September project: car camping


In my Year of Happy Chaos, I am going to pick one project each month to focus on. I am not going to plan them, instead I am going to follow my gut. In September I will focus on the project I already started: turn my SUV into a car camper. That is something I really want to do. I am collecting the gear, measuring and planning my first short trip.

This was an unexpected Project of the Month. No knitting, no art, no planning, but car camping. What happened there? Let me explain.

When I was thinking about the year to come, I first wanted to obtain a large goal. By the end of it, I wanted to have:

  1. made at least four new textile pieces;
  2. gotten myself an exhibition;
  3. made a book.

I tried to chop the whole endeavor up into quarters, so pieces of three months at a time, but it did not feel right. What was I trying to achieve? I had done big projects, like publish a book and finish a PhD. But none of them had given me any peace, on the contrary.

Work with myself, not against

Then I listened to the wonderful Future ADHD podcast, which made me realize that I should work with myself instead of against myself. I decided to throw the ‘let’s plan the whole year ahead’-idea out the window. Instead, I am going to try to implement healthier habits all year long, but the projects I do will be small. They will cover about a month at a time. The project that is my focus in September was already going strong – and I was doing it out of sheer excitement and joy. I was experiencing an internal motivation that I hadn’t felt in a while. So people, let’s go. It’s time to ride the September wave!

The September project

My September project kind of happened upon me. Until a couple of months ago, I owned an old, big yellow bus camper. It was an old boxy delivery van, that was very roomy and nice, but also quite the antique, so it started to cost too much money. At the same time, the car I was lending from my dad sadly had to take its final trip to the car cemetery. Since public transport isn’t too efficient where I live, I decided to sell the car camper and get a car instead. The car should be fairly new, I wanted a decent one that would last me at least a decade. So I bought a young Citro├źn C4, an SUV.

But there was the conundrum: how do I go camping now? I thought I could just do without it. I thought that I wouldn’t miss it, but I did, almost immediately. That is a problem that should be easy enough to solve, though. There are so many ways to go camping. You can pack up a tent. You can put a roof tent on your car or you can rent a camper when you want to travel. None felt right for me, though. These solutions were either too simple, too fancy or too complicated for now.

Car camping as the solution

Then I stumbled on a Dutch Facebook group about micro camping. There were clips, stories and images of people travelling in small vans and to my pleasant surprise, this included SUVs. The SUV car campers looked almost as slick as the popular van life vehicles. SUV car campers also have the pretty lights, a comfortable bed and all the cool little hacks. I fell in love. That was it: I wanted to go SUV car camping. My car was going to be a micro camper. A no-build SUV camper, to be precise.

No-build SUV camper

No-build SUV campers are simply cars that are put full of gear that you need to go camping. Except you don’t sleep in a tent, but in the car itself. There are fancy versions, where people have built platforms and slide-out kitchen blocks, but the no-build SUV camper tells on itself: you don’t make anything, you use simple solutions to sleep in your car. Since I am not yet sure if I am going to like sleeping in my car, I think this is the best way to start.

The camping gear

Most of the camping gear I owned, was sold with the camper bus. Then again, the gear in that bus was quite large. Since my SUV is quite a bit smaller, I need smaller supplies as well. Most of the things I have bought new, in the last couple of weeks. I know this is not the most environmentally friendly, but I expect to be using them for a good while to come. I love camping, I know that already and I love traveling by car. Almost all of the things I have bought, I can also use if I decide to switch to a different form of camping, such as tent camping or sleeping in a car roof tent after all. Also, I am in a bit of a rush, because I want to take my first short trip no later than the beginning of October.

So here’s a list of most of the items that I bought:

  • Inflatable bed ( and foldable mattress (Leen Bakker) – I still have to pick
  • Storage bed box (IKEA) – this levels the trunk with the seats
  • Sleeping bag (NOMAD)
  • Stove (Decathlon)
  • Foldable table (Decathlon)
  • Foldable water tap (
  • Uribag for night-time peeing (
  • Outdoor mat (Decathlon)
  • Thin swimming pool tiles to protect my car lining (GAMMA)
  • Mosquito nets (GAMMA)
  • Cover for the front window (Obelink)
  • Electric cord for camping (Obelink)
  • A bus tent (Obelink)- so I can get dressed and cook outside of the car
The trunk of my car with the blue tiles to protect my air mattress, the table, and the storage box on top

Finding these items was a joy. I already know what I like and don’t like from staying in (and outside) my camper, so I knew exactly what I wanted.

The final items

The final buying part includes going to goodwill to find curtains. There are many cool hacks to hang curtains, but I especially like this one by SarahLee:

SarahLee’s curtain hanging hack

Her whole build is awesome, so check out her channel. Which reminds me: I still need to get some of those paper clip thingies.

Maybe when I’m at goodwill, I will also look for a small cabinet to put kitchen stuff up when I am parked for camping. Maybe I will also try to find a foldable bike on Marktplaats (online second-hand marketplace) to bring; although I could always rent a bike, at least in the Netherlands.

Finally, I will bring items I kept from the camper bus, like bowls and plates, utensils, a foldable water boiler, a percolator, a sink, and stuff from my home: pans, a cooling box and a foldable chair. Then I should pretty much be packed to go.

The no-build

So, this is all the stuff that I have assembled and am assembling. Then there is still the no-build ‘build’ part. I have to make sure that I can lie on my air mattress reasonably level. This means that I have to find a box or something to put between the front and the back seat to rest the top of the mattress on. I have to figure out if the storage box in the trunk is enough or if I need to put something between the box and the top of the back of the folded down car seat – since there is some room left there. There’s the curtains to put up and maybe some lights. And finally, I have to figure out if I am going to be able to fit everything. So there is still enough excitement to come. This I all hope to figure out next week, and I will keep you posted.

That is the September project! The first project of my Year of Happy Chaos. This is what I will be doing the next couple of weeks, if all goes well. Of course I will keep you updated here and I will tell you all about my trip after I come back.

In the meantime, if you have any tips or ideas, or if I have forgotten something important that I will really need, please let me know!