One of the reasons many people do not consider a minivan camper conversion as being practical is because it lacks stand up room. But I said our concept would have standing room without making any modifications to the minivan. Well… this is how it’s done… with add-on tents. We are presently working on a design that does not require “setting up”… that simply fits over the liftgate of the van and provides enough standing room for a portable shower (which may or may not also serve as the “closet” for the porta-potty), and it gives you a place to stand at the rear sink to get dressed in the morning, or get ready for bed at night.
Our design for an add-on tent will have a floor in it, and completely surround the back of the van, just as many of the larger SUV and minivan tents do, to keep insects and weather out. However, our design will go with the minivan when the van is moved. It is designed to be quick and convenient to set up, fit any minivan, and be easy to pack up and put away if you have to leave in a hurry. We will announce it to our reader’s list and on our blog when it becomes available, probably 2012.
But for now, there are already many self-supporting add-on tents on the market to fit over the back of a minivan. They are designed so that you CAN drive away and leave the tent in place if you need to. There are advantages to all designs, so it just depends on how you plan to use your rear tent and how much room you want. Some models even have TWO rooms, or a screen room as one of those rooms. These add-on tents all serve the same purpose, so the choice boils down to features, color, price, and how easy it is to set up and take down.
We also are including awnings in this section, for lack of a better place. You don’t need a rear awning with a liftgate, so we’re talking about side awnings, here. There are several on the market, but one thing to keep in mind here is that you are probably taller than your minivan. If you use a “flat” awning, that means you could be scraping your head on it every time you stand up. Our original thought on that was to have a “flip-down” bracket made to attach to the roof rack of the van, so that the awning mounted to the bracket would raise it above head level.
But that also presents other problems, such as the space between the awning rail and roof, where rain can still splash under it, requiring an extra shield for that area. As an alternative, we have found a type of awning that is built like a square umbrella, except that it has two leg supports on the outer side and anchors to the roof rack of the van. The natural convex shape of it allows headroom where you need it, while still keeping the sides low enough to keep sun and rain out. That awning is the Eazy-Awning Instant Awning. We are currently trying to find an affiliate source for it.
Some side awnings also allow a patio room, but everything that we have seen so far is too tall for our minivan conversion. But still, we will keep looking. It seems the best bet right now is still the rear tent option, as they are already manufactured by several companies and do not need to be modified.
If all you want is a place to quickly throw over the liftgate for privacy, and you aren’t concerned about having a floor in it, there is a product called the “Portable Dressing Room” or “Add-a-Cabana” that you simply throw over the liftgate for temporary privacy. Again, everyone has different needs, and has to make up their own mind what will work for their own uses.