$2K Ikea-like camper kit turns Tesla Model X or RAV4 into a micro RV
Back in the day, clever camper-in-a-box kits seemed to be almost exclusively a European phenomenon, designed for small and midsize vans and other vehicles not even available in North America. Slowly, though, the US has caught up, importing a few of those European brands while offering up some compelling kits of its own. California's Van Lab is one such designer, and its latest kit makes functional camping rigs out of some of the market's most popular SUVs and crossovers, from all-electric models like the Tesla Model X and Y to market pioneers like the Toyota RAV4 and Jeep Grand Cherokee. Inspired by Ikea furniture, the kits are shipped flat and assembled into form by the buyer.
Launched for summer 2023 (Northern Hemisphere), Van Lab's new SUV Kit is the latest spin on a design we've seen many times before – a camper box with tailgate-width kitchen that expands forward to create a sleeping platform over top the folded rear seats. This one is a bit simpler than others, combining one full-size drawer on the passenger side with a slimmer slide-out on the driver slide. In between, a removable panel drops in to serve as a worktop or table for a single-burner gas stove.
A second worktop slides out from the lower passenger-side drawer, and the drawer itself includes an upper shelf that could be used as additional work space. Below that shelf, the drawer packs an open storage area for pots and pans. The narrow slide on the other side has organizers for items like cups and utensils.
The central box space between the two drawers is used to house a cooler or fridge box sized up to 30 liters. The space works best for a top-loader, as it's accessed via a removable top panel, and Van Lab recommends a soft cooler bag.
Beyond that, the SUV Kit is a BYO design, and users stock it with their own stove, cooler, cookware and dishes. Those who just want it as a galley for tailgating, picnics or use with a rooftop or ground tent can order just the kitchen box, but those who want the full in-vehicle camper experience can also get the sleeper platform kit, which adds supports and extension panels to the kitchen box to create a flat sleeping area measuring 75 x 51 inches (191 x 130 cm). A multi-piece cushion set is available to serve as the bed.
Van Labs builds the SUV Kit out of Baltic birch plywood ahead of flat-packing it and shipping to the buyer for assembly and installation. It can also assemble and install the kit directly at its Simi Valley, California facility. The kit packs behind the second row in the vehicle and is designed to be easily removed and reinstalled.
The SUV kitchen weighs 66 lb (30 kg) and prices in at US$1,650 alone, while the full kitchen and bed kit weighs 104 lb (47 kg) and starts at $2,150. Bed cushions add $400, bringing the total ready-to-sleep kit price up to $2,550.
In addition to the previously mentioned SUVs, VanLab's kit works with the Ford Explorer, Expedition and Escape; Honda CRV and Passport; Nissan Juke, Pathfinder and Rogue; Subaru Forester; Toyota Highlander and Venza; and a number of other models listed on the SUV Kit product page linked below. Van Lab also offers more complete interior conversion kits for US-market full-size and small vans and took home a 2023 IF Design Award earlier this year for its work.
Source: Van Lab