Summer in the Yukon is short... and coming to an end. I'm not ready to be finished with my outdoor adventuring, so to extend my season into the fall and winter I decided to convert my car into a camping space.
There are many many awesome examples of vehicle conversions into sleeping spaces.
The only other 1997 Rav4 that I found is this one. They did a great job, but I didn't want such a permanent conversion.
I wanted a car by weekday, camper-car by weekend.
Here is how I accomplished my goal
Step 1: Design Phase
The design phase was the hardest part of this whole process and I wouldn't have come up with the final version without the HUGE help of YuKonstruct members. I love being part of a makerspace :)
It is important to take this time and really consider what you want and the space that you have available. The above photos show the mapping out of space.
I didn't want to take out the middle seats, which was a major design limitation. The other limitation is the configuration of space in the car - narrow in the middle and widening out towards the front.
I had quite a few design ideas that were ditched for different reasons.
What I ended up with is a modular design so that it can fold up and be stored all together in the back of the car. This truly fits my needs of car by weekday, camper by weekend because it is easy to pack away. I can remove it and store it in my shed if need be, or I can just leave it in the back of the car. For longer trips, I can remove the middle seats to have more storage.
Step 2: Materials & Tools
This build wasn't without mistakes and changes, but I've tried to draw the final product in the diagram here.
- Table saw
- Chop saw
- long wood screws 3" and 4" for when I wanted to screw through a 2x4 into another structural piece
- short wood screws 2" for going through plywood and 2x4
- 4 strong hinges (or a piano hinge)
- 1/2" wood screws to get the hinges onto the plywood (the screws that came with the hinges were too long)
- One piece of 5x8" plywood. Depending on how strong you want this to be, you can consider thicker plywood. It would change the measurements, so keep that in mind.
- Four 8-foot pieces of 2x4", which leaves some to spare.
The specific materials for the different sections of this are outlined in the diagram. Yellow is plywood, green is 2x4s.
Step 3: Piece 1: Back Storage Box
The back box was simple to construct. The bottom is a bit smaller than the top because there is a plastic molding that it needs to fit inside. The bottom piece of plywood is there so that the legs don't buckle out when the box is moved.
In order for the second piece to fit over this box in the back, I had to leave space for the legs of the second piece to fit between the box and the middle seats. This is why the box doesn't take up the full space available in the back.
The biggest thing to note here is that the back structural legs are both for this section and the next. So check out the note in photo 2: only screw the plywood halfway onto the 2x4. The other half acts as a support for the middle piece.
Measure carefully and screw together.
Check and double check. Put it in the car - make sure it fits and that there is space for a 2x4 to fit between it and the middle seats before moving on.
Step 4: Piece 2: Over the Seat
This was the most complicated step, and I made a few mistakes when constructing that you might notice in the pictures.
The top piece (27x37") is correct. In order for it to reach over the seats while still resting on the back box, I have to slide the back box forward as far as it can go. I have to slide the box forward and back every time I pack the bed away. It isn't a hardship, just something to note. (photo 1).
Screw a 2x4 onto the front edge of the plywood. This acts as the structural support for the fold-out extension, so it needs to be out from under the plywood half way. (Photo 2). I also mapped out my hinges here so that when I screwed it down I wouldn't be putting screws in the same places.
I put the plywood into the car, resting on the seat and measured how tall the legs should be to be level (photo 3).
Here, I made a mistake and made the structural leg pieces go right to the edges of the plywood (photo 4). If you follow the diagram from Step 3 you won't make this same mistake. When I tried fitting this piece over the back box, I realized that I forgot to leave space for the plastic molding and it wouldn't fit. I had to adjust the structure in by 2 1/4" on both sides (photos 5 and 6).
The last step was to put a short piece of 2x4 under the back edge of the plywood so that when it sits on the box in the folded away state, it has a bit of support.
Step 5: Piece 3: Fold Out Extension
After cutting out the 37 by 20 inch plywood, I attached it to the middle section using strong hinges (photo 1). Although the round part of the hinge faces up, I don't have a problem with this when sleeping as my thermarest easily pads this.
Try out the hinging action (photo 2).
The hinges resting on the 2x4 are strong enough to hold the plywood in place, and I haven't had a problem in use yet. However I might decide to put a removable support under the fold out extension that fits into my cupholder - it just depends if I feel that it needs the extra support.
Step 6: Go Camping!
This instructable got me to a functional stage, but I'm probably going to work on this project for some months (or years) making improvements to fit my camping needs.
Right now I'm covering the platform with a blanket so that there are no slivers to puncture my thermarest, but eventually I will sand it and probably round the corners.
I'll likely buy a foamie that perfectly fits the space (extending out to the doors over the side holes), which can be packed away under the seat. I also plan to buy/make boxes that fit into the different spaces in the car for easy storage.
I'm going to put some kind of netting on the roof to dry out any gear and have a bit more storage.
There are lots of things that I plan to do, but I'm excited to have the initial structure and to figure things out as I go!