Toyota Hiace Camper – Small Camper Build Tips
Toyota Hiace Campers are the go-to for small, efficient & practical van builds. With an abundance of options, colours, sizes & availability of parts, the ever-reliable Toyota Hiace camper will provide you the perfect canvas to live your van life dreams. It is important to do your due diligence when planning a van build and we have written this to save you time in doing so.
Toyota Hiace Camper – 5 Tips For Your Small Camper Build
We’ve established that Toyota Hiace Campers are perfect for experiencing the van life. If you have a Toyota Hiace camper or are looking to purchase one, here are 5 tips to ensure you get the build of your dreams.
Pros and Cons of Toyota Hiace Campers
First, let’s start with a few pros and cons of buying a Toyota Hiace Campervan:
✅ Cheap & reliable: Toyota Hiace are generally very reliable & can run forever if treated correctly.
✅ Easy to maintain: You would be hard-pressed not to find replacement parts for most Toyota Hiace’s.
✅ Small size: Can be used for normal daily activities. Parking & general handling of the vehicle are easy for all.
✅Fuel Efficient: This depends on the model, although recent models have been praised for their fuel efficiency.
✅ Optional Roof Extensions: Many Toyota Hiace Campers have pop-tops or fibreglass roof extensions, which I couldn’t recommend enough if you plan to travel for a long time. Having the extra head room makes all the difference to your comfort levels.
✅Abundance: Toyota Hiace are very popular, meaning you shouldn’t have any trouble finding one suitable for your needs. Stay patient, do your due diligence and proper research to ensure you find your dream van. Always get these checked by a mechanic prior to purchase.
❌ Small size: This can also be a con, depending on your desires. These are great for weekenders & if you have a pop-top or roof extension. The standard sized Hiace are too small for a full-time/extended trip in. This also makes it difficult to maximise available space during your build, further emphasising the importance of taking your time during design.
❌Lots of duds: As a lot of Hiace are used in commercial applications, it can be hard to find one within budget and with low km’s.
❌Shaky at high speeds: I’ve owned 3 different Hiaces now. All 3 we’re old and become very shaky above 110km/hr or in high wind areas, especially on highways.
❌No airbags in older models: Often the older versions do not have airbags, which can be of concern to certain people. Ensure you do your research if safety elements such as airbags are of interest to you.
Tip #1 – Take your time deciding the layout
Deciding your layout is the most fundamental part of your build. You can commence your build with clarity, reduce wasted time & ensure you have maximised the space perfectly to suit your design needs.
If you are a complete beginner, below are a few suggestions for inspiration:
– Pinterest & Instagram are my go-to’s. Type in any van related search terms & enter the rabbit holes at your perusal.
– Van Lifers are generally a stoked & talkative bunch. Go to any beach or campsite & get talking, ask for tips/tricks & ideas. You will find the best information here.
Try before you buy/build
This can be done in two ways:
- Hiring a van – head to www.camplify.com.au & go for a 2 day holiday. You deserve it anyway & you will get loads of insights.
- Borrowing off a friend – that’s what friends are for.
Layout all items
You can do this by taping out indicative areas on the subfloor of the van. If you have already purchased larger items like a fridge, chuck that in there too & you will quickly see what kind of spaces you’re dealing with.
Use a software
If you are tech savvy, there are various software out there to utilise:
- Vanspace – https://get.vanspace3d.com/ – this is a paid program with a yearly subscription. No prior CAD training required.
- Sketch Up (https://www.sketchupaustralia.com.au/sketchup-free-trial/) is a free software. You will need to factor in how much free time you have to learn the software.
Go to your local bookstore or library to either rent or buy coffee table books that are Van Life related. Books on tiny homes or general house designs can also be beneficial.
The Toyota Hiace camper is on the smaller end of the spectrum for van builds, meaning every little area counts. Make sure you take your time & do proper research on exactly what you are after.
Useful questions to ask when deciding a layout:
- Will this be a weekender or a full-timer?
- Do I want a fixed position bed, or one that slides out?
- What appliances will I be using?
- How much 12v equipment will I have?
- Do I want a fridge? Or will an esky suffice?
- Is sitting inside a priority?
- Do I want to be able to sit up on my bed? Or is under-storage more important?
- Do I want a pull-out kitchen? Will that be from the back or side?
- How will I ventilate the van? Will I have a roof vent?
- Do I want or need a sink?
- Do I want to get the van registered as a motorhome?
- How much weight am I putting in?
Tip #2 – DIY or Outsource?
Now you have your dream van layout decided. You know what you want, the colours, style & features. It’s time to make a decision: Do It yourself or outsource?
Do you have the skills and time to do the van build you’re after? Toyota hiace campers can be difficult projects to complete. They are time consuming and generally more expensive than you first thought.
Decide these things before you attempt to do it yourself. Do you want to be spending every weekend working on the van? Or would you prefer to have a professional do it.
Finally, if you don’t have the time (weeks), patience or expertise to build the van of your dreams, then absolutely outsource the job to a qualified company.
We would happily talk you through any queries you may have using the contact form here.
Tips for outsourcing:
- Post a job on http://www.airtasker.com to find qualified, interested tradesman in the area
- Search local carpenters or van builders in the area
- Search social channels for a company near you
- Utilise any friends or acquaintances who are qualified or interested
Tip #3 – Keep important areas accessible
This was a simple yet stupid mistake i made on my first ever van build. Many Toyota’s have access to the spare tyre & fuel tank from the inside. You need to ensure these remain accessible.
- When installing the subfloor, use a holesaw to drill out the ply above where the nut is for the spare tyre
- Take a photo of where this will be (usually the back of the van) or measure out exact co-ordinates and save in a safe place
- If you will be placing joinery over these, just ensure you know how they can be removed in the future if it is required. Ensure you make everything easily removable incase you need access.
General Joinery Tips
Ensuring that you have easy access is key for a small camper build.
- If you are putting a water tank in – make this easily removable & close to the back or sides of the van.
- Ensure you leave enough space for all 12v equipment to be mounted & installed with associated wiring. Designate a space that is sufficiently sized & easily accessible.
Tip #4 – Build in boxes
Build everything in modules that can easily screw together. Building your boxes should be done on an adequately sized & stable workbench.
Tips for joinery:
- Are there any areas where you can reduce weight & materials? If certain parts are not seen, then use strips of timber instead of a full sheet.
- Ensure you have correct mounting strips/tabs (for example: vans are curvy beings. For the back piece of joinery you may not need a full sheet – only a small 100mm strip that allows you to fix the joinery to the walls.
- Measure first, cut once. If you don’t have a tracksaw – get the dimensions & go to a local hardware or machinery place that can cut your boxes for you. It’s low cost & to the millimetre.
Tip #5 – Buy a roof vent
A roof vent is an absolute must. Sleeping comfortably is imperative when you experience vanlife, and doing so with vented air makes a huge difference.
Try sleeping with 1 or 2 people inside a small Toyota Hiace camper in summer WITHOUT a vent, and you will quickly be kicking yourself.
Vents assist to regulate the temperature inside of the van, which in summer can be the difference between a sleepless, sweaty night and a comfortable sleep.
We always recommend the MaxxAir https://www.maxxfan-deluxe.info/ for all campers due to their efficiency, practicality and quality.
Toyota Hiace campers are great first time vans. It can seem overwhelming when you first purchase a used Toyota Hiace camper, but utilising these 5 tips will assist:
- Take your time – you want to nail it first time, so take as much time as you need.
- DIY or outsource – review your schedule, skills, desires and make a decision
- Access – ensure you have done your due diligence before starting the build to know where important access should go
- Simple boxes – for ease of installation
- Install a roof vent – This is the most important purchase, as most vans do not have great ventilation in raining conditions.
We will be releasing more useful blog posts, content ideas, newsletters and tips/tricks over the coming months. Get out there and enjoy the vanlife!