We have an 8 foot pop-up that we love to camp in— but we never feel quite as free as when we camp in our minivan.
Here is the trusty pop-up that has served us well for many years:
We still use it, from time to time, but we’ve actually come to prefer camping in our minivan.
So here is how we turned our Chrysler Town and Country minivan into a mini-RV:
By using a tailgate tent (Brand/Model: “DAC Explorer 2”) we’re able to have plenty of ventilation while we sleep:
It attaches to the van, literally, in one minute. We connect the bottom bungee cords to the rear wheel wells and the top bungee cords to the roof rack:
All the “minivan bed” ideas that we found on the internet were made from piles of lumber which was not our thing. We decided that wood was too heavy and we really didn’t feel like custom designing something for our vehicle.
Our solution? Don’t reinvent the bed— just use a bed. Metal bed frames are lightweight and sturdy— and most can be adjusted to different sizes.
We bought an adjustable full-size bed frame (54” wide) at the thrift store ($15) and adjusted it down to 48” wide, which enabled it to fit perfectly in our van.
Since there were no holes at the 48” mark we had to drill a few of our own. (Piece of cake!)
The local lumber yard was happy to cut us two 48”x36” pieces of 5/8” thick plywood to lay inside the bed frame. We chose to use two smaller pieces (instead of one 48”x72” piece) because it makes it a lot easier to put it all together.
Finally, we used a foam mattress topper to soften things up a bit, since our tired old bones wouldn’t appreciate sleeping directly on top of plywood.
We purchased a full sized 4” memory foam mattress topper at Walmart. It’s made by a company called “Canopy” and the dimensions are 52” wide x 73” long. Fortunately the mattress compressed enough to fit perfectly into the 48” wide space without having to cut it, which greatly simplified installation.
We love the stow-n-go seats in our van because they add so much versatility. In no time at all they can easily be folded flat to the floor.
We also own a Chrysler Grand Voyager that we’ve camped in, as well, but it does NOT have stow and go seats— and those buggers are really heavy to carry to the garage.
If you haven’t yet purchased a vehicle but wish to camp with it I would strongly recommend the stow and go seats.
We’ve utilized 6 under-bed storage bins to hold our gear. Keeping the bed free of clutter allows us to catch naps in between turns at the wheel.
You’ll also really appreciate how easy it is to find what you’re looking for when it’s all organized in pull-out “drawers” under the bed.
Here’s a look out the back of the van.
Pretty, isn’t it?
One more note on the DAC Explorer 2 Tent— it also fits SUV’s and many hatchback vehicles. We’ve had ours for two years and really love it.
Admit it— you’re ready to convert your minivan now, aren’t you?
If you have a couple of kids that you need to fit into the mix, you can disassemble the bed (it only takes a few minutes) and utilize two more of the van seats while you travel.
There’s a website that explains how to easily install a hammock (or two), using no tools, so that a couple of kids can sleep above the bed. It’s ingenious and simple.
I’m sure the arrangement would be rather cozy, but camping is supposed to be about creating close family time, isn’t it?
You can learn all about it here:
Here is the cost run-down, in round numbers:
1) Tent ($130)
2) Used adjustable full-sized bed frame ($15)
3) 4x6 sheet of 5/8” exterior plywood ($50)
4) 4” memory foam mattress ($100— and VERY comfortable, btw)
5) 6 under bed storage bins ($50)
Total “Conversion” Cost: $345