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7 Easy Ways to Build a Campervan Bed

A campervan bed is pretty much the centerpiece of the entire build. Around it, all else is built. So in this guide, we will examine 7 ways you can build one! Cosy night's sleep incoming... 💤 We will look at how to build a campervan fixed bed, folding campervan bed, pull out campervan bed, and sliding campervan bed. ALL THE CAMPERVAN BEDS!


I'm Shane, I've been teaching people to convert campervans for many years, I'm the author of The Van Conversion Newsletter, the van conversion instructor at Udemy, and the proud owner of a beautiful self-build campervan called Beans. So let's jump in and learn about 7 easy ways to build a campervan bed!

7 Easy Ways to Build a Campervan Bed

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You can find the full list of van conversion supplies here.


Index

 

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Design the campervan bed first!

Before hopping into building a campervan bed, it is essential that you mock it up on paper or with CAD software first! Here is a full guide on campervan design that will help you get started.


When working through the design of the campervan bed, there are a few things that you should take into account...


Account for the insulation & cladding

Make sure you take into account the depth of the insulation and cladding on the walls of the van - they will take away from the dimensions of the bed you are able to build.


Sleeping direction

Choosing whether to sleep length-ways or side-ways in a van is a surprisingly big decision. As a general rule of thumb, if you are taller than 5'9" (175cm), you will probably need to sleep length-ways.


I am just a hair under 5'10" and I need to sleep length-ways in my Ford Transit. However, different vans have different widths. You can find the dimensions of the most popular vans for conversion in this article.


You want to be comfortable while sleeping, a cramped sleep is a crap sleep. If you are intent on sleeping side-ways, there are two things you can do to give yourself more wiggle room:


1. Create cut-outs. This means, using less insulation at the head and toes of the bed in order to give more room. Needless to say, there are pros and cons to this.

Campervan bed cut outs

2. Install flares. Flares are protruding panels installed on your van which add more lateral volume. A van flare is installed in much the same way as a campervan window is. Here is a video on how to install van flares.

Campervan flares

In terms of campervan bed size, most people want a double bed of a comfortable size. Below is a chart of typical mattress dimensions.

campervan bed dimensions

With all that out of the way, let's hop in and looks at 7 ways to build a campervan bed!


Campervan Fixed Bed

The campervan fixed bed is the most common type of bed found in conversions. There is no faff with setting it up, because there is nothing to setup up!

Campervan fixed bed

If we put our x-ray glasses on for a moment, we can see how it's built...


The frame of the campervan fixed bed should be built with thick and sturdy carcassing timber. Bed slats are then installed on top to give a comfortable, springy feeling.

campervan fixed bed slats

One critically important thing that I want to point out when building a campervan fixed bed (or any weight-bearing surface for that matter) is the manner in which we join/screw timber together. Screws are not designed to take shear force. Weight-bearing timber should rest on top of the adjoining piece, it should not be screwed into the side.


You can learn all about campervan carpentry here.

How to screw wood together

Table bed

After the fixed bed, the campervan table bed is the second most popular choice of sleeping device. The table bed is the bed I have in my van.


Here's how it works: A table top is mounted on an adjustable marine pedestal. When the table is up, you have a place to eat, work, or have friends over. When the table is down, you have a big, luxurious place to sleep!


My van 👇

Campervan table bed

This system is my personal favourite. Yes I do need to lower the table and make the bed each evening, but the comfort it gives me in the van is amazing. I have a huge space to work from, can have 4-5 people over for dinner, and lots of headroom!

Campervan van fixed bed down

Apart from installing the bed on an adjustable pedestal, you will need to build two benches (they double up as storage containers) on either side of the table.


Because this is the bed I built, I will give a quick build guide here.


How to build a table bed in a campervan


1. Build the Benches

First build the carcassing frame using 2X2 timber. These are you benches and your bed, so give it lots of structural support! Most of the time these benches will be installed over the wheel wells of your van, so create an interior frame for the wheel well too.


After your have built the frames of the benches you can go ahead and clad or plyline them.


You can cut all this wood using your trusty jigsaw.


Note: These benches are identical. SO BATCH YOUR WORK! Double up the cutting of timber and the cutting of cladding.

Building benches for a campervan fixed bed

2. Build the slatted top

Next we need to build a slatted top for each bench. Ideally you should use bed slats for this - they are spongy and comfy! In my case, I used 1X4 timber and it has done the job well!


Screw some cross beams into the equally-spaced slats to secure them together.

Building slats for campervan bed

Finally, add some large box hinges to the top so that the slats can open and close.

Hinging campervan bed box

3. Install the table

Cut the table top to length using a circular saw. It can either match the length of the benches, or you can make it shorter if you are installing a third bench at the back of the van like I did (see photo above).


Then screw the marine pedestal into the center of the table (from the underside clearly...)

Installing pedestal on campervan bed

Next you can go ahead and screw the pedestal into the floor of the van. Use BIG screws for this.


Finally, screw a thick piece of carcassing timber into the top and side of each bench. This holds up the table when it is lowered.

Pedestal campervan bed

Folding campervan bed

Next up we have the folding campervan bed! @jakeheard came up with this bed shown in the image below! A bench that doubles up as a bed.

Folding campervan bed

The design is very simple. The carcass is made of 2X2 timber, and the top is ply lined. The two sections are attached together with several box hinges. The important thing to keep in mind here is that the backrest should be the same height as the legs of the bench part.


The backrest should have an angle of 15°. In order to cut the carcassing timber (4X1) at this angle you can use a miter saw. If you don't have a miter saw, you can use a miter block.


Pull out campervan bed

The pull out campervan bed is another popular choice. Also known as a murphy bed, the pull out campervan bed is stored upright in the wall when not used and pulled down when needed. This gives you a lot of living space during the day! I thought the build below by @rydawell was particularly beautiful.

Pull out campervan bed

Here's a detailed video on how to build a pull out campervan bed.


Sliding campervan bed

Next up we have the sliding campervan bed. Also known as a slat bed, the sliding campervan bed is a really efficient use of space. When not in use, it slides together to become half the size. I'm a really big fan of this type of bed - after a table bed, I think the sliding campervan bed is the next best convertible bed. Below is a photo of how @rayphungphoto built his.

Sliding campervan bed

Here are some plans on how to make a sliding campervan bed:

sliding campervan bed plans

Campervan bed lift system

Okay, now we're getting into the seriously hi-tech systems. In the last couple years people have started building campervan bed lift systems. These are electrical beds that can be raised up and stored in the roof when not in use.


A campervan bed lift system is certainly something you could show proudly to all your friends. However, two important things come to mind... This system will take away from the standing height of your van, so it is not for tall people. The campervan bed lift system also draws a lot of juice from the leisure batteries, so you will probably need a big electrical system.


Check out the build from Evo Design below, you can actually buy the full system directly from them.

Campervan bed lift system

Alternatively, you could build a campervan bed lift system from scratch! Here is a video on how to build one by the awesome youtuber Seven O Savage!


Campervan hammock bed

The last feature in our lineup is the campervan hammock bed. Simple, weight & space efficient, and damn comfy!

Campervan hammock bed

The campervan hammock bed is one of the easier beds to install. All it requires is a heavy duty eyelets on either end. The eyelets should be attached directly to the metal structure of the van.

Campervan hammock bed hook

Campervan mattress

The final part of the puzzle to building a campervan bed is the pick a mattress and cut it to size. Memory foam is the best bet for a campervan mattresses. It is comfortable and easy to cut.


You will need to. ut your campervan mattress into sections. The number of sections will depend on the type of bed you have chosen to build. Since I have a table bed, I need to cut the campervan mattress into four sections. Two for the bum rest, two as a back rest (when the table is up).


I marked the four sections with a sharpie (measuring very carefully and drawing very straightly). You need to cut the campervan mattress with an electric kitchen knife. Using an electric kitchen knife is the only way to ensure you get a clean, straight cut.

Cutting a campervan mattress

The last step is upholstering the four cushions of the campervan mattress. To be totally frank, I had zero experience in this domain so I went to the local upholster and got him to do it for me. I chose out the fabric and he did an excellent job sowing it up! It cost me about €300 (and two weeks waiting) to get the job done.


If you are more adventurous and own a sewing machine, here is a really great video on how to sew a box cushion yourself!

Upholstering campervan mattress cushions

Conclusion

And that's all she wrote! 7 Easy Ways to Build your Campervan Bed.


I hope you found this guide helpful. If you did, consider subscribing to The Van Conversion Newsletter for everything you need to get started with your own van conversion (I'll send you a free wiring diagram when you sign up).


Be sure to check out the rest of the Woodwork Guides. Related articles include: campervan storage ideas, Campervan kitchen unit construction, campervan cupboard.


If you're converting a van but unsure of how to do it, you could also check out the Van Conversion Course on Udemy. In the course, you'll learn directly from me how to convert a van into your dream home - no prior experience needed!


Until next time,

Shane ✌️

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