You don't know what you don't know

Thorin

New Member
So I am brand new to the skoolie community and am trying desperately to figure out the smallest bus size we can go while still hitting those necessities that my family need. The biggest problem I am running into is just not knowing all of the background mechanics and the space they take up. Yes I know I could just google "workstation sink" and figure out how big they come in but how much space does a hot water heater or water filtration system need? How much space will all of my the electrical systems take up? Things like that...

I have an interior design background, so I know all sorts of fun little tips and tricks to save on floor space; but I don't have all the little puzzle pieces necessary to start "tetris-ing" everything together and this ultimately will dictate the length of bus we eventually will purchase so its a pretty big deal. I know most of this will end up boiling down to personal preferences and what kinds of space saving gadgets I can find but I was hoping to pick the collective skoolie community brain, so I can save a bit of time and heartache finding all of my missing puzzle pieces. Below I have listed all of the needs and wants and would love everyone's input on what is doable and a rough estimate on how much space these things take up. I know the space for a few of these things and will list them out below. ALSO if someone already just "knows" how much space we'll need please feel free to share that too!

There will be two adults an 8yo and a cat on the road with us and we will be doing loads of boondocking to save on money so we're really trying to avoid a monster sized bus. We will have to two our subaru because we do plan to do some overlanding and off-roading. I'd love a 25ft because that seems like the least scary to get around town BUT If that is ridiculously unfeasible with our needs let me know. Anything over 30ft just scares the **** out of me and feels way to complicated to find parking for

Needs
  • Queen Bed (for my wife and I): 33 sq ft
  • Single Bed (for my son): 15 sqft
  • Kitchen workstation Sink
  • Oven/range
  • refrigerator
  • work spaces x2: 1
    • My wife has 27" desktop that she HAS to have and we can use it as our TV
    • I have a little laptop and 2nd monitor (can scrap the second monitor)
    • If we can hide these during the night it can be a dining combo we just want to avoid the beds becoming our workstations if we can
  • Bathroom/shower combo: I'd be down for scrapping the shower and having an outdoor one if we really need to
  • Solar: I have no clue how much additional space that takes up if any inside the vehicle
  • A place for climbing gear and photography gear storage (figure that can go under the beds)
Wants
  • A place to keep two-three bicycles
  • That's really it for the time being we're really trying to pair this down
@Chris Let me know if you want me to pass any of these questions along to a different forum.
 

Chris

Livin Life in the Right Lane
Staff member
@Thorin So 25ft will be tight, depending on how you configure the bed situation. Our bus is 30ft bumper to bumper, with it being about 25ft from back of the driver seat/stairs to the back of the bus.

So for a 25ft bumper-to-bumper bus, if it is a dog nose you'll have about 20ft of space from the back of the driver seat to the back door. If you want your Queen way in the back and the single in front of that then you are going to consume about 14-15 ft. You are not left with much to work with.

If you get a flat front, it will probably be around 28ft as I haven't seen many flat front shorter buses. The flat fronts in the mid-length 28-32ft range are most likely be a front-engine unless you can luck out with finding a rear-engine, which would be ideal if going with a flat front bus (mostly for noise when driving). With skoolies becoming so popular, these shorter flat front, rear-engine buses may be harder to find.

A flat front bus will buy you another 3-4 feet inside the bus. This may be the way to go to maximize space inside while keeping the bus shorter bumper-to-bumper.

Side note on towing a vehicle - If you are going to tow a car, I would highly recommend getting a skoolie with a solid engine, either an Allision 2000 or 3000 series or an MT643 which is a really solid option. We have an AT545 which is a fairly common transmission in mid-size buses - but it is not the best for skoolies in some situations due to them not having a torque converter.

I would definitely recommend starting drawing up different hypothetical bus layouts and try to rough estimate measurements. Sarah and I did this for 2-3 weeks as we binge-watched the limited amount of skoolie tours that were on YouTube back in 2018. Now there are tons of them, which can be really useful for piecing together features from others builds to make a skoolie optimized for you guys. But drawing it all out can help visualize it. Feel free to post them up on here and I can help brainstorm ideas and stuff. This layout planning part is one of the more fun parts of the build for Sarah and I, haha.

Some notes on the list of items you have in bold below.

Needs
  • Queen Bed (for my wife and I): 33 sq ft
  • Single Bed (for my son): 15 sqft
  • Kitchen workstation Sink & Oven/range
    • We have all this in a row and it takes up 3 windows of space, so about 6 feet.
  • refrigerator
    • This depends if you do a chest fridge that can be put under a counter area, or if you do a stand-up fridge. We went with a 10.3 cuft apartment-sized fridge that taxes up about 3' X 3' by 5' of space with room on the sides for heat and venting so it doesn't overheat and all of our electrical on the back wall behind it. Our friends in the Miles O'Smiles bus put their chest fridge on a drawer under their counter.
  • work spaces x2: 1
    • My wife has 27" desktop that she HAS to have and we can use it as our TV
    • I have a little laptop and 2nd monitor (can scrap the second monitor)
    • If we can hide these during the night it can be a dining combo we just want to avoid the beds becoming our workstations if we can
    • Sarah and I work full-time on our websites from the bus and she runs a digital marketing company, so we work all the time from our skoolie. When working from a skoolie it will make life alot easier having a work station. We have a countertop area that works as an entertainment, desk work area, and our eating area all in one (with shoe storage, under counter storage, and there is even space in back where a 50" TV once rose up from, although we mounted 2x 28" widescreen monitors up for Sarah and I to work at during the day. We also use these for watching movies and our security cameras around the bus. This one area is probably the most utilized and feature-packed area of our bus. Something like this may work for you guys and it all only takes up 2 windows and the same width as our kitchen area counter top, so it all flows together. Only thing is you might need to make it a 3 person spot and use 3 windows for your son to have a spot, too!
  • Bathroom/shower combo: I'd be down for scrapping the shower and having an outdoor one if we really need to
    • I think this is doable but plan on it taking them at least 2.5' x 5' long (or two windows worth of space) if putting them together.
  • Solar: I have no clue how much additional space that takes up if any inside the vehicle
    • The electrical will not take up much space and can be put in a place under your couch, under the bed, behind the fridge, or in another area as long as you can get access to it. If you go with lithium for your solar battery bank, this will take up more floor space - but can go under your couch or another area. You ideally want to keep all your electrical and battery bank together to keep wire runs closer together - this will keep the wire size requirements down. I'll do an update on my Electrical & Solar Journey in the next few days as I have it almost all done now and I'll have some pictures where you can see how much the electrical equipment takes up behind our fridge and the battery bank under our couch.
  • A place for climbing gear and photography gear storage (figure that can go under the beds)
Wants
  • A place to keep two-three bicycles
    • This works best if you build in a "garage" area in the back of the bus. Our Miles O'Smiles built a garage area in the back of their bus for their two bikes to fit in, which is where they will also put skis, and I helped install all their electrical components and battery bank back there, which is all accessed by the rear door.
  • That's really it, for the time being, we're really trying to pair this down
 
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