When you first get a Westy, there is so much excitement and so many things to do to make it your “home”. After 2 years of ownership, and 1 year of life on the road, these are the 5 most important things we did to our 1991 Westfalia.

Full Restoration 

There are endless guides and blogs out there about all the mechanical work you should do when you first get a Westy. Most of them start with “replace the fuel lines”. Here is the reality. You are buying a classic car, that has not been up-kept like a classic.

If your plan is full-time #vanlife you may want to consider a full restoration, or at least going over your van with a fine toothed comb. The way I looked at it was, any major breakdown on the road that could cause the van to be in a shop for several days, would be significantly more expensive than just doing it right from the beginning.

For us, it was 10 months in the Diesel Rover shop. We stripped the van down to nothing and rebuilt it back up, most of the time adding in upgraded aftermarket parts from GoWesty.

All-Terrain Kit

This one may be considered a bit of a luxury, but should be considered. GoWesty offers an amazing All-Terrain Suspension Bundle. It gives you more clearance, larger rims and more aggressive all-terrain tires. All this means more comfort driving down forest access roads to get to the ultimate free campsite.

We aren’t saying that you can’t get to these places without the kit, but that added peace of mind sure is nice. The kit also offers a few other bonuses, such as the option to add the Bigger Brake kit, a much smoother ride, both on trail and on the road thanks to the Fox shocks, and of course, the fact that is just looks absolutely awesome. The only downside is that everyone you meet is going to ask you if your Vanagon is 4WD. In which I typically respond, “do I look like I am made out of money?”

Note: 4WD Westfalia’s are out there, but in very limited quantities. They often go for a small fortune, especially if they are in great shape.

Truck Fridge

The Vanagon was a marvel of engineering when it was released in the 80’s. Everything about it was advanced and before its time. But it’s now 2017, and the old three way Dometic Fridge just isn’t going to cut it for full-time #vanlife. There are several options for upgrades now that will keep your food cold, make ice, and not empty your propane tank in a day. Two popular options are the TruckFridge TF-49 or an Engel Fridge.

Both have their pro’s and con’s. You need to determine what is best for you. The TF-49 fits into the existing fridge space, where as the Engel typically is put behind the passenger seat. The Engel is significantly more efficient, offering more insulation and less cold loss when opening. That being said, we ended up going with the TF-49 because we already had a plan for what we wanted to put behind the passenger seat (see below).

Solar Setup 

If you are full-timing, you are going to want to invest in a good solar setup, unless you plan on always camping somewhere with a hook-up (but what fun is that?). Your solar setup will consist of panels, batteries, charge controller and an inverter. There are endless options and setups out there. Trust me, I spent weeks reading all the forums before making my decision, but in the end, it came down to simplicity for me. I am no electrical engineer and Goal Zero offered a simple “plug and play” setup that meets all our power needs. The best part? Their Yeti 1250 is a beautiful and rugged “all-in-one” battery, charge controller and inverter.

The Yeti sits on the floor right behind the passenger seat and is low enough it doesn’t block the seat from swivelling and narrow enough that it doesn’t block the isle between the front seats.

We charge our Yeti 1250 via two Boulder 90 panels on the roof, that sit above the driver and passenger seats, built on a custom slider frame (by Diesel Rover) so that we can push them in for less noise on the highway, and then pull them out to clear the pop-top when we reach camp.

Note that Goal Zero now offer some of their Yeti with lithium batteries. Had they been available two years ago when I built my setup, that’s what I would have went with and if I were you, I’d definitely consider it.

Mattress Topper 

Unless you like a super firm bed (read here 25+ years old rock hard), we recommend you pick yourself up a memory foam mattress topper. Your body will thank you and you’ll be free to have all the epic adventures you want with your van. GoWesty offers up perfectly cut Mattress Toppers with covers. We love ours. We often sleep on the bottom so we got the lower bed topper. When the backseat is up, the topper folds in half and offers a great hiding spot for valuables in-between. The topper may be one of those things you consider a luxury, but when you are spending every night in your van, you might as well be comfy!

We hope this helps all the new van lifers out there as they decide how to outfit their van, and for any experienced van lifers, feel free to add in what you think is important in the comments below!


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