If the van’s a-rockin’, you’ve probably already finished building your camper van bed, so you can skip this. But if not, read on:
Once our walls and floors of the van were installed, we focused our attention on the design of the camper van’s bed frame – the largest (and most important) feature of our suite on wheels. Our cargo van, an ’02 Dodge Ram Van, has the stock roof height (as opposed to a extended roof), so a key factor for me was making sure the bed was low enough that I could sit upright, but high enough that I still had ample storage underneath for camping and fishing gear, as well as our clothes.
Side note: If you’re looking for something cheaper and allows more open space within the camper van, you may want to consider a hammock! Although, we really only see this working for 1 person, this is a top-notch build with a hammock for the bed. And this video is helpful in answering any questions about installation.
We wanted an extendable bed, one that could pull out from a sofa into a bed large enough for two people. We found this post and really liked the simplicity of the design, however we beefed it up with 2x3s for the base instead. Other similar designs were helpful for inspiration, but noticed many vandwellers using 2x4s for the majority of the frame, or were simply overbuilt – this seemed unnecessarily heavy, even for 2 people.
Because our camper’s bed was going to extend from a sofa into a full-sized bed, we initially looked at futon mattresses, but I really disliked the sloppy look of a most of them – the way they fold/curve in the middle makes it appear exactly like what it is – a mattress folded in half like a hotdog bun. What we wanted was two separate, firm cushions that could lay side-by-side to form the bed. We ended up buying two sheets of high density upholstery foam for a really good price, and when laid together, are almost exactly the size of a full mattress.
We covered these cushions with a nicer futon cover from IKEA, which we had to hem a little narrower, but ended up working perfectly. It drapes nicely over the expanding bed frame, keeps the cushions tight together when pulled out, and has small pockets on both ends, perfect for storing little items.
Securing your camper van bed
It seems obvious, but make sure that your finished bed frame will fit through the back doors of the van, especially if you are designing it to be perpendicular (wall to wall). To get every available inch out of the width of the compartment, you may need to assemble it in its final resting spot.
We secured the bed using L-brackets straight through the laminate planks and into the plywood subfloor, as well as into one of the wall’s metal support beams using more self-tapping sheet metal screws. The screws into the floor alone would have kept it from sliding around in day to day use, but we wanted to be sure that in case of a collision, it didn’t come flying forward.