2 Years Later!

It seems incredible to me that I haven’t updated this in 2 years, the time just flies. We have been continuing to make good use of the van, I did fit a 12v computer fan to the side and it helped with airflow when it got too hot, uses very little power. I also have a Ryobi One fan which runs off the standard Ryobi lithium battery. It’s not often the weather gets so hot that we need to use it though.

Mechanically the van has been fine apart from one incident. When travelling on the Motorway in 5th Gear the gearstick went floppy, couldn’t change gear! Managed to get off the Motorway without stalling and investigated. The gear linkage had come away from the gearbox, It’s just a plastic clip which wears and eventually pops off. Turns out it’s a common problem on the Renault vans and there’s a quick and cheap solution in the form of a spring clip which goes over the worn clip and holds it on. Cost me £10. Haven’t had any other costs other than the usual tyres Etc.

Van will probably not be used for camping now until the spring so it’s been cleared out water emptied etc. still use it day to day for commuting. Will be using it for Glastonbury next year with 4 of us so a rethink on the bed situation is needed as I will have to put 2 seats back in. Will sort that out this winter.

2 Years Later!

Eighteen Months On…

We have now had our NV200 for 2 summers and have made good use of it for festivals, camping on official sites and “stealth” camping in cities and smaller towns. It has been everything we wanted and we can camp comfortably if a little cramped. The only real issue has been the lack of ventilation, having the front windows down a couple of inches gives enough ventilation at night but as the morning comes and it warms up it gets a bit too hot, we could really do with a roof vent but I don’t really want to change the look of the van, at the moment you can’t tell it’s a camper at all. We just have to open the side doors a bit in the morning, but then people can see in if they take an interest. I’m going to experiment with a small 12v fan drawing in cooler air through the unused speaker vent at the back, I’m hoping this will give enough fresher air to avoid getting a roof vent.

Eighteen Months On…

Bed/Sofa

happyBed layout choices are more varied than you might at first imagine, small campervans usually have a rock’n’roll bed arrangement, this gives you the advantage of having 2 extra passenger seats, The other common arrangement is a side sofa bed, it is illegal to have side facing rear passengers so you cannot carry more than two people with this setup, we camp as a couple so don’t need additional seats and find it more comfortable to have a long sofa.

I was hoping to use a click clack type sofa bed with little modification but in practice it turned out too awkward, this conversion from Happy Campers in Iceland uses one in a Connect but as you can see it’s not against the side and seems to waste some space.

 

I bought a Cheap Sofa Bed from Ikea and adapted it for our needs, we wanted access to the porta potti at night so had to shorten the bed on my wife’s side. I’m 6ft so need the full length, she’s barely 5ft so her side of the bed is about a foot shorter, this just about gives us enough room, the potti sits next to the cooker at night. You have to be fairly agile to use it! There’s certainly not a lot of room available. In Dinkum’s Drivelodge Pro conversion there’s no room for the potti at night, he uses a bottle! (See Dinkum’s blog in Links below). The bed is a slatted arrangement that pulls out from the side, the sofa back cushion fits onto it to make the bed. We use a double sleeping bag and it’s fine.

Rickvanman uses the slat system in this video, not sure they needed to be so thick!

We use storage boxes under the seat for storing clothes etc. The potti fits under there too. There is a small amount of storage in the sink unit also.

It is possible to come up with other arrangements, you can keep the rear seats and fold them down and make a bed on top, the Lunar Vacanza utilizes the front seats, see video in Links.

It’s also possible to have a bunk bed arrangement if one bed is on the floor and the other about half way up. Bunks would have to be fairly narrow though. If you look through the Spanish forum in the links you will see quite a variety of solutions.

diegbm

Bed/Sofa

Sink unit and cooker

The interior width of the NV200 is 1.5 metres, I figured on a side unit of 40cm and a bed width of 110cm. The cooker is 40cm deep too. I wanted a cooker with an oven if it all possible as it gives you far more options when cooking than a simple 2 ring burner. I must admit it was a challenge to fit it into such a small van, and the place I eventually chose was pretty much the only place it would fit. As it turned out it works very well, as you obviously need the door open when cooking and even opening it an inch or so gives enough ventilation. The cooker is an old Eastham Maxol caravan / boat cooker. It’s mounted on a simple base and fitted to the sink unit with bolts and wingnuts. It takes a couple of minutes to remove.

You can buy new models of a similar size such as this,http://www.norfolkmarine.co.uk/shop-online/voyager-4500-burner-oven-grill-cooker-grill-p-23205.html It’s pricey of course, I paid £20 for mine -one taken from a scrap caravan and fortunately it works perfectly.

Oven Grill Cooker

If you want a cooker that you can use outside and still have an oven this Camping Gaz model seems good.

https://www.campingaz.com/uk/p-26652-camp-stove-oven.aspx

Costs around £200.

I didn’t want to use a big gas bottle so I use this, instead.

 

346-10-uk-2

 

It’s small enough to fit under the cooker unit and you can turn off the gas when traveling or easily remove the cylinders completely if you wish. (Accessed from outside with the door open!). http://gasproducts.co.uk/cadac-dual-power-pak.html

The cooker unit in my van is NOT a permanent fixture it can be easily removed and used outside if camping  or removed completely if the seats are put in. A proper permanent campervan conversion will require a sealed gasbox with a fixed regulator, floor vent etc. You should of course consult a professional for any gas fitting.

Of course we always cook with the door open and have a CO detector fitted, I prefer this type,

41is5jWQmcL

As you can get a reading at any point and see what the level is, it also saves the peak level, so you can check that you’re not getting anywhere near the danger level. There is a danger of fire as well as CO poisoning so you must watch the cooker constantly when cooking, Having a Fire Blanket and Extinguisher on hand is advisable and it’s also wise to have a first aid kit in the van.

The sink unit was fitted first, I used a Smev VA930 sink which is 28cm by 38cm, I made the cupboard from 15mm laminated chipboard, you really should use ply but I’m a cheapskate! In any case I wasn’t 100% sure it would turn out O.K. and it wouldn’t cost much to do it again. I made it 1 metre wide, there was just enough room to keep it in situ with the seats replaced and the cooker would fit at the side. With this layout there is just about enough room to squeeze in and out of the side door, but if I redo the sink unit I will reduce it to about 92cm wide to give a bit more access room. UPDATE: I have now remade the unit a little shorter and it has helped access a lot. Waste water tank is an old 20L car wash chemical drum, fresh water is 2 x 10L barrels, they have to be food grade so no old chemical drums for those! I used some that had been used for syrup. I keep one full as a spare and swap with the other when it runs out, not too heavy to carry. Pump is a standard 12v immersion pump.

Tap is a Reich single cold water tap.

reichtap

There was only just enough room to fit the pipe to the tap when I fitted mine but I was stuck with the tap hole already drilled in the sink as I bought it secondhand, If I was fitting a new sink and tap I would fit the tap to the worktop rather than the back of the sink. May also use a manual pump too such as this, 3c_12

Saves wiring and load on battery, also gives you more control on dispensing water, 12v taps are either on or off, very little control of flow. My tap and pump plug into a 12v socket so I can remove easily.

Sink unit and cooker

Flooring

After insulating the van I put the floor in. I suppose the choices are carpet, lino or laminate flooring. I chose carpet tiles, Cheap to buy, you can get some left overs pretty cheap on, you guessed it, ebay. Hardwearing, they are usually used in commercial premises, easy to fit, helps with insulation (heat and sound), easy to clean and easy to replace an odd one if it gets dirty or damaged, you can also cut out access holes easily to allow the seats to be replaced if you wish to. All in all it was a no-brainer to use them.

The above pics show the cuts and holes in the carpet tiles allowing access to the rear seat mounts in the floor. In pic 1 I’m holding the foam insulation I used under the carpet tiles, pic 2 is the “flap” up to allow the seat to connect, pic 3 is the flap down and pic 4 is one of the holes used to connect the large “plate” that the 3 seats all bolt down to.

Flooring

Insulation

Keeping a comfortable temperature in a campervan is a challenge, on a sunny day it will soon get incredibly hot inside, and on a Spring or Autumn night you may well find the temperature drops to just a few degrees. Insulating the van will slow down the transfer of heat and so It will take longer for the van to become uncomfortable on a summers morning while you are trying to sleep, and will stay warmer longer at night as the temperature outside drops. Much of the heat loss is through the windows so some method of insulating them is needed. The insulating of the van bodywork is covered well in this video by Rickvanman on youtube,

Rick didn’t keep his NV200 long after converting it, I suspect he wasn’t keen on using it without being able to see out, having been used to a larger camper with regular side windows. I think he made a big mistake in not putting a couple of windows in.

When insulating, make sure you don’t cover the ventilation holes in the rear sides, they are hidden from the outside by the rear bumper, they are the only permanent vents in the vehicle other than in the front dash (and they can be closed). You do need to breathe!

I used the same insulation method on my Combi, although I used a cheaper variant of the Black insulation, If you search for Graphite Underlay on ebay you will find several suppliers. The silver bubble type insulation is readily available. After insulating the roof I replaced the roof lining of course, with a van you will need to line it out with something. For the windows I made a cover from thin flexible plastic sheet and stuck the black insulation to the outside, this is barely visible through the privacy glass and makes the van a good ‘stealth camper’. These covers attach with magnets to the window frame, it only takes a few seconds per window.

If you want to buy something similar ready made, this ebayer has them,

window cover

http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/NISSAN-EVALIA-NV200-DeLUXE-MAGNETIC-THERMAL-SUN-SHADE-PRIVACY-BLINDS-3-LAYERS-/111802983849?hash=item1a07fa25a9:g:Xq8AAOSwNSxVWMI1

The trim fix spray glue is quite expensive, the cheapest supplier I found was

http://stores.ebay.co.uk/sortbeyonduk?_trksid=p2047675.l2563 Their Fix-All adhesive worked fine for me.

Insulation

Thoughts on Electrics

Years ago campervans had electric hook ups with elaborate mains ‘zig units’

zig

With modern technology it should be possible to have a simpler system.

I thought about possibly building in mains electric but much of the time I would be camping at festivals with no electric, also at busy times some campsites wouldn’t have an electric hookup available and they charge extra for mains hookup too. The main consumption of power is for heating and cooling. Nowadays lighting and electronic devices use relatively little power. I decided to just use 12V power, lighting is by LED strips, TV is a small LED model around 20w, phones and tablets use very little and can be charged while the engine is running anyway. We use a 12v coolbox while driving and while on site buy a bag of ice from the supermarket (£1 from any of the big stores), this will keep the food cool for a couple of days at least. This works out cheaper than running a gas fridge too. If I needed to run the coolbox full time I would get a 100 watt solar panel, that should deliver enough power. The only other draw is the water pump which is only used in short bursts.

The battery is located on top of the car battery under the bonnet, this is a much better arrangement than having a battery box in the back and saves space. I got this idea from Zooom the German converters.

SONY DSC

Thomas at Zooom states in the NV200 forum that they now don’t use a second battery at all, just a solar panel on the roof to keep the vehicle battery topped up, they run a Waeco fridge from it too! I must admit I’d be a bit worried about running the battery down.

The auxiliary battery is charged by a smart split charge relay, the kit was bought ready made on ebay, see LINKS below. I had a good spare car battery available when I got the van so I used that instead of a leisure battery, so far it’s been fine, I’ll change it for a proper leisure battery in the future. UPDATE: I now have a proper leisure battery, I went for a Varta 75AH LFD75 – not too big and bulky and it’s served me well so far. I monitor the voltage with a cheap plug in display.

12v

Another ebay bargain!

If we were camping in winter we would need some way of heating the van, running a diesel or gas heater would still be possible without mains I think, they have a 12V fan but don’t use too much power. I would probably use a gas catalytic heater anyway, but it’s not something we need at present.

At some of the festivals next year I will be on site for 4-5 days, I’ve bought a small solar trickle charger, it’s only 4 watts but I’m hoping it will put enough back into the battery to keep everything working without having to start the van. We have managed for a weekend (3 days) this year, so I think it should be O.K.

EDIT, I’ve now bought a secondhand folding 60w solar panel (another ebay bargain!) so will have more than enough capacity for extended stays at festivals, used it for 5 days this year with no issues. Will still use the small trickle charger if stealthing. But we usually only stay in one spot for a night or two so the battery gets recharged once we’re driving again.

Thoughts on Electrics

Planning and Preparation

Once you have decided to get a NV200 for camping you will need to consider how much you want to adapt it and what layout is best for you. Everyone’s circumstances are different and there is no right or wrong way to go, I wanted a comfortable campervan without the expense of a full conversion.

My van has auxiliary battery with split charger, additional lighting, additional 12v electric outlets, sink with electric pump and fresh/waste water containers, cooker with oven, side sofa/double bed, TV, porta potti. I have simple blinds for the windows, and curtains to separate the front from the rear living area. We use a 12V coolbox instead of a fridge and a Sunncamp driveaway awning when on site. I have just fitted a passenger swivel base which should give a bit more room. It has worked very well for us so far and there is not much more  I plan to do.

Before I even bought the van I had acquired quite a few of the things I was going to need, The sink, cooker, porta potti, split charge system and a CO detector were bought in the months before, some second hand off ebay if the price was right. Once I had the van the first job was removing the rear seats, stripping out unneeded trim and fitting the electrics. I had pretty much decided how I wanted it but couldn’t make a final plan until I had measured up and had sat in and visualized the way we would fit in and move about. I needed to know where things were going prior to fitting the wiring. I got the wind deflectors as soon as I bought it and fitted those too. Once the wiring was in I insulated the roof, sides and floor as best I could, and fitted carpet tiles. Next came the CO detector, sink unit, then the cooker unit with gas supply, then the sofa/bed and finally the blinds and curtains.

Cost was a fraction of the price of a professional conversion and of course it doesn’t look like a professional job, but it’s good enough for us, I can take out the bed and cooker and put the seats back in if I wish, the sink unit has a few more fittings but could be removed and replaced relatively easily too. From the outside with the blinds up it doesn’t look like a campervan and we can sleep in it anywhere without attracting attention.

inside 1inside2

Planning and Preparation

Initial Choices, Van or Combi?

If you are thinking of buying a NV200 for camping you have the choice of the Van or the Combi (5 or 7 seats). A basic van will be cheaper but you have some additional expense to consider in adding windows and lining out. I decided on the Combi as there was less work involved and it would be more adaptable. Living in the van without any windows is possible of course but in such a small van would be quite claustrophobic. I would budget for at least 2 extra windows if buying a van. Cost will be around £300 and you may need to travel to find a fitter.

This company advertise on ebay and seem reasonable.

http://www.lakelandwindscreens.co.uk/van-windows-and-conversions/

You could fit them yourself if you’re feeling brave.

How to install windows

If you decide on the Combi try to get one with the optional sliding side windows, this will help with ventilation. Even then it will be a help to have wind deflectors so you can leave the front windows down an inch or two for ventilation, particularly at night. I have Heko deflectors, £26 on ebay, easy to fit and I’m happy with them. They do add a bit of noise when traveling fast on the motorway but I don’t have any extra ventilation so they’re a must have.

How to fit wind deflectors

The Combi generally comes with a tailgate rather than the 60/40 doors on the rear of the van. The tailgate doesn’t open from the inside (for safety reasons I guess), the van doors do however so that may be a factor in your decision. We just use the side door to enter/exit or climb through from the front.

Your final big initial decision will be whether to have a poptop fitted or not. At £2000 plus I couldn’t justify that expense for the amount of time I would be using the camper, we can manage perfectly well without standing up so it’s not something I would recommend. If you do want one there are several reputable companies that do them. Fitting is NOT a D.I.Y. job, it involves cutting through structural steel in the roof and adding appropriate additional strength. If you need information on cutting the roof for this or fitting a rooflight etc. technical details are here.

2013-2014-Nissan-NV200-Cargo-Van-BBGv1

This is for the US version of the van which is 7.9 inches longer than the regular van, there is a pillar between the front and the rear side door on the North American version, the construction is essentially the same but don’t rely on the measurements in this BBG, there doesn’t seem to be an equivalent document available for the ‘normal’ NV200. The combi has additional fittings across the roof for the rear seatbelts.The diagrams also show the anchor points within the vehicle which is handy if you have to bolt something to the frame.

Initial Choices, Van or Combi?

INTRO

This blog is intended to give some ideas and help to those wanting to use their Nissan NV200 for camping. Primarily those who want to self-convert or just use their vehicle part-time without great expense. I have provided links at the bottom of this page to some of the sites and suppliers I have found useful. I have a NV200 Combi 5seater that has been equipped for camping, I have arranged it so that it can still be used as a car if required by removing some of the camping setup and replacing the seats. All work was done by me as cheaply as possible while still having almost all the benefits of a campervan conversion. If you are converting or adapting yourself the most important stage is planning, I spent a year studying the various conversions and viewing youtube videos etc. before deciding on the final layout. Much depends on how you will use the van and how many there are of you of course. You should be aware that the NV200 is fairly small as campers go and so any design will involve some compromise, if you want plenty of space or intend to live in it for extended periods it may be worth considering something bigger. For a couple wanting a dayvan or weekend camper it is ideal.

DISCLAIMER – Any information given on this site is intended for use by people with the necessary experience and training to carry out mechanical work safely and legally and is given in good faith. I have no interest in any manufacturer or retailer mentioned. All material linked to is the property of the copyright owner. I do not recommend any particular procedure or method of working on your vehicle. If I demonstrate how I or others have carried out a particular job It IS NOT a recommendation that you should do it, YOU are responsible for any work you do to your vehicle and ensuring that it is done safely and legally. Modifying your vehicle may invalidate your insurance.

INTRO