The SUV Camper Conversion Guide

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The SUV Camper Conversion Guide

When talking about converting a vehicle into a camper, you don’t usually think of an SUV. Instead, typically two things come to mind – school buses and vans.

These two vehicles have plenty of free space to work with, but we’re seeing more and more SUV camp conversions adventuring and exploring off-grid camping locations. Could your SUV be your next camper?

Let’s see!

What is an SUV Camper Conversion?

An SUV camper conversion is exactly what its name indicates, an SUV that’s been converted into a camper. An SUV is a type of vehicle that combines off-road and highway characteristics into one vehicle. These characteristics often include high road clearance and 4-wheel drive.

Using an SUV to convert into a camper certainly provides a great base structure to start. The high road clearance helps navigate rocks and difficult terrain. In addition, these vehicles have a sturdy construction and can take a beating, which makes them great for conversions. 

An SUV Camper conversion is a great place to start, especially if you already have an SUV. Many adventurers begin exploring by creating temporary setups for their SUVs. These systems let them convert their SUV easily, whether for adventuring or a night in town with friends.

SUV Camper Conversions To Inspire You

If you’re interested in converting your SUV or vehicle into a camper, then we’ve got a few videos for you! These will surely inspire you to take the next step in your journey and give you an idea or two for your conversion!

#1 – Kia Borrego SUV Camper Conversion

Tristan of SUV RVing uses his channel to highlight his RVing adventures in his SUV and other SUV RVers. If you’re interested or considering converting your SUV into an RV, then this channel is a must for you to check out!

In this video, Tristan chats with Laurie, a fellow SUV RVer. Laurie has converted her 2009 Kia Borrego into a fully functioning mini camper.  All of the modifications she has done to her SUV allow her to return it to a standard SUV effortlessly. This is important, especially when considering resale or trade-in value to a dealership.

Laurie shares that she camped in her SUV with the rear seats folded down for a while, but it was inefficient. She removed the seats, which provides her with a flat and more comfortable surface for sleeping. This design also creates additional storage space, which is invaluable in any tiny space. Her bed is designed in two segments to assemble and disassemble her setup as easily as possible, but it also provides access to the rear storage.

While Laurie’s conversion may not be overly expensive or technical, it’s a prime example of creating a functional space from an SUV. Laurie does an incredible job of adapting the space to meet her needs and creating a private environment with window shades and curtains. 

Favorite Hack: Getting power for her devices is incredibly easy by using a Jackery power station. Her charging station can be charged in several ways, including using a solar panel. This allows her to enjoy being off-grid in her SUV conversion camper and not reliant on power from a campground or other source.

#2 – Amazing Car Camper Conversion

Another SUV camper conversion we want to share is from Lancelot Giles. He converted a 2000 Ford Explorer into an SUV camper for a trip to Mexico. The goal of his build was to change the SUV into a camper that he could easily set up in a few minutes. So, he included a twin bed, sliding table, kitchen, and even a heated solar shower in his build.

The twin bed sits on a structure that provides a generous amount of storage beneath the mattress. In this space, he stores the window coverings and two small chairs. Lancelot also uses this space to store a pull-out table that allows for a beautiful view during meals or while working.

The kitchen is on heavy-duty sliders that extend to provide access to a cooktop stove, cutting board, and additional food prep space. His water source is a couple of gallons of water mounted on the cabinet that can drain into a removable sink, making washing dishes incredibly easy. 

Inside the Ford Explorer, you’ll find cabinetry that allows for storing pots, pans, food, and clothing items. Lancelot uses this space wisely and has a generous amount of space for whatever gear he will need for his adventures.

Lancelot did an incredible job at adapting the space to meet his needs. This is what vehicle conversions are all about! His SUV now gives him the freedom to explore and enjoy locations for a longer period than before. Not only can he stay longer, but he’ll be more comfortable while doing so!

Favorite Hack: One of the things we love about this conversion is the shower. The shower is a long PVC tube that’s mounted on the right side of the SUV. The shower hose and head are both easily removable when not in use. The water is pressurized by using the tire inflator, which we think is incredibly genius! This system provides enough hot water for two showers, which is more than enough for his needs. 

#3 – 2007 Dodge Durango

Tiki Bird Tracy is creating this 2007 Dodge Durango camper conversion. Tracy shares that she and her husband plan to use their SUV camper conversion for weekend beach trips or more remote locations. She also likes the ability to have a place for her to stay if she’s traveling alone. Like many conversions, she shares that it’s just the beginning, and it’s an ongoing process that she’ll add things to with time.

This is a basic build and will eventually include a power station and solar panel. For now, she is doing without and putting her funds towards hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. Let’s dive into what’s inside Tracy’s SUV camper conversion.

Removing the seats was the only part of the conversion process that Tracy required assistance for. She removed the rear seats to free up space for a bed, which is quite common in SUV conversions. Her bed is unique in that it provides an L-sectional for day use, but if her husband joins her, it converts to a double bed.

Under the bed, she can store their wardrobe bags and a table. And she still has a good amount of storage available for other miscellaneous gear and equipment. There’s not a ton of space, but it will be enough for how Tracy and her husband plan to use their SUV camper conversion.

Tracy also shares how she stores rarely used items in the hardest to reach spots. Common sense hacks like this are often overlooked and discovered later with experience. She also squared off the walls, which provides her with more out-of-sight storage space. This is a great space to stow rarely used items. Her brilliance is shown in the functionality of her space but also by the design of her unit.

Favorite Hack: She wanted the “shiplap” feel for space, but securing shiplap to the inside of an SUV would be incredibly difficult. Instead, she utilized a wallpaper with a shiplap feel and her painting skills to get the look she was hoping for. It turned out incredible! It has a very home-like feel and looks nothing like an SUV from the inside.

How to Turn an SUV Into A Camper

If you’re thinking about converting your SUV into a camper, we’ve got a few suggestions for you.

Sleeping Area

Your sleeping location is one of the most important elements to consider. The best way to achieve an ideal sleeping space is by removing the second and third rows of seats, which allows for a generous bed area. A popular option is to use pallets or other wood construction to create a supported sleeping platform.

Many SUV campers have enough room for two individuals to sleep comfortably. It’s important to think through how you’ll create your sleeping area because space is at a premium in an SUV camper.

Food Prep Area

While sleeping is something you’ll want to do inside, food prep may be easier outside. SUVs have a hatchback door that serves as coverage in the elements. This is a great location for preparing food.

Working under the hatchback provides a spacious area for not only preparing food but also for eating. Many SUV campers have propane grills, cooking surfaces, and kitchen tables that slide out from under the bed. 

Having a food prep area outside helps prevent messes from occurring inside the SUV. Not only does an outdoor food prep area prevent messes, but it also helps keep any heat from cooking outside as well. This can be essential to keep your SUV cooler, especially in the warmer months.

Storage

Larger conversion campers lend themselves to have generous amounts of storage, but SUV campers not so much. Removing the back seats optimizes space for sleeping, but it also provides an abundance of storage space under the bed structure.

Many individuals avoid any permanent modifications to their SUV. This helps ensure they’re able to sell or trade in their SUV down the road. However, this requires getting creative when it comes to storage and using every inch of space available.

If you want to convert your SUV into a camper, you’ll find yourself measuring often and regularly looking at storage container dimensions. Optimizing storage in tiny places means continually evaluating your storage uses to be as efficient as possible.

Convert Your SUV and Get On the Road

It’s incredible to see what people can do with their talents to bring their travel dreams to life. These SUV camper conversions certainly prove that we don’t need to let our circumstances get in the way of our desires. You, too, can travel and see more of the country in your SUV! If you were to convert a vehicle into a camper, what vehicle would you choose?

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