Alistair - Sleeping Quarters - Roof Bedroom - Roof Boxes - Heater

Sleeping Quarters and Roof Bedroom Area

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We like to sleep high in the air, away from crawling critters and night dew.
The Defender's original roof was removed. First we had a steel frame installed, providing the car body with increased rigidity and a better spread of the future load on the roof.
Over the frame, came the aluminum checker plate roof, hinged on the front, and between roof and frame was the tent.
Click on pictures to enlarge them.
Conversely to a roof tent, we called this solution a "roof bedroom".
Reasons why we chose this type of roof bedroom:
- the bed was accessible either from outside through the back door or from the inside... think of rain, wind, snow or mosquitoes!
- the rearmost bedboard could slide over the middle one, thus freeing room to stand up... think of getting dressed in the morning.
- roomy: 1,40 x 1,90 meters, we often used it as an "office space".
- the roof was a strong platform we could climb on, nice for a nap, for taking pictures or having a cup of tea with an exceptional view.
- the roof could also hold a spare wheel (not the best place, though) and roof boxes. Boxes were bolted from the inside of the box into blind rivets, thus waterproof.
- once the roof boxes were unbolted and moved inside the car, air clearance was improved enough to allow Alistair to fit in a small container.
- the opening gas springs and the inside frame gave the tent better wind resistance for stormy days.
Our roof bedroom was of high quality, made in Germany, weighed 80 kg and cost us around 5,500 euros in 2005.
In 2010, we saw a cheaper alternative in California: a standard roof tent bottomless customized, attached and sealed above a roof that had been partly cut out. Check it on the cute Volvo 330 roof.
Back to our roof bedroom: during our trip in Australia, we received tremendous help on a project designed to improve the way the bedroom was supported, in anticipation of the several thousand kilometers of corrugated (washboard) tracks ahead of us. These wonderful, resourceful Aussies designed, made and installed "pillars or buttresses" to protect the windscreen frame and window by alleviating excessive weight pressure from the roof.
Some important points re the roof bedroom:
- we had dressed the ceiling with 1 cm thick polyethylene "bubble" layer under 5 mm thick marine grade plywood. The finish was a lining similar to the one used in sailboats or renovated cars. Good insulation against cold and heat turned out to be a smart move.
- also against the cold, we had removable 1 cm thick dark color polar fleece curtains for each of the three sides of the tent. Think also of midnight sun north of the Arctic Circle
- the three sides of the tent totalled 2,5 square meters of wide openings, covered by mosquito screen. It is a large surface, obviously useful in hot climates but also in cold ones, in order to evacuate breathing water vapor. BTW, water vapor goes out through polar fleece easily.
- anticipating heavy rains, we had made small awnings whose top could be attached above the windows with Velcro. Awning bottoms were kept away from the car body thanks to a tent pole on which they snapped. We found that the tent windows were actually so well designed with their own rain cover that we only used these awnings a couple of times over 3 years.


The heater sucked air from inside the car, heated it and blew it with such speed that it could be used as a hair dryer! Maybe the 5 kw model was an overkill...
The device was fed with combustion air coming from the outside (above chassis and under body) and the exhaust gases were rejected around the rear right wheel area.
The device was installed inside the car, above the rear right mudguard. It was protected by a stainless steel cover, strong enough to safely support luggage weight.
We chose not to attach the output pipe end, so it could be oriented as we wished.
We connected the control box with wires long enough to reach the front seat or the bed.
The heating device used diesel and was fed through a pipe from the car tank, fitted after we had cut an opening in the car floor, above the fuel pump.
In 2005 we knew two manufacturers: Eberschpächer and Webasto. The former is famous in the sailing boat market, the latter heats the car coolant and uses the car ventilator...
Caution: if one plans to use a diesel heater higher than 1,800 meters elevation above sea level, we recommend -- before the purchase -- checking the supplier's technical documentation and acquiring an altitude kit, if any available (as oxygen concentration decreases with elevation).
Furthermore, high quality electrical wiring and adequate wire gauge are critical for at the heater onstart, the heating plug will drain about 30 Amps!
We used the spare battery to start the heater as well as all the other accessories we fitted (we definitely refused to use the car cranking battery, just to make sure that if something went wrong, we would not get stranded in the middle of nowhere)!