Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning that at no extra cost to you, we can earn a commission if you click through and purchase.
Additional disclosure: We were provided with free product from U-Pol Raptor in return for our honest review. All thoughts and opinions herein are solely of The Roamans, and we were not in any way influenced by U-Pol and/or its affiliates whatsoever.
Recently, my (Marisa) van Grizzy got a makeover, and let me tell you, it was much deserved. It’s been a while since we posted, so let’s start with a bit of an update.
Practical choices for me included letting go of a lot of aesthetic choices I made during my build and instead, creating a more functional space. For instance, I took down my moss wall and added a porthole—which is a world of difference for wind flow in the van. Another practical choice included adding more durability to the body of the van. We plan on spending 2019 trekking through a lot of desert and BLM land which means that there will be a lot of dust, dirt, rocks, and grime all up in Grizzy’s business. That’s why I made the decision to coat the van’s trim and hood in U-Pol Raptor Bed Liner.
I've seen a lot of vans painted with the Raptor bed liner and thought it was pure genius. Raptor protective coating protects against rust, corrosion salt, damp and extreme temperatures, plus it is waterproof, flexible, and helps deaden sound and vibrations. Sounds like the perfect coating for the exterior of a conversion van, right?
I'm going to be honest with you, I was scared to do it myself. A lot of people who chose U-Pol Raptor Liner had a professional apply it for them. For me, this just seemed like a very expensive endeavor. Vanessa and I were quoted in Austin, Texas upwards of $3,000 for it to be applied, which is just baffling. And not in the cards for me.
So, I embarked on the journey of applying it myself. And since the Raptor paint kits were supplied to us by U-Pol, the costs for me on this entire project were less than $50. With that said, let's go into the highlights of this paint project and some of the most critical components if you're going to apply it yourself.
1) Preparation is Critical...
If ever you've painted anything before, you know that half the battle is preparing the surface for the paint. This same rule applies for painting a conversion van. The best part about ordering the Raptor bed liner kits is that many of them have almost everything you need to prepare your surface. I began with the hood because 1) I was nervous and 2) in case it turned out like garbage, I could always just sell a kidney and replace the hood.
I began prepping the surface by using a water-based degreaser to clean off all the road grime and crap. This was the solvent I used:
Be warned...this stuff is potent. Make sure you wear a mask during the entire project because the last thing you want is a beautiful van but a ton of shit in your lungs.
After degreasing the area, I wiped it down with a cloth. Then, I took the abrasive blocks that were included in the kit and began scrubbing the heck out of the surface. You don't want to abrade down to bare metal, so don't worry about going too hard. You simply want to remove the protective paint coating on top and get the surface to resemble more of a matte, or a dull look.
Use the degreaser again after this, and then wipe clean again.
The next step for me was to tape up the areas which were not to be painted. Let me preface this by saying this step is the bane of my existence. I don't know what it is about taping up non-paintable areas, but it is just annoying to me. Maybe it's because it takes a decent amount of patience and time, or maybe it's because I can't just dive right in to the actual crux of the project. (Sigh). Regardless, don't skip this step because it makes a WORLD of difference.
After taping up the parts, you'll want to apply an adhesion promoter in order to help the bed liner adhere to the van. I've read a lot of people skipping this step, and while I considered it, I thought it was better to be safe than sorry. I'm sure that down the road when sand winds from the desert are beating against my van, I'll be glad I did.
This is the product I used:
I sprayed this on as directed and let it sit for 20 minutes before the fun officially began.
2) Follow U-Pol Raptor's Instructions Carefully
While it might seem like there are a lot of instructions being thrown at you, it's actually relatively simple to follow. I do have to say that U-Pol does a great job in breaking down what you need to do in order to get this project finished. From the preparation to the actual execution, I understood everything that was expected of me in order to get this van looking sharp.
3. Choose Your Method Of Application Wisely
There are two ways in which you can apply Raptor product: by spray gun or through the roll-on method. Spray gun requires a bit more preparation and will also need you to tape your non-paintable surfaces up waaaaay more than roll-on. However, some issues that people have faced with the roll-on method is making sure than everything comes out even. I chose the roll-on method because I wanted the project to be as simple as possible, and the good news is I think I chose right. With the roll-on application, U-Pol sends in their kits two sponge rollers, two paint trays, and gloves. Always, always wear the gloves. This stuff gets so sticky and hard to remove.
4. Go Carefully Through Each Step, But Work Fast!
During the actual application of the U-Pol Raptor bed liner, make sure to work swiftly, but efficiently. I know this sounds like a no-brainer, but let me explain. Once you add the included hardener into the actual paint liner, you have 60 minutes before everything turns to a hardened, non-applicable mess. The hardener works SO quickly that you really only have an hour to get the first coat on. The good news is, there are more than enough paint liner bottles included in each kit to get a solid two coats on, which is all I needed.
5. Fill In All The Little Cracks & Crevices
After I did my first coat, I used the rest of the product to fill in all the little cracks and crevices. I found the most effective way to do this was with these sponge brushes:
You can get a pack on Amazon by clicking above, or just visit your local dollar store. I used these sponge brushes to get into all the white spots still left, and believe it or not, I did not need another go-around after just doing it once.
6. Don't Skip The Cure Time...
Just because you're finished painting doesn't mean the job is over. You HAVE to let this paint cure properly. To the touch, it'll be dry in an hour. To be in rain, let it cure 72 hours. Ultimately, the paint may take up to a week to settle in and cure. This is absolutely essential if you don't want to muck up everything you just did.
My Honest Review...
Yes, we ended up receiving product by U-Pol Raptor in order to write a review. Yes, I will review this product and experience honestly. The bare bones of it all is that my van looks so friggin' great after this application. It really added character, durability, and texture to an otherwise regular Sprinter van. I originally was going to paint the entire van in this bed liner, but I'm so grateful I just did the hood and the trim. Aesthetically, it looks so unbelievably rugged. I am amazed. The bed liner also corrected so many rust spots I had on the lower half of the van. After prepping the surface properly, the bed liner will protect these otherwise vulnerable spots from further deterioration.
The only con I would discuss about this project is that there is a slightly uneven look in some areas of the hood. I can't necessarily blame this on the product itself, because I'm a novice painter and rolled it on. I can say that Vanessa had a professional spray hers on and it looks extremely even all around. But, I have heard that the product needs time to cure up to a week, so I'll provice an update after I have given it the proper cure time. The photos only show the product after about an hour or so.
Below of some photos of the project. All in all, it took maybe under 4 hours total to do the hood and the trim, including all the preparation. It was an afternoon well-spent and I cannot recommend this product more. If you want to add an extra layer of protection and durability to your conversion van, then U-Pol Raptor product will be your best bet.
If you have any questions or comments, leave them below!
It's been a while since we wrote and for that, we are sorry. We completely became immersed in our recent travels throughout the California coast and have some truly stunning photography to show for it. We also have some stories to share, vegan food to obsess over, and updates to our small RV Maude that we will start sharing over the next few weeks.
Thanks to our friends over at The Modern Caravan, we were officially introduced to the Mendocino area, which (sigh) we fell in love. But, we're getting a bit ahead of ourselves at this point. Let's talk about a few California RV travel destination highlights in the past month and a half...
Lee Vining, California
We met up with our friends near Yosemite National Park. We had never been throughout our travels and decided that Yosemite was something we really wanted to do. While driving through was absolutely stunning, we weren't too fond of the park itself. It was way too crowded, people were way too unkind (we're in a huge vehicle and we go the speed limit, please be kind) and not following park rules at all. We're not some brown-nosing trailheads who have to follow every park rule in order to have fun, but watching families along the riverbanks taunt and tease ducks and throw rocks and splash water at them, was not something we enjoyed. I won't get too far into the experience because I'll just get worked up, but the overall consensus: Yosemite = meeehhh but Lee Vining = YASSSS.
Lee Vining is this little town outside Yosemite with a quaint grocery offering alcohol, vegan options, firewood and basically everything we needed to live there for a week. But the best part about Lee Vining was not the grocery, or the gas stations, or the convenience of coffee shops but instead the BLM land which was free and oh-so-glorious. We had an expanse of desert at our doorstep, with mountains in the distance and Mono Lake right within eye shot. The sunsets were glorious and we could hear coyotes at night herding their pack. There was silence and solitude and scenery for days. Not to mention a $10 dump site up the road and FREE mountain spring water about 6 miles away. Here are a few photos.
Dana Point Beach, California
After leaving the desert, we ended up going to San Juan Capistrano still caravanning with our friends along the way. From the desert to the beach in just a few hours, and we were in heaven. Not only is the Dana Point State Beach a true gem, but you can park your rig right on the water's edge ALL DAY for $15. This means that from 6am-10pm, you can park your trailer, RV, van, Westie right on the beach. We did this for about a week straight and had an absolute blast. Not to mention, Marisa finally learned how to surf! For less than $25, she rented a board and a wetsuit and took to the water, and with the help of Ellen from The Modern Caravan, they taught each other how to surf. It was a life bucket list completed. Dana Point Beach will forever have our hearts for days filled with setting suns, swimming, surfing, and sunshine.
Mendocino.....where to begin? Mendocino really took our breaths away, in more ways than one. Not only is the true beauty of the area such a stunning landscape, but it was the simplicity of it all that really stuck with us. We didn't have the best experience in Fort Bragg to say the least, so Mendocino was the warm welcome we needed to revive our spirits. We happened to pull into town during the exact two hours on a Friday in which they were having their Farmer's Market, which was perfect. We stocked up on fruits and veggies and hung out with some locals. The free boondocking was in abundance, not to mention the fact that we could pull our rig into the beach recreation area during the day and hang. The water was a bit chilly for us so no surfing or swimming happened, but we did some hiking, visited Harvest Market for some vegan goodies and had a memorable, mouthwateringly good meal at Stanford Inn. We won't go into too much detail about the vegan food we ate throughout the trip because that will be a whole other post, but for real.... get ready.
If you're ever in the Fort Bragg/Mendocino area we also highly recommend Glass Beach. Being down in the sea glass and seeing all that beauty in one place was an experience in its own.
Anderson Valley, California
After leaving Mendocino (regretfully), we ended up passing through Anderson Valley unexpectedly and found wineries up the wazoo. It was really fun to stop by a handful of places, enjoy the rows upon rows of vineyards being harvested, and sip on some delicious wines. Our favorite winery to visit by far was Husch Vineyards. If ever you're passing through Anderson Valley you have to stop by for a tasting. They offer 6 complimentary tastes of their wide-ranging selection, and they all came with a story. One important tip for this particular winery is to ask for Margaret. Not only will you have yourself a blast with her wit and humor, but she sure does know her stuff.
We're currently headed south at the moment, picking up a few hidden gem spots to accommodate our small RV. In truth, the next month is filled with a lot of question marks as we wander around enjoying the potential of what autumn will bring. Stay tuned for our next post on all things vegan food, where we talk about The Butcher's Son in Berkley, Stanford Inn in Mendocino and probably the best vegan sushi spot we have ever encountered in our lives in San Francisco.
We didn't think it would be possible to get a regular house mattress into our small RV and level up the sleeping situation. Yet, we had to try. After a bout of some restless nights and terrible tossing and turning, we knew we needed something different. The RV mattress which came with Maude was a thin, very light piece of wood and maybe (?) some springs, which we layered with both a 3 inch-thick foam mattress pad and a very fluffy topper. But still, we were able to sink into the layers and find the hardness of the mattress below each and every night.
We needed something different. We needed a change. Our poor bones weren't getting enough rest and when you're on the road you totally understand and appreciate what a good night's sleep does for you. So we decided to take the plunge and replace the RV mattress. The RV mattress was connected to a few pieces of metal, which were seemingly attached to a hydraulic-type-mechanism. With just a few bolts to unhinge, we got it out with a celebratory sigh.
The problem though, is that when we tossed the mattress, we left a gaping hole in where there would be support for our bunk. There was no longer any pieces of wood to keep us upright in the bunk, and for that, we had to devise a plan. Turns out, just a few pine boards from Home Depot combined with some screws and metal supports to connect it all allowed for a makeshift bed frame to be created. Not only is it sturdy (we screwed it into the sides of the RV bunk base) but it provides a really nice structure for our new mattress.
That's right, we said it-- new mattress. A Tuft & Needle mattress at that. Never did we think that we could rip out the RV mattress and replace it with a full-size, house-intended mattress, but guess what? We did. And the results were freaking fantastic.
We have officially slept on our Tuft & Needle mattress for over a month now and we have a few exciting things to report:
One of the coolest aspects about our Tuft & Needle mattress was that it came in a box, perfectly packaged. We had heard about mattresses arriving in boxes from other fellow-travelers or through podcast commercials, and really admired how simple receiving a mattress could be. It wasn't until we received our Tuft & Needle mattress in this compact box that we really were impressed.
We can't say enough good things about Tuft & Needle. Not only has it added a huge layer of comfort to our small RV, but it also provides us with consistent sleep night-after-night no matter where we pull off to doze. We are actually excited to climb into bed and rest.
For those who are interested in checking out a Tuft & Needle mattress, you can try it out for 100 nights to see if it is a good fit. Plus, any mattress that is returned after the 100-night sleep trial is then donated to local charities and non-profits across the county. HOW COOL IS THAT?! Tuft & Needle offers one fair price always which means that there are no sales pitches or gimmicks attached. Transparency at its finest.
Please note: We were not financially compensated for this post. We received a mattress for review purposes. However, the opinions are completely our own based on our personal experiences with the product. We only choose to review products and brands that we love.
People go on road trips for lots of different reasons. Thrill seekers go to find the highest cliffs. Nature lovers go to find new camping spots and hidden natural secrets. Anthropology hobbyists go to discover the cultural heritage of America. And foodies…we go for the food. From coast to coast, this country is packed with diverse cuisine.
When it comes to vegan foodies, we’re in luck. Some of the best vegan restaurants in the world are right here in the US of A. Whether you own an RV or rent one from a site like RVshare, finding a renowned vegan restaurant is just another part of the adventure. So, if you’re planning a road trip soon and you love to eat clean, why not make a point to stop at some (or all) of these famous vegan eateries?
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