Retired engineer builds transforming, off-grid, stealth campervan

With two years and $20,000, retired winery engineer Dave Orton turned a Ford Transit into a completely off-grid van home that sleeps two, seats four, and includes a toilet, kitchen and indoor shower.

Adding 80/20 aluminum extrusions to a stripped down transit van, Orton built up a kitchen unit with two fold-out tables (one indoor, one outdoor) and bedroom/living room where all furniture can be removed to haul cargo. The toilet room converts into a shower.

Orton designed an electrical system that provides adequate power without the need for shore power or a generator to keep the house battery charged.


  1. I’m amazed! I’ve seen quite a few of these campervan conversions and this guy’s ideas are so fresh. I also love his perspective – that he came into this with “his eyes open” not needing to do things like other people had done.

  2. Nice build! Some great tips! Definitely some different and smart ideas for stealth camping. Only thing I don’t care for is shower set up. To each his own. 😉Thanks for the interview.😊

  3. With respect, the term engineer is used to loosely today. Indeed, coupling two different battery systems would not charge the second battery as efficiently as compared to a dedicated charger for each battery, but what engineer would go from alternator 12v > 110v > 12v!?😮 Just, put in a DC to DC charger controller and done!

  4. Kirsten has such great videos! There’s something to glean from every one of them! I like his bed idea of the fold down platforms to make two different sizes. It’s so quick to do. I’m not very fond of his shower idea though. That’s a lot of moving of everything. Rather than kneeling down and putting your head basically in the toilet to wash your hair, why doesn’t he wash his hair in the sink instead? Seems more comfortable and effective. Still, it works for them and that’s all that matters. I’m just grateful for the tour and the ideas!

  5. Great set up! Can tell he put a lot of thought into it. Have a Transit Connect currently, but seriously considering moving up to a full size Transit in a couple of years. So much more room!

  6. that was one of they best van builds i have ever seen, that guy should be doing van build design for sure. another great video thanks for all the videos.. safe travels nancy

  7. Hi Dave,

    With your shower, what about putting a square waterproof fabric sheet with a pipe coming out the middle (to direct the water to the drain), kind of like a funnel. Just have some clips on the corners that would attached to the middle height shelf. That way you can stand to wash your hair without worrying where the water is going. It could just roll up and be put away.

    Hope this helps. Great Van btw.

  8. First off let me say that this is 100% amazing, well planned out and although a little over engineered, one of the better layouts for HIS type of personality needs. But the level of paranoia about stealth camping is extremely over exaggerated by some deep seeded dread that comes from someone who has never done this a whole lot. In my experience, I can say, people don’t give a care if you sleep in it or not. The few people who do spot you either feel you are in serious financial need to resort to this or else give you a smile of surprise and respect if they are a fellow traveling spirit and understand or share the love of travel. Either way, I have traveled the entire continental U.S.A many times for as long as 5 consecutive months, never once did I get bothered, stopped, questioned by anyone in a negative way or in a way that seemed to attempt to prevent me from living my lifestyle choice. The polite snobbery of someone who uses the term “the way everyone else does it isn’t as good as my way” is also completely untrue. Almost every fellow traveler I encounter had something unique that I only saw on their camper and thought: Wow, I never saw that anywhere else! The point is, small living requires us to often rethink inside the box because the box is tiny. In part driven by necessity and in part creativity, I have seen many simple models of solutions approached and successfully deployed unto resolving what seemed at first to be immovable issues, many times without the use of carcinogenics such as polyiso insulation board, or toxic metals such as aluminum although I have worked at Tesla and notice that engineers will literally build anything out of 8020 t-slot aluminum erector sets. It’s light, but also weak. It’s easy to cut but the steel bolts are harder and weight distribution, compression and torsion can cause them to pry or angle jam into the malleable, softer metal of aluminum from shifting and turning in a moving vehicle which has limited shock absorption unlike a naval vessel. Their is a lot of ignorant theoretical conclusions with insufficient experimentation or testing common of engineers in his statements, who seem to have been brainwashed from early academia, by their professors and peers alike that they are the smartest and most innovative people on earth. Not all shapers, movers, builders and molders of the world smell their own farts, you needn’t worry my fellow humans. I have seen children teach me more than you have here so pipe down on the smug and celebrate your achievements with mild pride, after all, you put your electrical system facing the inside your shower system with the particular vulnerable to water switches exposed to potential water hazard. There is a small list of other failings I will let time teach you. Although spending time on your knees is probably a good way to slice down that humble pie, a sure sign that you are a progressing captain Engineer.

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