Instructables

The MicroCamper a.k.a "Fat Berta"

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Picture of The MicroCamper a.k.a
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If you want to travel through a country on a budget and still sleep in a dry place while it rains, a small camper is perfect. However, I wanted to have a fuel efficient car that could be used as well on a daily basis. I decided to go for a used white Renault Kangoo 1.5dci mini van. It's highly fuel efficient (5.2l/100km - 45.2mpg / effective range around 1000km - 621 miles), pleasant to drive and if you take the seats out it is an astonishingly big transporter for sport or daily use.

I planned everything to be modular:
  • While camping you take the back seats out and are left with two seats and a camping mobile.
  • You can leave the back seats in the car and install the kitchen box and you have your kitchen with you if you want to go climbing with your friends.
  • Or you take both boxes out and your car is a normal mini van again.
The main goal was to build a small camper that is very fast and easy to put into a sleeping position.

I had 9 days between the end of my exams and the beginning of the road trip with my girlfriend. Not everything was finished by then, but it was enough to be used without any problems.

If you like it, feel free to vote for it in the FORT CONTEST. Every vote is highly appreciated!
 
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I saw an old Renault built like this when I was a kid and have been wanting to do one ever since. Thanks for the inspiration and the pictures. Now I can show my wife up front, how I want to go on holiday... Thanks!

dtextor (author)  inspiredwood2 days ago
Thank, that makes me happy. I'm planning to do a mayor update for a trip to sweden this summer. Regards to your women and tell her that it is really fun to travel like this! :)
azolina31 month ago

amazingly inspirational. wouldnt work for my growing family though. may need to upscale to a short bus...

great job super!

TSDMB3 months ago
Amazing!
rc jedi5 months ago
great ideas.
Tony Rimmer5 months ago
Nice work.
Very nice job..
Thanks
northwest5 months ago
Awesome!
Presley Jake6 months ago
I think Rick Grimes would be proud. This is amazing! You should keep adding to it, make it even more useful! If only I had the time to do this!
RangerJ6 months ago
This is a great project.
parisusa7 months ago
So much thought and work you both put into this! Great! Voted for you. Good Luck! Hope you enjoy more micro-trips! :)
dtextor (author)  parisusa7 months ago
Thank you! Every vote is highly welcome!!! (I'm eyeing that solar panel/battery set that one can win. Somehow a solar panel is just missing on the roof of the car! :D )
sphaera dtextor7 months ago
Well done, I like your concept! Check out my German instruction on placing a swiss solar cell on my Kangoo. You might find my fastening solution quite helpful : http://www.reise-forum.weltreiseforum.de/viewtopic.php?t=31536

Best regards, sphaera
dtextor (author)  sphaera7 months ago
I just did that. Looks like a very nice option!! However, you should really post some pictures of the solar mount / car / interior even if it's not all the way finished.
sphaera dtextor6 months ago
Alright then! Feel free to check out these pictures as my first step on documenting the highly versatile camper. Hope, you'll love it as much as I do :-)!

http://forum.mykangoo.de/index.php?id=277573

sphaera
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depotdevoid6 months ago
This is very good! I've had a similar idea, and I think you've inspired me to go forward with it. Thanks for sharing!
alhall7 months ago
Beautiful work! I love the utility. You have my vote too. Good Luck!


Back in the '60's and '70's I did several campers out of English Thames vans and also a Landrover 109. The one bit of advice that I'd second is to get a back-up battery for when the motor is off. There's a little switch with a diode in it that isolates the primary battery when the motor is off. It's always fresh for starting the car the next day and then the second battery recharges when the motor is on.

You can locate the second battery anywhere in the car and just run wires it to the switch.
dtextor (author)  alhall7 months ago
Oh, I really would like to have an old Landy! REALLY!!! (Girlfriend, if you read this...) But they drink so much that I would become poor even if I could afford one in the first place.
Secondary battery is not that much an issue for me, since I don't use many electrical devices. Cooler cools down while driving and phone is loaded when it's night. But maybe I will eventually implement one. :)
lexip dtextor7 months ago
Thanks for the thoughts on the ply, and as for Landy's, I've had a few series II's.
They are pretty clunky by today's standards, but there's something very lovable/tactile about all of them.
If it's cost of fuel you're worried about, the best thing about a Landrover is that there is sooo much space under the bonnet to up-convert to a more 'modern/cheaper' to run motor.
I had an old short wheel base Landy many years ago that would cruise on 80 mph with its different motor and changed diff ratios.
Raised a few eyebrows when it whistled and rattled past other cars (;->
dtextor (author)  lexip7 months ago
:D Very cool! But sadly even the broken Defenders are quite costly here and tinkering with the engine is legally quite nerve consuming. Maybe one day I just have to buy one! :)
alhall dtextor7 months ago
LOL. They weren't really built for fuel economy but they'd climb a wall if they could get some traction!

What I really loved about my 109 was that it was really built for safari, far from the nearest service station. With a few wrenches and screw drivers you could take the whole thing apart.

In those days I lived about 200 feet from the Pacific ocean and being made of Aluminum I didn't have to worry about rust. When the weather was nice I'd remove the roof and side windows and have a convertible.

They looked BAD ASS too, sort of the Hummer of their day.
sambajirao7 months ago
Just brilliant! I voted for you.
dtextor (author)  sambajirao7 months ago
Thank you!
TheManse7 months ago
Great Instructable on an awesome design and thoughtful implementation. Applied simplicity? Absolutely!
dtextor (author)  TheManse7 months ago
Hey, always nice to hear from South Africa! I really wish we had your climate right now. :)
dddddd7 months ago
Very attractive and well-integrated work.

An additional "coach" battery (as they are called in the US, which is a deep-cycle rechargeable battery dedicated for use for the living space) would extend the life of your engine battery, which is not really happy with any discharge beyond what it takes to start the vehicle).

The coach battery is typically isolated from the engine battery, but uses the engine charging system when the engine is running.

If you add a coach battery, there are numerous details to deal with, depending on the battery technology you adopt, but you appear to be careful and methodical, and I think you would do a good job with your research.
dtextor (author)  dddddd7 months ago
Thought about it but didn't do it until now. First, there isn't so much space left for a decent deep cycle battery. Second, the alternator is quite weak and thus not really capable of charging two blocks. Since I uesd a battery watch dog to prevent deep discharge, I didn't have any issues so far. A 50W Solar panel lingers in my mind...
maybe build a place to bolt it under the car somewhere, or in the engine compartment/glove box/under a front seat...
dtextor (author)  Madrigorne7 months ago
Well... Ground clearance is about 20 cm. Engine compartment is pretty packed and under the seats are drawers. That's the beauty of a small camper. Not an inch too much space.
bryan3141 dtextor7 months ago
so put the battery in a box and store it on the bed when you're driving but with enough cord to sit it outside when you're parked and ready for bed.
dddddd dtextor7 months ago
Your alternator will *not* be a problem. The 1.5 liter Kangoo appears to have at least a 70 amp alternator, and I have *personally* used an alternator of nearly identical size (mine is an 80 amp) to charge 200 amp hours of flooded lead-acid batteries.

I won't belabor the point, but if you start keeping a log of how long it takes from the time you turn off the ignition, and the time that your battery protector starts to complain, you will notice that the interval will slowly, and then more rapidly, decrease. Of course, if you're careful, and monitor the degradation, the cost/performance tradeoff is possibly entirely acceptable.

Speaking of solar power, I've designed and installed a number of small research solar arrays (including one on top of a 1975 motorhome), and if you are intent on installing solar on your cute Kangoo, 50 watts is not really enough. I can drone on and on about this, and back it up with real numbers if you want to hear it.

You've done a beautiful job on it, and I am a little envious of how small it is. The aforementioned 1975 motorhome is 2.7 meters tall, 2.4 meters wide, and 8 meters long, and weighs 5400 kg. I get tired of driving something so large and heavy.
jimbru dtextor7 months ago
Hi, the lead batteries used as startbattery in cars etc are suited for large currents in short bursts but will be permanently damaged by deep cycling and shorten the life of the battery. Normally you should not discharge it more than 10-20 % and if you go below 50 % there is usually a negative consequence in battery life(I have had the same issue in boats...)
One way to go if you don't get the second battery and solar panel solution is to get a different kind of battery when your current battery gives up :-)

Nicely done!
dougbyte7 months ago
How cool is that!!! You are awesome, dude. One suggestion is to bend down the metal on the corners of the homemade AC mounts. We call those meat hooks for a reason.

I really like your conversion. Gives me loads of ideas.
dtextor (author)  dougbyte7 months ago
Ah, now I got it. What you see in the picture is duct-tape to protect the plastic of the cooler. :) The edges of the metal are rounded with a metal-file, so no meat hooks on the cooler.
dtextor (author)  dougbyte7 months ago
Thanx a lot! Meat hooks for what purpose? I didn't get that.. :)
jimbru dtextor7 months ago
I think he means the sharp corners of the brackets you made for keeping the cooler in place - they can catch on fabric or skin and give you nasty cuts.
ariekaptein7 months ago
Nice instructable! very well made.
I built a similar solution in 2006 for my Citroen Evasion, in poplar plywood for weight reasons and with a sliding kitchen; served us well on many trips in Europe.
This year I'm going to convert it to fit our new Berlingo.
Enjoy your trips!
16-08-2007a.jpgCitroen-Evasion.jpg
dtextor (author)  ariekaptein7 months ago
Very nice conversion, especially with the mosquito netting!
lloydg127 months ago
Fat berta rocks. Really well done, brilliant. Got my creative juices flowing to try a similar conversion to the wife's hyundai Santa Fe! Enjoy all your adventures in her!
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