For our minivan conversion, we could really get by with only one table… the right one! What we actually had was the wrong one… a folding picnic table that worked OK with our larger RV’s, where we had more storage space. It’s actually too large even for our small truck camper, which is why we use the same table for inside as well as outside for that RV, too.
We bought this table probably twenty years ago, and we still have it, but it sets on a shelf in the garage these days. I thought I would get it out and shoot some pictures so you can see how it goes up. It doesn’t look very big, but it’s actually about five inches thick and 24 inches long, and weighs about 21 pounds.
I’ve found the easiest way to set it up is to release the two catches at either side fo the handles and open it flatways. The seats and legs fold within the two sides.
As you pull the first seat out and up, you will see a folding brace that will pop into place. Then you pull the legs up and out, and they too will have a folding brace underneath, with a slide cup that has to be clicked into place over the joint.
After you get everything popped into place, all you have to do is flip it over, and there you have a nice table for four.
If all you need is a low patio table, like between a couple of chairs, you can also leave the seats folded under the table and only set up the legs. If you have children around, don’t let them climb on it, and don’t try to sit on it in this position, either. Even though it has eight legs under it, the top is only thin plastic, and could easily break with too much weight on it.
However, as useful as this table is for a larger RV, we have found this table much too large to store in our minivan. That is why our one table is a marine grade rectangular table, such as those used on pontoon boats. We see it online, but I am still trying to find a source where we can provide them for our readers. It is a vinyl covered completely weather-proof table used mainly for boats, but it works well for our minivan camper, too, as both an inside table and an outside table. When we stop, we’re outside. When we’re traveling or it’s raining out, we’re inside. It’s not very often that we’re in two places at the same time! But here’s the trick…
The seats in the van are not normal chair height seats, so the table has to be lower as well to be comfortable. But when used outside, with chairs or benches, it has to come up to the standard 30-inch table height. How can we have both? With the use of a special table post that is only used for RV and marine tables. It fits into a tapered cup on the bottom of the table, and on the bottom end (we said no holes in the van) we will use portable folding tripod legs (Porta-Leggs) made for these RV posts. (We’re still trying to locate an “affordable” source for those, too.)
What many people don’t realize is that there are several different lengths available in these posts. For recessed cups in the floor, you need to have a longer one than for a surface mounted cup. And for tripod legs, you have to have one shorter yet because they set up a little higher. And if you use tripod legs and need the table even lower than standard height, then you need a shorter post yet! It’s too bad they don’t make these posts so they telescope for height, as I can think of a lot of places where they would come in handy!
So that’s how we use one table for both inside and outside. But I need to throw in a “disclaimer here”. When using these tripod legs, the table is not secured in any way as it would be with a cup mounted to the floor. So whenever you pack up to leave, always take the top off the table and put it and the legs where they won’t become “missiles” if you have to stop in a hurry!
The other trick comes with trying to figure out what to use for seating outside. We’ve already mentioned that folding chairs take up a lot of storage space, and for sitting at a table, most of them aren’t very comfortable. This is where one of those metal folding picnic tables, like the Coleman Pack-Away Table for Four comes in handy as a spare table when you need it, but it also has benches that can be used separately, and they work great! You can leave the extra table in storage and just use the seats if you want to. They fold flat, are lightweight and take up minimal space, plus you can sit two people at a bench, whereas a chair only holds one!
OK, that works for eating or playing games, but what if you need to cook, too? Well, you have that extra picnic table that came with the benches, OR the minivan table. You can use whichever one you prefer. Either one is plenty big enough to hold a stove or a grill AND the portable sink for doing dishes afterward!
If you think you need more room than that, there are several styles of “portable camp kitchen” tables on the market, most of them made out of wire grid that can be folded up flat for storage. Nearly any RV store will have them or you can search online and find a great many of them. Some are just one single table, while others have “outrigger” tables, sometimes one on each side.
We haven’t had need of one yet, because we still have our folding table and bench set similar to the Stansport and PicnicTime models. It usually serves as our second table for sitting outside, and we set the stove and sink on the van table, where we don’t need the chairs with it.
But as we have said many times, we’re only throwing out ideas here. You have to figure out what you need for the way YOU plan to use your minivan camper conversion.