Camper Conversion - Basic Layout options.

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TeeDee

Full Member
Nov 6, 2008
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I'm pondering the basic layout of the Camper conversion I'm going for - at this point its a starting point so much will be revisited and contemplated.

By basic layout I mean the general 'lay' of the design - there seems to be Three basic options ( at least to me )



Static Bed

Facing front

Side ways


Just wondering if any wheeled camper fiends have any input on what is 'best' or maybe there are Pro's and Con's that I'm not seeing ??

Once I ( we ) get to a decision on which direction I'm going to take it I will break the conversion into a rather long ( I suspect ) and potentially interesting ( or boring.. ymmv ) thread in its own right.

The vehicle does come with a large roof rack. For extra external storage.

I maybe should add that I'm not the smallest individual in the world. That may have some bearing..
 
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Van-Wild

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Feb 17, 2018
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I'd recommend answering the following questions (to yourself I mean!) Before you embark on your conversion.....

How many people will live in the van when in use?

Any of the above gonna be young children?

Expected travelling style (nomad, campsites with EHU only, day tripper, hobby specific(surfing, fishing.....)

Average length of travel in days/weeks

Is it also your daily drive?

Will you travel with pets?

Water and fuel storage

Cooking source

External space (awning tent or wind out?)

Level of comfort and sleeping space required

Roadside repair

Reason I suggest the above is because I've been a regular van traveller since 2017. First ever road trip was all over Europe in a stock VW Transporter, no insulation, no fixed cooker or water supply, only a very basic tarp awning, no fixed fridge (had 12v cool box.... travelled with 2 adults, 2 kids and a dog. It was awesome.

I slowly converted the van to a fully decked out 4 berth camper with all the bells and whistles by myself. Took me two years mind...... and I use the van as my daily drive.

Lots to consider......

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TeeDee

Full Member
Nov 6, 2008
8,513
2,131
47
Exeter
I'd recommend answering the following questions (to yourself I mean!) Before you embark on your conversion.....

How many people will live in the van when in use?

Any of the above gonna be young children?

Expected travelling style (nomad, campsites with EHU only, day tripper, hobby specific(surfing, fishing.....)

Average length of travel in days/weeks

Is it also your daily drive?

Will you travel with pets?

Water and fuel storage

Cooking source

External space (awning tent or wind out?)

Level of comfort and sleeping space required

Roadside repair

Reason I suggest the above is because I've been a regular van traveller since 2017. First ever road trip was all over Europe in a stock VW Transporter, no insulation, no fixed cooker or water supply, only a very basic tarp awning, no fixed fridge (had 12v cool box.... travelled with 2 adults, 2 kids and a dog. It was awesome.

I slowly converted the van to a fully decked out 4 berth camper with all the bells and whistles by myself. Took me two years mind...... and I use the van as my daily drive.

Lots to consider......

Sent from my SM-G970F using Tapatalk

Do you live in the Van currently?
 

oldtimer

Full Member
Sep 27, 2005
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Oxfordshire and Pyrenees-Orientales, France
We're on our third camper van (VW transporter). We had the first when our boys were of primary school age and travelled all round Europe every summer. Both our sons have had at least three camper vans of their own.

I agree absolutely with Van-Wild: you really do need to carry out the check he suggests. I suggest you visit a camper-van dealer to look at how the professional conversions are done which will help you decide on the basic layout you prefer before you start doing your own. We and our sons have different sorts of vans. Both the boys prefer larger vans with fixed beds. We would like this too but one wouldn't fit in the smaller van which we prefer. Younger son has converted several vans from scratch and elder son had an old van converted to his own specification based on his experience and changing needs - children.

You will get it wrong whatever. Our latest van is a four berth with a bed in the lifting roof. No-one has ever slept there so we wasted our money. Neither of us 80+s could climb up there anyway! Younger son moves and modifies the interior each time he gets another van and believes in flexibility and adaptability.

Personally, I think a minimalist approach is best. I hate clutter and having to contantly move things. I take the same approach as I did when backpacking: if you do without it, do so. The temptation with vans is to put too much in them. Same reasons as for not getting a big rucksack.

Good luck with the project. I wish our van had off-road capabilities.
 

Van-Wild

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Feb 17, 2018
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Personally, I think a minimalist approach is best. I hate clutter and having to contantly move things. I take the same approach as I did when backpacking: if you do without it, do so. The temptation with vans is to put too much in them. Same reasons as for not getting a big rucksack.

I wish our van had off-road capabilities.

I also go with the minimalist approach. Over the years I've found that we don't need huge wind breaks, 10 pairs of shoes, a months worth of underwear or £100 worth of food.....

What we do need is about 50ltrs of water per 3 days (for a family of 4), which in turn means we only have enough food for 3 days before resupply. (If it just me and the wife travelling we can go 7/8 days before resupply......

Fancy branded mats, cushions and the like are all useless, collect dirt and grime and invariably get in the bloody way!

Outer shirts and trousers can be worn until they're dirty.... you only need one warm layer and one waterproof jacket per person.

The most versatile foot wear(and as such the most often worn) is a pair of wellies!

Buy a dust pan and brush. Use it daily.

Normal dish cloths never dry. They stink. Buy army surplus sweat rags instead.

Hygiene? Find a discreet spot. Fill a 2 ltr Coke bottle with 2 part cold then 1 part boiling water. Stab about 8 holes in the lid and screw it on. Et voilà! Camping shower.... wet, wash, rinse. Done.

I could go on but I'll stop....

And as for off road capability, that's better related to tyre choice and driver ability rather than the drivetrain.....

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demographic

Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)
Apr 15, 2005
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I'm no campervan expert but for me as a carpenter its pretty important to have a van that can still be used as a van than something too specialized.
Well insulated makes a massive difference though. Cooler in summer, warmer in winter always helps.

Personally I have a long wheelbase Toyota Hiace with a large toolsafe just behind the bulkhead and still has enough length to be able to sleep longitudinally behind it.
Its narrower than a Transit though.
I'd rather have a tin tent than a full on converted camper for my usage and no way on earth am I having a bog in a van.
 
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TeeDee

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I'm no campervan expert but for me as a carpenter its pretty important to have a van that can still be used as a van than something too specialized.
Well insulated makes a massive difference though. Cooler in summer, warmer in winter always helps.

Personally I have a long wheelbase Toyota Hiace with a large toolsafe just behind the bulkhead and still has enough length to be able to sleep longitudinally behind it.
Its narrower than a Transit though.
I'd rather have a tin tent than a full on converted camper for my usage and no way on earth am I having a bog in a van.

We are agreed then. No bot-bot smells in the vanny-van-van.
 

billycoen

Nomad
Jan 26, 2021
327
207
north wales
One of my neighbours got himself a Berlingo,built a kitchen type unit on the drivers side,and uses the passenger side for sitting and folding bed.He sometimes takes food,cooked on an old Campingaz stove,or he will get breakfast at Asda or whatever store is handy,same for evening meal.Not bad for a gentleman in his eighties.
 
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Van-Wild

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I have a porta potti in my van when I'm travelling, especially with kids. Its an absolute essential, especially when urban camping........ and I use it for onesies and twosies. Why not? If you get the right chemicals there's literally no odour. The key is regular emptying, which is easier than you would be led to believe.

I know people who own 60k motorhomes but don't use the bathroom at all. What's the point of having it........



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Wandering Fred

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Oct 1, 2018
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Dorset
I never bothered to modify my old Delica other than removing one of the middle captains seats & adding some moveable storage boxes that fitted between the remaining mid-seat & the rear bench seat. I used one of those rectangular cookers that you get from Halfords & a few basics. All worked fine. Your van has a split rear bench seat so that & the mid seat should make a make a decent enough bed and also leave you masses of storage space for toys & equipment. As soon as you start building cookers, sinks & other gubbins, you lose a lots of versatility & space. Sleep in it, play in it & other than a side awning you may find that basic works. There is no rush.
Regarding the portaloo, they don't take up a lot of room & are not expensive or complicated. Some of the sites I camped at this year would not let you on if you did not have your own facilities. I ended up getting one for the tent to save any hassle with campsites & emptied it when I got home.
 
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oldtimer

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Madame considers the porta potti the most essential bit of kit in the van. She has point: when you're in your 80's, you'll understand! She ma de a padded cover for it so it could be an additional seat as well as disguising it.

Elder son has the same arrangement while younger son advocates bucket and chuck it.

I've noticed that throughout Europe, emptying portable loos is an exclusively male duty.
 
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Van-Wild

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Although I love my van dearly (my wife suggests I love it more than I love her....)if I were to make changes I'd remove the RnR bed and make a fixed 'bed-shelf' in its place, also removing the cupboard unit. This would give me a big enough bed inside, with a huge boot/garage underneath. It would ofcourse reduce sleeping and seating space by 2. As the children get older this may become a reality.

Whatever design @TeeDee decides upon will require some testing followed by some adjustment later on as he gets to use the van. Nothing is ever perfect I think, unless of course, your budget is limitless and its only ever you who drives and lives in it.....

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Wandering Fred

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Oct 1, 2018
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Met a guy a few years ago camped up with a VW panel van. All he had done was built a 3 foot wide by 2 foot high box on one side of the van. Comfy bed/sofa, masses of storage in the box & space for his bike & canoe by the side of it. He had been drifting around Scotland for a couple of months. When I met him, he was set up in a little cove down an old landrover track about a mile west of Loch Buie on the Isle of Mull. Fantastic location with stream & beach with views across the sea loch.

Incidently, a lot of the harbours around the Scottish coast have showers & loos, (leave a donation) that and the occasional stay at a proper campsite solved most issues.
 
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Van-Wild

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The #vanlife movement has gained popularity over the last few years. It was at its height the year before covid. It is making a resurgence now..... this is both good and bad.

I am one for free spirit, do as you wish so long as you don't impose yourself on me! I fell in love with travelling in a van about 2015 and I've travelled ever since. Every opportunity I get I'm travelling. Weekends, long weekends, every school holiday for its entirety and I savour every minute. The things I've seen and done, my kids seeing and doing the same, are memories that will last forever.

My daughter is already planning a fully nomadic lifestyle for when she flys the nest. It appears that my van is part of that plan and I will be honoured to pass it on to her when the time comes.

Without wishing the worst, if I didn't have the responsibilities that I do, I would be a full time nomad without a doubt!

This tiny island could be gotten lost in, even now, if you are up for adventure and know where to look!

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TeeDee

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Without wishing the worst, if I didn't have the responsibilities that I do, I would be a full time nomad without a doubt!


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As a question, and I appreciate that we are all different would that not make you feel in any way uneasy?

I have thought about if I would be capable of doing that - giving it all up - all I guess is the conventional western 'way' but I'm not sure I could....

Would you miss nothing? Have no fears or qualms about the future??

genuinely interested.
 

Van-Wild

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Feb 17, 2018
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As a question, and I appreciate that we are all different would that not make you feel in any way uneasy?


Would you miss nothing? Have no fears or qualms about the future??

genuinely interested.

Uneasy? Nope. Never. I got over the nerves after the first night wild camping. If you mean 'what if.......(insert problem here)' then again, no. I don't like to procrastinate over things. I look at life with a 'What is the situation?' Mindset and then when I've figured out the situation, I get to work on the solution. I don't let the unknown affect me.

Would I miss anything? If my wife and kids didn't exist, then no. I wouldn't miss the household bills, having to speak to people I dont like because my profession requires it, the grind of having to do stuff because my life now requires it..... no. I would miss nothing. If I didn't have a wife and kids I'd be off in a nanosecond. I'd sell everything, which would leave me with about 70k in the bank and I'd save that for sheltered accommodation for when I'm eventually too frail to live nomadically.

Fears or qualms about the future? None at all. I don't live in fear of stuff that hasn't happened.

But that's just me. The travelling lifestyle that I have experienced so far has only ever been absolutley positive in every way, even when it has gone wrong, and every trip leaves me wanting to delay my inevitable return to the perceived 'normal' life.....

That was a tricky question! Maybe throw me a scenario that you may be worried about and I may be able to tell you how I'd deal with it.....

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