For a road trip, I need a steed.
A camper van would be ideal – compact enough to park anywhere, but with a bed, kitchen and bathroom for comfort. This is a nice US model, or this from Canada. But neither company has offered to give me one yet, to parade across the US, and it’s time to go! So my trusty RAV-4 gets the nod.
It’s dependable, with 4WD to get me in and out of trouble, and the rear seats fold flat to make a bed. I’ve slept in it a number of times, but only for a night or two while on the way somewhere. How will it be for weeks at a stretch, carrying gear for different sports and different seasons? Will it be too cramped?
To create space and add cargo capacity, I took out the rear seats and passenger seat, plus added a roof-top container. This is how it looked once empty. The seats will be stored in my 10×15-ft storage locker, along with my other belongings.
- First: vacuum and shampoo the carpets.
- Second: put in flooring.
- Third: put a bed on the passenger side, and a cooler behind the driver seat.
My mechanic friend asked if I was sure about taking out the front seat, he said I might meet a cutie in Colorado and want to take her with me. I pondered that for some time, and this is the scene that kept running through my head:
“Hi, my name is Tom, I haven’t showered in days and I live out of my car. What’s your name?” … yep, the passenger seat is coming out.
Houston – it’s time to detail the car and shampoo the carpets.
The build. I bought three items to prep the car:
Three rolls of reflectix. This sturdy material can be cut with scissors to the shape of the windows, then popped into place and it keeps the car’s interior cooler and more private. In the rear windows I leave the pieces in full-time, using bits of masking tape to keep them secure. The pieces for the two front windows and windshield roll up and are stowed when not in use. Some Lowes and Home Depots have reflectix, but not all, check online first.
Cut and ready to go.
Also bought one 5×8-ft styrofoam insulation, 3/4 inch thick, that I cut into pieces to build up the floor and make it level. The styrofoam has material on both sides to hold it together, I added masking tape around the edges to keep them from crumbling.
Then added 1-inch thick sleeping pads from a sporting goods store. The material is closed-cell foam. It’s too soft to be durable, but I put harder, yoga mats and such on top of them. The pads and foam board provide lightweight insulation and good sound deadening.
Duct taped the mats together, and along the door sills. Wanted to be sure that rain, etc, could not seep underneath and let the carpet get damp.
Used extra styrofoam and reflectix for the coolers. Started with two coolers, with the idea that the smaller one would be good for fresh food and/or an extra bag of ice – but eventually got rid of it. The setup worked fine, but a few weeks in I was looking for things to jettison and got rid of one cooler and two boxes of gear.
Less is more.
On top of the padded floor (on the passenger side), were added a Thermarest mattress, two pieces of egg-shell foam, and two yoga mats. They compress, but even so it’s pretty cushy even without the air mattress on top.
Pics in New Mexico, with air mattress, then sleeping bag. There is also a down blanket for colder nights. I place it over the cooler setup during the day.
I can stop the car, literally roll over into bed and go to leep. Or turn on several LED candles, sit up in bed, lean against the boxes in the rear, and read. Food and water are on board. I need ice every few days.
My 270-hp, 5-speed, 4wd, hard-sided tent on wheels.