In 2021, I finished the conversion of a Dodge Grand Caravan into a lightweight campervan which I used to visit all 32 of Indiana's state parks and lakes. The original goal was to try out the concept and see how much I would or could use it and what improvements I'd like in a full-size build out. One big learning was that I didn't have a single trip that wasn't one way or another iterrupted by work related activity (always my choice, but sometimes it's easier to do an hour of work while you're away than it is to clean up after someone else does it for you). Another thing I learned was having an entirely outdoor kitchen was really inconvenient, because I had to completely set up and tear down every time I wanted to eat.
With a year of testing and these main learnings assembled, I set forward with building out a requirements list for my next build out.
- I have to be able to stand up inside
Having been caught in several storms, and knowing I wanted an indoor kitchen I knew being able to stand up was a huge issue for me.
2. I have to have an indoor kitchen
When it's stormy, buggy, muggy or generally unpleasant it's not nice to be cooking outside. Additionally there are plenty of opportunities to eat where dragging out an entire kitchen isn't appropriate. This kitchen also needed to have some specific features that are a little hard to come by:
- A microwave
- An oven
- A cooktop
- A sink
- A 12V Compressor Fridge
3. I need to be able to run the microwave/oven/AC standalone without necessarily running the engine
The minivan had one option for heat/ac and that's idling the engine. That meant genuinely poor fuel utilization, CO2 risks, and more that meant it was really not a great long-term option. Space constraints meant I couldn't fit in an auxilary climate control solution - let alone electrical system constraints. I needed something that could efficiently provide power to those systems without needing complex setup and teardown.
4. I need a self-contained toilet
Most of the places I've camped or stayed have had some form of restroom facility, but sometimes it's not ideal to use them. Additionally, some camping opportunities are only available to fully self-contained units.
5. I needed an RVIA sticker on the door
Campgrounds, and alternative camping opportunities are sometimes only available to units with an RVIA sticker on the door indicating some degree of thought was put into the safety of the unit. Experience tells me a lot of self-built conversions are safer, but whatever. The sticker is important for reasons.
6. I really wanted an indoor shower
While toilets are fairly easy to come by, shower facilities are not always. As good as the Dude Shower Wipes are, after several days in the hot sticky weather of the South nothing really replaces a running water shower with real soap.
7. I really wanted to keep the permanent bed, with space for an occasional companion
While I primarily travel alone, occasionally someone comes along for the trip and having a second bed makes that a lot nicer. Additionally, when it's just me I can use one for sleeping and one for lounging and not need to do any adjustments between the modes.
With all that settled, I had my list set and ready to go shopping. Because of the RVIA sticker requirement, I really had to go with a commercially produced unit. Additionally, there wasn't going to be a huge cost savings nor did I have the time/space to do the conversion my self.
So what did I buy? That's the next post.