Camping In A…. Corolla?

A weekend away camping in the wilds can do wonders for one’s sanity, and the joy of spending it in a recently converted camping vehicle adds to the delight. In a twist on the conventional camper, redditor [Gongfucius] and his wife have converted their 2005 Toyota Corolla into the perfect getaway vehicle for two.

To make enough room, the rear seating had to go, and removing it was deceptively easy. [Gongfucius] was able to build and fit a platform peppered with storage hatches that could snap into place and cover the trunk and backseat — covering it with felt for added comfort. A mattress was cut to size out of five inch memory foam and his wife sewed fitted coverings to them. More storage nooks in the trunk keep necessities at hand.

As a vehicle you’d never expect to be camping in, [Gongfucius] maintains that the sleeping arrangements in this Corolla aren’t as crowded as you might think, but are downright luxurious when solo. In either case, the one downside might be that it takes a certain amount of flexibility to get in and out comfortably. Since they tend to camp far off the beaten path, privacy screens have been passed over — but were they to be needed, some double-reflective insulation would do the trick. There is also a slight issue of CO2 buildup, but keeping the window down a crack solves that.

There are — of course — more traditional vehicles to camp in, with more than meets the eye.

[Via /r/DIY]

72 thoughts on “Camping In A…. Corolla?

    1. If only one of you is tall, they sleep on the passenger side with the front seat back folded down/forward.
      – With some cars, the front seat back goes flat in line with the folded down rear seat.
      – Some end up raised (rough, you need to raise the rear to match).
      – Some slope upwards (and some too much for comfort).
      – And some slope downwards, so you stick something on the seat to prop the back up to flat or gently sloped upwards. This is sometimes required for the rear seat’s back too.
      With some cars, even with the front seat slid all the way back, there’s a gap between the folded down rear seat and the front seat; a piece of rigid foam of the appropriate thickness will fill that gap, or make something out of plywood and it’s now (although small) storage space.

  1. yes camping in the back of a car just doesnt work for my length either – Even in my SAAB’s the distance bettwen the front seats and the tail gate is just a tad too short.

    the cutouts in the base to allow access to storage is a good idea. Every cubic centimeter counts :)

      1. Hilarious! I am thinking about doing this with my Prius though more a lower drag design. Have pondered to start a business actually to do for the Hybrids in general, i.e. BMW, Chevy and Toyota for starters where the Prius seems to have more the living or camping out of the vehicle following. Neato, thanks for sharing.

          1. I was looking at property to invest in, camping and working on the farm in the 2001 Dodge Ram I’m planning on customizing/modifying into a RDF patrol truck based on Mike Basich’s Custom Snowchaser by Evan Khan ( ) design and some other eco-modders caps I found on the net, though gas was outrageous on the budget in the current state with the V8 360 drivetrain (the new 3.0 or 5.7 auto-start with 8 speed transmissions look way more impressive). Some days I do want to hack in a 1.5 or 1.8L prius drivetrain. I haven’t measured yet or did weight distribution calculations… still working on the electronics.

            Anyhow… I decided to invest in a Ford Focus Electric (hack in a diesel generator), Prius or Volt.

            Wound up going with the Prius since like you noted… there were so many Youtube videos.

            Now I still want to go back and try with a Volt, Bolt (now days and even an Ioniq to consider) or Focus Electric… though will have to wait on that.

            There is also a neat design that I can give away for inspiration as I’ve not observed on the market yet in regards to a trailer hitch cargo box that swings to the side like I see now there are bike racks for truck beds so you can open the bed or hatch or trunk if for a car. I came up with the design when using the truck to create a low drag tail cargo box that can swing open from the drivers side to create a kitchen cooler/freezer area that can use a pop-up tent shade or even screened in area above and on the two other sides for tail gating, camping or storage on the job site. I think this can also be done with the Prius to lower drag and create more room. I want this for the cooler/freezer and to lower drag mainly on the Prius. For the Ram, lowering drag and screening in the area was more on my mind since I was working out of the truck with a cap.

          2. I’m 6’1″ and still leave the passenger seat in with enough room. I have thought about more seriously taking the back seat bottom out and lining with a thick rubber mat and making a storage box for more room though. The dealership didn’t recommend that though.

  2. Keeping the window down a crack only solves that if the temperature is reasonable. Are there any better solutions when it does not? Wouldn’t be too hard to do the math on CO2 levels and most cars are very much the opposite of air or water tight.

    1. Trace out a window wind it down then up the tiniest bit then trace again, Cut a Sheet of 1/2 thickness to the glass metal sheet put lip on bottom of it to hook on the edge glass matching the template.

      You can cut slits in the sheet and epoxy screen mesh to the slits, flared slits in case of rain

    2. Mount a small, low-wattage computer fan across one of the ventilation outlets in the dashboard, wire it to the 12-volt accessory socket (known previously as the cigarette lighter socket). Mount it so that it draws air into the car through the ventilation system. Leave a window open 0.5cm for air to exit. Unless you have to have the ignition turned to “accessory” to provide power to the socket, then you’ll need to locate and subvert a 12-volt supply somewhere in the dashboard or steering column that doesn’t rely on the ignition key.

      “Just turn the ventilation fan on without the air-con”, you might say. But that means having the accessory circuit active all night and that’s powering systems that don’t need it, possibly resulting in a flat battery in the morning. Of course you could use a battery-powered fan….

      1. Wire a double pole double throw switch to the cabin fan motor. Add in a PWM based speed controller on your loop. Switch in position A = normal car controls run the fan, position B = override.

        Perhaps invest in an accessory battery and controller, so your fridge/fan/whatever runs off that rather than your starting battery.

    3. You’d be surprised how well modern cars seal (granted that the seals weren’t damaged)…however – if the open window helps with heat buildup, then you already have natural convection and it should vent just fine…

      And if you don’t mind modifying the car, a small rooftop fan can be bought from camper van supplies, all you need then is a power source, probably a second battery so that you don’t drain the primary one.

      1. You would be surprised at how quickly cars sink when placed in water. Modern cars are certainly better than ones made 20 or 30 years ago but it’s not really accurate to say that cars will just sit there floating for hours or even more than a few minutes at best either. They sink pretty quickly.

        Mythbusters have documented some work on this and there are a good number of other real world test videos of this out there as well. Some people have even made cars (typically convertibles) able to be filled with water. It’s very difficult to isolate and seal every single joint or gap to keep water from leaking out given the sheer number of parts (all with tolerance) in an average automobile.

        To be fair, introducing depth to the water is putting a small amount of pressure into the equation, which makes sealing there even more difficult.

        1. Another, but more useful way, to prove that cars are not sealed is just close all the windows and park in the woods. It will take 20 minutes but the mosquitoes will find every hole that you want to plug.

  3. Or get an old Nash car. They were built so the front seat could be slid forward and the back folded down flat. Before there were vans, parents didn’t let their daughters go on dates if the boy had a Nash, or was borrowing his parents Nash.

    “So, what’s Jim driving?”
    “His dad’s Nash.”
    “Oohhh, no. Here’s the keys to my Cadillac.”

    Nash sold specially contoured pads to fill in the dips to make and even flatter surface. They came with storage bags for the rolled up pads.

      1. Wut? No no. Two well motivated teens can “make a baby” anywhere. Certainly a station wagon makes it EASIER, but could just as easily get the job done in the backseat of a hotel required.

    1. It used to be quite common for front seats to recline to flat so that when fully forward it’d make a flat surface right through. I guess safety laws and seat airbags put paid to that.

  4. I did something similar with a car the the back seats folded flat and my sofa lounge cushions fitted perfectly.

    Right now I am in the bush in a Holden Rodeo with a canopy to sleep in, a 250W solar panel on top the canopy, a 30A solar MPPT reg, a 2000W (max 4000W) inverter and a mobile phone for data.

    The inverter is from China so I expect it’s MAX 4000W rating is for 1.2ns duration only but it will run a small fridge (90W when running).

    1. You’d probably have similar efficiency if you used a peltier fridge, which can run off of the battery directly…
      They also make compressor fridges that run on 12V, but those are expensive.

      1. I didn’t like the peltier fridge and mine burned out in Arizona. They can only cool minus 30 degrees compared to the environmental temperature. I did use freezer packs or tupperware containers with frozen water when I could freeze it to equillibriate shifts.

        I even use the freezer packs in the compressor cooler/freezer of which I highly recommend investing in and using if you’re on long road/camping trips, living out of a RV or Trucking

        Even the college dorm size fridge/freezers are better though not really made to be moved around so much as won’t last as long as the portable designs due to the compressor failing I’ve read. Actually, they might if you change out the compressor with the portable version of which I think mine is a Danish company design in the Dometic. The 12/24DC or 120V AC are really efficient also, expensive, though impressive investment and hoping will last a few years if not longer to return the investment on ice for the summers on the farm, camping or on the road.

        1. Swap the single Peltier for a dual stack and you’ll be a lot more impressed. Some experimentation would be needed to find the optimum voltage for each stage, although I can tell you that the second stage doesn’t need much voltage at all as in 5V or less. 8V would probably be a good starting point for the first stage.

    2. Awesome.

      I picked up a 1500W pure sine wave inverter that peaks at 3000W… though doesn’t run even 9A 120V motor on the 9A electric chainsaw I have.

      I was reading for the Prius, the solar panel design was interfering with the AM radio when wired into the battery so the solar panel option was only wired to an internal fan to circulate air.

      I did just receive a 40A solar MPPT regulator for the solar cells I am about to put together and am looking at a larger inverter that will run the 120V 9A electric chainsaw. I am guessing I need to use a modified sine wave inverter or very carefully design a circuit to use a HVAC, table saw or electric motor capacitor for the starting surge.

      I’ve found salvaging Lithium batteries from laptops is a neat way to store energy if you don’t have the heavy duty deep cycle battery(s). Did that for the Prius and used a little with the Ram.

      Did you add another battery?

      1. The main (start) battery is 100AH because the ute (pickup) is a diesel engine. I leave that as it is intended and it is only for the ute electrics and starting. I can however charge it as well from the solar panel if I want. I have a battery isolator for this.

        The auxiliary (solar) battery is a simple 55AH car battery that I may replace with a 200AH AGM deep cycle battery, It is working fine so far as it is always charging while I am driving so that I can park in a shady place when camping but I expect that it may not be up to the task when I get a fridge. I will see then. There is a safety drawback with a lead acid car battery in that they emit hydrogen when charging and it is below the tray so the gas would likely enter the canopy when charging but I am only sleeping in the canopy at night when it wont be charging.

        From what I have read, you can get either an expensive fridge or a cheap common bar fridge and an expensive inverter however an expensive inverter is cheaper than an expensive fridge.

        I bought a high wattage inverter from China and it arrived without the decals or labels that would have shown the wattage so I expect it has a far lower output power than was advertised.

        Many solar regulators have three connection. One for the battery, one for the solar panel and one for the load and you can program in the low battery voltage cutout to protect the battery and because they are designed for deep cycle batteries they have a reasonable low battery voltage cutout. My regulator doesn’t have a load connection so the inverter is connected to the battery and the inverter low voltage cutout is about 10 Volts which is far to low for a deep cycle battery. I will have to make a separate cutout relay for the inverter.

        I want to get a secondhand hand bar fridge and swing the heat radiator to one side and the compressor and condenser by 90 degrees so that I can lay it on its back. This way it will be more efficient as you are not loosing the cool air when you open the door and it would not obstruct my vision when I am driving. I can seal off the freezer from the fridge and use a fan to regulate the fridge temperature. I could also then turn if off at night so that my sleep is not disturbed by the compressor noise.

        I am not game to use lithium batteries because of the fire risk but if you have more knowledge at managing that risk then go for it.

        Modified sine wave or stepped sine wave is the cheaper version of inverter that I have. They are far less expensive than a “true” sine wave inverter and I am hoping that a modified sine wave inverter will work with a fridge if it has a much higher power rating than the fridge needs.

        1. For the Ram; I picked up a 500A rated isolator, a three position heavy duty switch so if I needed I can use a switch position circuit for starting if the main battery dies and whatever the next heavier gauge spec’ed wire for the distance ran based on the batteries being mounted on a tray beside the chassis under the bed behind the passenger seat. I also picked up some fuses and a breaker though haven’t wired this into the truck yet. The Marine Heavy Duty Deep Cycle AGM batteries are the best. For lithium I found “INR” that are supposed to be the safest other than Lithium Iron Phosphate (LiFePO4). The laptop batteries I have are from Lenovo X200 series that haven’t had issues I’ve read about and are “IMR” so you want to make sure not only the charger and controller chip is good… the internal specifications are met also. I also used from Dewalt 18V and 20V batteries too where the batteries also have there own controller to meter and turn off the battery.

          Wound up buying a MIG welder (great deal on eBay) since the expense alone was about the same as the battery trays so figure I can use for custom fabrication work also since I got salvage yard body panels (50% at LKQ on certain holidays) and some new cab corners-door bottoms-rocker panels (great deal on eBay) I found for the Ram and need to make a spacer roll bar for the walk through (cut out cab back and bed/cap front). Thinking about using the bed side wall space for custom storage like the new Ram’s have though opening from the side versus top.

          Using a 175W (300W max) inverter I had, I’ve one time charged the Marine Deep Cycle AGM battery (from Home Depot) in the cab from the 12V lighter adapter and a 3A or 10A selectable battery charger that I had gotten (Walmart) for the Prius, though haven’t use in yet in the Prius.

          Good call on the dorm/bar fridge design idea. I wasn’t sure about the long term life cycle since I read that the compressors aren’t the best for bouncing around on the road. Seems that can be dampened by mounting with springs, foam, styrofoam, rubber or some sort of shock absorbing material that is still cheaper than buying the mobile portable rigs. May even be able to design to super insulate also since that can be made/mod/hacked to improve also.

          Great, call and amazing the price of the inverters. Thinking the modified sine waves are more efficient and better too other than if you need a clean signal for radio work or certain electronics. I get 24-07 electronic sound, body and mind assaults so I need for spectrum analysis and recording equipment. Upgrading my kit form SDR on a desktop or laptop or tablet with old superheterodyne radios that are better at detecting for the cost. That was the only reason I first went with the pure sine wave and was a cheap deal from China. Works on the shack. I need something bigger for the Ram.

          Man, I was looking at Kevlar braid antenna wire that is way cost effective and I can only find in Australia or the UK and they don’t have set up to ship to the U.S. yet. Would you be up to look into ordering and shipping to Michigan? It’s from red2go and the HF antenna wire kevlar copper braid. They have great prices on shrink tubing also, so I’d add that.

  5. Having slept my share of nights in an unmodified Prius, I can offer a few thoughts here:

    First, fresh air is crucial. I just leave the hybrid powertrain in “ready” state and put the HVAC blower on low. It runs on battery 99% of the time, and the engine starts a few times throughout the night to replenish it. I’d imagine a pure BEV would be even nicer without the engine starts, but you’d need ready access to a charge point somewhere.

    Second, white noise helps a lot. I pair my phone to the bluetooth stereo, and use a white-noise app. It comes out all 4 speakers and neatly masks the rumble of trucks on the highway and other goings-on at the rest area.

    Trouble is, sleeping with that much sound, even “white noise”, gets tiring after a while. I find it really refreshing to get out and go for a hike first thing in the morning, get away from the noise and have my breakfast on the far side of a hill somewhere.

    Third, curtains can be nice. I haven’t bothered with a full curtain install, instead taking squares from a roll of those blue shop-towel paper towels and taping them onto the windows wherever there’s a light shining on my face. I just take ’em down in the morning and use the towels for general cleaning.

    1. I have a 2013 Prius and do about the same for ventilation.

      I also took the back seat seat backs out. Covered the seat bottoms with plastic. Place plastic coffee containers with some books for leveling the scrim lined carpet covered tri-fold backboard with metal hinges for the folds and a 1″ webbing clip strap that goes around the passenger seat head rest where the seat is slid and leaned all the way forward I made. I then use the 2″ Thermarest pad with about 2″ spacefoam on top of that and depending on season… the appropriate sleeping bags or cocoon.

      For curtains, I bought white poly-lycra material and was going to sew a top tube for the paracord (that is tied between the handles on the side above the doors and window visor and also across in the front tucked under the center ceiling console) to go through and wound up just using heavy duty black metal binderclips over the poly-lycra wrapped over the paracord. I roll up the curtains and clip when driving.

      I have a big roll of mylar that I want to adhere to thin foam to make custom side window covers, though haven’t yet and since I found the front and back on the market that is similar to what I was thinking… I wound up buying a custom front sunshade from on eBay ( ) and for the rear on Amazon that is a custom Autoheatshield by Protrim Inc ( )

      I also bought WeatherTech FloorLiners, a Dometic 45qt portable compressor cooler/freezer, a 12V plug triple output adapter and already had a 175watt inverter noting to only use the inverter for no more than 100 watts load total just to be safe for at one time was for a coffee grinder and now is for the Cuisinart. All my chargers now run off 12V directly… though at one time used the inverter with the exception of the 12V Marine Deep Cycle SLA AGM battery charger that I haven’t used in this rig yet.

      I also pieced together a roof rack kit (Yakima Basline Towers with Jetstream bars) with a Thule Evolution cargo case from great prices found on eBay.

      I’m working on a portable rocket stove and am thinking an ammo box will work lined with refractory cement and a gas stove top… though can make due with what is available at camps or with my gas stove that I don’t prefer to use. I think I last left off wondering the current on an induction cook top or something electric heating with a SLA AGM battery buffer that I can charge with a larger inverter during the day. I haven’t performed the math calculation yet regarding cook time, charge time and energy used for cooking.

      I started working on other projects like the 2001 Dodge Ram long bed walk through mobile RDF patrol truck that I want to make a cap similar to the Mike Basich’s Custom Snowchaser by Evan Khan ( ) and all the gear to go in that, the stations and the base as well as the upgrade in electronics devices to align with my new skills I’m learning online. reading and taking classes.

      Neat article! Impressive designs. I used a bread cutter also to cut the space foam, haven’t sewn the polylycra covers (just wrapped a blanket around), used cheaper hinges that I had to re-screw with Gorilla Glue since they popped out since my top board can use some sort of sliding brace to better level when open or maybe folding legs to support.

    2. Perhaps consider checking out for noise generation stuff. Traditional white noise gets fatiguing pretty quickly for me. Mynoise is just a bunch of multitrack nature recordings that loop together and can be volume changed over time. Much more tolerable imo, since the RMS volume is less due to periods of calm in the recordings. Hope this helps

    3. Might want to consider a CO detector just in case the wind blows the exhaust in the wrong direction and pump that inside the vehicle. Probably wont happen but the detectors are cheap.

      1. They however are not very fond large temperature swings and high moisture. Also, they need to be replaced at most every 2 years, the detectors (not the supporting electronics) themselves deteriorate over time.

  6. Curtains? Most windows are not straight and light leaks in at the bottom. Stiff panels popped into place even of cardboard make more sense and will really blackout the sun. Black, or aluminum, or color match, or deco surface out white inside for spaciousness.

    1. I suggest stenciling a pseudo company name* on the side, as well as a fleet number on the front fenders.
      “Driver carries no cash” -usually true in my case…

      Such as “WCV Transport” (White Cargo Van)

  7. Car sounds pretty nifty. If a person enjoys camping, doesn’t make use of rear seats, and still needs a daily driver, this car and it’s particular set of mods sound like the perfect solution.

    You might want to check your own sanity though… You can’t even keep your name flipped the right way. :P

  8. Interesting use of space, i thought about doing this, but my issue is that you have to move or store all of the stuff outside when your are sleeping inside. When i went to Iceland, we slept for a week in a ford transit connect modified by Happy Campers, tight, but doable, we packed very lightly and ended up moving the suitcases between the back and the front seats. I think personally i would rather get a small camper, which is the plan, Scamp 13.

  9. I have a 2015 Toyota RAV4. My inflatable 8″ twin mattress fits perfectly into it….no modifications. There is some extra room along side so a wider mattress should fit too.

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