Compact Pickup Camper – Vanlife without a Van

Compact Pickup Camper – Vanlife without a Van

Over the last year I’ve relied on everything
from tents, to hotel rooms, to travel trailers to stay in while on the road. I’m now starting to see why van life is
such huge topic. When you have a van, you can park it anywhere
and go to sleep. Vans fit in normal parking spots—they blend
in. For mountain biking, or any other outdoor
activity, they’re stealthy and tough to beat. While I would love a van, I can’t justify
another vehicle right now. I need me some vanlife without a van. On YouTube you’ll find thousands of different
camping setups in SUV’s, pickups, and everything in between. These videos prove that you can camp, or cramp
rather, in almost any vehicle. In fact some of these builds are so inspiring
that they could make you envious, of someone living out of their car. My car is a 2017 Honda Ridgeline, which I
use for everything from hauling bikes, to hauling wood, to towing. So whatever I do with it needs to be temporary
and easy to break down. Being that it’s a pickup, my best option
is to throw a shell on it and sleep in the back. The bed is only 5 1/2 feet, but my sleeping
pad fits in it diagonally. So that’s a start. For shelter, I decided to go with this soft
topper. I didn’t even know these existed until I
traveled out west, where I saw them everywhere. It’s easy to take on and off, surprisingly
sturdy, and even possible to fold back like a convertible. It doesn’t offer security like a hard shell
would, but it sure does beat pitching a tent. So with the help of my Soft topper, my sleeping
pad, and a few other goodies, my Ridgeline has everything I need to boondock for the
night, but cramping isn’t my style. To get the most out of my pickup bed, we’ll
need to build something. The
last thing Johnny built for us was a butcher’s block in the shape of a kicker ramp. Despite it functioning very well as both a
cutting board and a kicker, it didn’t offer any real utility. Today’s project will actually be practical. You know it’s about to go down when Johnny
busts out Google Sketch Up. By making a 3D model, we could experiment
with different ideas before cutting a single piece of wood. Our design took into account that the sleeping
pad would lay diagonally. We decided to build a triangular cabinet,
with storage, running water, and USB charging. We designed the door to open from the top,
since the sleeping bag would get in the way of anything else. On the door would be two little shelves, which
would also act as support legs for the work desk. For fresh water we decided to use this pressurized
beer growler, which would sit on top. Below that, a metal bowl as a sink. With the computer model taking shape, I was
getting really excited about this build. Johnny used relatively thin plywood to save
weight. Most of the pieces were just rectangles and
triangles, but the countertop was a little more involved. It would need a hole for the sink, plus a
tricky indentation to keep the growler in place. For this, we used Johnny’s CNC machine,
which uses a computer model to mill shapes into wood. To make these cuts without a CNC would be totally
possible, but not easy to do precisely. Believe it or not, but that CNC machine is
not Johnny’s coolest shop tool. This is. It’s a freaking laser. We used this to etch our channel logos into
the sink cover, which I’ll show you later. Time to assemble the cabinet. Johnny is using this machine to drill pocket
holes. Because we’re using thin plywood, these
pocket holes are the strongest way to hold everything together. With the basic shape together, we did a test
fit in the bed to see how things fit. It was time to move on to the details. This hole is for the USB port, which would
go on the face of the cabinet close to me while sleeping. I got this port off amazon, which just fits
into the hole and stays in place with a nut. these wires will pug into a storage battery
in the back. For extra storage inside the cabinet, we screwed
mason jar lids to the underside of the countertop. We felt really pinteresty after doing that. Lastly, we installed the little shelves that
would support the workstation. To anchor the cabinet, we used this carabiner,
which features a locking nylon string. It’s not high tech, but it works. The cabinet fits perfectly, and there’s
enough room on the other side of the bed for a cooler. Since the cabinet opens from the top, I never
need to worry about my sleeping bag or pillow getting in the way of it opening. Once resting on the floor, it works surprisingly
well as a workstation. Even the mason jars serve their purpose exactly
as intended. I honestly thought this project would just
be fun, and that the sink would be totally impractical and just good for YouTube entertainment,
but I’m starting to really like the concept. For personal hygiene, cooking, or just refilling
a glass of water, it feels like home. When I want more counter space, I can use
this awesome sink cover. All my riding gear and tools normally go in
this under bed storage compartment, so this cabinet can be be totally dedicated to clean
clothes, toiletries, snacks, and whatever I need for a few days on the road. Needless to say, I’m very happy with this
cabinet. Now I can spend the night anywhere—comfortably! Although we used computer modeling, a woodworking
youtuber, his cnc machine, and a freaking laser, you could build a less refined version
of this with just a drill and a saw. As a solution for a short box pickup, this
may be the only way to go. Thanks to Johnny for making this project possible. To see the actual build in more detail, subscribe
to Crafted Workshop, which I’ve linked to in the description. I also dropped a link to our last project,
the cutting board kicker ramp. I know this video was a little different,
but camping is a huge part of mountain biking, or any other outdoor sport for that matter. I want to know what you guys think in the
comment section but I also want to start a discussion on camping as it relates to mountain
biking. Thanks for riding with me today, and I’ll
see you next time.

About the Author: Michael Flood


  1. Oh yeah that 4 by 8 foot screened in porch on the top of that tall bright white van blends in a parking lot… yup okay…..

  2. Sadly the overwhelming majority of people who would like to be able to do that can not. Unfortunately we don’t have access to $150k worth of cutting edge high tech machinery like you and your rich friend. Just let the 💻 do all the work. Then take credit for all the hard work. Smgdh. Fucking rich people. Swear to god.

  3. Nice workshop , also some good premium tools their Festool , and DeWalt , Festools gear is just a different level I find , though not the cheapest of equipment . I still do the holes the good old fashioned way , no way my boss will get a CnC just for the types of work I do .
    A very good simple idea for your pickup , with out going crazy .

  4. Wait and what if a guy comes up and if he has keyless entry so the guy can just push a button and he unlocks and pushes start stop button

  5. Awesome video and great idea. Too bad there isn't a pop up truck camper for the ridgeline like there is for the Toyota tundra's. Would be a blast and i'd prob use mine every weekend. BTW, what NLE do you use?

  6. This guy(johnny) look like is he dont know what he is doing. He is a total amateur. He has no match with Mathias Wandel, Slovenian woodworker, Cosmos Bauer, Marius Hornberger. Seth, you are risking to loose yours carpenters or woodspecialists subscribers.

  7. This is really awesome, and it illustrates how much value you can get from a relatively small setup (with good planning and execution).

  8. can i just say that the shot in the beginning is beautiful.
    especially the clear view on the orion nebula on the right is so stunning.

  9. a 12v to 5v transformer with a 12v cigarette lighter plug that you could plug into the car could wok better for the charger… and a cigarette lighter port on the cabinet, with a splitter

  10. Let’s be honest… the only thing you really need to live in your car is a Pontiac Aztek with the tent option. 😛

  11. I can't justify the cost of another vehicle. So I'm going to use my friends shop what has over 20k worth of equipment in it lol.

  12. honestly think you should consider a hardshell for that security. imagine how a dude feels when they pass by your truck while youre away.

  13. I'm not into van life, but I love seeing the build videos. That's what lead me to your channel and I've been watching every video since then! Berm peak is looking great!

  14. Hey brother awesome video! I’m a first time subscriber and camper/hiker myself and that was a badass setup you made! I have a 2002 Ford F-150 with a 5.5 bed and watching what you did with your Honda Ridgeline gave me some great ideas on the shelf’s since I’m thinking of using a truck tent setup. So tell me your thoughts on that. This is Big Boy Frank from Texas Peace out ✌🏼

  15. I just found your channel. The setup is awesome. I have a car. I have recently decided to do more mt. bike riding. now I really want some kind of outdoorsy vehicle… just outstanding.

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