About Me

Hello and welcome to my blog, Love and Trails! My name is Morgan and I am the author, educator, map creator, chef and inventor around here! Love and Trails was born out of my passion for the outdoors. It is an avenue for me to share my knowledge and skills with others. Through it I hope to inspire others to embark on adventures of their own.

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2004 Honda Pilot Camper Conversion

Who says you need a van?

Who says you need a van?

When it comes to vehicles I have been very fortunate I have always been in a position to inherit or purchase an extremely reliable vehicle from family members for a more than reasonable price. While the price is always right, and the condition is generally impeccable the one downside is that you won’t have any preference as to what comes your way. For that, you will never hear me complaining.

A few years ago I acquired a 2004 Honda Pilot from my mother. A perfect adventure mobile. It is great on the highway, has huge amounts of room for friends and gear, has a hitch for a bike rack or towing, and roof racks for the space booster when required. I could not have been happier! I immediately went to work on a conversion for camping and traveling.

One of the biggest challenges with the pilot was lack of storage space for gear. While I could fold down both the second and third-row seats for sleeping I then lacked any room for storing gear. It quickly became apparent that the pilot and I were cruising towards an all out conversion. As such the goals of my project were as follows:

1) Provide a flat sleeping surface with enough head room to sit up
2) Provide maximum out of sight storage

I went to work drawing up various designs and then to making them out of cardboard to help visualize my plan. Eventually, I rolled out the power tools and got to work. Here is the picture before everything got started:

2004 Honda Pilot before camper conversion.

2004 Honda Pilot with second and third-row seats in rear before removal.

Before I got too far into the planning I knew I needed to remove all of the seats, this would give me a better idea as to how much space I had to work with. Note to future vehicle converters: take lots of pictures, print them out and make notes as you go. This will help you make better plans, it will also be helpful one day if you need to put it back together or sell the vehicle!

2004 Honda Pilot with second and third row seats removed.

Second and third-row seats removed.

 

2004 Honda Pilot with second and third row seats removed. Floor mounts accessible

Floor mounts now visible for planning.

Once the seats were out I was better able to evaluate my plans. Here you can see all of the bolts used for attaching the seats. I will later go on to use some of these for securing the box in place.

Cardboard mock ups for 2004 honda pilot camper conversion.

Cardboard mock ups for my design. Seeing if it fits and refining measurements.

Once I was happy with my cardboard and more importantly my design I got to work on building the actual box. I started with the main component of my design, the box that sits directly behind the front seats.

2004 Honda Pilot Camper Conversion Vanlife Storage-4

Storage box located directly behind front seats, accessible from rear doors.

2004 Honda Pilot Camper Conversion Vanlife Storage-8

Storage box located directly behind front seats, accessible from rear doors.

Custom Storage box for 2004 Honda Pilot

Storage box located directly behind front seats, accessible from rear doors.

2004 Honda Pilot Camper Conversion Vanlife Storage-5

Lids attached with piano hinges, strip exposed on the right for attachment of the rear panels.

Rear panels attaching at the centre of car to the main box behind the front seats.

Rear panels attaching at the center of the car to the main box behind the front seats.

Rear panels attaching at the centre of car to the main box behind the front seats.

Rear panels attaching at the center of the car to the main box behind the front seats.

Yay! The hard work is finally done! At this point, you can see the main functionality has been achieved. At this point, I have a flat sleeping surface accessible from all doors with ample storage underneath and out of sight. The next step in this project was to sand, paint, and upholster the surface.

2004 Honda Pilot Camper Conversion Vanlife Storage-13

2004 Honda Pilot Camper Conversion Vanlife Storage-17

2004 Honda Pilot Camper Conversion Vanlife Storage-16

2004 Honda Pilot Camper Conversion Vanlife Storage-14

2004 Honda Pilot Camper Conversion Vanlife Storage-15

With that, I was ready to hit the road! Over time though I did find a few things that I needed to add and or modify. The first thing was to find a solution to keep the bugs out while allowing some fresh air in. After looking at numerous solutions online I simply sewed slip covers for the door out of simple bug mesh. Think pillow case that slides over the door when it’s open. Works like a charm.

2004 Honda Pilot Camper Conversion Vanlife Storage-19

Post Production Addition #1: Bus Screens

I take these out of the back of the seat and slide them on when ever necessary.

The next major objective I worked to achieve was power. This was a slightly more serious undertaking. I will be doing an entire post on that process alone in the future. Until then you can see I have 3 DC ports on the side of the box. They are all powered by a deep cell battery that is charged from the alternator of the engine when it is running. Fool proof solution to unlimited charging on the road.

2004 Honda Pilot Camper Conversion Vanlife Storage-20

Post Production Addition #2: Power

You will also note that I added a front fork mount on the platform for my bike. There are a lot of little things like that of which I am slowly learning about and adding over time. When I first built all of this it was generally just me, solo road tripping. Now I have a wonderful man, Gerald, in my life and it is quickly becoming apparent that most of my design was specific to a very short person, me! For example, he can’t get the driver’s seat back far enough due to the box, whoops! As a result, I am feeling a 2016 renovation on the way… Until then we can be found on the side of the road in many exciting places whipping up excellent meals and scheming for our next adventure.

2004 Honda Pilot Camper Conversion Vanlife Storage-21

 

For those of you interested I have since published a part 2 with some more details!

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Jeffrey Whitaker
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Jeffrey Whitaker

Hello. I thoroughly enjoyed your post. I rarely see camper conversions for a Honda Pilot. I’m looking into getting a basic barebones 2014 Honda Pilot and convert it to a camper. Please keep everyone up to date on your current SUV build. Btw can you post more specific additions to your build? E.g. Solar, cooking devices, tent, battery charging? Etc.

Brian Judd
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Brian Judd

I love your post! I have a 2005 Pilot and want to do the same thing to mine. Do you by chance have the measurements to all of the storage and platform pieces you built?

Jeffrey Whitaker
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Jeffrey Whitaker

Another couple questions lol…how do you keep your rear belt buckle/flaps from flopping around making noise as you’re driving? And logistically, do you pack the whole back of the pilot with camping gear, then when you get to your destination you take it out and leave it out as you sleep in the Pilot? Do you use reflectix? How do you obtain income? Are y’all doing this full time? Or do you have a full time job and take the pilot out on weekend excursions? More questions to come lol.

Road Sage
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Road Sage

Hi Morgan, thank you so much for taking the time to document your Honda Pilot Conversion journey. I have been searching for sometime for a Honda Pilot makeover for camping/sleeping. I am courious as to “how hard” it was taking those seats out? Heavy? I was thinking of trading my Honda Pilot 2005 (which only has 62,000) for a Honda Odyssey….but thanks to your post, I can see the future. I will keep an eye out for the vid. Onward!! PS: Love the window net “pillow case” idea. Awesome!!

Steve Russell
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Steve Russell

Hi Morgan. I’m looking to make a similar build for weekend trips out to the woods of Connecticut, and I’m curious if you have any of the basic dimensions for the box or part numbers for the electronics. I will be making a slightly different build, with more focus on comfort (custom lighting, fans in windows, privacy curtains). I’m also planning to make the Pilot more dirt-worthy, with better tires and brush guard with lights. I’ll be recording my progress on my own website, and I’d be happy to link back to you as my inspiration πŸ™‚

CREIGHTON l WILSON
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CREIGHTON l WILSON

I have a 2006 Pilot and used the ideas in your post to convert it for camping. Thanks. I’m trying to find a method to quickly cover the windows to provide privacy. I’d like the cover material to store into a small space. Did you come up with something?

Justin R
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Justin R

Hi Morgan, SO happy I found this site. Pops and I have always had this particular design for a conversion in our ’05 Pilot for a while now. Though we would be using the back for sleeping on road-trips/camping, we also wanted to build it sturdy enough to withstand a good amount of weight. We often use the pilot as our truck. Sometimes hauling heavy and sometimes light. But I noticed you mentioned parts starting to sag. Is there a reason for that? Also, is your build more of a leave-in frame or is it easy to install the seats… Read more »

Steve Shaffer
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Steve Shaffer

Thank you so much for sharing your work as well as all of the details. I bought a 2009 Honda Pilot 2 years ago and my original thought was to buy a small camper to tow. After finding this webpage, I think I’ve changed my mind. I’m a little handy with woodworking so building the box will not be an issue. My initial reaction to the power supply is feeling overwhelmed. I’m pretty sure if I take my time, thoroughly ‘absorb’ all the information you’ve provided, I should be able to take care of the power. If you have any… Read more »

Kara
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Kara

Lovely! Do you remember roughly how much it was?

Rebecca Belu-Henss
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Rebecca Belu-Henss

Hi! We are so glad we found this! We are transforming our 03 Pilot. We are doing so per your instructions! Our question is what you used as a mattress. What did you find that works? Thanks!!!!