Oh how your life throws you curveballs. One day you’re living in a one-bedroom apartment of 41m² that you truly believe is tiny. The next day you spontaneously decide to spend the next two years of your life living inside a van and sharing a little more than 3m² with your wife.
If thats not enough, you even decide to open up the invitation to all and receive up to two visitors to travel with you at any one time along the way!
Yes, it actually is possible for four people to sleep in our van. Believe us, we’ve tried it! My sister and her husband had the pleasure (or misfortune) to try this with us on a short trip around the south-west of our state in 2013. The experience taught us two things: one – that fitting four people to sleep inside the van is possible; and two – that we should avoid this in the future at all costs.
Using space outside of the van
To resolve this problem, we decided to install a rooftop tent on top of Vanda. I’ve never seen this before in my life, travelers in Brazil usually sleep in hotels as they are cheap and easy. Only rarely would someone take their tent and camp, let alone a tent that is set up on top of the car!
Here in Australia there are thousands of options for those wanting to install a rooftop tent. They can vary in cost from $600 to $6,000 and although our budget is limited, we didn’t want to compromise on quality and end up having a disaster in the middle of Costa Rica or have the tent blow off in a sandstorm in Morocco.
The answer… we searched for three months in classified ads online to find a good quality second hand tent. Finally we found the perfect one made by a local company called Galaxy. Made from quality materials, normally you would pay $2,000 for one new. We happily paid $700 for one that had been used little and appeared completely new. Score!
When its open, our rooftop tent measures 2.4m by 1.4m, exactly the internal measurements of the van. So with those perfect dimensions we’ve now been able to double our internal space and transform Vanda into a two storey home.
Positives of having a rooftop tent:
– It doesn’t take up valuable space inside the van when its not being used,
– Its easy and relatively quick to set up and pull down,
– A second mattress and bedding can stay stored inside the tent, even when its folded away,
– It doesn’t touch the ground when set up, meaning we can avoid problems such as wild animals and excess water in tropical areas.
Like everything in life, there’s also some disadvantages:
– It costs a lot more than a normal tent,
– Its fixed permanently on the roof which increases the height of the van, potentially causing problems in undercover parking and when shipping the vehicle in a container,
– 2.5m of ladder turn going to the toilet in the middle of the night a lot more difficult,
– It uses space on top of the car that could be used for other things such as extra water, a spare tire ect.,
– As it isn’t streamlined with the van, the tent’s protrusion ends up using more fuel which increases costs significantly when traveling long distances.
Installing the van by ourselves was also challenging and took 3 people a good few hours to get it right! Check out the video of how we ingeniously ended up installing the tent using the tree in our back yard: