Demountable Camper Van. 4 x 4 Pick Up Truck.

A demountable camper is simply one that can be removed from the vehicle. It's ideal to make use of the vehicle on it's own, or to put a little home from home down in any place you like.

The following article will elaborate on the building technique.
You can click on any picture to see a full size image.


The vision for this project was to create a traditional looking timber removable camper unit with lots of modern comforts. She's fully insulated, has solar electricity with 12v outlets and an inverter for 240AC power. There's a full kitchen with running water, a fridge, twin hob, grill and a heater. It's all double glazed for both sound and heat insulation.
The camper unit can be removed from the pick up truck in a little under twenty minuets. 

 

At the end of the article are a host of pictures of the finished product including the interior.



Camper unit weight 890kg

You're welcome to contact me if you have any questions.
info@handmadematt.com

The base vehicle for this project is a Mitsubishi L200 pick up truck. It has a powerful 2.5TD engine and four wheel drive transmission. The ideal "go anywhere" camper, towing vehicle and multi purpose rural machine. I spent a long time researching and browsing until I found this one. It's a 1999 model which I like because it's not as modern and computerised as todays vehicles, it's solid, tried and tested tech. It has only done 70,000 miles (nothing for a diesel like this) It has a full stamped service history from Mitsubishi and has good body work indicative of only light use.
(Not being destroyed by a tree surgeon, farmer of off road enthusiast like so many are.)


First I made some detailed measurements of the truck and drew up some plans just to show the dimensions. I created a quick sketch so that I at least had something on paper! HaHa, this was the only drawing of the whole project. The rest simply came from my creative flow in the moment (and some nights lying awake half dreaming about the possibilities.)

I pretty much made it up as I went along, I was not working from any plans but a creative vision which I just let flow through me.

My favourite and relevant building quote is: 
"I just get the bullet out of the gun and then I run after it to get it to hit the right spot"
Lloyd House - A builder featured in Lloyd Kahn's book - Builders of the Pacific Coast.
(A series of books which I highly recommend and have been a massive influence and inspiration.)


The jacking points for the legs (being demountable) needed to be of steel box section construction to receive the jacks. These were the first things I made. The 50mm box section will accept 50mm timber to extend into the frame. See below.


This is their positioning within the frame having been primed and painted:


Here is one fitted with the timber and bolted into place. You can see the hollow box section facing out from the vehicle. This will accept the jacking leg.


You can see the steel jacking points on the overhanging corners of the floor pan of the camper unit here:


Once the floor pan was completed in a shape to fit around the wheel arches of the loading bay of the truck I started constructing upwards to create the walls to support the roof. I always like to build a roof at the earliest convenience because it offers shelter from the elements for the remainder of the build.


The roof is corrugated tin. I met a farmer who has a machine from the second world war that bends curves from flat sheets. It was used to make air rade shelters and huts. It's clearly still going strong today!


Some examples of my joins using coach screws:



The first insulation to go in is for the cavity under the bed (over the cab.) See below. I always use loose rock wool insulation in horizontal spaces because it's super cheap (subsidised by the government, thank you very much.) For vertical insulation I tend to choose solid, rigid insulation boards to save from it settling down in the cavity over time. Celotex is a brand name of a super high rated insulation that I would recommend (I used this in the roof.) Polystyrene board is also good and much cheaper. Neither are very ecological as a one off packaging, but I feel as insulation that will last many many years that it is more justifiable.


I added some more triangulation into the frame and inserted the salvaged recycled timber window frames.


I skinned the whole shell in recycled PVC plastic sheeting as a damp course. This will stop general moisture and rain from finding its way into the structure. A super cheap and very important step!


This was when the first cladding went on. I used feather edge board that's been treated. It's very cheap and easy to work with. The cladding both inside and out offers huge strength to the frame, effectively triangulating every shape to stop any lateral movements.


Here's a photograph of the 50mm of insulation being fitted into the cavities between the timber framing.


Being a tin roof (good conductor) the insulation will prove to be very important to keep the camper cool in the sun and warm at night. First I skinned it with a foil lined air bubble sheeting which has a very high rating for it's size and weight. It's also a moisture barrier. I sealed all the edges with a foil ducting tape as well. The purpose for sealing it so well is to stop warm humid air inside the camper (breathing, cooking etc.) from finding it's way into the ceiling cavity and coming in contact with the cold metal tin roof at night. This would cause a lot of condensation which would drip down to the walls and cause damp and eventually rot. Again, things like this are very important to think about. Without proper construction like this a build could be condemned in as little as a couple of years.


After the foil lining 50mm of Celotex was fitted into the roof cavity. You can also see the beginnings of the bamboo trim of the interior.


Here is a 50mm underfloor insulation layer.


Having built the door frame, I started construction on the door. Doors are rather complicated to build. They have to be strong and secure and they must fit within a few millimetres of precision.


It's a stable door wich means the top can be openend separately which is nice for privacy and security. The door's fitted with a closable vent in the bottom and a domestic Yale lock. It's very solid and secure.



The interior was lines with 3mm hardwood ply. It's lightweight and looks fantastic. 




The beautiful grain in the ceiling is a joy to explore when I'm lying in bed.


As for mounting the camper onto the truck I fabricated six of these steel brackets. They are lined with foam so as not to damage the mounting rails on the camper.


There are 12mm steel coach bolts that are located through structural elements of the camper, they have metal spreading plates on the inside to make them as strong as possible. They line up with the side mounting rails of the truck and with the bulkhead behind the cab. They then do up with locking nuts to hold the camper on securely.




Here is a photo of the unit being demounted.




The beautiful trim on the front is waiting for some gypsy style art work.

BEHIND THE SCENES

There's lots of technical bits and pieces that go into making a camper a home. Gas and water plumbing, electrical systems and ventilation.

Here are two 85ah deep cycle batteries. These are going to be the auxiliary batteries for the camper unit. They are wired together in parallel to give 170ah total and remain at 12volts. This is a pretty decent power capacity for a portable system.



On the roof are mounted two 100 watt solar panels. Being a curved roof they having slightly different aspects. The good thing about this is that it increases the chances of one facing south when parking randomly! 


The power from the solar panels leads down to the silver box on the left. This is a charge controller. It monitors the PV (solar) power and the batteries status to deliver optimum charge characteristics and to avoid damaging over charge scenarios. It's an MPPT controller (maximum power point tracking) which basically means it optimises the PV output voltage and amperage to deliver the maximum watts (power.) They are more expensive but will give you maybe 10% or more juice from your system.

The blue box on the right is the inverter. This creates 240volts AC from the 12volts DC for running domestic appliances.

There's also an auxiliary charging circuit from the vehicles electric system. When the engine is running the auxiliary batteries in the camper unit are charged and the fridge is run. (The fridge uses a lot of electricity so when parked up camping it is run from the gas supply. Ironic, cooling from a flame... magic.) If the camper were to be in a guaranteed full summer sunny location the electric system could run the refrigeration but it would be quiet taxing.


Here is a small PV computer that's mounted externally from the electric locker. This displays all sorts of valuable information about what the system is doing. The small black switch just to the right activates the inverter. This saves having to leave it on all the time (they have a small background current drain even when there's no load being used. It's not much but it's worth turning it off. Every little helps!)



This is the utilities locker. 50litres of water, 170ah of 12volt battery storage and 7kg of butane gas all live in here. The white bucket is an emergency use sawdust compost toilet. This is only really an option in a weekend van where you have a base at home to process the waste. (Unless you want to be regularly digging large holes in the woods which is the only other ethical way to dispose of the sawdust/ waste mix. Simply dumping it is not good.) There's heaps (excuse the pun) of highly recommended information in Joeseph Jenkins book "Humanure - a guide to composting human manure."


So, here she is completed. When driving the steps store inside and the rear veranda folds and locks upright forming the tailgate. It also offers even more security as it prevents the door from opening.




The finished interior, complete with "warm white" LED tape lighting





You're welcome to contact me if you have any questions
info@handmadematt.com

Kitchen and Bathroom Wagon - Off Grid Portable Home

Here is a cabin which I have built on a flat bed, twin axle trailer. It serves as both a transport method and as facilites for a yurt. It has a fully equipped kitchen with oven, hob grill, fridge, sink, as well as a bathroom and a compost toilet, all with hot and cold running water. It is completely Off Grid with a solar array and bottled propane for water heating and cooking along with a wood burning stove for heat.



Here's a video tour of the wagon:

 

You can click on any photograph to enlarge it.

It's been a magic process of creation with a mixture of new and recycled materials resulting in a completely unique home that is truly part of me. The total cost has been about £3,000 - A functional substitute could be achieved for a lot less no doubt, I have done many previous builds and camper conversions on a shoe string budget but this latest creation is in a league of it's own. 
I am so happy with the result.

This article will show a photo documented step by step guide of the process.
Firstly, here's a few shots of the finished cabin:


The vegetables and the
490watt Solar Array:




The interior:

 


The vision was to create a modern, comfortable and yet rustic set of facilities for life in a yurt. The end product would also have to be portable and able to transport the yurt itself. The concept is not a lightweight touring caravan, it's heavy and solid and not intended to be moved regularly. In it's entire life it may be moved only a handful of times. It most likely weighs multiple tons and would need a 4x4 to pull it. The base is a very strong twin axle trailer that is braked, I bought from a chap locally for £500

A set up like this means that on any suitable site within a few days a very comfortable home can be made. A perfect home from home, or an accommodation solution in a rural environment, working with nature or building/ renovating a property.

Here's some pictures of the trailer on the day I bought it, it's bed is 14' x 6' a modest 84 square feet:



I quickly stripped it down to see how best to fit my frame onto it, as you can see the solid iron vertical supports were ideal to support timbers. You can see this easily in the next few photos.


 I boarded the whole bed with structural ply wood to create the floor and then created the timber frame using long coach screws holding all the joins and triangulation struts together. I made it up as I went along, I was not working from any plans but a creative vision which I just let flow through me.

My favourite and relevant building quote is: 
"I just get the bullet out of the gun and then I run after it to get it to hit the right spot"
Lloyd House - A builder featured in Lloyd Kahn's book - Builders of the Pacific Coast.
(A series of books which I highly recommend and have been a massive influence and inspiration.)

The roof was a priority because it was April and wet, I needed a dry space to continue the project and limit the amount of water my floor was soaking up. So up went the frame and the roof. I even worked into the night that week with flood lights pointing out the upstairs windows of the house.


The roof was made by bending thin ply sheets over a frame and screwing them down. I left them out in the rain all morning before bending them to help soften them up a bit.
This was then covered with heavy duty roofing felt.

Below you can see the first window frames going in. They were all recycled windows. The beauty of building on wheels is that there are no building regulations to follow.


The whole cabin is sided with tongue and groove cladding. Whilst very strong and attractive it is expensive. I think in the future I would use feather edged boards instead.



Within a couple of weeks the cabin was enclosed, dry and sheltered... Phew! That was the only time critical bit in our wet April climate.


Looking lovely with it's chocolate coloured wood stain helping preserve that expensive tongue and groove cladding!


At last came the day to move the cabin to it's "final" location. We pushed, pulled and shunted, moving it by hand with five chaps. The final adjustments (sideways) were done with steel cable hand winches pulling against a tree. Once in place I jacked up the trailer, removed the wheels and lowered her onto old railway sleepers, using a spirit level and different sized blocks to level her perfectly. This was a momentous day.


Below you can see how the insulation was done in a relatively short time using polystyrene sheeting. Lightweight, cheap, easy to work with and very efficient at keeping the space warm, just not so ecological. However, intended use for years is not so bad compared to the disposable nature of polystyrene packaging:

 

I bult the decking that allows easy access as well as covering the towing arm. The decking steps are removable and then the main deck hinges up against the door.
Note the front roof trim still needs to be completed.




You can see here how I glued offcuts of tongue and groove panels and braced them temporarily with supports to enable me to life them into place and mark the curve of the roof for cutting. Once cut the trimming was fitted and the support battons removed. 
The whole thing was then shaped in place and oiled.


With the exterior of the cabin completed I could turn my attention to building the interior. The first thing I did was to start cladding over the insulation with more tongue and groove that I got from for free from freecycle.com At that point I could start building the frames for the counter tops and appliances.


Everything was being offered up for size. Again, all this building was freestyle with little planning, just one step at a time. Below you can see the stone surround for the wood burning stove, I cut and shaped this using a cutting disc in a grinder and then a small hammer to chip away at the edges to make them look more natural, a slow but satisfying process.


To insulate the curved shape of the roof I used rock wool loft insulation which is very cheap (it's subsidised by the government... thank you very much.) I held the insulation in place using a staple gun and weed retention fabric that I had lying around in the shed.


 The insulation and fabric were then covered with straw screening that is commonly used in and around the garden. This was a cheap, effective and easy covering for a curved ceiling.


It was time to start with plumbing and facilities, after all, that was the whole point of this project.
Below, you can see that I've made a box for the composting toilet inspired by the Humanure Handbook written by Joseph Jenkins: www.humanurehandbook.com which I highly recommend.
The tiling for the shower cubicle was also well underway by this point.


 The crazy plumbing required for the instantaneous boiler to supply hot water to both the shower and the kitchen sink was a good brain exercise. This runs off bottled propane gas and is remarkably efficient.


Having built the frames for the kitchen units  and cut the recycled oak slabs for the work surfaces I wanted to trim them with un processed natural wood, so I dug out the tipi pole off cuts from a project earlier in the year and miraculously milled them pretty straight by hand and eye with my chainsaw.


These trimming pieces were then bevelled and cut to fit the units and frame the oak tops. The results speak for themselves. The stool in the photo below was handmade to fit the breakfast bar. I have written a separate article on my site about that process if you're interested.




The flower design in the pine door has a mahogany center with a spiral Shiva's eye shell 
collected in India, it's central on these cupboard doors:



The lighting for the cabin is supplied by twelve volt power straight from our battery bank wich is charged by solar panels. The lighting is in the form of LED tape. Strips of LED's on a long five meter tape which can be cut and re-soldered to create some really stunning lighting effects as you can see below. I have chosen "warm white" light to complement the rustic glow of the wood in the cabin.

Here are some crystals sitting on the rafters illuminated from below.



 Welcome


To recap and view pictures of the finished the cabin you may return the top of the article.

 There are many more behind the scenes processes that have been involved. It would probably be possible to write a whole book about this cabin, so if you have any specific enquiries or if you want any more information please contact me

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