Ode to an Ancient Jeep: Sleeping and Camping in a 1995 Jeep Cherokee

[Tristan’s Note: I had the pleasure of meeting up with SUV RVing reader and viewer Robert DeNike when I was in California in January. We had a great time chatting about adventures past and future, and we’ve kept in touch since then. He recently sent me a ton of fantastic photos and info about his sleeping/camping setup in his 1995 Jeep Cherokee Country. All of the photos and words below are his, but I will occasionally add my own thoughts, which will be in brackets. Thanks for sharing your adventure rig, Robert!]

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It came off the assembly line in 1995, before some of you were born. But 22 years later it still runs like a Swiss watch, taking me over rutted, boulder-strewn roads far from the maddening crowd.

I’m a backpacker, so the Jeep’s purpose in life is to get me to trailheads at the edges of North America’s great wilderness areas. After 10 days out there, I am thinking fondly of the Jeep and the little luxuries within. It’s always with great joy and relief that I catch sight of it as I emerge from the wilds, waiting there patiently like a loyal dog.

One-Man Show

The first modification I made was to remove the rear seat bench. Permanently. The seat back now folds down flat, creating a sizable cargo space. This left the seat belts hanging uselessly in the way, so I unscrewed and cut out all except mine. Finally, I detached the front passenger seat back so I can stretch out fully when lying down, which also opened up the cargo area even more.

The Jeep now accommodates exactly one rider: me. So if your wife or kids want to go camping with you, or even just shopping at the local Costco, forget it. But my wife would rather go to the dentist than go camping. That’s OK; I love her anyway. The point being: these modifications are for the committed solo SUVer only.

Photo Tour

Base layer: I start with a ThermaRest Z-Lite as padding for the mattress.
Base layer: I start with a Thermarest Z-Lite as padding for the mattress.
Plenty of leg-room on this flight: removing the front passenger seat allows me to stretch out with impunity.
Plenty of leg-room on this flight: removing the front passenger seat allows me to stretch out with impunity. The Thermarest LuxuryMap Mattress goes on top of the foam pad.
Bridging the gap: the space between the front and rear seats is covered with a simple plank and strip of carpet (a scavenged scrap from a local flooring outlet).
Bridging the gap: the space between the front and rear seats is covered with a simple plank and strip of carpet (a scavenged scrap from a local flooring outlet).

Continue reading “Ode to an Ancient Jeep: Sleeping and Camping in a 1995 Jeep Cherokee”

DIY PVC Rooftop Solar Shower for a Car, Van, SUV, or Truck

A month or so ago I went to the Utah Toyota Off-Road Expo. It was much smaller than the Salt Lake Off-Road Expo that I went to a week later (and both pale in comparison to Overland Expo West, which is going on right now). Still, there were some great rigs there, mostly 4Runners and Tacomas (no RAV4s, sadly). I noticed on one of the rigs (a Toyota Tacoma with camper shell, roof top tent, bike rack, and more) what looked like a DIY version of the Road Shower, so I went up to talk to the rig’s owner and ask about how he made the shower. Here are some pictures and info:

A look at the whole setup. Not an SUV, but undoubtedly a great rig.
A look at the whole setup. Not an SUV, but undoubtedly a great adventure rig.
The homemade PVC roof top shower. It's made out of 4-inch PVC that's been painted black. If I recall correctly, it holds 4 or 5 gallons of water.
The homemade PVC roof rack shower. It’s made out of 4-inch PVC that’s been painted black.  If I recall correctly, it holds 4 or 5 gallons of water. It’s pressurized by an air compressor (you can see the compressor’s yellow coil hose on the left side of the photo).
A garden hose is attached to a water faucet spigot thing that has been inserted into the PVC end cap.
A garden hose is attached to a water faucet spigot thing that has been inserted into the PVC end cap. You can also see the red air compressor here.
The yellow thing with the wingnut is the fill valve. A stack of a few rubber washers is between the yellow plastic part and the top of the PVC pipe. The rubber washers create an airtight seal.
The yellow thing with the wingnut is the fill valve (i.e., where you put the water in). A stack of a few rubber washers is between the yellow plastic part and the top of the PVC pipe. The rubber washers create an airtight seal. When I was there, the guy had the shower pressurized to only about 20 PSI, and he was able to spray water about 10–15 feet. A metal tire valve (similar to this and visible coming out of the white PVC end cap) is used in conjunction with the air compressor to pressurize the shower. The end of the hose connects with a quick-connect adapter to the brass hose valve also coming out of the end cap.
Another look
Another look at the setup. You can’t really see it, but a spray nozzle (something like this) is at the business end of the hose. The shower was simply lashed to the roof rack crossbar with paracord. I was a bit doubtful of how secure this was, but the guy assured me that it was rock solid. It is definitely not an attachment system that will stand up well to prolonged exposure to the elements.
The back end of the Tacoma camping setup.
The back end of the Tacoma camping setup. The owner travels and camps with his wife and 14-year-old son. The guy and his wife sleep in the roof top tent, and the son sleeps diagonally in the bed of the truck.
A closer look at the back of the Tacoma camping setup.
A closer look at the back of the Tacoma camping setup.

My Thoughts

Let’s face it, these DIY PVC showers are all kind of ugly. Definitely not as sleek as the Road Shower. But this setup only cost about $50 or $60 versus the Road Shower’s $300. There are lots of videos and other information out there about how to make a PVC shower like this (here are the results for “PVC car shower” on YouTube, and this is probably the best build video I’ve seen), but there are a few things I like about this particular shower. I like that the water fill valve is low-profile and not too much of an eyesore. I’m intrigued by—if still a bit skeptical of—the simple lashing attachment system. And I like the super long hose, though if I were to make a shower like this, it wouldn’t be quite this long.

What are your thoughts?

I don’t know if I’ll ever actually make something like this, but I was excited to see it and figure out the details of how it was made. It works great for him, and I wanted to share some details of the build with you guys.

Note: This blog post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Sleeping and Camping in a 2015 Ford Escape

SUV RVing reader/watcher Ted was kind of enough to send me pictures of his camping setup in a 2015 Ford Escape and give me permission to post them here. Thanks Ted!

In the captions of the images below, you’ll see some of Ted’s comments in quotes and my (Tristan’s) comments not in quotes.

Here’s a rough overhead view of his layout:

A rough overview of Ted's layout in his 2015 Ford Escape.
A rough overview of Ted’s layout in his 2015 Ford Escape. He’s also made use of the floor space in front of the front passenger seat and in front of the rear seats.

Continue reading “Sleeping and Camping in a 2015 Ford Escape”

Camping and Living in an Isuzu Trooper SUV

This video (embedded below) by Bob from Cheap RV Living is an interview with Dave, a retired Greek Orthodox and Episcopal priest who is now a Buddhist priest that leads clients on vision quests in the wilderness. He took the back seat out of his 1991 Isuzu Trooper and laid a wooden platform in the back, and that gives him a surprising amount of space inside the vehicle. He also took out the passenger seat to give himself and his dog even more room. He has a metal divider between the front and back sections of the vehicle that he uses to hang gear. I love the headroom and large windows that the Trooper offers.

Dave’s approach to living in his SUV is very minimalist:

“My style and approach to living from … the Isuzu Trooper is more of a mountaineering/backpacking approach, so the gear that I use and the mindset I use tends to be a mountaineering/backpacking/expedition-type mindset. So I cook outside as much as I can. I tend to use backpacking equipment, and so the Isuzu is what carries it from one place to another. But I like being as close to nature as I can and having really good gear, so that if it is blowing a blizzard, even if I’m in a tent, I’m warm, I’m safe, I can make hot coffee, I can cook.”

To which Bob replied:

“Instead of having to fit it all into a backpack, all you have to do is fit it into an Isuzu Trooper.”

As a mountaineer and backpacker myself, this is definitely something I can relate to. If backpackers can spend 5 months walking with everything they need on their backs, you and I can certainly fit everything we need into any vehicle.

The first half of the video is Dave telling his story of how he came to be living in an SUV. If you want to skip all of that, the SUV talk starts at 16:35.

(Again, click here to view the video on YouTube if you can’t see it above.)

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I was going to leave on my trip this morning, but there are snow storms a few hours south of here in the mountains, so I’m putting it off for one more day. Ugh. But I am definitely, definitely leaving tomorrow (Friday). Definitely.

A Unique Sleeping Setup in the Back of a Ford Bronco

For a lot of SUVs, a great sleeping setup is the “table,” where you’ve got a sheet of plywood that is held up off of the floor of the SUV by 2×4 supports at the corners. Your bed and bedding material go on top of the plywood, and your gear goes underneath. It looks something like this: Continue reading “A Unique Sleeping Setup in the Back of a Ford Bronco”

19 Tips for Surviving and Thriving in a Roof-Top Tent

In chapter 2 of the SUV RVing book, I talk about how using a roof-top tent is an option for SUV RVing. I have no first-hand experience with these and so there’s only so much I can say about them, but I ran across this great article at Adventure Journal about using them from someone who is currently “traveling the planet” in a Land Rover with a roof-top tent on top. If a roof-top tent is something you’re considering, be sure to give the article a read.

Most roof-top tents don’t really appeal to me because they still have most of the drawbacks of a traditional tent (i.e., they’re a pain to set up and take down) but are way, way more expensive than most traditional tents, but I guess I’m just missing something. The hard-sided tents like this or this look simpler and appeal to me more than the style shown in photos in the link above, but they’re also more expensive.

Photo: Nick and Dana Blizzard/Flickr