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Magispook

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Minivan RV
« on: December 02, 2007, 01:22:21 PM »

I posted this under the Experiments thread awhile back:
Cheap RV - I've been checking out the http://cheaprvliving.com site.  It's a site devoted to (mostly) living out of your vehicle--not the readybuilt RV, but homebrewed modifications of vans, minivans, and truck toppers type stuff.  In other words, within my financial means.  I'll never be able to afford a real RV or the gasoline to run it.  But I may be able to convert our minivan or the back of my truck.  My wife is not going to support such a conversion if it is permanent so I'm looking at temporary reconfigurations.  The idea of boondocking (no outside hookups such as electricity, water, etc.) is particularly facinating for me as it parallels my prep mindset.  I don't see it as a classic bug-out vehicle (where would I put all my preps unless I have a trailer to tow?) but I can see using my preps in the minivan.  In keeping with Colin Fletcher's "rooms" concept for backpacking, I can easily put together a bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, and patio (adding an "extra" room using an awning) from stuff I already have.  The challenge is placement of the "furniture,"  it's weight, dual/triple use, etc.  I can see the conversion for temporary work in another location when I don't have the funds for a motel room all the time or perhaps a weekend "car camping" trip.  Lots of other things to ponder after reading the entire site.  One is security when stealth camping.  Locations is another.  Walmart, according to posts, appears to be RV friendly if not within city limits and I now see why I typically see a few RVs parked in an unobtrusive part of their lot.  Anyway, fascinating site.  I believe I will toy with the idea of temporary conversion of our Town & Country minivan and report my ideas here.  I'd love to see inputs from others on this board on the "RV on the cheap" potential.  Perhaps we can start a thread on it if there is enough participation.
And now today:
Been toying with this conceptually so here's my plan with thoughts:
Our Chrysler Town & Country minivan sees almost daily use.  There may come a time soon when I will find it necessary to change jobs and may have to travel to work sites too far away to justify daily commutes (lodging/travel at my own expense).  I see converting the minivan to a pseudo-RV and from pseudo-RV back to minivan on an as needed basis with minimal effort to be plausible.  My measurement of the cargo space in the minivan (all but the front two seats removed) is 49” wide by 72” long by 46” high.  Won’t be able to stand upright in it but I can live with that.   I plan to make a bed-frame from twelve of those one cubic foot plastic milk crates used for storage zip-tied together in segments of three so they can be stowed horizontally/stacked and be easy to move.  I have a request for some at present through our local Freecycle group.  That gives me 12 square feet of storage for equipment and clothing under the bed.  The setup I’m planning is ideally for one person, possible for two without much inconvenience, and could work for three people if you use bunk beds such as sold by Cabella’s or hammock(s).  CB/FRS/NOAA radios and cell phone with associated chargers/12 volt adapters are standard carry equipment for me already and will be in the front of the vehicle.  A regular travel luggage carrier can be mounted on top of vehicle for extra storage.  A third standard seat could remain in the minivan if you keep the seat outside when parked and pack everything well while traveling.  With exception of milk crates and some PVC pipe, I have most of these “furnishings” already in my preparedness equipment.  I have included shower capability but will most likely go with the sponge bath concept, especially in urban areas.  So, with those thoughts in mind and in keeping with the Colin Fletcher “room” backpack concept, here’s my initial planning for my El Cheapo Minivan RV:

- Kitchen (other than the tables, these should all fit into one milk crate)
  - Butane Stove w/spare butane bottles
  - Folding Picnic Table (for patio use)
  - Folding Table
  - Fireless Cooker and Thermos Bottles
  - Icebox
  - Dishpan/Cooking Set/Utensils

- Bedroom (should fit in two milk crates other than poles for frame)
  - Sleeping Pad (26” x 72” x 4”)
  - Bed-frame made of Zip-tied milk crates (doubles as storage)
  - Sleeping Bag
  - Pillow
  - Army blanket/mosquito netting frame system (PVC pipe)

- Bathroom  (other than toilet, should fit in one milk crate)
  - Camping toilet (located by one of the vent windows of course)
  - Solar shower(s) for kitchen and shower hot water
  - Zodi Shower (optional)
  - Hand sanitizer (kept up front by the dashboard)
  - Privacy Screen (made from PVC pipe and black plastic sheeting)
  - Medicine chest (under the driver’s seat)
 
- Living Room
  - Stadium seat(s)
  - Laptop/DVD/CD player/GPS
  - Hand-crank radio
  - Step-stool
 
- Patio
  - Tarp w/expandable poles/rope; use vehicle as one side
  - Folding chairs
 
- Infrastructure
  - Portable electric system (RV battery with inverter)
  - Extension cord w/power strip (for hookup to shore power) thru vent window
  - Water container(s); Store water in manner to prevent damage from spillage
  - Privacy curtain(s) between front seats and cargo area
  - Reflectrix insulation/window coverings
  - Solar charged LED lanterns
  - Battery operated 02Cool fans
  - Electric Heater
  - Propane Tent Heater
  - CF light on lamp
  - Floor padding
  - Trash can
  - PVC pipe curtaining system
  - Candle lantern for “Palmer furnace” inside the Army blanket bed cover
  - Hot water bottle

- Other
  - Standard carry vehicle tools
  - Bunji cords to secure things in transit
  - Shower rod(s) cargo stabilization system
  - Shower rod closet system
  - Fire extinguisher
 - Carbon monoxide detector
 - Pepper spray
 
- Back-up
  - why, good ‘ol BOB, of course

Inputs anyone?
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CountryLady

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Re: Minivan RV
« Reply #1 on: December 02, 2007, 01:59:03 PM »

:calvin ...WOW, that's well thought out, Magispook. :clap

The only thing I didn't see was a compass or GPS, but I bet you carry a compass all the time anyway. You are an uncommonly thorough person, and I don't know what I might be able to suggest that you haven't already thought of, but I'll be thinking...

Thanks for that link. :giggle

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Alice

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Re: Minivan RV
« Reply #2 on: December 02, 2007, 03:25:58 PM »

Well, when you are finished doing your T&C minivan, would you mind coming over and doing mine? ::)

Well, not really.  I do need some help on the outside storage as I distrust the factory roof racks.  Would love to see what and how you do yours.

I am stumped on your milk crates. Why do you think you need a bed frame?  I took out all the seats except the two in front.  An air mattress fits nicely where the seats were with plenty of room for dog crates, BOB, portable toilet, cooler and boxes for storage.  I like to use cardboard boxes for the light weight, easy to move around, don't "insist" on remaining square it I need to alter their shape to fit more stuff in :giggle and in a worst case scenario - will burn if need be.

Necessities are a comfortable pillow and a mummy-style sleeping bag.  But you could make do with a good blanket or comforter.  The hard tracks where the rear seats lock into are really difficult to sleep on with just a sleeping bag - which is why the air mattress entered the picture.  The nice thing about the air mattress is that you can inflate it to just the right amount of support while conforming to the space you are allowing yourself for sleep. 

The T&C has handy outlets all over it.  An inverter and power strip run my laptop, portable DVD player and there us a wireless internet card to keep me online anywhere there is a cellphone signal.   

Instead of putting a curtain between the front seats and cargo area, sun shares work perfectly.  Look for the ones that are flexible that will fold backinto itself when not in use.  A curtain might prevent you from seeing what is going on in the front seat.  That refers to the four legged travelers. :/ A light chain such as what you might tie out a beagle with is affixed to the upper areas of the rear area between the forward and aft hanger hook things where clothes on hangers can hang - which add a bit of privacy in an of themselves.  Using a chain serves a couple purposes.  Chain links will securely hold your clothes where you put them rathern than all bunching together or sliding while going around turns or worse, have to swerve to miss a deer or some other obstacle.  You put the hanger hook in the link of a chain and it stays right there, no matter what.  There is no sagging with a chain like you might get with any kind of rope.

Consider getting a 20# propane tank.  You won't have to fill it as often as you might with those butane things and finding a place to switch it out will be much easier.  Generally, the cooler contains enough snacks and sandwiches and fresh fruit to satisfy my appetite for several days while on the road.  Don't overlook the rest areas along interestates that have barbcue thingies in a picnic area.  Might want to load a bucket with charcoal and a can of lighter fluid and matches for such ocassions and live the high life while at the rest area.

Forget the sponge bath.  I been there and done that and there is nothing like a shower!  Fortunately, that's where truck stops come into play.  The larger ones have showers for over the road drivers and no reason you can't use those facilities as well.  There is a minimal cost and usually a sign in sheet so there is no awkward line to stand in while waiting to take a shower.  Your name will be called when it is your turn.  These same rest rooms also have the luxury of fragrances or aftershave ready to apply for the cost of a quarter.  By the time you figure out where and how it comes out - one spritz might actually cost you 50 or 75 cents.  Hold your laughter, please.

For the cooler and ice...

Pack ice cubes in advance of your trip.  Keep making ice and putting the contents of the tray into a ziplock bag and then let those add up prior to your trip.  Also fill empty, individual serving sized plastic bottles 3/4 of the way and put in the freezer.  These will help keep things in your cooler cold and when they are thawed - will be ice cold water to drink.  If you get ice cream in those gallon round tubs with a handle and lid - clean them out and save them for your trip.  Fill the tub 1/4 to 1/3 of the way with waster and freeze.  Place lunch meats in aluminum foil and then in a ziploc bag right on top of the ice before putting the lid on.   This will keep your meats nicely chilled.  Otherwise, you can splurge at a truck stop and get a refrigerator that will plug right into one of those handy outlets in the minivan.  You can also get similarly powered coffee pots and single stove top burners. 

Take advantage of the great food available at truck stop cafes and keep your eyes peeled for signs of super walmarts when you get off the road to refuel.  No place like the WalMart to restock your food supplies.  Don't bother with premade sandwiches - just buy bread or buns and keep a squeeze bottle of sauces, mustard, mayo in the cooler and make your own as you go.  A table-top hibachi is nice to have for those out of the way places to have grilled dogs and chips.    What I find very satisfying to munch on while on the road are fresh fruits.  Get them before you leave.  Grapes and cherries are especially refreshing at rest stops. 

A couple words of caution:  Don't rely on bungy cords to secure things on the roof rack regardless of what it's made of.  Bungy cords stretch and as well have heard - they sometimes break at the worst possible time.  Do double duty when securing things to the outside of your car.  Use ropes and duct tape or bungy in addition to rope or tape.  I have heard of more than one occasion where a bungy stretched too much on a highway and dropped the item it was supposed to secure - into the lap of a motorcyclist behind it, thus causing death of said motorcyclist.

On the running of a cord through the vent window - have you noticed that the windows of the T&C minivan don't really allow for the addition or those handy rain guards and rain will come in even when the windows are open only slightly?  If you have come up with a solution to it, please let me in on it.

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simpleliving

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Re: Minivan RV
« Reply #3 on: December 02, 2007, 04:47:41 PM »

Over the years dh and I went from tent camping to vanRV to a pop-up camper then advanced on to the 5th wheel camper.

We didn't make permanet modifications to our van, we just simply took out the 2 back seats leaving the driver and passenger seat in tack.  We put a plank of plywood over the seats for dd's bed. Used the space underneath for clothes storage. 

I made a shower stall out of pvc pipes and bundge corded it to the bumper of the van. (when we travel to the beach I still take the homemade shower unit and attach it to the bumper of the camper.  The camper has an out side shower set up. . . )

The awning consisted of a tarp draped over the van tied to one side and poles/ropes on the other side.  Laying a piece of 2x4 on top of the van, under the tarp,  helps keep the tarp from getting in the sliding van door.

Beds consisted of the egg shell foam rolled up with the sleeping bag when not in use.

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Mary Jo

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Re: Minivan RV
« Reply #4 on: December 02, 2007, 05:49:21 PM »

Have you thought about a used slide in camper for pickup trucks. This way there would be no permanent change to any of your vehicles and you could slide it in or our of the bed of your Pickup and still have use of it.
Some of the slide ins are really nice have heat air bathroom cooktop oven microwave and more.
Some of the really nice one (which Im sure have a realy nice price) even have slide out rooms that come out of the side.
Heres a link to what I am thinking of.
http://www.eastendcampers.com/
We used to have one like this when i was 6 or 7 and I loved it I wish we still had one like it.
Maybe I could pick up a used one somewhere cheap.
This would be good if you had to bug out and leave home for some reason.
A small propane tank and solar panel and you would be set for a while.
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Alice

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Re: Minivan RV
« Reply #5 on: December 02, 2007, 06:13:48 PM »

Not all pickup trucks are balanced and designed to carry one.  I had a Ford F150 once and was crushed to find out it wasn't recommended for a slide-in camper.

The downside to a slide-in is what happens if you aren't at home and don't have it on the truck when trouble befalls you or the whole nation - and you can't get home in a reasonable amount of time.  That's when you will want your vehicle to be pretty comfy so you can camp out in the comfort or your rolling home than try to find lodging where everyone else will be looking. 

From a woman's standpoint, I don't want to have to get out of the vehicle to get into the camper section.   
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Magispook

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Re: Minivan RV
« Reply #6 on: December 02, 2007, 06:48:22 PM »

Wow, the experience and innovation of folks on this board is awesome.  Lots of ideas to ponder.  The reason for the milk crates is for storage in the van as well as a platform for the bed but they will also serve as storage for preps in the house when the van goes back to standard configuration.  The chain is a good idea and I should have that already.  The black curtain behind the seats is a throwback to my days of hours of sitting on surveillances.  Surveillance vehicles had them and they worked well.  Don't know what they use nowadays but I have the black fabric already.  The rainguard for the vent window is something I haven't thought of but would find out the hard way if Alice had not mentioned it.  I will have to ponder that one but my interim solution would be duct tape applied from the inside (you can never have enough duct tape or velcro).  I have two different models of the 12 volt refrigerator/warmers but don't like the energy drain when the vehicle motor is not running, hence the icebox.  I do have solar panel capability and it wouldn't be too difficult to set up.  However, at this point I'm shooting for more of a minimalist footprint--boondocking for more than a few days would be sufficient justification for installing it.  Same situation for my Solar Sizzler parabolic solar cooker--it breaks down to about the size of a breadbox but is just too much trouble for a few days as I would have to put it together then dismantle it (it's about a yard in diameter when in use).  I agree with not using bunji cords on top of the van.  I will use them inside to prevent sliding furniture.  I use the straps with a rachet type mechanism for the stuff on the roof.  I plan to take photos of the interior once I get the van set up and post them here.  A quick look at the photos will quickly reveal my military background as there should be a place for everything and everything will be in its place.  Simpleliving, your shower description sounds just the same as what I am thinking.  I believe I got the idea years ago from CL when she described her "little shack in the woods way back when."  Pixelphoto, I'd love to have a slide-in.  It would be my little escape cave when relatives or the girls friends come over.  I could probably find one to fit in my Nissan Frontier.  There are always a number of them for sale here in WV.  Unfortunately, I live in a place with a neighborhood association that prohibits them from being in the yard which, if I took down our fence, would be the only place I could put it.  Oh, and I forgot another item I plan to put in:  a human powered (read kid's) scooter.  I already carry one in my truck now in case I have to hoof it home (vehicle problems or the scary EMP strike) with good 'ol BOB on my back.  My friend loaned me his folding bicycle when we were in Germany.  It worked well.  I asked him what he ever did with it (hoping he still had it) and he said he sold it for $5 when he left to return to the USA.  Nope, I didn't kill him.  A bicycle on the outside of the minivan just draws too much attention (same the storage unit on top) when you want to go "stealth mode" and blend in with all the other vehicles so it's an option that will be considered depending on location.  Keep those ideas coming!  This is fun, eh?
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pixelphoto

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Re: Minivan RV
« Reply #7 on: December 02, 2007, 07:44:44 PM »

Alice is right not all trucks can handle the weight of the slide ins.
Some trucks can be upgraded though.
Think tougher struts and shocks.

The fold up solar oven is a great idea I love it. Wouldnt have thought of that one.
Also think about a water bladder on the roof if it can handle the weight.
A solar shower would be nice to have once in a while if need be.
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Re: Minivan RV
« Reply #8 on: December 02, 2007, 08:17:44 PM »

The scooter is a great idea, Magispook.  I hadn't thought of that.  This isn't something I had ever thought of, but I'm beginning to think prepping for transforming our Windstar or Silverado into and RV might be a good idea.
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Magispook

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Re: Minivan RV
« Reply #9 on: December 02, 2007, 08:59:34 PM »

CL, yep, I always carry at least one compass.  My laptop is my bigscreen GPS/DVD/CD player.  Unfortunately it uses about 90 watts of power.  No problem when the engine is running but I have to be more energy conserving when on deep cycle battery power.  I found the laptop to be great but awful big when driving in city where you need to be alert at all times due to traffic congestion.  So I bought a small Polaroid GPS/DVD/CD player as a backup a year ago and it has become my primary GPS unit.  It's about seven or eight inches by five or six inches (don't have it here in the house to measure).  The Polaroid GPS, like the laptop, has its own battery and AC/DC power capability.   I haven't measured yet but I'm sure it sips only about 5 watts if that.  Guess which one will be used in boondocking mode for purely DVD watching, eh?  Of course, if I'm using shore power, bigger is better.  Good 'ol BOB has a couple of compasses too.
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Magispook

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Re: Minivan RV
« Reply #10 on: December 10, 2007, 11:40:20 AM »

Just an update to let folks know I didn't just post and run.  I'm having difficulty finding the milk crates.  I already have four but need twelve.  Don't see them at the big box stores, Goodwill, Salvation Army, and no responses (except interest in the project) from the local freecyclers.  I haven't given up yet though.   ::D
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simpleliving

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Re: Minivan RV
« Reply #11 on: December 10, 2007, 12:06:09 PM »

Hey Magispook, have you tried to contact grocery stores or school systems for milk crates, sometimes they are willing to get rid of the older ones!!
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Magispook

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Re: Minivan RV
« Reply #12 on: December 10, 2007, 02:06:13 PM »

Good idea.
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Re: Minivan RV
« Reply #13 on: December 10, 2007, 05:12:13 PM »

The last time I bought milk crates, they were at the Dollar Store or Family Dollar.  Sometimes Wal-Mart carries them, but the prices are better at the Dollar Stores.
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Re: Minivan RV
« Reply #14 on: December 12, 2007, 03:03:42 PM »

I just looked over that website and read the "convert van from vandwellings" and wow....makes me want to buy a van and convert it!  Or at least think of ways to convert our Element (sorta like a van, sorta like a truck, sorta like a wagon.....).  We took it camping and packed too much stuff into it to make it livable....I will have to reorganize our stuff...just in case.  But this forum and that site have given me some great ideas  :)
Thanks!  Also, good luck on the van, cant wait to see pictures (if possible) when you're done!   :clap
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Re: Minivan RV
« Reply #15 on: December 12, 2007, 04:42:52 PM »

vandwellings LOL :) Prariegirl That makes me think f the vans from the 60s and 70s with the velvet ceilings and beds in them with a peace love not war sign painted in rainbow colors on the side where all the hippies lived in and made love and smoked dope LOL :)
http://farm1.static.flickr.com/49/152638606_cff24320ff.jpg?v=0

Also check out this van it has a sink and cooktop in it.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/motoring/main.jhtml?view=DETAILS&grid=A1&xml=/motoring/2007/09/22/nosplit/mfvw22.xml


And this one is really nice looks like a regular van but the roof even rises up.
http://www.travelizmo.com/archives/000756.html

Heres a layout plan of two more.
http://www.gtrv.com/images/floor_plan.jpg
http://www.gtrv.com/images/GTRV-kitchenlo.jpg



Might give magispook some new ideas anyway LOL :)

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Magispook

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Re: Minivan RV
« Reply #16 on: December 12, 2007, 05:02:08 PM »

Thanks for the links.  Will check them out.  My wife will never, never let me hippie-ize the van but I think it would be neat. 
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Re: Minivan RV
« Reply #17 on: December 12, 2007, 05:13:00 PM »

I love those old VW vans!!  They scream "Road Trip!!" to me! 
Thanks for the links Pixlephoto!
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Magispook

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Re: Minivan RV
« Reply #18 on: December 15, 2007, 09:19:04 PM »

Found milk crates at SuperKmart today.  They go for $5 each so $60 plus tax is a bit too much for my budget.  Will go after the alternate sources suggested.
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Magispook

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Re: Minivan RV
« Reply #19 on: December 27, 2007, 09:38:23 PM »

Got another crate.  Slowly but surely.
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