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Show off your camping setup / camper / van!

RachelV

Administrator
Staff member
#1
This came up in passing in another thread and I thought it would be fun to start a thread with our camping setups.

DH and I -- finally pushed over the edge after years of talking about a better camping setup by covid and the prospect of a summer in which we couldn't really DO anything -- bought a used minivan back in June to use as a mini #vanlife setup. I have to say, it really hits the sweet spot between being a very comfortable place to sleep and a car you don't feel ridiculous taking to the grocery store. It's just the two of us and a dog, so for camping we take out all the seats and have a bed platform in the back. The bed is just smaller than a double (and we could squeeze out a little more width with some construction ingenuity, if either of us possessed that), and there's a TON of storage under the bed and in the roof box.

Here's the beginning of building the bed platform. Doing it with metal struts vs wood makes it store really well in the garage (with the legs off it takes up very little space), plus it's pretty light and easy to take in & out.
minivan1.jpg

Done, kind of! We ended up shortening up the legs a bit for more headroom. DH is almost 6'2" and he's pretty comfy back there.
minivan2.jpg

We also... got it lifted. :rotf: It is by no means an offroad vehicle but the extra 3.5" of clearance is a game changer for getting to dispersed camping spots and trailheads.
minivan3.jpg

In action up near Bighorn Canyon this past summer. If you look closely you can tell how much room you get in the back for coolers / water jugs / etc when you take out the 3rd row seats entirely instead of just folding them flat.
minivan4.jpg

SO ANYWAYS, it's worked out really well, and I love having a vehicle that's so comfortable to camp in without having to have a dedicated trailer or much bigger van (we live in a townhouse so not a ton of storage for that kind of thing). We camped more this summer than we ever have, partially thanks to covid, but largely thanks to the van.

What are you all using to get out there?
 
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RachelV

Administrator
Staff member
#6
@SarahXC I'm so impressed! And I love that little oven... it reminds of a NYC studio apartment kitchen. :smile:

It looks like the back section converts into a bed? Can you sleep your whole fam in the van or do you pair it with a tent?

Your van looks like a very serious off-road vehicle. Did you add that suspension or did you get it like that?

Edit: I love how the top pops with the roof box on top! The more you look at your pics the more you find. :smile:
 
#13
@TNtoTaos that's an amazing build! I love the murphy bed... really surprised you don't see that more often, it's such a good use of space. Gorgeous live edge countertop, too.
Thank you -- it's been quite a project, esp since I did it by myself. I love my Murphy bed -- I just couldn't see blocking the entire back of the van with a stationary bed, and even a folding (rock 'n roll) bed means you have to stow all of the bedclothes every day -- I'm too lazy for that :becky:. I have two straps that go across the mattress to hold everything in place when I fold up the bed, so it takes about 1 minute to put it up when I'm ready to.

I also wanted the entire length of the van accessible in case I wanted to stow a kayak inside. (I've since purchased an Oru Kayak though, which folds up to suitcase-size).
 

SarahXC

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#14
@RachelV — yes, we all 4 can sleep inside. DH and I get the loft and DD 11 y.o. gets the back bed in the dinette while DD 10 y.o. goes on the seat where they ride in transit. It was important to me they have a real steel framed belted high back w/headrest seat for riding in which is somewhat unusual it seems in van builds. When we are all sleeping it is definitely a gear shuffle. Especially traveling with a violin, cello and keyboard piano in addition to the normal gear!

As for the off road capability. The guy we bought it from had already added the 8” lift and done the 4x4 conversion using a F350 front axle and transfer case. It drove kind of sketchy (two hands required!) until our mechanic did some work replacing all the shocks and a good bit of the steering system. Upgrading the steering dampener etc.

My friend who lived in NYC totally said it was bigger than her stove from her apartment. Probably most people wouldn’t use the space that way but afternoon cookies create major happiness in our family! The poptop is super nice so we can all stand up when cooking or today DDs hung out up in the top bunks while DH and I could stay below and cook eat lunch.

@TNtoTaos - love your build! We started with the same base vehicle. Fun to see the different directions. The windows were so important for me so it’s fun to see your not cargo van! How do you find the solar? That is something on my consideration list.

Photo from Wolf Creek today! 64767A78-4AC7-4B58-AEF0-A3F56D85DA0D.jpeg
 
#15
@RachelV — yes, we all 4 can sleep inside. DH and I get the loft and DD 11 y.o. gets the back bed in the dinette while DD 10 y.o. goes on the seat where they ride in transit. It was important to me they have a real steel framed belted high back w/headrest seat for riding in which is somewhat unusual it seems in van builds. When we are all sleeping it is definitely a gear shuffle. Especially traveling with a violin, cello and keyboard piano in addition to the normal gear!

As for the off road capability. The guy we bought it from had already added the 8” lift and done the 4x4 conversion using a F350 front axle and transfer case. It drove kind of sketchy (two hands required!) until our mechanic did some work replacing all the shocks and a good bit of the steering system. Upgrading the steering dampener etc.

My friend who lived in NYC totally said it was bigger than her stove from her apartment. Probably most people wouldn’t use the space that way but afternoon cookies create major happiness in our family! The poptop is super nice so we can all stand up when cooking or today DDs hung out up in the top bunks while DH and I could stay below and cook eat lunch.

@TNtoTaos - love your build! We started with the same base vehicle. Fun to see the different directions. The windows were so important for me so it’s fun to see your not cargo van! How do you find the solar? That is something on my consideration list.

Photo from Wolf Creek today! View attachment 14354
Ouch -- you guys travel with a lot of gear! Must be very cozy, lol!

I love your 4x4 conversion - would love to have that, but probably not going to happen. Did you do the pop-top yourselves, or did it come that way?

My van is actually not strictly a cargo van; it's an E350 XLT Super Duty Club Wagon (aka, a typical church van), so it has all those nice windows (which I then had to figure out a way to cover/insulate them when I don't want to look out of them).

I love my solar panels! I presently have 200 W of solar, but purposely left room to add more, if I want to. It's great for boondocking -- it kinda feels like cheating, to get free electricity :wink:
 

SarahXC

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#16
@TNtoTaos — Exactly! The newer crew type vans are a nice option with just some windows but I like the club wagon. The 1ton is great for all the stuff too. Seems a lot of van builds are pushing the max weight pretty close.

We did not do the top ourselves. Our requirements when shopping were that the 4x4 and Sportsmobile top already were done since those are seriously pricey (and honestly have a really long waiting time to even get installed too!)
 
#17
@TNtoTaos — Exactly! The newer crew type vans are a nice option with just some windows but I like the club wagon. The 1ton is great for all the stuff too. Seems a lot of van builds are pushing the max weight pretty close.

We did not do the top ourselves. Our requirements when shopping were that the 4x4 and Sportsmobile top already were done since those are seriously pricey (and honestly have a really long waiting time to even get installed too!)
Well, I see you're in NC; I'd like to get to some of the NC ski areas this season -- perhaps we can try to meet up in a parking lot and compare builds! Oh, yeah, and ski -- hahaha!
 

RachelV

Administrator
Staff member
#18
... My friend who lived in NYC totally said it was bigger than her stove from her apartment. Probably most people wouldn’t use the space that way but afternoon cookies create major happiness in our family! ...
That is so cute and also amazing. It's like Beaver Creek every day in your van (Beaver Creek staff wander around the base with free cookies at the end of the day)! You're right that I don't think I've ever seen a van with an oven but now I'm going to start keeping my eyes open. And, living in Boulder, I see A LOT of vans. ;) (If I stood up and looked out the front door I'd see... 3 decked out Sprinters? It's a little out of hand honestly.)
 
#19
we went all in....2017 when I did my knee. Winnebago Travato K.... twin bed convert to queen, full bathroom (grey/black) solar, propane heat, generator, two burner galley w/fridge and combo microwave/convection, bike racks, tow hitch... man we love it.

While it's not a 4 season rig (very few are) we've hoped to take it skiing and dry camp. Last year, DH broke his leg. This year, covid and other issues...
 

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