Monday, February 29, 2016

Suzi the Tiny Camper

What outdoorsy person (or person tired of paying rent to absentee/neglectful landlords in unpleasantly gentrifying neighborhoods) doesn't love scrolling through #vanlife photos, reading about how people outfit their Sprinters or cargo vans, imagining what their perfect camper van would be like? Since leaving LA and spending more time outdoors, I've spent a lot of time reading articles about building sleeping and storage units in cargo vans, Honda CRVs,  and even a Toyota Echo "micro-RV." I spent a lot of time since my journey to Lander poring through Craigslist, contemplating Ford Econolines and conversion vans in various stages of repair.

And I just couldn't make the leap. I spend most of my time driving around the Bay Area and Los Angeles, and Suzi is pretty comfortable for me when I'm solo-traveling, which is often. I have quite a lot of affection for this little vehicle. She has been so good to me for the last 7 years. I was also chagrined to note that my car-restlessness falls perfectly in line with the average number of years it usually takes people to switch cars. Suzi deserves better than that! 

I'd slept with my feet in the trunk of the compact car quite a few times with the backseat folded down (October 2012 in Bishop was the first, I think), and last year I finally took out the backseat entirely (instead of just keeping it folded down) and built a platform. It's simple, sturdy enough, and only took an afternoon to build. The idea to do it was in part inspired by a setup I spied in the back of someone's Camry in Lander, but they had a shelving unit built on one side that I never did get to. 

It's no feat of construction, but I'm happy with this little platform. I only very rarely miss being able to transport more than one person at a time.

One piece of 4'x8' beech plywood. Cut like so, with a handsaw.

Corner brackets.


The piece that's at an angle is for stability, the piece that's straight is to accommodate the center console.

The legs rest on the floor, the platform rests in the frame. Lines up pretty well with the floor of the trunk.

I do not recommend using a JetBoil inside a vehicle. The windows were open and I did not burn myself or my car. I usually sleep on memory foam, but that was rolled into a backrest at that moment. 
A somewhat safer configuration.
Suzi's at 180,000 miles right now. I'm hoping to hold onto her for 20,000 more, parental disapproval and fancy vantasies be damned. Anyone else out there have the back of their sedan outfitted for sleeping? I'm sure I'll get a wagon or SUV or van or something roomier someday, but for now, Suzi suits me just fine.