(Words: Mikaela MulHall)
Looking to up your camping game in 2021? One way to do this is to retrofit your camper van or truck with a bed so you can sleep in ultimate comfort in your home-on-wheels. A camper bed, at its most basic, is a platform to put a mattress on in the trunk of your car or bed of your truck, made often from a plywood frame. Many people create space underneath the platform to store camping gear for their adventures. From station wagons, to trucks, to SUVs, to vans, outdoor lovers are converting all types of trunks or truck beds these days. Below are 5 tips for how to build out a camper bed in your van, as well as a few tricks for organizing your gear when space is tight.
Tip #1: Get inspired and create a plan.
Instagram, Pinterest, Youtube, Google Image – a quick search on any of these platforms and you will find tons of plans, ideas, and inspiration for building out a camper bed in the back of your truck or van. Before starting to build, it’s a good rule of thumb to get inspiration first. Observe, think, sketch, and bounce ideas of others to figure out what you really want before you buy supplies and start building. There are countless creative ways that folks have built camper beds in their vehicles, transforming their everyday cars into adventure homes. Some great places to start looking for inspiration are social media, blogs, and videos. Write down the ideas you have and the things you know you want to be included in your camper bed design. Go deep down the camper-bed-conversion rabbit hole and emerge with a vision.
Pro Tip: Look up a plan for your specific car model. This is especially important if you are a beginner in carpentry and building. Find a plan online for your specific car or recruit someone who knows a bit about carpentry and woodworking to help you out. These plans will have taken into consideration things like overhead space, something you’ll want enough of when you’re relaxing in bed.
Tip #2: Store the bed or keep it in the van always?
When creating your camper bed frame plan, you’ll want to consider whether or not you want to keep the bed frame in your car year-round or if you want to store it somewhere else between trips. If you are planning to always keep it in your car, a good idea is to make it foldable so there is space for other items when the camper bed is not in use. If you are planning to store the bed frame outside of your vehicle, find a dedicated space at your house to keep it when it’s not in use. This is a good option for folks who use their adventure cars or vans as their everyday transportation and may need the storage space when they’re not camping.
Tip #3: Make it as fancy or simple as you want.
The beauty of building your own van camper bed platform is that it can be as fancy or as simple as you want it to be. A good rule of thumb: let how you’ll use it guide your plan. As mentioned in the previous tip, creating a folding platform makes it so you are able to fold the bed and save space when you are not using it. Under the platform, you can build drawers, compartments, or a table. This is where you have to think about the adventures you go on and how you’ll get the most utility out of your bed. If you are a gourmet camp chef, building a table that slides out from under the camper bed platform, can give a space to cook and dine in the great outdoors. If you are an avid climber and have lots of gear to store, building drawers under the bed platform to organize your climbing gear would be valuable. If you dabble in all types of adventures, simple, versatile compartments for storage bins is a good option. The opportunities are endless with a little thinking and creativity.
Tip #4: Gather supplies and tools, and start building.
Having a plan and being organized in the building process is key. After you decide on the design of your van camper bed platform and have all of the dimensions, make a list of all of the supplies and tools you will need. You can then take inventory of all of the supplies and tools you already have, and can purchase the ones that you do not have. If you are a beginner in carpentry and woodworking, it would be beneficial to have someone who knows what they are doing to help you out. If you don’t know anyone with experience, worry not. Folks who work at hardware and construction stores are generally very knowledgeable and can help you find the materials and supplies you need to build your camper bed. There are also a ton of resources online to help you (YouTube!). Make sure you follow basic safety guidelines for construction like wearing safety equipment and ensuring that you are using all tools how they were designed to be used. If you found a plan online, make sure you follow the plan in the correct order and do not skip any steps.
Tip #5: Make it cozy and comfortable.
Once your camper van bed is built out, it’s time to make it more like home. I’m talkin’ sheets, blankets, pillows, lighting. All the details you’ll appreciate after a day on the road or in the wild. Depending on your budget, you can make the decision to get a mattress to fit on the bed platform or you can just use your regular camping sleeping pads. One option is to get a memory foam mattress topper and cut it to the size of your van camper bed platform. Another way to elevate the design of your van camper bed is to line the top of the wood platform with a carpet-like material.
Since your van is going to be your home on adventures, make it feel like home by adding pillows, blankets, lights, or curtains. Depending on what season you are adventuring in, it may be good to have sleeping bags and camping blankets. If you really want to go all out glamping style, bring a set of sheets and a comforter. Also, bringing pillows on your adventures can make a huge difference in getting a comfortable and sound night of sleep. Add curtains to your car windows for privacy especially if you are in a crowded camp area and to block out the morning sun if you are trying to sleep in. A nice set of battery powered string lights create a way for you to see at night and add to the fun van camping atmosphere.
Gear Storage Tips and Tricks
Adventures can require a lot of gear and sometimes it feels like playing tetris trying to fit it all in your car. This is where some of these gear storage tips and tricks may come in handy.
Storage Bins - Storage bins are a great way to keep your adventure gear organized and in one place. Make sure you purchase a bin with a lid and put all of your gear for your dedicated adventure in it. This will save you time when packing and preparing for your adventures so you are not having to gather your gear from different places around the house. It makes it easy to grab the bin and put it under your van camping bed platform. Similarly, these bins make it easy to unload all your stuff in one fell swoop once you’re back home.
Cooler Compartment - When creating the design for your bed platform, you can create a space that is specifically designed for your cooler. Just make sure to measure the dimensions of your cooler so then it will fit perfectly under your van camper bed platform.
Storage Net - Storage nets inside your car are great ways to store items that you would like easy access to. These nets are great because they don’t take up a lot of space when there’s nothing in them.
Rooftop Storage - Longer and bigger adventures typically require a bit more gear, meaning you will need more storage. There are different rooftop options for storage that range in pricing. This is a great way to free up some space inside of your car.
Okay, so you’ve gathered inspiration (Tip #1) and you’re itching to get a plan together for your full or part time camper bed (Tip #2). Now it’s time to get fancy (or not) (Tip #3), get the tools (Tip #4), get comfy (Tip #5) and go!
Building a camper bed in your van or truck is the perfect way to bring a little bit home with you wherever you roam. It’ll also support quality rest, something that’s doubly important amidst an adventure. Hiking, kayaking, biking, climbing, skiing – it all demands a lot of energy and a comfy place to crash at the end of the day. We hope this was a helpful resource of tips and tricks for those of you wanting to build your dream camper bed. Leave a comment on any tips you have for building a van camper bed. See you on the road!
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