We decided that since we have such a small space to create our good night on the trail in our camper van, the floor plan has to be tried out in full-size prototypes that is as close to the real thing as possible without too much time or money used. The bed is the biggest luxury and will turn into the sitting space during the day, so it will also be the area that we spend the most time while inside the van, aside from the driver and passenger seats while we are not exploring the great outdoors.
Prototype 1 – Sideways: So, a lot of floorplans include the bed in the back of the van with the slumberers laying sideways which seems to save a lot of wall space for the other wants such as a kitchen counter with sink, stove top and wet bath. So we tried this first. Bill is 6’2″ so we were’nt sure it was going to work for him or if it would really be more beneficial in laying out everything else. He quickly built a frame with hinges that he attached to another two 2 x 4’s bolted to the sides in the van.
Then we the set up the bench scenario and for now, we just attached a strap to pull up the back rest which is attached to the other platform with a hinge and pushed the bed into a couch position. It worked great and it would leave a lot of “garage” space underneath to access a lot of necessesities right from the outside like water and electronics and some excursion equipment. We would have to add a step up and foot rest or platform which could double as storage since the bed has to be high enough to facilitate the extra space that the window well gives him to fit sideways. We’re not sure we like that.
The fixed wet bath with shower and toilet is the next largest necessity we want and would only fit behind the driver’s seat which is represented by the box to the right in the photo below. Although, it seems that the bathroom will cut our living space in half since the front seats will be remounted with swivel kits and can add to our living room, but a floor to ceiling bathroom with shower stall makes the inside choppy and less open. I don’t like the idea of one of us having to climb over the other to get out of bed either. So, we tried the next idea.
Prototype 2 – Lengthwise: Putting the bed behind the driver’s seat would put our living space all together. We would lose the “garage” space and everything would be more dispersed in the available space where we put cabinets below the bench area and upper cabinets. We would be able to put the bathroom and kitchen all in the back making for shorter water lines and not breaking up the small space. One of us would still have to shimmy past the other’s feet to get out of bed but not have to climb over the other. Hmmm. Still thinking of all of the pros and cons of each.
Prototype 3: Lengthwise but in the back and folded shortwise: We haven’t actually tried this floorplan out in the van as we just finagled it on the grid paper. If we cut our bed size down to a long, full size at 75″ long by 53″ wide, we should be able to fit it centered in the back between the wheel wells, sleep with our heads in the back, feet to the side slider door but fold it straight back into the couch scenario. Lots of sleeping space length and we remembered that we have no kitties sleeping with us in the van so PLENTY of room. We have an 8″ memory foam mattress so we will not have any creases at our hips since we don’t have to cut it in half. The dashed lines on the floor represent where we could cut the mattress for my height if we want an extra foot of counter space at my end of the bed. And, this floorplan gives us even more cabinet storage space on either side of the bed, a bedside counter and drawers for places to put our evening reading and mugs and such, while winding down before sleep or on the day bed working at the table.
The sink is at the doorway of the slider door with a flip out counter extension. We love the versatility of being able to use the sink inside or out as we have seen others optimize. Now, imagine for a second, that the bathroom is behind the driver’s seat as pictured below. It would end up being a big looming box in this small space, but a bathroom with shower is a must for us.
We are playing around with ideas on how to make the bathroom a bar height counter when not in use that raises to the ceiling for a private shower or bathroom trip when needed. This idea creates an uninterrupted visual line through the van and open space while not in use. Those who don’t want a dedicated bathroom taking up the limited space end up having to find a restroom or hole in the ground (ehemm) when nature calls. I’ve been there, done that and I’m done doing that. I’m not “camping” anymore. I’m traveling. Some have opted for portable showers to use outside or even inside that are packed up and stored. We’re thinking that maybe we can have a happy, middle of the road.
We are anxious to get the 8020 alluminum rails to get this last prototype in motion inside the van as this last floorplan gives us the most “garage” space, upper cabinets and lower cabinet storage while giving us the most open floor space. So excited!!! Check back soon to see where we’re headed.
We believe we have tried out most every option for daylight living to goodnight snoozing. We have practiced different layouts on short trips, on a long excursions and in the convenience of the driveway. It’s funny, how we have come full circle to a very similar layout we had originally; the two benches and backrests on each side for the day, placing the tables tops in the middle to make the queen-sized bed at night. Even though the power lifted back rest Bill created to rise up against the back of the van was very impressive and ooohing and ahhhh-inspiring to everyone, it blocked our view and some of the breeze outside and seemed needlessly complicated. The side benches also really opened up our living space even when we put up a large section for a table top between. Bonus, we can exit in and out the back doors and load long items for projects to transport such as 2x4s, plywood, even bikes or kayaks for day trips.
Don’t mind the mess, unfinished cushions and such in the construction zone, but THIS is our plan. Notice the larger profile 8020 (pronounced eighty-twenty) aluminum frames we’re building out of to make sure it is more than enough strength to support the weight and force of anything our travels might bring on. It’s lightweight and strong 🦾 AND, it is beautiful!!
You might also notice that we moved the kitchen sink to the other side of the van. Remember there is a balancing act with pros and cons in such a small space. Think double duty. Yeah even that kind of doody 💩 . We want everything to have at least two uses. The shower and sink faucet can be one and the same, the water pump and heater should be on the same side for effeciency, etc. You get the idea. The counter space on the other side is nice and large, has a huge pots and pans and appliance drawer and underneath is our huge, awesome fridge freezer slide out which is essential for eating more healthy and having fresh food. Next up will be finishing the electrical, which is a big project! Stay tuned.