Our Camper Van: Bussibär
One huge disadvantage while living and cruising/traveling on a boat is the lack of flexibility on land. Especially when you have a dog. Moving around and exploring the region where you're anchored is quite challenging. We do have bicycles on board which is a good thing, but over the last years we ended up renting cars to really go exploring the back-country of whatever region we were. As you can imagine this is not cheap.
Car vs Camper Van
Friends of ours who traveled by van told us about places, hikes, rides, restaurants and other cool adventures on land that we never experienced in 2 years living in Portugal, because we had no means of transportation (keep in mind that we have Teddy, which rules out a lot of the public transportation options). When Ikoko was on the dry dock in 2016/17 for more than one year we were in the market for a cheap car that would get us from A- B. Then we thought that a larger car where we could sleep in would be good to save the cost for hotels when traveling. To cut a long story short.
The size and price of a car which would have checked the boxes went from 1 k Euro to 8- 10 k Euros. I then started thinking and thought we could as well buy a delivery van and put some wood in it to have a bed and something to sit on. In the end I found a rather large Fiat Ducato (L4H2 – for those of you who want more details :)) with a built-in side window which we could open. It was used but in a fairly good condition… and it had this delivery/commercial van character, which would allow us to sleep in cities or in places where the classic white campers are not allowed.
The dealer got us a good deal (12.5 k Euros) and within 3 weeks during the evenings we converted the complete empty van into a cosy camper van.
We planned the whole conversion with functions in mind. Such as: Sleeping, cooking, washing, working, sitting, stowing.
We ended up with a huge bed (for a van) with 1.90 to 1.60 meters in the back of the van. Below we have our garage with 1 meters in height. In front of the bed we have a L-shaped setee, where we can enjoy the view through the window or open sliding door. In that same space we have a cooking space with cupboard underneath and our jerry can water supply (with grey water jerry can) and a simple electrical pump. The counter top with its wash basin is about 1.40 meters in length.
The technical part
Behind the drivers seat and the end of the l-shaped settee we have a little cupboard where the battery and all the cables live. On the roof we have a 100 Watt solar panel which feeds a 100 Watt gel battery. We have a simple controller which also handles 4 led lights (throughout the van) and a charging station for the mobile fridge and several USB outlets for our mobile devices and laptops. This whole electrical installation is not connected to the car system and completely solar-driven. So far we only went out of power once last year in October when we had rain for one week. But then we simply went to a campsite and led a 230 Volt power cable in the van and off we went working again. :-). Next to that cupboard we have a tiny little space underneath the l-shaped settee where we have our portable toilet, which we use when there is no other option available :-). It works ok…. ;-).
From our tiny living space we can walk/crawl in the drivers cabin. During the night we can cover the windows and have complete privacy. This winter we added a hatch in the roof above our bed, because we felt a bit insecure sometimes leaving the side windows open in places that weren't too much inviting.
Details: What did we pay in total?
The whole conversion doesn't look perfect, but it works and this is what we wanted. Now we can sit, sleep, work, cook, wash (ourselves and the plates) and explore. We have our bikes in the back and plenty of extra space to carry 150 liters of water and food and clothes or stuff for the boat. From the outside our Bussbär still looks like a delivery van. We are very pleased :-). The set-up you see in the pictures cost us 15.500 Euros.
The van had 80 k km on a 120 hp, 2.3 liter diesel engine. The length of the area behind the seats is 3.70 meters and the total length of the van is 6 meters. We average 10 km per liter diesel (which gives us a range of about 900- 1000 km). We bought the van for 12.5 k Euros and added roughly 3 k Euros for wood, paint, technical stuff (solar, battery…) and chairs, tables, cables and so forth. We have 150+ liters of water in the van (jerry cans) and plenty of storage for food. With this set-up we could live and work off the grid for 3 weeks easily. :-).
Since September 2016 (now is June 2017) we spent close to 5 month in the van. Compare that to the cost of living in a rental place (an apartment) or a hotel + the car that you would need to have…. and… don't forget the freedom, the fun and all the cool place and people you get to see and meet.
Here are some pictures: