How do you turn a vehicle into a home? It seems easy. You take out the seats you don’t need so you can sleep right?
But it’s not that simple. There is so much you have to take into account. It’s your home now, and
you need to have certain things with you. Like a refrigerator, a cooktop, cleaning supplies, clothes, personal products, shoes, bedding, etc. You see where that list is going I bet.
So lets get to the basics of what we are starting with. We are turning a 2007 Honda Element SC into an entire house of things. Other Element owners have it easier. An SC model has a built-in console, no sunroof in the back, and carpet everywhere but the cargo area.
This is important to consider is for a few reasons. No sunroof in the back means no tent on top. Which is okay because the tent sides would be too lightweight and Gennai gets cold easily. Second, it means that in the front I have to build over the top of the arm rest or leave the area above it open so I don’t cut off that storage completely. Storage and utility are the goals here.
I have done enough road tripping and camping out of the car, to know that I have a few things that will make life easier. Such as a dual burner camp stove and an iceless cooler. So storage that fits them, means no new purchases of those items. We also have some #camplife stuff like a foldable table and chairs we want to take along.
We also have some unknowns such as a battery for the solar setup. The actual solar panel needs to go somewhere as well. Clothing storage and how big that needs to be is still up in the air.
Measuring tape and list of must haves in hand, we started getting measurements. We knew that the iceless cooler was the largest item we had to figure out storage for. Also the most challenging. It has a vent on one end that cannot be blocked off. If you do it doesn’t work. The width of the stove and the battery are the same. The total of those two plus the “fridge,” as we call it, are enough to fit across the back of the vehicle. In theory at least, that is how it should work.
Planning is key if you attempt this on your own. Testing is a must in this part of planning. We see on the edges of the back, there is a latch on either side that. If we plan on putting the fridge to one side or the other, we can’t actually get it in and out. So to solve that, we will place the fridge in the center with equally spaced storage areas to either side.
Three down and a lot more to go. The rest is easier to figure out now, as we have an idea of how far into the back we need to have that first set of storage places. We then need to tackle this smartly so we already know that we will need to have a general purpose area for storage of cleaning and pantry-style items like dog food. For some reason this is a huge container for a growing pup. Dog food storage needs some looking into for you smart engineer types out there.
Then the third area of space is going to be for clothing and shoes. Pairing down to the essentials only will be tough, but we think we can do it. Knowing this we found that if we made the center section about 23 inches from back to the front, that left us with enough room to fit that general pantry stuff, and then we could place the front seats where we are both comfortable in them to maximize clothes storage.
That might seem strange to make the seats not go back all the way to some people. If you think about it though, we are really the only two people that will be driving the car, and if it needs work we will be trying to make as much of those fixes ourselves as possible. So for us, utilizing space efficiently is the best route.
We then know that although it will cut down on head room, in the back we will need at least a height of 22 inches. Again we are short, so not the end of the world. This allows the space for the fridge to fit under and also magically lets us still get into the console in the front and extend the bed all the way from the back of the seats to the rear cargo door. We can then fit a full size mattress in the back without having to cut it at all.
Which ultimately leaves us with a bed and storage for most of the stuff we have. The rest of the stuff will go in the “attic” or rooftop cargo container we are going to get for the car. These things will be mostly camping outdoor stuff we need when stop for a few days.
It’s going to be a tight fit for everything and means that we won’t really need a lot of the stuff we have stored from living in my 1,200 square foot house in Denver. However, it is a place of our own choosing and we can park that sucker in the most beautiful places the US has to offer. Not really anything you can be upset about.
Yes, we know this doesn’t include plans for a bathroom at all. We know that we need to shower and use the facilities as one might say. Many campsites, including BLM land, have at least pit toilets. You can easily rent a shower, or if near the beach, like we plan to start the trip with. We can find them at state parks. We have to be quick and efficient in them but a couple of dollars in coins and we will be fresh and new again, or at least that is the hope.
So knowing where to start the project out. The next place to go is to start picking out materials and building it in a way that meets the design challenges we addressed here. Which is where we will head to i the next post. If you have comments or questions on how we came to any of the conclusions in this post, drop us a line in the comments. We would love to hear your feedback.