Introduction: Mini Van Camper Conversion
So I had seen a lot of different camper conversions but there was less that involved a mini van. I decided to make my own project and these are the results, I wanted to share if anyone wanted to follow in my footsteps. I hope everyone enjoys my build.
I'm using a 2004 Toyota Sienna mini van. I did have to take out all of the seats out of the van so it does make it a pain to convert it between a van and a camper. I decided to only build for a twin bed but you could fit a double here no problem if you wanted to camp with two people. I had about a foot of space beside and behind my bed so I can get in and out easily. Plus there is room for storing taller or longer, like skis or paddles, beside the bed. I still have over two feet of clearance above the bed with the mattress with a foot of clearance underneath the bed for storage. I decided to sacrifice head space for storage space underneath. I also sectioned the bed so that it can fold up into a couch. I didn't put anything to support it as a couch yet but it has the capability. Right now it's just used for access to storage
Step 1: Do Some Measuring
I decided to go with a twin size bed, so 76 inches long by 36 inches wide. You could do a double like I said in the intro and it would just mean there wouldn't be any space on the sides. Measure your mattress and assess your needs. I made sure there was room underneath, 12 inches, for storage and traded some head room for storage. Once you decide on your bed size you also have to measure your door space. The way I have built it is in a stick man pattern. This allows you to access your storage from either side door and from the back hatch. My doors were 30 inches so I made my middle piece 30 inches to be able to access it easily from the side door. Again measure your van and see what the best fit is.
Step 2: Make a Design
I whipped up my design in Sketch-Up after the fact. A piece of paper with a rough drawing and measurements will do. Make sure to include your over all length, width, and how large you are going to make each compartment, Mine was 76"x36" for the bed base and my frame was 12" tall. My front compartment was 30" long to fit my door with a partition down the middle. My back section was then 46" by 36" as there was no divider. This is pretty deep but I can access deeper by lifting up the back part of the bed. I hinged the bed base at 30 inches shown by the solid line with circles (representing hinges) near the back in the picture. You can edit and change the dimensions to fit your van and personal needs.
Step 3: Gather Materials
I used some old 2x2 and pressed 3/4 wood. It's not ply wood and I don't know what exactly it is but ply would work. I also had screws 1 3/4 and 1 1/2 inch to put the frame together and attach the top to the frame. I had 3 heavy duty hinges which was a little overkill but it won't break, I fastened these with bolts in place of screws for a stronger hold. You will need a cordless drill, table saw, scroll saw, various drill bits (depending on your screws and bolts), and a wrench. I suggest a table saw and a skill saw just because it is harder to maneuver a large piece of wood on my table saw. We also used a hack saw to cut the 2x2 but a table saw will work perfectly fine to cut the boards.
Step 4: Assemble Frame
The picture shows the open frame before I put the top bed sheet on. I placed a 12 inch section of 2x2 in every corner to drill into. For the T section of the frame you don't need to have 4 contact points. You could just have two on opposite sides of the centre board but I wanted it to be super sturdy.
I did not plan on having the cross braces at the back and front but I decided that there would be too much strain and added it for extra support and points to screw into. I didn't add a cross brace in the middle because there was already 4 points where I could screw into. The only thing I would change is that I screwed the back cross brace flush to the end of the bed board. This makes it hard to grip the top sheet to flip up to access the storage.
Step 5: Add the Top Sheet
From the last picture you can see where I had contact points at the top and middle of the T part of the frame. I placed four screws at the front (using the cross braces I added), four in the middle, and none in the back so it's free to move. Once I attached the top half of the bed surface I lined the bottom part up and then placed and drilled holes for the hinges, then fixing them with bolts. Make sure that the hinge centre is directly on the cut line so it can move freely. You don't have to have a hinged bed surface. A single piece would work but it couldn't fold up into a couch and it's harder to access stored materials but there would be no bumps from hinges and it would be sturdier. I will grind the ends of the bolts off at a later date to make everything flush.
Step 6: Set Up in Your Van
This was a two person job to lift this bed frame into the back of the van because it is so big and awkward but it was lighter than I expected. You will need to take all the middle seats out like I said before. I had tons of room and had extra on the front and side. I actually made my frame a few inches too big for the mattress but it was a minor mistake. I will be putting in some containers to hold clothes and camping gear. I would suggest to have the side that is closer to your door hold your outdoor supplies while the side with more room hold your clothes. This is just a preference thing but it smarter access to storage and you don't have to get out of the van to access your clothing. I would also make your exit the side with more room so you don't have to climb over your bed to get in and out of the van.
You are also going to want to decorate to give your van some homey vibes. I will be making some curtains to go across the windows for privacy and hopefully make it cooler in the hot summer. I also want to try to install bug screen so I can cool off at night with out getting eaten alive by mosquitoes. I will also be installing shocks or a stand system for my bed so it can come up into a couch for relaxing in the day.
Step 7: Get Out There and EXPLORE
What are you waiting for? Go have epic micro camper adventures!