The magic of building your own camper
Building your own camper is very appealing, especailly if you had the pleasure of owning a (confection)camper for many years and developed your own ideas of how it really should be. It is a struggle for space, flexibility, comfort and it is al about independence and freedom. Covid made very clear that a camper offers the possibility to find freedom and independence in a world where these two are more and more restricted. But this freedom and independence are limited by the amount of space, flexibility and comfort. Therefore it is important to find those compromises which are most important for you.
In this website I explain how these compromises worked out for me;
- how I developed a design,
- which are for me the most important tools to carry out the project,
- which are the specific phases in the project
- what are the things you have to think about
- which are the last adaptations
- for those who are interested I added a paragraph 'the costs' and how to economize.
During the whole proces I read a lot about building campers and I watched many youtube instruction films. The most informative part I have collected in the page references. Furthermore I am curious about your opinions, questions and remarks. You can use the contact page for that.
The background of my camper project
8 years before I decided to build my own camper, I bought my first camper. It was a Fiat Ducato (2005) with an Adria Win design, which was very popular for buscampers because it was very efficient and sufficiently equipped to be almost independent. It was very compact and even for a camper almost elegant. The associations of the word camper do not remind to elegancy and flexibility, but this camper felt good when seeing it and driving it. So I had no doubt and the price was favourable, so I did not have to use all my savings. The name was ‘Sloop’, which means in German the same as in English, sloop. Probable a metaphor for something towards freedom.
I had no knowledge of campers, but it did not seem necessary to me. I was glad to have it and my first test was driving to Bergen in Norway, almost 1500 km to pick up my son who stayed there for a few months. It was the end of May, the nights are pretty cold over there and I was forgotten that the water reservoir in the heating system is provided with a sensory valve that opens the reservoir when the temperature drops down 4 degrees Celsius and then the whole water supply is lost. A salient detail is that the warm water reservoir is hardly used in these 8 years, but it makes the heating systems vulnerable and may give you a great surprise in the morning. The heating system is often used and has proved to be very useful, but it is vulnerable. Moreover, it uses a lot of propane, within a week a 6 kg propane tank will be empty if the heating is used every night. This is no problem if in all European countries the bottle-connections would be identical, but unfortunately they are different and there is no way to exchange the bottles. So you are stuck with many bottles and reducers, which is not practical at all. Therefore a propane heating system is not a good idea and this is one of the things to think about in a new camper.
The idea of hot water is connected to the possible use of a shower. The bathroom can be transformed into a shower by removing the floor mat, making free a shower tray and the tap can be used as shower head. In these 8 years the bathroom is never used as a shower, even though more than 200.000 km being on the road. It makes clear that the bathroom takes too much unnecessary space, whereas space is scarce in a buscamper.
Actually the heating system and the bathroom showed me the way to building my own camper with a better solution for heating and washing. Apart from that I had already found a solution for a better design of the bed in the old Adria Win camper. In the old design there was a sitting area, which coud be rebuild to a bed. However, the sitting area was never used, because the bed has a higher priority and it is a lot of hassle to change it every day. The bed consisted of cushions of the benches and a transformed table. So we had a clumsy bed and a never used sitting area, which is a very unfortunate combination. In collaboration with a camper builder I designed a new bed, which is much more comfortable and it makes the room below much more accessible. Also that design contributed to a large extent to the idea of making a new camper. I wanted to make a more efficient use of the limited space and being less dependent on propane. But also the electricity was unclear for me, so I redesigned it being inspired by a combination of models. Concerning the water I have chosen a pressure pump in combination with expansion tank in stead of a submersible pump and only one tap and no hot water. The washbasin in the bathroom is not really necessary. The only useful part of the bathroom was the toilet, so that remained. The refrigerator changed from adsorption into compression because I had no room for sufficient aeration which is necessary for an adsorption refrigerator. Because I thought propane was not a good solution for heating, I decided to use a diesel heating system, as diesel is available in all countries, at least until 2030. It can easily be connected to the diesel tank.
The space in the Adria Win camper is strongly determined by the width of the bench, the size of the bathroom and the position of the refrigerator, which uses space between passenger chair and sliding door and therefore isolating the chair. Together with the clumsy bed, the bathroom, the propane using heating system, the unclear electricity and unnecessary warm water these were sufficient reasons to design and build a more efficient camper.