Scenic view from within a camper van

How to convert your car into a camper for less than €500

Scenic view from within a camper van

Freedom. That’s the essence of any road trip. It’s all about moving at your own pace, exploring beautiful landscapes, and sleeping in a new place every night. Have you ever dreamt of embarking on such an adventure? In this article, I’ll show you how you can convert your everyday car into a camper van for less than €500 using a camping box.

The Camping Box

The idea of a camping box is simple. It’s a module that fits in an average car and combines a kitchen, bed, and storage space, all in one box. If you know a little bit about working with tools, you can simply build your own camping box. If you’re all thumbs when it comes to woodwork, don’t worry, you can still buy a professionally built camping box. It’ll be a bit more expensive, though. I’ve included some popular examples further below.

Our DIY camper van in a campsite in a beautiful nature setting
Our DIY mini camper van in Corsica, France

Build your Own

I recently built a camping box for our Renault Kangoo and want to share some tips and tricks with you. To get started, you only need some basic tools and a little bit of time. From my experience, you can build quite an advanced design for less than €500 in about a week.

Planning: inspiration, measurements & sketches

First, it’s crucial to determine the exact dimensions of your car’s trunk. This way, you’ll get a clear understanding of how much space you have for your camping box. Then you can draw a simple sketch of your camping box design. There are many articles and DIY instructions online that are great for inspiration and guidance. Here are some useful links:

• A Pinterest board I created with camping box inspiration

Some good detailed DIY guides:
Biberbox DIY guide (German)
DIY guide for Dacia Dokker Camping Box (German)
Camper in a Box DIY guide (English)

Materials & Tools

I highly recommend that you get your wood cut in the store where you buy it. Most DIY stores and wood shops offer this at a relatively low price. Then, you’ll only need a few basic tools like a cordless screwdriver and a jigsaw to assemble your box.  These are the main materials you’ll need:

• Pre-cut wood: ~€150
• Screws, wood glue: ~€25
• Hinges, drawer rails: ~€80
• Wood oil or paint: ~€50
• Table leg and attachment: ~€30
• Mattress: ~€75
• Gas stove: ~€60
• 20L Water tank: ~€25

Building the Box

Now your woodworking skills come into play. When joining the parts of multiplex wood the main concern is to get nice right angles and flush edges. Here it helps to first glue the parts together and then let it dry a little bit before drilling holes and using screws to ensure strong joints. Painting the box should be the last step. I would recommend to use indoor wood glaze to avoid strong unhealthy paint smells.

I enjoyed building my own camping box from scratch, but I have to admit I did spend at least a few days on the project, and our living room was a real mess. If you’re not good with tools or you just want to save some time, you can buy a professionally built camping box off the internet. I have some recommendations for you below.

Professionally Built Camping Boxes

Here, I’ve listed a selection of four of the most popular models.

The BiberBox from Germany is the most affordable camping box on the market. It’s well designed and easy to use. To keep it simple and the price low, it doesn’t have a table or any drawers. The box comes without a mattress, gas stove or water tank.

Biberbox Camping Box

This is a little more advanced box with a drawer and a table that can be set up. The Campal box is available in different variations. A gas stove and a mattress is included with the box.

Campal Camping Box

A high-quality box with a focus on durability and ease of use. It’s a little more expensive as it’s built from very robust materials like aluminum, waterproof multiplex, and stainless steel. It comes with everything you need, a mattress, a gas stove and a water tank.

Ququq Camping Box

Another very popular camping box from the UK. It’s quite a sophisticated design and a bit on the pricy side. The price includes a mattress, a gas stove and a water tank though.

Did you ever build a camper van, or are you planning a conversion? I’m looking forward to your thoughts and designs. Looking for some inspiration where to go? Check out our article about camping in Sweden.

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