When you look up some of the latest hashtags for outdoor activities, you’re bound to run across #vanlife at some point. And what better vehicle to convert into a camper than a Kia Soul? This boxy vehicle has the shape and the size for some interesting Kia Soul camper conversion ideas.

Converting a Kia Soul is easier than you would think and we’re going to cover it all in five steps:

  1. Putting together your bedding
  2. Storage options
  3. Creating a sense of privacy
  4. Lighting
  5. Power

The best part about setting up a camping platform in your own Kia Soul is that it is a completely DIY project and there’s always something to be said about enjoying the fruits of your labor, not to mention the fact that you are free to unleash your creative genius.

Buying a camper is great and all, but outside of interior decoration, you get what you get. Transforming your Kia Soul into a camper gives you a degree of creative innovation you just can’t find in a tent or an RV and it’s an extremely wallet-friendly endeavor.

1. Putting together your bedding

Photo by Susan Wilkinson / Unsplash

Arguably, the most important part of this entire process is going to be how you design your bedding. There are a few ways to go about this but the box platform method is probably the best. You can also size it how you need it, depending on if you’re sleeping for one or two.

Headspace is important and if you’re 6’ tall you’re probably thinking that you will need something pretty long to lay on and sleep comfortably. Fortunately, the Kia Soul’s front seats fold down and slide forward, so while your board may not be as long as you like, the back of the front seats serves as two, separate extensions for two sleepers.

A box platform is relatively easy to make, with a square piece of plywood sized to fit the back of your Kia Soul. Three plywood sides no wider than 6” will form your box, with the fourth side empty and facing the hatch. Split your large plywood piece directly down the middle, with two, large hinges applied so that you can fold it in half when you’re done.

It’s effectively a box spring with 6” of slide in storage at the bottom. Layer your platform with soft carpeting, like a length of Innovia Touch that you can staple down on the edges of the box platform.

The best part about it is the degree of elevation and storage it allows for, as well as the ease of use. It simply opens up and slides right into the back, neatly over the center armrest. Foam pipe insulation is also a good idea to piece together along all of the edges, protecting the interior of your Kia from the scuffs and scrapes that the plywood might cause.

2. Storage options

The Kia Soul presents a unique advantage when it comes to storage capability. The trunk floor leaves plenty of space for smaller camping gear, including all of the materials you would need to get a campfire going, propane bottles, Tupperware, utensils, and cookware.

Once you close the trunk floor, you have the 6” gap below your box platform to store foldable chairs and anything else you can cram in there. Depending on how many you are sleeping, the rest can form up off to the side. Of course, the roof is for more than decoration as well.

That’s also where your folding bed comes in. If you are sleeping for just one, keep it folded and double your storage capacity. The Kia Soul is nothing if not roomy in the back. With the seats folded down, you will have just over 62.5 cubic feet of space to work with.

For the cold nights, you’ll want to pack a heater as well, unless you prefer to gobble up all your gas. You don’t have to stick with propane either, as there are plenty of battery-powered heaters that will store quite easily in your camper setup.

3. Creating a sense of privacy

Once you have the bed situated, you’ll quickly realize that you are pretty exposed to the outside world along with any, casual passerby that probably doesn’t care to see you in your skivvies. Of course, there may be some who do, but that’s a different problem altogether.

The point is, it’s not officially a camper until you make it one with a little bit of privacy. Plus, there’s always the added feeling of being at home when you are concealed in the privacy of your habitation.

The best way to go about this is to get yourself some Reflectix, which is double-sided insulation that has the added benefit of being reflective. Parked in the sun, no one is going to want to look at your Kia, much less spy on you within.

The drawback (because there’s always a drawback, isn’t there?) is that it doesn’t often cling to the windows the way you want it to. The good news is, there’s a simple fix and it also happens to give you an added degree of portability.

All that’s needed is some magnets and hot glue. Fix your magnets to the Reflextix material (you may have to cut it to form a bit) and then it’s a simple matter of popping the material up over your windows, letting the magnets stick to the metal frame of your Kia, holding it up.

It may not be as advantageous if you get caught out in a violent thunderstorm, but if anyone is out and about, giving you the evil eye in a frightening thunderstorm, it’s probably time to pull up stakes and move on.

4. Lighting

RGB Light control
Photo by Jacinto Diego / Unsplash

Lighting is truly the fun part. When it comes to properly lighting up your Kia, turned camper, LED strips light the way. Sure, you can go with something boring, like an AA-powered lamp or something even more frivolous, or you can get truly creative.

Govee interior lights and Pesic Ice Blue LED strips are excellent choices. You can line your Kia Sport however you want and choose what colors to go with to suit your mood. Combined with the Reflectix, when the lights go out, it doesn’t matter if the sun is up as it will remain plenty dark in the daytime.

Luminoodle isn’t exactly an LED strip in the conventional sense, but it’s another option to go with if you prefer an easy setup and takedown process. Luminoodle lighting is easy to throw up anywhere in the vehicle. Like the Reflectix, there are magnets in the strips, which makes it easy to install and take down when you’re done with it.

The only reason you might want to go with the Luminoodle over LED strips is the versatility that the product offers. You can pull them out of the vehicle and string them up outside if you want. They are powered with a USB cable, which brings us to the next part of our Kia Soul Camper Build.

5. Power

Photovoltaic PV plant ground mounted with string inverters
Photo by Sungrow EMEA / Unsplash

There are several ways you can go about this. You don’t want to use Kia’s battery. It doesn’t make sense to camp only to be stuck in your camping spot with a dead battery.

Solar generators are the perfect choice for your Kia Soul camper. Solar-powered generators are growing in popularity, and when it comes to a much-needed power source for your Kia’s camping needs, there are plenty of options available.

A good solar generator makes a lot of sense as well, because of its portability. You can stack your solar cells anywhere outside of the Kia, even on the roof, where it will spend the day feeding your generator battery and provide you with more than enough juice to run your lights and battery-powered heaters at night time.

A good solar panel should come with lithium-ion batteries and enough battery capacity to suit your needs. You’ll also want to be sure to have enough solar panels to do the job throughout the day.

Depending on the generator, you shouldn’t have to worry about an inverter, as that usually comes built-in. It’s worth checking, however, before you make your purchase. The last thing you need to worry about is finding that happy medium between the overall price of the generator and its size.

You’re going for good storage options after all, but a larger size generally means that it will come with a steeper price. Ultimately, you shouldn’t need anything too aggressive as it’s not like you’ll be running a power plant out of the back of your Kia.

Final thoughts

There you have it. If you’re pretty creative, you can come up with some crazy but workable ideas to convert your Kia Soul into a full-fledged camper/RV. Where’s the sense in forking over $7k for a teardrop camper, when you can manufacture your own RV for a few hundred bucks?

The Kia Soul is the perfect vehicle for the transformation, so get your tools ready and get started.