Wednesday, May 18, 2011
How to Turn your SUV into a RV (updated!)
As most of you know, we began our Alaskan adventure last year by investigating how to turn our SUV into a RV (see June 27, 2010, post). While we ultimately purchased an ultralight 4x4 tent camper for the bulk of our 105-day adventure, we spent many comfortable nights sleeping in the Xterra, particularly while on the Haul Road. Many folks have requested that we give more specifics on how to turn a SUV into a RV. This post will offer the details.
To outfit the Xterra for sleeping, we purchased a 5” foam pad and cut it (with a serrated electric knife) to fit the cargo area. If you are interested in doing the same and are unable to find thick foam in your area, you can purchase a queen size 4” memory foam mattress pad for about $120 from places like Overstock.com. NOTE: We remove the Xterra’s back seat bottoms when we travel to allow for a longer sleeping compartment.
We stow heavy gear behind the front seats (which also bolsters the foam pad area not supported because of the missing seats). The remaining gear is stowed in nets that came with the Xterra. We hang the nets along the side panels rather than in the rear. This allows for greater visibility through the rear window and offers easier access to the gear from either the side doors or hatch.
We stow sleeping bags and pillows, emergency gear, a few day’s worth of clothing, foul weather gear, toiletries, and the day’s rations in the nets. We use totes, stuff sacks, and the day packs to keep like-items together. We are extremely frugal in packing the nets. Remember that everything stowed in them must fit in the passenger seat while you’re sleeping. We always leave the driver’s seat accessible (and keys in the ignition) in case an emergency exit is required during the middle of the night.
The foam pad is covered with a sheet to keep it clean. We also top the sheet with an easily removed waterproof cover (we use an old ground cloth from a retired tent) to keep it dry and prevent Rox’s muddy paws from leaving dirt on our sleeping quarters. When sleeping, we roll out the sleeping bags on top of the foam pad.
We use Magna Screens for ventilation when we sleep. These wonderful contraptions are magnetic and snap around the windows to keep out the mosquitos (see http://www.magnascreen.com/). During inclement weather, rain guards allow us to crack the windows without getting the inside of the vehicle soaked.
All additional gear is carried “upstairs” on the Xterra’s roof rack. For nearly 25 years, we have used the same soft-sided Kanga pouch (see http://www.kangaco.com/kanga/Kanga%20Hurricane.htm ), without a failure or problem. You will be surprised at how much gear you can stow in the pouch, however, be prepared for your calf muscles to get a workout when you’re standing on the tires and bumper, to load or unload gear.
Our next post will focus on special amenities, including our kitchen, followed by our solutions for the bathroom potty and shower...