The Honda Pilot is a trusty SUV, which you can easily convert into a micro camper, even without adding any furniture to it. The key advantage of this vehicle is the fact that the back seats fold down flat, creating a perfect platform on which to sleep. This is the reason why many van lifers choose it for a conversion project
While it’s ideal for solo campers, who can use half the space available to store gear and equipment, the Honda Pilot is also suitable for minimalist couples who want to spend some time boondocking or touring cities across the States.
Why choose a Honda Pilot as a van life vehicle
Not many people consider the Honda Pilot when they start planning their camper conversion. Yet, this SUV hides quite a few surprises, which make it a very reasonable choice.
Van lifers who have opted for a Honda Pilot conversion needed a vehicle that would fit into a regular parking space, but that is long enough to spend the night in. The Honda Pilot has light off-road capabilities, even though it’s not marketed as an off-road vehicle. It’s also reliable, cheap to purchase, has a good safety rating, and delivers decent gas mileage.
The best bit? You can create a 6ft bed plus a 2ft kitchen in it. The two rows of seats at the back fold down without creating any bumps, which means you don’t necessarily need to assemble a structure to place on top of them. The length at the back of the vehicle also allows shorter people to leave a kitchen and storage room set up at the back of the SUV.
Having a Honda Pilot will make car camping that much more comfortable because it can be turned into a micro RV. While you get to enjoy a decent amount of comfort, the vehicle remains 100% stealthy, making urban boondocking super easy. Leaving the car at trailheads won’t be as stressful, as no one will suspect you’re in it overnight (and store your valuables in it). Plus, you get to use it during the week for going to work.
Negatives of turning a Honda Pilot as a camper
If you don’t want to install any furniture inside the vehicle, you will struggle for storage space. There won’t be much room under the folded down seats and you’ll use most of the back of the car to sleep in. It will be difficult to install batteries, a fridge, and any other bulky equipment. Moreover, the headroom is rather low, so if you’re tall, you won’t be able to sit comfortably on a thick mattress opr structure.
These points make the Honda Pilot a great vehicle to car camp on weekends and holidays. Converting it fully into an RV for long-term travel would probably mean not being able to sit up in bed fully. You’d need to build a platform that’s as low as possible, so you’d still have decent headroom inside and some storage.
If you want to convert the Honda Pilot into an adventure vehicle, you have three main choices.
You can just fold the back seats down and put your favorite adventure gear inside, so everything is removable and won’t leave any trace when you take it out on a Sunday evening.
Alternatively, you can build a bed platform out of plywood that fits the back of the car to create a storage space under the bed. The structure can be removable or not – it’s your choice.
Finally, you could buy a removable conversion kit from a van conversion company. This is going to cost a little more, but it will provide a better finish.
Conversion kits are available for most vans these days. Recently, two options for SUVs have become available on the market.
These are small pieces of furniture that can be quickly installed into your vehicle to turn it into a camper. You can store them in your garage when you don’t need them. They are professionally made in standard sizes and shipped to your home, so they make for a great solution for people who want to have some furniture inside their car, without needing any practical skills.
Ordering a conversion kit is easy, but the waiting time might be a little long. So these are not the ideal solution for someone who’s in a rush to get on the road.
Ququq Kitchen Box
If all you need is a kitchen set-up that can fit in your boot and slide out at the back of it, check out the Ququq kitchen box. The kit includes a cooking compartment with a windshield, a worktop, some storage room, a two-burner gas stove, two 5-gallon canisters with a tap, two bowls, and a 500 daN lashing strap.
They come in various sizes, and the smallest one is 28.7in wide, by 29.9in deep, by 16.5in high, so it can fit in any car. Find out more on the Ququq website.
Bounty Hunter Compact SUV Sleeping Platform
Looking for a full conversion kit with a sleeping platform and slide-out kitchen drawer? Freeway Camper Kit make just that. Their kits are built with an interlocking construction system and you can assemble them without having to use any tools. Moreover they can be folded and stored away easily.
The structure has adjustable legs, so you can decide how high you want the platform to sit. The kitchen drawer slides out from underneath the structure and provides a worktop on which to cook and chop. One the left hand side, you’ll also find a removable, collapsible sink in which you can do the dishes.
This compact structure is suitable for most SUVs, but you can check the minimum dimensions required on image 14, “kit dimensions”, at this link.
Check out the Freeway Camper Kit website for more information.
The accessories you add to your Honda Pilot will make all the difference. They will increase the amount of space you can use around your vehicle and your comfort level, making it easier to go on longer camping trips.
- Spacious 10’ x 10’ tent providing over 7’ of headroom and sleeps 5 adults
- The universal vehicle sleeve ﬁts all CUV’s, SUV’s, and Minivans. The easily adjustable sleeve straps ensure a bug-free and watertight ﬁt
- Full rainﬂy with taped seams and built-in storm ﬂaps in the windows and door provide privacy and ultimate weather protection
This is a tent you can attach to your tailgate, which effectively adds a mini room to the back of your vehicle. You can use a small one to hang out outdoors on a rainy day or a big one to sleep in. The tent offers good privacy, although you can only use it where camping is allowed. So if you need to be stealthy, it’s probably a waste of storage room in your boot.
- The camping tarp is a multi-functional shelter which has many different ways to use
- The waterproof camping tarp tent is made from 210T polyester with PU 3000mm waterproof coating
- This material is designed to be light, flexible, and strong enough to prevent wear and puncture.
If you’re traveling in warm climates, a side awning will be enough to provide you with shade under which to hang out, relax, and eat a meal. Just like the tailgate tent, you’ll want to take the side awning with you only when you plan to boondock in nature or stop at campgrounds. You won’t get away using it in city or Walmart parking lots.
Roof rack + box
Installing a roof rack and box will allow you to take more of your gear with you, which is much needed if you don’t build and install a sleeping platform.
Camping table and chairs
These are fundamental, if you’re boondocking in the wild. They give you a place where to cook and eat, albeit outside. Due to the limited headroom, eating inside the Honda Pilot gets hard, unless you do it in the front seats or you pull the back seats back up.
This is a must for anyone who wants to be on the road for more than a few days at a time. Being able to cook your own food allows you to save on money and eat better food. You may not cook anything gourmet, but a hot meal always beats tinned food, sandwiches, or wraps. There is nothing better than being able to brew your own coffee in the morning out in the wilderness. Store your gas stove in the boot, so it’s ready to use anytime.
Rechargeable battery bank and or solar panels
Unless you plan to go on a technology detox every time you hit the road, having a decent battery bank will make your life a lot easier.
You can either bring a battery that charges off the mains and provides a limited amount of power, or you could set up a solar system to charge a 12V battery up regularly. You can mount solar panels on the roof of the Honda Pilot or carry portable ones and lay them out in the sun when you stop.
Your second battery requirements will vary based on the kinds of trips you need to make and their duration. Digital nomads traveling often will benefit massively from a more permanent solution.
These are great cheap gadgets that can improve the quality of your sleep by a lot. They allow you to get enough ventilation through the car, while keeping the bugs out. So you’ll be able to keep the windows open day and night. Add these to your windows and at the back of the car, at the back of your sleeping area.
Whatever accessories you choose for your Honda Pilot camper, they will be worth the investment, as they’ll allow you to stay on the road for longer. Try not to skimp on quality, so you can use each piece of equipment reliably.
Caveman Hikes’ mini camper
Calvin, the creator behind the YouTube channel Caveman Hikes, has a 2007 forward drive Honda Pilot, which he turned into a small RV to go on hiking, caving, and boondocking adventures in his spare time.
Inside his SUV, he leveled the floor to create a platform on which to relax. He decided against installing a permanent structure under which to store his gear, as he loves to sit up at night in bed. This solution allows for a lot more headroom.
The second row of back seats is set up as a couch, while he removed the first row and the passenger seat to lay down a mattress, which he uses as a single bed. The mattress can be removed to reveal a seat, which he can fix in the passenger seat area, in the front. This set-up allows Calvin to carry four people in the car, if he needs to.
The man also mounted a car-top tent on the roof. The small model he chose is essentially a tarp that connects to the roof and the ground and doesn’t cover his sunroof. When the tent isn’t in use, it stores chairs, a table, and other gear, which comes in very handy.
The tarp can be tied to the sides of the car to create a small room with privacy or even to trees. When it’s windy, Calvin ties it down tight and uses the room inside it to cook and have a shower. Inside the tent, he sets up a pop-up screen tent, so he can sleep bug-free, in a very airy area.
It takes him 5 to 10 minutes to set up and 5 minutes to take it down.
Calvin essentially has two rooms in which to sleep in with decent privacy, which allows him to take his nephew on his caving adventures.
Chris and Emilie’s Honda Pilot micro camper
Chris and Emilie use their 2017 Honda Pilot camper to go on road trips and overnight adventures. On it, they have traveled through Canada twice and the US once so far.
Doing a lot of traveling on big roads, the couple kept the car as stealthy as possible. However, when they reach a spot where camping is allowed, they spread out and set up their tailgate tent and table and chairs.
Their micro RV has three main modes: drive, living room, and sleep. On drive mode, they secure all their gear under a cargo net in the back of the car. Living room mode allows them to use the second row of seats as a sofa on which to chill out, have dinner, or watch TV. In sleep mode, they convert the back of the vehicle into a bed via a collapsible platform. Switching between modes takes a little time, but the couple prefers moving things around to only having access to a bed at all times.
The kitchen is at the back of the car and it provides everything they need, including a cooler, water tap, and gas cooker. Under the trunk, Chris and Emilie keep extra food, emergency supplies, and a spare tire. The guys are truly in love with their micro camper and use it for all their trips near home. When they travel abroad, they rent apartments on AirBnB.
Greg’s Adventures’ self-build SUV camper
Greg lives out of his Honda Pilot camper and travels solo around the USA and Canada. He chose the SUV because it allows him to travel to remote areas on rough roads, which he wouldn’t be able to do in a van or RV.
Greg removed both rows of back seats and installed a permanent three-quarter-inch ply platform in the back of the car. He stores all his equipment and belongings underneath it and comfortably sleeps on top of it.
To make the most of the room available, he can lengthen the platform by pushing the front seats forward. He uses the back of it as his kitchen. All he needs to do is to remove the mattress from the bottom of the structure and place his cooking gear on top of it. Thanks to these clever modifications, the bed is longer than a king size, although it’s slightly narrower than a queen size.
In the boot, Greg built a kitchen cabinet, which supports the platform and stores his cooking utensils. A drawer allows him to pull out his camping stove and cookout of the boot. Next to it, Greg keeps his top-loading fridge and water tap. Hidden in the boot there is also his power system. The second battery charges via the car’s engine only, as he does a lot of driving. On the roof, he installed a roof box, which he uses to store his solar shower and other gear.
Love and trails’ conversion
Morgan is a cartographer from Calgary, Canada, who travels often for long periods of time to pursue her projects. Her vehicle of choice for boondocking in the backcountry is a 2004 Honda Pilot, which she converted into a camper DIY.
To make the most of the space available, she built a very low platform, which she can flip up to access gear. Under it, she built various boxes to keep her belongings nice and organized. For power, she uses a battery, which she simply charges via the car. At the back of the SUV, she keeps her cooking gear, which she can use in the boot or on the road. On the roof, Morgan added a roof box to carry more stuff. You can find out more about her conversion on her website and follow her adventures on her Instagram account.
If you’re looking for a car to convert into a camper that has light off-road capabilities and decent internal volume, the Honda Pilot is a great choice. It’s a fantastic vehicle for solo campers who want to travel light and stealthy for long-ish periods of time. It can also be used by minimalist couples for shorter adventures, lasting a long weekend or a few weeks.
If you’re keen to turn an SUV into a camper, but you’re not convinced the Honda Pilot is for you, you’ll find this article about SUV camper ideas very useful.