Introducing the Sprinter Adventure Mobile

This article is part of the #VanLife series where I talked about our Sprinter van, what goes into building it, our daily life on the road, and other sorts of fun and challenging things about living and traveling full time in a van.

‘Why is everything taking so long?’ I whined.

Seriously, installing a curtain rod should not take a whole day. But it did. It was just one of the many examples of #1 lesson we learned in our Sprinter conversion project: things will take much longer than you anticipate.

Let’s backtrack a bit. In case you missed the tiny blurb some posts ago, here’s what’s happening in our life:

Our 2008 Sprinter Van
Our 2008 Sprinter Van

We bought a van (a 2008 Mercedes Sprinter van, if you’re the curious type). We moved out of San Francisco. We’re both homeless (again) and we’ve been working out of Jack’s parents’ houses converting our Sprinter van into the ULTIMATE adventure mobile + office on wheels (budget version).

We took a break to travel in Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Hong Kong, and Malaysia.

We’re currently back in California and working to finish up the Sprinter van conversion. In January 2015, we plan to go on an open eded roadtrip, visiting North America’s climbing spots and national parks (a big step in completing my National Park challenge).

*Inhale* There you go, now you’re all caught up.

A blank canvas - the interior of our Sprinter 2008
A blank canvas – the interior of our Sprinter 2008
Leaving our rent-controlled apartment in SF was a HARD decision!
Leaving our rent-controlled apartment in SF was a HARD decision!

If I had known how much work this involves…

We could’ve dropped the van off at a shop and leave it to the pros. But after calling around for a quote, I decided that I’m not ready to sell my kidney just yet. Besides, despite the many setbacks and slow progress, there’s something to be said about working with your own hands. Even if the so-called hands were itchy at the end of the day from working with fiber glass.

It’s certainly a far cry from the kind of work we’re used to (ie, sitting in front of the computer reading Reddits – doing cool web development work).

But after weeks of working on the van and countless visits to the local True Value and Home Depot, this is what we have:

Ta da!!

working on sprinter van

Ok, she doesn’t look like much, but here me out.

She got insulation!

Screwing the wood slats onto the ribs

For the walls, we used a layer of fiberglass batting and Reflectix. Thin plywood replaced the drab grey coroplast sheets that came with the van as the final layer.

For the ceiling, we attached styrofoam boards using double sided tapes. The first ride we did, all of them fell off! Double sided tapes could barely hold my childhood artwork up on my mom’s fridge, so I had no idea why I thought it’d work better in holding styrofoam boards UPSIDE DOWN.

So we added wood slats to help hold them up.

She got lights!


For the Sprinter’s interior, we went with 2 of these LED dome lights

Because our van doesn’t have any side windows, I wanted to make sure we got the brightest and most energy efficient lights there are. We really liked how bright these turned to be. The aluminum side of the ceiling’s insulation helps reflect and diffuse the light a bit too.

She got curtains!


Necessary to block out outside lights when we’re sleeping, also for privacy reason. We got them from Ikea and had Jack’s mom shorten it to the length we needed.

She got solar!

A 200 W solar panel from AM Solar and a Yeti 400 Solar Generator form our electricity system. We opted for a built-in, plug and play solution so we didn’t have to mess around with converter, inverter, fuses, and what have you.

So now after spending $800, we can get ‘free’ electricity from the sun /sarcasm.

She got new tires!

Jack’s parents bribed us with new tires for the Sprinter in exchange for a house sitting stint in the month of February. We were going to say yes anyway, but sssh!!

She got a new floor!

Laying down double sided tape for the Sprinter flooring
Laying down double sided tape for the Sprinter flooring

We sanded and repainted the original plywood flooring that came with the van. We then covered it with that vinyl flooring stuff from Home Depot. If you squint real hard, it looks like we have real hardwood flooring. See the next picture (with a squint).

And she got a bed!

sprinter vinyl flooring

Sort of.


As you can see, it’s still work in progress. The next phase will include installing the solar system, woodwork for the kitchen counter/office, and figuring out Internet/connectivity issue. We estimate we have a 2-3 weeks of work left. Which means, based from our experience, it’ll actually take us 8-10 weeks.

But hopefully we’ll be able to take the Sprinter out for trial runs soon. Because it just snowed a whole bunch in the Sierra and I’m itching to go skiing.

By the way, we’ll be sharing ‘live’ progress of our van in our Facebook page.

8 Replies to “Introducing the Sprinter Adventure Mobile”

  1. Wow, I’m so jealous of your new Sprinter! Do you have any posts on the costs of buying and upgrading your Sprinter? Would love to see some sort of breakdown as to the costs of buying/building one out. Looking forward to reading more about your trip in the near future.

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