One of the features you’ll need to consider during your DIY camper van build is how you wish to prepare food. Do you eat out during your voyaging or do you prepare your own food. How often do you prepare your own food vs eating out. By answering these questions, you’ll be better able to design and build your personal cook station.
My dad’s camper van cook station consisted of a basic backpacking stove, but we’re going with more cooking power. We like to prepare our own food and enjoy the experience of cooking out of doors so we’re allocating more room to our cook station.
The cook station will be located on the Starboard side of the van, in the sliding door area. The above photo shows a curb side view of the station (with the sliding door in the open position). So, if my sliding door were open and you walked up to my coach, this is what you’ld see. Fridge on the bottom, stove slot above, drawers and pot/pans above the stove. The fridge slides out on heavy duty rollers toward the right side of this drawing (into the walk way).
This is an end view of the cook station. The fridge tray slides out this end, towards you. This whole thing will make more sense once built, but this is the basic drawing.
Meet the Engle MT17. Engle fridges draw 0.7-2.5 amps. The competition all draw 7 amps. That’s a huge difference in energy consumption. The diminutive size makes it barely adequate for two travelers. Originally, I considered a larger fridge, but quickly realized it wouldn’t fit my design. So by keeping the fridge small, it stays within the size requirements of a small van. And, this is an on-road touring van, so supplies are never far away.
This is the sliding tray that will hold the fridge. I needed a way to keep the fridge from sliding off the tray, so I cut small donut size pieces from 3/8″ okoume scrap.
I rounded the exposed corners and mocked up their location on the tray.
I then glued and stapled the donuts into position. I then re-tested using the actual fridge to make sure they were properly located. Success!! Now, when I slide the fridge out, It’ll stay in position on the tray.
My cook station design calls for face frames but I have no way of making mortis and tenon joints. After thinking through this, I decided to add a Powermatic bench top mortising tool to my work shop. Now I can build the face frames needed for this design. It does cost some money to build cool things. So, you can either pay some expert to build your van and hope he can read your mind, or order the tools you need to build it yourself. At this point in my life, I’m much more comfortable doing the later.
Choosing a stove system:
After much research and discussion, we settled on the Dometic Origo 3000 alcohol stove as the heart of the cook station.
- Alcohol stoves are not pressurized. This makes them much safer for confined cooking area.
- Alcohol doesn’t stink when spilled and quickly evaporates leaving behind zero residue.
- Unlike propane, alcohol is lighter than air, so it moves upward and away from confined areas.
- Alcohol stoves require no external hose, regulator and tank. All fuel is stored inside the stove. This makes it quicker and easier to move to a picnic bench and much smaller to store.
- Alcohol stoves are very simple and reliable. This Swedish design has been used for years on sailboats. And, if the Swedes designed it, guaranteed it’ll work.
This shows the stove in the open configuration. Notice the two stainless alcohol containers. These containers store enough alcohol to burn 4.5 hours on high. That’s a lot of cooking. The black rubber discs covering the opening prevents the evaporation of alcohol when not in use.
When opened, notice how the lid sits flush with the counter top, preventing the stove from falling backwards. This is good simple engineering folks.
The stove will store neatly in its slot in the cook station. When cooking, it’ll be placed on top of the counter top. By building a storage place for the stove, the counter top is free for other functions when we’re not cooking.
Now for the pots and pans.
We settled on the GSI Pinnacle Basecamper Large cook set. Check them out online. This system provides a ton of capability for minimal size and weight. Enough room to toss a salad in the 5L container and prepare lobster bisque in the 3L container.
This is a very small van, hence all the pieces need to be chosen with care and purposeful consideration. By keeping the pieces small and efficient, your overall size remains workable. Get the pieces too big (and it can easily happen) and you’ll be crowded and over stuffed.