SUV Sleeping Platform: A Complete DIY Guide

SUV Sleeping platform in the Arctic Circle, Alaska

Can you imagine the freedom you will have after building a sleeping platform, and converting your SUV into a house on wheels?

Imagine sleeping in remote mountains, by enchanting lakes, sunny beaches, under the stars… or even surrounded by the Northern Lights!

Camper SUV conversion finished with bed and kitchen
Let the road be your home…

This is only a very small sample of all the places our converted camper SUV, with a DIY sleeping platform, took us during our first road trip to Alaska and Canada.

DIY Style: Customized, Easy & Affordable

What if I told you that we built and designed everything on our own, with absolutely no previous experience… and for less than $200!

If you like authentic, off-the-beaten-path adventure, and being in total control of your time and decisions while you’re on the road, you’ve come to the right place!

Adventure seekers, this is the perfect post for you.


HOW TO BUILD A SLEEPING PLATFORM IN YOUR SUV, CAR OR VAN: A COMPLETE GUIDE

 

Let me start by saying that this guide is meant for everyone in need of ideas or inspiration, but it’s specifically geared towards beginners. It is simply impossible to be more inexperienced than I was prior to starting this project. The people who know me best still can’t believe that I built this with my own two hands, and despite all of the evidence, they still have their doubts! Needless to say, I can be considered the exact opposite of a handy-man.

Bottom line: if I was able to build the sleeping platform on my own, you can too. There is no doubt about it. All you need is time, around $150, a few basic tools and the wanderlust fever rushing through your veins. Don’t worry about the rest, I’m going to guide you.

As your guide, I’m going to share with you everything you need to create your own project. This means the right materials, tools, ideas and inspiration, tips and tricks, and the hindsight I gained through the process. I have even included an in-depth video for the visual learners! This is my recommendation: read the guide, watch the video, and start designing your very own SUV sleeping platform.

Hopefully, all of this will result in your own successful camper conversion. However, there is one thing that I cannot give you: your own project. That’s for you to create. Consider that everyone has their own particular needs and preferences, and every car is going to have different dimensions and features. That being said, I can assure you that the ideas you’re about to read will serve as a guideline in any possible scenario.

 

IF YOU DESIRE A DIY SUV SLEEPING PLATFORM WITH…

SUV camper conversion kitchen acces
Our SUV sleeping platform with a fully equipped kitchen

 

A FULL-SIZE BED

LOTS OF STORAGE ROOM

EASY ACCESS KITCHEN WITH FOLDING TABLES

A PANTRY FOR FOOD & UTENSILS

…KEEP READING!

 


 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

  1. PROJECT OVERVIEW: A COMPLETE LIST OF MATERIALS AND TOOLS
  2. WHAT PURPOSE DO I WANT MY CAMPER TO SERVE: THE FIRST BRAINSTORMING SESSION
  3. ALL YOU HAVE TO CONSIDER BEFORE THE DESIGN PROCESS (AND WHAT I CONSIDERED TOO LATE)
  4. GRAB YOUR PENCIL AND RULER: DESIGN YOUR OWN CAMPER (OR EMULATE OURS)
  5. THE DREADED PART: THE BUILDING PROCESS
  6. CONSTRUCTION AND OTHER TIPS
  7. IN-DEPTH VIDEO OF THE FINAL RESULT


 

1. PROJECT OVERVIEW: A COMPLETE LIST OF MATERIALS AND TOOLS

In this guide, you will find all the information you need to build a sleeping platform in your SUV. Furthermore, I’m going to share with you the biggest mistakes I made during my process, so you don’t repeat them. As a bonus, I will provide helpful ideas and tips to transform your sleeping platform into something much more functional than just a simple bed.

Let’s take a look at what you will need for this project…

COMPLETE LIST OF MATERIALS AND TOOLS

TOOLS

– Power drill (2 better than 1!)
– Power circular saw
– Hand saw
– Tape measure
– Framing square
– Bubble level
– Safety glasses
– Gloves
– Pencil

 

Optional
– Screwdriver
– Power sander
– Hammer

 

 

MATERIALS

– 2×4-inch boards
– 2×6-inch boards
– 2×2-inch studs
– 3/4-inch plywood panels (2 of these should be enough)
– Wood screws (different measures – (take a look here)
– Corner braces and tie plates (find what fits your project before going to the hardware store)
– Door hinges

Optional
– Screw eyes
– Rope
– Cable ties
– Metal rings
– Carabiners
– Heavy duty top plates
– Washers and nuts
– Magnetic / double roller catches / latches.

NOTE 1: All the optional materials are meant for the extra features that I will show you in the video. If you want to take your project to the next level, don’t miss this!

 

NOTE 2: For obvious reasons, it is impossible for me to tell you the exact measurements of the wood panels and boards, but I’ll guide you through the process, attempting to make this step as painless as possible!

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2. WHAT PURPOSE DO I WANT MY CAMPER TO SERVE: THE FIRST BRAINSTORMING SESSION

Before putting your drawing skills to the test, or start using the power saw like a sick villain in a horror B movie, you’ll have to make some important decisions. These decisions are going to condition everything you do from here on out. Don’t underestimate the relevance of this initial stage.

First of all, you’ll have to ask yourself a series of questions:

How many people/animals will my camper need to accommodate?

– Why am I building a sleeping platform in my SUV?  Is it simply for weekend getaways, or for long term travel?

– Will it be just to sleep or to live in?

– Am I going to need a lot of storage room? Do I plan to bring (you name it) a surf or snow board, skis, camping gear…? Will I have to remove all the back seats for this purpose?

– Do I want to have a cooking area? Am I planning to store larger items such as a cooler / fridge, cooking stove, etc.?

DEFINING YOUR VISION

Answering these (and probably other) questions is the true beginning of your project. Once you have a direction, you know what to pursue. Close your eyes and imagine how you want your vehicle to look. Don’t be afraid to dream big. Your vision will soon become reality…and that is very exciting!

Our vision ultimately determined our final product. We wanted something for the long-term: a space that we could comfortably live out of for an extended period of time, a place to call home! Adequate storage is required for our backpacking gear, as well as for our day-to-day items. A functional kitchen and pantry were also important, as we planned to cook the majority of our meals. The most important factor of all… a comfortable bed! After all, this was going to be our home for the next 3 months.

Cooking dinner at the back of our SUV sleeping platform
Kitchen and dining area of our SUV sleeping platform with waterfront views, it doesn’t get better than this!

 

DEFINE YOUR PRIORITIES

After the initial brainstorming phase, we knew what kind of camper conversion we wanted, but there was still another question that needed to be answered. Could we realistically transform our vision of the “perfect” SUV sleeping platform into reality? This was our list of priorities, which I dare to say will be accepted and embraced by the average reader:

Cost effective. In other words, we needed this project to be affordable for us (less than $200).

Easy to build and set up. In just one minute the structure is completely set inside our car. You can check this out in the video.

Space optimized. Make the most of every square inch inside the vehicle.

Multi-functional. Include all the basics of a home: bedroom, kitchen, pantry, storage room, wardrobe.

Comfort. Have the bed be as roomy as possible, without sacrificing the much needed storage space.

Safe and resistant. We knew how much road we had ahead of us and safety was non-negotiable. We wanted something simple and inexpensive, but also sturdy and durable.

 

DEAR READER, THIS IS JOWDAY, OUR CAMPER SUV

Before jumping into the bulk of the content, let us introduce you to our beloved SUV. She is a beautiful and mighty Hyundai Santa, named Jowday (pronounced Judy). She is named after one of the most mysterious and illusive characters from the greatest television show of all time… Yes, we are hardcore Twin Peaks fans.

Jowday and her brand new sleeping platform took us from Seattle, all the way to the Arctic Ocean and many places in-between. We drove 9,273 miles in 76 days across Alaska and Canada; through mountain passes, down gravel highways (hello, Dalton Highway!), over rivers, along rocky beaches, reaching some of the most remote places on the continent. We can assure you that our SUV sleeping platform far surpassed our best expectations, in every single one of its functionalities.

Destruction Bay, Canada, road trip with a Hyundai Santa Fe
Our beloved Jowday in Destruction Bay, a desert landscape in Canada


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3. ALL YOU HAVE TO CONSIDER BEFORE THE DESIGN PROCESS (AND WHAT I CONSIDERED TOO LATE)

Mistakes are an inherent part of any learning process. The best thing about mistakes… we learn from them! If this is your first construction project, you will undoubtedly make plenty of mistakes along the way. As a first-timer, my process was riddled with them, and it took a lot of trial and error before I was completely satisfied with the final product. Embrace them, learn from them, and consider them a necessary evil to the process.

MISTAKES I MADE… AND WHAT I WILL SAVE YOU FROM REPEATING

Not removing absolutely everything from the inside the vehicle before taking measurements

SEATS: It was my first construction project and I was eager to get started, to say the least! I retrieved my notebook, measuring tape and went to work. I spent several hours staring at the space in front of me, measuring every angle and taking notes of ideas for the design. As it turned out, everything I did in this initial stage was completely worthless. Do it right: remove the seats before taking measurements for your design.

STORAGE CONTAINERS: Our Hyundai Santa Fe has two built-in, removable storage containers in the back (see image below). These storage containers fit tools, a first aid kit, and provide extra storage space.

Our first thought was to keep the storage containers in place, as they provided a flat surface for the SUV sleeping platform to rest- a huge pro!

Shortly after beginning the design process with the thought of leaving the storage containers in place, we became aware of the cons.  The extra storage space they offered, compared to the space they used, was incongruous. With the structure resting on top of the storage containers, they would hardly be accessible and thus, not very useful. Above all, the two containers were taking too much vertical space and this meant that the space available for our bed would be minimal.

Hyundai Santa Fe 2011 trunk view
View of the SUV before removing the back seats and storage containers
Back of SUV ready to install a camper structure
After removing the back seats and storage containers. Notice the gain in depth.

 

It is wise to rectify, even when you know it will entail extra work

The space we gained after removing the storage containers was significant, but this meant we would have to work with an uneven floor surface. We took the hard path in terms of construction, but we were confident that our decision was going to pay off. All of the design sketches that I worked so hard on before removing the seats and containers became obsolete.

Account for all of the gear and equipment you plan to store inside your vehicle

For us, it was the size of the cooler that conditioned our whole design. The height of the cooler was the crucial measurement for constructing our SUV sleeping platform. The sleeping platform needed to be slightly above at the exact same height as the top of the cooler. Be sure to account for all of your gear and equipment before getting your hands dirty.

TIP: After removing everything from your vehicle, place the larger items in their designated place and take measurements. This will help to avoid frustrations down the road, as everything will be accounted for in the initial design process.

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4. GRAB YOUR PENCIL AND RULER: DESIGN YOUR OWN CAMPER (OR EMULATE OURS)

It is time to begin designing! I can assure you that this is the most fun part of the entire process. Let creativity (and myself) be your guide as you lay the groundwork for your very own SUV sleeping platform. In this section I am going to explain all the steps you must follow to ensure a frustration-free design process. If you want to simply emulate our design, skip over this section and go straight to the building process.

A step by step guide for designing your SUV sleeping platform

Step 1: Analyze the space available in your vehicle

Look for strengths and weaknesses inside your vehicle. A flat surface vs. an uneven surface; straight interior walls vs. curved interior walls; solid anchoring points vs. minimal to no anchoring points.

Step 2: Measure your entryway

Imagine going through the entire building process only to find out that the structure does not fit through the entryway of your vehicle. Of course, adjustments can be made, but this would result in having to tweak the entire design. Save yourself from banging your head against the wall in utter frustration and be sure to measure everything as precise as possible. In most cases the structure will be inserted through the trunk; measure the height, width and diagonal clearance of the trunk door. In addition to assuring that the structure will fit, you will also need to measure the height of the larger items that you plan to store in your vehicle e.g., storage totes, cooler, stove, etc. The height of these items will condition the height of the structure.

TIP: Your tallest item will ultimately determine the height of the SUV sleeping platform. Add at least an extra 1/2 inch and you’ve got how tall your structure (and legs) will need to be.

 

Step 3: Decide on placement of the larger items… decide what functionalities you want your SUV sleeping platform to have…

Determine where the cooler and/or storage containers will fit inside the vehicle. In the event you are planning to fit larger recreational equipment, such as a surf or snow board, have in mind where you want these items to go. Be sure to reserve enough space for the more basic, day to day items. As you plan how all of your items will fit inside the vehicle, be sure to keep in mind how accessible each item needs to be. For example, we chose to place the items used infrequently i.e., backpacking gear, tools, etc., in less accessible spots, and the items that we use on a daily basis, in an area that is easily accessible.

Regarding functionalities, we knew we wanted a lot of storage room that would be easily accessible from the rear doors, as well as a fully-functional kitchen and dining area that would extend outward from the trunk. These functionalities will determine how you design and build your SUV sleeping platform.

Step 4: Sharpen your pencil and start creating your prototype

Take measurements and start sketching! You don’t need to create sophisticated blueprints, but the more developed your plan is, the smoother the building process will be.

Decide how complicated you want to build your structure. We saw several instances where people built pull-out drawers into their structure; something like this can help to optimize space even more. As first time builders we decided to go a bit simpler, yet sill adhering to our priorities: easy to build and setup, inexpensive, spacious and sturdy.
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5. THE DREADED PART: THE BUILDING PROCESS

  1. START WITH THE BASE
  2. THE BED BOARD
  3. THE LEG SYSTEM

Honestly, my friends, it wasn’t that bad. It was painful at times, but mostly a very enjoyable process. Lets get started!

5.1. START WITH THE BASE

Makes sense, right? Like a house, start with the foundation.

Diagram of the base of the SUV camper platform - step 1
Diagram of the base – step 1

In my opinion, nothing makes more sense in terms of safety and durability, than creating a solid rectangular frame as the base for the structure.

Determine the dimensions of the rectangle (aka base) and if the resting surface is even, or not. If the resting surface is not completely even, you’ll have to figure out some tricks to build your SUV sleeping platform so that it is completely uniform. You can see my solutions for this in the video.

For now, look at the diagram 1 to visualize your foundation. Please note that all the boards used for the foundation (side bars & cross bars) are 2×4″.

Before you run to get the power drill, let’s consider some important points: first, don’t rush yourself; second, read this entire guide so you have a general idea of the process; third, in the case that something goes wrong, remember that working with wood allows you to undo almost anything.

Now, on to the next step: analyzing the cross bars.

CROSS BAR 1

In the final product, the top face of crossbar 1 must be at the exact same level as the trunk’s lowest interior frame. We built folding tables, which extend outward from the trunk and the SUV sleeping platform. We used the frame of the trunk as a natural (and incredibly solid) support system. This is what I call using the car’s own structure to your advantage.

For this purpose, you have two options:

a) Use a 2×4″  to build the whole frame and, later, add an extra board that delivers the extra height. If your SUV sleeping platform goes straight into a flat surface at the exact same level as the trunk’s frame, forget about all this.

b) Skip the 2×4 and just use a plywood board with the exact dimensions you need. This is what we did.

Let the images clarify all this.

Camper conversion DIY structure made of wood
Only one plywood board was used for “crossbar 1”

 

Wooden structure for a SUV to camper conversion inside the car
The height of “crossbar 1” (red line) is equal to the trunk’s frame (red zone)-  mind the perspective of the image 😉

 

Wooden structure for an SUV camper conversion, with unfolded panels in the trunk
In an open position, the panels must rest on top of the trunk’s frame (red zone in the previous pic)
TIP: Never use nails to secure the structure in place. Use only good quality screws specific for wood. To attach all the side bars and crossbars (attaching the 2x4s of the foundation), I recommend screws between 3 1/2 and 4 inches long. Reduce the size when working with the 3/4 inch plywood panels, or they will crack

 

CROSS BAR 2

In most cases, crossbar 2 will rest parallel against the center console, unless the crossbar interferes with the two front seats. If the crossbar interferes with the seats, try placing it closer towards the trunk. Watch the video for more details on this.

TIP: Pre-drilling is advised in most scenarios. For this purpose, it’s incredibly useful to work with two power drills. This way, you can use one for pre-drilling and the second for drilling, without having to change the drill bit every single time

 

CROSS BAR 3

Crossbar 3 is a very important part of your SUV sleeping platform, as it is going to be the separator between the storage area and the kitchen. I recommend connecting a 2×4″ board standing on the 2″ side. Consequently, the 4″ side of the board will create a taller “wall” and this will avoid shifting of the larger items, such as the cooler.

If you plan to fit a long item (board, skis, etc.) inside the vehicle, you will want to lay the 2×4″ board flat on its wider side. This will allow for these larger items to be easily transported in and out of the vehicle.

TIP:  When measuring for the cooler space, allow approximately 3-4 inches of extra space when installing crossbar 2. This will allow you to have an array of kitchen basics handy at all times, and will make it easier to transfer the cooler in and out of its designated space

 

DIVIDE YOUR KITCHEN AREA

We divided our kitchen into three main parts: stove + kitchen utensils, large water jug, and cooler. For this purpose you’ll need two identical plywood boards. Their length should be the exact distance between cross bar 1 and 3; their height should be the exact height of the legs to create an even surface. These two boards are going to serve as a solid support system for the bed board.

 

Diagram to create divisions in the kitchen area of your DIY camper conversion
Diagram to create divisions in your kitchen area

 

TIP: When measuring for the cooler and the water jug, leave an extra 1/8 inch (no more than this) around the entire perimeter. This way, they can easily be transferred in and out of their designated space, and still remain secure enough not to move about while driving. Don’t worry too much about the stove area, as you will use the extra space to fit other kitchen items

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ASSEMBLE THE KITCHEN DOORS (THAT CONVERT INTO TABLES)

The last step of this section. In the previous images, you have seen how the panels on top of crossbar 1 can open and rest on the trunk’s frame. How to make them? These are the key points to consider:

Do you want a single unfolding panel on each side, or double unfolding panels like ours? A double panel will provide enough space to have a separate cooking and dining area, which is pretty amazing! You’ll only need a couple of chairs to enjoy homemade meals in the most remote and picturesque locations. It only takes one extra board on each side, and since they fold up, they take no extra space in the car.

Kitchen and eating area in the back of camper SUV
Improvised Spanish dinner at the foot of Exit Glacier

Decide the width of each table. They don’t necessarily have to be symmetrical, ours aren’t. Given the items we placed in the kitchen area and the divisions we made, we wanted the cooler and water jug to be accessible on one side, and the cooking utensils to be accessed on the other. This made sense as the water jug and cooler would be accessed more frequently than the cooking utensils. We created a wider door for the cooler and water jug, and a smaller for the cooking area. The following images will illustrate this.

TIP: If you go for the double unfolding panels, you’ll need to add extra support. In the in-depth video, you’ll see how to add removable legs to create tables. The legs screw in and out in 5 seconds and are incredibly easily to install! The only extra materials you’ll need are heavy duty top plates, this hanger bolt, and a couple of washers and nuts

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5.2. THE BED BOARD

Determining the measurements and functions of the bed board are essential for moving forward.

Do you remember that one of our priorities was having an easily accessible kitchen and storage area? Well, the bed board is what is going to deliver this. Take a look at the photos for a better understanding.

SUV camper conversion bed platform fully extended
View of the sleeping platform with the bed board fully extended. Notice there are 4 separate parts

 

Camper suv conversion. all bed platform parts
The 4 parts of the bed board: sections 1,3 & 4 are cut in half, while section 2 remains whole. All parts are connected to one another with hinges.

 

OVERVIEW OF THE BED BOARD

Board 1: Cut in half. Provides access to the kitchen and cooler.

Board 2: Core of the bed’s structure. Connected with hinges to board 1 and board 3.

Board 3: Cut in half. Provides access to the storage area. Connected with hinges to boards 2 and 4. Board 4 folds onto board 3, which remains folded while driving and unfolded while sleeping.

Board 4: Cut in half. It will only be unfolded while sleeping. The remainder of the time it will be resting on top of board 3.

SUV camper conversion view of the kitchen area
Notice how the two halves of board 1 open up and allow easy access to the cooler and kitchen (completely independent from each other)

 

Parts of the bed board in a SUV camper conversion inside view
Folding of the bed boards. Notice how 4 folds onto 3, and together they fold onto 2. This mechanism allows the storage area to be easily accessible.

Now that you have an idea of how the bed board functions, let’s see how to take measurements in relation to the base. After this, we will determine the right position for the legs.

NOTE: you will notice that board 4 has not been included in the following diagrams. This is because it’s not relevant for any of the following steps

 

Camper SUV conversion bed board panels
Diagram of the bed board panels
Bed board length seen from the back door
Length of the bed board with board 4 folded up.

 

MEASURE THE SECTIONS OF THE BED BOARD

Let’s measure the length of the boards. For now, we’re going to leave board 4 aside.

Total length of boards 1, 2 and 3.

Positioning of the front seats – the passenger’s seat should be positioned in a way that allows the copilot to rest comfortably; the driver’s seat with enough space for the tallest person to reach the peddles. After positioning the seats, leave a one inch margin behind the seats and measure from that point to crossbar 1. When you are taking the measurement from the margin behind the reclined seats to crossbar 1, subtract 1  1/2 inch (read note below). It is wise to mention that you should be measuring from the widest angle of the reclined seats (the part that sticks out the most) to the outer edge of crossbar 1 (subtracting 1 1/2 inch).

Board 1

Measure from crossbar 1 to the end of crossbar 3 and subtract 1 1/2 inch from the total. To keep it simple, board 1 and 3 should have the same dimensions.

NOTE: the reason for subtracting  1 1/2 inch from crossbar 1 is that this will be the designated space where the kitchen panels will stand (2 x 3/4 inch plywood boards)

 

Board 2

The remaining space after you account for board 1 and 3. Subtract boards 1 and 3 from the total and you will have the measurement for board 2. Ideally, it should be slightly longer than 1 and 3.

For the last step, slide the driver and passenger’s side seats forward and upright as much as possible.  Measure from the end of board 3 to the edge of the seats. Subtract 1/2 inch from the total measurement to ensure it won’t be too tight of a fit; here you will have the length of board 4.

TIP: Try to maximize the width of your bed board, but leave at least 1/2 inch on both sides to avoid friction with the interior walls of the car

 

ASSEMBLING THE BED BOARDS TOGETHER

Hinges and screws are the most important components for a functional SUV sleeping platform. For durability purposes, be sure to use heavy duty hinges and screws.

As I mentioned earlier, it is extremely important to know the exact measurements of all your boards before going to the store. With this information, you can purchase a few standard sized boards and ask that they be cut according to your calculated dimensions. We saved so much time having the boards cut at the hardware store. Not only did we save time, but the accuracy of the cuts was more than we could have accomplished on our own. Don’t forget to have boards 1, 2 and 4 cut in half.

Take into consideration that board 2 is the core of the whole SUV sleeping platform; therefore, don’t be cheap when buying the hinges to be used on both of its sides. As you can see in the video, the folding system not only allows for greater accessibility, but it is also optimizes the space available and allows for an easy setup.

TIP: Be sure to keep all the leftovers from the custom cuts at the hardware store. Most certainly, you will end up using them

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5.3. SETTING UP THE STRUCTURE: THE LEGS

In this section, we are going to add the legs to the SUV sleeping platform. Two main points must be considered: where to position the legs and how to attach them to the base of the structure.

POSITIONING OF THE LEGS

Following the line set by the previous diagrams, it will be very easy to define the strategic placement for all the legs of your SUV sleeping platform.

Diagram with the leg positioning to support the bed of a suv camper conversion
Diagram for strategically positioning all the legs to support the boards

Notice how we added a very important part to the structure: a 2×6″ board that fits perfectly between the 2×6″ legs. The extra wide legs plus the 2×6″ board will support board 2, as well as board 3.

Let’s see how this looks in the real life.

 

Camper suv structure side view for leg positioning
Side view of the SUV sleeping platform- leg positioning and board distribution. Notice how the 2×6″ legs + 2×6″ board allow boards 2 and 3 to rest onto them.

 

HOW TO ATTACH THE LEGS TO THE BASE

You have three main options regarding where to attach the legs: a) to the inside part of the side bars; b) to the outside part of the side bars; c) to the top of the side bars.

Guess which option we chose…? All of them! Taking into account what position worked best for each particular leg, we went with what made sense. I must admit, the positioning of the legs was the result of inexperience and sporadic improvisations. But, guess what, who cares? It worked, and very well. So you can do the same or, if you are a symmetry addict, plan it all in advance.

Important aspects to consider before going any further:
  • The interior walls of the car are not straight, thus, you’re likely to have some areas with a gap between the exterior face of the side bars and the wall. Use this to your advantage and place a leg on the outside; however, take this into consideration that if you add extra width to the structure, you will need to make sure it will still fit inside your vehicle.
  • It is much easier to attach the legs either to the inside or outside of the side bars; you’ll only need screws. Placing the legs on top of the side bars is a space saver, but you’ll need extra hardware (corner braces and tie plates) and it will never be as sturdy.
TIP: Where the largest parts of the structure join (side bars and cross bars) and in the crucial 2×6″ legs + 2×6″ board, besides screws, always use corner braces and/or tie plates to make you SUV sleeping platform completely sturdy and safe

 

HEY…THERE ARE STILL SOME LEGS MISSING!

I know, I know, but we’re facing a different scenario at this particular moment. The situation is… we need additional legs for board 3 and board 4.

Right now, you’ve reached a fork in the road. There are two possible directions: one is easy and simple and the other more complex (just a bit). If you have read the entire article to this point, I’m pretty sure you know we took the latter option. Nonetheless, I’m going to discuss both.

The path of least resistance (the easy path)

Just add three more legs. Two 2×4″ on each side and one 2×6″ in the center. It is a good idea to make the center leg also useful for board 4, since it would give support to both halves of it at the same time.

Diagram showing the leg positioning for the bed board camper suv
Diagram showing the positioning of the extra legs for board 3

For board 4, there is a very easy solution. You only need rope and carabiners.

First, for each seat, attach a carabiner to one of the metal bars connecting the head rest to the seat. Second, leave an inch from the end of each board, and draw a line parallel to the outer edge. Divide that line in 4 equal parts and drill holes in positions 1/4 and 3/4, that are big enough for a paracord rope to fit through. From the bottom side of each board, insert one end of the rope through the first of the two holes and do the same with the other end of the rope and the remaining hole. Join both ends by tying a strong knot, so that they create a triangle. The knot must be tied in a symmetrical fashion, so that when attached to the carabiner, the boards lie completely flat.

Want to see an example? Check out this video.

The more complex option

Time to unleash your creativity!

Like I mentioned before, at the beginning of this whole process, we brainstormed functionalities and features that our SUV sleeping platform would possess to best fit our needs.

Important feature 1: A tailor-made space for our  Goal Zero Yeti battery, an amazing power station that consistently kept all of our devices charged. We needed a specific structure to keep it safe, stable and accessible from the front seats.

Important feature 2: Maximize accessibility from the rear doors. I was obsessed with open spaces and ease of accessibility; therefore, I came up with the idea to design a leg system that would allow the legs to be hidden when not in use. Let the images speak for themselves.

The hide-when-not-in-use leg system:
Side view of the boards and legs of the DIY camper in driving set up
Side view of the boards and legs in driving position

 

DIY camper SUV side view of the boards and legs in sleeping set up
Side view of the boards and legs in sleeping position

 

DIY camper SUV view of the center support structure + storage area
View of the center support structure + storage area with boards 3 & 4 completely folded. Notice how the legs “hide” away when the boards are not in use.

It might look complex, but it is really quite easy to build…

The materials you need are: 2×2″ studs and triangular door hinges.

Find the right spot for the legs of board 3, so, when open, they fall exactly on top of the sidebar. As you can see in the first image, the legs of board 4 are not attached to the boards. Instead, they lay in a separate space at ground level, and they lift up when needed. If you go for this option, you’ll have to engage your creative side and figure out what works best for your SUV sleeping platform.

TIP: To get a better idea of how the leg system works, I strongly encourage you to watch this section of the in-depth video

 

D) THE FINAL DETAILS

You are almost there! Only a few final details have to be taken care of.

You may find that some of the door panels don’t completely open when the SUV sleeping platform is installed inside your vehicle. Or, even worse, the structure doesn’t quite fit inside your vehicle. After hours of hard work, it is really frustrating to encounter these issues at what you thought was the very end of your project. However, there is good news…there is actually an easy fix to all of this! Grab your pencil, saw and sander, and etch out those last details of your SUV sleeping platform.

Upgrade your SUV sleeping platform

After all the important issues are solved, you can focus on the aesthetics and last minute details of your SUV sleeping platform. For example, I realized I could build a drawer on top of the stove. The drawer optimizes kitchen space and allows us to have a designated area for our utensils. Another example is the surface underneath the water jug. This area opens up and offers a hidden compartment with two storage levels: the bottom compartment for tools and the top compartment for tea, herbs, and condiments. The goal is to find that extra space and use it to your advantage.

You may opt to upholster the bed boards with materials that provide insulation. We decided to forgo this step, and simply used an old blanket on top of the platform to prevent the wood and hinges from coming into contact with the mattress.

Once the project is finished and the sleeping platform is installed in your SUV, you can continue to tailor your project according to your style and needs, the possibilities are endless!

If you want to learn more about these small, yet significant details, there are plenty to see in the in-depth video… which has a second part that focus on the main features of the whole sleeping platform: kitchen, bed and storage space. Watch it here!

Why have a simple and mundane camper when, with just a little inspiration, you can take it to the next level!

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6. CONSTRUCTION AND OTHER TIPS

A quick sum up of tips I’ve been introducing throughout the post, along with some new suggestions…

DESIGN AND PREPARATION PHASE

  • Read this comprehensive guide before you head to the hardware store.
  • It is highly recommended for a handful of reasons (time saving, quality of the final product and avoiding frustrations) that you have your wood panels, boards and studs cut by a professional at the hardware store. We had no idea that they offered this incredibly helpful service, so be sure to inquire at your local hardware store.
  • The only way to take advantage of the tailored service mentioned above is to know the dimensions of what you need: side bars, cross bars, legs & bed boards. Go to the hardware store with your design in-hand.
  • While at the hardware store, speak with the experienced workers of each department. We found that everyone we spoke to about our SUV sleeping platform had a wealth of ideas and knowledge pertaining to the building process. Not only were they of great help while shopping, but they  provided us with tips and recommendations for building specific parts of the platform, and they cut ALL our plywood panels, 2×2″ studs, etc., to the exact dimensions we needed.
  • Create a detailed list of all the materials you will need. If you’re not sure of the exact item or size, most stores accept returns with a receipt. Purchase what you think you will need, try it out on your project, and if it doesn’t work, exchange the item for what you need.
  • Accept the fact that you’ll probably have to make multiple trips to the hardware store. Knowing this in advance will help you embrace this as part of the learning process.

 

CONSTRUCTION PHASE

  • Always keep the basics in hands-reach: pencil, ruler, notebook and sketches, tape measure and framing square. You’ll be needing them constantly.
  • In terms of efficiency, two power drills are better than one- I can’t emphasize this enough. One for pre-drilling and the other for drilling. Don’t forget to charge them when they aren’t being used!
  • Another indispensable tool: a bubble level to ensure that all surfaces are even, because nobody wants a crooked bed.
  • A crucial tip: NEVER use nails. Always use good quality wood screws!
  • If I had to give just one piece of advice: test the sleeping platform inside the SUV before advancing to the next step of the building process. I can assure you that things are not the same when you’re working in your garage, than when you try to make the structure work inside the car. Always test as you go.
  • Of course, be safe. Always use gloves and protective eye-wear when using power saws and other potentially dangerous tools.
  • Be ready to make lots of mistakes. Like I said at some point in this article, they are part of the learning process. Mistakes will ultimately result in a final outcome you can be proud of.

 

POST CONSTRUCTION PHASE

  • Take care of the final details: For a high quality, smooth finish use a power sander over all of structure’s edges and corners. Your hands will appreciate it.
  • Look for other minor details that could be improved.
  • Take a ride with the sleeping platform inside of your SUV before venturing off on your first road trip. It’s the perfect way to notice annoying noises and potential flaws in the structure.
  • Create a cozy living space by decorating the interior according to your personal style.

 

… and if you have accomplished all the steps suggested in this comprehensive guide…

 

CONGRATULATIONS!!!

I HOPE YOU ENJOY YOUR NEW SUV SLEEPING PLATFORM

AND WISH YOU ALL THE BEST ADVENTURES IN YOUR NEXT ROAD TRIP!!!

Finished camper conversion road trip day 1 to alaska and canada
First day of our Alaska & Canada road trip

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7. IN-DEPTH VIDEO

I am perfectly aware that this is a very long post. With this being said, it still has been completely impossible for me to get into the details of the many special features of our SUV sleeping platform. The in-depth video will provide an explanation of these details, as well as show the set up process, and the final result of our project. We hope that you enjoy the video. Be sure to reach out with any questions you may have! Happy adventures!


Have you tried building your own SUV sleeping platform?
Do you have a different set up in your camper?
It would be great if you shared your impressions and ideas in the comments section!
Who knows… maybe our paths (and campers) will cross in our next road trip!

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