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Old 01-18-2016, 12:58 PM   #1
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RV aka Camper Van or Motor Home to our European friends

Am starting to play with the idea of getting a recreational vehicle (RV).

Because RVs have awful aerodynamics and carry a lot of weight they get horrible MPG. To address those problems, I plan to convert a Toyota Sienna (most cargo space of all the mini-vans) into an RV.

Doing my own RV conversion allows me to control the weight of the retrofit, too. Instead of making cabinets with heavy wood, as most people do, I thought corrugated plastic sheets would be a smarter idea. My design goal is have the converted interior improvements weigh no more than the two back rows of passenger seats, which will be temporarily removed. Hence, the conversion should not impact the factory estimated MPG.

Besides getting 20+ MPG, with a mini-van I can Stealth Camp, too, which will save me $$$ with RV campground fees.

Many US cities have laws against sleeping in your vehicle. Stealth Camping is when you draw little attention to yourself when you park within city limits. Sleeping in a Sienna mini-van will draw little suspicion. If in a residential neighborhood and parked on the public street between two homes, each homeowner will likely think the other neighbor is entertaining an out-of-state visitor and will NOT call the cops about a suspicious vehicle. Cops patrolling the area will think the same.

Also, being smaller than a conventional RV, I can go down roads that an RV owner would fear.

Designing within the space confines is a fun, creative exercise. Having to consider all the necessary life support necessities for a journey, like water and cooking, is like designing your own Project Gemini.

Any thoughts on the subject?
Doug in Oakland, CA
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Old 01-19-2016, 12:40 AM   #2
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Cool idea. Why not use corrugated cardboard for the cabinets? With a coat of pva it would be just as tough as plastic and weigh less, BMW use cardboard in one of thier cars to save weight, it's a lot sturdier than you think. No doubt cheaper too. For the frames, you could use balser wood, possibly the lightest wood you can get and strong if you use it properly. How about an inflatable mattress, can be deflated when not in use to save space and would be considerably lighter than a conventional spring/foam mattress. For the cooking equipment, consider using appliances and utensils designed for camping as these are lightweight, compact and designed to be carried too so are suitable in every aspect.
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Old 01-19-2016, 01:07 AM   #3
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Thanks for the good ideas, DraigFlag.

I couldn't find any PVA cardboard on the internet.

Brilliant idea about balsa to use as frames. Hadn't figured that out yet.

Inflatable mattress? Yep. Great minds think alike. You must be a real handsome and a lady's man, too!

When parked, I plan to have enough battery amperage to run an induction cooktop. When traveling down the road with the engine running, there should be enough alternator electricity converted to household current to power an electric pressure cooker.

Have you tried cooking with induction, DraigFlag? It's the same instant on/off heat control as gas, but it's 85% energy to heat efficient compared to gas being 35% energy efficient. No soot, too.

For now, I plan to install flooring 8 inches above the mini-van floor. There will be panels that I can lift open to reveal storage space below the elevated floor.

Instead of a heavy HDTV, I plan to have a 2kg projector with a pull down screen on the opposite wall.

Undecided if I want to install and carry the weight of a composting toilet, which I saw a glowing review on YouTube.

I suspect all these changes will weigh less than the two rows of seats that are temporarily removed, which will help improve the off the starting line MPG.

Can't do much about the weight of carrying water, though. I thought about inventing dehydrated water and reconstituting it on a as-needed basis.
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Old 01-19-2016, 01:29 AM   #4
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Balser or alternatively bamboo is very cheap light and super strong too, they use it as scaffolding in China, and as it's the fastest growing tree on the planet, it's green too. Yes I have induction hobs at home for cooking, like you say, you can buy small plug in ones to save space, and can store it when not in use. Good idea about the projector, have you seen the pocket sized ones? Same size as a smart phone and cost just over $100. With regards to the water, you could just buy it in bottles or fill up from a river when you arrive at your destination. At least you're not carrying it on board for the journey. Have you considered a solar panel? Perhaps if there's a sunroof you could locate it there so it's discreet.
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Old 01-19-2016, 01:49 AM   #5
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You're right about bamboo growing fast; so fast you could swear you can see it grow before your own eyes!

The projector I picked out (forget the brand/model) is probably about 6 times the volume of a smartphone.

Don't think there's anyway around with carrying about 5 gallons of water at 8 pounds per gallon, if I remember right. I doubt I'll be more than 2 days between refill access.

Solar panels, for sure. Thanks for reminding me to making them stealth-like, too. Since you can get solar panels quite thin, panels atop the dark paint of a mini-van would blend in; especially at night.

Anything else, DraigFlag?
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Old 01-19-2016, 03:25 AM   #6
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ChewChewTrain,

I like your thinking.

Did you weigh the seats that you are taking out so you know what your target weight for the added equipment is? This should tell you if you have any space for carrying water or not.

With regard to the projector, i thought that they were quite power hungry. I'm sure you could get a small flat panel TV under the 2kg weight, maybe not?

Oliver.
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Old 01-19-2016, 06:39 AM   #7
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There are micro HD projectors that are around a pound or so.
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Old 01-19-2016, 07:56 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by OliverGT View Post
ChewChewTrain,

I like your thinking.

Did you weigh the seats that you are taking out so you know what your target weight for the added equipment is? This should tell you if you have any space for carrying water or not.

With regard to the projector, i thought that they were quite power hungry. I'm sure you could get a small flat panel TV under the 2kg weight, maybe not?

Oliver.

Weigh the seats yet? Nope. Haven't even seen the Sienna insides in person yet. Just picked the Sienna, because it provides 1 cubic foot more cargo space than the Honda Odyssey. Wanna take a guess how much the two back rows weigh? That reminds me, I'll simply ask one of the Sienna owners on Fuelly.com.

Your right. A small flat panel, in the grand scheme, really wouldn't add that much weight. And, it would be a lot cheaper than the $650 Infocus IN1146 projector.

Thanks for the observations/comments, Oliver! Doug in Oakland, CA
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Old 01-19-2016, 07:59 AM   #9
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There are micro HD projectors that are around a pound or so.
YES! They're quite small and light these days, but I'm concerned about the light output.

Found this terrific source of all types of projector reviews:

Top 10 Portable Projectors

Thanks, TrollBait! Doug in Oakland, CA
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Old 01-19-2016, 08:33 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by ChewChewTrain View Post
Thanks for the good ideas, DraigFlag.

I couldn't find any PVA cardboard on the internet.


Google coroplast - more info here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coroplast
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