First Vanlife Build: Lifted Bed Frame - Doug Neill

First Vanlife Build: Lifted Bed Frame

The concept of sleeping in a car isn’t pleasant for most people.

But if instead of a car it’s a comfy conversion van, then things start to change.

With a van you’ve got the space for a proper bed frame and a normal-sized mattress.

I’ve already slept in my 1999 Ford Conversion van a few times, but I started with just my camping gear: a minimal sleeping pad and a cold-weather sleeping bag.

That combo worked well enough, but I didn’t sleep great (I never do when I camp). It’s just not enough cushion or bed space to feel comfortable.

So it’s time to build.

For this first customization to my van I’m keeping it simple. All I want is a slightly lifted platform to support a memory foam mattress and still give me storage space underneath.

For the frame, I’m following this setup shared by Exploring Alternatives:

I love the simplicity, functionality, and affordability of that style of frame. Eventually I’d love to have a futon frame so that I can turn the bed into a couch, but with an October road trip rapidly approaching I’ve decided to keep things as simple as possible for right now.

I was lucky enough to find a king-size memory foam mattress on Craigslist for $40. That’s bigger than I need, but since it’s memory foam I was easily able to cut it down to the size of the plywood I bought from Home Depot.

Vanlife Bed Frame - Memory Foam Mattress - Doug Neill

The plywood itself was a bit warped, which lead to a few of the corner legs hovering above the van’s carpet floor.

Vanlife Bed Frame - Warped Plywood - Doug Neill

I’m not too worried about that because 1) it still supports my weight (and at least one other person) just fine and 2) with consistent weight I imagine it will settle down into a resting position.

Vanlife Bed Frame - Supports Two People - Doug Neill

I’ve now spent a few nights sleeping with this setup, and it’s soooo much more comfortable than what I had before.

So far I’m sleeping better in my van than I did in my old thin-walled studio apartment.

Next up: some containers for storage to use underneath the bed, and a few other drawers in front of it for more storage.

Progress feels good 🙂


September 15th, 2016

Portland, Oregon