Van Life

My New Simple Easy Van Life Kitchen

This summer ended up being filled with minor health challenges. I’m still working on a few remnants but I think I’m over the hump and I’m looking forward to some adventures soon!

In this post, I’ll share about the kitchen update I made after moving back in to the van earlier this year.

If You’re Expecting Fancy You Won’t Find It Here

I love my van setup but it’s not fancy-schmancy. My set up is simple-dimple and was done by myself with some help from family and friends.

I share my personal stories, real life pictures and info to show that anyone wanting or needing to live this lifestyle can do so.

It’s never about they type of rig you have or how it’s set up… it’s always about the adventure!

My Previous Kitchen

I didn’t get a picture of my old kitchen before putting the new one in but I found a picture I took back in September 2016.

My old van life kitchen set up 2016.

The van sure looked clean and uncluttered back then!

My kitchen counter was a breakfast bar that I already had (from the house). I painted the legs white and it fit perfectly in the van.

The plastic drawers (underneath) stored my food, pots and pans, stove, dishes and utensils. I use velcro and double sided velcro strips to hold the drawers shut.

On top of the counter are 2 baskets and a lamp. The baskets and lamp are secured with industrial strength velcro.

To the left of the counter sits my 12 volt fridge (the grey thing on the floor).

That completes the tour of my old kitchen!

What I Didn’t Like About My Old Kitchen

I did not have a sink, running water or an easy way to dispose of my dirty water.

A dish pan served as a portable sink and I dumped the dirty water outside (when allowed). Some campgrounds and certain states have rules against dumping grey water on the ground.

The dish pan worked ok but I always seemed to knock it on the floor after draining beets or black beans. I’m sure there are wayward black beans still lurking in the crevices of the van.

Related post from January 2018: My Van Kitchen – How I Eat While Living In A Van

My New Van Life Kitchen

I’d done my research and knew what I wanted.

While visiting Nikki this past winter, she and I went to Ikea and purchased a Sunnersta mini-kitchen.

Ikea Sunnersta mini kitchen

Nikki and Misael helped me take the old kitchen out, put the Sunnersta together and into the van.

James, a friend, helped ensure the unit was secured to the van.

Behind The Tan Curtain

My 6 gallon fresh and gray water tanks are hidden behind the curtain (I purchased these tanks at Walmart).

I cut the curtain from a safe-for-me-vinyl-like table cloth and use strong magnets to attach it under the sink.

If you’re wondering what’s going on in the background with the silver stuff and scrunched up wall covering… it’s a long story. But it’s behind the sink so who cares what it looks like, right!?!

My tanks are portable which means I carry the grey (dirty) water tank to the sewer or dump station to empty and I carry the fresh water tank to the spigot to fill.

Using a black marker, I colored a black strip on each side of the grey tank so I knew which was grey vs fresh.

The Left Over Table Cloth

After cutting the curtain, there was a lot of table cloth left over. I attached the remaining table cloth to the wall behind the mini kitchen to catch my spills and splats.

It didn’t take long to know I made the right decision and I can verify that it’s easy to wipe clean!

The Sunnersta Mini-Kitchen Doesn’t Contain Everything You Need

This didn’t stop me from purchasing the kitchen but it’s important to know the kit does not come with a sink drain, drain pipe or faucet.

You also need to figure out the water supply and where the water will drain to.

The manual didn’t mention this but I also sealed around the edge of the sink.

The Sink Drain

I purchased a drain at Lowe’s and learned how to install it via YouTube.

The Drain Pipe

To drain the water from the sink drain into a grey water tank… I bought a flexible washing machine drain extension kit, This drain hose fits multiple sizes of drains so I couldn’t go wrong!

The washing machine hose was too long so I cut it to size. Even throwing part of it away, it was still cheaper than anything I found in stores.

That Goofy Looking Blue Thing Around The Hoses

In the picture above…

The tank on the left is the grey water tank. The bluish thing holding the pipe in the tank is a pool noodle.

I cut off a piece of noodle, trimmed the bottom to fit in the opening of the tank while the full-sized top part sits on the ridge (so it doesn’t fall in). I sliced the noodle open so it wraps around the hose. Then, I wrapped some electrical tape around the noodle to hold it together.

The tank on the right is the fresh water tank. The tall white cylinder thing is something I had in my collection of things I kept in case I ever needed it.

The fresh water hose fits into the cylinder and runs up to the faucet. The itty-bitty blue thing stuffed in the top of the cylinder is another piece of pool noodle (to keep the hose in place).

The Faucet

I needed a way to get the water from my fresh water tank to the faucet.

The faucet is a rechargeable electric water dispenser (the kind used for 5 gallon water jugs).

The tubing that comes with the water dispenser wasn’t long enough to reach my fresh water tank so I purchased a separate 16 foot food grade silicone tubing.

I cut the tubing to size and have plenty to spare when the tube needs to be replaced.

For my amount of usage, the faucet needs charging every week or so.

To Seal Or Not To Seal

The faucet is not sealed to the counter. I may (or may not) seal it in the future but, for now, it’s easier to plug the charger in to the back of the faucet if I can lift it up a little.

To keep the faucet from moving around, I’ve taped a magnet to the bottom of the faucet.

Water Pressure And Hot vs Cold

The water pressure is not the same as living in a house, travel trailer or RV… but it gets the job done!

I do not have hot running water nor do I want to mess with a hot water heater in the van. In the rare event that I need hot water I simply heat it on the stove.

Sunnersta Mini-Kitchen Accessories

The kitchen comes with several hooks that attach to the upper racks of the unit. They hold things like my stove lighter, hot pad, funnel and dish brush.

Additional accessories can be purchased separately from Ikea (in-store or online) or from Amazon.

I bought 2 shelfs and 3 little bucket containers. The containers work well to hold my liquid hand soap, dish soap and other things I use often.

Ikea charges for shipping but, at the time of my purchase, it was still cheaper to buy from Ikea than it was from Amazon.

Dealing With Fresh Water Tank Condensation

After filling my fresh water tank, condensation may form on the outside of the tank – especially if there’s a big difference between the water temperature and the ambient temperature of the van.

Under the tanks, I placed a pet feeding mat to catch any condensation.

The mat has slightly raised edges and it’s enough to catch the few drips that occur in the event of condensation.

The condensation dissipates once the tank water temperature evens out with the ambient air temperature of the van.

Keeping Food Safer During Hot Weather

Because the van can heat up in hotter climates… I lined my food drawers with Reflectix (purchased at Lowe’s).

I took most of the food out so you could see the Reflectix!

When it’s warm outside, I open a drawer and there’s a noticeable difference in the temperature that spills out of the drawer after opening it.

I also keep a Reflectix lined container in the back of the van with food items I’ve stocked up on.

Related Post: My Van Kitchen – How I Eat While Living In A Van

My Newest 12 Volt Fridge

A few years back, I had to replace my old fridge. I got an Alipcool 12 volt fridge that sits on a shelf between the kitchen and the foot of my bed.

The shelf is attached to the wall of the van to prevent it from moving in transit.

Alpicool 12v fridge

The fridge is held on to the shelf with L-brackets. The brackets are not drilled in to the fridge, they are drilled in to the shelf. The brackets are high enough and snug enough to keep the fridge in place.

Shelving Below The Fridge

On the shelves under the fridge are spices, oatmeal and other odds and ends in little baskets and Rubbermaid containers I found at Walmart.

On the floor under the shelf sits my big ole frying pan (it doesn’t fit in a drawer). It’s sitting on a blue, non-skid shelf liner to keep it from moving in transit. I don’t use the frying pan often but I do wash it before I use it!

The shelf was something I kept from Dad’s house. It could probably use some paint but that’s a project for another day (or year).

This concludes the tour of my new kitchen!

Parting Thoughts

This mini-kitchen may not fit well in a smaller van but it works well in my Ford Transit cargo van.

When possible, I use things I already have.

When necessary, I get creative – even it involves a pool noodle.

I’ve had my new kitchen set up for several months and I love it!

Adding the Sunnersta mini-kitchen to my van setup offers both the simplicity and functionality I need.

This is your life. Do what you love and do it often. Author Unknown.

Related Article: Non-Perishable Foods For Van Life and How To Store Them


2 thoughts on “My New Simple Easy Van Life Kitchen

  1. Nice job! You came up with some great ideas to make it all work for your needs. You are very inventive. I’m not into all the fancy stuff either. When I see how much money people spend on fixing a van it makes me laugh. Most everything in my camper is old and mostly from the house.


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