We’ve got big plans for the summer, after all, it’s the last one we’ve got before we have to get jobs. The plan is a 5 or 6 week road trip to the east coast of Canada, so a van with a bed in the back will help cut costs and make logistics a little easier. Neither of us have ever done much designing or building, so we ended up spending lots of time on youtube and other blogs to get ideas.
What we want
So the van we’re using is my (Isaac) parent’s 2012 Dodge Caravan. For this reason, we can’t permanently change anything about the van, everything needs to be removable.
We just want a basic camper with a bed that converts into a couch, some storage and maybe a table. No need for a kitchen or anything as that would cost too much and likely not be possible without modifications to the van.
The other thing we wanted we wanted was use of the middle row of seats. Since Vanessa’s sister is living in Halifax without a vehicle, we want to be able to take her with us for a short time on the trip.
Overall, this makes it a bit fo a unique build.
Because of the uniqueness of the build it was a little hard at first to find other people who had done similar things (and posted it online). Luckily, there are a few people who did something quite similar to what I want that I eventually found, plus I could take ideas from builds that weren’t too similar.
The bed build that I based a lot of my plans was the conversion series by Don Wright Adventures.
In terms of the non-bed items, the channel: a very small camper van has basically the same van, and wanted to convert into a camper while still being able to use it as a van. They’ve got great videos on bug screens, window coverings and storage.
I’m really not very good at technical drawings, so instead I made a 3d model (although I’m also really bad at 3D modelling).
The left side of the image is towards the back of the van, the right side towards the front. The back (purple) panel hinges upwards so that we can access the storage under the bed easily from the rear. This is important as we will be taking out the back row of seats to use the hole for extra storage. The middle section is fixed, and the front (green) section is also hinged and folds all the way around to shorten the bed enough to be able to use the middle row of seats as well as to turn into a couch of sorts (with an added backrest).
I think we’ll just use either cardbord or foam covered with black fabric or reflective material that is friction fit into the windows. They should be fairly cheap and easy to make (I hope).
For the front, I’m going to use a curtain as outlined in this video.
I’m going to get the same mattress from this video as it’s cheap and I’m right near a Canadian Tire. Plus it’s easy to cut where required to make it fit. Then we’ll just sew up some kind of cover for it to make it like a mattress. The foam has some mixed reviews on the Canadian Tire site, some saying it doens’t last very long or that it’s not actually 4 inches thick. But I think I’ll take that risk, and if it only lasts one trip, it’s not the end of the world, and we’ll have to figure out something new afterwards
Since we’re going to be moving around in the van with shoes on, we want to protect the floor. I’m going to get a cheap rubber mat of some kind that I can cut to size for the floor so that we don’t wreck it.
This one I haven’t put too much thought into. I know what I want generally, but I don’t really have the specifics down. I want to add a second battery that charges of the alternator of the van when we’re moving, but disconnects when we stop. Then just use a 300w ish inverter to charge phones, a laptop and run our powered cooler. I also plan on bringing a charger for the battery so that if we’re at a campsite with power hookups then we can charge the battery and run our electronics off that.
I’ve been offered use of a solar panel for the trip, but I don’t know if bringing it will be worth it since it’s pretty small. The only real use I can think I’d get out of it is if we went on a backpacking trip for a few days and used it to keep the cooler running by putting it off on the roof of the van.
We’re not really planning on putting a kitchen in the van. When we need to cook, we’ll probably do so outside the van as we just won’t have enough space inside. We’ll probably put a table of some sort in the van so we can eat inside/hang out on a rainy evening.
The plan is to just slide bins underneith the bed and in the back in the hole from the seats. We’ve still get to figure out something so they don’t move around too much. Additionally, I think we’ll end up bringing our rocket box (roof-top carrier) for more storage of stuff we won’t use often, like climbing or backpacking gear.
Now we’ve got the hard part coming up, the building (although there’s not much actual building). As we slowly piece together the build, we’ll be sure to post updates.