VanCraft – the American camping dream on four wheels.

A van drives through the American prairie

Derek Mason and Nathan Doody specialize in the conversion of Sprinter vans. Their recommendation: Leave the familiar campervan trails from time to time.

Unlimited possibilities instead of nine to five.

VanCraft's story begins in tranquil Maine. There Nathan Doody and his girlfriend Mari dreamt of a life in California. In 2014, they set off across the USA: From Niagara Falls via Chicago, past the Yellow Stone geyser, the devil tower in Wyoming and across the Badlands of Dakota. Arriving in California, they settled down to look for an apartment and jobs. They bought new cars and with a heavy heart decided to sell their converted van on Craigslist. As fate would have it, their future partner Derek Mason became aware of them there. He and his girlfriend Jillian were looking for an escape from their nine to fives and were planning a trip across South America. So a converted van was just what they needed: They quit their jobs and embarked on a journey south, which would turn their lives completely upside down.

A man stands on a rock formation of the Alabama Hills, in front of him his T1 camper

VanCraft's two founders are committed to environmental protection - that is why each of their converted vans has solar panels on the roof.

Four thousand meter peaks, foreign cultures and the perfect wave.

"As soon as the journey begins, you realize that you are actually living in the land of unlimited possibilities," enthuses Derek. They started in San Diego and drived via Baja California to Mexico. Together they traveled to Guatemala, El Salvador and Belize. On their journey they surfed the perfect wave, hiked a four thousand meter peak, got to know exciting people and foreign cultures. On the way back they drove through Florida, all the way across the USA back to California. The couple shared their experiences via their Instagram channel @thevandiary.

Derek's tip for those who are longing for a longer journey:

Stay open to all possibilities and be prepared to leave the planned route. Sometimes the best experiences are the ones you didn't expect.

A couple standing besides a T1 Sprinter watching the sunset

The American landscape offers everything you need for a road trip.

After the great adventure came an existential crisis.

"Returning after living in the van for a year and having life-changing experiences is anything but easy. Your bank account is empty, no job is waiting for you and you don't know what to do with yourself." Derek decided he did not want to go back to his old life. He contacted Nathan Doody and asked him if he would like to start a joint project and VanCraft was born.

The "great American road trip" changed the lives of the two founders in this way. They pressed the reset button in their career and are now converting T1 camper vans.

A T1 Sprinter on a road in the nature

Away from the usual routes there are many unexpected things to discover.

The goal for this year: Ten converted Sprinters.

Both men share the desire to bring the passion of living in a van closer to as many people as possible. The two founded VanCraft and specialize in the sale, rental and conversion of Sprinter vans. They rebuilt their first joint Sprinter in July 2016. Derek and Nathan have been certain ever since: If you are planning a conversion, it is best to use a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter T1N produced between 2004 and 2006. Both have specialized in the model because it is exceptionally efficient and the engine offers proven fail-safe reliability. Another bonus: The engine can also be fueled with higher-sulphur fuel, as is often the case in South America. The two entrepreneurs also appreciate the spacious storage space with a height of 1.88 meters and the aesthetic design of the T1.

Derek and Nathan explain which five mistakes should be avoided at all costs when converting a Sprinter:

  1. The most common mistake for beginners is not to plan the whole conversion in advance. You should think very carefully about how the layout should look, how the technology should work and which material will be needed for it. It is essential for a perfectly functioning sanitary system to carry out each working step in the correct sequence.
  2. Many get bogged down and build too many bells and whistles in their van. Things we do not think are needed, for example, a microwave or a built-in shower. Our philosophy is: "Only what you need and nothing you don't."
  3. It is important to choose the right van for the conversion. Here, the quality has to be right even before the conversion: The best way to start is with a rust-free and mechanically healthy T1 Sprinter.
  4. Those who have no idea of craftsmanship should keep their hands off the conversion. Here it is better to ask a friend or hire a company. Otherwise, you only waste material and time on a failed DIY attempt.
  5. It is also easy to fail to find the right conversion for your own needs. Here we recommend renting a van for a short trip. This way you quickly find out which functions you can and cannot do without.
The two founders of VanCraft Derek and Nathan

Derek and Nathan share a passion for vans, camping and a relaxed lifestyle.

A T1 Sprinter in the desert

VanCraft's goal is to enable as many travelers as possible to experience the freedom of Vanlife.

A man looks out of his converted T1 camper van, with rock climbing in the background

The long wheelbase and spacious conversion offer space for four people and for all those who like it cuddly - even for up to six sleeping places.

The interior view of the upgraded T1N van

VanCraft's integrated ovens are removable. If you want to make new friends on the way, just invite them to a barbecue.

A T1 Sprinter is parking at the beach

For surf fans and all who want the sea: The converted vans from Derek and Nathan have an extra storage compartment for surfboards.

The shown conversions were carried out by independent third parties. The suppliers and conversions were not checked by Mercedes-Benz. In this respect, these illustrations do not represent an assessment of the supplier and/or conversions by Mercedes-Benz.

Photos: Vance Uribe & James Tull

More Links to explore: van-craft.com, @Instagram, @Facebook

Sprinter

Regardless of what job you have to tackle – the Sprinter will make your day-to-day tasks easier. And even if those tasks are weighty ones, together, you’ll move mountains. Thanks to a host of different variants and over 600 optional features, the Sprinter can meet a wide variety of requirements.

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