Tips & Tricks to help you plan your next adventure
Yes we've done it. Like every man and his dog (or seemingly every super hot couple we've seen on the old Insta' and their super cute dog) we've bought a van and we're in the process of converting it to a camper. And to tell you the truth; its the best damn thing we've ever done! Or at least one of the best things we've done.. We've done and seen some pretty great stuff if we do say so ourselves.
Read on to see a play by play of us decking the van out. You may soon notice that I use the terms 'us' and 'we' very loosely throughout these conversion posts. When I say "we then put in a the bed frame" what I really mean is Sean did all the work involved in putting in the bed frame and I took a couple photos. To be fair on myself I did measure some things for him... But I'm 95% sure he double checked them when I was inside the house fetching him a cool drink.
Here are some photos of what we started with and the finished product thus far! We think it's coming along a treat. If you like what you see then keep scrolling for more info on how we've done it so far!
Tell me more, tell me more. Like what kind of car?
We bought a Volkswagen Transporter Runner.
This is a SWB (short wheel base for those who much like myself had no idea that vans came in different lengths until 6 months ago) transporter with absolutely no frills... well it does have bluetooth speakers and a reversing beeper thing. It's great and the perfect shell to make a home-on-wheels in!
Now for the Juicy Details aka a very brief overview of the kitting out!
After scouring Google, Instagram, Pinterest and all of the gazillion sources we now have at our fingertips for ideas we finally decided on the layout we'd use.
The key design aspects we were after included:
- Dual purpose use - Whilst this is a sweet holiday road trip or weekend getaway mobile for us, this little beauty has to also cart around a bunch of tools and building equipment on a day to day basis for Sean's work.
- Ability to sit comfortably upright on the bed/chair (Sean is over 6' tall)
- Being able to practically use the storage space underneath.
- Be able to walk through space from driver/passenger seat to back of van easily.
- Be able to store long objects (surfboards, some longer building materials) safely within the van.
We went with a long bench down the driver side of the van with 2 lift up tops and a pull out draw underneath. This would then have a section that during the day and non sleep times would slot in and act as a back support allowing the bench to be a 'couch' and during night time this back section would drop down to make a double bed. Pictures will help explain what I'm trying to describe here so carry on reading.
Sean made the frame such that it would fit over the wheel arch. We wanted the bed high enough that we could functionally store stuff underneath it and also low enough so that when it wasn't in bed mode (more on that later) we could sit upright on it without Sean hitting his head on the ceiling.
By removing some internal panels of the van, Sean was able to sneak a few key lengths of timber into some voids within the car body. These then could act as fixing points to anchor the bed and shelf frame sturdily to the structure of car without needing to drill through the metal car body at all. Whilst most people don't really care about this (which is fair enough), our current setup is by no means final for this car's lifespan and we wanted to be able to be flexible for whatever the future might involve, i.e., kids, resale, etc.
Next up was covering the bed frame. Since we had decided to make 2 lift top boxes, this was a little more difficult than if you only wanted a solid frame with drawer underneath. Without lift top compartments you could just cover the whole top with ply and call it a day. For us it was worth the extra effort however, so that we could access things under the bed/platform easily without having to get out of the van. Perfect for those rainy nights when camping, but also practical for Sean to access his work gear (again with the dual purpose).
Instead of buying ply, we used timber floorboards to make the platform over the bed frame which were offcuts and left overs from a house Sean worked on. This was a bit more work, but we saved a little cash and resources that would have probably just ended up as firewood or in a skip.
We also decided to do some shelving/storage along the back passenger side of the van. To do this Sean again built a structure that fit over the wheel arch and was attached to the car solely via sneaking timber inside the wall panels, and fixing to said timber, kind of clamping the shelf to the car. The structure was designed so that it would have a couple of shelves and a drop down table. Again pictures will help as my carpentry wordsmith skills are weak.
On this side wall structure (which is the skeleton of our shelves) you can see there is a lip close to the top of the wheel arch. This is also on the bed frame. They're there for the second bed section (converting it from single to double) to rest on. As I stated earlier whilst not in bed mode this section slots in along the wall on the bench side to make a back rest.
The drop down bed/couch back is in 2 pieces to make it more manoeuvrable (and lighter as I have chicken arms). The leg is also attached via a hinge so that it is down when used as a bed and folded back when used as a couch back.
Next up was putting shelves, walls and the drop down table on the storage unit! We went with 3 shelves. The putting in of the shelves was pretty straight forward and doesn't really need too much of an explanation.
One of the shelves (the bottom one) we've left open with just a small lip on it to stop things falling out. When in bed mode it acts as a perfect little bed side table. The next shelf up is where the drop down table is level with. And the top shelf will have a small lip added on to it also and will be a handy storage level for food and cooking supplies.
Now for the drop down table. This was an important aspect of the design to us so that if we were to pull up somewhere in the rain we could eat and cook inside the van when necessary.
Side Note: It also acts as a great place to pop your laptop and watch a quick doco before bed if that's your thing.
A few pointers about the table:
- The table is attached to the wall unit with hinges.
- It remains closed using a latch closure, much like you'd see inside your cupboards at home!
- It is supported by rope that ties onto the shelf above the table. This keeps the table flat when open.
Whilst there is still plenty of work for us to do to reach the vans peak usefulness capacity, at this stage we're pretty close! Eventually we'll be adding a drawer under the bench that pulls out at the back, and a few other bits and pieces. But for now it's totally useable as a home for us on our weekend getaways.
Leave a Reply.
An Aussie who loves travelling, hiking, trail running and pretty much any activity you can do outdoors.