Lita and Dylan are in their late-twenties pursuing van life in a 2019 Dodge Promaster with a 159-inch wheelbase. Van life became the perfect way to fulfill both of their dreams. Lita has always been an avid traveler and she loves getting out and exploring. And Dylan has always wanted to build his own home.
So when Dylan proposed to Lita that they should build out a van and live in it before they get married and have larger responsibilities, she immediately agreed and they set out to make van life a reality!
A former first-grade school teacher from the Washington DC area, Lita now focuses on content creation while cushioning the travel expenses with savings. And Dylan has a full-time remote position as a project manager.
They have been living full-time in their van since mid-2021 and don’t show signs of slowing down anytime soon!
FIND THEM ONLINE!
The Van Setup
Lita and Dylan love their van, which they are extremely proud to say they built entirely themselves, because of the freedom it gives them. The van, a 2019 Ram Promaster, is one of the most popular van models to convert because of the extra space it provides side-to-side and because it is “boxier” and almost made for customization.
And they have done an incredible job of turning it into exactly the kind of home on the road they have dreamed about.
The Van At A Glance
|Van||2021 Ram Promaster 159″ wheelbase|
|Van Build Cost||~$20,000|
|Unique Features||The bed is super unique as well as a couple of cubby spaces that are in the van. There’s a bookshelf next to the fridge that holds coffee table books and a pantry that acts as a footrest under the two benches|
|Bed Setup||Convertible bed. The bed folds in two and then slides in so that the van has two bench seats and a table underneath.|
|Bathroom Setup||Serene Life toilet|
|Shower Setup||A convertible shower that can be used both inside and outside. The tub slides out from underneath a cabinet and then you attach the shower hose to the sink faucet. The shower curtain hooks to the ceiling.|
|Kitchen Setup||In the front of the van on the passenger side. Oven with a three-burner stove, a Dometic fridge, a working sink and two separate pantries to store food.|
|Refrigeration||A 79-Liter Dometic chest fridge with dual sides and an app on your phone to set the temperature. It’s permanently installed into a bench so that you can sit on top of the fridge.|
|Cooling||Maxxair fan that is in the front of the cab living space. Also, two sliding windows in the back as well as one in the front that opens.|
|Heating||Chinese Diesel Heater in the van. It’s in the back of the van right under the bed. A diesel tank is installed in the garage and the fuel line runs under the van from the diesel tank to the heater.|
|Power & Solar Setup||400 Watts of Renogy solar panels as well as 3 Renogy lithium batteries. Also, a DC to DC charger that powers the batteries when driving. And a Bluetooth module to see power levels and a battery monitor to check the battery bank charge.|
|Water & Plumbing Setup||33-gallon fresh water tank in the garage and a Bosch water heater. Greywater trickles from the sink through a hole in the floor into a collapsible bucket.|
Lita and Dylan bought their 2019 Promaster new for around $36,000 and chose it because it has straight lines to work with but also plenty of space for them to live in. They then put approximately $20,000 into building it out with an oven, convertible shower, convertible bed and lots of storage space.
The van has a convertible bed that folds in two and then slides in so that they can have two bench seats and a table underneath. Beneath the backend of the bed, they have tons of storage in the “garage.”
The kitchen is located in the front of the van on the passenger side. It has a working sink and the greywater plumbs out of a hole in the floor. The kitchen also includes a permanent RecPro 17″ oven with three burners and one rack for the oven. This is powered by propane, which they have a locker for in their garage space.
It also features a 75 liter Dometic fridge with dual sides so you can open one at a time. You can set the temperature on the app on your phone. The fridge itself is also permanently installed and they made excellent use of space by turning it into a bench so that you can sit on top of the fridge.
And when it comes to food storage and organization, Lita and Dylan built in two separate pantries.
For their water system, they have a 33-gallon freshwater tank in their garage space and no grey water tank. They have an electric water pump and plumbed the water to the sink where the sink hose doubles as a hose for the showerhead.
With wastewater, Lita and Dylan have a hole under their sink that allows the greywater to drip out under the van. They keep a collapsible bucket to collect the greywater if they are in an area where they can’t let it drip outside. And they make a point to only use biodegradable soaps.
In the bathroom, the van has a SereneLife portable toilet. Lita and Dylan try to use public restrooms as much as possible. They do not go number two in the van and use a shovel when they have to use the restroom out in nature. When not in use, the toilet stays in their shower basin tucked out of the way.
When it comes to showering, Lita and Dylan build a convertible shower that can be used both inside and outside. The tub slides out from underneath a cabinet and then they attach the shower hose to their kitchen sink faucet.
Thinking ahead, they built their van such that the shower hose can reach outdoors so they don’t have to go through the process of showering inside if they don’t want to. They use a shower curtain and hook it to the van’s ceiling. They also have a hot water heater that can be used when they want a shower.
As for heating and cooling, Lita and Dylan have a Maxxair fan that is in the front of the living space. They turn it on when they cook or shower for extra ventilation. There are also two sliding windows in the back as well as one in the front that opens.
The van is also equipped with a Chinese Diesel Heater. It is mounted in the back of the van right under the bed so that Lita and Dylan can control it when they go to sleep. They have a separate diesel tank in the garage because the van runs on standard gasoline. The fuel line runs under the van from the diesel tank to the heater.
Lita and Dylan definitely have a great electrical system setup. The van is equipped with 400 watts of solar as well as 3 lithium batteries. They use the Renogy system for all of their electrical needs.
To assist in charging the batteries while they drive, the van is also equipped with a DC to DC charger. And they also have a Bluetooth module to help them see the power levels and a battery monitor to check their charge.
For propane, Lita and Dylan have an onboard tank in a homemade propane locker. There is a venting hole in the floor so that the propane doesn’t leak in the van. And they have a line that runs from the tank to the oven.
Because Lita and Dylan both work from the road, they have a few different spaces that they use. They have two different lagun-mount tables that they use to eat at. One is by the two benches under the bed and the other is by the Dometic fridge.
And they have two swivel seats that can be turned around so they can eat. They also sometimes use a lap desk on the bed for working or eating.
When it comes to improvements or things they would change, Lita would consider just having a stationary bed with lots of garage space underneath. But she does love their bed.
She would also add better tires so that they could go on more roads without worrying about it. Their van has the factory wheels/tires and they are kind of dinky.
READ MORE: Check out this post on other great vans for camper conversion.
Living the Van Life Lifestyle
Previous to living in their van, Lita was a first-grade teacher. Dylan is a project manager and continues to work from the road. In total, they spend around $2,000 per month living on the road.
This is broken down into about $700 on groceries/food, $700-800 on gas, and then anywhere from $200-600 on miscellaneous expenses.
Lita and Dyland would tell you that the most rewarding thing about this lifestyle is… FREEDOM! They love being able to see new places and make decisions about their days as they happen.
But they are most surprised at how everything takes twice as long in the van! Also, problems happen to come up all the time but they say that you end up not as mad about them as you think you will be.
When it comes to hardships on the road, Lita has had a lot of issues with storage. She loves to have a lot of things and she has had to learn how to be a minimalist – which has been tough. She also never knew how to build anything and learned a lot during the van build.
Van Life is more accessible than you think! It is a great way to explore new places and see the world for yourself!
Fortunately, they haven’t had anything major issues yet. One night the drain was clogged and they took apart the whole sink to find out that there was just a bean clogging one of the holes. It was crazy!
And having to have cellular service during working hours is the biggest challenge for Dylan and Lita. They feel like they are always searching for wifi and service to work on the road. It can get very frustrating for them.
Downsizing their lives into a van was really hard for Lita. She was so used to having a large closet. So when it came to trying to downsize her wardrobe, she still doesn’t know if it works well enough. They do have a lot of storage space in the van which helps a lot!
In their spare time, Lita and Dylan love going on hikes, playing tennis, hanging with friends and planning new travels! She loves making kimchi stew because it’s so easy to make and only takes one pot to make!
And you won’t find Lita without her camera, or at least a phone camera. She loves taking photos as they travel and claims that it’s the best part!
Lita most misses being able to just end the night on the couch watching TV sometimes. It takes effort for them to do things that used to be easy and relaxing.
Lita and Dylan want people to know that Van Life is more accessible than they think! It is a great way to explore new places and see the world for yourself. They think everyone should try it even if it is just a week of van living.
Top Mobile Apps:
These are Lita and Dylan’s go-to apps for life on the road.
READ MORE: Learn more about 20+ mobile apps to make life on the road better HERE.
Most useful items:
When it comes to utility, these are the items that Lita and Dylan feel are most useful and essential for Van Life.
- Swivel Seats – They love having the ability to turn the chairs around to open up the living room space
- Moonshade – So that they can create a larger camp space with shade
- RecPro Oven – Because it works very well in our small space
READ MORE: Read this post to learn more about other great van life essentials.
The Van Build
Like most van dwellers who choose to build their own home on the road, Lita and Dylan are incredibly proud of the fact that they built the van entirely by themselves without having to outsource any part of the build. They spent approximately $20,000 for the full van conversion and only hit the road without the propane or shower finished.
After a few weeks on the road testing out the van, Lita and Dylan returned home to finish those two projects. They just needed a couple of parts that they didn’t have to finish the job.
For insulation, Lita and Dylan used havelock wool, because it is effective and isn’t bad for the environment! Lita and Dylan loved working with non-toxic materials and included as many as possible in the van buildout.
As for the flooring, they used a plywood subfloor with vinyl sheet flooring. They wanted something that was easy and looked good. And they are very happy with how their van flooring turned out.
And with lighting, the van has puck lighting and two reading lights by the bed. Lita and Dyland wanted things that did not take up too much power and were also effective. They have a two-way dimmer and it works really well. They also installed five windows in the van that increased natural light: two rear windows, two sliding bunk windows and one T-vent window.
For storage, the van has a garage under half of the bed. There’s also shoe storage in the front that doubles as a footrest for the swivel seats. Lita and Dylan built cubby spaces by the bed to put books and phones while charging. And there’s also storage under the benches as well as a pantry on the floor that doubles as a footrest for the benches.
They also built the upper cabinets and the cabinets with the oven. But they bought a Home Depot cabinet for some of the drawers and then we put a butcher block countertop on it.
The ceiling is all done with tongue and groove planks. Again, they chose it for ease of installation and the look and cost. Lita feels like the ceiling is one of the prettiest parts of the van.
Although the van has a robust solar and power setup, it does not have any shore power. Lita and Dylan did the math and thought it would be fine with the solar and DC to DC charger and they haven’t had a problem yet!
Lita and Dylan are most proud of the roof deck. They loved building that part and it looks so good! As they travel, one of their favorite pastimes is spending time on the roof watching the sunset or stargazing. Plus, they get a lot of compliments on it and have a great video on how they built it!
When it comes to giving advice to anyone considering building out their own van, Lita and Dylan would both say to try to take everything one step at a time. It can be very overwhelming and things will be hard.
Let yourself take time to take things in and teach yourself slowly how to do things. Turn to YouTube and other van lifers for advice. If you have any questions you think they can assist with, Lita says they love answering other people’s questions!
The hardest part of the van build was probably the electric system. But Dylan had to deal with all of that on his own. In general, the outside temperature was hot when they were building so that was quite challenging.
Lita also hated trying to figure out the water system and felt like it was a puzzle that took her a while to piece it all together (Dylan was in charge of the electric system and the propane system).