Last year, I converted my 2012 Mazda 3, a four-door sedan, into a camper. I have had lots of friends who have converted their SUVs into campers, but had not seen not a lot of small cars out there have been converted. I am a lover of adventures on the road, so I wanted to give it a try.
SUPPLIES & STEPS FOR MAKING YOUR VERY OWN CAR CAMPER:
One 8’ 2×4
Drill (if using screws)
Socket wrench set
Screws or nails
Plywood or a tabletop
Optional: foam or padding – I ended up using my NEMO camping mattress because it’s 4” thick and I need a lot of padding to sleep. Foam was not enough.
I spent less than $20 on my conversion, because I either had everything or loitered around dumpsters waiting for perfectly good wood to be tossed out. I would not expect to spend more than $250 on all supplies were I to purchase them brand-new.
HOW I DID IT:
Step 1: Remove the backseats. This is pretty easy, you just need the right-sized socket wrench to loosen the bolts that keep your back seats secure. I left the bolts anchoring the seatbelts in because I didn’t want to risk re-installing them being installed too loose later.
Step two: Find or build a platform that fits your car and slide it in to make sure it fits. If you’re using plywood, you’ll probably need to trim it to fit. The table-top I had fit perfectly.
Step three: Create “legs,” to help level out the platform. Then, measure the distance at the front of the bed (right behind your front seats) so you know how long to cut your 2x4s, then assemble them under the platform to secure it and to make the surface level. There are multiple ways of doing this; I chose a less-permanent way and did not attach my legs to the table-top, but if you’re using plywood, it’s probably more secure to attach them to the plywood. I would have also opted for a hinged for easier storage access, but the table top I used was too thick for that.
Step four: Figure out what you’re going to use for your mattress, set it all up, and make yourself at home! I never got around to decorating my little home, but it was so nice to always have everything I needed and a place to sleep whenever I was on the road. Note: I am 5’7” and fit just right in my car, comfortably. Were I any taller, and I would not have been able to stretch my legs all the way out.
Doing this saved me money, allowed me to travel whenever I wanted, and was also a cheap (and fun) project! Sadly, I have since then sold my car, so no more car camping adventures – for now. Even if you don’t drive an SUV, you can still convert your car into a camper! If you do have an SUV, check out my friend Erin’s tutorial on how she converted her CRV into a camper!