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RE: My Chevrolet Express van Class B- camper

I have not done any camping since back in August. Not that the weather wasn't nice, it has been great for this time of year. Today, in northern South Dakota we had temps in the 60's which is really great for this time of year. What has taken me away from camping was selling our big house in the small town of Roscoe and moving to our smaller house near the campus of Northern State University in Aberdeen, SD. It was my wife's winter house when she worked for the University and now that we have been retired we decided it was time to downsize and rid ourselves of 40 years of accumulated "stuff." We went from a four bedroom house with a four car garage down to a two bedroom home with a one car garage. That meant that a lot of the "stuff" had to go. Good turnout at our rummage sales and good response from local online rummage sales helped a lot. Naturally I had to get a storage space big enough to put the Corvette and the camper conversion van in for the winter. We are really enjoying our retirement in a larger town and, especially, with the University so close we can attend a lot of free music recitals. But today with such nice weather I decided it was time to upgrade the conversion van camper with an Maxi-Trac 8 foot awning from NAPA. Installation was a breeze. I just drilled four holes in my roof rack mount and bolted it up. Now I am going to plan a camping trip in the near future and try it out. I am sure it will work slicker than our old 9x9 Gander Mountain one. We will keep it and maybe use it as a free standing one for a picnic table. I will update this post with a picture of the awning extended in use on our next camping adventure.
Black'95 12/01/21 06:12pm Class B - Camping Van Conversions
RE: My Chevrolet Express van Class B- camper

As I and my wife are getting up there in age, we grew tired of the small 4 inch screen of our GPS unit in the van. Recently I upgraded to a Garmin RV 890 model with an 8 inch screen. We both can see it much better and love all the extra features that our little one did not have. I made a larger DIY mounting for the slot in the van's dash and it works very well.
Black'95 09/11/21 08:41pm Class B - Camping Van Conversions
RE: My Chevrolet Express van Class B- camper

We are using our van camper conversion a lot the last couple of years due to COVID. We can go off by ourselves camping without much people contact. Now I don't make any major changes, just a few small incremental improvements is what I like to call them. Recently I upgraded my 110 volt system by adding an external outside outlet box on the van frame closer to the front end. This gives me a place to plug in my blue rope lights and a small maintenance battery charger for the van main battery. When we are camping for several days we often turn on the vehicle accessory mode to activate our WiFi hotspot in the van. The trickle charger guarantees that we do not run down the van's main starter battery.
Black'95 08/24/21 01:56pm Class B - Camping Van Conversions
RE: My Chevrolet Express van Class B- camper

I recently ran across a new use for our ice maker on one of the posts I frequently visit. I may have to try this on our next camping trip. The bottles melt the ice into water which is reused by the ice maker!
Black'95 04/25/21 08:45am Class B - Camping Van Conversions
RE: My Chevrolet Express van Class B- camper

Somewhere while checking Facebook I came across an ad for a Radiate brand portable campfire. Being an avid DIY'er (growing up on the farm and being a high school science teacher for 39 years may have something to do with it) I decided I could make something like that. I purloined a 7 1/2 inch fruitcake tin from my wife and started melting wax in my woodshed. I cut up some paper egg cartons and distributed the pieces throughout the wax, then let the wax set and harden. It seems to work great. To put it out, I just put the cover back on. You do want to let it set awhile after putting it out so the melted wax from using it doesn't slosh over and leak onto your hands. Yes! I speak from experience because the lid does not seal it up so it is leak proof. It will never replace a real campfire, but we could use it on the picnic table under the awning on a rainy day. The camping trip we were on when I tried my new DIY campfire on was an Easter camping trip to Oahe Downstream Campground which is below the dam and north of Pierre, SD. With temps in the high 70's for the first week in April it was fine camping weather. We heard this cardinal before we finally saw him. He is small in the picture because I knew I could not take the time to swap to my 800mm lens before he decided to fly. It must have been a fine weekend for fishing as the bay below the dam's stilling pond was pretty crowded. I am guessing the fish were biting in this area.
Black'95 04/05/21 10:37am Class B - Camping Van Conversions
RE: My Chevrolet Express van Class B- camper

I had a question in another van forum about my mini-levels I use to level the van. The question was: "How do I level my van?" I checked back through all my posts and realized I had never addressed this problem. I use some home made ramps from 4 pieces of 2 x 8 x 10 1/2 inches for the larger ones and 2 x 8 x 9 inches for the smaller ones. When finished cutting them I added a piece of sticky back step tread material. Some of the tread material is rubber only but the stuff I used has a sandpaper like finish and I stapled it to keep the ends from curling up. I can use 1 ramp per tire to go up 1 1/2 inches and a long one and a short one to go up 3 inches. Sometimes I use a double on one wheel and a single on the other wheel if I am sitting on a slant. I have even used a double on one wheel, a single on the other side and a single on one of the front wheels if I am both slanted and lower in the back. I store them in my blue box attached to the bumper hitch of my van where I store my camp chairs, camp stove, little propane tanks, fire tongs, ax, etc. I find that backing up on to the ramps works better than driving forward on to them as attested by the slippage marks on the short ones.
Black'95 03/28/21 10:26am Class B - Camping Van Conversions
RE: My Chevrolet Express van Class B- camper

Really have enjoyed reading through your post and all you have done. We are doing a similar build on a 2014 Chevy Passenger Van. We put a 3/4 inch plywood floor down for our base. We are curious how you have attached your cabinet and bed into the van. At this point, we plan to leave all the factory walls in place, so don't have points of attachment in the van walls, just the plywood floor we have installed. Also, by any chance, do you know where in the back passenger area there are airbags installed? We don't want to inadvertently set those off with our build! I did not remove any of the floor nor the passenger seat brackets in the back of the van. I used them to mount my bed frame and my kitchen unit. I made some brackets very similar to the picture below and mounted the top three holes to my bed frame and kitchen unit so they were positioned over the top of the seat brackets. I pulled the locking pins out of the seat brackets in the floor, then slid my fabricated brackets down into them so the locking pin would engage the single hole in my brackets and locked the pins in place. For the rest of the van floor area that had floor seat brackets that I did not use, I ordered a special piece of carpet with seamed edges like floor mats and put it down to cover up any exposed, unused floor seat brackets. I will do some research on my van and the service manuals to see if I can locate the passenger airbags and get back to you on that in another message.
Black'95 03/04/21 08:58pm Class B - Camping Van Conversions
RE: My Chevrolet Express van Class B- camper

Mike, a nice setup to have as you can use a heater that doesn't have a thermostat, if needed can you run both heaters on low at the same time? Hope that you are able to go camping soon, we are trying to go but we have been having a lot of rain in the valley and snow in the mountains for the last few weeks. The small heater only has one setting whereas the little floor model does have a high and a low setting. I probably could run both of them because when I wired my van, I used 12/2 house wiring or the equivalent in round extension cord type wire so I think it would be heavy enough. I have never needed more than the little 1500 watt even when it was below freezing outside. So I will probably use one or the other, whichever is more convenient. We cover all the windows and windshield with custom cut Reflectix Al insulation to fit each window. That not only insulates it keeps the light out, so we can sleep in til noon if we wanted. Growing up on the farm as I did means I usually get up early even when I don't need to.
Black'95 02/25/21 09:05am Class B - Camping Van Conversions
RE: My Chevrolet Express van Class B- camper

HI Mike! good timing on the new post, I was just going to ask you what you used to heat your van with when you are winter camping. Is that little heater AC or DC ? When I built my kitchen unit for the van I built into it a 110 volt wall thermostat and connected the 110 volt outlet below it. I have been using a little 1500 watt floor model of heater. This heater utilizes my wall mount thermostat otherwise it would run constantly. It is in the way on the floor sometimes, especially when I have to get up in the middle of the night. When it is cold out we always camp where we have an electrical hookup. As long as I had this little 900 watt heater laying around the garage, I decided to get it a try on our next camping trip which will probably be later this week. This heater doesn't have a built in thermostat either so my wall mount one will be needed for it. Both heaters are 110 volt.
Black'95 02/25/21 08:40am Class B - Camping Van Conversions
RE: My Chevrolet Express van Class B- camper

I am always looking to repurpose things laying around my garage. We had been using a little floor electric heater to heat the van when camping during colder weather. I had this car heater laying around from my wife's old Jeep Cherokee that we used to heat the car's interior before she went to work each morning during the winter months. Now that she is retired and the Jeep has been upgraded to a 2018 Equinox the heater is no longer used. I created a mount from plastic and wood that I mounted to one of the headliner attachment points off to one side partially over the kitchen unit so we should not be bumping our heads on it. Also it is easily removed by sliding it out of the mount. We plan on trying it out camping in the next week or so to see if we like it better than the floor heater which seemed to be in the way some of the time. If it passes the "wife" test, I will paint the mount flat black like the rest of my DIY stuff in the van. This little heater is the type they sell in North Dakota and Canada to warm up cars in the morning before you drive to work. In fact, I bought it in Grand Forks, ND while visiting my son who worked there for a time.
Black'95 02/24/21 09:34am Class B - Camping Van Conversions
RE: My Chevrolet Express van Class B- camper

With the weather outside hovering around -2 to -20 degrees F, I am spending most of my time in my heated wood shop and my heated garage. I started and completed a modification to the TV mount in my DIY camper van. I created a new wooden mount that utilized the top bracket of the seat belt, the nearest cup holder, and the kitchen unit. I enjoy fabricating things from scratch without any plans and this shot shows the basic wood frame. I was not happy with the old mount because it placed the TV to close to my sink and faucet. Now it is moved one window towards the back. This picture show the old mounting with the wedge removed that previously slid down between the window lower plastic and the kitchen unit. It squeaked and was not a very solid mounting. I mounted the hinge unit to the new mount, painted the wood flat black, and covered all surfaces that might touch any part of the van with sticky back felt. Now the TV is mounted much more solidly and still hinges out so we can watch the news in bed. I mounted a hinge and bracket so the TV can fold out for viewing from the bed area. I utilized the bottom frame board to mount my indoor/outdoor thermometer and a small container for the remote control. Not something new for my DIY van camper, but an improvement of the old.
Black'95 02/13/21 03:16pm Class B - Camping Van Conversions
RE: My Chevrolet Express van Class B- camper

Here's the link to the thread I started. Thx.,130161.0.html My RVan link here is link to my RVan Thanks for the links, I look forward to following your posts.
Black'95 02/08/21 05:15pm Class B - Camping Van Conversions
RE: My Chevrolet Express van Class B- camper

drsolo, would like to see some pictures of your inside setup as it may give us some ideas that would help us do some mods in our van builds. Most of my stuff is bolted down but can take part of it out in a few minutes if needed to, I have a utility trailer to go get things that I can't put in the van. Ditto from me on posting some pictures. We all like to see what others have done so we can "borrow" their ideas that we like. So, please, post some picture of your van or give us the link here if you decide to start your own thread.
Black'95 02/07/21 09:37am Class B - Camping Van Conversions
RE: My Chevrolet Express van Class B- camper

Seon.........Mike ( Black 95 ) has done a lot of upgrades to his van and he seams to enjoy doing them and going camping. As J Herb says I do enjoy working on my van and using it to go camping. I used to have a Tahoe Glide Lite 23 foot trailer camper with slide-out. As I got older (I have been retired for over 10 years now.) my wife and I found that we enjoyed going with the van camping, so last year I sold the trailer. Now we use the van exclusively for camping as, like J Herb, I have a trailer for hauling jobs. In South Dakota the winters get cold, but often, like last week, the temperatures in the Black Hills get into the 50's and 60's so we can go camping even in the winter. On the trip out to the Black Hills we usually take a detour drive through the Badlands National Park. Having a Senior Pass means the trip through the national park is free. Then before we get back on I-90 we stop in at Wall Drug for my free "veterans" donut and coffee while my wife has a 5 cent cup of coffee which is always available to tourists. I have a heated garage so the van is packed and ready to go at a moments notice. If you follow this forum thread you know that I do not get fancy with my modifications, but I sure do have fun with them and can improve or modify things whenever I see something I like. So that is my advice to you is have fun with your van and modify it. You might even want to start a forum thread like this and show us all your modifications. I have borrowed a lot of ideas from others, like my window AC from LenS and his "Green Tardis" which is the name he calls his van. Search and you will find his ideas. He used to post in RV forums but I think he has switched to YouTube videos here lately.
Black'95 02/06/21 03:16pm Class B - Camping Van Conversions
RE: My Chevrolet Express van Class B- camper

The latest addition to my camping van is a cell phone holder that I received as a Christmas present from my youngest son. It turned out to be quite handy hanging from an AC vent as it held both mine and my wife's phone. He also gave me a little magnetic light that is both solar and motion activated. It worked great after dark to light the campsite.
Black'95 02/05/21 10:41am Class B - Camping Van Conversions
RE: My Chevrolet Express van Class B- camper

Whenever the weather gets warm (50 degrees F or higher) we pack up the van and head for the Black Hills to camp and escape the snow here at home. Feb. 1-3 turned out to be one of those days. We stocked up on firewood at our favorite gas stop on the way into Custer State Park Game Lodge Campground. The next day we headed out on the Wildlife Loop and are always greeted somewhere along the loop by the friendly burros. They are always ready for a handout. You must be prepared for a little donkey slobber when you roll up your windows to leave as they always want more handouts. Another regular that you can't miss on the wildlife loop are the prairie dogs and they are always entertaining. Buffalo or more correctly bison can be seen either on or near the road or in the state buffalo pens. SD is famous for their September buffalo roundup and draw in thousands of observers every roundup. The big horned sheep can often be seen here as well as in the Badlands National Park. We saw plenty of magpies and I was lucky enough to get a shot of this one. Usually we see them flying by. After finishing the wildlife loop we stopped at the picnic area near Mt. Coolidge for lunch. While there we spotted several chickadees that delighted in entertaining us in and around the lookout deck while we ate. Walking back to the van from the lookout deck area we spotted a Steller's Jay in the trees. Returning to our campsite from our morning and afternoon of sight seeing we were greeted by the campground host. Us, the crows and the constant squirrels were the only residents of the campground today. we saw many, many deer on the loop and along the forest roads. Every night we camp there a herd comes in at twilight and beds down around us for the night. Even when we packed up and left the campground for home we saw them. When we got home we were greeted by everything covered in frost. Our home area had been in freezing fog for the three days we were gone. That night it even knocked out the electricity for the area for about three to four hours. I fired up the generator and we had heat, TV and internet services back again. You can see how thick the frost was on the bird feeder chain outside our window. It always helps our spirits when we can get away for a few days of camping in the middle of winter.
Black'95 02/05/21 10:37am Class B - Camping Van Conversions
RE: My Chevrolet Express van Class B- camper

Now that I have upgraded to a 2018 Express van, I have my old 3 Volume set of 2001 Express/Savana GM Service Manuals for sale for $75 with free shipping OBO Contact: Private Message me: Black'95 or email: [email protected]
Black'95 01/28/21 10:49am Class B - Camping Van Conversions
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