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Old 05-01-2017, 09:43 PM   #1
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Join Date: May 2017
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Sleeping 4 people in a camper van: penthouse?


I'm in the design phase of my camper van, and I think my hardest requirement is that I'm looking for a van that can sleep 4 people relatively comfortably. That is, me, my partner and two kids (7 and 9 years old, growing FAST). I do not want a giant RV, and the van has to be still usable for commuting every so often. So I'm leaning toward a 144" WB Sprinter or a 136" WB ProMaster. Which leaves me with the usual question about High-Top vs Penthouse.

Obviously, I'm not the first one wondering about that, but most discussions were focused on things like storage space, temperature control, maintenance or fuel economy. What about sheer amount of sleeping space? Do you know of any nice setup where people have sleeping space for 4 in a high top? Or is it only on longer wheel base model?

To fuel the discussion, here are a couple other details:
- I am not planning on having a bathroom/shower. Too much space/hassle/Driving around with your own waste
- Simple Faucet/stove/fridge setup
- no AC unit, but a simple fan instead, maybe a small space heater.
- solar panel (and the battery/inverter that comes with it)
- We only have the kids half of the time, so we will use it just as a couple often. Planning on most trips with the kids to be shorter than 5-7 days.

Thanks a lot for your input!


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Old 05-01-2017, 10:46 PM   #2
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Location: San Diego, CA
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I own an Econoline with a penthouse top and sleeping 4 comfortably is not an issue. Having 4 hanging out in the van when not sleeping is a bit cramped though.

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2013 E-350 6.8L V10 4x4 RB50, penthouse top, Aluminess bumpers
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Old 05-01-2017, 11:03 PM   #3
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Location: Memphis, TN
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A penthouse really makes the most sense in this situation. Parents get some privacy "upstairs", kids can be on the fold out couch or gaucho. I haven't seen any short 144'' vans with sleeping for four downstairs. I'm sure there's a weird way it could be done with a second bench behind the driver's seat, but it won't leave room for much else.

If you're skipping air conditioning, the penthouse allows maximum ventilation with that many people inside. Solar will add a little weight to the penthouse and may require getting the electric lift (I don't have either).

A third cost-saving option would be putting kids in a tent outside if they are only coming for a few days.
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Old 05-02-2017, 07:36 AM   #4
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Location: TN
Posts: 9,309
I slept four in our regular body Ford with a PH top for a couple years. Cramped but it worked. I don't know of a good floor plan for a fixed roof van except the super high fiberglass caps on Fords that put a bed over the front seats (Google Airstream B190).

It is easier, and more comfortable, with a PH top IMO. Have you looked through all of the standard floor plans on SMBs to get some ideas?

Sportsmobile Custom Camper Vans - Regular Body Standard Plans

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2010 Chevy AWD home build
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Old 05-02-2017, 02:42 PM   #5
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Location: Bend, OR
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You may consider the CCV top over the SMB top for added space. With the CCX top, you can easily sit up and hang out. We will often put our kids up there to hang out and play a game, watch a movie, etc.
2009 Express AWD, CCV Top & 50-ish home build. Daily driver/camper/kid hauler
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Old 05-03-2017, 05:41 AM   #6
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Location: Perth, Western Australia
Posts: 457
50 plan Ford e350 with Penthouse, get a good second hand diesel 6.0. Gets you the forward facing sofa with
with seat belts. Penthouse allows great fresh air flow, extra space, extra standing roof height. If you have Solar & Magnum Pure Sine Wave Inverter/Converter, get
two D4 batteries. Put a Skybox storage box on the roof.
Swivel front seats are very handy. Camper box on swing out side doors is a must too, you end up cooking outside, most of the time. Rear Aluminess box is great.
Good Luck, Cheers, Doug
2008 Yellow Ford E350 6.0 diesel eb50 4x4, Front E Locker, Asheville Eng Rebuil 20th @ 261miles, ARP Studds, 200amp Alternator, Performance Aluminium Radiator, OnBoardAir, RoadmasterActiveSuspension, Front & Rear Aluminess with Spare Tire Carrier, Aluminess Roof Rack, Titan Aft 30gallon Fuel Tank.
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Old 05-04-2017, 08:12 PM   #7
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thanks everyone for the input!

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