More Storage: the Vancillary Overhead Shelf

Nomad life in a van has its challenges. Storage and organization are a huge priority with limited space. Our latest point of evolution in the quest for a place for all things and all in things in their place had us eyeing the cavernous space above the Transit’s small overhead shelf. The good people at Vancillary get it. They engineered and manufacture a DIY kit for both Transit and Sprinter to take advantage of the space above the driver/passenger seats without impacting flow from front to back.

The space, before.

The Vancillary kit consists of two cleanly designed and powder-coated brackets, all the hardware you’ll need, a base pattern for the shelf, and a great instructional video (download).

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The Install

Since it is a DIY kit, you’ll need to supply the shelf materials, finish/upholstry, and tools. For our design, we used the following:

·        4′ x 8′ sheet of finish 0.5″ birch plywood (the shelf is over 50″ wide, so you’ll
unfortunately need a full sheet and have leftovers.)

·       a 6 foot long section of 2″ x 2″ section of 1/8 Aluminum angle (backstop & for

·        2 yards of Interweave marine fabric (we matched our existing van interior, lots of options available on the interwebs, expect $10-12/yard)

·        2 yards of 1/8″ closed cell upholstery foam (soften edges and provide vibration/sound dampening for shelf and gear)

·        2 spray cans of Pro Grip Contact High Strength Trim Adhesive Spray

Tools you’ll need for this include painters tape, jig saw with a finish wood blade, screwdrivers, staple gun, straight edge, drill (screw head & drill bits) and metal files (if you use any metal in your shelf).

The overall workflow is as follows: Install kit brackets between the existing overhead shelf support and the ceiling. Tape supplied pattern for shelf and backstop to the plywood and cut out. Finish shelf to desired spec (stain or painted wood finish, upholstry, etc. We opted for upholstered, so this consisted of applying adhesive, upholstery foam, and interweave marine fabric to the shelf and aluminum angle backstop. Once you have your shelf done, use kit supplied hardware to attach the shelf to brackets and the center point of existing overhead shelf.  Vancillary does provide a short video that illustrates this workflow.  

Applying foam and Interweave fabric to our shelf.

Final Thoughts

All said, with the kit and build materials, the shelf cost us about $200 and a little more than half of a day from start to finish. We are stoked with how our shelf turned out. Its a great place to stuff/stow light-weight or bulky gear such as coats, window coverings/insulation, and other gear you want quick easy access to.

Before install, we were concerned that the shelf might provide head banging opportunity as we move between the front/back of the van but it sits high enough that this turned out to be not an issue at all.  As a sweet bonus, the Vancillary shelf added quite a bit of rigidity and stabilized the bouncy and poorly supported stock plastic shelf.

For more useful goods for building your mobile mountain condo, check out our Amazon Ideas list: Van Build – Not a comprehensive list for building your van, but these little marvels are mandatory from our view.

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