Nissan NV Stealth Camper: Insulation Lite

WICKHAM CP, FL—According to most van conversions, I probably have way too little insulation, so my trip to colder climes will make an excellent experiment in just how effective a minimal install is.

The NV’s walls seem to be designed differently than most vans—it has a second, interior wall that make the sidewalls straighter than other vans. This is a feature designed to make it easier for tradesmen to attach shelves and cabinets. Because of this, I went round and round on how to insulate the walls. Finally, the idea of bubble wrap plus R-Max foam board felt right, so that’s what I went with.

Bubble Wrap and Interior Wall

Bubble Wrap and Interior Wall

The R-Max has a foil side designed to act as a heat shield. In order for it to work, you need to provide an air space between the heat and the foil. Feeling that the space between the inner and outer walls was too much, I filled it in with the bubble wrap (a little concerned it would melt if it got too hot, but a contractor/camper/neighbor assured me it wouldn’t). I then covered the bubble wrap with 3/4″ R-Max.

For the roof, I taped up a single layer of bubble wrap between the studs (to ensure the air gap) and pushed in a single layer of R-Max 3/4″. I had intended to put up two sheets of R-Max, but the one lined up nicely with the roof studs, so I took that as a sign to leave it as is. Time will tell.

I made a mistake and forgot to put bubble wrap under one of the roof panels, so it will be interesting to see if the lack of bubble wrap has any affect on the that section.

R-Max Insulation

R-Max Insulation. Foil facing the walls, vapor barrier facing inward.

For the roof, the R-Max is held in place by simple friction/pressure. I plan on covering it next with paneling which will more securely hold up the foam board.

For the sides, I used the Teks screws (screwed into the interior wall’s studs), but I really should have used flat-head sheet metal screws with washers as the Teks would often over-penetrate the soft foam. The intention was to also cover the sides with paneling—so I wasn’t concerned about the panels coming loose—but now I’m thinking of covering the sides with fabric (possibly sheets or curtain fabric), so I may go back and re-attach the sides with the metal screw/washer combination.

The total insulation probably took about 4 hours so that wasn’t too bad. The hardest part was waiting for a plan to clarify, sorry, was deciding.

The Van And The Attitude

The Mural

The Mural

WICKHAM CP, FL—I think I’ll title these ‘mixed’ posts—articles that are both useful to Nomads and Mystics alike—as The Van And….

Just so you’ll know what you’re getting into.

One of the most life altering events I’ve experienced was when I read a short phrase written by Ken Wilber—a phrase that consisted of only three words:

Do the experiment.

He was talking about some spiritual practice, about just trying it so you’ll find out for yourself if the practice benefits you or not, but these three words can also be applied to practically all areas of life: Rather than trying to figure Life out, treat it with a sense of curiosity, “What’s going to happen if I do this?” Don’t worry about the end results. Don’t focus on winning. Focus on the experience.

Since I read those three little words, I’ve pretty much lived my life “doing the experiment”—and as a result have grown beyond my wildest dreams.

The van isn’t going to be perfect on this first build—hell, it isn’t even going to be right—but it is going to get me out on the road again, out to see the leaves changing colors and experience new sights and sounds and smells.

Vinyl Floor

Vinyl Floor

For example, take a look at the vinyl floor I laid today. Look at those edges. Are they perfect? Not even close. While most of those ragged edges will be covered by furniture, that isn’t the point. The point is I’ve never laid a sheet of vinyl in my life but now I know a hell of a lot more about it: about what works and what doesn’t. It may not be perfect, but it does what it was meant to do: cover the plywood and protect my almost always bare feet.

Ragged Cuts

Ragged Cuts

I did the experiment. I wasn’t attached to the results. I bought a piece of scrap vinyl, and laid it in with the full expectation that I may rip it out after I get back.

It’s temporary. Everything in this physical world is temporary.

Remember this, and you’ll not take Life so seriously.

Try it. Treat whatever you’re considering doing next as an experiment and not as a win/lose situation.

Such a simple change in attitude can change your life.

Nissan NV Stealth Camper: Seeking Roof Rack Advice

My next task on the van is insulating the sides and ceiling. Since I don’t expect to ever spend more than a single night in snow (and that will only be by mistake) I’m not too concerned about super-insulation. While I’m working on that though, I could use some advice for a roof rack to mount my solar panels to (2 each @ 37.5″ x 62″).

The NV has these nice mounting brackets built into the roof. Four per side with the idea of being able to run up to four bars crosswise over the roof to hold ladders.

Roof Rack Mounting Bracket

Roof Rack Mounting Bracket

But, in order to do this, you need these special mounts that raise the bars above the curve of the roof (I’m estimating about 1.5 inches). Even with these special mounts, the placement of the horizontal bars would restrict how and where I can mount my solar panels.

The ideal option would be to create my own rack, custom fit to my panels. I have two (big) 200 watt panels that will overlap the edges of these mounts by about an inch on each side. I’d also like them mounted as far forward as possible, meaning that they will stick past the front-most mounting bracket by about 30 inches, so whatever I use to create the rack with will have to be pretty strong (I want to leave room for a future roof fan and/or a third solar panel) toward the back.

I’m thinking I could find two 2″ square metal… what are they called, tubes (but square), and mount them (one on each side) lengthwise on the four mounting brackets so I’d end up with two, 10′ long metal runners, one on each side of the van roof. This should make the base of the rack high enough that I can run crossbeams (maybe 1″ square tubes) to use to mount the solar panels to. (See my comment below for a clearer picture).

If worse comes to worse, I guess I could use the store bought rack and mount the panels toward the rear, but then the (possible) fan would be toward the front (not as good a cross breeze) and I’d probably not be able to add another (possible) solar panel. Maybe this is the way to go at first, and modify it later if the “possibles” turn out to be needed.

Anyway, if anyone can think of something better, I’m all ears. Please note, I want to avoid drilling holes in my nice new roof.


Nissan NV Stealth Camper: The Floor

WICKHAM CP, FL—It’s hard to believe, but it took me a full eight hours to lay in the floor. I’m starting to understand why Glenn was so often off in his Vanagon conversion estimates. Still, I wasn’t in a hurry. Usually when I don’t know what I’m doing I just sit down and stare and wait for an idea (a whisper) to hit. So subtract a couple hours if you know what you’re doing. More below the break (huh?). … Read more…

Mystics, Vans, and Photos

Black (and White) Coffee

Black (and White) Coffee

WICKHAM CP, FL—I’ll be the first to admit that I’m all over the place with this blog—Mysticism, Nomadism, Photographyism…. A huge mistake according to marketers. Focus on ONE topic or you’re doomed the internet gurus insist.

Oh well—screw ’em.


I do understand that not all of you are going to be interested in the van conversion. I also recognize that there are nomad friends of mine who could care less about Mystical Oneness (weird, right?).

So what to do?

Boonie (fellow nomad who could care less about mystical anything) suggested I start a new blog on just the Nissan NV conversion. At first I thought this was an excellent suggestion, but after sleeping on it, I thought it was a sucky one—another blog just makes my life more complicated (yuck).

But I/We/She came up with an alternative:

If you are interested in both Mystical Oneness AND van dwelling, you don’t need to do anything—all is well in your world.

If you can’t stand Mystical Oneness, but like the idea of converting and living in a van, you’ll notice a new menu item above titled Van Dwelling. This will take you to a page where you can:

  1. Follow all the posts on converting and living in a van
  2. Subscribe via RSS to ONLY my VanDwelling posts

If you could care less about van dwelling but LOVE Mystical Oneness, I’ve developed a super secret code just for you which I’ve embedded into the blog posts:

If the lead photo looks very unWayne-like (say a drab, boring photo of a screwdriver), then that post is just about van dwelling (or converting a van) so feel free to skip it.

Disclaimer: You know me though—I see God/Her in practically everything and hear Her whispers all the time, so some VanDwelling posts will also have messages for Mystics embedded in them. You’ll recognize these posts because they’ll have a typical Wayne-like photo even though the title of the article suggests a VanDwelling post (of which this post is a good example).

A Blank Canvas

The Stealth Camper

The Stealth Camper

WICKHAM CP, FL—My salesman, Dan, said he’d never seen one with windows all around—his customers always ordering the solid sides since they use them to haul cargo. He said I was super lucky to find one with windows at all, that there had only been one in the entire southeastern US but by some bizarre coincidence, that one just happened to be sitting on the lot of a dealer across town. I nodded and smiled and said, “Hmm, imagine that” like this stuff happens to me all the time (which of course it does, but he didn’t know that).

We finished up and Dan said it was one of the smoothest deals he’d ever done. Even though I got more for my old truck and paid less than I expected for the new van, both of us were happy and Dan said that he wished all his sales were this easy.

It was easy too… it flowed. And when it did get clunky, when the paperwork guy tried to pitch me on the extended warranty, the dent and scratch repair, theft protection… all that “be afraid, be afraid” stuff, I just smiled and shook my head and said “Yeah… I won’t be needing any of that.”

It’s a Nissan NV. A big empty box. A blank canvas. It has the same footprint as my old truck, but high enough that I can stand up in it.

It should make an excellent stealth camper.

The plan is to slap together a temporary interior: move the solar over, add a floor, some insulation, a dresser, and a sofa/bed—then hit the road by October 1 for the fall season. Come winter, I’ll return to Florida and outfit it a bit more seriously (maybe).


Interior View From The Rear