Lets talk about the most complex single project during our camper conversion. The main cabinet. It took about 6 month from the initial ideas to the stage when we finally installed it. A big part of the work was done by a friend with a lot of passion and wood working skills. Initially we came up with a long list of requirements.
- Lightweight, but durable
- Accommodate a 10l Scepter fuel can for our Diesel coolant heater.
- Space for at least 40-60l of fresh water
- Cutting area and a storage for all our kitchen supplies
- Accommodate a multifuel stove (like a MSR DragonFly)
- Storage for our Engel fridge
- Space for a proper fresh water system (pump, filters) as well as an air compressor
- Cabinet design need to be free standing and not screwed to the vehicle body
- Accommodate a 200cm / 78inch long bed, but leave enough space to sit on the engine hump
- Area for two to four large plastic containers
After that we approached the design from many different angles made one drawing after another one and bounced several ideas around. All of them had pros and cons but in the end we settled on one design with the most advantages and most economical space usage.
The idea was to raise the platform as high as possible, but still be able to sleep comfortable. On the other hand there need to be enough space between the cabinet and the front driver/passenger seat to have some kind of area you can sit and live inside when the weather is not good. To do that the cabinet had to have an extendable bed, otherwise the bed would be not long enough. The solution was two large storage drawers with strong sliders in the front.
Another large part of the cabinet is the area with our fridge. Having a proper fridge (and I’m not talking about a cheap 12v cool box) makes all the difference on a long trip like that. So we knew we are going to use it several times a day, which means it has to be very accessible. Solution: a heavy duty, full-extension slider in the back. Underneath that another small sliding table.
Right next to the fridge there is one 24″ and two 42″ long storage drawers. The bottom drawer is our cooking area. In the front is a MSR Dragonfly multi-fuel stove including a 1l fuel can. The stove burns pretty much every fuel and is very reliable. It also can be removed when we want to go camping with a tent. The lid of the bottom drawer is out of a butcher block material and works great as a cutting area.
Beside the large drawers there is a long space for one 10l Diesel can as well as two 20l military Scepter water cans.
After our first packing session we were really amazed how much stuff you can fit in the cabinet.
We bought two different coloured Sunbrella fabrics from outdoorfabrics.com and gave it to a foam shop which made the covers as well as provided the (puuuhhh expensive) high-density foam pieces. With the main foam piece set in place as well the two separate pieces we are pretty flexible in setting up our bed. Either the entire bed is open or just one side. So one person can still sleep when another person sits on the engine hump using the area as a table.
All slides are heavy-duty and rated for 200lbs (90kg) each set. One of the heaviest parts on the cabinet, but we didn’t want to compromise in durability.
We used regular climbing rope as a handles for the rear drawers which works really well, is lightweight as well as a good bump stop against the rear hatch door.
All drawers are secured with stainless sliding pins from a marine shop. I also made metal inserts to prevent any worn out pin holes.
On the passenger side we built another box over the wheel arch to store bigger items as well as attached an axe and saw with a couple Quick Fist rubber clamps. On the opposite side is a compartment for portable water filters, water pump and an ARB air-compressor (more about that in a separate post)
As you see in the photos below, all edges are protected with Marple hardwood, wile the rest of the cabinet is half inch birch plywood. The drawer front face is made out of clear coated solid Marple hardwood as well to give it extra protection and a nice touch to the cabinet overall.
It took quite a long time to finish the cabinet, but in the end everything worked out well and we are very happy with the outcome. Thanks to my friend for all the time and effort he put into this project. Without him this cabinet wouldn’t be as nice as it is.