Gone are the days of sleeping on the ground! Hard sides and a large comfortable bed might be the two biggest benefits of owning a camper van. However, there’s a lot more to setting up a van conversion bed than just throwing a mattress in the back.
Van beds have the biggest impact on the overall layout of van conversions. They are the largest single item. For this reason, starting with the bed makes the most sense when determining the interior layout.
This guide will lay out the different options for van conversion beds and all of the decisions and implications that go along with the different choices.
Fixed vs Convertible Bed
The first step in building a van bed is determining whether it will be fixed or convertible. This decision will heavily influence your overall camper van layout.
Here are two questions that can help you make this important decision.
- Are you planning on hauling large gear such as bikes and other items that take up a lot of space?
- Do you want a large space for sitting, hanging out, eating or working?
The answers to these questions should help determine which makes the most sense. Fixed beds allow for a large amount of storage but sacrifice space that could be used for seating. Convertible beds provide the most configurations for large amounts of seating but sacrifice storage space.
Pros and cons of each bed type
Fixed Bed Pros
- Easy to build
- Don’t have to convert bed each morning
- Large storage space or “garage” area
Fixed Bed Cons
- Permanently eats up valuable floor space
Convertible Bed Pros
- Allows for many different layout options
- Provides the most seating
- Helps keep maximize floor space and open feel
Convertible Bed Cons
- Adds complexity to the build
- Limits storage space for large items
- Requires conversion each time for seating area
If you decide to go with a convertible bed, here are just a few of the different types to choose from.
Types of Convertible Van Beds
Most commonly found in larger traditional RVs, the dinette bed contains a table in the center, with two seating areas either side. The table is used to bridge the gap between the two bench seats and the back cushions fill in the middle to create the bed.
Rock & Roll Bed
This functions like a big futon where the head of the bed can be propped up to create a seat backrest.
The bed is hidden away against a wall and hinges down for sleeping.
After deciding which type of bed is best, next comes location. With fixed beds, the rear is really the only option and makes the most sense to provide easy access to the garage area from the back doors. Locating the bed in the rear is also the most common choice for convertible beds but they do allow for some creative solutions where the bed can be placed closer to the driver area while still allowing for an open floor plan.
What size of bed fits in a van?
What size bed ultimately depends on how many people will be sleeping and how much space can be sacrificed. Full and queen sized beds are the most common and fit in any make and model of cargo style van. King beds are much larger and will likely not fit without some type of modification. Twin beds can also be a great choice for solo travelers looking to maximize floor space.
Can you sleep sideways in a van?
Putting a bed sideways in the back of a camper van can be a great way to maximize space. Taking this route can have its own set of challenges though. Almost no older vans(think pre 2015) are wide enough to orient a bed in this direction(unless you are under 5’ 7”) and even most newer vans are not quite wide enough for anyone over 5’ 10” to sleep comfortably.
Ask yourself these questions to determine if a sideways bed can work for you
- How tall are you?
- Will you be sleeping alone?
The Mercedes Sprinter, Ford Transit, and Nissan NV are all around 70” (5’10”) wide. Insulation and walls cut this back to around 66-68” left for bed space. Window flares can help push this back out to 71-73” but are quite expensive($1600+ each). In the end, anyone over 6’ 1” will likely not be able to sleep sideways comfortably.
RAM Promasters are the best chance at sideways beds at 75.6” (6’3″) wide. But again, after accounting for walls, this is reduced to around 71-73”.
For solo travelers sleeping diagonally can provide the extra space needed to mount a bed sideways and still be able to stretch out.
Check out our DIY Camper Van Knowledge Center for more info to help you with your camper van conversion.