Van Vice Issue 96

Lionel Hatch's completed VW van




Van Vice returns to get the juice on the ultimate layout to maximise passengers and gear. Lionel Hatch of Swell Campers presents a new design that’s been getting great feedback at VW shows for its fresh and innovative layout, especially for those with more kit than sense!

WORDS – Sara Strachan


Lionel Hatch's completed VW van


Lionel is himself a kite / SUP and mountain bike fanatic, so understands how much gear we all might need. He says, “It’s all about careful design and taking into account certain priorities when planning the layout of a camper.”

The VW T5 conversion that he’s picked out ticks all the boxes as an ultimate kitesurfing camper.

So, what makes this conversion great for kiters? Firstly, this long wheel base T5 has been converted to fit two adults, two kids, a baby, four kites, twin-tip boards and all the clobber that goes along with a family on tour. “Having a long wheel base is a no brainer.” Lionel reckons. “The extra 40+ cm doesn’t seem like a lot, but in a small camper it actually translates into loads more storage space. Don’t be worried about parking issues, the extra room definitely outweighs any inconvenience of dealing with the additional length.”


The layout allows for six seated passengers, featuring a driver’s seat, a double swivel passenger seat and triple rear seat. The rear combi seat has been fitted further back than the standard VW factory position, giving a larger kitchen / living area for a family sharing the space in close quarters.



The backrest of the VW triple rear seat folds down, allowing access to the bespoke pull-out king size bed frame. The bed takes up the width of the van so you won’t feel cramped when it’s time to snooze. The pull out section of the bed is freestanding for minimum faff and there are no fiddly leg supports to wrestle with. Storage cubbyholes have been added under the triple bench seat with bungee cords to hold everything in place.

Above the bed there are bigger custom built overhead storage pods that look stylish and also have the bungee cords.


The all important bed

Kingsize luxury!


All your kites, inflatable paddleboards, kiteboards and camping equipment live in the ‘garage area’, accessed via the rear door. An optional extra here would be a massive pull out drawer, giving better access and, if waterproofed, would be ideal for wet wetsuits or wet kite.

Running along the side of the van the kitchen area has a slimline cupboard with lockable sliding doors, which are very handy in such a compact space. The L shaped kitchen unit then curves round behind the driver’s seat to house a 40 litre fridge with flip top lid, single gas hob with fold up top and three full-depth pull out drawers for pots, plates and condiments.



A table folds down from the side of the kitchen unit which is strong enough for kids to climb on to get into the pop top area. This also makes the perfect dining table when the double front passenger seat is swivelled round. In addition there’s a swing-out table made from an old kiteboard which can either be used as a dining table for the back seats, or it can swing outside the van for cocktails and beers after an epic kite session.

Power for the fridge and all your gadgets comes from two onboard leisure batteries that charge up whenever the engine is running. They are also topped up from two solar panels on the roof.

Fitting neatly under the drivers seat and fuelled from the van’s diesel tank is a separate heating solution that keeps the van as toasty as you like. Optional extras (that were included) are being able to control the temperature from your mobile and setting the seven day timer. You could go a step further and combine it with a water system for hot showers.

In the front of the van there are two round fixings for the baby hammock, one by the windscreen on the driver’s side and the other on the seatbelt pillar on the passenger’s side.



This camper wouldn’t be complete without a pop top roof, which doubles as a play area and the kids’ sleeping zone. The pop top is big enough to sleep two adults.

Lastly there’s a huge wind out awning; a must have for some shade and the occasional raindrop we experience here in the UK. If you’re on a campsite you can add sides to the awning to make an enclosed room.

All in all this design has enough space for a family of five to sleep comfortably whilst having all the kit for a European kiting adventure. It was road tested around Italy and has just had a couple of minor improvements since the hardcore road testing.




Words: Lionel

You don’t need to have a wicked camper like this to enjoy one of the best after-session pleasures: a hot shower! Take a 25 litre water drum, a gorilla bucket, a length of garden hose, a shower-style head from a garden watering can, a 12v water pump with a cigarette socket and some gaffer tape.

Fill the drum with hot water from the bath before leaving the house and then wrap it with old wetsuits / changing robes to keep the heat in while you’re kiting. When you come back to the van, hook up your shower head, drop the hose and pump into the drum, stand in your gorilla bucket and voila: you’re all set with a make-shift power shower!

A friend Charlie and I smashed out a downwinder from Worthing to Shoreham for the first Wildlife festival. It was a super hot day, so finishing the session off standing in a bucket with a big bottle off Leffe each, while having a proper shower, was great banter. I’m not sure whether Charlie was more excited about the kiting, the shower, the ice cold beer or the epic festival that was just a short walk from the van. All in all we had a blinder.


Swell Campers are a Sussex based camper conversion company in the UK. Particular about all aspects of design, hit Lionel up for your own conversion quote:


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