Sleeper

Converting a Disco into a Camper

I’m not fond of ground tents, roof tents, or any other piece of canvas-walled silliness—such shelters should be tolerated when the destination or mode-of-transport leave’s no other option, not adopted as the go-to solution. I hate rattles. I can’t stand clutter. I abhor loose, unsecured gear. I don’t have kids and I don’t take prisonerscarry passengers.

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I do prefer the comfort of hard walls, lockable doors, and a well-equipped galley…so long as they don’t limit my options on a journey. I also happen to have a Discovery II at my disposal, essentially a trail-ready postal truck disguised as a luxury station wagon. The rear of a Discovery II is downright cavernous, especially when gutted. 46 inches from carpeted floor to headlined ceiling, 63 inches from wall to wall, and nearly seven feet of length to work with over the center console (front seats forward). The Discovery II is why I don’t own a teardrop trailer.

The Cargo (and on-board systems)

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The goal was to keep weight low and clutter non-existent, with a full camping load-out below the deck. In practice there is also room for clothes and personal gear, except for hanging jackets/shirts and my camera gear of course. The cubbies from top to bottom, left to right contian: driver’s clothing and personal gear, water tank, passenger’s clothing and personal gear, standard sleeping gear (pads, pillows, blankets), more water tank, complete toolkit (everything I need for every task on a Discovery), optional trip-specific gear (cold-weather sleeping gear, Little Red Campfire, shower mat, etc), slide-out galley (and food), and freezer/fridge (beverages and food).

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On-board water flows from an 11-gallon tank riding low and center under the deck. In the rear passenger footwell hangs a SHURflo 3.0GPM water pump, water distribution lines, and a back-up gravity fed tap (just in case). Taps are located at the rear passenger door and above the galley. The rest of this space holds recovery tools so they can be accessed without opening doors (just move the seats), and to keep weight low. It’s also a good place to stuff flip-flops and muddy boots while sleeping.

Battery

Sleeper and galley systems are powered by a secondary Group 31 battery behind the rear left wheel, which recharges via solar or while the engine is running. This placement is opposite the spare tire and main battery to help maintain weight balance. 12-volt extension cords, fold-up solar panel, and other accessories are also stored in this cubby.

Switch panel, aux ports, and battery read-out Power-Distribution-007

A control panel behind the battery compartment has switches for sleeper/galley systems, as well as a digital voltmeter, dual 2-amp USB charging ports, and dual 40-amp Anderson connectors for powering accessories. Fusing and power distribution is managed by a RIGrunner 4005H.

Structure-Fabrication-007 Structure

The structure is constructed of 3/4-inch birch ply, glued-and-screwed, reinforced with T6061 aluminum where appropriate. It’s sealed in color-matched gloss gray paint (interiors) and black bedliner (exterior and bottom), then bolted to the floor and walls using the stock tie-down, seat, and seatbelt mounting points. Drawers are a mix of 1/2- and 3/4-inch birch ply. Between the weight removed in the form of seats and trim, and the weight added in wood and components, total vehicle weight was actually reduced.

The Galley

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The entirety of the galley—save for the external propane tank—is contained within a single three foot long drawer under the deck. At the front of the drawer a single-burner stove flips out to reveal all of the food prep items: cutting board and knife, pot, pan, wok, oil and seasonings, four mugs, tea, coffee, hot chocolate, and all the relevant cooking utensils.

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The stove’s placement off the end clears the awning, and allows sliding the drawer closed to access the door-mounted storage without shutting off the flame. The remaining two-thirds of the drawer fits four plates, four bowls, four pint cups, four sets of eating utensils, and enough food for a week’s journey. Still to do: build a removable food-box and dish organization.

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Above the slide-out galley sits a Norcold 35-quart freezer/fridge that I rescued and repaired, and two water taps: one for convenient filling of cups, bottles, or pots; the other a full-size hose connection. 11 gallons of water are carried on-board, and the taps are fed by a SHURflo 3.0GPM water pump. Soap and cleaning tools are mounted to the tail door above the drawer.

The Bed

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The bed is an odd shape, tucking slightly diagonally from the front seats to the rear left corner. It’s size tapers from wider than a queen-size bed at the shoulders to a little narrower than a full-size bed below the knees (due to the fridge). When made up there’s ample room to lay down two sleeping pads, and snuggle or not depending on the weather. It’s spacious, somewhere between the typical two-person and three-person dome tent in size.

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Entry/exit is easy from any of the three rear doors: the side doors are the most convenient after bedtime, but the tail door’s handle has been relocated above the deck so it can be opened from inside. Bed to ceiling distance is sufficient for my six-foot frame to sit upright…barely. In addition to the white factory domelights, red LED bolt lights have been added to the ceiling for a less obnoxious option in camp. All other controls and features except for the slide-out galley are accessible while in bed.

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The factory subwoofer was rebuilt into a new enclosure behind the fridge, which doubles as a night stand and storage for hygiene items (soap, towels, toilet paper, etc.). A smaller second night stand runs from atop the control panel at the foot of the bed and along the window (yes, Dani gets the big night stand by the fridge).

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