Me and My CRV – It’s a 17 Sq Ft Mini Tiny House

There are much better living-mobiles, but since I already owned this low-mileage 2008 Honda CRV, I decided to see if I could make it work. 2014 was my first year to test it out on a few short trips. By 2016 I’d perfected the system and I found it a cozy cost-efficient way to travel while having a home away from home. The primary reasons I enjoy sleeping in my car are (1) budgetary constraints, (2) stunning sunrises/sunsets, (3) quick access to trails, (4) flexibility, (5) safer than tent camping, and (5) cleaner than cheap lodging.

My car came with a hard plastic 1″ security platform. It has worked perfectly as my table. Since my backseats don’t fold flat, I removed the larger of my backseat sections. At 5’4″ I can comfortably sleep lengthwise. A neighbor gave me the insulated curtains which I hang via 3M Command Mini hooks (when privacy or extra warmth is needed). I travel prepared for backpacking trips, thus I have my Jetboil stove with me for cooking the car.

The trick is traveling with as few items as possible, so (1) you can make your bed without spending time rearranging or storing things outside, and (2) most everything can be stored out of sight minimizing the chance of vandalism when your vehicle is unattended. This is what I’ve found works for me. I’ll add photos next time I load my car.

  • Storage Bin 1 (resides on the backseat floor as part of my sleeping platform) – I usually keep things in this bin I don’t need frequently, such as maps for a future leg of the trip, boots or traction devices, seasonal clothes.
  • Storage Bins 2-4 (stored under the table behind the small backseat) – One bin usually has all my backpacking gear, another has food, the third has extra supplies such as clothes detergent, repair & maintenance items, first aid, toiletries, vitamins, ziplock bags, etc.
  • Storage Bin 5 (stored on floor in front of small backseat). I keep things I need to reach while in bed. Usually my eating/drinking containers and utensils, cookstove, fuel, cereal, coffee, lantern light, toiletries, etc.
  • Storage Bin 6 (stored on backseat floor between Bins 1 & 5). I keep 3 gallons of water in this one and my trusty pee jar.
  • Pillows, Air Mattress, and Towels (stored on sleeping platform).
  • Sleeping bag (stored under table)
  • Folding chair (stored at the very pack of my car).
  • Ice Chest (stored on small backseat). I usually cover with towels and sometimes pillows to keep cool.
  • Duffle Bags (stored under table, and moved to small seat when making bed). I use two small bags for my clothes. One for travel clothes and another for hiking clothes. I’ve learned to keep clothing as simple as possible, basically three uniforms. One for traveling, one for sleeping and one for hiking.
    • Travel Uniform – Leggings (x2), Shorts (x2), Skirt (x1), short-sleeve shirt (x2), long-sleeve shirt (x2), layering shirt (x1), undies (x?), bra (x4), socks (x?), sleep clothes (x2). Everything mixes and matches.
    • Shoes – usually sandals and 1-2 pairs of hiking shoes/boots depending on season

Favorite Items:

  • Daily “sponge” bath.

Future Posts:

  • Preparation, Maintenance & Aftermath
  • Planning and Organization
  • Where to Overnight
  • Eats on the Road
  • Showers, Laundry and Recharging
  • Safety, Security and Self-Reliance
  • Living on a Shoestring Budget

More posts about Me and My CRV

35 thoughts on “Me and My CRV – It’s a 17 Sq Ft Mini Tiny House

  1. Right up my alley! Thinking of using my Santa Fe this way until I decide where I want to be. Like the idea of removing the back of the seat to increase sleeping room.

    • I found the instructions on YouTube to remove and replace the seats. Without removal my space would have been about 10″ less in length, plus I would have lost the floor storage space.

      • My seats fold but not completely flat and the extra inches would be nice, too. Looking forward to the rest of the series. Thank you for sharing!

    • LOL, photos will be coming shortly, I promise. It might be a few weeks before I pack for my next trip.

      The Element will make a luxurious living-mobile. The only trade-off is clearance and maybe 4×4. I love the height, the easy cleaning. You’ll be able to have a true platform. When I was looking at options, I planned to use a truck storage chest as my sleeping platform. I was disappointed when I learned they stopped making the Element.

    • Are you on the Element Facebook page and the Element Owners Club? Platform ideas can be found there. I have one and have a platform setup where I can sit up and get dressed, and store crates underneath. If I could afford a conversion van and the gas for one that would be ideal, but the Element has been a good compromise.

  2. Looking forward to photos. Have Sienna Van I have decided to trick out for car camping. I have taken it on dirt roads with know problem but wont be 4wheeling it. Thats another vehicle in the future. lol

  3. Thanks for sharing your adaptive solutions long needed by outdoor persons everywhere. Using such a reliable vehicle with decent 7.8 inches of ground clearance and great MPG to go all those places is remarkable but understandable. Having much more ‘off-road’ ability sometimes means getting stuck that much further up bad roads. If it is not drivable by a CRV then it is probably not really a road. Among a pool of various vehicles to pick from for my work trips, the CRV would be a prime choice over some others that are less flexible and dependable. They should name a special model after you.

    • WOW, that’s a great endorsement! I’m not much of a risk taker when it comes to off-roading, although I’m glad for the 4×4 and extra beefy tires. Sand and wet, slippery southern Utah still scares me. I truly don’t want to get stuck, so yep you’re right the CRV suits my needs.

  4. Love this post, Jan! Looking forward to the series 😄. I have a 10 year old sedan, which unfortunately doesn’t work well for sleeping in….I definitely have to figure in this whole topic into my next car purchase!

  5. Pretty sure I’d pee outside before trusting a jar, but otherwise very cool! I still prefer the tent option, but there are places where I might feel sketched out. (e.g. once I slept in my truck and was glad I did, because in the middle of the night a black bear jumped on the windshield!)

    • Glad you commented on the pee jar 🙂 The only time I use it is (1) when I have to stay in a campground near others with distant restrooms; or (2) when it’s raining or really cold. I’ve got the system down and thankfully no close calls or accidents.

      That’s crazy about the bear incident. WOW! I always prefer my tent when I’m hiking, but at trailheads or along roads, I’ll take my car.

  6. I have a 2015 CRV, and I have slept in it. So NOT comfortable! Removing the seats sounds like it would solve my problem, but I wouldn’t want to be rid of the back seat permanently. If I could remove them and replace without too much effort, that’d be nice.

    Wondering about the cost/safety aspect of your system – I worry about tenting alone as a single female when camping, so I can see the plus to a locked vehicle. But where can you park it that’s legal to sleep in? I wish that wasn’t a concern that I have to worry about 😦

    • Hi Ashlee, it took me a while to figure out the right combo of sleeping pads to get comfortable and especially level. While I removed the larger backseat, I can replace without too much difficulty, although I’ve made do without it now for well over a year. It does take some effort and muscle. I found the instructions on YouTube.

      Not sure what you mean about cost/safety aspect of my system. Care to elaborate?

      One of my upcoming posts is about legal places to overnight. I’m a bit unusual in that my posts will be more about overnighting between hiking and backpacking destinations vs long-distance interstate travel or living in my car in town.

      I also have an upcoming post on safety, security and self-reliance. Maybe you’ll find some new tools in that post.

      • I think both your future posts will answer my questions.

        I was just referring to your post where you say sleeping in your CRV is in part because of budget/safety. I guess I was wondering about feasibility (finding legal, safe places to overnight in the car) and your specific safety concerns (people, wildlife, etc). I assumed that it was personal safety as a lone female hiker from other people.

        I’ve backpacked and camped alone, and while I do believe you are safer tent camping/backpacking alone than doing pretty much anything else, driving your vehicle for example, I just don’t like being a lone female in a fairly common area.

        I went solo backpacking in the Denali NP backcountry and I felt so safe. At any given moment, I knew there were only 3 other people besides myself in my unit for the night. But solo camping/backpacking near a populated trail town or in popular campgrounds makes me feel less safe – you are very accessible.

    • YEAH! I wonder if there is an online group (i.e. facebook) of those of us living this alternative lifestyle in combo with adventuring. Most I’ve found are more about living in the city in your car or traveling the interstate.

  7. Love, love, love it! You already know I tried to live in my Subaru CrossTrek with my dog on longer, colder trips but am jist a bit too tall to make it work. Thanks for sharing your info! ~ Chris

    • I can’t imagine sharing this tiny house with another heartbeat, unless maybe it was a guinea pig.

      I’m a bit envious of your new house on the road. Can’t wait for us to connect and share life on the road and trail.

  8. Really looking forward to the pics. Please take closeups of anything minor hacks you use, too. I often travel/camp in my Subaru Outback, but haven’t customized it much yet—so I’m especially interested in those special little hacks that make all the difference to implement. Thanks, love what I’ve seen of your blog so far and subscribed. Cheers!

  9. Pingback: Me and My CRV – Picking and Packing – Jan's Jaunts and Jabberings

  10. Thanks for this series of posts Jan! I’m contemplating buying a CR-V for both city use and the occasional car camping trip. I’ve seen other folks who have removed the back seats to allow comfortable sleeping, but yours is the first I’ve seen when only part of the backseat was removed.

    I like the idea of retaining seating for three, AND having sleeping capability (for one) without having to switch modes between the two!


    • I’m happy you found my series helpful. Honda seems to keep revising the backseat options each year so you’ll want to review the model year. I know some fold flat so removal wouldn’t be necessary. I had a 1998 model and you could fold flat but they still took up length. My friend’s new model folds flat and doesn’t take up extra space. Hope you find something that works for you. I haven’t needed to put the 1.5 seats back since removing.

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