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.



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!


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>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>
Plans for a yeti skoda?! Yes please!!! I own one and your expierences turning into a micro camper would be awsome!
<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>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>
<p>To prevent rain from coming in the windows you could make &quot;eyebrows&quot; to put over them. I can see something that fits into the top of the door and hangs out over the window.</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 :-)
<p>There is much to be said for fold down panels, and telescoping / slide out / concertinaing parts.</p><p>.</p>
<p>I am definitely saving this Instructable! I'm sure it would work for the bed of my truck when I get a topper for it in a few years, and I look forward to going back to traveling. Thank you, Dominik, for sharing. (I'm so jealous - Germany! Poland! Sweden! OMG!!)</p>
<p>VW 1.6TDI? :D Ohhh the CO2 :D</p><p>Nice Project.. </p>
Hi just got a kangoo and without your help I would be lost ...I'm so glad I found you thanks
<p>Hi! I hope you have tons of fun with yours and more luck with the longevity. The new setup with our Skoda Yeti (I guess that would be Berta 3.0) has been finished recently and just gave us a home during a few weeks through France.</p>
<p>Looks like you had a ton of fun! Awesome and inspiring project. Kudos!</p>
brilliat. thank you. ;)
<p>Love this! Big inspiration and made me realize that my little 60MPG Citroen Nemo panel van could actually be quite a practical stealth camper for two short adults and a small dog. I shall be implementing your modular box system and our road trips will be much comfier.</p>
<p>You could save even more weight by cutting a large hole in each divider and the bottom of the rear box (just like you did on the sides.</p>
<p>Unbelievable! Thanks for sharing! I plan to use some of these ideas for a summer cross country trip!!!</p>
<p>You can't imagine how much you inspired me. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you !!!!<br>I think I'm gonna start building my personal version of it as soon as I can</p>
<p>I thank you. Comments like yours are the reason why I really enjoy posting my projects. And yours motivated me to finally upload the major upgrades that we implemented for our last journey. And sadly it really was the last. The car got totalled three weeks back and I'm in the process of designing a new setup for our new car. A Skoda Yeti 1.6 TDI Greenline. However I posted the last changes for legacy reasons. The ideas might still inspire someone to do something great. Thank you again for your kind comment.</p>
<p>I've just bought a 2014 TC titanium !!! <br>I guess you REALLY inspired me ;)</p><p>I have thought of a slightly different design. I'll keep you updated on my build.</p>
<p>Ha, that's really cool. That one tempted me as well! My design for the new car will be different too. The kitchen box is already in production. :) You know, lessons learned and such nonsense! Enjoy your car and may she live by the road and die of old age in a garage!</p>
It's a sad news to hear about her death. Live by the road, die by the road..<br>I'm not sure about that Skoda being a right choice, but it is yours :)<br>I think the most inspiring in this project Is the inside tent against bugs. I'll definitely steal the idea ;)<br>Cheers from Canada<br>Peace
<p>This is a freaking thing of beauty, and *exactly* what I would like to have. I have a much smaller vehicle (a Dodge Calibre Hatchback), but there's just me; I'll have to see how I can adapt it. I particularly liked the mosquito tent and thermal screens, since I live in the Sonoran Desert and we get every type of climate there is (including tropical-style monsoons at least part of the year.) One suggestion: It seems to me that there are possibilities for a pull-out table on top of the storage compartments but under the mattress; it'd take some extra work and add in some more weight, but it's a thought and would make a nice worksurface, even if it's just one storage compartment wide and slots into the top of the compartment. Maybe kind of like an old-fashioned baker's surface that pulls out from a kitchen countertop? Like that. </p>
Nice that you like it, thank you. <br>Considering the thermal screens: For the last journey I made a few improvements that aren't covered in this instructable (yet..). So you get a personal peek preview.. :) I replaced the velcro patches with a few inches of Duct-Tape and a small flat neodym magnet. The top magnets keep the screens in place. The lower two magnets double up to fix the screens when they are rolled up (make sure that the lower two magnets stand out of the &quot;burrito roll&quot; when rolled up. Otherwise it doesn't work..). This makes it super easy to roll them down in the evening! And they do not obstruct your view while driving. Worked like a charm and cost only a few dollars for all the windows. Maybe that will help you.

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Bio: applied simplicity
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