Saturday, June 27, 2015

Ventilation of the Van

Ventilation is a big issue, I figure, in particular when you're sleeping in your van.
Many options crossed my mind, most of which would deprive the van of its stealthiness. Finally, I decided to go for so called "draft deflectors". Personally, I never liked those devices, since I think they look like a heavy smoker sits in the respective vehicle.
Anyway, those devices not only deflect draft when driving, they also keep out rain when a window is slightly opened. The draft deflectors look unsuspicious too.
So, I decided to buy a pair of draft deflectors. My garage gave me the advice that it would be best to spent 10 more bucks and get the manufacturer's real deal. Trusting my garage, that was exactly what I did.
€70 later, I got a set of draft deflectors. The installation instructions where not all that good and left a lot of guess-work open. Finally, I was able to install the devices.
Reading the instructions already made me fear the worst about closing the windows after installation of the the draft deflectors. The manual advices to "slowly close" the windows. With electric windows, slowly is what the motors figure to be slow... and up 'n down those windows went.
Finally, I decided to rub down the mating parts with petroleum jelly. Several attempts could finally close the windows... I figure that was "slow".

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Quick Tip: LED Lighting

Usually vans got lighting in the back cabin, which is operated from the starter battery. Mine was equipped with a 12V 10W incandescent festoon bulb. 10W at 12V means that there is a current of almost 1A (0.83A) going through the light. Although this is acceptable for sort time use, in my book such an energy consumption is somewhat high for longer evenings.

Modern days know LED lighting, which is about 90% more efficient than incandescent lighting. However, the electronics of some LED light sources cannot cope with varying power, have the light source failing.
There are also some cleverly designed electronics which are tolerant to voltages between 8 and 30V.
The local marine equipment store offers products of the Swedish make B├ątsystem.
My light source of choice was the 94Spool1. Power rating for this source 0.7W (0.66W according to the packaging), resulting in a current of 0.058A (0.055A). Such a low current encourages of using the van's lighting all night long.
The only "problem" with this particular light source is, that it's got only one side that emits light, so orientating the source correctly during installation is important.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Update on the Solar Lighting

Yesterday I posted the quick-tip about using solar charged garden lights for nighttime illumination inside the van.
It seems I got lucky again by the choice of van I made. My Vito got those little tiny triangular window which as windows to look through are entirely useless. Most of the view is blocked by the dashboard anyway...

tiny window
And then it struck me! Windows let in light. If the solar collector is small enough, there actually might be a good use for those tiny windows. Solarvets are pretty small, guess what? The 12 LED version fit just perfectly!
Solarvet sitting in the side window
The trick now is to get the wires into the living area of the van. Since the cable is so thin, it can be squeezed underneath the door's grommet easily.
Wiring through the door's grommet
Next issue to consider, those light only switch on in darkness. Of course, one could imagine to modify the electronics, but for me, that's too much of an effort. On the right hand side of the dash, there is a compartment... so, the solar/battery unit can be just put in there, up-side down.
Lights on position in the right dash compartment
Now to the LED part of the story. To keep things simple, I just wound the LED-chain about the vehicles internal skeleton. Nothing fancy yet, but it get's the job done.
LEDs all shining
I figure, it could be a good idea to add a switch to the cable, somewhere in the living area. We will see...

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Alternative Bedding

By now, you may have figured out that my van will be used by one person only: me!
However, I also wanted to cover information I gathered along my path, which allows for a 2 person (stealth) camper-van on the cheap, using IKEA products (read: done work).

In the very first entry on this blog, I explained the requirements for a vehicle to be considered a camper by the Dutch authorities. While considering the possibility of RV certification, I actually do observe options which would actually allow for just that.

To be compliant in IKEA terms, one would need to add a SOLSTA sofa between the back wheel arches. This option will add the required 2 permanently installed seats and the bed dimension.

There is, however, yet another option to fulfill the requirement of The Netherland: the EXARBY. It seems, a similar product is called BALKARP. There also is a slightly larger type called BEDDINGE.
All of which are 2 person beds, which can fold to a 3 person sofa, thereby fulfilling the criteria of the Dutch authorities for a "campeer auto" (camper van).
Due to the nature of those beds, they all have to be elevated above the wheel arches with enough space to actually form the bed.

As you are already aware of, I am not going down that lane (yet).

Charge Your Battery on Solar Power

Right, this is a non-IKEA tip! Actually, the store (kijkshop) is something really Dutch. I figure, similar products are available around the globe.
I purchased this product many years ago, with an entirely different scope in mind. However, today, it comes handy when backing up the batteries in my van.
And here it is:
Once I installed the second, i.e. house, battery, the solar thing will charge it up... at its own pace.

Reducing Noise by a Rug

Another quick tip...
Carpets could be expensive at times. Again, IKEA is to the help. This time, I picked up a rug called HULSIG, which is very inexpensive. The rug fits the living space of my Vito just fine, nicely fitting between the wheel-wells and D-rings which strap down my furniture.
Big thumbs-up for IKEA!

Almost free (solar) Lighting

Here's a quick-tip for you:
IKEA offers some solar powered LED garden lights, called SOLARVET. All things considered, those are really inexpensive (even less expensive in Europe, it seems).
I will use those behind the windscreen, inside the van. This way, I can blind the solar cells, forcing the thing to illuminate. Also, I will insert a switch between the main unit and the LEDs, thereby adding control over the illumination provided by the LEDs.
For larger vehicles, there is a 24 LED version of SOLARVET available.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Phase 1 (nearly) completed

Previously, I mentioned the criteria of registering an RV in the Netherlands. Said process will reduce the taxes to be payed for the vehicle. However, the requirements of said conversion do not actually fit my needs, in particular the thing about the extended hight. Also, presently, I am traveling alone, so what the point of adding another seat in the living space, not even mentioning beds for at least 2 persons. At the end, it all did not make any sense to me, so, I decided to not got for the RV certification.

So, what did I go for? At first, I want to show the the actual vehicle, sitting on my front yard.

MB Vito - short version

In its original condition... internally:

the living area
some of the anchor points to use for tying down furniture (see below)

from the cab

through the back doors

Going on a trip requires some basic storage, independently of if one sleeps inside the vehicle or in a tent outside. Of course, you wish to keep your stuff in one place, in particular when hitting a curve ;-) My choice was to go for a side table having storage. In IKEA terms, that is a "Hol".
And here it is installed in the van:

the Hol, a side table with storage

strapped down, the case itself, the lid too independently

With this particular piece of furniture, I thought it was easiest to just tie it down, of course with IKEA gear Frakta.

The in-van bed, the next important thing to have. This way, I will be able to sleep where ever I park my van. When traveling on highways, those truck-stops are a pretty good choice. Of course you would not set a tent up there...
So, here is my solution: the IKEA "Fliken" futon (out of production).
Strapped down in my van:
Fliken, the "bed" position

Fliken, the "bed" position

Fliken, the "sit-up" position

Fliken, the "sit-up" position

Fliken, the "lounge chair" position, strapped down for traveling

Fliken, the "lounge chair" position, strapped down

with the futon (sun bleached cover)

with futon

Fliken is discontinued, hence, I figure that Lycksele could be a replacement for a one person sleaper.

Concerning mounting, again, the means of my choice comes from IKEA: ratchet Frakta. I figure those could be used on Lycksele equally.

Phase 1 of the camper conversions concludes with the installation of a black-out curtain between the cab and the living area. My choice of IKEA product is Werna.
I am not sure about the way of mounting the curtain(s) yet.
Here is a first test:

experimental fix

cab side view

With the black-out curtain issue solved, I consider phase 1 of the conversion completed.

For additional comfort, in particular when being on the road, phase 2 will be concerned with sound proofing of the vehicle.

Monday, June 8, 2015

The Start - Initial Thoughts and Decisions

It has been a while that I have been thinking of building my very own camper van. In a way, building camper vans is in my family. My late father did it, decades ago, from scratch. Every single cabinet he built himself.
Now that I am older than my father ever became, it is my turn to take the plunge.

My dad built the van for 3 people, my mother, himself and me. This was clearly reflected in the size of the vehicle he used as a basis ... sorry, I can't recall what the vehicle was precisely, it was big however.

The van I am planning is for one person only, me that is. Although, this is not entirely true; in order to be accepted as an RV in The Netherlands, the vehicle has to be built for 2 persons.

This first post of my newest blog will deal with the requirements for a van being accepted as  RV by the Dutch authorities.

Minimum requirements

Interior installations:
  • 2 fixedly installed seats
  • a table, which may be easily removable
  • sleeping place for 2 persons:
    • 1 double bed 180cm x 110cm
    • 2 individual beds 180cm x 60cm each
  • closable (lockable?) storage
  • a kitchen-block at least 60cm tall having
    • a prep area
    • a kitchen-sink
    • built-in water supply
    • a faucet
    • a drain
    • a built-in cooker
  • all of the above have to be reachable and usable in a "normal" manner (what ever that means!)

  • the above mentioned installation must in a vehicle of 170cm inter height or
  • if the vehicle make has got an internal height of 130cm (or more) only, a pop-up roof reaching 170cm height having a width of at least 90cm and a length of at least 100cm

Personal Preferences
This is about my very own personal choices.

The RV shall
  • look like a builder's van
  • have a good fuel economy
  • easy to manoever
  • allow for accessing the cabin from the living space
  • have minimum dimensions
  • have regular back doors.
Consequently I was looking for a 2-seater white van having no bulkhead and no windows in the back.
After searching for a while, I found the vehicle that ticked all boxes:
  • Merc Vito 109 CDI (639) compact with portal back doors
Pictures will follow!

Next Steps
  1. insulate the van (acoustically and thermally)
  2. insert the 2 required seats / bed
  3. build and install the required storage
  4. arrange some sort of table
  5. build and install the required kitchen block
  6. have the pop-up roof installed (by some experts)
  7. register as RV

The Plan
What my dad did was admirable. However, I think I am not given that patience and perseverance that my dad had. So, my decision was to look out for "work done", i.e. using modified readily available products.
So, what is better than using the "nearly completed" items provided by IKEA?

Welcome to my new blog "The IKEA Camper"!