I kept my second row seats except for the middle section, removed the third row and replaced them with a "nesting" sleeping platform.
The platform behind the second row is permanently mounted to the factory tie down hooks with a sliding cover underneath that allows access to the storage area where the 3rd row used to be from either the tailgate or second row doors. The sleeping platform has a section that slides forward when the second row is folded flat and creates a platform from the back of the front seats to the tailgate. It includes a hinged section to cover the fridge between the second row seats. Everything is upholstered in marine grade carpet that matches the factory carpet. It is just fine for two average sized adults.
I did this for exactly the reason you state. I did a few technical trails with a spare tire mounted on top and did not care for the top heaviness one little bit. After that I got everything moved off the roof and onto the front/rear bumpers. I left the rack up there for any contingencies, but if I pack it correctly, the roof rack is just there for setting up a couple lawn chairs to watch the local high school football games.
Ya, I like having my water/tire on the rear, roof rack is just for my 23 Zero 270 awning, maxtrax, full sized shovel and my two room shower/bathroom tent. Keep it light up top.
I like this setup for my solo trips because it is so quick and easy and light. It's also good for road stealth camping. I can just crawl in the back and sleep without any fuss. Having an xlifter is key to my setup because of the self-level feature.
I built cabinets with lids. They bolt to the floor and each other so its a super solid platform. I was able to use 1/2" so its very light. I like that nothing can fall out of the doors and I can more accurately store things. I slightly raised and leveled my fridge so it is level with the platform. I can still access all my gear and fridge while inside the vehicle by just folding over my bed and lifting up the fridge lid or cubby lids.
Just wanted to drop some photos of my permanent camper build.
- 2 seater
- 30l fridge
- 90l water tank + pressure pump
- 55Ah Lithium 12V (charged via B2B charger from engine)
- 2kW air park heater + water heat exchanger (~500W heating power)
- Complete kitchen in the rear
- Sink will follow