Modular Buddy Box furniture makes your van all kinds of recreational vehicles

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Buddy Boxes mounted inside a van

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In recent years, we've seen many modular camper conversions and camper-in-a-box kits. The hardware can transform an average, everyday vehicle into an overnight recreational vehicle, then be removed when the road trip is over, leaving the base vehicle ready to drop the kids off at school and make the commute to work. Designed by German architect, carpenter and all-around garage tinkerer Gerhard Euchenhofer, the BuddyBox represents an even smaller, more flexible modular conversion option. Not only can BuddyBoxes convert your van into a full camper, they can make it a tailgating party wagon, a picnic in the park, a sports support vehicle and more. When the trip's over, remove the BuddyBoxes and you have your standard-spec van back.

BuddyBox modules are similar in spirit to camper-in-a-box conversions like the SwissRoomBox, kits, Yatoo and QUQUQ, as well as modular camping systems used by van converters like Terra Camper. Unlike those larger, more inclusive all-in-one packages, BuddyBoxes are smaller, single-purpose components. Not all of these models are available just yet, but to give an idea of the type of ecosystem that the designer has in mind, you could have a cookBuddy food preparation module, a washBuddy sink unit, a spaceBuddy storage unit, a pottyBuddy, a fridgeBuddy, a BBQBuddy, etc. Then you mix and match them for different configurations.

The small, light fiberglass units allow you to equip your van with exactly the equipment that you want for a given trip, without any excess clutter or weight. You can put a number of these modules together to create a functional camper van – assuming you have a pop-top roof bed, folding seat bed, tent or other form of outdoor shelter. You can also just use a single module or two to meet the needs of a specific trip. The company says that the maximum weight for a module is 26.5 lb (12 kg), so they can be handled by a single person and don't have to weigh the vehicle down.

Anyone that regularly weekends, vacations or adventures by vehicle can probably think up a number of handy configurations for their own trips. If you're mountain biking, maybe you want just the washBuddy with a shower extension to clean up after the ride while leaving the rest of the van open for biking gear. Or maybe you want the cookBuddy to prepare a simple meal or hot coffee on a fishing trip or picnic. With the right BuddyBox units, you can build just the right vehicle for every trip and activity.

Euchenhofer tells us that the modules can fit in virtually any van or SUV model, though they appear best-suited for vans with integrated floor rails, such as the Volkswagen T5 Multivan. BuddyBox includes simple mounting hardware with each one for mounting them to such rails. While the taller models look like they'd be a bit big and top-heavy for smaller cars, it seems that you could fit the more compact BuddyBoxes in virtually any trunk.

In addition to converting the interior of a van or SUV, BuddyBox anticipates people capitalizing on its light, simple construction elsewhere, using the modules to temporarily furnish dorm rooms, boats and more. Since they stand up and offer a flat top to sit on, they can even be used at outdoor events, on the beach, in the park, etc.

BuddyBox currently offers a handful of modules. The €679 (US$740) cookBuddy includes the kick-out table and shelf space. The washBuddy is available for €699 with 10L fresh and waste water tanks, a water pump, a faucet, and a mirror. There's also a €299 pottyBuddy and small (€299) and large (€489) shelved spaceBuddies. BuddyBox plans to offer multi-Buddy packages for 10 percent off the a la carte pricing and is still in the process of putting a final price list together. It also plans to offer the option of carbon fiber construction in place of fiberglass, though we'd imagine that will entail a rather steep leap in price.

The company has begun production and plans to begin deliveries within the coming weeks. Beyond the few we mentioned earlier, BuddyBox is considering a beer tap Buddy and a speaker Buddy for the future.

When compared to camping gear, the Buddies look rather expensive – you could buy a folding table and storage bins for way less than the €679 that Buddy Box is asking for the CookBuddy, and you'd have plenty of money left over for things like a stove, cookware and utensils. However, compared to a camper van conversion or other camper-in-the-box kits, they don't look bad at all. For comparison, the QUQUQ, which includes a kitchen area with stove, bedding and storage space, retails for €2,190, equivalent to buying a cookBuddy, washBuddy, spaceBuddy and pottyBuddy. There are some give and takes in both directions, but overall, the pricing seems comparable. The Yatoo Kinoo kitchen/washing station was listed at €1,510 in 2012, and while its specs are a bit better than the cookBuddy/washBuddy, the latter combination is cheaper.

In other words, the BuddyBoxes aren't cheap, but they are competitive with the alternatives. Fiberglass seems like a durable, stylish alternative to wood construction, and the ability to use them both in and out of the vehicle is a nice advantage over modular camper kit designs that feature slide-outs that wouldn't work very well on the ground. The BuddyBoxes seem like an especially nice alternative for upgrading a sleeper van into a fuller camper van with kitchen and other amenities. That's exactly how Euchenhofer came up with the idea when trying to furnish his own VW California Beach, which has bedding (and floor rails) but no kitchen area.

Our only complaint about the BuddyBox design is that we'd like to see a universal set of mounting hardware. The boxes would work best when mounted to floor rails where they're secure and integrated, but only a very few number of vans come with integrated floor rails. Perhaps BuddyBox will come up with a more universal mounting solution in the future.

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