For many of us van life equals the terms adventures, independence, spontaneity and most of all - freedom. Quite the opposite reasons brought me into it. All of a sudden we weren't independent nor free any longer. Our freedom had been cut, and we were suddenly “unfree” as we could never imagine before.
“You can’t change the wind, but you can set your sails!”
When I came home in Summer 2020 after a few months of lockdown in Cabarete, I was facing two options. Either to sit back and wait for better times to come, or adapt to the circumstances and set the sail.
My sail was in this case a camper. A so-called micro camper to be precise. What on earth is a Micro camper? Exactly! I did not know before but I love mine so much, I want to share it with you.
What is a micro camper?
Short: A micro camper is a camper that is actually too small to be one. ;-)
Frankly, I have always been a fan of flying and my destinations have always been far. New cultures, different continents, new climate, warm climate preferably.
Camping? I never really tried it. But now suddenly it sounded like the perfect option and alternative until we can travel normally again already. And everyone seems to love it, so why not give it a try?
My quarantine in summer, after I got tested positive, I spent with research. Turns out there are all sorts of vehicles out there that will accommodate you nicely on your vacation. A bus, a trailer, a van or one of these fancy camper vans with a hot shower and WC on board. One thing I learned: For every type of traveler there is the right camper.
There is a whole cult around it and I found beautiful and really impressive rebuilds.
People turn old VW busses into a little and perfectly thought out dream house on wheels. Wrapped up nicely, so you tempt to overlook the - after all - 41-year-old engine. ;-) You want to live in an emergency car from the 70th? You’ve got it.
And me? I look at all these super nice and beautiful vans and station wagons, and all I want is one of them myself.
And even if every single one is one of a kind and unique the way it was rebuilt, almost with an own soul, quickly I found out what they have in common, the - sorry - ridiculous high price.
my romantic imagination of a camping surf bus
I was not willing to pay that much for a cool, yes, but after all ancient bus. Not even talking about new models. Not as long I wasn’t even sure, if I’d like the #vanlife after all.
My solution was to work with what I already had.
My car. He is called Hermann, he is an Audi, and he is huge. Well for a car he is. If you want to live in it, he turns out to be pretty small. Nonetheless, my plan was definite.
I will turn my car into a camper.
A lot of planning went into my project. Not because it was absolutely necessary, but because I like to do things properly. I could have simply thrown a mattress in the back and off we go!
Zitat: But, I was planning to sleep, live and work in this car for a couple of weeks, and I was planning to so, as comfortable as possible.
My issue was, my car is a station wagon but not one of these nice high ones. So the space I could work with was really limited.
Step 1: The research and planning
I have never been camping before, and I had no idea how many considerations go into planning to build a camper. First, I had to find out what was even possible by gathering information and inspiration.
Even though there are tons of information about rebuilding busses and bigger vehicles, cars don’t seem to be that common in this scene. So the few videos I found became even more inspirational for me. Thanks guys at that point. (It has been only guys that made this videos)
Once I was released from my quarantine I could finally take proper measurements of my car. Without that information there is no sense in starting to plan anything.
So, it turns out there is less space than expected. But it will work. I am sure. What is clear after the first measurements
1. I will definitely need a roof box for my equipment.
- sitting in the back of the car will be challenging
Despite the fact that my Audi is not the perfect fit to become a camper I could figure out a really nice first plan for how I wanted it to look in the end.
Time to turn this plan into reality.
There are several ways to build your car into a camper. Depending on your needs and the type and size of the car, but also on your budget and last but not least your abilities. Are u a handy girl or do you have a handy man on hand to help you? I was lucky and got my father on board on this project. :-)
First, remove the back seats. Like that you gain quite some space and in my car it left a straight surface in the back.
We built a construction consisting basically from two separate wooden boxes.
Due to the space that the wheels are taking, in the back of the boot is less space than by the doors. I wanted to use all the space possible. So the boxes have a different size. Also making two boxes instead of one big one, helps to take this fairly unhandy construction out even by myself if needed.
That was an easy part. But only because we found an unused mattress in the basement. We simply cut it in shape, threw a bedsheet on top and my new bed was ready.
Luckily the part by the door again is wider, so lying comfortable and even turning was possible nicely. To make sure I can sleep undisturbed and feel a bit more cozy, I also fit a curtain behind the front seeds which I could close in the night and keep open while driving.
A huge topic was electricity and how to charge my devices? I am working online and depend on my laptop and cellphone even more than others. Only as soon as you can't just plug in your laptop whenever needed, is when you realize how important it is and how often you actually charge have to charge it.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve never thought about how much power one device actually needs before. Charging a phone turns out be super easy. Neither of my devices need a lot of power, except my friend the MacBook.
I will not bore you with all the research I went through to figure out how to charge my laptop on my trip and jump right into the solution.
A solar panel with a power bank / power converter. This little battery is all in one, and the solar panel generates enough electricity to charge it full in only a few hours even in the weaker autumn sun. That applies at least to Sardinia.
I could charge my laptop up to three times full, with one power bank filling. Whenever you have excess to a plug you can charge it there. (I don’t get anything for mentioning this product unfortunately ;-) it actually worked well for me and I can strongly recommend it.
My dog and my power bank are charging in the sun :-)
Well that is the only negative point here. I only had a 20 liter canister, so I needed to be very economical with my water.
gas cooker and dishes
cutlery, knife, and cutting board
a cooler box
As mentioned I also brought a roof box with me to store mainly my kite equipment. Make sure you can lock the box to your car properly. Someone tried to take off my roofebox while I was on the water kiting once.
I took with me three boards, two kites and two bars, two wetsuits, boots and there was even space for a table, a camping chair and a big winter jacket. Well, I did not know how long my trip was going to last, and I wanted to be prepared.
Finally, no baggage regulations!! :-)
Micro camper: the practical test
My trip started in October. I packed my stuff, made a nice seat with a security belt for my dog on the passenger's seat and off we went. Direction south. The ferry brought us to Sardinia. And from there we made our way to the south of the island.
How is it to sleep in a car?
So much said, it is much more comfortable as expected. Of course, it takes some organization skills due to the limited space. But once I got used to it, it was actually really great. I slept comfortable AND wherever I choose to stay.
Advantages of a car compared to a big camper van:
- You are absolutely inconspicuous. No one suspects you sleeping in there.
- You can go everywhere and enter even difficult roads or in cities. Many paths towards the beach are not manageable with a heavy vehicle. Sometimes it’s even permitted.
- Costs. Many parking charg a fee to campers for the night but NOT for cars. At least this is the case in Sardinia. I will tell more about my camping and kiting experience on this magical island in another article.
- Petrol consumption is lower.
- Parking in cities easier.
- Bring what you want: Finally my equipment was not limited by the 30 kg weight limit of an airline. Finally, I could bring all my toys with me !
- space: the biggest disadvantage is the limited space and in my case not being able to sit upright was annoying sometimes. But I normally worked outside at a table. Single vehicle: this way to travel is for one person only. I had my dog with me which was fine, but only because she is tiny.
- Only good weather camping: As long the weather was warm, and not raining it was absolutely fine. Rain can be a real killer though. I was lucky not only with the weather, but also by having friends around, who could offer me shelter in their camper vans if needed.
- Shower and toilet: I guess every camper who decides to wild camp faces that problem.
What can I say. I am a camping fan after all! Wild camping is the most independent way to travel and for people like us, who want to chase the wind or waves, this is absolutely perfect.
In the end I spent two months on Sardinia sleeping in my car. I traveled wherever I found the best kiting conditions. I stopped and slept wherever it suited me. My micro camper enabled me to that freedom.
And yes, I was thinking of buying a proper camper, bus or something bigger, but hey, I love my Hermann and how handy it is to travel by car.
One thing you have to be aware of, be prepared to become the center of attention on every van parking you get to ;-)
My trip was absolutely unforgettable and the perfect way to spend a lockdown autumn in absolute freedom. With Kiting, surfing and unforgettable sunsets.
More about kiting, camping and traveling in Sardinia next time.