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How I Found Extra Space in Our DIY Astro Van Conversion

It has been over a month since we traded the comfort of our apartment for the small space of our beloved Astro van. The transition was definitely not easy but I’m pleased to say that we have survived!

However, it would be lying to say it was easy. We are still adapting and I am sure other van dwellers will say the same thing; you keep adapting, moving, changing things around all the time.

Published 2014

Blue Astro Van parked in front of Arctic Circle sign
Driving to the Arctic Circle in our Astro Van

Reducing our possessions

One of the first things we realised is that we had way too much stuff. I had underestimated the storage against the bulk of all our winter gear. We had to find a way to put more of our winter gear in storage (my father’s house).

It was far cheaper to send our winter clothes and boots to New Brunswick by Greyhound than to rent storage space and then have to drive back to get it later (especially since we do not know where we will be in winter).

It takes some time for everything to find the right place but every time you realise you can’t find something, it means your stuff is still wandering around looking for a home. Since the van was over crowded already I had to create more space.

Blue Mesh pocket  with items in it

Creating space

I started with a small pouch attached to the back of the door. With some mesh fabric and some yarn I made a mesh that I screwed directly to the back door. I made this addition to the car after Gemma was complaining of losing the cell phone and Kindle.

blue net suspended in the corner of a blue van ceiling.

A few days after we got on the road Gemma’s clothes kept finding their way to my side of the bed and I realised another storage area was needed for the back of the van.

The only place left around there was the celling. I made a triangular pouch with the mesh fabric and screwed it to the celling. I used a piece of small rope across witch I sewed to the mesh before I installed it just for the extra strength.

stacking wire mesh boxes on top of cabinet with hair product bottles strapped to it.

Kitchen storage in an Astro Van conversion

As well as clothes, there were other things we wanted better and quicker access to, such as pans and pots for cooking. I used some stacking baskets from the Dollar store which I zip-tied together instead of using the cheap plastic corner it came with and then zip-tied the basket to the desk. I just love Zip-ties, they’re so quick, easy and hassle free.

One more thing I just love (and did not think would work but it does) are the no nails hooks. They work brilliantly and they are really fast to install.

They can be a bit pricey but they are just so easy it’s worth the extra dollars. I installed a few all around the van because we work on flashlights at night and it’s a really convenient way to have them handy.

Back door storage

One big issue that has been bothering me for a while was how to carry an extra gas tank. I had found nice expensive hitch add on. But a couple of weeks ago I got this idea from an awesome couple who lived over two years in an Astro van conversion.

I thought it was just so simple but so brilliant I had to add it to my van too. Two U-bolts installed on the back doors and a strap will give me the extra space to have water, gas and maybe some gear outside the van for the longer trips.

Lower part of a blue back door of chevrolet astrovan  with four U-shape bolt at each corner

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Paul Thompson

Wednesday 9th of March 2022

Just from these photos alone, we can see that you're missing out on more space. If you're going to be spending a lot of time in this van, add more room by removing the interior panels from the walls, add some kind of insulation and attach paneling. It's not a lot of room, but it feels bigger after doing so. Other things you can do to make life easier is to find a fabricator to attach auxiliary battery boxes in the unused spaces under the van. A hitch setup opens the way for attached accessories like a grill and many other things like a hammock or any number of hitch attachments. If you haven't already, there are some great roof rack ideas out there for these little wander wonders. The Astro is a great platform to work with, as they've been around long enough that van lifers have had plenty of time to come up with a plethora of ways to make your van feel like home.


Thursday 10th of March 2022

Thanks for sharing your thoughts Paul! We could not use a roof rack as we had a canoe on the top of our Astro. We agree, the Astro is a great platform to work with - we travelled in this Astro for years (this post is from 2014). I still miss the AWD!


Thursday 5th of March 2015

Over the years I have spent many first nights of a trip sleeping in the family Odyssey mini-van, I have done nothing other than build a small platform for the bed (I take out all three mid-seats and leave them at home) to get a flat space, and allow my camping and boating gear to easily store underneath in boxes and duffles. I ran across a fellow who had picked up a slightly used Sprinter Van, the (dielsel and long wheelbase) one and he was going to turn it into a home on wheels for several summers worth of travelling for he and his wife (and camping gear for the g'kids) ... this has been my #1 bucket list wish for several years and it was the neatest thing to see someone moving ahead on the same project. Imagine the standup space, the MPG on the road (he said 24 mpg on the highway at 65mph....! This is what keeps me dreaming at night!


Friday 6th of March 2015

We've considered having a Sprinter van, I think it would be the ideal size. It's the price we have trouble with! 24MPG would be awesome, we struggle for around 14MPG with the canoe on top.


Thursday 2nd of October 2014

Hello, Thanks for your inspiring posts. I was wondering if you were happy with your AWD Astro van - the cost for repairs & maintenance, leaving you stranded, etc.

Happy journeys :)



Tuesday 21st of October 2014

Hi there! Thanks for your comment. Despite a few issues here and there, we are happy with our Astro. Every 20 year old vehicle is bound to have some kind of issues after all! Astros are known for developing transmission problems, but we haven't had any so far (two and half years in). The main issue we have had is the engine revving up and down on startup, suggesting that the oxygen levels were messed up. We eventually found out that this was because of a problem with the manifold's seal, due to a dirty gas tank. We had some more revving up and down in the summer, when we were driving the Dempster Highway (Yukon/NWT), but were on an exceptionally dirty road and changing all the fluids seemed to do the trick. No problems since June, and we've driven a lot in that time (10,000km since).

Maintenance is relatively cheap and easy to do, we try and change the oil every 5,000km or so with it being so old. Repairs-wise, aside from the above dirty gas tank issue (which did cost a lot to find and fix) it hasn't been so bad. The gas pump died on us last year at a really awkward time (on an island, with no parts shops around) but that was just unlucky.

I hope I helped with your questions!