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Chevy Astro Camper Van Build: Project Overview

Chevy Astro Camper Van Build: Project Overview

Welcome to my Chevy Astro camper van build project. Here, I’ll be converting a 2000 Chevy Astro cargo van into a camper van, in just 6 weeks, with the following goals:

van life campsite in the mojave desert joshua tree at sunset



  • Off-grid capable for 7+ days
  • Cheap purchase price
  • Decent gas mileage
  • Decent off-road capability
  • Stealthy appearance
  • Media Center & workstation




Project Origins

It was around New Year’s Day 2021 when I got the idea to build a camper van. I had been watching some youtube videos about camper van build projects and living the van life, and I started thinking, this is right up my alley. I can’t stand another winter in Michigan, and a van would allow me to “live in” and explore the southwest over the winter months. I could avoid the long, cold winters and the seasonal depression that comes with 8 months of grey skies in Michigan. Essentially, I can turn a time of year I dread into a time of year I enjoy and look forward to. Yeah, this is sounding like a good plan.

At the time, I was busy editing my Basin and Range Trail video series, as well as the movie, which took several months of full-time editing. You heard me right, FULL-TIME, as in 60 hours a week. I was burned out, and watching the van build videos at the end of a 10-12 hour day of editing was all I had to look forward to. I set a hard deadline for myself, May 1st… I won’t sacrifice my summer for the Basin and Range Trail project. I was able to finish the movie, and about 90% of the series (which I later wrapped up in the fall 2021). When May 1st hit, I instantly dropped my editing and switched over the van build mode. I set myself a goal, to build a camper van by June 21st, the first day of summer. After that, I’ll hit the open road and head West, wherever life takes me.

Camper Van Conversion Step 1: Buy A Van

Before I started the van build project, or even thought about building a camper van, I already had a 2000 Chevy Astro cargo van. I bought this van in 2019 so I could haul tools and materials around to my rental houses, as well as transporting my kayak (which I did a LOT of). I bought his van for $1600 and it had 146k miles on it. There was practically nothing wrong with it, and it was in pretty good shape considering it’s age and status as a work van. The guy who owned it was in jail with a DUI, and his wife was selling it to raise money for his lawyer. His loss is my gain.

Truth be told, once I started thinking about building a camper van, I thought about selling my van and looking for an AWD version of the Astro. Had it been pre-covid, this probably would have been possible. These AWD Astro vans could be found pretty cheap, in the $3500 range for something pretty nice. But after 2020, these vans skyrocketed in price due to the face that everyone and their mother was looking to live the van life. It would have cost me $10k or more to get an AWD Astro, and I would have had to fly across the coutnry to get something that didn’t have a ton of rust. So, I settled on the van I already own, willing to sacrifice AWD to save about $8500. No-brainer, right?

Spoiler alert: 1 year alter and I am very glad I didn’t get the AWD Astro. It would have gotten worse gas mileage, and AWD is almost never needed. A good set of All Terrain tires, like the General Grabber ATX tires I bought, makes a HUGE difference, and I seldom felt like I needed more than this. I would rather have higher clearance than AWD, if given the choice.

Humble Beginnings

Before I built my camper van, this is how I would do overnight trips with it. It was very basic; I would pull the kayak out at night and sleep on the floor in the back, using my thermarest air mattress on top of my tyvek ground sheet, the same setup I use for backpacking. I had my little cooler that was good for a day or two. It got the job done, but it also made me think about ways to improve my setup. And that’s when I started watching youtube videos about camper van conversions and build projects.

My Vision For This Camper Van Build Project

chevy astro camper van conversion with tv monitor and laptop media center

This van build project was definitely subject to the phenomenon called “scope creep”. For those who are not familiar, this is where your idea starts small and simple, but grows more complicated over time. The more I researched van builds, the more I wanted out of mine. Sometimes, it’s simply a matter of being aware of what is out there, what exists on the market and what others have done, to inspire your build. After educating myself for several months leading up to my van build project, I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted out of mine.

Vehicle Capability: This is all about choosing the right vehicle for the way you want to use it. Fortunately, I happened to already own the model of van I settled on that fit my needs; small and stealthy, decent gas mileage, and decent off-road capability.

Off-Grid Capable for 7+ Days: I want to be able to take this van out anywhere and not have to go into town for a week or more. For a power system, I’ve determined that solar panels used in conjunction with a lithium battery should accomplish this goal, providing they are correctly sized for my needs. I will also need a way to store food and water for a week. Water is easy, one or two 5 gallon jugs is all I’ll need. But for food, I need a way to keep it cool. I don’t want to buy ice and deal with it melting, so I’ll look at electric coolers for my “fridge”, like the Dometic models. These can run off DC power, and with my solar panels providing a steady supply of juice throughout the day should have no problem powering one of these coolers. Food, water and power, that’s really all I need to be off-grid for a week at a time.

Workstation/Entertainment Center: I’m going to need a way to work in the van, as well as a way to entertain myself if I’m going to be living it. I envision a computer monitor mounted on a swivel arm, bolted to my shelfing. I’ll also install a swivel base for my passenger seat, so it can face the rear of the vehicle. This will be key to my workstation/entertainment center. This not only gives me a comfortable place to sit up properly, but it also makes the van feel so much bigger. I should be able to use the swivel arm to position my monitor towards the front of the vehicle, when I am facing the rear in the swivel seat. I’ll also have a board for my laptop and mouse to sit on, making it a comfortable setup for long periods of computer-ing. I’ll ultimately settle on an android TV box and portable HDD as my media center, so I don’t have to run the laptop to play movies or shows.

So that’s my plan for the Chevy Astro Adventure Van. Follow along to watch this Chevy Astro cargo van transform into the budget friendly stealth camper van of my dreams!

Watch my Chevy Astro DIY Stealth Camper Van Build Series on Youtube

**There are 20 more pages detailing every step in my camper van build. Use the links at the bottom of the page to navigate to the next page in the stealth camper van build project, or to go back to the van build index. 

DIY Stealth Camper Van Build Index | Next Van Build Post: 1 – Strip & Clean

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