See the evolution of the Mobicamp concept, an advanced car camper system, through my own outdoor experiences. I’d be curious to know if any of my experiences relates to any similar experiences of your own. Please read on!
THE BUILD: When I first began building my camper unit a few years ago, and after weighing the various mini-camper options, I decided on sleep-in-vehicle type campers. Like most popular Suv camper builds seen on the web, I too, built my sleeping platform on top of storage compartments.
THE PROBLEM: After using my newly built setup a few times, I was growing uncomfortable with the fact that I had so little headroom when sleeping. Even my kid toddler had problems sitting up. Every so often I needed to get up in middle of night to do stuff like adjust the fan, drink some water, etc. within my sleeping quarters, and this proved to be difficult.
THE SOLUTION: I needed to find another alternative and not having to sleep on top of storage compartments. I browsed the web, and see the popularity of Suv drawers systems from Australia down under. The user simply slides out all the contents through the back. So I set my mind on coming up with something similar.
THE BUILD: I began stripping my car bare of the 3rd row back seat. And using those previous car seat anchor points to secure my drawer slide out system. I got carried away and added a whole host of drawers, cabinets, water tank system, cooler racks, etc. Before long, my suv camper system took up more than half the entire boot. Because of this I added a roof rack to store extra gear.
THE PROBLEM: Using my new system was great. My camper was just so much more organized and I had ample sleeping headroom now. But because my back entrance was obstructed by the camper slide out drawer system, I couldn’t climb into bed easily from the rear like before. Wiggling into bed from the side doors is no fun, unless you like yoga!
THE SOLUTION: I needed to access my sleeping quarters directly from the wide rear door opening in a linear forward motion. Just up the short ladder, glide forwards a bit, and bam.. I’m in my perfect sleeping position. No twisting and turning. So I had to figure out how to create a small alleyway with my current camper setup, just wide enough for one person to glide through.
THE BUILD: I added 2 more sets of semi heavy-duty rail slides, but this time in a lateral east-west direction. Using the new slide out and slide sideways system, this effectively split the cargo contents of my Suv drawer system, much like Moses parted the red sea. I also propped up the camper drawer base platform with my 3-step mini ladder for extra support. And attached removable small telescopic legs to each of the 2 outer corner of my slide out drawer system for even more support.
THE PROBLEM: I was getting more than happy with my setup and proud of the work I’ve done on it, given my limited handy skills. It attracted a lot of attention. I stuck with this setup for a year or so, before yet again I started wearing my thinking cap. This time, I thought wouldn’t it be nice if I was able to detach the whole camper unit at a whim. Because whenever the guys wanted to go on a spontaneous light offroading adventure in the nearby areas, I had to pack up my camper everytime before I can drive off to join them. And my wife is still busy cooking away!
THE SOLUTION: I thought about this possibility for a long time. Initially, I didn’t think it was possible. Even if it was, it was probably going to be overly complex to do so. I played with the various combinations and permutations for the camper detachment function countless times in my head. And I finally picked a way that I think I can make it work.
THE BUILD: I started to fabricate the detachment camper assembly. This process was very intricate and challenging. A wrong move on one end, could end up causing major problems on the other end. And I had to restart the whole process all over again. After months of frustrating work, I finally produced a rudimentary version of my detachable roll out platform. Performed testing, and everything seemed fine and dandy. At last!
THE PROBLEM: I settled nicely into my new camper design and found it works perfectly for me. It’s flexibility means I can do fast setup without detaching if we were moving around a lot, or perform detachment if we were staying in one place longer. But that year some major heat waves came about, and there were some mornings that my sleeping quarters was heating up unbearably because of the vehicle outer metal shell. At this time, it was a rare occasion that new camp member joined and had an amazing roof tent. I noticed how spacious and cooling it was at the same time. Still I was too chicken to consider using a roof tent because our lightning storms here in Asia are just too vicious and I’ve seen a number of fallen trees too. However, I inspected the tent and felt amazed and yet envious at the same time. If only… hmm…
THE SOLUTION: I looked at my current camper setup again and that’s when it hit me. The heavy duty slides used to slide out the camper drawer system were sturdy and could possibly also support the weight of 2 adults. Now suppose I detached the camper unit, leaving those heavy duty slides free. And how about extending my folding bed more towards the rear direction, rather than towards the driver seat and supported by the now-free heavy duty slides? And of course I’ll also have my usual 3-step mini ladder to prop up the extreme rear end. Heck, just like a roof tent, I’ll have tons more room to even swing a cat. And most of all, I’ll be able to sit up perfectly just underneath the overhanging hatch door. No more ‘wake up bang head’. And since my vehicle doesn’t come with a sun roof, I could star gaze at night through the hatch window too.
THE BUILD: The great thing about our folding bed design is that the telescopic mechanism allows it to be extended in the forwards or backwards direction. In fact, with this new configuration I can fully extend the bed to 92″ which leaves me extra room at the foot of my bed to sleep my little boy in a east west direction. He’s only 4, so that’s more than enough room. If its just me and my wife, we use that extra space for duffel bags to keep our stuff dry. For the exposed area, I searched the web for ideas and see some folks cut up some parts of an old ground tent in somewhat similar setups. So i did the same, and voila, my sleeping quarters was fully protected against the elements. This new ‘deluxe’ setup was a great relief from some of the heat waves that year, but I would probably only use that in good weather.
THE PROBLEM: To be seen… Actually there might be something else I’ve missed out. Now I was able to choose between Superior or Deluxe sleep config since I lived in a tropical country. For temperate climates, perhaps Standard config (all doors shut) would be more practical. Anyway, for the rear exit, I am using a ‘zip up’ type bug net enclosure. So as you are about to see, it’s toilet problems again. For my deluxe setup, finding the zips at night when needing to go toilet was a challenge. First I needed to find that friggin’ torch! As for superior setup, it was even more challenging since I had to sit up to unzip. But doing that contorted my neck and head since the vehicle roof was much lower at that end near the hatch door.
THE SOLUTION: So I started experimenting with the idea of a vertical swivel type bug netting door which you can kick open from your sleeping position and slip out. Works like the escape doors you have for your pet dogs or cats in the kitchen. And it will slowly come back down, similar to some of your kitchen shelf doors as well. So I developed the design in theory which you can see in my component pages. And the door structure is flexible meaning it can tailor to the angle and size of your vehicle hatch door opening. I’ll be excited to try it out if it ever gets made one day. Because unfortunately I’m unable to adapt this design to my current setup.
Thank you for reading my story. By now, you are probably wondering why I’m not posting up pics of my setup I’ve been building over the past couple of years. To understand that, let me bring you back to the very first Ironman movie where Tony Stark build his first crude version of his Ironman suit i.e. the MK1 version. As a terrorist captive, he didn’t have much resources at hand. Well, Tony Stark has now progressed to MK god knows how many. For me, I’m still on my “MK1” version of Mobicamp. And I don’t recall Tony Stark ever showing off his first Ironman suit in his beach mansion. Do you? Maybe it was destroyed in the desert. But anyway, you get my meaning. Given the chance though, I’d be happy to do a reveal of my “MK1” Mobicamp at a latter stage. But for now, I’d rather focus on our upcoming “MKII”, or maybe “MKIII” Mobicamp versions 🙂
OK… I feel bad. How about I just do the one image?
Things to note: If you see my existing setup, in the left image, I use a series of shade canopies. They are easily retractable if I need to leave on a moment’s notice. This time, I had another young couple joining, so I added a double cot tent to my roof as extra sleeping space. Some say its a poor man’s roof tent, but I like to use it because 1) These cots are very light, and very easy to add or remove from my roof rack (even after fully opened up on roof) 2) I use it only if I have some guests joining me 3) I can put it under the shade canopy if the weather really sucks 4) It doesn’t take up much space in my house. Now, to the image on top right corner. With my ‘superior’ room setting (i.e. back door open, bed extended rearwards about 1 ft for more legroom, better ventilation), you’ll notice that I have heaps of headroom because I’m not sleeping on top of storage boxes. And finally in the bottom right image, my rudimentary roll out platform. I can take off anytime with the guys for some adventure, but leave others behind to prepare a ‘banquet’ plus cocktails, etc and feed the hungry bunch when they get back. Offroading in particular was much better and fun for me, because there was less burden on the vehicle after detaching my camper unit. One more thing, this entire setup was a able to accommodate my travel crew of 4 adults and 1 kid. It’s amazing how much stuff you can squeeze in a vehicle if properly planned and organized!