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A green camper fitout?

Discussion in 'Resto Corner' started by Basil Bus, Dec 1, 2021.

  1. Basil Bus

    Basil Bus New Member

    Messages:
    19
    Location:
    Hobart
    It may not be to most people's tastes, it's more functional than showy, but I thought someone might glean something from my camper fitout. So here's a bit of a spiel:

    We bought our camper ('76 2L) as something to live in while we repaired our boat, which was our home at the time. We were going to sell the bus when we were ready to set sail again, but by then we liked it so much that we put it up on blocks instead. We eventually settled in Tassie, and thirty years on we've still got the Kombi, which now has a name - Basil. It's always been our only car, basically just a town hack and a very useful workhorse - great for carrying firewood, building materials, furniture etc. We hardly ever used it as a camper, but hopefully that's about to change. We've got the time to do it now, so the plan is to see more of the great Tasmanian wilderness and use Basil as a comfortable base for some hearty bushwalking.

    I made an annex a little while ago, to help cope with the Tassie weather, and we set off on a couple of short trips. We'd had some issues with the Sopru fitout, but these trips convinced us that we could design something better.

    I'm not a "car person" as such. I admire those exquisitely restored Kombis, but for my own use a vehicle should, above all, be functional. We needed Basil to be a bit handier for carrying stuff - to enable us to easily get 8' x 4' sheets (ply, plasterboard, whatever) in through the rear, and also to be able to squeeze our dinghy in. So our layout was similar to the Sopru, but without the tall cabinet at the rear (which really hindered access) and the hanging locker behind the driver's seat. We were happy stuffing our clothes in a bag, and drawers were more useful to us. We didn't lose a lot of storage space, because with top-opening lockers we now had access to the space between the wheel arch and the gas bottle.

    I worked in a coal mine for 10 years, which was enough to turn me a deep shade of green. I try to minimise my consumption of fossil fuels, so the fitout was designed to cut down on weight. Here I was influenced by my background in boats, and I decided to use foam sandwich for much of the panelling. It's strong and light - about a third the weight of the Sopru panelling. I had found some 12mm Myrtle tongue-and-groove lining at a salvage place, enough to piece together table and benchtops, so I went with a Tasmanian native timbers theme, using 4mm ply with a Tas Oak veneer for the foam sandwich panels. I used 12mm polyurethane foam, cheap 3mm ply for the backing and glued them up with epoxy (altogether, I used 5Kg of epoxy in the fitout; so it was worth finding an industrial supplier). Drawers are 12mm Tas Oak and ply, and locker doors are also 12mm Tas Oak. The rounded corners are stock 32mm quad.

    Another nautical touch were the "fiddles" - the raised edges of the benchtops. The benchtops would have looked pretty flimsy, being just 12mm thick, so I doubled the thickness where the corners were exposed, and added the fiddles (The cutouts at the corners are so stuff can be easily brushed off). It was originally just an aesthetic thing but we soon realised just how useful fiddles are. We can actually leave soft storage, bags of clothes etc, on the benchtops while travelling, and they stay there! So no need for inbuilt storage.

    I replaced the panel under the seat with foam sandwich to reduce weight, and got rid of the fold-out overhead bed, replacing it, again, with a single foam sandwich panel, covered in roof lining fabric. It's a handy place to chuck stuff when camped.

    I reduced a bit more weight by cutting off the roo-bar and mounting the spare directly on the front panel.

    Another thing to go was the water tank. We couldn't drain ours and were never sure how much was in it. We replaced it with two 15L plastic containers, plumbed so we can switch easily from one to the other if we happen to be using creek water for washing up etc. We didn't like the idea of our grey water just emptying out wherever we happened to be parked, so it now goes into another 15L container.

    The old fridge, which hadn't worked for years, was replaced with a Waeco which slides out on soft-closing runners, and to ensure our beer was always going to be cold we mounted a flexible solar panel on the pop-top. Being in a cabinet, the fridge is enclosed, sides, top and bottom, in foam sandwich, which adds another level of insulation, so it uses very little power.

    We don't want to be precious about the interior, it's meant to be used, so we finished the woodwork with pure Tung oil (thinned in application with citrus solvent, so it's all non-toxic). Tung oil provides a nice glow, rather than a shine, and it's very easy to recoat or touch up without a lot of sanding. One failing is that it doesn't cope with prolonged exposure to sunlight.

    A couple of people have actually asked me if I'm a cabinetmaker, which is very rewarding. I am definitely no cabinetmaker, more of a "bush carpenter" normally, and part of the challenge was to see if I could, for once, produce something that didn't look absolutely agricultural. I just made an effort to measure and cut as accurately as possible and it all came together reasonably well. I only had hand tools to work with, which slowed things a bit, so it did take quite a while.

    Was it worth it? Definitely! With better access the bus is much more usable; getting an 8' x 4' sheet in is easy, and we can actually squeeze our 8-foot dinghy in. We still seem to have plenty of storage space. The fiddles help here, allowing us to carry bags of clothes etc without the weight of built-in storage. And the foam sandwich is worth all the challenges of working with it. I really didn't expect the improvement in performance to be so dramatic. My mechanic comments regularly on just how well Basil goes compared to other campers. Hills that used to be a challenge are now a breeze, often in a taller gear, and the bus even feels better on the road, presumably because we reduced so much weight, especially higher up. There seemed to be absolutely no consideration of weight in the Sopru fitout. Unfortunately, I didn't weigh all the stuff I threw out so I can't say exactly how much lighter it is, sorry. I didn't realise how much difference it was going to make. DSCN4900.JPG DSCN4901.JPG DSCN4905.JPG DSCN4906.JPG DSCN4910.JPG IMG_0411 (2).JPG DSCN4956 1.jpg
     
  2. 68BUS

    68BUS Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    4,635
    Location:
    Brisbane
    Looks great.
     
  3. oldman

    oldman Super Moderator Staff Member

    Messages:
    10,990
    Location:
    Avalon Beach NSW
    For a Bush carpenter you've produced an excellent fit-out !
    Love the idea of veneered foam sandwich ...that would save heaps of weight.
    Cheers,
    Mark
     
  4. T1 Terry

    T1 Terry Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    1,771
    Location:
    Mannum South Australia
    What a great result, you should be very proud of your fit out. One thing I noticed, you have the solar panel directly on the fibreglass, can I recommend a piece of Lexan Thermoclear under it to allow it to cool better and save future delamination of the fibreglass due to the heat generated under the panel.

    Might be worth having a read of the camping battery threads for when you upgrade the house battery and maybe add another solar panel.

    T1 Terry
     
  5. njg02

    njg02 Active Member

    Messages:
    128
    Location:
    Rockhampton CQ
    'Fiddles'. What a great idea. Must talk to the missus about adding some to ours. Thanks.
     
  6. cbus

    cbus Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    13,570
    Location:
    sunshine coast
    VERY Nice :cool:
    And well thought out.
     
  7. Grantus

    Grantus Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    18,846
    Location:
    Southern ACT
    Brilliant! :)

    Gets a big tick from me…….;)
     
  8. rstucke

    rstucke Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    1,950
    Location:
    Wamberal NSW AUS
    well done
     
  9. Wayne murray

    Wayne murray Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    4,744
    Location:
    Seven hills
    It does look good, catches the eye.
     
  10. Alpal

    Alpal Moderator Staff Member

    Messages:
    9,036
    Location:
    Melbourne Bend of Islands
    Uncomplicated but nicely detailed. Is gut!
     
  11. David H

    David H Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    6,693
    Location:
    newcastle
    That's beautiful Basil:D. I'm a Sopru purist but that fitout is drawing me both for weight & look.
    Bush chippies rule;).
    Cheers
     
  12. Kazz

    Kazz Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    508
    Location:
    Newport NSW
    Very Nice…………..
     
  13. KombiFringe

    KombiFringe Member

    Messages:
    157
    Location:
    melbourne
    You’ve done an amazing job on your camper fit out. Inspiration for my new interior. I am jealous of the metal louvres in the vent window. I’ve got the same windows but no vents, can’t buy them anymore. I’m thinking of changing it for a sliding window. Enjoy your camper.
     
  14. Wiz

    Wiz Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    566
    Location:
    Near Ballarat
    Fly screen manufacturer should be able to knock some up?
    PR
     
  15. KombiFringe

    KombiFringe Member

    Messages:
    157
    Location:
    melbourne
    Thanks I’ll go have a look at the local place.
     
  16. Basil Bus

    Basil Bus New Member

    Messages:
    19
    Location:
    Hobart
    Thanks for the advice. I'll look into the heat issue. Don't want my pop top falling to bits. Do you think something like corflute would work?

    As for the extra solar panel, I was actually thinking I should have got a smaller one. The fridge really needs very little power. We are in Tassie after all.
     
  17. Barry

    Barry Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    6,189
    Location:
    Abbotsford NSW
    yeah - just leave the beers in a box on the back seat to keep them ice cold 9 months of the year

    ;););)
     
    Wayne murray likes this.
  18. T1 Terry

    T1 Terry Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    1,771
    Location:
    Mannum South Australia
    If you can find the supplier/agent for the Lexan Thermoclear, they will probably have off cuts or even some of the sheets they use for protective packing. The size of the air channels in the Thermoclear is the secret, vents the heat away from under the panel, even when parked up camping, coreflute just can't circulate enough air.
    No such thing as too much solar, you just aren't using enough gadgets :lol:

    T1 Terry
     
    cbus likes this.
  19. Basil Bus

    Basil Bus New Member

    Messages:
    19
    Location:
    Hobart
    Now, now. . it's not THAT bad down here.
     
  20. Basil Bus

    Basil Bus New Member

    Messages:
    19
    Location:
    Hobart
    OK. Those panels must get pretty hot. I'll look into the thermoclear. Thanks again.
     

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