Mar 08

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Turning a Chevy Suburban Into a Conversion Camper

Turning a Chevy Suburban into a Conversion Camper is one way to be able to go on those Vagabond Trails and still have some of the basic necessities, like a bed and fresh food.  During our trip in 2015 to Alaska we used the bed quite a bit during our drive, but didn’t have any other amenities, like a toilet, a way to cook or a way to heat anything.

Maybe you don’t have a tent, but have an RV to use as a base camp,  in this case the conversion camper is perfect.  You can go exploring without having to tow a trailer, and you can go down roads the RV might have a harder time maneuvering, all the while having the basic amenities, plus a little more like a microwave.

Last year I had plans for turning my Suburban into a conversion camper.  At the time I  needed seating for 4 so didn’t finish it the way I wanted.  Here’s where I started turning my Suburban into a camper. As you can see I took the third row seats out. We put a frame in to hold a futon mattress, plus have a pull-out drawer to easily find what we needed. Another benefit was that during our trip everything was concealed and not out in plain sight.

2015-08-02 11.13.49 (Small)

After that cross-country trip one of the biggest problems we had was keeping fresh food. We had to find ice all the time for the ice chest, then it would melt in the course of the day and had to be thrown out. Ice wasn’t always available on the back-roads of Canada and Alaska, so our food couldn’t be safely stored. This was a huge waste of time and money.

Batteries and Inverter For Conversion Camper

A small refrigerator was something I really wanted to have. Before the summer trip I had the guy that was helping do the work add an inverter and a battery. He put them under the seats, so we never used them. When I got the refrigerator I killed the battery several times, plus the auxiliary battery. It was when I went to get another battery I found out that it was illegal to put the kind of battery I had inside a vehicle. So, once again I had to take the battery out, and this time got two 12 volt deep cell batteries. I put these behind the drivers seat on a platform we built for them and the fridge. The inverter was moved from under the seat where it would get more air, and the power cords could more easily be plugged in.

Suburban Conversion 2- inverter and batteries

Suburban Conversion- 2- 12V Deep Cell Batteries and Inverter

The Batteries and the Refrigerator were all secured so they wouldn’t move, and a microwave was added, and also secured. I have driven this several times without any problems. The microwave takes a lot of power, so I just unplug the fridge for the amount of time the microwave is on.  I also unplug the fridge at night and because of the insulation it stays cold until the morning, also saving the batteries.

One thing I did add was an insulated wrap to the rear of the fridge so any heat coming in the window wouldn’t make the fridge work harder. I also unplug the fridge at night and because of the insulation it stays cold until the morning, also saving the batteries.


Suburban conversion 3- space by fridge Suburban conversion 1


Shower and Toilet in Suburban Conversion Camper

Most people ask, how do you take a shower, or use the bathroom?  There are many ways.  Because I left the one small seat in the middle I have room between the fridge and the seat.  There is also room on the side of the fridge where a small portable camping toilet goes.  The toilet I picked was a Thetford 260B.  This is one of the smaller portable toilets, but it has a separate tank, with a handle, that you can carry and dump.  Plus it fits in a small space.  Mostly this is just for emergencies.

Showering can be done a few different ways.  One with a bucket of water and a piece of plastic on the floor.  My choice though is the Coleman 5 Gallon Portable Solar Shower that I hang onto the roof rack.  The nice thing though is many campgrounds have showers, and my solar shower works well for those times when I’m too far from a campground, but it’s also good for washing dishes, hands, etc.

If you want to get fancy you can get one of those portable shower enclosures.  I got one, but have to admit I haven’t used it yet.  I picked one that was quick to set up and you could use it for both a private shower, or put your portable toilet in it for privacy while camping.  Hopefully I will use it this summer as I camp more.


Moapa Rd to Valley of Fire Nevada

Hope this gave you an idea of how to convert a Suburban into a Camper, and enjoy your time on those Vagabond Trails!

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  1. Diana

    You’ve got a great set-up there. Amazing what a person can do using creativity and effective space/energy management. I have one of those solar showers and used it every day when I worked in a remote location with the National Park Service. I’ve been shopping around for a compact compost toilet. The one I want is so expensive, but I like a self-contained compost unit that doesn’t require water. Because I like to camp in more rustic, peaceful locations, having a system like yours would work well.

    1. Vagabond

      Thanks Diana, I am pleased with my set-up and so glad I didn’t let others discouraging me from what I wanted. I love that solar shower and all the grandkids thought it was a pretty cool way to wash their hands before eating. It’s amazing how much some of the things cost, and hopefully you get your compost toilet.

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