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Old 01-15-2012, 07:57 AM   #1
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minimalist interiors?

I was out on the river last weekend and one of my boating buddies was admiring my "new to me" van and commented on the interior. He said it was the perfect minimalist interior. His comment got me thinking about what my goals are for the van. I've owned the van for 5 months now and thought I had a pretty good idea what I wanted in the way of an interior. My interior goal was for a nice comfortable place to sleep and tons of storage. I set up my interior with a raised platform sized for an extra long full mattress. The only other two items in the back are a shelf next to the bed and a lockable job site tool box that doubles as a seat for changing into a drysuit. The under bed storage area is large enough to haul a stack of 4' X 8' plywood 31 inches high. The job box provides 5 cubic feet of lockable storage and is a little higher that a standard chair so it works great as a seat for changing into or out of river garb.

I've been on the forum for a month now and seem to spend most of my forum time clicking the random photo button. I've been checking out the photos everyone has posted of their rigs. From what I can tell I have the most spartan interior on the list. I realize this is a Sportsmobile forum where most people have RV type interior goals. I also read the how much does your SMB weigh thread with interest. I was amazed how much some peoples rigs weigh.

My question for the group is how much of your RV type of interior don't you use and if you could make some of it go away what would it be? Are there any other minimalist on the list?

I got kind of a strange look from John down at NW Quadvan that other day when I asked him about replacement seats for my van. He said he had a bunch of OEM take out seats available and asked me if I wanted an electric drivers seat. I told him no that's just extra weight that will end up breaking sometime. All I wanted in a drivers seat is an arm rest. When I explained to him I wanted to keep my van as light as possible and as reliable and maintenance free as possible by keeping all the electrical gadgets out he looked at me like I was some kind of van owner from another universe.

I like the term "Big metal tent on wheels".
Edited photos of interior to include both front and back taken today



Gnarvan 1992 E350 Clubwagon
Advanced 4WD Systems Conversion

Sotar Legend 12.5' X 22" Cataraft
2003 BMW R1150GS-Adventure
2013 BMW R1200GS-Adventure
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Old 01-15-2012, 08:43 AM   #2
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minimalist interiors?

Gnarvan, I'm on a similar path. I built platform in back that fits in the clamps for the rear bench seat. There is a shelf that adds on the front to make it 80" for sleeping. The whole thing comes out in a minute or less and lets me winter camp for backcountry snowmoboarding. The only other thing in the van is 2 removable seats and a diesel webasto heater which is the bomb btw. I'll post some pics when I finish the plywood portion later today. The frame is thin wall steel and lightweight.


2001 Ford RB 7.3 Quadvan (sold)
2006 Sportsmobile EB Transformer 6.0
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Old 01-15-2012, 09:21 AM   #3
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Re: minimalist interiors?

My two cents:

First: ya need a goal of what you want to do when camped

Second: design you needs

For Mrs. Wilson:
- warm & dry
- plenty of fresh food/vegitble storage
- ability to watch movies and charge ipad
- ability to cook semi complicated meals, inside the rig
(foot note, dont know why, but rig still smells new, not like food)
- pottie inside
- hot water exterior shower

- i benifit from all the above, because she WANTS to go camp
- i want as much space as i can, hence the cruiser top
- ability to park, open doors, roll out awning and be camped
- comfortable to camp in the snow, desert and rainy weather

My '68 vw panel that i lived in for 3 years or so was minimalist
bed, heater, storage

I agree w/ the weight and keeping things low tech
The only thing i would change in Wilson is to have spent the xtra $
for very light weight wood composite

as for the tech, i have kept it as simple as i can
over built
maintainable on the road and in the boonies
plenty of amp hour storage and large solar aray

my rig is far from sparten
but after two years, approx 80 nights, approx 20,000 miles
a fair bit of off road, bushwack miles
I aint broke anything

(broken window not counted, blowing fuses not counted, clogged drain not counted)

When i can squeeze out time away, i want to be comfortable

bw out

i save up movies to watch when i can relax w/ the wife
we have a 20 lcd screen
nice to curl up w/ wife and dog and watch a movie, knowing
i dont have to get up to go to the Salt Mine

i have a kindle with overf 200 books on it right now
(free- thank you internet)
i also knock out a book a day
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Old 01-15-2012, 09:38 AM   #4
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Re: minimalist interiors?

For some ideas, attached is an old copy of SMB's Transformer ad.

Attached Files
File Type: pdf sm_transformer_flyer.pdf (470.1 KB, 131 views)
SMB-less as of 02/04/2012. Our savings account is richer, but our adventures are poorer.
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Old 01-15-2012, 10:25 AM   #5
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Re: minimalist interiors?

The great thing about SMBs is that every van is different and every owners use and needs are different. For a young, fit, single guy who just needs to haul his toys to the river or ski slope then a big metal tent on wheels is ideal. Once wives or girl friends enter the picture, 'needs' can change.

Our van has a complete interior with all the bells & whistles. Too many whistles. The previous owner had a complete entertainment system in it. Drop down TV screen, multi-disk CD changer, DVD player, hi power amp, navigation system, etc. We ripped all that out and dropped it in a box in the garage. I go into the boonies to get away from all that crap and noise and being nearly deaf, a high end audio system is just pearls before swine. No wonder the dude burned through a set of house batteries every 2 years.

I still have the in-dash unit that controlled the whole mess but I only use it for FM radio. Next time I get to the point where I'm not quite "...finished spending money on the van. - Mac", I'm going to replace it with a simple unit that has satellite radio and USB input.

Another thing we could live without is the water heater. While it's nice having hot water at the tap, it's way too wasteful of water which is our most critical expendable. We just heat exactly what we need on the stove. Ditto the shower. Sponge bath in a plastic tub does the trick. Even with strict conservation, 30gal (20g tank + 2 5g jugs) only gets us about 4-5 days of dry camping.

Another item of dead weight is the bumper mounted winch. Sure, it looks real bitchin and macho but I'd probably just hurt myself if I ever had to use it.
2002 E350 7.3 PSD
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Old 01-15-2012, 10:49 AM   #6
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Re: minimalist interiors?

I recognize the importance of keeping a significant other happy but as a happily divorced man keeping a smile on the ex's face isn't a real high priority for me. I'm sure once she saw the bill from Aluminess, Viking offroad and we would have had a spirited discussion.

I lived out of my old van for a month chasing whitewater in Idaho and firgured out I don't need to cook in the van. Most of the places I hang out at have picnic tables. If they don't I have a nice aluminum folding river table that works great. I also have all the important camp items for overnights on the river like a nice Partner steel stove and a groover that are all compact and fairly light weight. I can keep things cold in a Icee tec 95 quart ice chest. 2 blocks of ice will keep beverages and food cold for at least 4-5 days as long as I don't steal to much ice for cocktails. Setting up camp outside the van isn't really that big of a deal. I do need to invest in a nice rain tarp system for wet camps.

Being 5'16" tall having a long mattress is a priority. Most of the interiors I've seen don't have space for a XL bed that measures in at 83". The bed platform I had made is out of 1" X 1" thick wall square tubing and is connected to the van in 10 places for stability. It is removable but it would take a while and is not something I plan on doing.

A heater would be real nice but I have a sleeping bag system that's rated down to 30 below. Its the rare occasion I sleep in the van when it's below +20. At some point I will have to install some type of heater.

I'm more of a read a book person that watch tv person. I havn't had any type of cable or antenna hooked to my home theater system for close 4 years now. Movies are great but what's the point of watching them inside a van on a smaller flatscreen? I do need a good reading light over my bed. With so many battery powered LED options now I can't see the advantages of wiring a 12v up to the battery. I will be installing a second battery system to power the winch and would like to wire the van sterio to run off of this isolated battery. Music is a must and draining the starting batter is no good. I do like to crank up the Blues at camp.

One thing I would like to do different is the floor. After spending $300 at a body shop to repair all the holes in the floor from a previous mod (wheel chair lift) I was dead set against screwing plywood down. That and plywood is pretty heavy. Right now I have 3 layers on the floor. A bottom layer of EZ cool insulation, a layer of industrial floor mats and then a top layer of carpet. There is a removable layer of carpet behind the drivers seat and in front of the bed. I have wet dirty boaters climbing in and out of my van on shuttle rides and wanted something easy to take out and clean/replace. All this is kind of hacked in and while it is very functional it isn't real pretty.

I do agree with beefed up mechanical systems. Having the van reliable is a very high priority for me. I will be looking at suspension and driveline upgrades soon. Not sure what I can do with brakes but that is another area the needs improvement.

This is a shot of my old van with a 4 stack at the takeout of the EFSF Salmon.

Gnarvan 1992 E350 Clubwagon
Advanced 4WD Systems Conversion

Sotar Legend 12.5' X 22" Cataraft
2003 BMW R1150GS-Adventure
2013 BMW R1200GS-Adventure
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Old 01-15-2012, 01:18 PM   #7
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Re: minimalist interiors?

We like to keep our van ready to go on a spur of the moment weekend trip, so having a bit more organized cabinets and shelves fits our needs. We also have a propane system with refrigerator and heater. The frig is a convenience to avoid buying ice all the time and also a space efficiency thing to since a cooler needs top access. The heater is a comfort thing for winter ski area parking lot camping.

The sofa-bed is probably heavier than a platform -- we got it to allow carrying occaisional passengers in semi-comfort and semi-safety. The platform bed would allow carrying cargo instead of passengers.

We chose a plywood floor to provide a rigid base for the cabinets, and as a foundation for the heavy vinyl floor. I feel this system will be more durable and moisture-resistant than mats/carpeting. I'm not worried about the holes in the steel floor - the steel is galvanized which will stop corrosion.

We haven't weighed our van yet but I'm thinking it's 7,500 to 8,000 lb including people, ready to roll.
2009 E250 RB 5.4L "SilVan"
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Old 01-15-2012, 07:22 PM   #8
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Re: minimalist interiors?

This is nearly in step with what i did in our Chevy RB. I have a nice bed platform with a Froli Sleep System at a height calculated to fit the medium sized action packers under. IF we really needed to remove everything from inside the van we could...BUT we have no desire to do so as we leave the rig backed and ready for adventures (~2 to 3 weeks of supplies, etc).

If you ever wish to go to the max on the bed's comfort in a lightweight plan, i'd check out the Froli...It's easily as comfortable as a sealy pillow top at home!
Greetings from the WET! Coast of Oregon, USA
2010 Chevy Express AWD Light Overland Vehicle
Van Build Thread @ SMBForums
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Old 01-16-2012, 02:46 PM   #9
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Re: minimalist interiors?

Great topic! I keep reading all these post about how much their rig weighs and I am amazed that they can even jack them up to change a flat. Remeber every 7 pounds you take off your weight adds almost the equivalent of a horsepower.KISS. Is my rule, keep it simple stupid!
"What'$ that funny noi$e?
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Old 02-24-2012, 09:03 PM   #10
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Re: minimalist interiors?

Hey there Gnarvan, I agree with you 100% on the extra parts and gadgets breaking and also adding big time to the weight. I have a simple “Overland Rig Style” interior with a removable 2 drawer center section so I can still haul stuff like 4x8 sheets any time I need to. The “over the wheel well and along the sides” compartments stay in and I put whatever assortment of gear I need for each trip in them. I have all the “Required” toys but I can easily move them from rig to rig or into the garage. It all comes down to the old “How are you going to use it?”


2003 Ford E-350SD 4x4
V10 / 4R100 / NV271
Front Axle - 1 Ton Spec Dana 60/King Pin/Open Knuckle/High Steer
Rear Axle - 1 Ton Spec Dana 60/Full Floating
Eaton E-Lockers Front And Rear/4:10 Gears
ARB Differential Covers - Nodular Iron With Dipstick And Drain Plug
Leaf Spring Suspension Front And Rear
46 Gal Transfer-Flow Fuel Tank
ExtremeAire Magnum Air Compressor
Reunel Rear Bumper
On And On ...
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