From Å in Norway to Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch in Wales – our vehicle takes us everywhere.Älgbert Elgson
Travel. A dream of many people, which unfortunately has a number of limits. Be it travel restrictions or personal barriers – there is always something that prevents you from getting to know new cultures or discovering breathtaking places.
For many, money is the limiting factor alongside time, so it’s understandable that camping is becoming more and more popular. It is accompanied by romantic ideas of a campfire under the starry sky and unlimited freedom – only to find out that „wild camping“ is not allowed in most regions and that you then have to pitch your tent again on a campsite.
But they still exist, the spots in this world where you are allowed to stay where you like. The Austrian Camping Club has created a very informative and simple map where you can quickly see what is allowed and what is not where. You can find these on the club’s homepage by clicking here (in German)-> Freies Stehen in Europa
On caravanya.com you can find further information in English.
We want to be able to experience this feeling of freedom on our Scandinavian trips, but a suitable vehicle is necessary for this. Since many people do not want to miss out on this feeling of freedom, there has been an increase in the number of motorhome registrations in recent years. Unfortunately, this is also reflected in the prices. Older mobile homes are often for sale for sums that would be enough to stay in hotels for vacation for years. However, the financially logical step of starting a DIY project and start converting a delivery van offers a similar picture in terms of pricing. Even for vehicles that have obviously come to the end of their working lives, you still have to dig surprisingly deep into your pockets.
It is well known that money does not grow on trees. Therefore, we must work with what we have.
On the other hand, we also want to retain a little individuality and not get lost in the uniformity of always the same motorhomes. Making a virtue out of necessity – so to speak.
Our basis for the first expansion stage of our micro-motorhome is a standard Opel Vectra C Caravan, which we have also used on past adventures. A diesel engine with 110kW/150hp ensures comfortable progress. This means that the Vectra is definitely not as fast as a rocket, but it is motorized well enough to be able to climb even the highest mountains.
In daily life, it is mainly used for commuting. But why not expand the range of use?
First of all, a concept has to be created, because after all there are different ways to sleep in a converted station wagon. Should we buy a rooftop tent? That would probably be the easiest way. But here, too, it quickly became apparent that the limited resource of money would not make this plan possible.
The cheapest option now seemed to be a self-made bed made of plywood.
Many other questions arise in the planning phase. How should the spatial concept be designed? kitchen, bathroom and living room? Maybe even a balcony?
Well, a balcony might be a bit of an exaggeration, but there has to be a bathroom and kitchen somehow.
The problem with such conversion plans, however, is always the very limited space. Because in addition to the bed, bathroom and kitchen, the luggage also has to be accommodated somewhere in the car. For aerodynamic and fuel efficiency reasons, we want to do without a roof box, which does not necessarily alleviate the space problem.
After the planning phase comes the execution phase. In any case, the rear seat had to give way to make room for the new luggage compartment. After expanding this, there was now enough space and the theoretical plans could be converted into practical solutions.
After measuring again, only the purchased roof battens had to be brought to the right length and covered with plywood. The concept envisaged that the bed should be divided into three compartments. This is the only way to ensure that the motorhome can be restored to its original condition and used as an everyday vehicle.
The rear part of the vehicle is now intended for the kitchen and bathroom. Drawers were made for this, which contain all the necessary utensils, as well as the fresh water tank. The only downside to this solution is the vast amount of fresh air you are now exposed to when cooking- especially when it’s windy and raining. A solution must definitely be found for this.
In the middle and front part of the construction there is now space for all the luggage that you absolutely have to take with you on a trip. Nets have been attached to the side for the things we need most often, such as our chargers or Älgbert’s rain jacket, so that we can really use every little space available.
Bare boards of plywood only invite you to feel at home to a limited extent. Therefore, the entire extension is covered with fabric and, to increase sleeping comfort, a mattress has been made. Commercial furniture fabric, which is easy to process, was used for this. Handles and useful small parts were made using a 3D printer to give the installation a personal touch with small details.
The entire installation has been planned and executed in such a way that no further conversion measures are necessary other than removing the rear seat to get more space. Due to the color selection, it also fits very well into the original beige interior and everything looks very harmonious.
The implementation phase is followed by the testing phase to see whether the practical solutions can also be used in reality.
We decided on Iceland for the first test drive, where our micro camper should show its advantages and disadvantages.
You have to start small 😉
The advantages of such a conversion are clearly the low-cost implementation and compact design. Due to the small external dimensions of the Opel, we didn’t have to pay as much on the ferry from Denmark to Iceland as we would have had to pay for a full-size mobile home. Finding a parking space in metropolises such as Reykjavik or Tórshavn is also absolutely no problem. An average cruising speed of 160km/h on German autobahns is no problem, nor are short journeys over unpaved and narrow roads.
The most serious and obvious disadvantage is the small space inside the vehicle. When the weather is nice, this is not a big problem, but when the weather is bad you are forced to make ends meet in the little space available.
For us, however, the advantages outweigh the disadvantages and we will use our micro camper for many more adventures.