Continuing on from Part One of this post about converting a minivan to a camper van. We had the bed constructed, but there was still plenty of projects to complete!
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For privacy and security campervan window coverings are essential. I followed the online advice of many campers and made some from Reflectix. This material is like silver bubble wrap. One day, while checking out of Home Depot, I spied a huge roll of plastic wrap near the contractor checkout door. Apparently it’s used for wrapping up items before loading to protect them. I asked if I could purchase some and they were happy to let me take as much as I needed. This giant plastic wrap made it easy to make patterns for the Reflectix. I simply taped the plastic wrap to the outside of the van and used a marker to trace the shapes of the windows. Because it was clear, I could see the inside edges of the windows where they met the trim. I cut them out, traced them onto the Reflectix and cut out the shapes.
The idea behind using this type of insulated window covering is that you just push it into the window edges. It stays well, except for the windshield, but you put down the sun visors and they hold it up. After a few small trims I put duct tape around the edges for strength. It’s not really necessary but I was going for longevity. Lastly, I spray-painted one side of each window covering black. At night, the black side would face out and the windows would just look dark. In the daytime the silver side would face out to reflect the sun. (The window coverings would be switched from the left to the right side of the van.)
The next step was sewing a curtain to divide the front of the van from the back. This curtain would not only keep the back area private, it would add an extra layer of black-out security at night. I measured the length between the ceiling and the floor of the van, just behind the front seats and purchased two inexpensive blackout curtains. We bought two because we wanted the curtain to be able to open between the front seats for ease of access to the back. Although the curtains had a rod pocket at the very top, I sewed another rod pocket with some fabric we had on hand about five inches from the top so that, as it hung, the top of the curtain filled the space between the curtain rod and the top of the van and at night would block any light from escaping to the front.
We thought it would be fun for my daughter to track her trek across the states on a large fabric map. I found one online, though it was a little more plastic-y than I would have liked. I sewed this map onto one of the curtains using big, easy-to-remove stitches. Then my daughter came up with the idea to put pockets on the other curtain for little things she might want to keep handy. I sewed several pockets of various sizes onto the other curtain using the same fabric as the rod pocket.
Hanging the curtain was a bit of a challenge. A tension rod just fell down. After a few failed attempts with different items eventually a drapery pin—one of those dangerous-looking things for pleated drapes—seemed to work. I pushed the sharp end behind the top of the plastic molding behind the front seats and used the hook part to hold the curtain rod. Although this solution worked, the rod bent fairly easily and on subsequent trips we used a rubber bungee cord as a curtain rod. We just hung it from the S-hook from the plastic molding behind the front seats. Another feature we attempted was sticky-backed Velcro on the curtains and the van molding behind the seats to hold the curtains close to the sides of the van. Unfortunately the Velcro just didn’t stick well enough. Live and learn.
For storage, we slid two plastic under-bed boxes under the bed from the hatchback end of the van. These held my daughter’s clothes. We also had two individual plastic drawers that fit under the bed closer to the front end. These held food and kitchen items. A set of three plastic drawers fit perfectly between the bed and the front passenger seat. (Yes, we have a lot of plastic storage options hanging around our house from various dorm and apartment moves.) We were able to store a folding chair, tent, camp stove, travel toilet and various other odds and ends between the under-bed boxes and the under-bed drawers, under the bench and in other small spaces.
For camping, we rigged an awning. I found marine-grade suction cups with small loops of rope and cinching ball attached. We put three of them on the roof of the van along the passenger’s side. With carabiner clips the ropes could be attached to the grommets of a tarp. The tarp could then be tossed over to the driver’s side where the awning could be set up. (We fastened to the passenger side to provide a gap-free awning that would provide better protection in case of rain.) We bought a couple of adjustable tent poles and I drilled holes through them near the top. Another pair of carabiner clips could be attached to the two corner tarp grommets and the poles extended to a good length for an awning. Some paracord could be used as guy lines and tied off to tent stakes. Ta-da, low budget solution for shade and outdoor living space!
Lighting & Decor
For lighting at night, we purchased Luci Lights. These simple, solar lights charge on the dashboard during the day and are ready to go at night. I also found solar string lights which my daughter hung on the ceiling of the van. We ran the wire for their solar charging panel above the driver’s door to the dashboard. Cubicle clips made attaching things to the ceiling of the van easy.
Finally it was time to decorate. My daughter hung a homemade, tie-dyed tapestry to the ceiling. It covered the lights, but when they were turned on, the lights shone through the fabric. She hung a dream catcher and small wind chime from the van’s clothing hooks. She made up the bed with sheets and blankets and one of her favorite quilts and tossed in a bunch of pillows. My hippie girl and her van were ready to roll!
Have suggestions? What do you think of our design? Let me know by commenting below.