Crawlspace Camper

Discussion in 'General Community Discussions' started by treesprite, Jan 22, 2020.

  1. treesprite

    treesprite
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    This might be helpful for someone else who is just a single person who can't get a real RV and doesn't want to use a tent.

    I am a tent camper. I can't afford a camper van or something I would have to have a bigger vehicle to tow. What I have is a little micro SUV, a 2018 Kia Soul.

    The last time I went camping was in October, at Blackwater Falls State Park in Davis, WV (I was there in December but stayed at the lodge). A couple days before I went, I saw some pages on the internet where various people had claimed to turn these tiny cars into campers, when in fact all they did was make the entire back of the car into a bed, which required putting both front seats down so the cars couldn't be driven without undoing the bed. Some of the bed platforms were quite elaborate and took a lot of work, but still, the insides of the cars were all bed, nowhere to put anything, and those people couldn't go anywhere without inconvenience due to driver seat being used for bed space.

    The night before my trip, I decided to make use of wood left over from building an aquarium stand. It was all kind of tossed together because I was in a hurry and just kind of seeing what I could do, but still, it turned out very useful.

    I used a 48x40" piece of plywood plus an additional foot of plywood from another bigger piece that I cut to fit the front end of the bed. The detachable piece could just be tossed in the back of the front passenger seat was needed. I had a 2x4 frame I had messed up when building it for my aq. stand, so I used that and some appropriately placed random 2x4 pieces to make a level bed platform. It didn't need to be 40" wide, so if I make a refined version, it will be about the width of a camping cot to give more other useable space. The platform was about 6" from the floor at the back of the car, and flush at the front, which makes up for the change in floor height where the seats are folded and slope upward. The back height was enough that I could still get into the cargo below the hinged cover in the cargo space of the car. I had tents and chairs and tarps in there. I had some other supplies in a roof bag. I used sleeping bags and blankets on the bed, but if I made a refined version, I would make a foam mattress since all those sleeping bags are not convenient and take up space when rolled. Even with the bed, I had plenty of space for all my stuff, and the driver seat stayed in normal position.

    The next morning, literally right before I left, I used some other wood scraps to build a table with a back ledge and legs of varied length to accommodate the variation in the height of the car floor. The table held a space heater, an electric water kettle, and a clamp desk lamp.

    I had put up a tent, but took it down the next day because the wind was so bad and there was so much rain that I was afraid the stakes would come up and the tent get blown away. While it was up the one night, I used a big tarp to connect the tent and car hatch. The space heater kept the entire setup warm even though the weather was close to freezing at night (it was snowing when I left). Of course now I know there is such a thing as an SUV tent, which has a tunnel to easily connect and disconnect the car. After taking the tent down, there was still enough time between rain to build a campfire, which with the wind burned up 2 bundles of wood in just a couple hours.

    I had stopped at the store to buy fabric for curtains, so I put those up for privacy.

    So, with the rain and cold, I spent most of my time nice and cozy sitting in my crawlspace camper. I had just enough headroom sitting on the bed platform to not get a sore neck. I played my ukulele in there, used my laptop, did some sewing, did some drawing, and worked on drawing up plans for a refined crawlspace camper that would make much better use of the space. I had hot chocolate, instant oatmeal, and ramen noodles since I had the electric water kettle. There was NO condensation in the vehicle at all, which was a concern I had due to the weather.

    I had a travel potty in the car but decided to walk to the campground bathroom, though I had water and was able to wash up in the car without getting out.

    A couple times I went over to the park lodge and hung out in the lobby in a regular chair at a table. They allow campground to use it, and they know me since I stay there a when I'm with people who won't sleep in tents.

    IMG_20191016_192529.jpg

    IMG_20191016_051234.jpg IMG_20191018_182224.jpg

    My elaborate and highly detailed draft for a refined, space-efficient version of this last-minute ghetto version is out in the car in my bin of drawing stuff, so I'll have to post it later. It includes a mini sink with a gravity and valve water faucet (I do know rudimentary plumbing and stuff, given that I'm a reef aquarist). I have measured every inch of every section and direction in the car to draw up the plans, and re-designed a few times. I used graph paper, so the plan is drawn to scale.
     
    #1 treesprite, Jan 22, 2020
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2020
  2. treesprite

    treesprite
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    The lodge rooms are a bit roomier than the car, but the beds are old so, unlike my crawlspace camper bed, they are lopsided and make my back hurt everytime I am there.

    IMG_20191216_202207.jpg
     
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  3. BankShot

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    All I gotta say is.....................WOW!!! Talk about making something out of basically nothing. Way to go treesprite, the true spirit of camping really shows. Thanks for sharing and showing what can be done with a little ingenuity and design. As paythebill would say, "You da man"...............

    BankShot.................(aka Terry)
     
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  4. treesprite

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    Should have posted pics for reference. Here's one with seats all normal position , and one of the whole little car itself:
    IMG_20190219_145125.jpg IMG_20190214_130746.jpg
     
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  5. mdcamping

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    Very resourceful!

    Mike
     
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  6. Onemoretrail

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    Wow, you have shown when there is a will there is a way. Well done, treesprite.
     
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  7. treesprite

    treesprite
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  8. treesprite

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    I re-drew this today because the other one had too many non-useful notes on it and stuff scratched out. This is drawn to scale, each square is equal 2 inches.
    IMG_20200126_014846.jpg
     
  9. treesprite

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    I've been working on making the car into a camper again. It won't match all the pages and pages of plans I drew up. This time I decided to take out my back seats. Instead of using just scrap wood thrown together, I got proper thickness wood into which I cut a few contours to match the car a little better (the piece on top of the pile is scrap, just using it underneath). I'm using PVC for framing, because I can adjust lengths for legs right there in the car at any given time.

    IMG_20200709_220113.jpg
    IMG_20200711_164156.jpg

    IMG_20200712_215940.jpg
     
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  10. treesprite

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    Here's an approximation with the shelf. I have to do some additional trimming on the length-wise piece in the corner, since my angle wasn't right. The horizontal shelf has to be able to be removed to get in and out when I use the SUV tent; it has the corners contour cut.
    IMG_20200713_163332.jpg IMG_20200713_163650.jpg IMG_20200713_163733.jpg IMG_20200713_163711.jpg

    This is the smallest electric burner I could find, shown next to the smoke detector for size reference. The thing is smaller than my phone: IMG_20200713_165620.jpg
     
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  11. treesprite

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    I finished the bed pieces, which will go on a pvc frame. It took so much work! The pieces are contoured to the car's interior. I meant to use black fabric on the outside, but what I had wasn't big enough and the only thing I already had of proper thickness was the flowered upholstery fabric.... so my car will look like grandma's house. The wood is covered by 2 layers of two different densities memory foam, then a layer of cotton batting, then the upholstery fabric. It is super comfy. Best of all, I won't have to haul a bunch of sleeping bags.

    IMG_20200716_041717.jpg IMG_20200716_041746.jpg IMG_20200716_054139.jpg IMG_20200717_001448.jpg IMG_20200717_131952.jpg
     
    #11 treesprite, Jul 18, 2020
    Last edited: Jul 18, 2020
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  12. treesprite

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    The preliminary version is with me t Blackwater Falls state park in WV. I did all the work in less than 2 weeks while still going to work full time, so I rushed and made some miscalculations, didn't bother sanding the wood (is pre-sanded, but edges are rough). I will make some adjustments later, make it better.

    IMG_20200720_042234.jpg IMG_20200720_042953.jpg IMG_20200721_025403.jpg IMG_20200721_020741.jpg IMG_20200721_021419.jpg

    My gear/junk/supplies are under the counter and bed, and some on the front pax seat. Except for cooking stuff and some food items are in the storage bin built into the counter. That bin has a flip put door on bottom which serves as a little desk top, and the top lid of it also is supposed to flip put to make more counter, but I miscalculated the corner of the lose where it is cut out to keep that corner from hitting the ceiling.

    The toilet is a thing like a tripod folding camp chair when the top part of fabric is over it. I made sure to keep a free space behind the drivers seat, so there's room for using the loo.

    IMG_20200721_121457.jpg
     
    #12 treesprite, Jul 21, 2020
    Last edited: Jul 21, 2020
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  13. treesprite

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    Something I didn't expect to be able to do, is standing up inside the car. Turns out that, aside from leaning/bending at the shoulders and head, I can stand up with my legs straight, in the space behind the front seat. I can put pants on and stretch my legs in that spot. It will help a lot to limit cramped up body when weather to too bad to go out for an extended number of hours.

    IMG_20200721_124817.jpg

    I had to take up limited space with trash, because the Blackwater Falls campground has addressed Covid-19 in part by removing all the campsite trash (also by keeping the water stations turned off). Some people were putting food garbage in the bathroom trash, as if bathroom trash isn't bad enough already.
     
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  14. mdcamping

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    You now have a cozy looking Class B Rv, like your upholstery and carpentry work! :cool:

    Mike
     
  15. treesprite

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    Thanks.

    I think along with fixing the miscalculation related issues, I'm going to make it so there is a second possible sleeping space. The flip out lid of the box, if I put a frame under it, can be the front panel of a second bed, then I will add another box and put hinged panels over those that together will create a top surface. Then someone could just throw sleeping bags on top of it if desired. It would be too high to be able to sit up on it, but the regular bed platform is like a sofa and can hold at least two people sitting. The panels would have to be such that I can.flip that front piece back over the box it's the cover for, because I still would want that small open space for the potty and to stand up (at least enough for legs to be straight for dressing and stretching). If I have to haul extra supplies though, they will have to go on the roof.
     
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  16. treesprite

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    Just wanted to point out that I already wanted to add addition storage onto the counter, that I didn't have time to add when I was rushing. The difference in plan would be in the design and construction of the top, especially in the use of the full width of the counter rather than making something that only takes half the width. I have tents that extra person could use if at a campground, but is stealth camping, if weather is too severe for a tent, or some emergency, the extra sleeping space would be useful.
     
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  17. Fitzjohnfan

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    Very impressive! I love all the work you put into it.

    Reminds me of all the ingenious people back in the 1960s who did bus conversions before production motorhomes were readily available.

    Have you thought of getting a fiberglass box for the roof to add to your storage?

    Nice work!
    Chris g.
     
  18. treesprite

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    Thanks, Chris.

    I do need to get the box for the roof. I have a cloth roof bag that I usually put things like sleeping bags, bedding, and tarps in, but it's the kind of thing that will get ripped into by humans if left my n the car, and it is not at all aerodynamic. I didn't need any of that bulky stuff since I had just me with the bed in the car.

    I'm trying to figure out how I can put a third passenger in the car. The person could lay down back there and would be safer in an accident than anyone sitting in a body-cutting seatbelt. But if I get stopped, the police will probably give me a ticket. The windows have those screens on them, and my hatch window has a dark tint, so it's hard to see in just passing, meaning I won't get stopped due to a passing police seeing the person. But if I get stopped for something the police will look in the car.

    The idea of making a way to have a second bed in the car is kind of stupid. A person can just sleep in the driver seat, though can't put it all the way back anymore, only halfway. I'm going to put a cabinet in that open counter space.

    Now that I have a better idea of how things are working out, I can put the counter thing on a wood base. I think the bed is better off on the PVC frame.
     
  19. treesprite

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    After re-measuring and re-starting plans what was probably more than a dozen times, I'm finally ready to gather materials to make a sturdy floor that is level so I can then make/use wood bases for my bed and counters (instead of PvE of various lengths), and to add a cabinet to the empty counter space. Also, very importantly, I have a design for making the bed convert to a rear passenger seat so a third person will be able to go in the car using a seat belt.

    I'll build a wood frame for under the bed. First, the front bed panel will be hinged to flip so the side (toward the center of the car, not the door) so that 1, the front pax seat can be moved back into riding place (has to be pushed forward to use bed); and 2. To expose a seat cushion underneath of it which will be inside the frame. Second, the rear bed panel will be hinged to flip forward, creating the cushioned back for the passenger seat. There will be a prop support hinged to the back of the panel, which, when in use, will be secured in place by being blocked by the rear of the bed frame, and will fold into the bed frame when bed panel is down in place for sleeping.

    This is NOT drawn to scale, but it should give a general idea for the seat conversion.
    IMG_20200806_145704.jpg

    When I put down the wood floor, I'll have a hole cut in it so the seat buckle will be exposed for use (the shoulder strap part is on the wall as normal in a car). There are a couple bolts sticking out from the car metal, so I'll drill holes in the floor for those and put bolts on them to hold the floor in place.

    The cabinet will take over the empty counter space. I will have to trim the end of it at the rear of the car to accommodate the ceiling contour. Also, unless I take out the plastic side panel in the cargo area, I'll need to cut a slot in the back of the cabinet to accommodate the ledge that is built into that plastic panel (otherwise, cabinet would have to be a few inches narrower, and I want it as wide as possible).

    I won't be able to use the under bed space for storage (it's about 6" height of space) because of putting in the seat conversion, so I thinking about finding a way to create something overhead inside of the car.
     

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