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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I’ve gotten a lot of questions regarding my interior buildout so I thought it would be a good idea to dedicate a thread to it! First, here are some pictures of the (mostly) final product:
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Planning
My buildout is intended to work as a 2-person overlanding setup. I currently have a 9-5 and go camping every weekend, but plan to eventually full-time out of it at some point. While designed for two, it was important for me to maintain the ability to camp/seat four. It was also important to me to be able to remove the system somewhat easily if I ever wanted to. I don’t plan on doing this often, but the ability to do so is comforting.

When camping, my two least favorite parts have always been kitchen setup/clean-up and tent/sleeping setup. Sleeping is covered by the rooftop tent now, so my main focus was the kitchen. I wanted it to be easy to cook, and everything to be ready/accessible at all times.

I first started in Sketch-up. I took measurements of the inside of the Xterra and built a to-scale model of the frame I wanted to build. I highly recommend using Sketchup, or even a fancier modeling program if you have the skills. Sketchup is easy to learn and within an afternoon of Youtube videos you would know more than enough for an Xterra buildout.

I knew I wanted to build my frame out of Aluminum Extrusion. If you’re not familiar, 8020 is aluminum bars with t-slots for sliding in screws and nuts. You combine this with all sorts of connectors to construct a frame. It is very popular in the van life community and I had used it before on a random project and loved it. It can be a pain to work with at times, but allows a great level of adjustability. Its also incredibly strong, which is great for a car that’s gonna get thrashed off-road.

Battery System
This was the first thing that was built. I used 120ah of lithium battery, which is plenty for my setup (and, quite honestly, overkill). I decided not to add any solar as it’s a pain to install imo and I didn’t have a good system to mount it. It also charges extremely slow compared to a DC-DC charger going to the starter battery. Also, for my style of camping, I’m always on the move and never parked for more than a few days.

I removed the plastic tray in the rear and laid out all my components. Once I was happy with it, I fastened everything down (some things with screws and others with 3M VHB Tape). This was my second battery build, as I had previously converted a van for a friend before that had a similar setup. For any electrical guidance, I highly recommend watching videos from the van conversion community - there is plenty of content there. I ran a 6AWG pos line from the DC-DC Charger in the rear, down the drivers side to the firewall, then to the starter battery. All of this sits under my buildout. There are guides on the forum from others who have built similar battery systems in their cargo tray.
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The Frame
I assembled the 8020 per my dimensions in Sketchup. I made a simple cut list from Sketchup and within no time I had a simple frame.
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The two outer sides (driver and passenger) of the frame are not rectangular. The reason for this is the Xterra rear door opening curves up on the sides, so doing this allows me to maximize the width another 1in on each side without hitting this curve. It also allowed me to line up with the cargo rails, so all I needed to do was build an L bracket to bolt into those rails. I did not mount the frame till the very end. Once my frame was done, I realized how unsupported the rear of it was (just floating over the battery system). I decided to build in a support that travels down to the bottom of the tray to give additional support so the rear has no ability to sag.

On the side of the frame, I attached 1/8in plywood. I also attached folding shelf brackets to the side to support the top of the platform (more on this later).

Drawers
Once done with the frame, I moved onto the drawers. I built these out of half-inch baltic birch. Another popular wood in the van community as it’s extremely strong and holds screws well. I assembled the drawers with pocket hole screws. The left drawer was designed to be the kitchen, while the right was intended to be a pantry/cupboard space. I used generic 600lb drawer slides off of amazon. One side was locking, the other was just a normal. They were insanely heavy duty and very overkill. I would probably size down to something medium duty. The entire buildout is only as strong as what is fastened to, and the frame rails I mounted the entire system to are not as strong. I can unload all of my weight on the drawer with ease, but I can see the rear of the rails themselves start to raise from the car.
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My kitchen drawer is a double slide out. I at first planned a triple slide out, but decided not too once I saw how heavy the slides are. I regret not doing the triple slide. Underneath the kitchen drawer is a slide out, collapsable sink, that will eventually be used in combination with an onboard water system. Mounting the drawers to the 8020 was easy, as I could adjust the placement of the drawer slide on the 8020 until I got it perfect.

The Top
My frame does not go all the way to the edge of the car. On the drivers side, I cut a piece of plywood to fit on the side. It rests on the 90 degree shelf brackets, the idea being you can pull it off and store things underneath. I used 90° shelf brackets that are folding so I could fold them down if I ever wanted to take the unit out (allows me to slide it out).
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Next, I have a large piece of plywood over the top of the frame. This was bolted down with threaded inserts. The passenger side of the of the Xterra cargo area I left uncovered. I wanted this to be available so I could stuff items to the side of my fridge.

I wanted a durable surface on the top that mimicked the feel of a the stock cargo area. I didn’t find anything good, so I settled on a material called tireplast, from Tap Plastics. Its basically a rubber material that is similar to something you’d see advertised as a drop-in bed-liner. I glued this down to the wood. I initially planned on using carpet, but I don’t feel carpet belongs in the cargo area of a vehicle that’s going to be getting all dirty.

Fridge Slide
I won’t go into much detail on this because there is already a great video outlining this design (Google DIY Drop Down Fridge Slide). It’s basically a drawer where the fridge is on, but the drawer is mounted to another piece that hinges of the main platform. I love how this turned out, it’s been incredibly functional.

Finishing Touches
  • Made drawer fronts, then cut the holes in the drawer face for the slides and mounted them.
  • Added a 500w inverter on the side of the frame
  • Put in drawer dividers and finished all the wood with water-based poly
  • Added DC outlet/USB to drawer face
  • Added lights around the rim of the door hatch to light-up the back at night:
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Things I Would Change/Do Differently Next Time

1.) THE CARGO AREA OF THE XTERRA IS SLANTED. Wow I wish more people talked about this. I found 2 threads but it was already too late. Once finished, the entire drawer system slanted into the ground. I wish I had a photo, but I was honestly too sad to even take one at this point. So much careful planning, and I missed this! If you’re just building storage drawers, probably not a big deal. However, as a cooking surface, especially with a double slide, it is a horrible slant. I fixed this by making a wedge from a 2x4 that sits under the platform. The front of my platform was raised ~3 inches to make it level! My perfect fitting frame now no longer fit, as changing the angle made the rear seats in the way. Luckily, I was able to go at the rear with a hacksaw, move my frame members around, and got everything to fit (barely). Another huge reason to use 8020. I would’ve had to scrap the frame if built out of wood. I’m really not sure how I would build around this in the future, as building everything at an angle sounds like a pain.

2.) The cargo side rails are not insanely strong. They’re strong, but with the leverage of a double slide out, they are definitely the weak point in the system. I would recommend finding an additional way to fasten your system down or add additional bolts from the cargo rails to frame

3.) Use medium duty slides for everything but the main slide on the double slide out. The heavy duty ones are just too much.
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Overall, I’m extremely happy with the setup. I’ve used it probably about 15 nights at this point and have loved it. I have no major complaints. This post ended up being really long, but I’m sure there is still a million details I missed. Please feel free to ask anything and I’ll respond in thread. I love talking about this stuff.
 

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Great writeup, looks really nice! I like sleeping inside the Xterra so this project is overkill for me, but I have been thinking about a battery setup similar to what you did. Is it a LiFe PO4 battery?

2.) The cargo side rails are not insanely strong. They’re strong, but with the leverage of a double slide out, they are definitely the weak point in the system. I would recommend finding an additional way to fasten your system down or add additional bolts from the cargo rails to frame
Low profile strut channel would work well, and would be much stronger than the factory stuff:


Steel prices have gone nuts though... this stuff used to be much cheaper.

ETA I just looked at an old order and a 6'8" piece of low profile black powder coated strut channel was $24 in February of 2020... it's $68 today!
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Great writeup, looks really nice! I like sleeping inside the Xterra so this project is overkill for me, but I have been thinking about a battery setup similar to what you did. Is it a LiFe PO4 battery?



Low profile strut channel would work well, and would be much stronger than the factory stuff:


Steel prices have gone nuts though... this stuff used to be much cheaper.

ETA I just looked at an old order and a 6'8" piece of low profile black powder coated strut channel was $24 in February of 2020... it's $68 today!
Sorry for the delayed reply. Thanks for the link to McMaster... this is a very interesting approach. I worry though this is caused not by the cargo rail bending, but by car itself (where the Cargo rail bolts into). Don't really have a good way to confirm this though with everything put together.

And yes, this is a LiFe PO4 battery!
 

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Really nice work.
 
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