Layout Basics in a Converted Bus for Two, With Another on the Way!

We will be raising our first child in our RV. My husband and I have been living in a converted E-450 shuttle bus for the past 2 years, and I am currently 14 weeks pregnant. 

So far, the responses we have received to this news are quite mixed. The sheer mention of children in RVs is often polarizing. People innately feel opinionated on the subject matter, and then feel it is their civic duty to voice those opinions. 

On one end, we receive encouragement. People tell us how they would have loved to have done the same with their lives and kids, if they were given an opportunity to do it again. And it is in those moments that I find the people that I prefer to have in my life; those who are capable of seeing life from many angles. 

On the other end, people are infuriated at the negligence of raising a child in such an “unstable” home, and then interrogate us on the details of our life, so as to make a case against us for child protective services. Ouch. 

I mention this because I am realizing that the further along the pregnancy goes, and even well after, this phenomenon is going to continue. Strangers will continue to offer their unsolicited and often insulting advice about our lives and the life of my child. And this may in fact be the case for those who adhere to a more “traditional” form of living. We are a society that is both exceptionally private, but also pushy and meddling. 

I am currently working on squelching my anxieties about the attention our lifestyle already receives, and will continue to receive. I am working on responding with patience, neither giving in to coddling their worries that we are neglectful for our choices, but also not deliberately hostile for their stepping on my toes. 

Internal chatter aside, let’s dive into the nitty gritty about what it is going to take to go from a mildly uncomfortable, bare bones travel rig, to a fully fleshed out, baby-ready off grid camper. 

Oh, quick aside, if this is a lifestyle that you yourself are considering, please take a moment to consider your mental health, as there are hidden stressor that you can only do so much to prepare for. It is always best to exist in a state that doesn’t take these stressors on, as we are so accustomed to doing. I now must plug the incredible Headspace app - as it has been just as vital to any of the preparations that I will continue to list below. 

That said, RV living is one of the most tranquil and enlightening experiences of my life - and I wouldn’t trade the simplicity of it for the world! Now, let’s get to the deets. 

We have gone through many layout changes. When we moved in, we had a week to prepare, and no budget to work with, so making a concrete plan from the start wasn’t a luxury we could have afforded. Layout is the foundation of “van envy.” This separates the van life classes from upper and lower, and is a ladder we have been ascending for the past two years. Thank you instagram. Thank you advertising. Thank you outside opinion. 

We are careful when it comes to treading these upgrade waters. Do not be caught up with the images you will find online (and ultimately on this site). There are many nice, and pretty things in the world, but I work with the absolute essentials. That is my focus with any layout and upgrade, and it has so far worked exceptionally well. 

Beginning with the entryway, we have opted to keep our bikes indoors. It take’s up the one place we would have been able to have a wood burning stove, but having everything indoors is simply better protection for our property. 

Due to our work, we tend to find ourselves in larger cities - we’re not full time travelers just yet, but we are getting there. If we were, we may do the bikes outside, just for the extra space. 

Opposite the bikes is our entryway closet. It keeps our daily jackets, shoes, broom, towels, and toiletries for the gym. We do not have an indoor shower, and in fact have no running water at all. Haven’t had it in years, and honestly it isn’t even what I miss most about our former life. 

The entryway closet is our new favorite routine. It is excellent to come home, hang up your bike, and immediately unshed yourself of your stuff. Otherwise, you risk having it strewn about each day. Have a place to hang a coat, and toss your shoes - I’m even working on two spots for our cell phones, so that they can be out of sight and out of mind more often.  

Then we immediately enter the kitchen space. We have our 4 bolted bench seats, equipped with seatbelts for multiple travelers, a folding dining table, and opposite that is our kitchen counter. 

Our kitchen is as light weight as possible. Our rig gets about 10 miles to the gallon, so keeping weight down was a huge priority for us. We opted for a steel erector set from IKEA, and it has worked out just fine. Upgrade opportunity in the future? Sure. Is it a priority? Not at all. 

Our kitchen has a 5 gallon gray water receiver tank hooked up to the sink, and when we do dishes, we simply use the two sink system by popping up a folding silicone basin. It wastes less water than traditional hand washing methods, and is actually quite easy to get accustomed to. 

(Want to know more about what we prepare in our kitchen? Read more here!)

When we first moved in, I insisted we have a two burner stove. And, it turns out that it was a waste of space for us, though we had that for years. Reducing to a single burner doubled our countertop space, and made food preparation much easier. Everything is a trade off in 120 sq ft. 

Next to the kitchen is our cooler - which is the next item to be upgraded in our home. We have a traditional ice based cooler. A YETI 50, to be exact. And, may this be the last month of my life in which I eat out of a cooler. I couldn’t be more tired of the amount of ice that we go though, wet food, and inconsistent temperatures. 

It is also a breeding ground for bacteria, and is heavy as shit to get outside every other week to clean. I run a tight ship, so knowingly having a soggy bog inside a tiny space has always bothered me. 

We have recently invested in an electric cooler of the same capacity. It is touted to be ultra energy efficient for our solar power system, and can even make ice in the summertime. Score! Also, not at all in the affordable category, but based on my experience, it is absolutely essential to have a cleaner system for your food storage than an ice chest. 

Next to the cooler is our Goal Zero 3000 lithium power pack. It fuels our off grid abilities, and is connected to 200 watts of solar input on our roof. I will never do lead acid batteries again. They are horribly inefficient in the winter! Let me stress how useless they are when it comes to indoor temperature regulation! We had two deep cycle lead acid batteries for the past two winters, and froze our asses off. That is, until we got a propane Buddy Heater - thus negating our attempts to be entirely solar powered.

With our larger battery capacity, we are currently researching the most effective heating and cooling units available. I’ll keep you posted with what we end up with. We still have a few months before baby delivery, so getting the best setup is a huge priority. 

Under our cooler/battery begins our storage. We keep our various books, power cables, tape rolls, first aid supplies, handheld vacuum, and other kick knacks tucked away. They tend to accumulate junk, and require more attention with organization, but the tiny things are the hardest to keep nice. 

Opposite that is our clothing storage (and soon to be baby crib). Most of our storage capacity has been limited to the overhead storage space that came standard in the rig. Using this for clothing has been functional, but not at all convenient. We also have a few hanging items, but most of our clothes go in drawers, which is just the best way to keep track of everything. 

About the crib, we have not yet sorted out the most rig friendly size, functional, yadda yadda option out there. But, I can’t wait to find a lightweight, sturdy, and space friendly crib! We’re considering a pull out changing table as well, but that will be in a future post. I’ll be taking the next several months to get this area of the rig prepared, and generally post my updates to instagram @havelittle

In the furthest reach of the bus is our full sized bed. This is situated above our seasonal storage area, where we keep our winter gear, space bike parts, outdoor folding chairs and other large items. And that’s the rig! Were you able to follow all of that? It’s a fairly basic set up, and we work on simplifying as often as we can. 

We have so many upgrades planned over the next several months as we prepare for our baby, so if you have an questions, please post below and be sure to follow along with all the changes!