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2014 Sienna LE
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Starting a thread for a project currently just in the planning phase. I just picked up a 2014 LE FWD van with 107k miles. I enjoy camping, and have camped in tents, a pop up, and two different hard sided campers. Due to some life changes, the 29 foot Keystone Couger and Silverado for towing are going away. The best part of the campers was a comfortable bed to sleep in (though the bathroom was nice too). After seeing all the cool ideas for camper builds in vans, I realized now that I had a van, instead of going back to tents or a pop-up camper, I could just do a camper van setup. Especially as it will just be me or me plus 1 other person, no kids.

Goals/plans:
  • Completely removable camping setup
    • Ideally fairly easily removed and stored, allowing van to be returned to normal usage relatively easily
  • Securely anchored build, so I don't get decapitated or crushed in case of an accident
  • Lightweight, no 3/4" ply and 2x4's I see in so many builds (to be fair, this is how I used to build everything myself, till I realized what overbuilding was)
  • Sleep two people comfortably, including my 6'5" self
  • Remove 2nd row seats, leave 3rd row seats installed and upright.
  • Have some method of sitting inside, in case of inclement weather
    • Considering folding up the sleeping platform and sitting on the 3rd row
  • Raised sleeping platform that overhangs the 3rd row seats
    • May require sliding the front seats forward and folding out a platform to fit my height
  • Storage under sleeping platform.
    • Perhaps with drawers for easier cargo access
  • Kitchenette behind 3rd row seats, using seats to prevent forward movement in case of emergency braking/accident, with anchors in the floor to keep it seated.
    • Spare tire hold down probably an ideal anchor point.
    • Mostly shelves for storage, but some prep counter space, perhaps sliding out
    • Small electric compressor cooler
    • Water jug with pump & small sink
    • Cooking will primarily be done away from the vehicle if at all possible to avoid smells and oil spray from getting into the vehicle, but a spot to run a stove to boil water or similarly non-smelly foods in a more sheltered area is planned.
  • 100 Ah, 12 volt LiFePo battery somewhere to power the electric cooler, charge electronic devices, and run lights (and possibly electric blankets)
    • Second battery could be added if needed, but I already own this particular battery
    • Automatic relay for charging off alternator when engine is running
    • Potentially upgrade alternator for faster charging, especially at idle (under research currently)
    • Potentially carry a Honda EU2200 generator for charging, depending on ultimate camping power usage and results of alternator charging research
      • Could be carried on a luggage rack on an as-needed basis depending on trip length and how much driving is expected that would allow sufficient recharging
    • Potentially carry solar panels (and MPPT charger), especially roof rack mounted ones, to reduce need to charge via alternator/generator
  • Window and/or sliding door screens
    • Ideally a screen setup on the entire door opening, to allow doors to be fully open on hot evenings/nights
    • Minimum of windows on screens and screen divider behind 3rd row seats
  • Awnings
    • Awnings that mount to the roof rack, to cover at least one side door opening and over rear hatch area
    • Ideally as screen rooms to allow bug-free area
    • Perhaps retractable, but more likely just manually setup ones that clip to the roof rack for support on one side with poles to support the other side
  • Air bags for rear suspension to reduce sag and improve handling when loaded close to GVWR
    • Most likely the Air Lift 1000 system
    • Permanently mounted gauge in rear
    • Accessible fill port, filled with my existing 12 volt air compressor I already carry
  • Bicycle and/or luggage rack
    • Hitch mounted
    • With added lights so when signals are blocked by bikes/luggage there are easily visible lights on the rack itself
      • Will plug into trailer wiring harness
  • Ideally everything fits into the van or luggage rack, so a roof cargo rack needed, so a kayak or two can be carried on the roof
  • Smoke/CO detector
  • 5 lb ABC fire extinguisher
  • General road trip items
    • Warning lights
    • Tire plugger
    • 12 V air compressor
    • Tire gauge
    • etc
Scope limits:
  • No major mods, at least those that involve structural changes
    • Wiring upgrades allowed
    • Stuff like drilling a hidden hole or two are allowed
    • Primarily avoiding cutting holes in body or any other modifications prohibited by insurance or bank loan requirements
  • Fits within the specified GVWR/GAWR of the van
    • Everything added will be weighed
    • Placements of objects set to keep weights within limits
  • Somewhat "reasonable" cost limits
I think that about covers it for now. Right now I'm in the research and planning phase, actual construction will likely not start until mid to late May. I'll update this thread as I progress, including lots of pictures.
 

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Starting a thread for a project currently just in the planning phase. I just picked up a 2014 LE FWD van with 107k miles. I enjoy camping, and have camped in tents, a pop up, and two different hard sided campers. Due to some life changes, the 29 foot Keystone Couger and Silverado for towing are going away. The best part of the campers was a comfortable bed to sleep in (though the bathroom was nice too). After seeing all the cool ideas for camper builds in vans, I realized now that I had a van, instead of going back to tents or a pop-up camper, I could just do a camper van setup. Especially as it will just be me or me plus 1 other person, no kids.

Goals/plans:
  • Completely removable camping setup
    • Ideally fairly easily removed and stored, allowing van to be returned to normal usage relatively easily
  • Securely anchored build, so I don't get decapitated or crushed in case of an accident
  • Lightweight, no 3/4" ply and 2x4's I see in so many builds (to be fair, this is how I used to build everything myself, till I realized what overbuilding was)
  • Sleep two people comfortably, including my 6'5" self
  • Remove 2nd row seats, leave 3rd row seats installed and upright.
  • Have some method of sitting inside, in case of inclement weather
    • Considering folding up the sleeping platform and sitting on the 3rd row
  • Raised sleeping platform that overhangs the 3rd row seats
    • May require sliding the front seats forward and folding out a platform to fit my height
  • Storage under sleeping platform.
    • Perhaps with drawers for easier cargo access
  • Kitchenette behind 3rd row seats, using seats to prevent forward movement in case of emergency braking/accident, with anchors in the floor to keep it seated.
    • Spare tire hold down probably an ideal anchor point.
    • Mostly shelves for storage, but some prep counter space, perhaps sliding out
    • Small electric compressor cooler
    • Water jug with pump & small sink
    • Cooking will primarily be done away from the vehicle if at all possible to avoid smells and oil spray from getting into the vehicle, but a spot to run a stove to boil water or similarly non-smelly foods in a more sheltered area is planned.
  • 100 Ah, 12 volt LiFePo battery somewhere to power the electric cooler, charge electronic devices, and run lights (and possibly electric blankets)
    • Second battery could be added if needed, but I already own this particular battery
    • Automatic relay for charging off alternator when engine is running
    • Potentially upgrade alternator for faster charging, especially at idle (under research currently)
    • Potentially carry a Honda EU2200 generator for charging, depending on ultimate camping power usage and results of alternator charging research
      • Could be carried on a luggage rack on an as-needed basis depending on trip length and how much driving is expected that would allow sufficient recharging
    • Potentially carry solar panels (and MPPT charger), especially roof rack mounted ones, to reduce need to charge via alternator/generator
  • Window and/or sliding door screens
    • Ideally a screen setup on the entire door opening, to allow doors to be fully open on hot evenings/nights
    • Minimum of windows on screens and screen divider behind 3rd row seats
  • Awnings
    • Awnings that mount to the roof rack, to cover at least one side door opening and over rear hatch area
    • Ideally as screen rooms to allow bug-free area
    • Perhaps retractable, but more likely just manually setup ones that clip to the roof rack for support on one side with poles to support the other side
  • Air bags for rear suspension to reduce sag and improve handling when loaded close to GVWR
    • Most likely the Air Lift 1000 system
    • Permanently mounted gauge in rear
    • Accessible fill port, filled with my existing 12 volt air compressor I already carry
  • Bicycle and/or luggage rack
    • Hitch mounted
    • With added lights so when signals are blocked by bikes/luggage there are easily visible lights on the rack itself
      • Will plug into trailer wiring harness
  • Ideally everything fits into the van or luggage rack, so a roof cargo rack needed, so a kayak or two can be carried on the roof
  • Smoke/CO detector
  • 5 lb ABC fire extinguisher
  • General road trip items
    • Warning lights
    • Tire plugger
    • 12 V air compressor
    • Tire gauge
    • etc
Scope limits:
  • No major mods, at least those that involve structural changes
    • Wiring upgrades allowed
    • Stuff like drilling a hidden hole or two are allowed
    • Primarily avoiding cutting holes in body or any other modifications prohibited by insurance or bank loan requirements
  • Fits within the specified GVWR/GAWR of the van
    • Everything added will be weighed
    • Placements of objects set to keep weights within limits
  • Somewhat "reasonable" cost limits
I think that about covers it for now. Right now I'm in the research and planning phase, actual construction will likely not start until mid to late May. I'll update this thread as I progress, including lots of pictures.
Congrats! Looks like you have a well thought out plan. I’m considering the same use for my 2016 SE.

Regarding your 100aH LiFePo battery, to simplify your electrical build, have you considered a simple all-in-one power station, like a Bluetti, Jackety, Ecoflow, etc. I’m thinking of going this route and using an inverter to charge the power station. The benefit is the portable power station is easily removable for other uses.

For your research definitely look at YouTubers Bruce Parks and Eric enjoys Earth. Bruce Parks has an especially highly skilled build.
 

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How long do you plan on being camped without outside power? My 55AH AGM battery will power our fridge and a couple computer fans for about two days/nights (without driving). And I don’t have solar, just stock alternator charging. We do have a 120v charger built in as well, as we camp at a lot of state parks that have electrical hookups.

With 100AH lithium and solar, I doubt you would need a generator.

Your plan is a bit different than my setup (and mine is a gen2 van), but you can see mine by doing a search here for “Sienna micro camper”. May give you some ideas.

-Mike
 

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2014 Sienna LE
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Discussion Starter · #4 · (Edited)
Congrats! Looks like you have a well thought out plan. I’m considering the same use for my 2016 SE.
Thank you. I've been thinking about it since I got the van. I enjoy projects.

At one point I was building a teardrop camper. Life got in the way and it was sold partially completed to someone else. It was a foam walled camper, intended to be very lightweight and towed behind a sedan. Except for fitting a queen sized bed, and being a trailer, it would be otherwise similar to a van camper in basic usage. Van campers are much more practical though, besides removing it to use the van for other stuff.

Regarding your 100aH LiFePo battery, to simplify your electrical build, have you considered a simple all-in-one power station, like a Bluetti, Jackety, Ecoflow, etc. I’m thinking of going this route and using an inverter to charge the power station. The benefit is the portable power station is easily removable for other uses.
I had not. Mostly because I already own this 12 volt, 100 Ah battery. It was slated to go into our big camper but never made it there, so I'm not selling it with the camper. Cost wise, for a given capacity it's generally much, much cheaper to go with a separate battery, though I admit it's nowhere near as convenient as an all-in-one power station.

Breaking down the specs a bit, assuming an average discharge voltage of 3.2 volts/cell (12.8 volts nominal), the 100 Ah battery I have is roughly 1.3 kWh. Combine that with a pure sine wave inverter for ~$220. So now you've got 1.3 kWh storage and 1500 watts of AC power (plus unlimited 12 volts) for ~$730, or pure sine for ~$800. You can double that to 2.6 kWh of storage by simply putting two batteries in parallel, for ~$1380. Slight reduction in cost by going modified sine or worse, square wave output (which has issues with some devices, like motors, but switching supplies would be fine). You'll also need to add about $100 for a hydraulic crimper, some battery wire, and misc 12 volt outlets, if needed (though I plan to re-wire at least some or all of my van's 12 V outlets to the new battery, so they are usable with the van off). Another $50 to add a small MPPT solar charger if desired, which is included in the Jackery.

The Jackety Explorer 1500 is 1800 watt inverter and 1.5 kWh of battery, for $1600. It's convenient, and all-in-one, but my setup would be roughly half the cost for about the same performance, or twice the battery capacity for still less than one Jackery.

Bluetti specs look a bit better, 2000 W inverter, 2.0 kWh battery, for $1600. You can beat this with a DIY setup for $1428 (plus $100 in tools and wire) with 2.6 kWh.However, I'm quite sceptical of the claims. A lot of times you get cheap Chinese knock-offs claiming specs that simply aren't true. For example, my Millertech 1.3 kWh battery, by itself, is 32 lbs 28.2 pounds. The Bluetti says it uses LiFePo batteries too (Lithium Cobalt, which is used in phones and laptops is ~50% lighter than LiFePo per unit energy stored). Scaling that to 2.0 kWh, you get 53 pounds 43 pounds. A Renogy 2000 W pure sine inverter is 12 lbs.The Bluetti specs a weight of 61 lbs. It's not so far off as to be completely unbelievable, but it does lend to some skepticism... Would be nice if someone did a teardown of the Bluetti and a true battery capacity test. EDIT: Updated my weights on an actual weight of my battery. The Bluetti is fine. Specs are nowhere near unbelievable. This came up after looking at the Oukitel P2001 which specs a weight of 48 pounds and an LiFePo 2000 Wh battery. And I found a load test video of that, which showed 1.55 kWh on a Kill-A-Watt connected to a space heater. Given a modified sine wave interter is 75-85% efficient, it seems even the Oukitel unit is correct in their specs, or not far off. But, it sure is tight...

In that regard the Jackety does check out on my ballpark skepticism test. They advertise 500 cycles to 80% discharge, and a weight of 35.2 lbs. The cycle life and weight indicates lithium cobalt instead of LiFePo, so I would be inclined to take Jackery's word on their specs. LiFePo, even the cheap batteries, can get 1200+ cycles to 80% discharge, and 5000+ with higher quality ones. Bluetti claims 3500+ cycles, which again adds to my skepticism at the price point. Since most people are never going to approach that many cycles before aging dead kicks in, it's easy to claim a lot of cycles. The Millertech one I got is the economy version and claims 1200+ cycles, but they are sold primarily for off-grid solar applications where cycle life is a large consideration and you could easly reach cycle death before age death, so advertising over the number of actual expected cycle would be a bad idea and quickly discovered and called out.

EcoFlow passes my skepticism test, with 2.0 kWh, 48 lb weight, and 500 cycle rating. So again using typical lithium cobalt for lighter weight and less cycle vs the heaver, more cycle resistant LiFePo. Also $1900.

That's probably a lot more info that you wanted, and a very long way of saying I don't plan on using one of the all-in-ones. That said, if you value the portability for other uses besides more of a fixed setup, it would definitely be worth it.

FYI you don't strictly need an inverter to charge the Jackety or others, though the Jackety specs a 6 hour charge time on AC and 15.5 hours when charging from a 12 volt car adapter. I estimate my MillerTech battery could be charged in ~1.5 hours from dead with a high output alternator and direct, beefy wires from the alternator to the battery. It can charge at up to 100 A, but like all lithium batteries the last 10% takes as long as the first 90%, assuming you can supply as much power as it can take for the bulk charge portion. So if I discharge to 20% capacity left, than recharge to 90%, I could pump that 70% charge into the battery in just over 40 minutes, if my charging setup allows. Likely even with a high output alternator I'd be looking at a hour for that 70% charge, or if off my Honda generator ~70 minutes with the 60 A, 120 VAC powered RV battery charger I also already own.

For your research definitely look at YouTubers Bruce Parks and Eric enjoys Earth. Bruce Parks has an especially highly skilled build.
Thanks, will do.

How long do you plan on being camped without outside power? My 55AH AGM battery will power our fridge and a couple computer fans for about two days/nights (without driving). And I don’t have solar, just stock alternator charging. We do have a 120v charger built in as well, as we camp at a lot of state parks that have electrical hookups.

With 100AH lithium and solar, I doubt you would need a generator.

Your plan is a bit different than my setup (and mine is a gen2 van), but you can see mine by doing a search here for “Sienna micro camper”. May give you some ideas.

-Mike
That's a good question. Certainly 2 night weekend trips. Also planning 3 night trips, as they are more enjoyable given typical driving times to state parks. Once or twice a year, a week long camping trip with weekends bookending it, so 9 nights if I leave Sat morning, or 10 nights if I'm all packed before work Friday and leave immediately after work (probably what I'd do).

Well I'm not opposed to electric sites by any means, I'm planning to be able to camp entirely without electric plug-in. There's many more sites available without electric, including a lot of tent sides you can't camp in if you have a camper. But if you just have a van, well...

What fridge do you have? Have you measured the average power consumption by chance? My initial searching on electric coolers did not find a lot of average power usage info, except a few people measuring the charge in their Jackety or similar all-in-one over a period of a day or so. Annoyingly, at least one site rating the "best" camping coolers used the specified running current/power to rate the various coolers, not understanding that the running power IS BY NO MEANS an indication of average power draw. One cooler could potentially draw twice the current when running, but run 1/4 of the time of a cooler drawing half the running current, and so use half the power, and be a much better choice for battery applications. Average power draw doesn't seem to be something any of the powered coolers spec for some reason, which seems odd. Though perhaps most people just use them for keeping stuff cold while driving and plug in while camping, so most people aren't interested in reducing overall power usage. And to be fair, most people probably don't understand average power draw.

Assuming sunny days, even a 100 W panel decently placed would greatly help or even eliminate any other charging requirements, though I do want a flexible setup for winter or cloudy trips. Perhaps that's where I can pack my generator on an as-needed basis, depending on the forecast and what my actual power usage ends up being.

EDIT: 2022-10-21. Realized my battery weight was wrong. Updated that and added a comment in italics to clarify a couple of things.
 

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To me there isn't a one size that fits all when it comes to available power for ones needs. I don't live in my Sienna and the times I go camping it is a 2-3 days at the most. I do road trips so I consider my van a tent on wheels. Now having said that I narrowed down my power needs to a Jackery 500 and use it primarily to power my Alpicool C20 fridge. I did a dry run in my garage when I obtained both and found that in the eco mode at 37F I was able to get 37 hours with 25% battery remaining. Ambient temperature was 77F. I do have the 100W panels for use when appropriate. During my road trips I charge the Jackery via a pure sine wave 300W inverter which is more than adequate. Charge rate then is 84 Watts. The size of the Alpicool suits me and it may be a bit small for a small family.
 
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Anything that fits "over the 3rd row seats upright" is going to have a crazy small amount of head room.

The Skeeter Beater - Car, SUV, RV Window Bug Screen for bug screens.

A smaller fire extinguisher: Element - Fire Extinguishers

You're going to want a roof top box IMHO. I just camp one person for bike trips. I remove both middle seats, put a cot on the 60 side of the 3rd row split, leave the 40 side of the 3rd row up for interior seating, and can fit food, clothes, cooler, and water inside. Then in the roof top box, it's camp chair, trash, other big things, etc.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
To me there isn't a one size that fits all when it comes to available power for ones needs. I don't live in my Sienna and the times I go camping it is a 2-3 days at the most. I do road trips so I consider my van a tent on wheels. Now having said that I narrowed down my power needs to a Jackery 500 and use it primarily to power my Alpicool C20 fridge. I did a dry run in my garage when I obtained both and found that in the eco mode at 37F I was able to get 37 hours with 25% battery remaining. Ambient temperature was 77F. I do have the 100W panels for use when appropriate. During my road trips I charge the Jackery via a pure sine wave 300W inverter which is more than adequate. Charge rate then is 84 Watts. The size of the Alpicool suits me and it may be a bit small for a small family.
I don't have a small family, just be an done other person. So a small cooler is probably fine.

Thanks for the datapoint, that's great. Using that and the size of the battery in the Jackery 500 we can estimate an average power draw of 10.5 W for the Apicool C20, or 250 Wh/day. With my 1.3 kWh battery, I have 900 watt hours usable without going lower than 20% charge (which I want to avoid), so that means it could run that cooler for ~3.5 days at those ambient conditions. Assuming no other loads.

Anything that fits "over the 3rd row seats upright" is going to have a crazy small amount of head room.

The Skeeter Beater - Car, SUV, RV Window Bug Screen for bug screens.

A smaller fire extinguisher: Element - Fire Extinguishers

You're going to want a roof top box IMHO. I just camp one person for bike trips. I remove both middle seats, put a cot on the 60 side of the 3rd row split, leave the 40 side of the 3rd row up for interior seating, and can fit food, clothes, cooler, and water inside. Then in the roof top box, it's camp chair, trash, other big things, etc.
Yeah, I'm not 100% convinced on that, but I liked the idea of having a spot to sit perhaps. I'll mock it up before I actually build something, and if it's too tight, then I may change plans and remove the 3rd row seats entirely. I just wanted to not do that cause if I want to use the seats it's a lot more hassle to put them in. But it would allow more headroom, at the expense of some under-bed storage space.

As far as the raised bed, one of the reasons I wanted that was the under-seat storage. Headroom may be lacking but the height of the rear seat leaves lots of room for storage under the bed.

The skeeter beater screens basically matched what I had in my head for screen ideas, but are pre-made. Thanks.

Hmm, the Element. That's an interesting idea. I really wish it was rated. Interestingly, they don't provide any self ratings either. I'm not saying it won't work, but the question is how well will it work? That's what's nice about the UL ratings they don't have, a 5 lb ABC is typically rated 3-A:40-B:C, which means for class A fires it's equivalent to 3 gallons of water, and can extinguish 40 square feet of burning flammable liquids. A 5 lb is somewhat on the larger side, but will mount nicely in the 8th seat rear cubby hole and still leave room for other stuff like a 12 volt compressor, etc. My main concern is how long it lasts, they advertise the length it operates like that's a good thing. It's typically better to dump an extinguishing agent faster, not slower. I watched a couple of videos and it does seem pretty darn effective in specific circumstances. A car catching on fire on a windy day? Not going to be very effective. Any more than a small amount of gasoline? Too slow to put it out, it would put out some but then catch fire from the rest of the burning gas after you moved on.
 

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The only other thing I'd point out is that at 6'5" , if you use the 3rd row seats as your bed height, they also limit your bed length. I built a platform bed that slides from a single into a double. Which allows me use of the 40% 3rd row seat when in single mode. I find the entry/exit getting in and out of bed in double mode very challenging. I'm 6'3" but I may be less flexible than you. With the bed up against the rear door, I find the space in front of the bed with the front seats all the way forward to still be cramped. I'd encourage you to use a temporary setup to make sure you can get out of bed with the doors closed at all. That might not be a requirement for you, but I wanted to be able to say change my clothes and put shoes on without opening the door. If you Camp in the cold or boondock or stealth camp it's something to consider.

Sent from my SM-S906U using Tapatalk
 

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Our camper build, SB42 (in my sig), checks almost all of your boxes except sleeping a 6'5" person. The key to ease and light weight was to use torsion boxes (1/4 plywood paneling gorilla glued to 2" xps) with leg plates. For us, the key to ventilation was using the quarter glass in the back - it created a pleasant cross breeze at night, and was easily adjustable. Just make sure to seal the cracks between the ventilation panels and window opening.

PS: the CX40 E-Kooler works equally well in the Gen 3 - we have both. And they're less then $300 from Costco (last time I checked).
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
The key to ease and light weight was to use torsion boxes (1/4 plywood paneling gorilla glued to 2" xps) with leg plates. For us, the key to ventilation was using the quarter glass in the back - it created a pleasant cross breeze at night, and was easily adjustable. Just make sure to seal the cracks between the ventilation panels and window opening.
Ohhh, good idea! Thanks! That would certainly be light.

Rear windows are a good idea too.

the CX40 E-Kooler works equally well in the Gen 3 - we have both. And they're less then $300 from Costco (last time I checked).
I checked and they are on sale through the 28th for $270. Normal price now is $350. Guess it’s time I get a Costco membership.
 

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I followed a Bruce Parks YouTube channel and made my 2016 Sienna LE 123K van into a camper. Not an engineer so no solar or sink like he has done. Don't waste your time until you watch his videos.
 

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I went through many of the same requirements as stated by original post here and started on this camper conversion a little over a year ago, April 2021.

I'm posting some of my thoughts and ideas based on my experiences so far. This van is a great platform for a campervan for 1 or 2 people, if you have small children(if you are like me, it's why you originally bought the van), it can work, but it's a lot of compromises.

I got many ideas from Bruce parks, Eric enjoys earth, mountain poptop, and another similar build, can't find him on youtube anymore.

My purpose/mission is mainly for touring, adventure, exploring, a vehicle that has everything needed for a few nights off grid, some camping, some boondocking, some just hanging out on the beach or at the trailhead or lake all day, but not for long extended periods of time off grid or boondocking. I remote work so I needed to accomodate a decent setup for that and I've found that AC is a requirement for that because I need the doors closed and privacy.



This is what I did:
  • Removed 2nd and 3rd row seats completely
  • Airlift 1,000, this is an amazing product and great addition to any Sienna regardless of camper van, the rear springs on the sienna should be stiffer, but Toyota prioritizes a cushy ride, so you get sag as you add anything to the car, I recommend the Airlift, the car handles better with them, I've had them for over a year now, have been a great addition
  • Built Convertible sofa bed with 2x3's frame, 1/2 inch baltic birch plywood top/cover, using kreg pocket hole jig to assemble frame, it's been very solid, I used bolts to secure top to frame, and a cam strap to secure frame to the vehicle seat mount points, it does not move, shake, or rattle when driving, This bed frame is very light weight, I can easily move it in and out of the van with no help from anyone, the weight of the bed frame and birch plywood is less than the weight of the 2nd row seats, and it's secured to the van seat mounts and will not move even when slamming on brakes, it's very secure, but, a full rear impact at 80mph, I don't think there is going to be a good outcome there... I think removing the 2nd and 3rd row seats moves a bit of safety buffer for front seat passengers in the event of a rear impact collision, maybe the side and rear airbags and seat back help buffer this... removal of the 2nd and 3rd row seats reduces more weight than I am adding with the build
  • Bed platform when in bed mode is a full size bed, if you get 6 inches off the floor the width of the van is enough for a full size bed 54 x 75 and it goes from being a rear facing front facing sofa to a bed, ideas/plans for bed taken from Erik does Earth videos on youtube. I cut my foam to 4 pieces - 50 x 18 inches for a total length of 72, while you could fit a full size mattress in this van at that height from the floor it's really maybe 52 inches at the wheel well and the mattress is compacted a bit but it does work fine as I've done it that way without issue. I figure having a little space for the cushions to expand on the side and to reach down below the frame to grab things from the side is good, also this way the bed frame is not touching the van side walls and won't rattle or scrape anything. I'll also add that the higher up the bed is, closer to the cup holders, the more comfortable sleeping in it will be for turning on side and not hitting legs on side of van and being cramped with 2 sleepers, I am 5' 11" 190ish, this bed works great
  • Jackery 1500 solar generator
  • Weather-tech side window deflectors for all 4 windows
  • Reflectix all around, custom made, cut them a tad larger as they seem to shrink quite a bit with cooler temps and lower humidity
  • Black curtains and curtain rod across front seats B pillar for two purposes, block airflow from front to back while driving, or when front reflectix not installed, it's amazing how much just a black curtain makes a difference on that, it also disguises what's in back when you are in a parking lot at a store or somewhere with lots of traffic
  • Yakima foot packs and 70inch cross rails to get wider footprint for solar/cargo/bike/kayak
  • 200 watt Renogy rigid solar panel on roof, with additional portable flexible folding 220 watt solar
  • Thule Ascent 1500 rooftop carrier
  • IceCo VL60 chest fridge/freezer combo
  • Noseem Bug mesh screens for both side doors and rear door held on with magnets
  • portable fan to circulate air through cabin with screens on doors windows, for sleeping closed the doors but left 2nd row windows open with the screens on for air flow
  • 6 inch memory foam mattress cut into 4 sections covered in outdoor upholstery with pvc backing
What I don't think is necessary or was not a great idea:
  • Yakima cross bars, this lifts the entire rack system up another 3 to 4 inches over the factory roof rack and rails system which creates a great deal more drag, this affected MPG negatively by at least 2MPG and I'm being nice, because it also slowed me down in high wind situations it drove more like a full size fan so I reduced speed, had I not done that, MPG would have suffered more. I've found that using the factory roof rack and rails system with cargo mounted as far back as possible reduced drag the most and affected MPG the least amount. I think you are better off with a rear hitch mounted cargo box and a flexible solar panel glued to the roof, use roof rack and rails only when needed for bike/kayak, awning, shower etc.
  • the iceco VL60 is a great and amazing product and I love it but it's a little big for the Sienna, it gets in the way, I would recommend the VL45 or similar as the biggest fridge for the sienna and I am considering 2 of the GO20 models instead of the VL45
  • 6 inch memory foam cushions is a little large, not required, the bed is very comfortable, like at home, but for use as a sofa, it's awkward, cushions are large and take up lots of valuable real estate, 4 inch would probably work fine for this, I might try it but if you are only using it for bed and not going to use the seats much, thicker foam is better
What I think needs to be added:
  • Some type of sink/water setup either inside behind the drivers seat or a rear kitchen setup, my plan is to do an inside small cabinet with sink, a smaller version of what mountain poptop has, although he has a great kitchen sink setup that would work if you modify the bed a bit, freshwater/gray water tanks 7 gallon each, there are many examples how to do this on web, add an electric pump, the foot or hand pumps really are not convenient and if you are going to all this trouble already, you might as well have a nice water pump on board.
  • removable/moveable table attached to sink cabinet to use as a work table for multi purpose use, mountain poptop and Eric explores earth have good examples of this
  • Long sliding drawers under bed frame that extend to rear exterior to use for storage and outside work table top
  • redo reflectix with black fabric on one side for stealth
  • Add Better screens, I've seen many creative approaches to screens and airflow, I think I like just a screen on the inside of the drivers side rear door window that is always on, you can just put the window up or down, permanent screen, even while driving, going to try velcro, will have to accommodate for adding and removing reflectix. On the passenger side rear door, I am thinking a full door magnetically connected 2 piece screen, so permanently attached around the inside frame with magnets or velcro, and a separation in the middle so you can go in and out with the magnets auto come back together similar to what commercial class b vans have
  • Sliding drawers under bed frame sliding toward the front for inside storage and to get full use of under bed storage area
  • Removal of the front console either to be able to walk from front seat to rear and vice versa, or to install a 20QT iceco or similar fridge in lieu of a bigger fridge in the back taking up real estate, I have found that it is not practical to put a fridge in the back under the bed where you can't get to it while driving or on the go without getting in the back of the vehicle and moving things around, additionally, if you have your bed made, you have to mess it up every-time you want to get to the fridge or if you are using it as a sofa, you have to get up and lift it up every-time you want to get to it, it's best to just use that third row space for all storage items and things you don't need to get to while touring, things like clothing, tools, solar equipment, extra gear that you don't use all the time, folding bike maybe
  • Like I said above, a flexible solar panel glued to roof with a double sided vhb adhesive tape is a much better situation for drag, stealth, and cleanliness.
  • For me, portable AC is a must have for the warmer weather and humidity, if you are not traveling with the weather to avoid the heat, you can't leave engine running and run stock AC because it's not sufficiently powered at idle plus you are burning fuel and spewing out exhaust where you sleep or are hanging out, I'm looking at options like ecoflow wave portable unit and for installation ideas, the third row rear vent window could be removed and replaced with a steel/aluminum panel with vents built in for the AC, the AC unit can be ducted and a drain line for the water can be added to the well where the third row seats fold down, there are rubber grommets to the outside already there for things like this
  • Addition of shore power through the third row seat floor area
  • Solar shower, there are few online DIY examples of this, basically, just a PVC tube on the roof filled with water, paint it black, it get's hot from the sun, can also use it as another water source to hose off dirt and sand from equipment and bodies, hook up to your water pump when needed and have an outdoor shower, get one of those popup tents that is designed for this, can also be used for cassette toilet outhouse
  • Cassette toilet for use when Boondocking or sleeping, kinda important to have this inside for at night
  • Maybe upgrade Jackery to the 2000, or multiple jackery's, although you can't daisy chain or parellel multiple jackery units as far as I know, some of the others on the market can do that, can never have too many watt hours, could also just add a custom lithium system lifepo4 batteries, inverter, and a MPPT controller as additional redundant power, this option could be run in parallel with the jackery, using the DC line output of the MPPT to charge the Jackery in theory, although I haven't tried this. The jackery product is awesome, solid, just want to add here that it's max input current/amperage is 6.5amps, so, it's ideal for 100watt solar panels, if you use a larger single panel like I do 200watts, you need to split the input to reduce the amperage because a 200watt panel will put out 9amps and you will loose 2.5amps if you just plug into one Jackery input, it's better suited for 2 or 2 sets of 2 100watt panels run in series and that's how they sell it on their website if you buy their panels, I did not.
  • Finally and maybe the first thing I do, is, this van is too low to the ground for touring/adventure/boondocking, it really needs a lift, I think the traxda ~1.5/2 inch lift is a good option. If you already have the AWD version of the sienna you are good without the lift, I wouldn't mess with it, A bull bar on the front, More Aggressive tires Michelin CrossClimate 2 are a good choice to get best of both worlds and matte black rims

By the way, on my 1st major trip ~3,000 miles in 9 days, I averaged 19MPG with the Yakima rack, solar panel, kayak rack, and thule roof top carrier

My 2nd major trip 3,300 miles in 8 days, 21MPG, just factory rack and cross rails with thule cargo carrier

On shorter 1500 mile trip with no roof top carrier or cross rails 22MPG

All similar weather and terrain, same tires, bridgestone dueller alenza, 2012 sienna SE, West US mountain states in summer, CO, UT, AZ, NM, WY, MT, SD, NE,
 

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2014 Sienna LE
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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Figured it's time for an update. Not much to report, as life has been busy, and money has been tight. That should change shortly. I think I will start some planning for this this weekend though.

I did, however, for other reasons finally test the Epever Tracer MMPT charger I have, with a 55 W solar panel I picked up forever ago, and my 100 Ah LiFePo battery. It works well. I plan to use this battery, charger, and panel on my build, likely along with other panels at some point.


The MT50 remote screen I got with my MMPT charger actually has a better interface than the charger itself. On the left is the solar panel indicator, with a sun for panel having enough power to output, or a moon if the light is low enough the panel can't output anything. It displays panel output voltage and current. In the middle is the battery, also showing voltage and current. I believe the current goes negative if the battery is discharging. On the left is the DC output, with voltage and current.


The charger is true MMPT, and I verified it works by covering a portion of the panel, taking out half the panel as the panel only has two bypass diodes. The charger correctly compensated for the 1/2 reduction in voltage by adjusting and outputting 1/2 power to the battery.

While the charger does show total Wh charged, or discharged, from the battery, which is useful for tracking the state of charge of the battery much more accurately than measuring only voltage, it only does so for loads connected directly to the charger. The loads connected to the charger are limited to 40 A. This is plenty sufficient for loads such as an electric cooler, lights, chargers, electric blankets, etc. But if I choose to run an inverter for any high-amp loads, it wouldn't work. These would need to be connected directly to the battery, so the power usage couldn't be tracked. If I did that, I do have a battery power meter with integrated Wh consumption and a 300 A shunt resistor I could use, but I find it unlikely that I will use any high current devices, unless I decide to use an electric cooking or water heating device. We will see. For anything else, the charger alone will provide the info I'm looking for.

The charger can handle up to 520 W of PV panels with a 12 volt battery, or 1040 with a 24 volt battery. It's unlikely I'd have more than 520 W of PV panels though on such a small platform as a van.

My other thought was to get a small solar water heating panel. A "small" 2x2' panel should be easy enough to carry around and set up. Sunlight at noon is ~1000 W/m^2, and 4 square feed is 0.37 m^2. Assuming 80% efficiency, that means a heat output of 370 W. Assuming no other losses for a ballpark calculation, that means it could heat 5 gallons of water from 50 to 200 °F in 5 hours. If you have 5 gallons of water at 200 °F, run that through a mixer valve and combine with cold water to get nice shower water at 104 °F. How much shower water is that? Well, we can do some basic algebra:
Code:
vHot*tHot + vCold*tCold = vMix*tMix
vMix = vCold + vHot

vHot*tHot + vCold*tCold = vCold*tMix + vHot*tMix
vHot*(tHot - tMix) = vCold*(tMix - tCold)
vCold = [vHot*(tHot - tMix)]/(tMix - tCold)

vMix = [vHot*(tHot - tMix)]/(tMix - tCold) + vHot
Plug that into a spreadsheet and the answer is 13.9 gallons of 104 °F water, assuming the cold water is 50 °F, which you'd need 8.9 gallons of.
Rectangle Font Material property Parallel Pattern


Pair that with the 1.8 GPM shower head I installed in our RV and one of those little outdoor shower heads, and you've now got a warm shower that can last an impressive 7.7 minutes, no propane heater needed, assuming you want to tote around that much water. But since I normally camp at state parks, and all have places you can hook up a hose to fill tanks, that wouldn't be a big deal. That's enough water for two people to take quick showers (in a camper, you always shut off the water after getting wet before soaping up, then turn it back on to rinse off).

Biggest downsides are that you need an insulated hot water tank, and two water pumps now, one for hot, one for cold (plus a mini water circulation pump to heat the water, but that would take almost no room). RV's only use 1 water pump, cause they pump cold water into the hot water tank, but on a limited tank of hot water, you wouldn't want to pump cold water in I don't think, because unlike a propane water heater, there's no additional heat when you're showering to head up that cold water anymore.

Alternatively, you could use an empty water jug, fill it with a pre-mixed amount of hot water and cold water, with valves to redirect the main water pump to pump water from this pre-mixed tank. This would probably be a better solution.

Hmm, yeah. So have a 7 gallon water tank, one of those blue square jugs. This is mounted in the back. One self-priming RV water pump. Output of this jug goes to the sink and shower. Valves allow you to fill this jug from a 2nd jug of cold water you can tote in and sits on the ground, or from the hot water tank (which you'd set on the ground outside the van). Move valves to fill the appropriate amount of cold water. Then switch valves to fill in the desired amount of hot water until it's at shower temp. Then go and shower. Works the same way for water for dishes too. Backup on cloudy days is you simply throw a pot over the campfire and heat water as you enjoy your fire.

May be overly complicated for a camper van setup, but one of the things I loved best about my campers was the ability to wash off the sunscreen and/or bugspray and campfire smoke before going to bed. Few showers felt as great as these showers, even as short as they were to conserve water in the camper freshwater tank.
 

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2014 Sienna LE
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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
I’ve decided I’ll definitely remove the 3rd row seats for sleeping length, height, and general space considerations.

Plan is to use the 2nd row seat trolleys to anchor the bed frame in the front and the 3rd row anchors to anchor it in the rear, to make sure it’s all securely fastened.

Also, while looking at the van this weekend, I noticed a cap on the rear roof. I figured it was for a cell phone antenna and indeed it is, for models so equipped. I will probably use it to run solar panel wiring into the van without drilling any additional holes in the roof.
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I ran my solar panel cables out around the outside of the passenger side rack, under the rear door lid and past the gas lift. From there it goes into the hole behind the taillight into the area where the jack lives. Then it goes under the plastic trm into the cabin. I left a loop in the cable past the taillight hole so that if any water that followed the cable would drip off the loop and not be able to follow the cable into the hole or inside.
 
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