Well folks, it looks like we’re stuck with this whole “pandemic” thing for a bit. In true social distancing fashion, we’re delving into how to turn your SUV into a camper for the safest, raddest adventure in sight. Best of all: converting an SUV camper won’t cost you much, and you can DIY it all.

Step 1: Develop a layout

Your layout will depend on what type of SUV you have. Take interior measurements behind the front row and draw up a plan so you’re left with no surprises. The most important factors you’ll want to include are a bed, fridge, fan/heater, solar shower and storage. Keep in mind that the solar shower will go on the outside and you can also use your roof for storage!

Step 2: Build a sleeping platform

If you want to do more than put an air mattress or mattress topper in the back of your SUV, consider building a bed platform. Build a platform that fits into the back of your vehicle but also has storage underneath for things like a mini fridge.

This video is an easy how-to for building a bed frame for small to midsize SUVs and crossovers:

Step 3: Choose a mattress you can shape

Find a foam mattress that you can cut to the exact shape of your bed platform. You can also use a mattress topper or — if you find the perfect size — an air mattress. However, using an air mattress means you need to also keep an air pump on hand.

This 4-inch memory foam mattress is perfect because it’s comfy while still allowing headspace.

Step 4: Install a house battery to power your amenities

A good way to power your fridge, fan/heater and any other amenities you may need is by installing a house battery into your vehicle. This trick is one that really helps you turn your SUV into a camper.

By shifting your SUV’s battery back a few inches, you can fit a house battery into the compartment. Hold them in place by bolting them to a stainless steel plate.

You’ll also want to install a battery isolator and relay (like this one) so they charge in conjunction when the SUV is on but separate when it’s off.

As long as you run your vehicle for at least 15 minutes a day, you shouldn’t run into any power problems.

Step 5: Install the amenities

Install a mini fridge in the space below your bed (or elsewhere depending on the configuration of your layout) and hook it up to the power source. If you want to include a fan/heater and other amenities, now is the time to add them!

Step 6: Build a solar shower

Here’s my favorite part of this SUV camper conversion. Using black PVC pipe from Lowe’s (yes, it should be black as that will attract heat faster) and a few other materials, you’ll have a rooftop solar shower in no time! Follow this DIY to get started:

Step 7: Build or buy a roof rack and storage system

You only have so much space inside, so installing a roof rack and storage system is a must. Whether you build it yourself or purchase a premade version is totally up to you. If you want to go the DIY route through and through, here’s an awesome video to guide you in crafting a roof rack:

With the roof rack in place, you can add a hard storage system to hold your spare belongings.

Have you been able to turn your SUV into a camper? Drop a comment below and share your do-it-yourself successes (or failures — no judgment here). 

Rachel Curry
"Hey! My name's Rachel Curry and I'm a full-time writer who loves telling the world's stories as much as hanging with my dogs (and that's saying a lot). A University of Delaware graduate, I've traveled extensively, living everywhere from Ireland to Thailand. Bylines include Matador Network and Delaware Today."

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    4 Comments

    1. Many of these projects look fun if you are willing to invest in some tools. Youtube is a great resource for these types of projects.

    2. And then live off the grid!

    3. Pretty cool ideas.

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