Showing posts with label Gear. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gear. Show all posts

Wednesday 8 May 2024

Can you sleep a family of four in a Defender?

The short answer is yes, but read on if you want to know how!

4-berth Defender Camper Interior Layout

It has taken a lot of planning, but we've come up with a solution that allows us to retain the middle (second) row of seats for the boys while travelling and then convert the rear area into two beds for sleeping.  While the boys sleep downstairs, Sarah and I get the big bed up in the roof, in our Alu-Cab Icarus roof conversion.

Planning a 4-Berth Defender Interior Layout

There is lots of information online about camper layouts if you've got the standard Transporter, Sprinter, Crafter or Transit Van, but not much about Defenders.  If you want a family friendly, 4-berth Defender layout that retains four travelling seats, there's even less!  

The standard Defender Camper layout usually involves fixed cabinetry along one side, and some form of pull out bed on the other.  While the boys are still pretty small this might have worked, but we couldn't see them wanting to share a narrow bed for long!  The standard layout usually also involves removing the second row of seats, but this wasn't an option for us.

We did get some layout inspiration from our friends at whereistheworld, and from YouTube videos by Off-Track Family.  

After many hours sitting in the back of the Landy, measuring, sketching, and even a bit of 3D modelling in SketchUp, we eventually came up with our own solution, and I must say we're really pleased with it!

Defender Camper Interior Layout

Our Goals for the Interior

1. Retain at least four travelling seats (with seatbelts)

2. Maximise storage space

3. Full width sleeping area for the boys

4. Space for a cooler

5. Re-use as much of our existing camping gear as possible

6. Quick setup and stow

The Interior Build and Storage Solution

Our layout consists of a fixed platform in the back, which we built to fit under the lip at the top of the tub.  This is supported on two wooden beams which use the existing holes in the tub capping.  

Fitting a camper interior to a Land Rover Defender 110

Fitting a camper interior to a Defender 110

The platform is cut from 15mm lightweight eucalyptus plywood with a black phenol hexagon coating.  The platform is also supported by a vertical section of ply, which is slightly offset from centre for our sliding storage solution.

Land Rover Defender 110 Camper Interior Layout

We were really keen to make use of our existing RUX system, so used heavy duty drawer sliders from Aolisheng, and built a frame to support two 70 litre RUXs.  

RUX 70l in a Defender Camper

RUX storage solutions for Defender Camper

If you haven't come across RUX before, the 70l is a rugged, compressible, weatherproof, soft sided gear storage container with a wide rigid opening for easy access, a secure stowable lid and modular straps for easy carry.  Designed in Canada, and now also available in Europe, we use them all of the time!

We decided to remove the middle seat from the second row, and used the existing frame to build a platform for our Yeti cooler.  The Yeti Tundra 45 fits perfectly, and the Harvest Red is almost a match to Budgie's paintwork!

Land Rover Defender Campervan

Yeti Tundra 45 in a Defender Camper

In order to retain the boys seats, but still give them a full length bed; we used another two pairs of heavy duty drawer runners and built two sliding extensions, which pull out over the top of the folded middle row seats.  It only takes a couple of seconds to fold the seats forward and slide out the extensions.

We then had some custom foam cut to size.  The foam for the extensions is 1.5" thicker than the foam on the fixed platform, which gives a nice flat surface for the boys to sleep on.

With Sarah and I sleeping up in the Icarus roof, we've comfortably got space for all four of us to sleep, and we're happy that we achieved the goals of our interior layout.

Read more about the rest of Budgie's camper conversion.

* Some of the links on this post are affiliate links.  It won't cost you any more, but we may receive a small payment if you purchase through our links.  We will never recommend a product which we haven't fully tested and love. 

Monday 25 March 2024

Fitting a Diesel Heater to our Defender Camper

Following on from our post about fitting solar panels to the Alu-Cab Icarus roof on our Defender, the next step was to install the auxiliary battery, run the internal wiring, fit the charge controller and fit the diesel heater!

Diesel Heater Location

After much debating on the position for the diesel heater in the Defender, we decided that the best solution for us was to remove the front middle seat and fit the heater in the Nakatanenga heater console. 

Diesel heater console and cubby box in a Land Rover Defender

Nakatanenga supply a full heater kit for the Defender, with all of the components required to fit it.  The only UK supplier is 4x4overlander, the website is not always up to date with stock, so do give them a call or email to confirm availability.

Nakatanenga Diesel Heater Kit for Land Rover Defender

Mounting the Diesel Heater in the Console

I started by fitting the heater console to the mounting plate, and then fitted the heater inside the console.  The power supply to the fuel pump can be fed through the small hole in the mounting plate.

Defender Diesel Heater console

Defender Diesel Heater Console

Diesel Heater fitted to the mounting plate

The console comes with a few options for the mounting plate for the controller, we decided to just keep it simple at this stage and got the option with a single hole for the controller.  The controller has a backing plate which is bolted through the plate, and then the controller simply clicks onto the backing plate.

Nakatanenga Diesel Heater Controller

Solar Charge Controller

We decided to make use of the additional space in the heater console to mount the Renogy solar charge controller.  We went with a 30A DC-DC Battery Charger with in-built MPPT.  
(Use this link for a 7% Renogy discount code on your purchase.)

The charge controller fits nicely inside the heater console, with plenty of space for the required wiring.

DC-DC Battery Charger in a Nakatanenga Heater Console

I wired up all of the cables to the charge controller at this stage, and left the cables long so that they could be run to their final positions in the battery compartment.

Nakatanenga Heater Console with Solar Wiring

In hindsight I should have also fitted the air intake, exhaust pipe and fuel line at this stage too, as they are really fiddly to fit from underneath once the heater is in position.

Installing the heater assembly

The first step was to remove the centre seat, I also removed the passenger seat to make access easier.

Defender front seats

Defender seat box

Budgie's previous owner fitted these great sound deadening rubber mats, so the next step was to carefully cut out the matting to the dimensions of the heater console.

Land Rover Defender seat box rubber mats

With the mat cut out, the access plate can be removed (just a couple of screws holding it in place).  The access plate is exactly the same dimensions as the mounting plate supplied with the diesel heater kit.

Defender middle seat access plate removed

The whole assembly can then be fitted in place of the access plate.  The mounting plate has a recess at the back which catches the frame of the seat box, and uses the same screw positions at the front to secure it in place.

Defender diesel heater console in position

The rubber mats are then refitted, and the seat rails replaced.  All of those long cables from the solar charge controller, which we fitted earlier, are run along the back of the seat box and into the battery compartment. 

The positive cable from the solar panel is also fed along this route and into the charge controller, while the negative cable from the panel is fed into the battery compartment.

Land Rover Defender diesel heater centre console

Battery Compartment and Solar Wiring

With a bit of shuffling about, I managed to get the original start battery moved over slightly which made enough room for the new 100Ah Renogy lithium (LiFePO4) auxiliary battery.

Renogy lithium auxiliary battery in Defender seat box

There's also enough room for the ANL fuses required for the solar wiring and a new Blue Sea auxiliary fuse panel, which all of the auxiliary loads will be wired to.  At the moment the only auxiliary load is the power to the lighting in the Alu-Cab roof, but the plan is to add some more charging points in the back later, and maybe some heated seats!

The two ANL fuses are mounted to the front of the seat box, and the auxiliary fuse panel is mounted to the back of the seat box.

Solar ANL fuse in Defender seat box

Blue Sea auxiliary fuse box in Defender seat box

The diesel heater comes with a fused power supply, so this was wired straight to the auxiliary battery, and the fuse holder mounted beside the new auxiliary fuse panel.  With everything in position the solar cables can be cut to length, terminated with a crimping tool and wired up to the correct positions.

Auxiliary Battery wiring for a solar powered Defender

The charge controller comes with clear instructions and a handy simplified wiring diagram.

Renogy solar charge controller wiring diagram

Air Intake, Exhaust and Fuel Line

With everything sorted inside the Land Rover, it was time to fit the external components.  Thankfully it's easy enough to crawl under a Defender, so no need for ramps etc.

As I said earlier, it would have been easier to fit the air intake, exhaust and fuel lines before fitting the heater assembly into the vehicle, but it is possible to fit them from underneath.  All three lines are pretty close together, so it's just a bit fiddly getting the lines into position and tightening up the fasteners.  It would probably be best to do the fuel line first, as this was really awkward!

Air intake, exhaust and fuel lines for the Defender diesel heater

I ran the fuel line and the fuel pump power supply cable along the chassis rail, following the route of the existing vehicle electrics.  You can then cut the fuel line to length and fit the fuel pump.  The pump is fitted in a rubber mount which I screwed to the chassis leg behind the rear wheel.
Diesel heater fuel pump

Fuel pump in position on the Defender chassis

The heater kit is supplied with a fuel pick up, which fits into the Defender fuel filling trunk.  I popped the filling line off, cut the pipe at the required position, fixed the fuel pick up into position, then re-fitted the whole assembly.  Don't do this with a full tank, while parked on a slope, or you will spill diesel everywhere - trust me!

Diesel heater fuel pick up

Bending the fuel pick up pipe down a bit, lets you decide whether the pick-up reaches all the way to the bottom of the tank, or leave a bit of reserve in the tank, so that the heater can't run the tank empty.

For the heater exhaust pipe, I followed the vehicle exhaust pipe.  Cut the pipe to length, and fitted the provided silencer, screwing it to the chassis cross member.

The air intake pipe also runs towards the back of the vehicle, but closer to the middle and above the chassis cross member, so that there is a bit of separation between intake and exhaust.

Powering up!

With everything connected, it was time to power up and test the heater out.  It took a couple of attempted starts, to get the fuel pumped all the way from the tank to the heater, but after that it fired up straight away, and ran for the required 2 hour running in period with no problems.  

Once everything was in and tested, we fitted the Exmoor Trim cubby box to the top of the heater console, and I think it looks great.  Next up is the rear storage and sleeping solution for the boys!

Diesel heater console and cubby box in a Land Rover Defender

Read more about the rest of Budgie's camper conversion.

Monday 22 January 2024

Fitting Solar Panels to our Defender Camper

The second phase of Budgie's camper conversion involved fitting a solar power system.  After much research around split charge relays, battery to battery (B2B) chargers and battery composition, we ended up with a 175 Amp solar panel charging a lithium battery via a B2B charger.  

Having used Renogy equipment on our RV camping trailer in Canada, they were an easy choice for the Land Rover Defender.  (Use this link for a 7% Renogy discount code on your purchase.)

Mounting the Solar Panel

The first step was to mount the 175A solar panel to the roof.  The Alu-Cab Icarus roof conversion comes with a track system and we paid a bit extra for a set of Alu-Cab load bars.  The load bars are fitted with a t-track on the top and one side to allow simple fitting of accessories.  It seemed to make sense to fit the solar panel between two of the load bars, but we wanted the bars to still be available to use for other equipment (like skis).  

Land Rover Defender Alu-Cab Icarus Roof Bars

I'd seen a few people mount the panel flush with the bars, but I was worried about the panel getting damaged while loading, so decided to mount it below the bars.  A few aluminium angle brackets and some t-slot nuts, made it quick and easy to fasten the panel to the bars. 

Solar Panel Mounting Hardware for Alu-Cab Load Bars

The plastic end cap on the bars simply knocks off, allowing the t-slot nuts to be slid along the side-facing track.  Using M6 pan head bolts, each bracket can be fastened loosely to the track.

Alu-Cab load bar solar panel bracket

With two brackets fitted to the load bar, the panel can be offered up and the brackets slid into position to align with the pre-drilled mounting holes on the panel.  I used M6 flanged bolts and nyloc nuts to fasten the panel to the brackets.

Renogy loar panel mounted to Alu-Cab load bar

Repeat for the other load bar.

Renogy solar panel mounted to Alu-Cab load bars

Once the panel is fitted to the bars, the whole assembly can be slid onto the cargo track on the Icarus roof from the back.  Once in the final position tighten up all of the fasteners.

Solar Panel mounted to Land Rover Defender Alu-Cab Icarus roof

Running the solar cables

After removing the cab parcel shelf and the front passenger corner of the side panelling, I was ready to drill through the roof.

Drilling a pair of 18mm holes through the side of my new roof was terrifying.  Measure twice (or three times) drill once!

Alu-Cab Icarus solar panel wiring

I used a pair of 20mm cable glands to get the cables through the roof and into the cab.

Alu-Cab Icarus roof with solar panel cable glands

I also fitted a cable entry housing over the top of the cable glands, just to be doubly sure that the holes were watertight.  The housing was sealed and stuck in place with sika-flex, and held in place with a ratchet strap over the roof while it cured.

Cable entry housing being fixed to alu-cab icarus roof

I decided to run the solar cables along the outside of the roof following the gutter line, which means they are mostly hidden behind the awning when the roof is closed.  Remember to leave enough length for the roof to open!

Alu-Cab Icarus Land Rover Defender Solar Panel Cables

I used a pair of 1.5m (5ft) solar cable extensions between the panel and the front of the roof, and then a 3m (10ft) solar adaptor kit from the front of the roof to the battery compartment.

Once inside the cabin, the cables can be run along the inside of the Icarus roof to the B-pillar behind the passenger door.  Routing down the B-pillar, takes the cables to the battery compartment under the passenger seat.

Read on for info about the internal wiring and fitting the diesel heater.

Read more about the rest of Budgie's camper conversion.

Friday 1 December 2023

Budgie the Land Rover Defender Camper

We purchased our new adventure wagon in October 2023 and we are now converting him into an off-road camper.  I'll keep this post updated as we progress with the conversion.

Budgie the 110 Defender

Our new vehicle is a 1993 Land Rover Defender 110 County Station Wagon with the 200Tdi (Turbo Diesel Injection) engine.  He was affectionately named Budgie by a previous owner's kids, apparently because he had a squeaky fan belt which chirped like a budgie!

Land Rover Defender 110 County Station Wagon

Land Rover Defender 110 County Station Wagon

Prior to our purchase, Budgie had an extensive renovation including a galvanised chassis and some serious rust repairs.  He even came with a photo book recording the work done.

We'd been looking for a Defender since we arrived back in the UK; Ridley was looking at newer models but Sarah spotted the advert for Budgie, who was just down the road from us.  The amount of work done meant that Budgie had already been 'future proofed', and we just couldn't resist.

Restored Land Rover Defender 110 CSW

Roof Tent vs Pop-Top

We'd been debating for a while whether to get one large family roof tent, two smaller roof tents, or a pop-top.  

We really enjoyed our time in the Yukon, where we hired a Jeep with a roof tent, but we found the soft cover a bit of a faff to pack away and we knew that the boys would soon outgrow the space available in most large roof tents.

Yukon Overland Jeep at Tuktoyaktuk

We seriously considered an iKamper or TentBox hard shell tent, but even the largest models didn't seem big enough for long term sharing for the four of us.

We thought about fitting two smaller roof tents, but it would require a specially adapted roof rack, and would be a considerable amount of weight up high, and pretty expensive.

In the end we decided on the Icarus pop-top roof conversion from Alu-Cab.  While the roof will only sleep two, it is raised in seconds and packed away in only a couple of minutes.  The pop-top has the added advantage of giving us standing room inside the Land Rover.  

Defender Camper Alu-Cab Icarus

Alu-Cab Icarus roof Defender 110

The roof was fitted for us by Tuff-Trek, along with an Alu-Cab 270 degree awning which wraps around the Landy to give us some outdoor shelter.  Tuff-Trek did a great job, and we highly recommend them. 

Fitting a Solar System to the Defender Icarus Roof

The next major upgrade was fitting a solar system to Budgie.  We went with a fixed 175 Amp solar panel fitted to the Alu-Cab Icarus roof bars and a battery to battery charger.  You can read more in our Fitting Solar Panels post.

Land Rover Defender Alu-Cab Icarus Solar Panel

Fitting a Diesel Heater to a Defender

The second stage of the solar wiring also included fitting a diesel heater to Budgie.  

Nakatanenga diesel heater console in a Land Rover Defender camper

Defender interior layout for a family of four

The biggest challenge so far has been designing an interior layout that allows us to keep 4 travelling seats and comfortably sleep 4, but we think we've come up with a great solution!  Read more on our recent post - Can you sleep a family of four in a Defender?

Defender Camper interior layout to sleep four

Phone Holder

Anyone who's driven a Defender will know that there is nowhere to put your phone!  Budgie doesn't currently have a radio and we don't have a satnav, so we usually use a phone for music and directions. 

I'd been looking for a new phone holder for a while, and recently came across an eBay listing for a 3D printed adaptor that would fit in the ashtray space on the dash.  The adaptor allowed a Ram Mount to be fitted without drilling any new holes in the dash, and covered up the useless ashtray!

The adaptor was well made, and came with pre-marked positions which aligned perfectly to the Ram Mount 7" Tough Track.  After drilling a few quick holes in the adaptor the Tough Track was quickly bolted onto the mount using the bolts supplied with the adaptor.

Defender Ram Mount Tough Track Ashtray Adaptor

Once it was all bolted up, the assembly was fitted into the ashtray position and the securing arms tightened up with an allen key.  The 1" mounting ball can then be fitted onto the track and the X-Grip phone holder accessory fitted to the ball.  The track allows for additional accessories to be fitted later, I'll probably be adding a GoPro mount in the near future!

Ram Mount Tough Track in Landrover Defender

Ram Mount X-Grip in Landrover Defender

Overall it's a really quick and easy modification which solves the phone holder issue, only needs a drill and a couple of allen keys, is completely reversible, and makes use of the ashtray; highly recommended!

Adding a Defender roof access step

If you've ever tried accessing the roof of a Defender from the front, you'll know it's pretty easy to get up on the wings, but getting up the windscreen onto the roof is tricky.  I'm always worried about damaging the window gutter, or scraping the paint!

I spotted a great step on the LR Challenge 4x4 web site the other day, which really solves this problem (and looks good in the process - in my opinion!).

Defender Roof Access Step Windscreen
It's a quick and easy modification, which I managed to complete in my lunch break yesterday.  You simply undo three (13mm head) bolts which hold the window hinge in place.  You will likely need to pull the door seal trim out of the way to get the socket head in.  Replace the 13mm bolts with the longer (14mm head) bolts provided with the step, and position the rubber gasket and step over the bolts.  Tighten up the bolts and replace the door seal - job done!

Defender 200tdi Alternator Upgrade

Our alternator failed the other day and since it needed to be replaced anyway, we took the opportunity to upgrade from the standard 45amp version (which had been fitted since 1993) for a new 70amp alternator upgrade from Britpart.  This should charge our new leisure battery faster than the old alternator would have done.

* Make sure you disconnect the battery before starting work on the alternator!

I had a fear that there would be lots of other removals required to get the alternator out, like there was with the water pump a few weeks ago, but actually all it was pretty straight forward.  All it required was the removal of the air filter housing (which can just be unfastened and moved over to the side) and an air pipe to the turbo (2 jubilee clips).  With these out of the way, it was just a case of undoing the three securing bolts. 

The new alternator had slightly different wiring connections on the back.  On the old alternator the wire from the dash warning light (thin yellow and brown) was connected to a D+ post, but after some friendly advice from the LRUK Forum, I was informed that this had to be connected to the smallest pin of the three pin plug position. So I had to change this wire from a ring connector to a small spade.  I also had a blue/brown wire connected to the D+, which appeared to be a non-standard addition.  I traced this wire back to a relay inside the back door. This relay controls the power to a socket that charges a caravan battery whilst towing, so that the circuit is only live while the engine is running.  I wired this to the same small spade connector.    

The new alternator also came with a new red cable, designed to take the higher output from the alternator.  This was wired to the B+ terminal along with the original thicker brown wire.  The other end of the new red cable was connected to the positive terminal on the starter motor (in parallel to the brown wire - but following a shorter route).  It's a bit fiddly to reach the terminal on the starter motor, but can be done without any further removals, if you lie on the wing and reach down!

Once everything is wired up, the new alternator was placed into position, the three securing bolts were loosely fastened, and the alternator belt replaced.  Then the belt is tensioned and bolts tightened up.  The whole job probably took about 3 hours, but would be much faster if you had standard wire connections.