5 Ideas For A Simple DIY Camper Van Bed Conversion

An important part of van life is the camper van bed. A van-dweller’s bed needs to be comfy yet practical as well as worthy of the space it takes up in the van.

There are many ways to create a bed in your van. You don’t need to have a lot of tools or much expertise when it comes to building out your van.

The biggest requirement is a little creative thinking.

As a solo lady nomad living in a van full-time, I know the struggle of wondering how to create a comfy little home on wheels when you’re trying to do it yourself and you don’t have the tools or much expertise on the subject.

Heads Up… this article contains referral links to products I use or recommend. I earn a referral fee from purchases made through these links. The earnings help keep the wheels rollin’!

Simple DIY Camper Van Bed Ideas

Every van home is different and every van-dweller has their own needs and preferences.

Use these ideas as a guide. If something doesn’t work for your situation simply tailor to suit your needs and preferences.

Folding Cot

An easy-peasy bed setup is a simple folding cot.

Coleman makes a cot called Converta Folding Cot. The cot can be used as a bed as well as a lounge type camp chair. When not in use the cot can be folded up and stored out of the way.

For added comfort, a pad, a mattress or memory foam can be placed on top of the cot.

I’m an advocate for using what you already have but, if you don’t already have a cot, you can get one on Jet, Amazon or check your local Walmart or camping supplies store.

Mattress On The Floor

A mattress on the floor makes for a very simple, easy camper van bed. Just toss it in and you’re done!

Lucid has a 4 inch folding mattress that also doubles as a chair.

I’ve seen similar folding mattresses at big box stores (like Walmart or Shopko). I like that they fold up and convert to a chair but what the Lucid offers that other mattresses don’t is a removable indoor/outdoor cover.

Van Life Advice: Whenever possible, anything you put in your van should be rated for outdoor use (or at least indoor/outdoor) because everything in your van will potentially be exposed to the elements.

Using A Conversion Van Bed

A friend of mine has a conversion van. The middle seats were removed and the remaining back seat folds down into a bed.

She leaves the back seat permanently folded down as a bed.

Since the bed isn’t too comfy by itself she placed memory foam on top of the bed to make it super comfy and cozy.

FYI: Memory foam can make some people very sick (I’m one of them). Take care in choosing what’s best for you.

A Tote or Milk Crate Bed Frame

Another van-dweller I know doesn’t have anything permanently set up in his cargo van. There’s no insulation, no Fantastic fan in the roof and nothing attached to the interior.

He simply has several totes, a couple of water jugs, a folding mattress that converts to a chair and a few odds and ends.

He re-arranges the totes as he needs them.

He’s seriously living life simply!

The totes contain blankets, food and anything else he considers necessary.

By day, the totes might be stacked or arranged to serve as a cooking or desk area.

By night, the totes are lined up to form a base for the mattress. He places the mattress directly on top of the totes. He likes it this way but my preference would be to have a sturdy board between the totes and mattress.

Naturally, the totes need to be the sturdy kind or they would collapse.

If you’re not up for totes you could substitute milk crates.

To keep the milk crates from separating you could use zip-ties, carabiner hooks or anything your imagination can come up with.

Build Your Own Wood Bed Frame

Building your own bed frame (from wood) requires a little more work but this is the option I chose.

Yes… I built my own bed frame!

My (then 19 year old) daughter helped me with this part of the build. I needed help holding boards while one of us screwed it together.  At the time, my daughter still lived “at home” but has since left the nest.

Over the years, I purchased many Sauder items that my daughter and I put together but neither one of us ever built a camper van bed frame from scratch before.

How I Learned To Build A Bed Frame

I learned how to make a bed frame by watching YouTube videos and got more pointers from Instructables.com.

To find videos, I went to YouTube and searched for how to make a simple bed frame. I looked for videos that didn’t require more than the basic tools I already had.

The problem I encountered was I couldn’t find a single video that gave me everything I wanted.

There were bits and pieces in each video that I liked so I combined the bits and pieces from each video and formed my own, single strategy.  This is another time where creative thinking came into play.

I was ready to begin!

My basic tools consisted of a jigsaw, hammer, electric drill and electric screw driver.

I confidently began cutting the boards myself. My faith rested solely in the new jigsaw I bought just for this occasion.

I am woman hear me ROAR!

After messing up the first round of boards I humbly came to my senses and proceeded as follows:

  • I donated my jigsaw to someone who knew how to use it.
  • I went to Home Depot to buy more boards and have them cut the wood to the size I needed.

Getting Boards Cut At Home Depot

When having boards cut at Home Depot you’ll need to have the measurements before hand.

Home Depot only makes straight cuts (not fancy cuts). But, with a simple bed frame, all you need is straight cuts.

My Bed Frame

Unfortunately, I didn’t take pictures as I was building my camper van bed frame back in 2015.

It was a rush deal and some of my van build didn’t happen until I actually moved in to my home on wheels.

Here’s a picture of my first bed. It was a 3/4 size bed (just shy of a full sized bed). The original bed frame is now cut down to a twin size giving me a lot more room.

camper van bed options

Additional Tips n Tricks

I’ve learned a few lessons along the way and have a few more tips that I’d like to share:

Memory Foam – Chemical Free Foam

  • Memory foam is the preferred choice of many van-dwellers but it can make some people very ill.
  • Chemical free foam is expensive and doesn’t work as well as advertised. Eventually, it feels like you’re sleeping on a board because it has no support.

Protect Your Mattress

  • Unless your mattress is for outdoor use, use a mattress protector designed to keep bed bugs and moisture out.

Keep It Simple

  • Don’t make your bed bigger than you need.
  • Use what you already have.
  • If possible, ask someone to help.
  • If no one can help, know that you’ll figure it out anyway!

DIY Camper Van Bed – Conclusion

There are many simple ways to convert your van to live or in whether you live in it full time or part time.

Fancy tools, extensive training and boat loads of cash are not required to live life simply.

Of course, it would be nice to have boat loads of cash but it’s not required to convert your van in to a simple little home on wheels!

The biggest resource you have is your imagination.

The hardest part is removing the status quo from your memory banks so you can allow your imagination to run free.

Five ideas for an easy camper van bed.

Related Blog Post… Staying Warm In Cold Weather After The Sun Goes Down

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