How to Save Weight in Your Van Conversion: 5 Practical Van Build Tips

By: Scott Adamson
/ July 19, 2022
Did you know the weight of your van conversion can affect your vehicle’s performance and safety?

Most van lifers, including many professional van upfitters, do not pay enough attention to weight when converting their first van. Weight is important for several reasons, including:

  •  better performance and 
  • enhanced control on the road.

Inspiration for van conversions often comes from fancy Instagram posts with fully functional washrooms or giant water tanks. Due to this, many vanlifers tend to go well over the gross vehicle weight restriction (GVWR). 

Here are 5 tips to help you save weight in your van conversion! 

1. Choosing the Right Battery

Switching from AGM to Lithium batteries can help you save a significant amount of weight in your van conversion. Going from a 150 Ah AGM battery that weighs 210 lbs. to a 300 Ah Lithium battery that weighs 75 lbs. will save you 135 lbs!

Not only do you save more space, but you also get a higher battery amperage, which is vital for vanlifers who depend primarily on their batteries. 

2. Selecting the Correct Wood

Wood is another essential material that can impact the overall weight of the van. Different wood types are used in a van conversion, with some being heavier than others.

One popular wood type is the three-quarter Baltic Birch which is known for its strength. Due to several layers of glue, this type weighs a ton.

You can reduce the weight by opting for a slight variation such as the half-inch or quarter-inch Baltic Birch. This can reduce your weight from 2.2 lbs./square feet to almost 1.4 lbs./square feet. It might not sound like a lot but it all adds up in the end.

You can also explore different plywood that weighs even less or use a combination of Baltic Birch variations to save weight!

3. Use Lightweight Flooring

Many vanlifers spend a hefty amount of time and money on flooring options when converting their van. As it turns out, certain flooring materials can also add significant weight to your van conversion. 

Vinyl Plank Flooring

Many people will choose to use vinyl plank flooring because:

  • They’ve used it in their house before
  • It looks great
  • It’s fairly easy to install

In fact, this is what I used in my first van build.

 

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A post shared by Scott Adamson (@comeswithaview)

Although vinyl plank flooring is ideal for your home, it tends to contract and expand due to temperature differences, which your van will undoubtedly experience. It is also surprisingly heavy!

My recommendation: Vinyl Roll

A better and more lightweight solution to go for is a rolled vinyl product such as Nautolex Marine Vinyl Flooring. Choosing a rolled vinyl can help you save almost 100 lbs. in your van conversion.

The installation of rolled vinyl is a bit more challenging, but it’s worth it for the weight savings.

Alternatives

You can also go for several other great flooring options that weigh substantially less. These include:

Wall panelling is another area that may not seem to add much weight to your van conversion, but it does. 

Many vanlifers are aiming for a certain aesthetic in their van which can sometimes lead to heavy materials being used, and a lot of it.  I see this a lot in vans that have a cozy cabin vibe to them – looks amazing, but it’s just so heavy.

Regardless of the overall look you’re going for, something to keep in mind is that a good portion of your wall is hidden behind cabinets, benches, and drawers.

You can save weight by using an extra lightweight material to cover these hidden areas.

My recommendation: Duotex

Duotex offers a lightweight and decent-looking panel that you can use to cover areas such as the wall or ceiling. An added advantage of this product is that it is easy to install and also has acoustic properties.

5. Going for the Perfect Countertop

Butcher block countertops are all the hype when it comes to those special final touches to your van conversion. However, these weigh a lot. The most popular one, the one-inch butcher block countertop, can add a substantial amount of weight to your van.

One way around this is to use a single piece of half-inch Baltic Birch as the bottom and then double up on the edges to make it look one inch thick. This can help you save around 10 pounds easily without compromising on the aesthetics of a butcher block countertop.

Conclusion

These are some tips you can use to save weight in your van conversion. Remember, even saving a little on every item adds up to a lot which can help keep your van under the gross vehicle weight! 

To explore these tips in more detail, be sure to check out the full video.

Subscribe to my YouTube channel for more DIY Van Build Tips, stories, and guides.

 

Scott Adamson
Wanderful Idea Guy
Coffee drinker, adventure seeker, below average photographer.
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