The perfect fit
Our readers tell us about the modifications they made to their camping accommodation setup so they can afford to have the best time without breaking the bank.
Not everyone has the means to commission a big outfitter or custom shop to modify their caravans. Sometimes all you need is good old-fashioned ingenuity and technical know-how. The power tools in your garage will do the job just fine. 1 Couples retreat You don’t need to splash out on tents and a caravan when your large SUV can house you and your significant other comfortably for the night, says Deon Steyn from Wellington. “My wife and I had a trip to the Etosha National Park in Namibia coming up. Because it was just the two of us, I began the process of converting the rear of my 2006 Toyota Fortuner 3.0 D-4D into something of a camper. The two rows of seats came out easily enough as they are only attached to the floor with four bolts each.
Then I constructed the frame for the bed and storage space underneath it. The space from the rear of the front seats to the tailgate allows for a 2 m long mattress, so if you’re tall you can stretch your legs at night. Underneath the bed there’s plenty of space for odds and ends. I pack in my 3 m x 3 m tent just in case we want to sleep outside, a cooler box, plastic crates for storage, the necessary cooking gear, and our two camping chairs.”
go! Drive & Camp says It’s a simple design but it gets the job done for about R8 000.
2 Dropside drawers They’re hardly ever inside their 1981 Sprite Sport when they’re camping, except to sleep. But they needed more work space outside the caravan, so Johan and Elmare van Staden from Parow built a drawer and folding worktop into the side. “We decided that a work surface and drawers built into the outside would suit our needs because we very seldom use the sink and stove in the cabin. We measured exactly where we would need to cut in the side panel so that the drawers would slide in under the bed. The cut-out had to be neat because we needed to use it again.
In order to also not negatively affect the structure of the caravan, the cut had to go between the existing wood reinforcements. The depth of the drawers was limited to 280 mm, but they are 600 mm wide and 600 mm long. With the worktop on the left drawer folded, the surface is 500 mm wide and 600 mm long, and it unfolds to provide a total length of 1 200 mm. Between the drawers is a tray. We also fitted a power point and LEDs. The outside door is hinged at the top and has been fitted with a safety mechanism that ensures it does not open when the vehicle is moving. We can also lock it with a padlock for added security.”
go! Drive & Camp says The Van Stadens used off-cut materials in their garage for this project, and the additional material such as aluminium hinges, runners for the drawers and rubbers set them back only R1 400. >
3 Top up Camping would be so much less enjoyable if the roof above your head was caving in and leaking. That’s exactly what happened to Jan Ebersohn from Stellenbosch. His old 1984 Gazelle 2100 wasn’t ageing very gracefully and he decided to take matters into his own hands.
“Initially, I had just removed one panel, but after proper inspection I decided that all six roof panels had to be tossed. One or two boards would just not cut it, so the entire roof had to be rebuilt. The whole structure consists of a plywood frame that’s screwed into the caravan’s square tube steel frame. I used 100 mm thick insulation in the gaps to help regulate the cabin temperature better, and while the top was off I took the liberty of installing 220 V lights and more power plugs. I also installed two extraction fans in the ceiling while a smaller one sits by the fridge to direct hot air away from it to the outside. The top of the caravan is now an 8 m long piece of 3 mm thick fibreglass and it’s also quite resistant to hail.”
go! Drive & Camp says Rather than paying someone else to do it, Jan (who has the know-how to perform this task) rebuilt his caravan’s roof himself for only R5 000.
4 Wall and all You don’t always feel like breaking out the poles of your fullsize tent, especially when you’re not going to be spending a lot of time at one specific campsite. A rally tent is often a much better option, allowing you to feel part of nature, provided the weather plays along. But when Mother Nature’s temper flares up, the side panels alone are not always good enough, says Job Schoeman from Modimolle.
“The side panels are fine, but sometimes you long for the protection of something a bit more substantial, like when the wind is particularly chilly or the rain falls at an angle towards your caravan door. We decided that a great compromise was to make our own ‘walls’ to fit right at the front of the rally tent to create a cosy place to sit and play cards with our camping neighbours on cold winter evenings. We bought our own shade netting, measured the gaps, and then made sure that the top seam was large enough so a 25 mm pipe could easily slide through. The stitching can be done with a regular sowing machine. Then we bought pipes, plastics fasteners and Velcro. We have a zipper in the right panel with a track that opens up in the shape of a door. You can also use tent pegs to secure the front panels to the ground if you have loops sewed in.”
go! Drive & Camp says For the total cost of R500, Job’s homemade panels are quite ingenious. If you have a seamstress in the family, this one is really affordable.