2012 CX-9 Camping Conversion?

I'm new here, but I thought if any online resource was going to know, it would be someone here. I've owned my 2012 CX-9 Touring for about a month and a half now (my first Mazda), and I love it. I have been thinking about upgrading it ever since I first drove it home. I put a tow hitch on it and I just ordered roof rails. But here's my dilemma.

I've seen a lot of YouTube videos of people converting their Subaru Foresters to camper-style conversions. Bed platforms, sink set-ups, storage drawers, etc. I have a 2012 CX-9 Touring w/AWD, and I wonder why more people don't choose this car for a similar conversion. So far I've only seen one or two guys on YouTube who have done something similar with their CX-9, and it's mainly for extra storage - drawers and some outdoor cooking space in the rear. With AWD, good ground clearance, towing capabilities, and lots of room in the back, why don't more people convert their CX9's to campers?

I'm thinking of doing a project with mine and was looking for some input. Has anyone done something similar? Any tips or tricks you'd like to share?

I could go the easy route and get a roof mounted tent, but that takes the fun out of building something. I'd love to hear some of your feedback on the idea.

For reference, here is the CX-9 on YouTube with the camping set-up. https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLhqwm5VNmYIXpFDrgoNPl3Pa7LWA-ugPe
 
My explanation for why there aren't more modded CX-9s is most likely because people who typically do an overland conversion want the form in addition the functionality. What I mean by that is they want to vehicle to look "rugged & offroady" so most flock to the 4Runners and Subarus that fit "the look" even before modification. I'd imagine another significant reason is the availability of more aftermarket parts for those vehicles. Even on Amazon you can find plenty of lift kits, roof racks, jerry cans, and light bars made specifically for those cars, and very few for other road-dwelling passenger cars.

That said, you should have no issue making your CX-9 the perfect camping vehicle for your needs. There may not be a lot of vehicle-specific modifications off the shelf, but I think the fun comes from making things yourself. I own an MDX, another typical road-going crossover, and I love using it for camping trips, despite there not being products for it. I have not lifted it nor do I plan to because the AWD and average ground clearance have taken me far from paved roads without issue so far. The most important thing is making the car right for your needs. For my camping setup the 2nd and 3rd row fold flat which becomes my bed. My clothes and stuff stay in the front seats, and my box of supplies/tools stays outside overnight with the chairs, canopy, and folding table. I don't have a roof rack for my car yet, otherwise I'd keep my supplies up there to keep them off the ground. I also have cutouts of all the rear windows made from black paper to keep light out of the car and provide me with a sense of privacy. The paper works fine but because it's flimsy, it's a PITA to set up. In the near future I am going to replace with cardboard or something more rigid.

Before you go heavy into making changes to the car itself, make sure you have a portable battery that can jump start the car, a rechargeable headlight (for your own head so you can set up camp in the dark), and a collapsible water jug to keep handy. I keep a portable tire inflator under the cargo floor too, but I haven't needed to use it yet. Make sure your spare tire is in good shape before going out on rocky terrain as well.
 
:
Pueblo county CO
:
CX-5 Sport 16.5 6M
It's important to cover all the windows if you are at higher elevations. A park ranger gave me this tip. Cut them from this type of floor underlayment and trim the edges with tape.


It's gray on one side and aluminum on the other. I think it's 2-3mm foam and if you cover all the windows it adds a lot of warmth. The front and back windshields require a stiffer material to hold in place. I use coroplast signboard material, available at Lowe s etc. I also use coroplast for the front door windows but the underlayment might work.

I attached a cargo net to the cargo area ceiling to hold all of the shades. I installed a 4ft white wire laundry utility shelf between the shock towers to store pillows.

I saw someone build a plywood sleeping platform but I didn't see the point.
I bought a small compressor freezer but I don't want to have drawers or a stove mounted inside. I could use a hitch mounted rack and roof box to increase storage.
 
:
2018 CX-9 GT
Here are 2 options.

one. I would remove the third tow seats, install a platform to keep the floor flat for sleeping and use the space underneath the platform for storage.

2. Keep the third row but remove one of the second row seat. Use the folded remaining second row seat as dining table.

keep in mind that the cargo weight limit of the CX-9, it should be on the sticker in the door jamb. Anything you install will count towards that limit.
 
:
2018 CX-9 GT
That guy in the YouTube video did a pretty cool set up. great value for the money and what looks like a pretty easy set up to remove and store when not need.

His set-up with the third row removed would free up a lot of space for storing camping gear and clothes underneath it, accessible from the behind the second row seats.
 
My explanation for why there aren't more modded CX-9s is most likely because people who typically do an overland conversion want the form in addition the functionality. What I mean by that is they want to vehicle to look "rugged & offroady" so most flock to the 4Runners and Subarus that fit "the look" even before modification. I'd imagine another significant reason is the availability of more aftermarket parts for those vehicles. Even on Amazon you can find plenty of lift kits, roof racks, jerry cans, and light bars made specifically for those cars, and very few for other road-dwelling passenger cars.

That said, you should have no issue making your CX-9 the perfect camping vehicle for your needs. There may not be a lot of vehicle-specific modifications off the shelf, but I think the fun comes from making things yourself. I own an MDX, another typical road-going crossover, and I love using it for camping trips, despite there not being products for it. I have not lifted it nor do I plan to because the AWD and average ground clearance have taken me far from paved roads without issue so far. The most important thing is making the car right for your needs. For my camping setup the 2nd and 3rd row fold flat which becomes my bed. My clothes and stuff stay in the front seats, and my box of supplies/tools stays outside overnight with the chairs, canopy, and folding table. I don't have a roof rack for my car yet, otherwise I'd keep my supplies up there to keep them off the ground. I also have cutouts of all the rear windows made from black paper to keep light out of the car and provide me with a sense of privacy. The paper works fine but because it's flimsy, it's a PITA to set up. In the near future I am going to replace with cardboard or something more rigid.

Before you go heavy into making changes to the car itself, make sure you have a portable battery that can jump start the car, a rechargeable headlight (for your own head so you can set up camp in the dark), and a collapsible water jug to keep handy. I keep a portable tire inflator under the cargo floor too, but I haven't needed to use it yet. Make sure your spare tire is in good shape before going out on rocky terrain as well.
I was thinking this might be the case. The Mazda is not targeted to the off-road community. I think that's a big miss for a lot of people. Only owning it for about 6 weeks, it seems like a capable car that has plenty of room. I'm guessing some of the aftermarket parts could still be used - light bars, etc. But you're right about 'making it my own' - that will be half the fun.

Also, great tips on the window covers, the portable battery, and the lights. I'll keep all those in mind when I get started.

Thanks!
 
It's important to cover all the windows if you are at higher elevations. A park ranger gave me this tip. Cut them from this type of floor underlayment and trim the edges with tape.


It's gray on one side and aluminum on the other. I think it's 2-3mm foam and if you cover all the windows it adds a lot of warmth. The front and back windshields require a stiffer material to hold in place. I use coroplast signboard material, available at Lowe s etc. I also use coroplast for the front door windows but the underlayment might work.

I attached a cargo net to the cargo area ceiling to hold all of the shades. I installed a 4ft white wire laundry utility shelf between the shock towers to store pillows.

I saw someone build a plywood sleeping platform but I didn't see the point.
I bought a small compressor freezer but I don't want to have drawers or a stove mounted inside. I could use a hitch mounted rack and roof box to increase storage.
Thanks for the tip on the floor underlayment! This seems like a great alternative to just dark paper.

I know the sleeping platform might be overkill, but it does provide some good storage under the platform and (based on what I've seen), there are some plastic bins for organization that will fit under it nicely.
 
:
Pueblo county CO
:
CX-5 Sport 16.5 6M
Thanks for the tip on the floor underlayment! This seems like a great alternative to just dark paper.

I know the sleeping platform might be overkill, but it does provide some good storage under the platform and (based on what I've seen), there are some plastic bins for organization that will fit under it nicely.
The window treatment seems almost ideal other than it's not stiff enough for the windshields so I support it with the coroplast. Some of those commercially made shades are pretty expensive but I doubt they're much better.

One thing that's good in certain situations is a small powered window vent. You close a side window on it up to about an inch from the top and extend the side pieces to fill the gaps. It has a 12v plug but I don't usually use it.

I have camped in WA state and the humidity was all over the inside in the morning.
 
The window treatment seems almost ideal other than it's not stiff enough for the windshields so I support it with the coroplast. Some of those commercially made shades are pretty expensive but I doubt they're much better.

One thing that's good in certain situations is a small powered window vent. You close a side window on it up to about an inch from the top and extend the side pieces to fill the gaps. It has a 12v plug but I don't usually use it.

I have camped in WA state and the humidity was all over the inside in the morning.
That's a great point! Last weekend I camped with only one window cracked (it was low 30s and I was stubborn) and all of the windows were nearly dripping wet come morning. Made my paper window shades soggy too! I'm definitely going to make new shades with the insulation roll you showed earlier
 
:
Pueblo county CO
:
CX-5 Sport 16.5 6M
I ran across this article:

I made something like this for under $100. Maybe not quite as refined but several of the parts, including the inverter, are identical.

 
:
Pueblo county CO
:
CX-5 Sport 16.5 6M
I got this fridge. It seems a good size for the price. It can hold frozen dinners, bottles upright. Probably more than necessary for a week. There are many similar ones on Amazon.
It runs great on the 110v power pack but my battery doesn't start it. It runs fine using the 110v power pack on the inverter connected to the same battery.
https://www.amazon.com/dp/ (commissions earned)
 
:
2020 CX9
@kevinmogee I'm following this thread because I plan to start camping in my 2020 CX-9 this summer. I used to camp in my Honda CR-V. My upgrade to a CX-9 was to be able to tow a small pop up camper. But car camping is much more convenient sometimes!

Please post any pictures of your progress if you moved ahead with retrofitting your CX-9 to a camper!
 
:
Pueblo county CO
:
CX-5 Sport 16.5 6M
I'm trying to install a 110v inverter under the dash. It would be connected to the vehicle battery so I could operate things while driving. I have another inverter in my 12v aux battery box I keep on the floor behind the front seat.
 

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