A camper inside a Honda Odyssey minivan has some distinct advantages to its behemoth RV cousins: (1) manageable gas mileage, and (2) a stealth that allows you to camp almost anywhere. With a few relatively simple adjustments, you'll be able to take care of almost all your basic needs within the confines of your Honda van. You'll need the most basic of building skills to get the job done and be on your way to your first camping adventure.
Remove the seats from the rear of your minivan by removing the bolts that secure the seats and hardware to the chassis of the van. Remove all hardware so no parts are sticking up from the floor of the van. If you're not sure what to expect when you remove the seats, consult the owner's manual that came with your Honda van. Also remove the carpeting or upholstery on the floor of the van.
Measure the back dimensions of your van and make a plan for the construction. A piece of graph paper can come in handy to help you design a camper van that maximizes your available space. Typically, van campers feature a bed in back with storage space underneath, often with a futon-style folding couch bed. In the middle area, you'll often find a basic kitchen and a fold-down table, with various cabinets for storage tucked wherever they can fit. Get some ideas by checking out the layout of other van campers on sites like Cheap RV Living or Camper Van Life. You can even find ready-made plans to help you get ideas.
Develop a budget. Once you have a plan for the camper, figure out how much each component costs. Don't forget to check RV scrap yards and rebuilding centers to find the best deals possible. Purchase your materials when you've determined how much you have to spend and what is available.
Install flooring. Carpet with padding is the easiest to install, but if you want something more stain-proof, consider installing a sheet of plywood as a subfloor, and then placing stick-on vinyl, wood or bamboo tiles over top.
Assemble a bed. The traditional van layout either has a factory-made seat that folds down into a bed, but depending on your budget, you may opt to build a simple plywood platform with room for storage underneath. For that method, people often place a futon or air bed mattress over the top, with bedding laid over the top.
Build and install your kitchen compartment. Depending on your skills and budget, you could build a simple box kitchen with a hand-pump sink on one side and a basic camping stove and cooler on the other -- just make sure you properly vent the van when cooking with gas. You could also purchase a kitchen compartment from a van conversion company, which will spend time creating locking cabinets, a custom-fit stove and an RV-style icebox or fridge. In most small van conversions, kitchens are placed along the wall behind the driver's seat.
Install storage compartments. If you've built a platform bed, you'll have plenty of space to slide storage totes, suitcases or boxes underneath. You may also opt to build some type of shelving or closet space in the middle area of the van. However, since the Honda Odyssey often has sliding doors on both sides, to do this you may have to sacrifice opening one of the doors. Also keep in mind that if you build a cabinet that reaches to the ceiling, it may get in the way of the side curtain airbags installed in newer Odyssey vans. Storage compartments can be as simple as a plywood shelving unit or as deluxe as custom fit cabinetry.
Place trim around the edges of the flooring and upper components.
Install curtains or blackout tinting around the van. This will ensure privacy and ensure that you'll be able to park the van almost anywhere without anyone knowing you're camping. For added privacy, install a curtain behind the driver and passenger seats.
Items you will need
- While your camper is not going to hog even close to the gas that the big boys do, keep in mind that your gas mileage will probably go down from its previous state, simply because of the extra weight of the things you've installed.
- You won't be able to install a shower in your van, but if the weather is good, you can put up a curtain that attaches to your back hatch, and then hang a solar shower bag from the opened hatch. For toilet use, some people use a simple bucket or other portable toilet that can be dumped often.
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