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Discussion Starter #1
'Camper' may be stretching it a bit, but I'll explain all :)

I've owned a 'proper' coachbuilt Renault campervan before and it was bloody dreadful! Really unreliable, noisey, cramped, slower than tectonic plates and looked like............you get the gist of it. Thankfully, not for my wallet, it died after the very first weekend away a few years back so I then had to consider my options.

After lots of research I bought another T5 Volvo and a huge Outwell polycotton tent :bowdown: A lovely living space if we were staying somewhere for a while, but damned heavy and a right ballache to get 'erected', so we needed more options. Enter the Vito!!

Sods law, I was skint at the time I decided upon this latest strategy/5 minute wonder, so my choice was limited to put it mildly. Add in the fact that my good lady will only drive auto's and my choice went from slim to Bob Hope in no time at all. After scouring the classifieds, I eventually found one and we did the deal on the spot. I've driven 638s before but only manuals, and I was amazed (read chuffed) how civilised this one was. Really smooth, pretty quiet in terms of engine and gearbox stuff, and no nasty knocks or bangs like other ones I've used.

Bodywork was tatty (shock) but the mechanical bits 'seemed' good :thumbsup:

So, our maiden voyage was this weekend when we stayed on the North Norfolk coast. The plan was to really travel light, so no Outwell tent and no pain in the arse set up. With a double bed size bean bag, two sleeping bags and a gas stove, we set off!

I don't mind admitting that the bean bag was disastrous but the van itself was faultless. Comfortable, warm (it's only plylined as we haven't done the Celotex yet) and spacious enough for me, the Mrs and our two dogs (6'5", 5'11" and two Llasa's). I have to say that I am chuffed :D I used a 430 litre roofbox for storage of dry clothes and cooking bits and that was it. I have never had an easier camping trip, and the joy of no packing up was a real bonus (campers will no what I mean here)

The reason for the hybrid use is simple. I can get 45 mpg with no roofbox and the van is so useful for other duties, rigging it out with superfluous toot seems daft. I had all of the kit in the old Renault and this time I want a simpler, more straight forward camping experience. This also helps when I need to fill the van up with veg or garden produce (I have a very modest smallholding) and sell a few car bits now and again. You try doing that when you're worried about getting mud on a campervans carpets, or concerned about stainless sinks with MX5 diffs in them :crybaby2:

I've added some photos just so there is a starting point to this lazy project. If anyone is interested in using their van as a camper, I would strongly recommend going for it. We have a tailgate on ours with twin sliding doors so it is so flexible. Whatever pitch you get, you will have options and the ease of being able to rock up and start your holiday the minute you switch the ignition off is really special.






Highly recommended :thumbsup:

Basic bits I'm after next will be a cycle rack for the mountain bikes and some air deflectors for the front windows, so we can get some better ventilation over night. Other than that, the van is ready to rock and roll. I've already got a double sized mattress for the back with quilts and pillows, and will just bungee cord this up to the side when not it use. We're off again at the weekend and hopefully this new solution will be more successful.

I will start tidying the bodywork this week after the Mrs' 'Hammerite special' attempt. I'd like alloys but it just adds to the expense and I know I'll be tempted with 18's and that will bugger up the comfort (wild camping requires full comfort ;) )

Feedback welcomed. If anyone has any questions about camping whether it's in tents, motorhomes or vans like this just ask. I've done it for many years both here and abroad; I'm no expert but I have learned a lot from my mistakes and also a bit from other people too.

:)
 

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Get the Team Heko wind deflectors, I have them on mine and they look great and fit easily and are not tatty rubbish at all. About 25 squid on ebay.

I have the Merc cycle rack. It's a blatant rip off of the Fiamma one. Harder to get hold of, but has a really really stupid way of attaching to the back. It basically bolts to the hinges on the top. The fiamma one's hook onto the top of the door. It depeneds if you want the security and knowledge of having bolts holding the bikes in place or that you trust to some hooks.
They are just so so hard to get hold of for the 638 second hand. You're best off buying new and saving the hassle of waiting. The bikes end up being very high up, over the back window in fact.

Do you have a back window???? It's a must for camper conversions!!!!
Swivel plates too!!!! Silly good idea by someone!!!

I love having the second sliding door, something the VeeDubs really miss out on. It's a bit of a no brainer having one.

We basically have a unit and storage that is full of all the gear, so we just head of at half five most friday's and bugger off somewhere nice.....
The Vito is an awesome campervan.... good choice my friend!!!
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thanks for the tip on the wind deflectors, I'll be buying some of them as soon as I can find them :) I've read a few horror stories today about travelling in Europe with bikes on the back (accidents caused by bikes falling off and disputed claims etc) so I think I'll be chucking them in the van for now, and saving money and liability at the expense of maybe some dirt in the van........I can easily clean up :thumbsup:

Yeah we have the back window (photos above not working?) Not sure what you mean by swivel plates.......if that's for the seats, we have a steel bulkhead in the van so short of removing that won't work (unless you mean something else Martin?)

Do you bother with an awning? Just pricing up some at the moment and trying to find a good compromise between price and quality.
 

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Sorry bud, pictures were not working. I see now that you have the bulkhead, so the seat swivels won't be much good. They basically swivel the front two seats (if you have two not three) so you get extra seating and loads more room.

MERCEDES VITO W638 1996-2003 HEKO WIND DEFLECTORS TINTED 4pcs set | eBay

These wind deflectors will be the one's. Good price as well.

I think the bike racks are fine, I really don't think it's a design fault, more of operator error when putting the on. There is no way with the Merc rack that they will fall off.

The awning is a funny business. We have a massive one, so it's only ever used for week long stays or maybe three nights. Not really at weekends as we just don't need it. It is good if you have guests, or some scumbags who have only brought their tent along!!!!

Have a butchers at ours.....

It's an outdoor revolution navigator.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Glad to see a double mattress fits :) My spare one is going in this weekend!
 

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untility something i am very very interested in!!
i work a good 2hours drive away from home so i just stay in the back of my vito, saves so much on diesel.
i rock up on monday get my tools out sort my bed and tv then im ready till friday!!

my bed is a double futon mattress (50pound from ebay) there god to sleep on and lite enough to more and will fold up reasonable small.

awning;
i have looked but i have not found one for under 200pound and they all look rubbish, my next festival buy will be one of these!!

saw some other guy with one at a festival i whent to he had it over his camper.

have you thought about kitchen pods, as they are very useful pretty cheap and can be removed.

also hook up is good and a generator
 

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Discussion Starter #7 (Edited)
I'd prefer one of these to one of those event shelters, but I suppose there are pros and cons to both

2012 Outdoor Revolution Outhouse Handi XL - a2zCamping.co.uk

Getting a good size roof box made a hell of a difference to the flexibility of the van and it hasn't hid fuel economy too hard......as long as you keep it around 55-60mph anyway (otherwise it's like driving with a parachute).

Martin

How long do you reckon that takes you to pitch? Do you also have any photos of the inside looking towards the van? I'm trying to get an idea of how well it fits with the door open.

Thanks :)
 

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Outdoor revolution do the best awnings, no question. That little one you have posted looks neat and tidy. The best thing about the one I have is that it can sleep four people in it. Outdoor revolution do loads of extra's if you need them.

Realistically it takes myself and the missus 45mins to put it up. The main faff is the size and getting the position right next to the van, but I am very anal, so I do drive the van a bit to get it just right. I would think with two very able people 30-45 mins is normal. This is sort of why they are a bit silly when staying a short weekend. But they are amazing once up and you think how you ever lived without it.

Here's some more pics....

The first two are of the old system we had. The last three are of how we have it now. They are unfinished photo's which is a shame, because it is finished and I should take some and send you. We have amazing drawers coming out the back of the van, some in the side as you can see, and a kitchen/storage pod. The last two photos are of the pod, which sits perfect by either sliding door. Loads of storage as we done have a sink or built in cooker as I have ALWAYS thought it to be a stupid idea. We have the small cannister cookers and a bucket, or stay in places which have sinks.......

The Seat in the back doesn't normally go camping with us, that's just a seat from a Mazda Bongo which free-loaders use to travel around in the back of my van......:thumbsup:
 

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Discussion Starter #9 (Edited)
Thanks for the pictures, they are always useful to see how set-ups actually work rather than the websites who are obviously trying to sell the things :)
We've just got back from Suffolk today to try out the latest set-up; double mattress, quilt and windbreak

AWESOME!!
Very quick to put up and take down meaning no aggro at all, maximum possible space in the van and a proper nights sleep too!

I think we've reached an ideal basis for equipment now;
1) Short breaks (up to 3 days)
As above, so no awning just the van and top box
2) Medium breaks (4 days to a week)
As above plus an awning but not as big as the one you've shown Martin. That bugger is massive!
3) Proper breaks (week plus)
Van, top box and our Outwell Bear lake 6! (library pic)


The pod you've built looks really handy, and storage for us is only possible thanks to the roofbox. We would be knackered without it. I agree with you 100% about having a dry-van (i.e. no water or cooking onboard). Our previous Renault had everything and it may not be linked but it 'felt' damp.

I also re-tinted the back window but I'll admit it was rushed and needs doing properly at some point. Better than nothing but only just!
 

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JUst back from a camping holiday in France, our first in the Vito. Thought I'd share a few observations.

FIrstly the VIto was fantastic to drive on long journeys. I've come from a T25 and the difference as you might expect is huge. CRuising at 80 on clear French autoroutes is the stress free way to go. We're set up with a full width bed in the back using a single piece of plywood on two uprights with a strengthening piece fixed between the two. On top we've laid on the frame from a LYkselle ikea bed, ive put a few wedges on the face of the plywood so it actually slides up into a seat, which we never used but may come in handy. We've be enable to add an upright ready made unit at the front - the bed frame leaves about 34cm foot space at the end, just enough for the unit which held toilet stuff etc. I was recommending a different unit on here recently but decided against as there would be no foot room left with the bed out. Damn that short vito load length!! ADvantage T4 in that regard. THe bed was very good but we got the expensive ikea mattress after the cheaper one was like concrete. LYkselle have three to chose from.

We've blacked out all 4 side windows using vinyl - basically the same stuff as tinting only its completely black. This was cheaper than curtains! I got the silver lined window covers from eBay, the ones with suckers for the front cab which weren't a perfect fit as they are generic but did the job fine.

WE use a QUechua BAse Seconds pop up as an awning. It takes no time to put up and take down, packs into a small bag. ITs about 6 ft in height and is well big enough to store all kitchen equipment utensils clothes etc. I spent ages looking at awnings but I can't recommend this bit of kit highly enough. It's just a question of whether you really need your awning attached to the van.

SO we've come back and I'm thinking about how to improve things - this is a van we will camp with for two week stints so it's worth putting a bit of effort in. I love MArtinriffs set up, its a good seating arrangement - it would have to be easy to pull out into a bed, the last thing I want is to faff about for half an hour making a bed up each night. THe problem here of course is working out how to make best use of a short load length - Were coffee addicts so not having a decent unit with a work surface makes it impossible to make a drink in the morning - i have to admit ive been considering a longer wheel base van with space to fit a full width end unit. IM sure there's a way to do it in the vito and after this trip I'd love to keep the van. One option is to take out the three seat set up and replace with two front seats - that way we could slot a small unit in between and still have foot space.

ONe other thing. WE were away with friends who had a converted T4 which had heavy condensation problems each morning. They were amazed that the vito side windows opened an inch .- hey presto no condensation. If its 28 degrees, believe me this makes a difference!

Really pleased to see another camping related thread here. Few and far between.

I'll get some pics on shortly as soon as i find out how the hell to do it. ADvice welcome

Keep the ideas coming chaps
 

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Mountain I completely agree re travelling light. We bought a 580 litre roof box from fleabay a few months ago as we reckoned we wouldn't get everything in the van. Turns out the space under the bed is massive so we sold the box and got the storage unit with it.

MArtinriff - do I spot ikea there? have you cut up those square patterned boxes they have - looks just the job
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Anavito,
I loved reading the feedback on camping in France :) I've read loads about it, and driven through France many times but never camped there. I may need to pick your brains on that trip :D
A few of my friends have t4's. and all swear by them but I love the auto box on mine, love the twin doors and also noticed the lack of condensation if you drop a front window by an inch! Mine is an X reg and has corrosion in a few places (much of which I've tried to repair today) so the bodywork seems to be a bit vulnerable to rust compared to VW's, but that seems to be reflected in the price.
My Vito drives, in my opinion, much nicer than t4's I've tried and and would certainly be more pleasant for a long trip in terms of refinement as it is so much quieter on a run.

I had considered raising the mattress off of the floor of the van to give me some more storage space, but I hadn't figured out a way of doing that and retaining the flexibility of just being able to tie it up to the side in about 30 seconds when I want all of the floor space again. As I've mentioned before, I'm 6'5" so there is no way I am standing up in anything this side of a horse box, so I'm not that worried about sitting in the back for any great periods of time.......

Does anyone know how easy the bulk head is to take out? I have seen a number of rivets along the top by the roof skin, so is it a case of drilling the rivets out all round and then hey presto?
 

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Must admit ive never come across the 'tie the mattress up' option. Ifits works for you thats all that matters.

We were considering a T4 but we'd have paid at least abother £2k for one in a similar condition to our Viti. The VDub scene is really nice, and good fun but i must admit Im pretty certain we made the right decision with the Vito.....i cant fault it........apart from the load length!!

Pics of our camping set up, including the Quechua which we use as an alternative to an awning:





 

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Oh dear, so many people to remember now and reply to......

I don't really have a problem with condensation. We have the wind deflectors which means we can leave them open slightly, plus we have a little box full of crystals which absorb some of the damp from our breath.

Our sleeping arrangement is across the van. So the table which is in the middle of the 'u' shape makes up the final bit of the bed and the foam bits at the side make up the bed length and the small square at the back is a perfect fit for our cool box as a buddy seat.

The unit is indeed ikea. It's a shame really as I am a chippy (prop maker to be exact) by trade, but I just can't compete with £9.99 for their lattice boxes. The lattice is lightweight and lets the drawers and cupboards breath. No damp cupboards for me!!! So I got two of them which are 480mm x 480mm, joined them together with the wine rack style storage in the middle, put some drawers inside which are on really nice ball bearing runners. The doors on the outside stop the drawers from opening when going round corners. The height is also PERFECT for the Vito, as it sits perfectly under the sliding door handle, and the width fits PERFECTLY in between the pillars. Ikea made for Vito I think!!!!
It's also perfect height to open the door and stand outside and cook at.

I bought one of their 980mm x 980mm blanket boxes for the back and split it in two, like two 'L' shapes to go over the wheel arches. Used the lid to make up the remaining length and used birch ply for the tops. Some removable ply shelves make up the 'U' shape which can be removed so I can get me surf board and bike and kayak down the middle. Nice big long drawers come out the back door too!!!

I love this set up rather than a rock and roll bed. I don't need to put anything away to make the bed or to make a cuppa in the morning. I guess the advantage of being below 5'8 is sleeping across the van. There is no reason why this can't be adapted though.

Anyway, I would agree with the awning business, not to go too big unless staying for longer or with mates.

Here's some pic's of our weekend away at Whitsand bay. We just parked up in a small viewing point and slept there for two nights. We got loads of attention for the right reasons!!! People didn't know Merc made campers!!!! We got more attention than the VW's which annoyed them I think..... It's nice to be different. I don't buy into the VW scene, it's just a box on wheels at the end of the day, which is thirsty and a lump to drive, just because they have put an extra '0' at the end of the price doesn't make it better, you're just a fool to pay it. So why not buy the best of a bad lot??? The only downside to the Vito I know is the rust, everything else is plus, and I have driven many a T4.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
I really need to get down to Cornwall :D that looks awesome!

Thanks for the photos guys. It's so useful to see other people's set ups so that I can use ideas for my own.

Anavito, when you get the chance can you take some close up photos of the frame that's been used to support the mattress? I've shown the photos to the other half, and she likes the idea of storage space under the mattress so that could be an option.

I can see I'm going to have to buy some sunshades for the front windscreen too. Another good idea:)
 

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Mountain, sorry it took a while but here's a pic of the bed we constructed. Basically it consists of the standard width plywood you get in b & q or wherever which I think is 1.2 m wide. It's cut to length and the idea Lykselle frame and mattress sits on top. Your mattress could just sit on top if easier. Underneath its supported by an 'H' shape, again made of plywood. This lifts it above the wheel arches.

The mattress has been removed on the pic and the camping stuff is still beneath. My wife reckons we should get a side unit but I don't really see the need if everything goes into the pop up or is stored beneath the bed en route. I reckon we'll get a unit between the front seats - were both coffee fiends so an socket in it with hook up will work and then an electric coffee maker for use in the morning. At the moment were just trailing the hook up through the side window.

 

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It's so refreshing to see other people using their vans for something useful and functional instead of just 'lowering' and fitting big sound systems (not that there is anything wrong with that, it’s just not my cup of tea!).
Martin - I really like your van and I like the use of those Ikea boxes.
I too am converting my van and absolutely agree with Mountain about making a van that is just a van on a daily basis and then 'fitting' the camper stuff when required.

I however, have gone a bit more serious with mine and am fitting a home-made 3/4 rock and roll bed, a kitchen(ette) and some cupboards, all of which with be removable (apart from the back cupboard) so that I still have a full van for my normal life.

My conversion process has taken nearly a year so far (and I'm nowhere near finished) but I'm probably only spending a few hours a week on it due to other commitments. Also, when I bought the van it had no lining and seats in the back (for which I am making a mechanism for quick removal) so that has taken a fair amount of time (and money:( )

With regard to condensation, ply-lining the roof has worked really well to cut down on those annoying drips in the morning. Was a faff to make templates for and cut but got there in the end and I’m going to carpet the whole thing eventually which will help (and hide the mistakes;) ).
I have also been given an old manual sunroof from a ford fiesta which I was thinking of fitting in the second roof panel – between the sliding doors.
How easy would this be? good idea?
I really like the idea of an Awning and my solution was to buy a big (5m2) tarp shelter with 2m poles that I can erect in various configurations including a long box with a full side for use over the van.
My question here would be, how have the rest of you fixed your awnings to your vans? I was thinking I might use the channel for the roof rack and make a fixing that slides in that. This would be great until I fit a roof rack… failing that, just strap it over the van?
I’ll post some piccies as soon as its presentable! :p
cc
 

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Discussion Starter #20
I like the idea of your work GC.......fair play :)

I, personally, would be reluctant to put anything in like a sunroof onto a van, especially if one wasn't originally destined to be there (loss of strength in panels etc). Not sure if the Viano's or V-Class have them so, so I guess I could be worrying about nothing.

I could do with getting ours carpetted out, but the functionality of a ply lined van really suits me at the moment. The convenience is superb, and I know that 'posh' carpet will get wrecked with diff oil and tyres :) Decisions, decisions.
 
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