21 best camper upgrades for an older motorhome

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What we talk about in this article

Have you, just like us, bought an older motorhome in order to get the top quality gear that manufacturers no longer build these days? We experienced first-hand that new motorhomes are actually quite horrible when it comes to quality, so, we got an old motorhome. But, with that also comes the older, outdates equipment. That why a few camper upgrades are necessary!

We compiled a list of interesting motorhome upgrades. Most of these, we already implemented in our camper, and some are still on our wish list. 

PS. We’re driving a 2001 Hymer B544, for reference.

Convenience motorhome upgrades

I must say that ‘convenience’ is something that seemed more important in 2001 motorhomes than it does in modern ones.  We owned a brand new motorhome for 5 months and it was not convenient at all. Our 2001 Hymer is very convenient. But of course, there are always things to improve or modify to make the camper more ‘you’.

Replace the chemical toilet with a composting toilet

This was one of the most important ones for us. We had already had a Trobolo self-built toilet in our van before and we were quickly fed up by the inconvenience of a chemical toilet. 

We talk about replacing the chemical toilet with a composting toilet in our Hymer B544 in a different article. So, if you want to know the how, what, and why, continue reading there 🙂 

In this article about the best old motorhome upgrades, we keep it shorter!

Our new composting toilet - Photo taken during installation
Our new composting toilet - Photo taken during installation

Install a gravity water filter

The gravity water filter is not a new thing in our life. We already had a British Berkefeld water filter when we still lived in a house, but you can imagine that it had to come along in the camper. 

Implementing a decent gravity water filter is the best way to reduce the amount of plastic you use and recycle. 

We just fill up water at a service point. It doesn’t matter if it says ‘potable’ or ‘drinking water’, or not. We always filter our water. We just like the way it tastes when it has been filtered by our carbon filter elements.

Depending on your build and the esthetics of your van, there are a few options you can choose. 

We used to have a more boxy model which fitted our garage in the van. Now we made a space for our regular home filter, which is quite beautiful, I must say.

British Berkefeld gravity water filter in our Hymer
British Berkefeld gravity water filter in our Hymer

Optimize closet space

This one might be different for each type of camper and it will also vary, depending on your needs for closet space. We had this closet for hanging clothes, right above the heater closet. But we realized that hanging clothes was not so efficient for us, as we were missing space to put towels, bed linen, and other daily essentials.

So, we decided to get a few cheap building materials in the DIY shop and start building our own shelves.  The space is a lot more convenient now.

Optimize closet space Hymer B544
Optimize closet space Hymer B544

Install a Seekr Sirocco II 360 fan

Our old camper doesn’t have airco and that’s not a problem. We don’t like sitting in airconditioned rooms anyway. But it does get hot when temperatures are rising!

So, we got ourself 2 of these USB recharchable mini fans, which, unfortunately, broke down pretty soon. We know we had to get something a little better, and connect it to the 12V battery natively.

After a bit of research, we discovered that the Seekr Sirocco II ventilator is one of the most popular and efficient fans to use on a 12V system. Obviously, we had to order it straight away!

Get at least one Maxxfan

We already had a Maxxfan in our vanbuild before and it is just a wonderful way to get airflow in your van or camper. The new (old) camper had a few Heki skylights that had already lived through their best days, years ago. 

They didn’t open and the blackout / mosquito things were stuck. They were pretty gross as well.

We replaced the skylight in the bathroom with a brand new Heki skylight. The window in the kitchen area was replaces with a Maxxfan. We sometimes wonder if we would get an extra Maxxfan somewhere else, but we should probably test the Sirocco a little longer to see if we still need that extra hole in the roof!

Replace the old mattress

For us, this is the first thing to do when buying an older, already used, camper. We rather sleep on a clean, new mattress. We also both have some back issues, so getting a decent mattress is essential for a good night sleep in your new camper. 

We usually get a foam mattress, which can easily be cut into the right shape. And we always have spectators when we get the old mattress out, immediately start cutting into the brand new mattress we just bought. People seem to find this idea upsetting, but well, it just doesn’t fit into the dropdown Hymer bed if you don’t cut off some corners.

Get your own, new mattress
Get your own, new mattress

Power saving upgrades for your old motorhome

After adding these essentials to make your van more convenient, it’s time to start thinking about the power consumption. While our Hymer might have been a state-of-the-art vehicle 20 years ago, today we have a few upgrades to save energy and require less electric hookups with our oldie.

Replace all light bulbs with LED light

If you fancy knowing the details, you can check the power consumption for your current light bulbs. But even without checking, it’s pretty certain that they consume a lot more than new LED lights.

We had a little bit of a struggle removing all the caps and covers, but after that, we replaced all of our bulbs with the low consumption LED lights.

This way, on long winter evenings, we can use all of our lights, without consuming too much energy.

Install solar panels on the roof

Our 2001 Hymer didn’t come with solar panels on the roof. But we do want te be able to park off grid for a few days in a row. We had 2x 170W solar panels installed on the roof and even when it rains a few days in a row, we still don’t need to hook up our electric.

Needless to say, we’re very happy with our solar upgrade.

Get a LifePo battery

This one is a no-brainer. Our Hymer had a pre-installed camper battery, but we didn’t know how old it was (I’m guessing little over 20 years) and we also didn’t know how much power it had. 

I can imagine that, if you only take out the camper for weekends or trips to a camping with electric hookup, that it doesn’t matter that much. But we wanted to live full time in this camper: live, work, and travel. So, we needed the really good stuff. And LifePo lithium batteries are really good. 

They’re lightweight, compared to others, and they hold their value for a very long time. They are, however, more expensive than some other options available. But we were really drawn to the fact that you can use them for 100% and they lasts for thousands of cycles.

We decided on a 220 Ah LifePo4 battery to go with our solar panels, but you can select a different volume

Small pressure lights for closets

Small and easy upgrade, but so convenient!

Install push lights in closets or other places that don’t get enough light. They’re super convenient in overhead closets, in storage space underneath benches, or at the side of you bed for nighttime bathroom visits.

They’re very cheap to get and easy to install, as they don’t need 12V.

Of course, if you want to go all the way, you could also get 12V lights that go on when you open the closet or something similar. You can take this as far as you want!

Connectivity upgrades for your camper

For us, a decent internet connection is vital. And it’s not just for binge watching. As we both work online, in a freelance job and on the website you’re reading right now, we need a steady internet connection most of the time. 

And there are a few options to choose from. 

You could get Starlink and be connected, even in remote parts of the world. For us, this did not seem te be the perfect solution just yet, because of the high 220V energy consumption (and some other reasons).

So, we opted for this one:

Install a Mifi device

A MiFi device is a mobile hotspot where you add a SIM card, just like in your mobile phone. The device then produces a Wifi signal which all of your devices can connect to. Of course, you can add a password. This way, your neighbours can’t log into your network.

There’s a few options when it comes to SIM cards. 

At this time, we use a Belgian SIM card, as we have finally found a Belgian provider which offers enough data within the EU.

We recently upgraded to the Netgear Nighthawk M1, which is a really good device which fits our needs perfectly.

Our Netgear Nighthawk lives in a crevice near the couch

Safety camper upgrades

Safety is important when travelling or living in a campervan. Both driving safety as the safety of yourself and your possessions when parked up somewhere should be considered. 

We added a few things here and there to upgrade our safety standards.

Get a reversing camera

Our Hymer B544 is around 6 meters long. It’s not particularly long, compared to most other vehicles.  But it is kinda bulky and it’s still difficult to see what is happening behind you. 

We had a reversing camera installed. The camera is not only activated when we’re in reverse, but rather showing me what happens behind me all the time. I like that feature a lot.

Dual dashcam installation

The dashcam is one of these things we struggle with for the installation, as we have the bed coming down in the front and we always close the blinds when we leave the camper somewhere unattended. So, the front window gets closed off completely.

And if you install a dashcam, we recommend getting one that also monitors the situation while parked up. That’s why I’ still considering our options. But, that being said, getting a dashcam has a lot of advantages for your safety, and maybe also for fun.

Dual dashcams not only film the road in front of you, but they also film your response in the cockpit. This gives you a complete image of what’s happening and your reaction right before, during, and after the event.

Add modern locks on your doors

The locks on our doors were not in the best shape. We only have 2 doors: one for the camper area in the back and one at the driver seat. The one at the driver seat was missing some elements and could not be unlocked from the inside. The lock in the back was in better shape, but we decided to have new locks on both doors.

Getting new and modern locks for your doors adds an extra layer of security. Whether you’re in your van at night or you’re leaving your van unattended while going on an excursion. It offers a secure feeling.

Inside security camera

We initially got our camera to monitor our dog when we’re away, but in the end, we never leave him alone in the van. So, we use the camera o check inside the van when we’re out. 

We installed the Imou Life camera. It works quite nicely. You can set it up with ‘away’ mode, so it will send you a notification if something moves inside while you’re out. This has not happenede yet, but we know it works, because we always forget to turn it off when we get back. So, the camera sees us as intruders!

How our security camera captures our van
How our security camera captures our van

Monitor tire pressure

Even tough you might have replaced the old tires with new ones, a tire pressure monitor is not an exclusive tool or luxury item. It adds an extra layer of security to your driving. 

A TPMS system includes a measuring device for each tire and a readable screen where you can see the exact pressure for each tire. If one of your tires appears to have a low pressure, you will get a signal or notification.

This system is cheaper than you might expect! Of course, you can always take this system a step further by getting a system which connects to your mobile device.

Replace the old fire extinguisher

This is a logical one which you might overlook in all the other updates you’re going through. The fire extinguisher that is present in your vehicle, might be 15 or 20 years old. You can assume that it might not do what it must do in times of need. 

Getting one or more new fire extinguishers is definitely a good idea.

Get a carbon monoxide and smoke alarm

What can happen in your brick and mortar home can just as well happen in your motorhome. A faulty heating device or a gas stove that sucks precious air out of your living space. It doesn’t matter if you have an old system or if you replaced everything with new things, there can always be an error or malfunction. 

Having a carbon monoxide alarm installed, can be a life saver. The same goes for a smoke detector. Both are extremely useful and you can’t really afford to skip either of these!

Our Carbon Monoxide safety camper upgrade

Install a tri gas alarm

Some people we met along the way have told us that you don’t need a trigas alarm, because the stories about people getting intoxicated by gas might be a hoax.

We had this installed and it makes us feel safer. 

A tri gas alarm has to be connected to the 12V system of your camper and it has the function of detecting gas in the air. The alarm will warn you when there is a gas leak from your own system, which can be butane, propane, or LPG. But, it will also warm you when it detects one of the gasses that can be used to intoxicate people inside a recreational vehicle. 

So, we turn the thing on during the night. Obviously, we never had any alarm going off so far!

The Trigas alarm as it is installed in our camper
The Trigas alarm as it is installed in our camper

Get adequate vanlife insurance

Obviously, when travelling, it’s always a good idea to have the right insurance. You will need health insurance which covers you while you’re abroad, but you might also need insurance for your vehicle, in case something happens.

We write an article about this topic, recommending the most interesting insurance policies for vanlifers, full time or recreational.

The most important camper upgrades to improve life in your RV

Obviously, all of these categories can be expanded into infinity, but we have just added the upgrades we think are worth the effort. We also take into account the price and difficulty, as we’re not that savvy with installing things.

Chances are good that we will be adding more things in the future as we spend more and more time in it. Also, travelling to different climates and places might bring up a need for different things. Although, right, now, it feels like we have everything we need to go anywhere!

We hope you get the same result by adding a few crucial DIY camper upgrades!

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