The late 60's Camping Vans brought about conversion of work vehicles, to
plush camping vans, a mini version of the larger RVs. While these types
of vans were expensive, they also offered a compact comfortable and
economical way to take a vacation. The benefits of van camping are
obvious and the downsides are few. Any campground or open area the
camper van can go is your campsite. Being easy to maneuver, quick
setup/take down, you will have more time to enjoy the outdoors. This type of camping is very popular with older couples who want to enjoy the outdoors for a weekends or for traveling.
These type of vans can be considered more than a tent but less than an RV. Built as smaller version of an RV, they are designed to make use of every square inch. The length of the van will also determine what amenities it has. Most will allow the eating area be converted into a sleeping area. Storage for food, clothes etc. will be above or below this area. If the van is long enough, it can include a toilet, sink and small refrigerator. Some vans roofs are high enough or raise to have a sleeping compartment above the drivers area.
Many people will convert a van into a camping van either permanently
or temporarily. With some planning a Homemade van can be just as nice
as a manufactured one if that is your desire.
The best van to convert is a cargo van that has no seats besides the driver and front passenger seat. These vans are usually more rugged and are more adaptable to modifications.
Some van conversions are designed similar to a Tear Drop Camper where the back end has a built in Chuck box where every thing need for fixing meals are stored. Including a pull out / drop down table for the camp stove as well as food preparation. This leaves the interior for sleeping.
The sleeping arrangements need to be just as large as you need them and no more. An inflatable air mattress can be used, but it can trap humidity and should be replaced at least once a year.
The best option would be a couple of sleeping pads that can be stored in a small space when not in use. If you are traveling a great deal, then consider building a homemade mattress frame using plastic milk crates as the base with a solid sheet of plywood on top. This provides both a sleeping surface and a storage area at the same time. With the versatility of setting camp just about anywhere you stop, it is no wonder these are the preferred small campers people look for.
If the van is large enough you can build a eating area with the table dropping down converting into a bed. Storage areas underneath the bench area to store bedding. If the van is long enough the leeping area can at the back with the eating area between the sleeping area and front seats.
When designing the conversion, you have to consider storage of food, clothing and camping equipment. These area will be under and above eating and sleeping area. One has to be creative because of space limitations.
One item that also needs to be considered are methods in blacking out windows as your temporary stopover may be in a hospital parking lot or other busy area on your way to the campground. Blacking out windows can be done at low cost using Velcro fasteners around each window frame and cardboard or other opaque material. The black-out devices need to be removed when traveling and this method is widely used.
This style of camping will require a few changes to the way camping is done. First, expect a limited amount of space for sleeping and cooking. To be practical, only carry limited amount of food that needs refrigeration and a minimum of cooking equipment.
Cooking in confined quarters should be as quick as possible. Expect that you will not always be able to cook outdoors and provisions should be made for quick meals or just settle for sandwich style meals. Once you have arrived at your campsite, then the menu can expand considerably.
A great addition to any van camping is an outdoor canopy that gives you shelter from rain and bugs, and folds up into a small compact size when traveling. A canopy with mosquito netting provides a great place to eat and relax as well.
Finally, it is also recommended to make an emergency portable toilet available as one other necessary piece of equipment. Check out our Camping Toilets page for helpful hints. Camping vans can be an economical method of camping and are versatile as well.
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