updates on the 1985 toyota van camper conversion

1985 Toyota Camper Vanwagon
Off Highway 89 somewhere.

If you’re doing a van conversion or some kind of camper conversion, I recommend creating a very basic set up to start with not a lot of screws or time spent doing it. This is what I’ve learned through various builds. You don’t know exactly what you want until you go camping, you spend time in it and become aware of your own needs. It’s hard to understand our needs in life and that’s the same for building out a van.

I realized I haven’t shared any updates on the my 1985 Toyota Vanwagon Mashin’ Machine. The van has undergone some changes since the original build. I’ve been lucky to take her on a quite a few trips this year and after each trip, I came back with a list of changes or supplies that needed to be added. This is another tip I recommend, when going on weekend trips, create a running list of what’s not comfortable, what would be nice to have, what you don’t need and so forth. You’d think you’d remember everything but after a few years of partying too hard, it’s best written on paper so I can revist when I’m back in a place I can make modifications.

I was able to keep most of the design from before (the folding bench seat and frame). I made a decision to keep the bench seat in bed formation all the time. This saved the hassle of not having to unfold or fold the bed every morning and night. I also gained a ton of storage room below. I made the drawer out of plywood and 2x2s then drilled a couple holes to put some rope through for a handle.

Bed Toyota Vanwagon 1985
This bed doesn’t interfere with accessing the engine compartment.

In the back of the van, I created a divider wall. This was now going to be the area for the electronics, fridge, stove, water, and other various supplies.

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Here is the back of the van, “the kitchen” with the divider wall.

Added 12v fairy lights, you can buy these anywhere from Amazon to eBay for 5 bucks or less. I really like them and I hope to put them on a dimmer switch. They are bright enough to read under, it also helps to run two strands across the van where you’ll want extra light. I did that in the back where the kitchen is and by the seats in the front where our heads rest and we can read.

Back of Van at Night w/ 12v Fairy Lights
Back of Van at Night w/ 12v Fairy Lights

58183079700__30657fda-ca19-4506-b305-392a7ca1a122Upgraded the stove from a Coleman two burner to a cast iron Camp Chef Ranger II Blind Stove. Stays in its place well, has a really night flame, and has a flexible hose for the propane instead of the rigid Coleman attachment.

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A mistake I often make is that before I participate in something, I get all excited about it and I start to research what I think is the best things to buy are and I start trying to figure out everything before actually partaking in that activity. For example, if you take up running, you may not want to research best running shoes, best water bottle, best visor (is that a thing?). Only after running will you realize what you truly need; shoes with more padding, a water bottle with a strap so it’s easy to hold onto, a visor instead of a hat because a hat makes you sweat too much. This relates to building out a van.

I have built out a truck camper shell (see other posts) and a cabover but each vehicle is different. Until I took enough trips in the van, I wouldn’t know what exactly I would need. Taking it slow and easy is the best approach, it’s about the process and not trying to get everything done immediately.

Complete list of revisions so far:

  1. Added a second solar shower (scored one for cheap on Craiglist). Also, it helps to have back up water as well as water to rinse dishes when dry camping.
  2. Added a shower nozzle to one of solar showers. (post coming)
  3. Created a divide for the kitchen and bed.
  4. Inserted plywood sheet to extend bed to the back of the seats.
  5. Made two large pull out drawers, one pulls out from the side and one from the back.
  6. Added a fuse panel. (post coming)
  7. Mounted the inverter.
  8. Added a storage shelf.
  9. Mounted an ARB awning. (post coming)
1985 Toyota Van Forest Road
Down some forest road.
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my tiny sailboat – 1971 newport 16

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My “new” Newport 16.

After selling the last sailboat, I really wanted to focus on getting boat that I felt comfortable learning on. I wanted a sailboat that had a cabin for overnight excursions but I wanted it small enough to tow and avoid berth fees as I learned. Heck, my friend even poisoned my mind with taking a small sailboat to the Sea of Cortez for some Baja excursions, now who wouldn’t want to do that?

The checklist for the new boat entailed having a cabin, a trailer, being light enough to tow with my 85 Toyota Van and in being good enough shape to sail right away with limited to no repairs. I looked at the usual suspects, a West Wight Potter 15, a Compac 16, the Montgomery 15, and the Newport 16.

The Potter 15s are a really popular boat, one owner had even taken part in a transpacific sail to Hawaii on his. There is a small group in the Bay Area called the Potter Yachters, it’s a tiny sailboat cruising community that despite it’s names, allows other boats as well but the boat really does have a cult following. The next was a Compac 16, the heaviest of them all but some consider the most seaworthy of the group. There’s the Montgomery 15, a really beautiful boat but you don’t see as many and they cost a bit more. The last boat, the one I ended up buying was a boat I didn’t know much about. It had a small cabin, it seemed in good condition and came with a trailer, the price was right so I jumped on it after looking the few articles that were out there on the web. Most owners seemed to enjoy the boat just as much as any of the other small boats out there.

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Me hoisting the mainsail.

Next begin the journey of getting in contact with the boat’s owner. I text the owner, I called the owner, crossing my fingers all along that it hadn’t been sold. People who have experienced the Craigslist buying experience before know that it’s sometimes just as hard to buy something as it is to sell something. I began to come to grasps that the boat may have sold, the listing was old, I hadn’t heard back in a few days and that I should probably look for something else. Not soon after this realization, I received a call and a text from the owner. He was busy and hadn’t had the time to respond. I said I’d love to meet up, just tell me the time and place.

I drove down the road to San Pablo Point Yacht Club where the boat was stored and quickly found the owner trying to blow up the flat tire on the trailer with not much success. I walked up and asked him a few questions about the boat, he seemed distracted, slightly annoyed because he had a task in front of him he was trying to accomplish before the buyer showed up. It was at that point that I thought it might be good to introduce myself as the interested buyer and he soon warmed up to tell me about the boat while the high pitch sound of the tiny 12v air pump blew its heart out with not much success.

The San Pablo Point Yacht Club is an interesting place, it’s off the last exit before getting on the Richmond Bridge to head to Marin County. You’ll pass by old army barracks as you drive a winding road down the yacht club past the gun and rod club. When I finally made my way down the steep descent to where the marina was, I saw goats on my right and a yurt. Where did I just drive to? It felt like this place shouldn’t exist in the Bay Area where land is outrageously expensive and developers are quick to buy any land not maximized to its full multi-floor apartment capacity.

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Before cleaning.

In between him lighting up a rolled cigarette with his butane stove, we did end up getting the tire to inflate, it needed more forced air than the tiny 12v pump he was using. The guys at the shop near the marina lent us an air compressor that did the job. I gave him the cash and didn’t bargain for a lower price because I believed the price to be very fair. I then hooked up the boat and cautiously headed home.

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After power washing the deck.

The previous owner has been very helpful since the purchase of the boat with answering my dumb questions as well as offering to help me take it out and to learn the ropes (oops, I mean lines!).

The Details

Year: 1971
Manufacturer: Newport
Model: 16
Two quarter berths, a hole for a toilet, a retractable keel with a big cockpit, a fancy new rudder, fishing pole holders, a mainsail and a jib. What else does one need?

The Plan:

Learn to sail on it. Take it on overnight camping trips across the lakes and the delta.

 

converting my truck into the ultimate camper

Behind my macbook, late at nights, I’ve viewed countless photos of cars, trucks, and vans converted into homes on wheels. I may be abnormal but I think in everyone of us, there is an urge to be free and have the ability to travel. I enjoy being a homebody with the rest of them but I’ve been wanting to travel more. I never had that year of backpacking in Europe after college or high school. I’m at a time in my life where I’m looking for inspiration on the road. Places and experiences to write about and tell my grandkids someday. So, what’s the best of both worlds? A traveling home!

Some campers are just weekend homes while others live full-time in their traveling abodes.  I’ve made efforts in the past couple years to reduce possessions and be less tied down to my belongings.  There is something special about being able to get up and travel whenever you feel the urge. Historically, most humans were hunter and gatherers, they had to relocate to where the food was. Now, food has come to us but that urge to travel has not subsided in me. My brother and I are taking steps to convert my truck into the ultimate camper. We’ve both researched different blueprints and styles with functionality and weight in mind. Here are a few pictures from day one. Please comment or ask me any questions about the process.

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Materials: (I will be updating this section soon with specifics)

  • 2X3 (~10)
  • 2×2 (4)
  • four hinges
  • 3″ screws (2lb)
  • 1 7/8″ screws (1lb)
  • 1/2″ plywood (two sheets)

Cost: ~$135 Thoughts on materials:

  • we were debating on 3/4 inch but with extensive framing,we found the 1/2 had no bend and was substantially lighter.

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Converting my truck in the ultimate camper (cont.)

I spent this morning carpeting the camper. It didn’t take very long. I used some carpet I had from a previous room so the cost was nothing. I’m thinking in the future I will want to install marine or outdoor carpet because it is mold and mildew resistant and can be washed out. The regular carpet is way more comfy than the marine style but sleeping pads or egg crate foam will be used no matter what. Tip: When cutting carpet, I’ve found that wood glue will hold the stitching together and fray less.

Next up is solar panel installation, mini desk and back rest… stay tuned…

Oats

Reading about Henry David Thoreau, living a life of simplicity near his lake in “Walden” or John Steinbeck, traveling with his dog across America in his truck ‘Rocinante’ in “Travels with Charley:In Search of America”. And my own pursuits of living a more simple and less complex life have brought me to talk about oats. Yes, oats. Oats can be prepared in many ways, it can be grown by oneself, it’s healthy, provides energy, and is not expensive (even the organic oats). A mason jar of oats can prepare breakfast for weeks. Add a few strawberries, maple syrup, maybe dates or raisins, there are so many possibilities. Don’t have access to hot water? If you blend the oats before a trip, you can just add any nut milk and let it sit for four hours or longer then the oats will have absorbed the water and be ready to eat. That is what I call ‘overnight oats’ (view my recipe below).

tea is a great way to consume the health benefits of oats.
tea is a great way to consume the health benefits of oats.

I’ve had that problem of overdosing on oats. Yeah, there comes a point where the last thing you want to eat is a bowl of oats for breakfast. But, by mixing it up with different additions or doing every other day a bowl of oats, you can reduce the possibility of the dreadful OD on oats.

Not only, are oats great for eating but they are amazing taken as an herbal medicine. They are what you consider a nervine, the properties of oats (Avena sativa) work on the central nervous system to calm and relax the system. I take these when I feel I have frayed ends or under a stressful circumstance. Oats tincture and some deep breathing go a long way! Check out my ‘how to make a make a basic tincture’ post here.

Also, making a tea works just as well if not better than a tincture. Plus, the process of making tea is a natural calming process in itself. It’s important to know that buying oats for medicine is slightly different than buying for food. You’ll want oats that is picked during it’s milky stage which hasn’t quite matured to a viable seed. The milky stage is when you pierce the oat and a milky substance comes out. If you go to a local herb shop, all their herb will be (or should be) harvested at that milky stage. If you’re buying oats for food, well, you can go to local Whole Food’s or Co-op bulk bins.Either go to your local store to buy teas that contain oats or buy oats bulk through your local herbal medicine shop. If you don’t have a local herb store, Mountain Rose Herbs is a great place to buy online.

Recipe Time!
Here is a recipe on a pudding I like to make which involves oats, chia seeds, berries, and banana. It’s a form of overnight oats but thicker.

1 cup of oats
2 cups of nut milk or dairy
a handful of strawberries
1/2 a banana
2-3 dates
a tablespoon of chia seeds
optional-hemp seeds

overnight oat pudding

Blend the oats in the blender. Then add milk, strawberries, banana,dates and chia seeds. Blend those together. Pour into glass jar, sprinkle with hemp seeds and more chia seeds. Let sit for at least four hours.

letting go of a possession everyday for 30 days

Along with my 30 day challenge of not buying anything new, I will attempt to donate one item a day for the next month. Over the past couple years I’ve read books such as “the Joy of Less”, “Clutterbust”, and “How I Bought Happiness and it’s Cheap”. All great books that I highly recommend. They’ve taught me how clutter can remove people from being in the present moment. From my own experience, I feel weighed down by my belongings, like they hold me back from sometimes doing what I want (i.e. travel, pursue hobbies, think clearly, etc.). At this point, I already feel I’ve given away a lot of my belongings that felt like clutter but this time around, I’m going to be extra hard on myself.

Each day I will include: A quote or tip about rethinking the clutter in your life and the item I’m donating that day. Start small, think big.

Day 1, February 6th, 2014
Tip: Take a look at that box of stuff you haven’t opened in a year under the house or in your closet. Do you really need what’s in there?
You haven’t used it in a year so it must not be that important to your daily life.

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Although, I work a lot with plants, I don’t need three pairs of pruners. Today I’ll be donating a pair of pruners.

Day 2, February 7th, 2014
“the things which we choose to surround ourselves tell our story.”
Francine Jay-author of the Joy of Less

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Ever since a kid, I loved different knives. It’s what every boy enjoys, I think? Dreaming of one day fighting through jungle and foraging your own meal. All, with your trusty pocket knife. Well, I think quality is better over quantity and half the time I can’t even find my knife. So, I’m donating one of my two pocket knives today.

Day 3 February 8th, 2014
Sell some of your things on Amazon, Craigslist, or Ebay. Sometimes it makes it easier getting rid of stuff when your getting money for it. But, don’t let money make your decisions for you. You may have spent a good amount of money on something but never use it, and you’ll never get that money back. So, instead of letting that item own you, let it go, it feels good. I know from experience.

soil blocker 2"
This is a soil blocker. A very useful tool that can make blocks of soil eliminating the need for plastic pots. I love the concept and I may own one again but I just haven’t used it as much as I liked. So, I put it on Amazon and it sold today. I know it’s not donating but it goes with the theme!

Day 4 February 9th, 2014.
I love books and that’s not a good thing when trying to limit possessions and clear space. I went through all my books and made a decision whether to keep it or not by determining when the last time I opened it was. I kept some of the books that meant something to me even though I hadn’t opened them in over a year. One helpful tip I found was to download the book if available digitally, then I could sell or donate the book without hesitation. My collection of books is now 1/8th what it used to be.

cacti book cactus succulents

Day 5-6, February 10th and 11th, 2014
I donated a cordless saw because I recently upgraded. I’m finding it’s important to have good quality tools. High quality, time-saving tools is what makes me money in the long run. I also donated a rubber hammer and a shaker (musical instrument).

Day 7-9, February 12th-14th, 2014.
I’m donating a coffee mug, a house plant with pot, and a pair of pants. I think it’s time to reexamine my dresser. I would like to think I don’t have a lot of clothes but I still find that I only wear maybe half my clothes. I’ve done this before, each time I find myself getting harder and harder on myself with deciding which clothes go and which clothes stay. This time around I will be even tougher. I found out about a project online called Project 333. “Project 333 is a minimalist fashion challenge that invites you to dress with 33 items or less for 3 months.” So, here goes nothing!

Day 10-12, February 15th-17th.
Moving forward with this Project 333 challenge, I’ve donated over the past few days two more pairs of pants, four t shirts, a pair of gym shorts, and a sweater. This is fun and it’s nice not having to smash my clothes to get the drawers to close on my dresser.

Day 13-Day 17, February 18th-22nd.
Day 13- Glass containers that weren’t being utilized. -Donated
Day 14- Sweater that was nice but I never wore. -Donated
Day 15- Tea Kettle I didn’t use anymore (now use electric). -Sold on Ebay
Day 16-Gold dental crown I had sitting around (I know, weird.). -Sent it to gold refiner.
Day 17-Went through food, I do not use. -Gave to my friend.
Tip:Simply your food choices, find out what you really like and use often. Store in large airtight glass containers. Donate or find a friend to give unused food too.

Day 18-19, February 23rd-24th.
Day 18-Sold, hose end timer for watering plants on EBAY. It was not getting used.
Day 19, Sold, my second hose end timer on EBAY. Also, was not getting used.
Both of these were items I held onto because I thought I was going to use them sometime in the future. What I’ve found out is that it maybe easier to let go of these items and free up space. If you end up needing to buy it again in the distant future, that’s ok, it’s not the end of the world. I run into a lot of people who hold onto a lot of stuff because they see some use for it in the future. It may start as one item but then it has a snowball effect, which in turn causes the person to use it as an excuse to hold onto way too many things. I’m guilty of it myself. Let go! It’s self rewarding and will help you in the immediate future and in the long run. Tip: Don’t let your items own you.

Day 20-27, February 25th-March 3rd.
Day 20-old pair of birkenstocks (actually, i drove off and left these at the beach, that counts right?
Day 21-converse shoes, haven’t worn in a year
Day 22-overalls that are awesome but I can never find a time to wear them (selling on ebay)
Day 23-big glass storage jar that holding day number 24’s donation
Day 24-all my seeds, that I never have planted. I work at a nursery so my need for seeds isn’t huge. I get a lot of starts for free. I do think there is something special about growing from seed that is missed when buying starts. I just haven’t had a place to really put them to use as I’ve been moving around place to place. So, I will brought them into work for coworkers.
Day 25-a rusted cast iron, haven’t needed to use it int he past two years. one, because the place i’m at has them or two, because the place I live has an electric stove.
Day 26-extra canning jars and lids that i’m not using
Day 27-pairs of socks that are my oldest and ones that are torn.

Day 28-30, March 4th-March 6th
Day 28-
Two metal dog bowls.
Day 29-
Clipboard
Day 30-
Two more shirts

Final sum up-

As the month went on, it got harder and harder to let go of stuff. But I still feel I can let go of more. For me, this is something I have to think about everyday. I have to reexamine certain items and ask myself multiple questions. When was the last time it was used? Will I use it again in the next six months? Can I borrow it when I need it? Can I buy it again in the future if I really need it? Sometimes my answers to these questions are different when I revisit an item a week or month later. So, it’s important to revisit items and not let them sit in the back of the closet collecting dust. Rotate your items, this helps me make more room in my space.