VW Golf Tiny Roadtrip House

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About: I'm passionate about home brewing and carpentry projects! I have learned a lot from this site and I hope to share some of my own projects with you guys too.

Intro: VW Golf Tiny Roadtrip House

I had big plans to do a big road-trip across the east of Canada but unfortunately I did not have a big budget to work with...

I initially wanted to do it in a van but I had the vw golf and was determined to make it work. This proved to be more difficult than expected because there is a lot of info on van builds out there but not much about hatchback camping conversions.

This build is all based on my imagination and creativity.

Step 1: Establish Your Available Space

I was going on a solo road trip so I wanted to leave two seats available to pick up hitchhikers along the way. That meant that the front and one back seat must be empty during driving. This lead to me having a single bed which worked out perfectly given the size of the car.

The base of the bigger back seat was removed and the back-rest was permanently set in the folded position.

Step 2: Gather Materials

I wanted to do this as cheaply as possible so I drove around Montreal on July 1st (move out day) and gathered wood that people were throwing away. This complicated things a bit as a lot of the wood was mis-matched and all different dimensions. I embraced the challenge. However, if you can afford it, this build can be done very easily with 1x4's, 2x4's and some ply.

I had one day to complete the build because I was on a tight deadline to leave for my trip. It turns out that I didn't have the inspiration that i needed on that day so i packed up the car with all my stuff, the wood, one hammer, some nails and one saw.

This actually worked in my favor as i could build based on my needs of experience and not some pre-developed notion of how things were going to work.

Step 3: Building the Main Frame

The pictures show a step by step assembly of the frame. Everything was simply cut with a hand saw and nailed together.

However, if you have access to power tools, that would make your life much easier.

Step 4: Building the Bed Extension

Keeping in mind that this was all done while traveling , it may not be the most precise or beautiful work i've done but it surely was functional. This extension piece was only mounted when the front passenger seat was pulled all the way forward. When driving, the piece was pulled out and stored below the foam mattress.

I forgot to take pictures while in the car but this is the basic concept.

This could be replicated with ply and some 1/4 scraps.

Step 5: Foam Mattress and Storage

The foam (mattress) was bought for $20 from kijiji and I wrapped it in a bed sheet.

I am 5'10'' and I had a few inches of room to spare when laying down straight.

While on the road, i cut the foam (almost) in half so that it could be folded easily. I did not cut it all the way through because I think it would have separated while I was sleeping. I personally hate sleeping between two mattresses so I would recommend cutting it about 85% through so that it can be folded but it stays intact.

The drawers were bought on kijiji for $5 and they fit perfectly in the car.

I also added the hatch mid way through the trip. This lead to much easier access to things stored below the bed. I kept my stove near the hatch because that was something I used at least twice a day.

Step 6: Awning

This was a very simple and smart concept I saw on youtube. It cost me $15 at the dollar store. I would highly recommend building one of these as the car can get really small on rainy days

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cGoxqgTz_yQ

Materials needed:

-2 suction cups tied at 2 corners and stuck to the roof of the car.

-2 poles from the dollar store

-1 8x6 tarp from the dollar store

-string and tent stakes.

Step 7: Where to Sleep?...Go Explore & Have Fun!

There is an app called ioverlander and it shows you where people have camped in their cars before. It gives you updates and reviews and takes you to some incredible hidden spots. Please be respectful of others and be sure to clean up all garbage and leave no trace!!

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15 Discussions

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gregc2222

7 days ago

All through the 1980's I had a Subaru GL-5, loved that car. It was like a mini station wagon. I left the rear seat folded down all the time and cut a 4" thick piece of foam rubber to cover the whole cargo area and then laid a double sleeping bag on top of that. I had cutouts in the foam just behind the folded down rear seat that my 2 toolboxes sat down in, and then 2 large pillows on top of the toolboxes. I drove that car all over the country. Camped in it, or just crawled into the back at a rest stop to sleep when I got too tired. Hotels? Hotels are for wusses. :) I didn't bother with the drawer unit. I just used a duffel-style suitcase, and bags or boxes for supplys. If I had a lot of stuff, it was stored in the back, and then tossed over into the driver's and passenger's seat when I wanted to sleep. Having the whole width of the back area meant I could sleep diagonally across the back very comforably. In cold weather I crawled into the bags and had an extra blanket. In warmer weather I just slept on the bags and used the blanket.

2 warnings when using this technique: 1.) Always keep a window or two open just a crack to let all the humid air out. The human body actually breathes out a lot of water vapor, even when sleeping, and cars are much more hermetically sealed than a tent is. And 2.) be careful where you park if it's dark. Think about where the sun is going to rise. Nothing like waking up inside a 100 degree car drenched in sweat...

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Natalina

8 days ago

Wow! I didn't think a golf would be big enough for someone tall, nice to see your set up here. And thanks for the app suggestion!

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QuickFix

8 days ago

Simple, but nice build! I've been doing this kind of traveling for years now; I even choose my daily (second hand) cars with camping in it in mind.

At first I always bought station wagons (like the Golf Variant), the last couple of years I always try to get some sort of van; at the moment I'm driving an old 2002 Chrysler Voyager Van on LPG of which I raised the floor 25cm to be able to store stuff underneath and two people can sleep on top (with loads of space to spare).

Great thanks for the iOverlander-idea: I never would have thought such a usefull app and website exists.

Voyager.jpg
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fleabiscuitQuickFix

Reply 8 days ago

Allstayes is a good and popular app with the ability to download the core information to use without a network connection. Just took another look and they have branched out to many different categories; YMMV on those I haven't used them.

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deltafour

8 days ago

LOVE IT! "stealing"

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mjgradow

8 days ago

Good ideas. I bought Shade Sox thru Amazon to put over back seat windows and still keep the windows open. They are dark so no one can see in. Also bought a perforated mural to put on back window of Honda CR-v so I can see out, no one can see in. Security important for woman traveling alone. Put a Raiders cap on front dash to make people think there’s a bada.. in the car. haha

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OrienteeringGuy

8 days ago

I've saved lots of money with this method in my 2005 Matrix. Not only that, but these remote lonely campsites are more memorable than the crowded public sites. I installed screens in the back windows using self-stick furry velcro on the inside around the window opening and sewed barbed velcro onto the window screen material. No bugs! I also did this with the back hatch window. Even if it is raining, I can have some ventilation by propping the hatch window part way open. Instead of a wood frame, I used a 2 inch (5 cm) thickness of foam insulation to even out the elevation between the back and folded front seat height. Where you have your drawers is where I park my cooler. When I wake up in the morning, there is no wet tent to deal with. If it is cold or raining, I just slip into the driver's seat and drive a while to a better location to warm up the car and eat breakfast. Thank's for the tip on the free camping website/app.

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JonathonD2

8 days ago

That looks awesome. It’s come a long way from the campsite in Main!!

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DavidE341

8 days ago

I know it is out of your budget, but look up Napier tents. They have several models that convert pickup trucks, vans, etc. into much more roomy campers by adding a tent structure onto the open rear area. You may be able to construct something similar with a used tent, some ripstop nylon material from a fabric store and some heavy-duty exterior tape (e.g., Gorilla Tape). At the very least you can clip additional reinforced polyester tarps to the sides of your awning to block wind and rain. Harbor Freight has very inexpensive tarps and spring clips. You may also want to reconsider your mattress. Typical foam absorbs moisture from the air. Most motorcycle campers prefer a 2-level system; an inflatable mattress for comfort and a closed-cell foam pad for insulation (either from the ground or from the air mattress as they are notoriously cold).

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MattM213

Question 9 days ago on Step 7

What did you do as far as air conditioning? Heater? Turn the car off and on periodocally? Just deal with it? I have slept in my golf several times to avoid falling asleep at the wheel. Usually I will wake up pretty much every house bc it is either too cold or too moist due to sweat/mouth breathing. (It's surprising how fast you can steam up a car from breathing alone.)

2 more answers
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DavidE341MattM213

Answer 8 days ago

I was going to suggest the use of "no-see-um" screen mesh around the open hatchback if the weather is warm. Several examples available where small van and Honda Element campers made a screen cover to allow ventilation but keep bugs out. Usually held onto the vehicle body with rare earth magnets. Might even want to also add a screen insert for a partially-open front window for cross ventilation.

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louisdevauxMattM213

Answer 9 days ago

Hey Matt, I bought some sun shades (mesh material) from the dollar store that had a thick wire boarder and a suction cup. I would usually wind the window down a bit and put the sun shade in the open gap so no mosquitoes would come in. The temperature that night determined how much I would open the window. I did not have any problems with the steam. I will be sure to add this step soon with some pictures so you will have a better idea of what I am saying. I also did most of my travels in August so the weather was great.

Thanks! I highly encourage it! Its an incredible experience. Let me know if you have any other questions

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Didactech

9 days ago

Thanks for this, I am reading it for the same reason - cheap travel. Strangely enough I came up with the same format but luckily have a Renault MPV 7 seater so not so cramped.

The awning is a great idea I will add.

Canada is huge!