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 Post subject: Camper Van Layout Ideas and Help
PostPosted: Mon Jan 28, 2013 5:39 am 
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I am smitten with my van

Joined: Wed Jan 23, 2013 7:30 pm
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Hello, I am in the process of finding and buying an astro or safari van with the idea that it will be my work/family/camper do it all van. Right now I am working on designing a layout for converting to camper that will meet my needs, which are: 1) Has a rear bench seat with seat belts safe for a kids booster seat. 2) I can remove camper cabinetry/bed for around town and work (carpentry) purposes. 3) large enough bed that two adults can comfortably sleep on it. 4) has storage cabinets and basic kitchen area. 5) Gotta keep it cheap, so as much DIY/Salvage yard stuff as possible, The new $500+ fold out beds are just not in my price range.
I know that some compromises will have to be made considering space limitations, but I am hoping that I can come up with something workable.
After spending days searching the web and this forum I have made a basic plan which I would love any suggestions or advice on.
First off I would like to start with a passenger van so we get the back windows and dutch doors, '96 or new for the extra space, then strip out the carpet and possibly any plastic trim that cuts down on space and will not look horrible removed. Then I will add a plywood floor with cutouts where the quick release bench seat brackets are so that the bench seats can still go in and out.
I would like to do the basic layout like this but with some modifications (and without the paint job):
Image

In order to do this I will leave the rear bench seat in during camper mode, behind It I will build a kitchen/shelf area that can be accessed from the rear dutch doors (I'm thinking fold down counters on either dutch door for cooking space) the kitchen will be basic with large water jug, cooler, coleman stove and dish/food storage. Probable make the top level with the back of the rear bench seat so it can be used from the seating/bed area of the van.
The middle bench seat I will remove and then I will build a rear facing bench behind the front seats (storage underneath) that will fold out to connect level with the existing bench seat, this should give me just under a 6' bed if the measurements I have seen online are correct.
On the driver side between the wall and bed I would like to build some cabinets about 1' wide, so with an overall width of 56" that would give me a 44" wide bed (just enough) I can store an auxiliary battery in these and mount an inverter to them for power.
Any pitfalls you notice in this plan? Alternate ideas that will get me the results I'm looking for? does someone have a measurement from front of the rear bench seat back to rear of driver seat?
Any suggestions on building the rear facing fold out bench? I am considering the rock and roll bed hinges that busdepot.com sells. Would these work for this plan since there will be no room for the seat to slide towards the driver seat, only towards the rear of the vehicle? Any tips on attaching cabinets to the van? I was thinking maybe have bolts coming up through the plywood floor that would fit into the bottom of the cabinets and tighten down with wing nuts. Thats kind of awkward when the cabinets are removed though... Any and all information you can help with would be awesome!!
Thank you!

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1999 GMC Safari RWD - Currently converting to camper


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 Post subject: Re: Camper Van Layout Ideas and Help
PostPosted: Mon Jan 28, 2013 6:33 pm 
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I am merely driving my van
I am merely driving my van

Joined: Wed May 02, 2012 6:24 pm
Posts: 16
I'm in the process, doing the same thing to my '03 AWD. Just a couple of thoughts......... I spent Saturday afternoon salvaging the bed section from a derilect Westy. Two things about this appproach. To end up w/ a 6' bed the frame sits aprox 8-9" into the sliding door opening in the seating configuration. Fully deployed there is about 16" to the front seats. With this option it is also necessary to fab in a fixed portion of 3' in the rear of the van. To match the folding section, this area need to be at least 16"+ tall. Great for cargo storage, roll out drawers, maybe an aft kitchen arrangment, but this eats space in the fwd salon area, plus in my case when said and done.......Done, i.e. non removable.

Have lots more ideas on this but have to dig-out for work now.......... Will post more this afternoon!


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 Post subject: Re: Camper Van Layout Ideas and Help
PostPosted: Mon Jan 28, 2013 7:50 pm 
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I am smitten with my van

Joined: Wed Jan 23, 2013 7:30 pm
Posts: 28
So you are setting it up original VW style so the bench lies down level with the rear raised cargo area and both combined creates a bed that stretches all the way from the rear doors to 16" behind the front seats? Are you doing 3/4 size with side cabinets or the full width bed? This might work for me, If I could fit all the kitchen set up underneath the raised platform and have components like the stove slide/fold out. Are you setting it up to be road legal with seat belts, or just for camping purposes? If I move the seat location around at all I still need to be able to mount shoulder belts for the kid. How much play do these have with the original upper seat belt mounts and seat placement?
Looking forward to more info! Any picture you have would be awesome, interested in how the vw seat goes together and mounts etc..

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1999 GMC Safari RWD - Currently converting to camper


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 Post subject: Re: Camper Van Layout Ideas and Help
PostPosted: Tue Jan 29, 2013 6:46 am 
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I am merely driving my van
I am merely driving my van

Joined: Wed May 02, 2012 6:24 pm
Posts: 16
Picking up again....... Yes, the 6' length includes the fixed portion at rear of van, and likewise I have plans for a cooktop & cabs, drivers seat aft. My wife wants to be able to start coffee prior to leaving leaving the sack. Domestic politics if you get the drift. Don't see any real challange to working out a seatbelt/harness install using stock items. I'll be skipping it though, as my rig will be for camping.......... Empty nest!

Even before finding the Westy Zbed hardware, I built a wooden rock & roll bed arrangement. In the folded position it would take up 49" and locate further aft in the van. (-^-) folded, (- - - -) extended. Each horizontal end panel is a fixed member attached to a sliding bipass frame w/ a hinged center section. Constructed of Home Depot white lumber 2x2, cherry picked for best clear stock....... about $12, plus $35 in ply & hardware. 1st advantage is lowbucks. 2nd is more salon room. 3rd is can be built to fit any width. Downside is less storage under unit. Drawers 24" deep x 8" high x whatever width left between frames. Center bulkhead allows drawers on both sides. Available access front & rear. Salon side drawers not reachable w/ bed unfolded. Frame system not as solid as I would like, but is a work in progress.

Have yet to decide which direction I'll take, but I'm glad you posted the subject as it's good food for thought. Thanks!

Have not taken any pics as yet, but will do so soon........... & will post to prove it happened!

Dennis


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 Post subject: Re: Camper Van Layout Ideas and Help
PostPosted: Tue Jan 29, 2013 9:12 am 
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I am merely driving my van
I am merely driving my van

Joined: Wed May 02, 2012 6:24 pm
Posts: 16
While waiting for me to shoot & post pics check this link. Pretty much just what I was able to salvage locally. Should give a good idea of system layout & works for a Westy Z bed.

http://www.ebay.com/itm/VW-Rear-Bench-Seat-Bed-Car

Dennis


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 Post subject: Re: Camper Van Layout Ideas and Help
PostPosted: Tue Jan 29, 2013 8:02 pm 
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I finally get the smurf thing
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Joined: Wed Dec 28, 2011 4:56 pm
Posts: 164
Location: Midland Texas
I had a ton of plans to do all kinds of stuff to my van but in the end keeping it really simple has worked out pretty good. I took out the middle seat when I got the van and haven't seen a need to put it back in yet. I made a storage box and extionsion that makes a great double bed. Added a porta potty in the corner and storage boxes/kitchen in the area behind the seats (have to cook outside). I didn't spend more than $100 on the interior, have camped dozens of times and wouldn't change anything but to use memory foam for the bed pads. Takes five minutes to turn it back into a 100% stock interior.

Some views of my "simple" approach out here.

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2004 AWD Astro 2" lift, overnight-able
2003 Dodge/Cummins Quad cab
2006 Nissan X-terra MT
1985 LTD LX 5.0 HO
Plus wife's and kid's cars to take care of...


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 Post subject: Re: Camper Van Layout Ideas and Help
PostPosted: Wed Jan 30, 2013 4:23 am 
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I am smitten with my van

Joined: Wed Jan 23, 2013 7:30 pm
Posts: 28
That is a awesome simple setup Arlon! That's exactly what I was thinking of for the bed, I just was not sure whether to make the platform a hinged back/seat that pulls out or something else. good to see that it works! How long is it? Also how do you keep the platform support that goes next to the stock bench seat secured?
I think If I do the bed like this, with narrow slightly over window height cabinets along the driver side of the bed and some extra shelving/fold out surfaces in the rear kitchen I'll be pretty well set up!!
Hopefully it won't take to long to find the right van...

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1999 GMC Safari RWD - Currently converting to camper


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 Post subject: Re: Camper Van Layout Ideas and Help
PostPosted: Wed Mar 13, 2013 6:55 pm 
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I am smitten with my van

Joined: Wed Jan 23, 2013 7:30 pm
Posts: 28
Well I finally picked up the vehicle a few days ago!! 1999 rwd Safari with 151k. Runs great, and real nice exterior/interior condition!!
Yesterday I started moving the bench seats around, and pulling off the drivers side plastic trim between the 3rd row bench and driver seat to take a look at my build options. I'll start a build thread with photos in the next week, once I finalize my layout!!
In the meantime, How have people approached building cabinets/storage around the interior trim without losing space, since I would like to be able to remove the camper parts without re-installing the trim pieces every time.
Also, How have you fastened cabinets/beds in a removable way? obviously there are the bench seat floor brackets, and in the rear the cargo hold down attachments, but I am interested in any other ideas.
Last question, has anyone wired an auxiliary battery to charge through the trailer wiring harness so you can easily unplug the whole battery unit and remove it when not camping. Seems like I saw someone talking about this on here, and the factory harness is currently stored in the jack storage compartment, which seems like a perfect location for a battery with a little modification.
Thanks!
Ben

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 Post subject: Re: Camper Van Layout Ideas and Help
PostPosted: Wed Mar 13, 2013 8:22 pm 
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Depends what you want to use the battery for, but you can't send very much power through the trailer harness.


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 Post subject: Re: Camper Van Layout Ideas and Help
PostPosted: Wed Mar 13, 2013 10:17 pm 
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I am smitten with my van

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Just want to charge a 12v agm battery to run a electric cooler, couple led lights and a small inverter. Is the wiring beefy enough to handle a charging a battery?

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 Post subject: Re: Camper Van Layout Ideas and Help
PostPosted: Thu Mar 14, 2013 2:22 am 
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A fully discharged battery can pull about 40A, which will get those wires pretty toasty (but of course you're going to install a fuse to prevent that from happening).

You also have to account for the run length between the alternator and jack storage. The resistance will be high enough to present a significant voltage drop, and your battery will be unable to charge up to 100%. Inverters, especially, like to have a nice healthy voltage.

A thicker conductor will have less resistance, and have better current carrying capacity. Run at least a 4 AWG welding cable. It's relatively inexpensive, has a thick durable jacket, and the core is finely stranded so it's flexible and easy to work with.

You can check out my wire calculator here:
viewtopic.php?f=62&t=8197
Shoot me a PM if you need help using it.


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 Post subject: Re: Camper Van Layout Ideas and Help
PostPosted: Thu Mar 14, 2013 3:47 am 
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I am smitten with my van

Joined: Wed Jan 23, 2013 7:30 pm
Posts: 28
Thanks! I'll probably just add some sort of connector where the wiring enters the van interior so I can disconect easily when the battery is removed.

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 Post subject: Re: Camper Van Layout Ideas and Help
PostPosted: Thu Mar 14, 2013 4:54 am 
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you have a few options there ...

Image + Image

or

Image

http://www.princessauto.com/pal/categor ... 5-005/%234


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 Post subject: Re: Camper Van Layout Ideas and Help
PostPosted: Sat Apr 13, 2013 3:55 am 
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I am smitten with my van

Joined: Wed Jan 23, 2013 7:30 pm
Posts: 28
Any explanation of how those connectors work? looking at them I'm not quite sure...
Also, my battery position has changed and it now sits right behind the front seat. Would you still go with 4 gauge wire, or would 6-8 be acceptable for this shorter distance? I ask because I have a spare set of 6 gauge jumper cables that would be long enough to use for my wiring. Thanks.

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 Post subject: Re: Camper Van Layout Ideas and Help
PostPosted: Sat Apr 13, 2013 3:33 pm 
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What do you mean how they work? How you install them or how they operate? You just push them together to make a connection.

The gauge of wire you choose depends mostly on how much power you intend to put through them, and then some other variables as well. That is why calculators exist and there are many out there you can Google.
This one is pretty good: http://circuitwizard.bluesea.com/

To find out your current, simply divide power by voltage. For example, a 1200 Watt microwave would draw 1200W / 12V = 100A.


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