Thrifty Tips To Convert Your Hatchback Into a Camper To Live That #VanLife

car camping

Written by Charli Moore on

Charli Moore is an adventure enthusiast who has been location-independent since 2011. As a freelance writer, she blogs about her adventurous travels at Wanderlusters, and has a penchant for adrenaline highs and crunchy peanut butter. Follow her on Instagram @wanderlustcharli to feed your wanderlust.

car camping

A hatchback camper conversion doesn’t have to cost the earth. With some simple adaptations you can transform your ride into a comfortable nighttime retreat and live your dreams of adventure whenever you hear the mountains calling your name.

Suffering from a bad case of wanderlust but don’t have the cash to spend on a custom-made van? Here’s how to turn a hatchback into a camper.


A simple way to block out light and gain privacy is to fit insulating sunshades to your windows. Head to your local auto superstore and buy shades to fit large windscreens then cut them to size.

In colder climates you might consider stuffing roof insulation or sheep’s wool into the cavities of the roof, doors, and the base of the vehicle. Along with the insulating properties of the sunshades this will give you the best chance of retaining heat inside the camper overnight.

Make Space

A hatchback camper can only accommodate one or two sleeping travelers, so consider removing the rear seats entirely to maximize space inside. Not only will the reduction in weight reduce your gas bill but it will also allow you to leave your bed in position as you drive or use the additional space to store your camp kitchen kit.

Add a Bed

One of the best things about van life is that you get to enjoy a comfortable night’s sleep while exploring the wild. Your hatchback will have plenty of space to set up a simple sprung-slat bedframe. You can make one yourself if you’re handy with a tool set or buy a universal bed module that will slot into the back of your car.

Extra Storage

If you’re planning an active adventure in the wild, you’ll need to make sure that you’re well equipped. Things like hiking boots, a trail backpack, an inflatable SUP board or kayak, and camping chairs can be stored in a roof box to maximize internal space for things you’ll need when sleeping and eating.

Don’t have the cash for a new roof box? Check out local listings on Facebook marketplace to see if you can buy one secondhand.

Packing Organization

If I could give you one piece of advice for van life travel it would be to compartmentalize your gear so that you can pull out the things you need in seconds. Rather than filling large bags, section your belongings out and use packable gear cubes to keep everything ordered and close at hand.

You could opt to color code your cubes or label them so that you know what’s inside at a glance. Here’s a handy guide that tells you exactly how packing cubes work.


Along with a hot cup of fresh camp coffee an outside shower first thing in the morning makes the perfect start to the day. Add a portable shower to your van life gear list and, when you have a fresh water source near your camp, take a wash in the wild.

Keep your toiletries in a hanging organizer and simply hang it next to the shower head for easy access to your wash kit. Be mindful of using eco-friendly products that biodegrade so that you’re not impacting the surrounding environment.

Van life camper conversions don’t need to be fancy; anyone can transform their hatchback into a habitable environment for an overnight adventure by making a few simple changes to their vehicle.

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