Anyone who has done any traveling knows that it only takes a few trips to realize you’ve packed too much. This can also be said about RVs. Just about every trip ends with excess items being purged or even larger RVs being traded in for something a little smaller.
This is just what happened with graphic designer Mary Ames Mitchell. She traveled for several years in a Class B Lexor campervan converted into a comfortable RV by Pleasure-Way. The camper was built on a Ram ProMaster 3500 chassis and because of that Mitchell decided to name it Ramsey.
She traveled in Ramsey with her dog for over 48,000 miles visiting many of the U.S. national parks. After her trips, she realized that the Class B was too much of a gas guzzler and felt guilty about using too much fuel. She also realized she never used much of the amenities such as the shower and the air conditioning.
Mitchell decided to downsize to the ProMaster’s baby brother—the Ram ProMaster City. The ProMaster City is a cargo van that is primarily used as a work vehicle, but it does come as a passenger wagon option. This option has 60/40 split Fold-and-Tumble rear seats that can be tucked out of the way but still utilized for passengers if needed.
In addition, the passenger wagon version also comes with insulation where the basic cargo van is an empty space ready for shelving or equipment storage. Other benefits of the ProMaster City are that the vehicle can be parked in a garage and gets over 28 miles to the gallon on the highway.
With about 131 cubic feet of space in the rear, there is a good amount of space to make the cargo van into a tiny camper for a single person. Mitchell also decided to make her new build (named Ramsey Jr.) even more simple by not building anything permanent into the rear of the vehicle. This is where her design gets even more brilliant.
To help others with their conversion, Mitchell posted her floor plan, layout, and equipment list on her website. She also created a video showing her simple, yet wonderful setup in the back of Ramsey Jr. Rather than building a bed and kitchen such as seen in many conversions, she is just using a few pieces of furniture from IKEA.
Her folding bed is the IKEA folding mattress from the SLÄKT series that can be used as both a seat in the folded-up position and as a bed when unfolded.
The kitchen and storage space for clothing is actually an IKEA PINNIG shoe storage rack. It’s low enough to fit inside the back of the van, yet it has several shelves for storage boxes. A butane stove sits on top of the shoe rack for cooking and heating water. Bungee cords hold the furniture to the side of the car.
The rest of the layout includes a cooler and food bin, some simple floor mats, a dog bed and equipment, Command Hooks on the walls for gear, and some water bottles. Mitchell also tucks a Reliance Hassock Portable Toilet in the back of the camper near the folding bed and rolls her sleeping bag into a pillowcase.
She took a graphic designer’s view of how to shop for a smaller van and then inexpensively set up Ramsey Jr. for travel. Her process included the following list:
- I took all the items that I had in Ramsey that I thought I would need in a small campervan and placed them in a pile in the middle of my garage.
- I put the smallest items in 11″ x 17″ plastic tubs that I could stack.
- I obtained measurements for self-inflating mattresses from the Internet.
- I got measurements for the cargo spaces in Ram ProMasters, Ford Transits, and Nissan cargo vans.
- I marked the spaces out in my garage and made mock-ups of how everything would be placed in that space.
- I measured myself sitting to see how high a chair could be and not cause my head to bump the ceiling.
- I drew plans using Adobe Illustrator.
- I test drove the ProMaster and the Transit and laid down in the backs of both to see how well I fit.
She even drew a few fun layout and elevation designs to see how items would fit inside the space.
Mitchell’s goal with the ProMaster City is not to live in it full-time, but at least to be able to live off-grid while traveling for a week or so at a time. Along with saving fuel, Mitchel has shown that a minivan conversion also doesn’t need to cost a small fortune.
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