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How to Convert Your Van into a Self-Contained Campervan

BackpackerGuide.NZ

Tips to get a self-containment certification for your campervan.

For the ability to freedom camp and have all your living conveniences in one place while you’re travelling around New Zealand, it’s likely that you’ll want a self-contained campervan. However, you cannot reap the rewards of freedom camping until your vehicle is certified self-contained under the Self-Containment Standard – NZS 5465:2001. If you have a van that you want to turn into a campervan then this article will give you some top tips to convert your van into a self-contained campervan!

These self-contained campervan conversion tips apply for those with a compact van such as a Nissan Vanette or Toyota Hiace-style vans that will be able to sleep two people. For other model suggestions, see What Model of Car or Campervan to Buy for Travelling New Zealand. Follow these tips to make sure you self-containment modifications pass their self-containment inspection!

Checklist of requirements a campervan needs to be self-contained.

The tips for converting your van into a self-contained campervan go over how to make sure your van is in top shape to meet the following requirements set by the Self-Containment Standard – NZS 5465:2001.

  • Fresh water tanks – 12L per person for three days
  • A sink via a smell trap/water trap connected to a water tight sealed waste water tank
  • Grey/black waste water tank – 12L per person for three days, vented and monitored if capacity is less than the fresh water tank
  • Evacuation hose – (3m for fitted tanks) or long enough to connect to a sealed portable tank
  • A rubbish bin with a lid
  • Toilet (portable or fixed) – Needs to have a minimum of 3L per person for three days and be able to be used inside the campervan with the bed made up (for all vehicles certified/renewed after 31 May 2017).
DIY or Pay for the installation?

If you have the skills, these modifications can be done yourself. Water tanks, sinks, pipes, etc. can be purchased in hardware stores like Mitre 10 and Bunnings Warehouse. Items like a cassette toilet can be purchased from specialised motorhome/RV stores. Otherwise, we suggest employing a plumber, gasfitter or drainlayer that is registered as a self-containment certification issuing authority and/or a self-containment testing officer to install compliant systems for you. That way, they will install your water tanks and sinks to the correct requirements. Find out more about issuing authorities and testing officers in How to Get Your Campervan Certified Self-Contained.

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Tips for installing a Fresh Water Tank and Grey waste water tank

Most vans are converted into a 2-berth campervan by having a double bed, a driver seat and a passenger seat. To meet the requirements for the self-containment certification for a 2-berth campervan you will need one 25 litre fresh water tank and one 25l waste water tank. That’s 12 litres in each tank for each person for up to three days.

Fresh Water Tank

Use a 25 litre narrow opaque plastic can/cannister as your fresh water tank. The fresh tank needs an opaque supply pipe to the sink and a vent. The fresh water tank with a tap can also be stored above the sink with the tap above the sink.

Grey Water Tank

The grey water should drain from the sink to a through a looped hose water trap and into one 25 litre opaque plastic can/cannister used for grey waste water. The hose needs to be water tight and leak-proof. Additionally, a 6mm vent pipe needs to be fitted to your waste water tank that rises above the bottom of the sink and terminates at the exterior of the van.

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Where to Store the water tanks?

In order to pass a self-certification inspection, both water tanks need to be secure for when the vehicle is in motion. They can be stored in a secure cupboard or secured with a removable bungy cord. Additionally, they need to be easily accessible for emptying and filling without spillage. You must be able to store the connecting hose and vent in a separate locker, container or sealable plastic bag for when they are disconnected from the tank. Most vans store tanks under the sink or the freshwater tank can sometimes be above the sink.

Does you tank in a gauge?

If the level of the water can be seen through the tank then the tank does not require a gauge to measure the water level.

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Tips for installing a toilet in a campervan

Because most 2-berth campervans are pretty small, the easiest option to utilise your space is to use a cassette toilet or portable toilet, rather than a fixed toilet. However, one of the recent additions to the Self-Containment Standard – NZS 5465:2001 is that the toilet needs to be able to be used inside the campervan with the bed made up.

First, the toilet needs to be secure in the vehicle for minimal movement for when the vehicle is in motion. The toilet then needs to be readily accessible for use within the campervan with plenty of head, legs and elbow room, even with the bed made up.

Remember, the toilet needs to have a capacity of 3l per person for three days, so that’s 6l minimum in a 2-berth campervan.

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Other requirements for a self-contained campervan

Two items not mentioned above, but is listed in the requirements needed to certify a self-contained vehicle is the evacuation hose and the rubbish bin.

Evacuation Hose

In a small 2-berth van and by using the water tank methods that we suggest above, an evacuation hose is not required, as the water tanks are portable and can be emptied straight from the tank. However, the tanks still need to have the ability to be removed without spillage and the connecting hoses need to be stored in a sealable plastic bag, container or separate locker when disconnected from the tanks.

Rubbish Bin

You don’t need to go too fancy with this one. Just a simple rubbish bin with a lid is all you need to meet the self-containment requirement. However, we suggest you secure your rubbish bin with cords or screwed onto a cupboard door, for example. (Get creative if you have to).

Facilities for Cooking and sleeping

Although not a listed requirement for a self-containment certificate, the Self-Containment Standard – NZS 5465:2001 only allows motor caravans and caravans to be given the self-containment certification – not any other type of vehicle. In the Standard’s definition of a motor caravan or caravan, it states that a motor caravan is a “place of abode and has facilities for cooking, eating, sleeping and washing and is not a passenger vehicle.” By having some sort of cooking facilities, even if it’s just a gas cooker or portable hotplate, as well as a bed for sleeping, it shows that your van is a “place of abode” and not a passenger vehicle.

For more information on the definition of a motor caravan, see How to Get Your Campervan Certified Self-Contained.

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