Home » This $2,150 IKEA-Like Kit Turns A Typical Crossover SUV Into A Nice Weekend Camper

This $2,150 IKEA-Like Kit Turns A Typical Crossover SUV Into A Nice Weekend Camper

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If you haven’t noticed, a decent camper can cost a ton of money, often more than some houses. Even if you could afford a travel trailer, motorhome, or camper van, do you have a place to put it? If you own a crossover or SUV, I have good news. For $2,150, you can pick up the VanLab SUV Kit and turn your daily driver into a cozy weekend camper.

Something that still stuns me today is how expensive factory-built camper vans are. The cheapest Winnebago camper van is the Winnebago Solis Pocket, which sets you back at least $140,375. Airstream’s versatile Rangeline is $147,570. A “cheap” camper van is the Pleasure-Way Tofino, which still sets you back $94,250. I’ve been looking at a former three-bay firehouse for sale that’s only slightly more expensive than these vans are.

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If you want to go camping and don’t want to haul around an old trailer or sleep in a tent, there is another way. You can convert your existing car!

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More Camping Boxes Are Good

Camping boxes are a great solution for a number of different situations. Perhaps you can’t afford a travel trailer or motorhome or have nowhere to put it. Maybe you just want something a bit better than a tent. Or, maybe you love road trips and don’t want to throw money at hotels. Whatever the reason, buying a camping box allows you to sleep in your car with some basic amenities. Depending on how you set a camping box up, you get a bed, a stove, a sink, some furniture, and storage. You get all of that with the safety and security of sleeping in your wagon, crossover or SUV.

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VanLab’s kit isn’t the cheapest camping box on the market, but it’s still pretty inexpensive and more choices are always good. In the past, we’ve featured the German $3,000 Ququq BusBox (Below), which gives small vans a bed, stove, cooler, and running water in a collapsible, but somewhat heavy 110-pound box plus a 55-pound bed.

Then there’s the 123Camp miniB from Poland. It’s a $1,333 hyper portable 62-pound camping box that turns just about any crossover or wagon into a camper with a bed, sofa, table, and chairs. The 123Camp system is interesting in itself as it’s designed to be able to be shipped as checked baggage, provided you don’t mind getting smacked with an oversize and overweight fee. The idea here is that you can fly to another country and turn your rental car into a camper.

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Today’s camping box comes from VanLab, a Simi Valley, California purveyor of camper van conversion kits. The company is best known for van conversion kits done in IKEA flat-pack style. VanLab makes DIY builds a lot easier for people who aren’t already carpenters or otherwise have no idea what they’re doing.

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As we pointed out in our previous coverage of VanLab, you could start with an empty van and have a largely complete camper in about a day or two. Sure, VanLab builds don’t look super pretty, but they’re functional and cheap. Until now, VanLab has served only van owners. Announced this summer, VanLab is changing that with the SUV Kit.

VanLab’s Camping Box

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Much like VanLab’s van conversion kits, the VanLab camping box looks straight out of an IKEA and it’s assembled like IKEA furniture, too.

The kit is made out of 9-ply half-inch Baltic Birch plywood and VanLab says the choice of material is both for strength and to keep the weight down. Indeed, the VanLab SUV Kit weighs just 66 pounds on its own or 104 pounds with the bed. That makes the VanLab SUV Kit a bit easier to carry than a number of other camping boxes, including the aforementioned BusBox. Some people are solo campers, so it’s nice to see a unit that doesn’t necessarily call for two people for lifting.

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The main box measures about 39 inches wide, about 14 inches tall, and goes about 21 inches deep. Add the folding bed frame and the kit stretches out 75.5 inches. The VanLab SUV Kit’s bed is about 51 inches wide at its widest point. VanLab says that these dimensions allow the box to fit in a large variety of SUVs and crossovers from the Honda CR-V to the Nissan Juke, Subaru Forester, Ford Explorer, and even the Hyundai Tucson. I bet these would fit in a number of wagons as well.

The core box features two slide-out drawers. On the passenger side is a full drawer that VanLab sees you using for the storage of pots and pans. From that is a slide-out board that you can use for a wash basin as well as meal prep.

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On the driver side is a narrow drawer, that holds cups, spices, and utensils. Straddling both drawers is a platform for a cooking stove. Moving up, on top of the box is a hatch that pops open and reveals a space for a 30-liter top-loading cooler.

An Inexpensive Way Out Of A Tent

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This is a pretty basic camping setup and if you want just the box, it’ll set you back $1,650. Note that you do not get a stove, sink, cooler, or anything like that, so you’ll have to add those yourself. If your car doesn’t have seating that converts into bedding, you’ll probably want to add in the 75-inch by 51-inch full bed, which moves the price up to $2,150.

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VanLab says that this bed consists of four sections of the Baltic Birch and when not in use, folds behind your seats along with the kitchen box. If you don’t have your own bedding, VanLab can provide that as well, but it kicks the price up to $2,550.

The best part is that VanLab says its kits can be assembled with just a screwdriver and some of your time. It also doesn’t change anything about your car, so you can remove it without damage. So, it’s one of those short and gratifying DIY projects. However, if you cannot or do not want to build your own VanLab kit, the company says you can schedule a TaskRabbit handyman to build it for you.

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VanLab says it’s targeting people currently sleeping in cars or in tents. A camping box like this is hardly luxury camping and it’s not as well-equipped as a travel trailer, but it certainly beats getting flooded out of your tent! I’d love to give one of these a try and see how much better sleeping in one of my wagons could be.

If you’re interested in finding out for yourself, you can take a look at the VanLab SUV Kit by clicking here. Should you order one, VanLab says the turnaround time is currently about two to four weeks.

(Images: VanLab, unless otherwise noted.)

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Mike Davidson
Mike Davidson
4 months ago

Can’t say a kit like this is good for a SUV, but it’s a good solution for class B. I have a Sprinter cargo van and I’m planning to get a bed system like this one https://van2b.com/product/sprinter-van-wheel-well-cabinets/ so I can use my van as a camper from time to time. If I like it, will add a kitchen later too.

Dirk
Dirk
9 months ago

LOL, people saying this is $100-200 in materials and everyone is just ignorant of carpentry…

Anyone who thinks this is 200 in materials is confused or it’s been so long since they did a project they don’t realize what prices have become.

Mike Davidson
Mike Davidson
4 months ago
Reply to  Dirk

100% agree with you. Materials cost + tools + transportation + TIME

Ben
Ben
9 months ago

Something that still stuns me today is how expensive factory-built camper vans are.

Yup. It boggles my mind when I go to RV shows and the class B camper vans cost as much as an entry-level class A. I get that there are benefits to the smaller form factor, but still.

I don’t car camp enough to spend this much on equipment for it, but this seems like a pretty good setup. It gives you basically the same functionality as a teardrop camper, except you don’t have to pay $20k or whatever crazy amount teardrops are going for these days. Plus, less hit to your mileage since everything packs up into the vehicle.

Opa Carriker
Opa Carriker
9 months ago

Here is my approach to camping. Travel to end of day’s travels using my Cadillac CT6 in supreme comfort. Stop at end of day’s travel at a decent Mom & Pop motel, whip out my AmEx card and pay for a nice clean room with kingsize bed and separate bathroom.

Day 2: Repeat

Last edited 9 months ago by Opa Carriker
Sgtyukon
Sgtyukon
9 months ago

If you use this thing in your SUV, you either have bugs, or no ventilation. Also, for me to be comfortable, I need enough headroom to sit up in my sleeping bag at some point. My 2-person backpacking tent isn’t big enough for two people unless they are much more than extremely close friends, but it only cost a couple of hundred, not a couple of thousand.

Ben
Ben
9 months ago
Reply to  Sgtyukon

This seems like a perfect companion to one of those tailgate tents that attaches to the back of your SUV.

Jim Stock
Jim Stock
9 months ago

Some action packer tubs and a tent with a cot is a LOT cheaper. Why do people assume tent means on the ground. I have a gazelle tent, table chair and COT in the tent, I am off the ground, I can stand in the tent and ALL of it for less than $500.

Lightning
Lightning
9 months ago

Like some others here, I don’t really get it. I’ve done a lot of cross continent road trips between Alaska, New England, and California, sleeping in a Subaru wagon or Prius with a big dog. I’ve also been a climber/backpacker, so that influences my thought.

A full backpacking kit (without the tent) is 5-10 lbs total without food and water, and fits in a small duffle bag. The only key parts for a comfortable night are the sleeping pads (I double up, foam+inflatable), and a comfortable/warm sleeping bag that I use quilt style. Why would I want that much plywood taking up most the available space in the back of my car? Organizing in drawers is much less space efficient and rigid compared to using a few duffle bags. Comfort in the car isn’t improved – you lose headroom in your sleeping space, and the dog probably can’t even stand up to move around.

Phuzz
Phuzz
9 months ago

For everyone that wants to make their own, a good source of drawer runners which extend out a long way, and can carry a lot of weight, is the rackmount rails for computer servers. They’re designed to carry servers that can weigh up to 100kg and they typically slide out to one metre. (Obviously you have to make sure the structure you attach them to can support that weight hanging off it).
As they’re usually specific to a particular model of server, they typically just get scrapped. So if you make friends with someone in IT you can probably get them for free, or they’re about £30 on ebay (etc).

Just make sure you get a set designed to carry a big heavy server.

Last edited 9 months ago by Phuzz
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
9 months ago

I don’t get it.

Beds, the enemy
of small space efficiency
Parachute hammock

Let me introduce,
pure comfy simplicity
Just get a hammock

Last edited 9 months ago by Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Jim Stock
Jim Stock
9 months ago

I camp places there are not trees and I do not bend in the middle to sleep but many do and it is a good choice.

Ben
Ben
9 months ago

I have a hammock. It’s not nearly as adaptable as a car that you can park anywhere and sleep in. Even in wooded campgrounds I find many of the sites don’t have trees suitable for hanging a hammock. I guess you could carry a frame, but then your space efficiency goes out the window.

R53 Lifer
R53 Lifer
9 months ago

Just don’t get it….would you rather sleep in your pantry (back of an SUV) or on your screened-in porch (a tent)…

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
9 months ago
Reply to  R53 Lifer

Thank you!

Tents are the car camping answer.
Tents fit in any car.
You can stand up straight in tents.
Tents are easy to maintain and tote about.
You don’t have to climb up into a tent.
You don’t have to pack all your gear into your tent.

I’ll die on this mountain.
(too intense, I’m feeling tense about tents here.)

Last edited 9 months ago by Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Dirk
Dirk
9 months ago

I love the “but what if there’s no level ground” argument

Where are you parking then? How is a bed in a car or a rooftop tent level without level ground?

As someone who primarily camps in places where “the ground” is nearby, (not the sky or ocean) ground tents are great for me.

FUCK YOU
FUCK YOU
9 months ago

$1,650 for what is basically a couple of glorified milk crates does not sound like value to me. Nor does an additional $900 for a “bed” that consists of little more than a sheet of plywood. Come the fuck on. It’s some boxes and a flat thing. No stove, sink, shower, electricity, fridge, toilet, mattress, or *anything*. What the actual fuck.

Last edited 9 months ago by Matt Hardigree
JTilla
JTilla
9 months ago
Reply to  FUCK YOU

I agree with you wholeheartedly.

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
9 months ago
Reply to  FUCK YOU

Username name checks out.

Last edited 9 months ago by Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Millermatic
Millermatic
9 months ago
Reply to  FUCK YOU

Is that the best you can come up with for a username? Classy.

Thebloody_shitposter
Thebloody_shitposter
9 months ago

I think this is actually a well executed draw system. Price is still a little steep but I guess compared to other draw systems it’s not terrible.

Chris Moore
Chris Moore
9 months ago

Considering the costs of travel trailers and the cost of “the van life”, that’s not HORRIBLE price considering they’ve done all the work in measuring, cutting, and making it as simple as “bolt together and shove in your vehicle”. For someone like me who doesn’t want to deal with carpentry and such, while expensive it’s not crazy expensive. Two grand pays for itself with a few nights hotel stay anymore. Though I guess I’m a bit old school. If I’m going camping, I’m doing it in a tent, on the ground even if my near 50 year old body will complain every morning. Maybe when I get that out of my system I’ll consider something like that. For now, between my Acadia and my Norden I’ll be tent camping a while yet.

Pat Rich
Pat Rich
9 months ago

As a long-time advocate of sleeping inside instead of on top of a car, I really like these box solutions. People have been making their own for years, but with the advent of inexpensive cnc cutting they are really making nice units with reasonable weight.

The cost though…I guess thats the par for the course in this market these days.

Thebloody_shitposter
Thebloody_shitposter
9 months ago
Reply to  Pat Rich

#overlandlyf tax.

ADDvanced
ADDvanced
9 months ago

Man….. I just don’t get this shit at all. That’s like…. $200 worth of plywood, maybe? It’s cool it’s CNC’d but if I ever saw someone with a setup like this, I’d just wonder why they even want to go camping. Is a jig saw and a screwdriver too scary for you? Why do you want to even go into nature then? Can you even start a fire?

Idk. Seems so overpriced and pointless. Imho part of the enjoyable and satisfying part about building a camper is the process, but I guess so many people just can’t operate any sort of tool and lack even basic creative vision, which is sad.

Also, there is SO MUCH wasted space along the sides of these things. Bah. I’m out. If I look closer i just get more annoyed.

Last edited 9 months ago by ADDvanced
MATTinMKE
MATTinMKE
9 months ago
Reply to  ADDvanced

So much this. The fun for me would be building it. I’m not into camping at all.

Icouldntfindaclevername
Icouldntfindaclevername
9 months ago
Reply to  ADDvanced

I don’t think that they can’t operate tools and what not, well maybe it is. I think more importantly, would you want to carry this around in your SUV all the time for the convivence of camping a few times a year. That part I don’t get.

Pat Rich
Pat Rich
9 months ago
Reply to  ADDvanced

I hear you. That being said, price out wood recently? A high quality hardwood and decent slides is going to run you WELL over $200. I spent about about $100 in lesser quality marine ply and nutserts for a two piece floor only for the Cruiser. No drawers, no slides, just floor with nutserts.

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
9 months ago
Reply to  ADDvanced

Many city dwellers enjoy camping.
Many city dwellings are not well suited to woodworking projects.

Last edited 9 months ago by Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Nauthiz
Nauthiz
9 months ago

As someone who recently relocated from a rented house to an apartment, this has become a big headache. I’ve had to do some real basic stuff in the home depot parking lot because running more than a drill is no bueno.

DIY is great, and can save you money and have a more suitable end result for exactly what you need, but if you have no place to “D”, sometimes the trade off is spending money on something someone else has made.

Sprinty McSpark
Sprinty McSpark
9 months ago
Reply to  ADDvanced

Definitely hear you on the “why don’t ya just build it?” part, but some folks don’t have the time, tools, skill, or space to be able to execute something of this nature. With a jig saw and screwdriver, you can only get so far.

For me, this is for the person that wants to get out in nature on a relative budget for a pretty cool product.

Maybe this is for the folks that would rather spend time in nature than in their garage.

Last edited 9 months ago by Sprinty McSpark
TheHairyNug
TheHairyNug
9 months ago
Reply to  ADDvanced

Time is valuable. If it would take 2-3 weekends to make something happen (or more if you live in an apartment), then you have to ask yourself how much is each camping trip worth? That’s also way more than $200 in materials btw

Ben
Ben
9 months ago
Reply to  ADDvanced

I’ve done a decent amount of woodworking, and one thing I hate is mounting drawer slides. I never get them right on the first try. I’d pay good money just to not have to do that. 🙂

Jalop Gold
Jalop Gold
9 months ago
Reply to  ADDvanced

I’m totally with you. But my sister living in San Francisco with her husband and 2 boys wants to use the odyssey to go camping a few times a year. This is perfect for what she wants (not athletic, not handy at all).

Bizness Comma Nunya
Bizness Comma Nunya
9 months ago

All this stuff is so unnecessary, but I’m sure it’s not going to stop people from buying it.

I’ve been car/SUV/Minivan and full-sized van camping for a long time and what I’ve realized is that it’s better to have simple large water-resistent plastic tubs (preferably with wheels and handle to move it around) so that you can remove them from the vehicle while camping and if it rains, it’s fine. Can’t really do that with MDF built materials….

If you leave it in the vehicle you can’t sleep in the vehicle. And sleeping in a vehicle comfortably is always better than sleeping in ANY tent.

Pat Rich
Pat Rich
9 months ago

Thats how I’ve built mine – a wood floor with lots of tie downs to strap down plano boxes to take out so I can sleep inside – but I think you are missing that these are convertible beds as well. I like taking everything out so I have headroom, but some people aren’t as bothered by that and are happy to leave things inside as a tradeoff.

Bizness Comma Nunya
Bizness Comma Nunya
9 months ago
Reply to  Pat Rich

Agreed, and to be clear. If the vehicle can fit someone sleeping in it comfortably AND you can keep the gear inside, then I agree with you.

The idea of keeping this type of setup inside of a crossover AND trying to sleep in it… for me personally there is no way that would work.

Pat Rich
Pat Rich
9 months ago

Yeah, I’ve seen people do the sleeping on top of permanent drawers thing and I can’t handle how little space there is inside. It’s just right with me and the fridge right now.

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