Common Van Layouts & Ideas to consider for Boondocking

If you are wanting to purchase a van—or build one out—knowing what layout is going to work best for your situation is imperative. While traditional homes can have minor adjustments made to accommodate your needs, there just isn’t that kind of forgiveness in a van built out. Let’s take a look at some popular options.

Bed Options

Most of those amazing social media photos involve people showing off their luxurious van, and the star of the show is typically a big comfy bed. When it comes to beds, there are two popular setup options.

1) Rear Dinette Conversion

This layout is incredibly popular and has some great advantages over others. But even with this there will be some things to decide. Let’s start with the pros and cons of this layout.


  • Easy access to electrical and water storage

  • It provides a great work station by day and bed by night

  • Allows for transporting of valuable outdoor equipment inside like bikes, kayaks, etc.

  • It feels very spacious—especially when the back doors are open


  • You lose permanent storage space under a fixed bed

  • Transitioning between a bed and dinette everyday can get taxing for some

  • You don’t have the luxury of a real mattress

Additional Options

You could use a Happijac bed lift. This bed lift would help you avoid the need to transition everyday of your life. But you would lose some headspace and valuable storage. Plus, they aren’t the cheapest option out there. 

2) Fixed Rear Bed

This layout is easier for a lot of people because there is a large amount of storage beneath the bed. Obviously, the higher the bed, the more storage you have. But then you might lose the ability to sit up in bed. If you are worried about storage, you might consider this option.  Let’s look at the pros and cons of this layout.


  • Easy to do yourself

  • Requires fewer moving parts in your van

  • Allows a lot of freedom in locating your electrical and water systems

  • You get to purchase a real mattress

  • Lots of storage


  • You lose a large workspace by day—which is important for a lot of van dwellers

  • Can feel more closed off

Additional Options

You could use swivel front seats to create a workstation to make up for what you lost with this bed option. 

Kitchen Location

These can be super simple or designed with a chef in mind. Let’s get down to it with these two main options.

1) Driver’s Side

If you put a kitchen on the driver’s side of the van, you could be gaining quite a bit of space because you don’t need to worry about the sliding door. If having a large kitchen in a tiny space is what you want, this might be right for you. Let’s look at a quick pros and cons list.


  • More space

  • No interference in your layout because of a van door or window

  • It looks good when you are standing outside looking in

  • Loads of storage possibilities


  • Monopolizes the side of the van where a shower might go

  • Loses the ability to have the faucet reach to outside

Additional Options

Forgo the indoor shower and you’ll be fine with this option. 

2) Passenger’s Side

If you put a kitchen on the passenger’s side of the van, you would be joining the vast majority of van owners. Your kitchen prep space will probably be smaller, but you might have a window to look out while prepping! Let’s look at a quick pros and cons list.


  • Kitchen faucet could reach outside—great for rinsing off or even showering

  • Easier access—via a rear cabinet door—for a gray water tank

  • Leaves the driver’s side open for a shower or other creature comforts

  • A window near your prep or clean up space is always a bonus


  • Smaller prep space

  • Tricky to build into the door opening—but worth it

Additional Options

Building into the door opening gives you an opportunity to extend your kitchen outside, create access to your gray tank, or even add a shelf for shampoos and soaps when you choose to use it as a shower.

Shower Location

Having an indoor shower—and private toilet—is often a deal breaker for new van dwellers. The more you want to do urban boondocking, the more this makes sense. For many couples, they couldn’t imagine not having these. For others, they manage to make it work. Here are some thoughts on a shower location.

📷 by @we_van

1) Inside Shower

It’s crazy to think you could have absolutely everything inside a van, but it is possible. Checking out unique van designs will give you a lot of inspiration for where to put your shower. But right behind the driver's seat tends to be one of the most popular locations. 


  • Shower whenever, wherever you want

  • Private toilet

  • No limits or restrictions on where you can go

  • Allows for city boondocking


  • Takes up valuable real estate

  • Can create a closed-off feeling inside

Additional Options

You can avoid having a closed-off feeling if you are willing to have a transitional space. Some van dwellers have created a box that lifts up with a shower curtain surround to help get the best of both worlds. When not in use, this box typically serves as a bench seat. 

2) Outdoor Shower

If you plan on boondocking where there aren’t a lot of people, an outdoor shower is a great idea. Another option is to wear a bathing suit while showering—but it is still pretty awkward. There are definitely some pros to an outdoor shower like saving space indoors and showering in the middle of the mountains. 


  • Showering in the middle of the mountains

  • Save space inside your van

  • No need to add more to your gray water tank

  • Cheaper, less expensive, more affordable

  • Easier to build out

  • Less moving parts


  • No private toilet space

  • Should limit you to organic soaps and shampoos

  • You’ll need to drive somewhere secluded to find a showering spot

Additional Options

There are a few locations to put an outdoor shower. The most popular is to open the rear doors of the van, put a shower curtain between them, and take a shower off the back of the van. Another option is to open the side door and use the sink faucet. Finally, you could choose to bring along a portable shower enclosure, and you could include a portable hot water heater.

More To Consider

There are always more things to think about, but these are all of the big ones you’ll need to consider when choosing a van to use for boondocking, or while planning your own van build out.