Sunday, February 11, 2018

A year in

We bought the bug out van a little over a year ago and started the conversion a year ago this weekend.  After a couple chaotic months of initial build out time we took it on the initial voyage, a 10-day road trip through California, Nevada, Arizona and Utah. We've since logged 25 additional nights on trips of various lengths and have been making notes about what to do next.

Crammed in
One of the first things we took notice of was how challenging it can be living out of large plastic totes for things like kitchen ware and food stuff. Its fine in the summer time when its warm enough to setup kitchen on a campground table or our small portable rollup table, but when the weather starts getting cooler, and we want to heat coffee/tea water in the morning before heading outside, it is less than ideal. The inconvenience of having to dig through the container on ones hands and knees, in the dark, under the bed made building a "kitchenette cabinet" our first upgrade priority.

We installed a recycled, folding Ikea table just before the inaugural trip. It has served us well, but is starting to come apart. It was never our intention to leave it in as the primary work surface, especially since it doesn't offer any storage utility.

The rough design
We debated whether to install a full blown inset stove top but have decided instead to continue using our dual burner Camp Chef which allows us to cook outside when the weather allows (I actually hate cooking in the van but sometimes its too darn cold or dark outside).  We want a solid work top and since we have so far eschewed plumbing of any kind, no inset sink basin either.  We have instead designed a steel frame "cabinet" that will encase 2 slide out drawers, a slide out cooler shelf, and a flip up work surface that exposes a "hidden" storage compartment for the stove and utensils. The rear legs will extend up above the work surface to provide an attachment for a "backsplash" onto which we can attach additional storage or bungee netting or magnetic strips.

I prefer working with metal over wood, so I have chose to build a frame out of 1" square steel tubing. My woodworking skills are horrid and I don't have some of the larger tools one needs to make nice wood cabinets. Also, I've planned it in a way that allows for maximum future flexibility where possible, like if we add a fridge or real furnace at some point down the line. And since my woodworking skills aren't great, I found a place on the internet that will custom build drawer boxes to size, for a very reasonable fee, leaving the wood elements I have to build to the base for the slide out cooler shelf and the bottom of the "hidden" storage area under the work surface.

We will skin the front and sides with corrugated plastic, the material they make political signs out of. It is very lightweight and very inexpensive. Its also allows light to pass through so it will help passively lighten up the inside of the cabinet ... at least that is the theory. I don't intend to skin the back since it will be facing the wall, but we can decide that once we get ready to install into the van.
Left and right main frame