How to Install a Wood Stove in a Camper Van

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Way before we actually got our camper van, one thing was absolutely clear:

It has got to have a wood stove!

With that in mind, we got ourselves a GMC Short Bus and started the build in May 2017. When planning the interior of our RV van we were not quite sure where to put the wood burning stove, and since we had a massive amount of work to do on the bus, we put our thoughts more on the really important things first.

campfire by a school bus

Seeing something in pictures on the internet and then having it actually standing in front of you are two different things. This thing is small, I mean really small and the quality and the looks of it are absolutely amazing. It was an instant love story!

Actually, the most difficult part was to get the right flue pipes, elbows and a through-deck-fitting that was payable and at the same time working for us. You can get everything at a marine supplier but it’s incredibly expensive and all together it would have more than doubled the price of our stove. After researching for quite a bit and through the great support of the German Van life community, we managed to find our stuff in England and Germany.

With the oven in hand, we moved it around in the van to find the perfect spot. For us, this is way better than playing it in theory. The rest of the installation was actually astonishingly easy as we were done in a short day of work.

Fitting the Wood Stove Through the Roof

Measuring and cutting the hole in the roof was definitely the hardest part but worked perfect (you better not make any mistakes there!)

We used a flexible Masterflash deck fitting made out of silicone based rubber which works great so far and is a great solution because of its flexibility since all elements are moving when you are on the road.

Bolted down and sealed with Dekaseal, the Masterflash should be pretty tight and waterproof. (Time will tell!)

After a lot of research on flue pipes, we decided to go for double wall insulated pipes. Concerning the creosote problem, this was also the recommendation from the wood stove manufacturer. Because of the placement of the stove in our RV, we had to use 2 elbow parts which you should avoid if possible. We were concerned about performance sacrifice because of that, but in the end, the stove works great and we rather decided on the best place for the oven inside of the bus rather than having a straight pipe.

Building the Stove Stand

The stand for the oven is made out of plywood. We built a box with a small opening so we can stack some burning wood inside and it doesn’t fall out while driving. On the outside, we attached wood panels from reclaimed apple boxes to give it a cabin look and feel. Placing the stove tools on the side wall makes them easily accessible and they look nice too.

Now the most important part. Stove Performance!

Actually, we were pretty disappointed after firing up the stove for the first time. The heat output was not quite what we expected. There is a bigger stove option (the Grizzly 2.7 cubic ft. option) suitable for spaces from 200-400 square feet. Our bus has about 120 square feet and the cubic mini is suggested for spaces between 100 and 200 square feet. Since we are on the lower end of the scale we figured that the mini will be more than plenty. Unfortunately, this was wrong. In order to get our camper van warmed up, we need to fire up the stove to the max and keep it there, which is sort of annoying because you have to take care of it about every 15 minutes depending on wood. It does not contain the heat very well either. If you stop putting wood in, the heat will last for a maximum of 30 minutes. So tough luck if you want to stay warm during the night. If you are really serious about living in your van all 4 seasons, we cannot recommend this stove. If we would buy it again? No! We definitely would get the bigger one, the Grizzly because we would have enough space for it. If you have a van or RV smaller than 100 square feet. we can highly recommend this wood stove because it just works.

To improve the performance you should get a thermoelectric stove fan to put on top. It blows the warm air in any direction you want and due to air circulation, the heat gets more distributed. Believe it or not this little fan made a huge difference. Just as important as the fan is a Carbon monoxide detector just to be on the safe side.

Why we still love this little thing? A camper van wood stove adds so much warmth to the interior and makes it super cozy. When its cold or rainy outside and you can fire up the stove is absolutely priceless. I am an open fire addict and watching the flames while listening to music, reading a book, or writing this article for you is just a dream come true for me. We want to highly encourage you to go out there and get yourself a stove. You will not regret it.

 

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