When we decided to hit the open road for 2-3 months we were trying to figure out how we would sleep. Visiting our national parks is certainly conducive for camping, but everyone we talked to said the same thing: you are going to want to be able to sleep in your car if you need to. We loved car camping in Iceland so wanted a solution where we could sleep in our 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee.
Originally, we thought we could put the seats down, store camping gear up top and call it a day. However, after some extensive internet research we decided we wanted to be able to sleep in the car and have all of our gear inside at the same time. The solution: we decided to turn our Jeep into a camper by building a sleeping platform. This was cheap, easy and turned out amazing! Here is how we did it in 12 easy steps, but one could easily do it in less.
Also to note - we had a HUGE advantage thanks to Kirby's Dad who is a builder. This project only took us a few hours thanks to his knowledge and of course, his tools. It may take longer for some, but anyone can do this, we promise!
Tools you will need:
- Measuring Tape
- Drill (optional, screwdriver could work)
- Staple gun (optional)
- Saw (optional)
Step 1 (optional) – Remove the rear seats of the car
While we did not need to do this, we ultimately decided to because it gave us so much more storage underneath our would-be sleeping platform. This was probably the hardest part of the entire project and if you have any apprehension or concern you should consult your car dealer and/or a professional. One caveat here: you probably need some power tools, mainly a drill. Those seats are in there good!
If you do decide to do it, make sure to keep all hardware in labeled baggies! This way you can easily put them back when ready.
Step 2 – Design
There are tons of stuff you can do. Just google “sleeping platform in car” and you will see. Some people go insane on these! For us, we just wanted a raised platform to sleep on and also decided to add a hinge system so that we could extend the length of the bed when the front seats of our car were pushed up.
To support it we decided a simple rail system would be best to support the bed. Again, lot of options but this would provide lots of support without a ton of support feet.
Step 3 – Measure for dimensions
We first measured the length and width of our platform and then roughly how long our rails and support feet would need to be so we knew how much wood to buy.
Step 4 Head to Store
We chose Loews because it was the closest and here is what we purchased:
2x4’s for support should be perfect and we decided on a thick piece of maple for the bed because a.) it would be sturdy and b.) has a smooth surface. All in $96 for our project and (surprise surprise) we overspent, but more on that later…
Step 5 – Cut and assemble support system
We first cut the rails that would support our platform. Then we cut the rear and front feet per our measurements. We screwed these together using wood screws. Now we had one sturdy support on each side of our car to support our platform
Step 6 – Cut out platform
Ultimately, we decided to cut our platform to match the contours of our car, most notably the wheel wells in the back. While this is not totally necessary, it does give you some more surface area as well as reduces any gaps where things could fall off the platform.
Step 7 – Lay it out in the car to make sure it all fits
We got the platform in and ensured it fit in our car perfectly
Step 8 (optional) – add a hinge
Because Nolan is 6’ tall we needed the bed to extend all the way to the front seats when they were up ALL the way. This was fine, but when we are driving we needed the seats to come back. So we added a simple hinge system so the top of our bed could fold up when we were driving.
Here, you need to measure how much headroom you have so the hinge can swing freely. Then a lateral cut across the board and screwing in our hinge. Note: you should put in the screws on the outside of the holes so it pulls the two sides tighter together.
We also decided to add a small support block so the hinge could rest easier without damaging the hinge hardware.
Step 9 – Add carpet/felt/whatever
We found a roll of green felt-like carpet for $20 at Loews. We decided to add this to the top of the platform so it would be a little easier on our sleeping pads and sleeping bags. We just cut it to size and used a staple gun to affix it to our platform. It looks like old school astroturf, but worked great! We also used the excess to put under our support legs to protect our vehicle.
Step 10 – Assemble
After this we put it all together. We laid our platform back on our rails, ensured it fit perfect in every position (open, closed etc). and then added a few screws from the platform into the rails and we were pretty much done!
Step 11 (optional) – Extra support and security
Ultimately, we decided to add a little extra support just to be safe. First, we affixed an arch support to each side of our front legs. Then, we added a few extra screws at the bottom of our front support legs so they would anchor in the holes where our rear seats used to be. This just made it so the legs would no longer slide free in the vehicle.
Step 12 – Enjoy!
This project was insanely easy and turned out awesome! We now have an amazing platform to sleep on, TONS of storage space underneath and the relief to know we have a place to sleep wherever we are.
As I said before, we overspent. We got one too many 2x4’s and wayyy too many screws. Also, because the platform was so smooth, we probably could have done away with the luxury of our green turf. This project could easily be done for $60, we splurged a bit, but are very happy with how it all turned out.