Van Shade Structure Extending from Roof Rack

Ideas, advice, tips, and tricks regarding shelter, shade, tents, and camping. Yes, this includes RV's too.

Van Shade Structure Extending from Roof Rack

Postby Jared » Tue Jun 04, 2013 4:12 pm

I'm considering sleeping in a mini van this year. I have seen many reports of draping shade cloth on a van, building a free-standing structure around a van or using a roof rack as one side of a structure to shade a tent. But I'm thinking about building a structure on the roof rack that will support a taut shade cloth or tarp around the van with an air gap. Kind of like how Figjam's Playapod (minus the truck). Any thoughts on that?

The simplest design would be a pyramid on the roof with guy lines running down to rebar. I have some other ideas for more complicated shapes, but I'm curious for feedback about the general idea.

I haven't closely examined how the roof rack is attached, but some people suggest that [roof racks are not strong enough to hold a solid tarp down](viewtopic.php?f=277&t=34873) and shade cloth (Aluminet) might be the only option.

My other option is to cover the exterior with radiant barrier or reflective insulation. Any thoughts on which would be cooler?
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Re: Van Shade Structure Extending from Roof Rack

Postby burner von braun » Tue Jun 04, 2013 7:41 pm

First of all Jared.. yours is a well thought-out post, and shows research and effort on your part.. well done sir!

I've not camped in a vehicle, so I'll simply offer a few thoughts and step aside for those with more experience. I am visualizing that your pyramid design is like a giant pup tent that fits over the minivan, and you'll construct some kind of ridgeline shape attached to the roof rack to pull the shade material down tautly over, and then stake that to the ground. Are you going to leave the nose of the van extending out in the sun, or extend your ridgeline out over the front of the vehicle? Would that then require further support? I tend to think that you need to keep the entire vehicle under some kind of shade or heat is going to conduct back to the sleeping area. Or you could simply plan on getting up early every day I suppose. An elevated ridgeline means you'll have an air pocket underneath which is good so the hot shade material doesn't directly contact the van much at all. As in FIGJAM's design, I think that a lot depends on staking it down really well. I believe he actually uses long lag bolts screwed directly into the playa, or you could use other well proven anchoring methods. The roof rack would then be supporting a balanced downward load. I suspect that they get in trouble when experiencing unnatural lateral and\or upward yanking resulting from poorly secured tarps.

I'm not sure what the specs would be for a monkey hut big enough for a minivan..

Ultimately, there are many possibilities, good luck with yours!
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Re: Van Shade Structure Extending from Roof Rack

Postby FIGJAM » Tue Jun 04, 2013 7:53 pm

Monkey van!

May not be a bad idea if you can figure a way to run the pvc arches from one side of the roof rack to the other.

If you could post a picture of the top of the van it might spark some ideas. 8)
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Re: Van Shade Structure Extending from Roof Rack

Postby 666isMONEY » Wed Jun 05, 2013 12:27 pm

I camp in my minivan . . . most important thing is to park with windshield facing where the sun rises (I use driver's side sliding door for entry), bring a compass to orient east.

The tarp I have covers the other side of the minivan windows, the back window and a little of the front window (use sun-shade in front window). Afternoon there is no longer sunshine in the driver's sliding door.

This system works for me because I like to get up before sunrise to prowl around on the playa, at around 9:00 I come back to the minivan for awhile and then am off for another excursion (usually to the center-camp) and get back afternoon -- no more sunshine in. As long as there's no wind, I can open side door and sometimes the rear door and that's cool enough. (I tie the tarp down to the wheels and some studs inside the rear door.)

I have thought of getting a bigger tarp to provide shade over the open door but haven't figured out what kind of poles to use . . . problem is carrying the poles around for a month camping prior to setting it up.
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Re: Van Shade Structure Extending from Roof Rack

Postby mudpuppy000 » Thu Jun 06, 2013 9:56 am

I sleep in my xterra most of the time at the burn and it works out pretty well. It has a pretty beefy/tall roof rack to begin with and I have a cargo basket on top of that, so I get a 1 or 2 foot air gap when I throw a tarp over the vehicle. The shade helps a lot to keep it cool, but it still gets warm from your body temp as well as having all the windows sealed (to keep the dust out). If you can get some sort of cooling system you'll be set.
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Re: Van Shade Structure Extending from Roof Rack

Postby Jared » Thu Jun 06, 2013 9:59 am

Thanks Figjam, I'll be back with some photos and measurements. I just wanted to float the idea first to see if there were any obvious problems I wasn't thinking of.

mudpuppy000's idea of a cargo basket may be the simplest of all. I wasn't planning on needing the extra cargo space, but it could be convenient to be able to just buy a premade solution.
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Re: Van Shade Structure Extending from Roof Rack

Postby Dork » Thu Jun 06, 2013 12:51 pm

When I slept in the back of my truck, I used some light (3/4" perhaps?) PVC across my roof rack. I ran a rope through each pipe down to the wheel, and held the pipe to the rack at the corners using ball bungees. More ball bungees held a sideways pipe close to the ends of the looped ones. A parachute covered all of this, though a tarp would work as well. Maybe go with thicker pipe to reduce inward flexing.

It worked great and held together all week, with no rebar needed.
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