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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.

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UPDATE1:

Berta was on the road again. For a journey through southern Sweden last summer, we added or altered some items to make it even more practical. I added the instructions as additional steps and not as a new instructable to keep the whole project in one single place. I hope you'll enjoy it!

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UPDATE2:

Berta met an untimely end and rests now in the vehicle heaven. She got a too close encounter with a Ford on the highway and will not recover from her wounds. We are sad for the loss but also happy that some of her parts will live on and help other cars to survive.

Should you happen to live in or near Switzerland, the whole camping setup (without fridge, gas stove etc.) including the boxes, the matress and the inner tent will be for sale. It should fit any Renault Kangoo prior 2008 perfectly and might even fit similiar cars (VW Caddy, Peugeot Partner, Fiat Doblo, Ford Tourneo Connect, Citroen Berlingo, etc.) with some minor alternations. Feel free to contact me via PM.

Step 1: The backside box

All the wooden parts are made of 1.9cm (0.75inch) 3 layer wood sheets. The box is exactly as wide as the trunk of the car and reaches from the back door to the backside of the back seats. I divided the box into 3 parts. On the left side is a compartment for the kitchen box (coming later in the next steps). On the right side is an opening for the cooler. And in between is space for everything that doesn't fit somewhere else.
To be honest I would prefer the hole setup to be a bit lower to have a bit more space while sitting in the car, but space was limited due to the cooler (Waeco Tropicool TC-14FL). The cooler is mounted on a plate that rests on drawer linear bearings. Like this you can slide the cooler out to have access to it. To keep the cooler in place while driving there are magnetic locks on the back side of the plate that holds the cooler.
<p>Thank you very much for sharing your ideas. I am about to embark on a conversion and I was most impressed by your genius idea for air flow through the back!</p>
<p>Glad you liked it and please post pictures should you build something!</p>
<p>What an amazingly uplifting story - looking forward to getting my 'new' <strong>Berlingo </strong>and using some of your ideas. My old B van got written off last week and this gives me an opportunity to start again with a car version. Thanks and good luck, Nik</p>
<p>Thanks, and good luck with the new one.</p>
Plans for a yeti skoda?! Yes please!!! I own one and your expierences turning into a micro camper would be awsome!
<p>Hi brunoaco</p><p>The instructable for the Yeti Camper just went online.</p>
Wow, that was fast! Thanks so much for the excellent new guide.
thanks a bunch!
<p>Hi bruno</p><p>I didn't have internet for the last 3 weeks because I moved my flat and things are still a bit chaotic. I hope I find the time during winter to make that 'ible. The conversion is really nice and was already in France for a few weeks. To make the wait for the 'ible a bit nicer I added some pictures... :)</p>
<p>Any news on your Yeti camper conversion? I have just bought one, and am keen to do something like that. Maybe I'd make the back box first, but how tall should it be? And what did you do about the midsection, which had a kind of sofa in the Berlingo version?</p>
<p>Hi Sylfest</p><p>This instructable will be a kind of monster and takes quite a lot time to document. I promise I'll do my best to accelerate the writing. :)</p><p>Since you sound eager to start I'll give you some informations beforehand:</p><p>Lessons learned from the Kangoo Camper were that for us, when traveling through rainy countries, headspace / sitting space is paramount. In the Kangoo there was just enough space to sit with slightly bent head and it wasn't too comfortable. This was mainly because we wanted to integrate the cooling box into the structure permanently. However the Yeti is a different thing. It's a bit lower inside and slightly narrower. I built an understructure that only is around 15cm deep (without mattress) but covers all the ground behind the drivers seats (giving you ample storage space). Tilting the driver seat and an extension as before gives you a very nice sleeping platform. There is again a kitchen box that can stay in the car even when the additional seats are in place. It depends a bit which Yeti you have bought. If you don't have a spare wheel in the trunk, the trunk is lower than the trunk opening, giving you space for the structure. With the setup in place the sleeping platform is more or less level with the trunk opening and giving you ample space to hang around while it rains. However, there isn't a sofa style arrangement like in the Kangoo. But you can adapt the structure of the Kangoo just as well if sitting space isn't so important for you. The kitchen box has on one side a panel that opens parallel to the ground and slides out to be a cooking table. The cooler is trapped to the back of the driver seat while driving and placed on the co-driver seat while sleeping. All in all we're very happy with the setup and find it cozier than the Kangoo. </p><p>Again, I'll do my best to give an instructable asap. :)</p><p>Maybe the pics help a bit to understand my confusing explanations. Note: the picture of the actual structure is laying upside down on the ground!</p><p>PS: Where are you from?</p>
Hi dtextor<br>Thanks for your fascinating reply. I was wondering myself whether the platform would have to be lower than for the Kangoo, so I'm pleased to hear you've changed the design so the cooler doesn't have to be underneath it. <br>The illustrations are an interesting puzzle! I'm looking forward to more details when you have time. My Yeti won't arrive till Saturday, but as it's a Greenline, I think it will have the lower floor required for this type of structure.​<br>(I'm from the UK, but I'm also sort of Norwegian and Canadian - and by the way I'm a technical writer by trade. If I could help out in any way with your forthcoming instructible I'd be more than happy to do so.)<br>Cheers<br>Sylfest
<p>Hi Sylfest</p><p>The instructable for the Yeti Camper just went online.</p>
<p>Hi Sylvest</p><p>Greetings to the UK. Thanks for the offer. I'm mostly struggling with time (and admittedly the weather for taking pics..). Mine is a greenline too, so that will be quite the same thing. Although mine is still before the facelift, so round foglights, but otherwise not much has changed. And yes, there is some VW malware on it. :)</p><p>Cheers</p><p>Dominik</p>
<p>PPS: In an older response down here I posted a few pics of the Yeti in real life.</p>
<p>Anyone have any ideas on how to modify a Prius to outfit it for camping? I am not needing to sleep &quot;in&quot; the car - I use a hammock outside, but how to pack it efficiently.....</p>
If you have a Prius V, this might be of interest:<br>http://poplarware.com/jenzach/2014/10/19/zcarter/prius-v-sleeping-platform/<br>
<p>nope, not a Prius V..... I could do the same thing, but would need to leave the back open and screen it in somehow..... </p>
<p>great project! long live fat berta!</p>
<p>Wow, great stuff. How tall are you and what size mattress did you get in? I ask cos I am 6'3&quot;. Size matters.</p>
<p>I'm 175cm, smaller than you. But if your really extend the seats to the limit it could just work!</p>
<p>well done! I made a similar camper with a Citroen berlingo and we crossed the Sahara desert in it 2 years ago. With my model I made a very lightweight bed frame that slid out of the back door to make a table or part of it slid out the side door to make an office table. I also built a wooden tent for the roof and slept up there so that my 2 dogs could sleep inside. On the top of the wooden tent was a solar panel which ran my lights and laptop etc. I now have a telescopic ladder which does not take up so much room but is still long enough to climb onto the roof at night.</p><p>I also built a</p>
<p>That looks really cool!</p>
<p>I am very sorry about she is no more, after reading entire story i felt very bad that you have lost it :( ... </p>
<p>Thanks for the kind words! We moved on and love our new car almost as much. :)</p>
<p>Hope everyone is OK after your accident. </p><p>Man I'm jealous you guys have these kinds of vehicles! Here in the states it's just big over-powered vans! The closest thing is the Ford Transit (early models) and one or two others. Nothing that gets close to 40mpg. </p><p>You really didn't mention the cooler. You have a model # on it? How do you like it? Also you're OK with no sink? Finally, did you research alcohol stoves for a possible stove?</p>
<p>Hi. Alcohol stoves would be safer because there's no danger of leaking gas bottles. There are some excellent options for yachts. They use it for the same reason. We just already had our camping gas stove, so we opted for going minimal.</p><p>The cooler is a Waeco Tropicool XX (maybe 14 but I'm not sure). It is indeed not a compressor cooler. They are very nice but also very expensive. It's a peltier element cooler. The Waeco quality is excellent and depending on the region you travel in it's enough. If you travel through a hot desert and stand for long times it's surely not the right choice! But for us it kept the milk, butter and meat cool enough through Sweden, Poland and France during summer.</p><p>Regards Dominik</p>
<p>What about the Honda Element? I know they don't make it anymore, but it seems to fit this niche. There's also the Nissan Cube and the Scion xB. </p>
<p>They're all about 30mpg max. In this day and age we could build cars that get 40mpg or better. Yet everyone is into the power, speed and being larger than last years model with more features. It's pretty much made me stop driving! I get around via bicycling and subways. </p>
If its any form of a peltier cooler (&quot;40&deg; below ambient temp&quot;) forget it they are all but useless. Gotta have real refrigerant with a compressor. I bought the whynter 40 qt off amazon based on reviews vs price and it works damn good. Under $500 shipped. Remember these 12v fridges.... They can be a fridge or a freezer but not both.<br>(Been living in a honda passport for 15 months now. Have 2 tvs a freezer a microwave 1000w inverter full ventilation system with air in and out and room to stretch out and sleep in complete privacy.)
<p>I had the Canadian version of this cooler, it has temperature control with digital read out. It worked great and could get beer to near freezing, it wasn't one of the cheap worthless (&quot;40&deg; below ambient temp&quot;) coolers. You could adjust to desired temp and the only noise was the cooling fan, no compressor noise. The problem, with mine at least, it only lasted 2 summers. I still have it but haven't had time to rip it apart to see what it needs for repair. I got mine on sale for $220 CDN new, which is a decent price for what it could do. It would be mice to know if other owners got greater longevity out of theirs.</p>
<p>That thing got a Hemi?</p>
<p>hello: When wifey &amp; I take a road-trip / vacation, we pick up a Dodge mini-van @ the airport! Cheaper rates if they think you just flew in? We take out the 2nd and 3rd row seats and store them safely in the garage. Then we inflate our air mattress behind the front seats and we have room for 2 or even 3 to ride sleep etc. Have a 12v ice chest/ refrigerator. And after 11 days on the road, we put the seats back in and pay just that weekly fee x 2 (free unlimited mileage). P.S. AVOID Mitsubishi products: cars, minivans, they are J-U-N-K . seriously burn oil (bad valve seals) that ruin the rings. ONLY cure is to pull the motor and re-ring it = $$expensive. Get a Toyota or honda and save yourself countless headaches. (Cannot even recommend Dodge/Chrysler mini-vans have a transmission burn up problem. Could be fixd with external oil / trans cooler.) </p>
<p>Junk? I'm driving a 20 year old Mitsu diesel. It's unkillable. If you're burning oil seals, try reading the manual. You're probably using the wrong oil.</p>
<p>Hi, I'm new, but why cut up the sleeping bag? - I just zip up the foot end and turn it over on top of me (as a quilt). OK you need some isolation under you (your choice, trial n error, ;-P ) and you can hang both legs out, as needed. Doesn't have to be down etc etc etc. I got a real cheapo from &quot;Lidl&quot; a few years back for &euro;20,-. Couldn't believe it, but it's good for -10 to -15 C !!! (Maybe I'm a hot body!!)</p>
Hi well I'm about a month in in copying your build and I've got to say &quot;your good &quot; even with your help it's still a challenge ! you made it look easy (but it's not) can I ask ..did you need too insulate the floor or was it warm enough ...I think it's a fantastic idea as I would never have the money for a caravan ect ....I'm running power from two new leisure AGM 120 amp batteries and a 1000 watt inverta...the ikea led lights are great plus mood lights...just having trouble finding the locking hinges ...will update later ...many thanks jake
You might find you can rarely drive enough to keep those batteries charged and keeping them in a state of depletion dramatically shortens their life.
<p>what about quality solar panels setup? this way you could replenish at least a bit of used energy from bats...</p>
<p>Hey, thanks for the kind words! :) These comments always make my day.</p><p>The floor wasn't a problem, but I have to admit that we didn't use it in very cold seasons. Since the Kangoo isn't really insulated, you lose most of the heat over the metallic side-parts and especially the windows. The inner tent helps a bit and the thermal flaps really make a difference! About the brackets: Try and google for &quot;Folding Shelf Bracket&quot;. They're used for foldable shelfs and sometimes for benches. You should be able to locate some easily.</p><p>Good luck with your conversion. Since Berta is dead, our new car has already been converted (although in quite a different style) and successfully tested in France. </p><p>Best regards, Dominik.</p>
Nice instructable! very well made. <br>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. <br>This year I'm going to convert it to fit our new Berlingo. <br>Enjoy your trips!
<p>Hello</p><p>I answered in French sorry for English</p><p>I came to acquire Fiat Ulysse (similar Evasion 806) that I would transform how modular mini camper. ariekaptein j you would like to get more photo thank you! sourdinjoel@yahoo.fr</p>
bonjour <p>je r&eacute;pond en fran&ccedil;ais d&eacute;sole pour les anglophone </p><p>je vient d acqu&eacute;rir fiat Ulysse (similaire Evasion 806 ) que je voudrais transformer de fa&ccedil;on modulable en mini ccar . <a href="http://www.instructables.com/member/ariekaptein" rel="nofollow">ariekaptein</a> j aimerais bien obtenir de vous plus de photo merci ! sourdinjoel@yahoo.fr </p>
Very nice conversion, especially with the mosquito netting!
My '97 Toyota Rav4 does not need any mods to sleep 2 adults, both rows of seats fold back in a way to give you 2 beds. Plus I still have some space in the back and a car top carrier. Only gets about 23 MPG, but that is with the American exhaust restrictions and an older engine design (supposedly first used in the late 80's) . Not 4 wheel drive, but I would take it anywhere a camper based on a minivan would go.
<p>Did something similar with a Mercedes Vito to sleep in, also with the provisio to change nothing permanently and to be able to sell the vehicle as it was built. I just put a box on a small trailer for a kitchen and taking with extra chairs an tables as we like to cammp in relative comfort</p>
<p>nice i have a kangoo and will use some of your ideas </p>
good ideas??
good ideas thumbs up :-)

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