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 > Mini Van Camping Road Trip East Coast to Rockies

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Partyof-7

Great Mills, MD

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Posted: 07/03/14 01:03pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

I want to convert the minivan into a camper temporarily.
Below are the explanations and details of what I am looking for:

I am no rookie when it comes to family camping. When the kids were wee little ones I decked out the Tent camping by staying a week at one place at a time... then to facilitate the packing and unpacking, I moved on to a very nice pop-up. There we camped for years... but gas $$ became a problem with my suburban so with much sadness, I sold the pop-up and exchanged the Suburban for a Prius. (please no comments on this, it was a purely economical decision).

Camping slowed way down as the kids became teens with sports training and a couple went off to college. All that is left is the annual youth group camping trip.. tents.

But the embers have been re-kindled now that we have a 2-year goal to prepare to go out west to Wyoming for my daughter's graduation. I have recently remarried and with that came 2 more kids (9yb & 13yb) to add to my 13yb and 15yb old still living at home and a 2005 Toyota Sienna.

So my mind starts churning on how to do this trip in the cheapest way possible without it being as inconvenient and cumbersome as tent camping (with all the accoutrements). I gather that it will take 3 days to get to my destination in Wyoming. I would like to be able to stop for the night, have the ability for my hubby and me to sleep in the van while the boys sleep outside in a quick shelter (tent or something that is covered). I want something easy like an RV without having to buy one. In short, I want to convert the minivan into a camper temporarily. (we can fully convert it later)

Any tips on how to make this a simple, streamlined event? Has anyone out there done something like this before?

I remember one of our trips in the pop-up when we tried to do the stop-overnight thing, was nighmarish. Too much stuff, too much work for just sleeping.

Another idea I had was to haul an enclosed utility trailer or find a cheap teardrop??


Party of 7: It takes a Village....lost one to college

DesertHawk

Las Cruces, New Mexico

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Posted: 07/03/14 02:56pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

A teardrop, IMHO, would be the most comfy for two people & could be used to carry the tent for the others as well. Might have a cooking area in it as well. Not all do I have noticed.

Never done anything with a minivan, can't comment on doing that. We had a full sized conversion van back in the '90s & it had a back seat which would fold down into a nice sized bed. Which worked well.

I assume all of you will be traveling in the minivan, so taking out the back seats would not work. Not sure if one can fold down back seating to make a flat area, if so, a air mattress might work well as a temporary bed. Most air mattresses are queen sized which make them too wide for an easy fit. Even in a pickup.

We found a full sized air mattress which will fit nicely into the back of our pickup bed (it has an A.R.E. topper) & we did use it on a two night camping trip in 2012.

Good luck with your Quest.

If you could find a teardrop in your neck of the woods like these, one might work well for you guys:
ABQ craigslist Teardrop

Gallop Teardrop

These are extremely nice ones: Tucson Little Guy Teardrop

Maybe work? Price is right: http://baltimore.craigslist.org/rvs/4487299523.html

http://norfolk.craigslist.org/rvs/4468407593.html & http://charlottesville.craigslist.org/rvd/4506095144.html

Our Chaco Canyon Trip Part One in 2012. A hard one to get back into at times. Part Two Why we wanted to do the trip only in the pickup.

* This post was last edited 07/03/14 03:32pm by DesertHawk *   View edit history


DesertHawk- Las Cruces, NM USA
*2015 Lance 1985~Casita de Campo~23' 4" Tongue to Bumper, Dinette Slide
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Long Bed with A.R.E. Molded Fiberglass Topper
*Previously~ 2005 16' Scamp


Dfresh

Hinton, Alberta

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Posted: 07/03/14 04:18pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

A number of companies are making tents for the back of SUV's, pick-up trucks, etc...

for example...
http://www.tentsontrucks.com/SUV-Minivan.htm

They seem like a decent way to incorporate the vehicle, and it's amenities (radio, 12v power) into a tent.

A quick Google search brings up several different companies.

overbrook

Venice, Fl USA

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Posted: 07/03/14 05:53pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Partyof-7 wrote:


Any tips on how to make this a simple, streamlined event? Has anyone out there done something like this before?


As a former Sienna owner myself, I was surprised to find a book on Amazon about converting a Sienna into a camper.

The book titled, "My MiniCamper Conversion" has some pretty good tips on how to arrange the Sienna minivan into a fairly comfortable camper.

I note that you also have a Prius. Surprisingly, these make pretty nice two person campers because you can run the A/C all night without running the engine.

There are some interesting videos on YouTube showing how to camp in a Prius as well as articles on the subject, including the one at http://www.nagelphotography.com/blog/2012/5/prius-camping

Bill


2006 Roadtrek Popular 170


DesertHawk

Las Cruces, New Mexico

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Posted: 07/03/14 05:57pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Dfresh wrote:

.........tents for the back of SUV's...


Now that's a good suggestion, IMO.

A cursory check on Amazon came up with many options.

Partyof-7

Great Mills, MD

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Posted: 07/04/14 07:13am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Thank you for the detailed info on Tear Drop availability. I was trying to search Craigslist but didn't know how to do a nationwide search. I am really surprised at how much love tear drop owners must have because there are so few re-sales! ..and retain their value somewhat. Unlike Pop-up campers that dive to oblivion. I bought my pop-up (Fleetwood Sequoia) in 2005 for just under $13k new. Sold it for $1500 in 2012. So to buy a box on wheels for more than what I sold my much larger pop-up is very hard for me to do... but so be it.. I will continue on my hunt.
the unfinished DIY looks like the best option right now if my hubby wants to take on the project.
Thanks for the tips on that one.
Any more family travel experiences are still welcomed.

tatest

Oklahoma Green Country

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Posted: 07/20/14 02:29am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

I had a second generation Grand Caravan. When I took the captains chairs out of the middle, moved the rear seat up there, I could carry five people (including driver) and have enough room behind the seat for two (short) people to sleep on the floor. Or I could carry a lot of stuff. Three 80 foot rolls of rubber dance floor one time.

My other alternative was to just pull out the captains chairs and use the middle as my big empty space. That space was more accessible, but did not have as much length fore-aft, though a bit wider since it didn't have wheel wells. This is the space most often converted to sleeping platorm in budget minivan camper conversions, but it depends on the middle seats being removable to leave a clear flat floor, which is not always the case for modern minivans, depends on brand, model, seating options.

Not sure if any more modern minivans with fold into floor rear seats offer the same options, and you may have too many people in any case. With rear seat folded away for the night, you would have about the same room as earlier vans with rear seat out, or sometimes the seat even folds bed flat, though it is a tiny bed, barely 4x5 feet.

I find a self-inflating sleeping pad worked well enough for me on the van floor, since it was seamless, carpeted, and had only the two sockets for the seat anchors to serve as lumps under the pad.

If you need the rear seat for passengers, you might have diificulty carrying the camping gear you need. At this point some kind of trailer starts to look good, and a teardrop can serve as a bed and a light cargo trailer. An a-frame folder might be configured two beds (four people) an can also carry a light cargo in the little bit of availabe floor space.

I've seen camping conversions on minivan (and smaller similar MPVs) in Europe, and they don't put much emphasis on a "living in it" RV experience. Seating gets sacrificed to a bed platform for two people, there might be a slideout rear kitchen stored underneath. If there is a need to carry 4-5 people, sleeping space ends up outside the vehicle.

You seem to be concerned about overnights on a trip. Even with my motorhome, when making a fast run to a destination, I don't always "camp" every night. That can cost 2-4 hours of driving time, and when I'm really in a hurry my camper gets parked in the parking lot of the motel where I am sleeping, checked in about 10 PM and on the road again before 6 AM. 14-16 driving hours. When RV touring, my days are more like 4-8 hours moving.

There's a compromise in between, and people do sleep in their RVs at rest areas, truck stops, parking lots, or pulled over to the curb on some street. But if you sleeping arrangements include putting up a tent, or even opening a popup or fold out, those options start to be limited.

There's somebody near the coast who designs and builds custom conversions of smaller vehicles like minivans and compact vans or MPVs. I don't have a link, but it shows up near the top of search results for minivan camper conversion.


Tom Test
Itasca Spirit 29B


Partyof-7

Great Mills, MD

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Posted: 07/20/14 08:27am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Thank You! That was very detailed. Great information.

TXcampingfamily

San Antonio, TX

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Posted: 07/20/14 12:41pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

It sounds like your reasoning for the camping van remodel is to save money. If you are thinking about just pulling over and setting up your tent for the kids you will find there are not a lot of options for this. Rest stops and Walmarts will not allow tents. Depending on the time of year you are making the trip you may need either a heater or AC. Maybe you will be looking for campgrounds, but with the extra fees for the kids this could get costly. For all the work and cost it might be easier on this trip to just find cheap motels and have air mattress for all the extra kids.


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