Tag Archives: No-Build SUV Camper Build

All’s Well That Ends Well…

If you’ve been reading along you know that the delivery of the Rubbermaid cargo bin I ordered from Amazon has been a colossal cluster coitus with the USPS handling things. I now believe that if you want to be a driver for FedEx (another recent bad experience) or the postal service you’re required to take an intelligence test. If you fail, you’re hired.

It was scheduled to be delivered last Thursday. In fact, at 9 a.m. it was at a postal facility in Orange City that was only 3.5 miles away from the delivery address. But it didn’t make it to my mail drop and 9.5 hours later, according to the USPS package tracking app, it was in Stuart, FL which is about 175 miles away from the delivery address. From there it went to Orlando and Orlando shipped it off to Jacksonville. It languished there for a bit before being trekked off to a place called Lady Lake.

On Sunday, the 13th of June, Amazon offered me the option of getting a refund. I did because there was no telling how many more places the bin might visit. I got a message from Amazon saying that the refund was being processed and would be in my account in about 5 working days. 

Monday, I went to the local Lowes and purchased a Commander 40 gallon bin…

See the source image

It’s not as sturdy as the Rubbermaid. I’ve seen a smaller version of the Rubbermaid chest which is well constructed and that’s why I wanted it. But I figured this will do. Then, as I was driving near the maildrop on the way back to the swamp I stopped in. And THERE IT WAS! Well, I ordered it, I want it, and I put it in the back of the SUV. No sense trying to send it back via USPS, who knows WHAT would happen to it? I then spent two hours on line trying to get in touch with someone at Amazon to see how we can rectify the situation. Of course it isn’t easy and I’ll just blame, for now, the extremely ugly weather situation as being responsible for the poor internet connection. There’s thunder and lightning all around.

See the source image

Finally got through to a, believe it or not, competent customer service rep, and I got the bin paid for. I know there are lots of people who wouldn’t have done that and just said they made a huge “score.” But I’m not like that. Shame on me, huh?

So now I have to go back to Lowes and return that bin I just bought. Like with Home Depot I’ll have it reimbursed to me as store credit that I can use anywhere in the country. I don’t like to go out in traffic until rush hour’s over. Hopefully the rain will have stopped by then. This is the third day in a row or liquid sunshine but we’ve needed it here, deep in the swamp/

I thought the bin might be a bit oversized reading the description on Amazon and looking at the dimensions listed on the carrier itself. Ya just never know how accurate those things are, but there’s room to spare. I put the carrier in the hitch and as you can see it’s not so big that it obscures the license plate which could cause me to get pulled over. And it’s far enough from the back of the SUV that it doesn’t interfere with opening the tailgate. It’s all going to work out just fine.

I have a locking hitch pin to keep the carrier from being removed by bad guys, and the bin itself can be locked. I have ratchet tie-downs to keep the bin from bouncing and sliding around. I also have a Yeti lock set up that I used when I had my Yeti living in the cockpit of my boat.

I’m going to buy a substantial eye bolt, drill a hole in the bin and then run the cable through that and under the lower rails of the carrier. None of those precautions are going to stop really dedicated thieves but we all know locks are just intended to keep the good guys out anyways.

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Some Assembly Required

The biggest constraint with living/traveling/camping in an SUV is where do you keep everything you need/want? You can take minimalism only so far. I met a guy back in ’92 on the Rio Dulce in Guatemala who was an extremist like that. He was a pretty famous multi-hull designer. You know catamarans and trimarans. They attribute a lot of their speed to keeping weight low. To that end Peter kept his interiors bare. He used bean bag furniture to reduce weight. He was so dedicated to keeping everything light that used to remove the covers of his paperback books.  He even cut his toothbrush handles down to stubs! Keeping weight down in an SUV isn’t that extreme but the more payload in the vehicle the more fuel it takes to lug it around. And volume of gear is important.

My bed frame is 14″ off the deck in most places and another 4″ to that in the forward part of the bed. So there’s plenty of room to stuff stuff under there. That’s where the tent will live, for one. Clothes, food stuffs and the like will also fit in containers beneath the bed. But there are other things that need additional storage space…like the 11 lb. propane tank for one. 

There are several ways of gaining extra storage space. One is to drag along a small trailer. I’m not going to do that. Trailers restrict where you can go to park overnight or longer. The next alternative is a rooftop carrier. We’ve all seen them. 

Some of them can cost over $1,500! Price and the fact that my Mitsubishi doesn’t have roof rails on which to mount such a thing save me from going that route. There are some real downsides to these things, too. They can restrict where you can go because of the added height. You’d hit certain drive-thru signs in many cases and have problems with multi-storied parking garages. People who have them admit they do have “drag” through the air which has a negative effect on gas mileage. In some cases rather significant, and with petrol prices on the rise this summer that certainly has to be considered.

Since the Mitsubishi has a trailer hitch I decided to get a hitch-mounted cargo carrier. I bought a MaxxHaul 49″ x 22.5″ Hitch Mount Aluminum Cargo Carrier With High Side Rails. I went with aluminum for the no-rust feature. I saw similar, and less expensive at Harbor Freight, but the one they had at the store nearby was just a floor model and I would have to have one delivered. Looking at YouTube vids the assembly of those is a piece of cake.

This thing, on the other hand, should have said “Some Assembly Required.” It didn’t, but I got up and at ’em before it started to get hot here deep in the swamp off the Saint Johns River in DeBary, central Florida.

This thing came in a ton of parts.

Putting it together was really simple. Overall it took me about an hour to put the frame together.

A few more nuts and bolts secured the frame to the tongue and this is how it looks attached to the SUV…

These kinds of carriers don’t have any air drag to mess with mileage.

Tomorrow, Monday, I’ll go to Lowes to buy a bin to fit in the carrier. The one I ordered from Amazon

was handed over to morons at the USPS and after days and days of them screwing around I just cancelled the order and asked for a refund. Amazon customer service said I’ll have it in about three days.

It has been a total cluster coitus since the end of the week. It was delivered to the post office in Orange City. That facility is 3.6 miles from my shipping address. They didn’t get there before 5 p.m. when the maildrop closes for the day but instead of returning it to Orange City they sent it to effin’ Stuart! Over 160 miles away! Well, next it went to Orlando and, again the driver didn’t get there while the store was open so they sent this box to effin’ Jacksonville! Next it went to Lady Lake and who the hell knows where it is now? Oh, well. I can get something similar to this at Lowes and for about a third the price, too.

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This Could Work

I was just looking back over the past couple of days worth of posts about my no-build SUV camper buildout and an idea hit me as I was looking at this picture…

bed made

My original idea was to put the bed frame over the wheel hump on the passenger side. Well, former passenger side since I took the passenger seat out the other day. The bed frame takes up the entire space in the back of the vehicle with the forward end butted up against the seat back. I’ve had to move the driver’s seat one click forward to obtain the space needed. It’s a bit close to the steering wheel but shouldn’t be to terrible for a few hundred miles until I can get to my nephew’s place in western North Carolina. As you can see in the picture the curvature of the tailgate opening won’t allow the frame to be moved to the starboard wall (salty talk makes my winkie tingle…) So there it sits. I’m able to close the tailgate without any problem. Also, the middle leg on the outboard side sticks right down in the middle of the well arc. So that keeps the frame from being moved, too.

I contacted my nephew by email and asked if he had welding equipment. I was thinking if I cut two inches off the side rails between the slats it would give me enough room so the frame doesn’t rub up against the back of the seat. THEN, looking at the picture above I’m thinking why not cut out one entire section between the slats and rewelding there? It would reduce the length by about five inches. It makes the frame shorter than the mattress, but if that overhang is at what will be the foot of the bed it shouldn’t be noticeable when I’m sleeping. Shortening it that much would also bring those aft legs inside the curvature of the tailgate opening.

Then, I could cut the outboard middle leg down enough so it sits on the top of the wheel hump and the whole unit can move over nearly a foot and a half! That will create a nice open area between the seat back, the door, and the wheel hump. More easily accessible stowage space becomes instantly available.


The cargo are is 55″ wide. The bed is 38 inches wide so the way things are now there’s only about 8″ clearance outboard of either edge of the frame. Moving it over against the starboard side creates nearly a foot and a half of clearance on the port side.

It would be nice if I could move it over to the driver’s side, but the hump is totally different. If it could sit comfortably over on that side, with the passenger seat gone it would open up a HUGE space on the starboard side of the SUV. It wouldn’t be a problem to flip the frame end-for-end and see which side works best. I have a feeling it will be the passenger side though. We’ll see.

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No Build SUV Camper Build

Well, it’s amazing how much one can accomplish when one’s in Facebook Prison and free from that trap…

If you’re new to this blog then go back three of four days and you’ll get the back story of this post.

I made my way out to Home Depot and traded in the 3″ PVC pipes I’d gotten yesterday that weren’t the ticket for getting the bed level. As I’ve written, the legs of the bed frame I bought are too large to fit into a 2″ PVC pipe cut to even everything out as shown on a Bob Wells video. The legs are square steel channel. There was a rubber cap on the bottom end. It was easy to remove and I figured “If you can’t fit the leg into a decent PVC pipe then why not insert a PVC pipe inside the leg?” I took the refund in store credit. Have a nice orange card in my wallet I can use at any Home Depot in the country. Since there’s not going to be much weight on the pipe and it’s all downwards without any torque, I sprung for 3/4″ pipe in 2-foot sections at $1.19 each.

Simple as can be.

I got back to the swamp before it got too oppressively hot and humid and finished assembling the bed frame. It takes up almost the entire back of the SUV. It presses up against the back of the seats but the tailgate closes easily. At least I’m not going to have to worry about it moving around back there.

I’m going to have to remove the passenger seat so I’ll have room for the fridge. I’d hoped to be able to place the outboard side of the bed flush against the side of the vehicle by removing the middle leg on that side, (1) but I’d have to get some kind of metal strapping and drill holes in it to hold the side together since it’s made out in two sections. Then, as I’m looking at this, I realize that the curvature at the base of the tailgate opening (2) wouldn’t allow that to happen unless I cut at least that one leg down. I have the tools, but…..

I wanted the platform of the bed to be that high so I could store things beneath it. As you can see the Coleman Instant Tent and the folding table fit easily beneath the bed.

But I’m most likely going to keep the table in the storage box

That will live in the aluminum trailer hitch cargo carrier…
The carrier was delivered to my mail drop earlier today and the box is supposed to be delivered later today. So I should have those things by tomorrow. Saturday morning at the latest.

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