the External Body of Your Van
It is best to purchase a van that has a plain white color with roof vent latches and solar panel mounts that are made with white plastic.
When you need external accessories, you need to make sure that they match the color of your van, so they do not stand out at first glance. When there’s an external addition that is not colored, it is worth getting some color-matched paint.
Painting them with the same color as your van will help you blend in. It will help keep the vehicle be not only stealthy but also look neat, professional, and clean.
Place Your Belongings Strategically in Your Van
At most times, your bed and mattress would take up the largest amount of space in your van, so it is important to get it right. Aside from your bed, electrical, gas, and plumbing placement are just as important as your bed.
You want to arrange the propane tanks near the door or maybe have a vent to the outside for safety purposes.
Electrical components like batteries, charge controllers and inverters shouldn’t be located near any fuel tanks.
When you have your inverter, it should be within your reach so you can turn it off when you are not using it to save the power you need. Now, this wouldn’t be an issue if you had a remote.
Try to combine as many objects or appliances together as much as possible. A bed can be doubled as a couch or seating for a desk. Your toilet can be built into a chair or a trash bin which can be hidden beneath the seating.
Consider Getting a Solar Panel for Your Van Stealth Build
While living on the road, you would need some type of electrical unit for your charging needs and for your appliances to work. A solar panel will allow you to save yourself from weighing in lines to charge at campsites or parks.
It also works quite well since it will convert sunlight into electricity, so you don’t need to deal with any hassle when using your devices or appliances in your van.
Since your solar panel is installed on the roof of your van, it won’t be noticeable when you want to stealth living. As long as you paint the sides and the screws the same color as your van, then you are good to go.
Make Sure to Keep Your Gear Inside Your Van
One of the main reasons why vanlifers get a big cargo van is so that they can keep all their gear inside the van.
You can even buy a van that has large barn doors at the back so that you can have easy access to the storage compartment or your ‘garage’ under the bed. With this build, it will allow you the space and accessibility to store your bikes if you have any and other equipment out of sight.
It may be a bit of work to keep your equipment inside, and internal storage space will be reduced when you have this type of build in your van.
However, you can protect your equipment or big boy toys safely from theft, vandalism, and environmental factors such as sun damage and rust with this build.
Know and Pick the Right Vehicle for Your Van Stealth Build
When it comes to the van stealthing that is used for converting, Sprinters and Ford Transits are the most practical. They are usually parked on the street, and nobody thinks to look twice.
More unique vehicles such as school buses, ambulances, sprinters, or any RV-style conversions can make stealth camping challenging.
Aside from the Sprinters and Ford Transits, there are plenty of camper vans that you can choose from, and the right one for you depends on your preferences and needs.
If you are worried about getting less light inside your van, there’s no need to worry since you can get light from the side windows and on the front side of the van.
When you really want to add a side window that is near your bed, the best way to go with the build is to install small, wide utility windows that slide open to allow fresh air. It will keep the van looking commercial while providing a window to use.
Cargo Vans: Your ‘Creepy’ White Vans
When it comes to stealth van life, this is the best option that you can choose since noticing them is pretty difficult. They are generally everywhere, and finding a cargo van is not too hard.
Vehicles that belong to this category are Ford Econoline, Chevy Express, Dodge Ram Van, and the old Chevy Van.
Cargo vans also are a great vehicle to live in because their design barely changed throughout the decades. The main advantage of this type of van is you can work around its mechanics.
The parts are easy to find and very affordable. They also offer black canvases with the opportunity to customize them and make them stealth while living on the road.
This type of van is simple and not too fancy but very reliable. Now, the downside to cargo vans is they do not offer much headroom where even short people have trouble standing inside one.
Finding one with lower mileage can be a challenge, so you should be ready to own one with higher mileage. Even with the downsides, cargo vans are perfect for stealth camping.
The Very Famous Sprinter Vans
Sprinter vans have been around in the market for a while now. They are popular for their interior height, long wheelbase, and boxier shape. The shape makes them ideal for creating spacious and functional living.
The vehicles that fall into this category include Mercedes and Dodger Sprinters, Ford Transits, and Dodge Pro-Masters.
Not like minivans and cargo vans, sprinter vans come with plenty of head rooms, even for people who are tall. The interior space is large enough to plan any type of layout that you want.
Another great feature of sprinter vans is they offer fuel efficiency and engine life since they run on diesel engines.
Now, with all of these features, you need to expect sprinter vans to be a little bit more on the expensive side than other campers available in the market. However, if you have the budget, then this is the best type of vehicle to choose.
Mini Vans: Great for People on a Tight Budget
Minivans are the best way to go when you are on a tight budget and don’t need plenty of space. They are smaller than the full-sized vans and can even squeeze the little space that you are provided with and build a van that you can live on while on the road.
The best advantage that you can get with minivans is they are cheaper and have better gas mileage than other vans that are listed here.
As long as you choose the right vehicle, you can never go wrong with van life stealthing. Choosing the right vehicle would still depend on your needs and what space you will need while you are living on the road.
Regular Van Vs. Stealth Vans
As we all know, regular camper vans are classified in the Class B RV, which is basically a small camper van in the shape of a van that can be one of the most fuel-efficient rigs in the market.
The main difference between a stealth camper and a regular van is that they tend to be on the DIY side. Anyone can make their van stealthy, from building the windows to choosing the color of the van.
Another big difference is that stealth vans do not look like campers from the outside. They will look like ordinary vans and can blend in anywhere, wherever. A regular camper van is pretty obvious when the camper van is outside, and it’s obvious that someone is living inside.
Stealth camper vans usually have the windows tinted or no windows at all to disguise the sleeping area in the vehicle and allow for more privacy to the person that is living within.
Most of the time, they also have either vents or solar panels on the roof to let a little more air into your van. The solar panel, on the other hand, supplies a more affordable and reasonable power source.
These power sources are all for your heaters and electrical units that you may have inside your van. Now, what’s on your roof would depend on whether or not windows are included and just how stealthy you want your van to be. Some vanlifers want a style that allows them to camp just about anywhere for free.
Others want a stealth camper van style because it will allow them to hide in plain sight without having to pay rent when they sleep overnight.
Where Not to Stay While Stealth Camping
What you need to keep in mind is not all camp spots are created equal. There are some red flags that you should avoid when it comes to picking the perfect stealth camping place for you.
For instance, don’t choose a spot anywhere near train tracks. You will be woken up early in the morning by the train rumbling along the tracks and horns blaring.
Avoid the rich neighborhoods or sketchy neighborhoods. Both neighborhoods will be suspicious if there is an unknown van vehicle that is pulling up late at night.
Aside from that, make sure that you use your best judgment on where to park. You may not want to park on Main Street when it’s filled with bars and bound to be busy at all hours of the night.
You also don’t want to park in a Home Depot parking lot if it happens to be where all the homeless people hang out. Make sure to assess the situation before you decide to stay the night on a particular spot.
What You Should Know About Staying Safe While You Are Van Stealthing
When you plan to van stealthing, you shouldn’t be tempted to stay in almost any location since you want to go undetected. Most people in stealth camping find wherever they can park for free and go unnoticed where they stay the night.
If you are concern with your safety, the following are some tips that I will provide that will make your van stealthing easier.
Know the Area that You Are Choosing
Just like I’ve said above, you would need to avoid sketchy areas that don’t seem safe for you to stay at night. There are some areas where you could potentially go undetected but might not be well suited for a safe experience while you sleep at night.
You don’t want to end up on the bad side of town, and you don’t even know it unless you are aware of the area. The best thing to avoid these areas is to research before going to your prospective place. Make sure that it isn’t shady and will not make you feel unsafe when you sleep at night.
Select a Position Where You Can Drive Away Easily
Whenever a dangerous situation arises, and you are parked for the night, it is best that you are in a place where you can get out of the area as soon as possible.
Make sure to investigate the area and plan out an escape in case there are any dangers that might come up while you are in that area.
Vans can be quick and easy to go places in, so make sure you park in an area that you have already assessed. It would be best if you had a place where you could leave at a moment’s notice.
Always Have A Backup Plan
If you do have to leave a particular area due to a dangerous situation, you need to make sure you have scoped out what you are going to do and have made a backup plan.
Now, it may not always be possible, but you need to ensure that you are aware that you might have to leave a location or parking area that you are in and go straight to another location.
Benefits of Having a Stealth Van Build
No matter how you want to outfit your van is a matter of personal choice and need. Doing your own van stealth build can make it much more satisfying.
Not every vanlifer spends their time on the road in RV parks or backwoods settings. However, when you need to park in urban locations, making your van less conspicuous can be very helpful.
If you want to find a place to park for the night without it causing a stir, a van stealth build is the best way to go. When you have a windowless van, you can pull into almost any industrial area.
Aside from that, you can also park near a business, and people may think that you are there for delivery since your van looks like a delivery van instead of a living van.
Another benefit you can get when you have a van stealth build is that it offers low maintenance costs and inexpensive repairs. Also, there are fewer situations that can go wrong when you have a stealth van. It is also simple to drive, easy to park, offers a quick to clean up after a trip, and blends right into surroundings.
With these benefits, you can enjoy your life on the road without having to worry about the problems that might incur with other vehicles.
As long as you what design and layout you want for your van stealth build, the rest of the process will be easier. If you are a stealth camper, it is fantastic because they allow you to use a limited amount of space pretty well, and you are in command on how you will customize your van according to your needs. It can provide you with a space to live in plain sight without drawing too much attention to your home on wheels. Happy van stealthing!