While exploring the trails last summer during the pandemic of 2020, Shane and I borrowed our friend Cristian’s converted Honda Element one weekend.  Being able to park next to the trailhead, on the lake, or a spur-of-the-moment adventure spot and sleep for the night with Shane’s dog Tia sparked an interest to convert our own vehicle. So we started looking at Elements and came close to buying one.

After touring our friends Danielle, Dana, Matthew, and Jameson’s converted vans, we decided to spend the extra money and get a van.  The closer was that Dana called her van her soul mate.  The main reasons were that there is obviously a lot more room than the Element. Also, changing clothes in the van instead of outside or the front seat was one convenience we really wanted.  Plus, Tia had to sleep with us in the Element was no fun.


Camper Vans, Class B RVs, & Travel Vans | Escape Campervans



We decided on the Dodge Promaster because the square frame seemed like it would be easier to frame, and the fact it was wide enough to sleep side to side, instead of front to back like the Ford Transit cargo van. However, Shane insisted on spending even more on a high roof.  Both Dana and Danielle have a Promaster 1500, but after talking to Paul Nelson, he suggested we needed the power of a 2500 cargo van.  The Dodge Promaster 2500 vans are in high demand.  We got lucky and found a 2018 Promaster with 28,000 miles in Portland on March 17 and bought it on the spot.


Vern on Surveyor’s Ridge overlooking Mt. Hood


The next thing we knew, Shane and I watched hundreds of YouTube videos on van conversions.  Neither of us is a skilled handyman, but YouTube makes it look so easy. Then reality hit us hard.  If you want to see the steps in our van conversion, see my Instagram van conversion storyboard.  As of writing this, we have the floor and bed assembled.  We also applied sound deadening and insulation.  We hope to finish the van by spring after we finish our summer and fall adventures.


FalconGuides The Falcon Guide to Van Life | REI Co-op $24.95


We realized electrical was way over our head, so Paul Nelson’s new van conversion company Trailjunkie Motors started with the electrical setup.  The main thing we needed was an exhaust fan so Tia could stay in the van during our runs.  We also wanted to have our refrigerator.  So Paul has installed a lithium battery, inverter, a fuse box, bus bars, and more. Paul put in a couple of temporary outlets to plug the Dometic refrigerator and charge our phones and other electrical appliances.  Otherwise, we have wires hanging throughout the van, waiting for our walls and ceiling to be installed. Paul positioned two 100w solar panels on the roof and a shore power battery charger to charge the battery.  He also connected the van’s battery to charge the battery while we are driving.


Goal Zero Yeti Lithium 1000X Portable Power Station | REI Co-op $1,300.00


So that’s what we’ve done to convert the van so far…

I was contemplating several names to call our van.  Somehow Shane came up with Vern, and it has stuck.  We also decided to make Vern non-binary to keep up with the times. :)

Our first adventure was taking it to Peterson Ridge Rumble in April before the electrical was put in.  Since then, Vern’s been to Smith Rock, Mt. Hood, and Timothy Lake.  Each time we get a little better about packing and storing to make each trip a little easier.


Our first night in the van at Peterson Ridge. The electrical had yet to be installed.


I can’t tell you enough about how much I love Vern!  I can’t wait until Vern is completed with the walls, outlets, and a kitchen.

If you would like to follow their adventures, check out Vern’s Instagram account.  If you see a white Promaster van with many trail running stickers, chances are it is us.  Don’t be afraid to say hello.


Someday, Vern will be finished!