So where are we up to now?
- Roof holes welded (not yet painted… bit lazy)
- Walls insulated, clad and carpeted
- Base bed box built and clad
Next is the most important part of a good camper van, and possibly the hardest to integrate to the rest of the vehicle. The bed. It’s a really awkward problem when you think about it, especially if you are as tall as me!
Firstly its massive and if you are expecting a friend to join you then its even bigger! I mean a bed is probably the largest item you own after your house and your car. Fitting it into a van that also has to be your living room, kitchen and in some cases, shower and loo too, is going to be tough.
Next, think about how you are going to use your van, if you plan to just go camping then you could just throw a mattress in the back and be done with it. I did this a few times to see what it would be like and I ended up getting a poor night’s sleep worrying about being the creepy van-dweller with the scruffy mattress in the back of a white van… it’s a bit psychotic. Also there is the practical nature of locating a mattress on the floor and sweating. Yup, turns out you sweat a damn lot in your sleep and airflow around your mattress is essential to keep it healthy. So invariably you are going to want some sort of frame to put the matress on. Off the floor by some amount.
But how high up I hear you ask? Well low to the ground is good for keeping notoriously roly-poly vans centre of gravity low. But then what can you do with the space above? Lockers? Im 6ft 2in so headroom is as important to me as legroom (I’m never flying long haul in cattle class again where you have neither) And your losing loads of space to store stuff!
Well then put it in the roof space of a high-top van. Yes this can be done, I mean you don’t need much space to roll over and you could always leave the bed made up. It also gives you a great big storage space beneath. This is an option I considered for a long time, it’s very tempting. But, if the bed is up there then you have nowhere to sit during the day, if it’s raining for example. One couple did an amazing job with linear motors so the bed could be raised out the way and have a seating area below. But why go to that complexity just for a seating area when you can sit on the edge of the bed?
Ok, so part way up the wall so you can store stuff underneath. But no so high up that you cant use it as a seat during the day is what I settled on. But, the choices haven’t gotten any easier yet. Because I have quite a small van, I need to combine the use of things as much as possible but also I want to fold it completely out the way. So trawling pinterest and facebook groups yields loads of different ways to fold a bed, each specific to the task the van will be performing. Rock and roller beds are popular for VW conversions because they are fully rated seats as well as a bed, but I don’t imagine they are the most comfortable. Basically a Futon mattress bed would do the trick. A friend even gave me one and it sort of worked but was way heavier than a foam mattress and would have been really difficult to integrate the frame to the van neatly.
After lots of sketching and thunking (my brain doesn’t think, its thunks because its a bit agricultural, overengineered and slow) I figured that most of the time it will be just me and the motorbike in the van so a single will be fine. And if by some miracle I manage to convince a friend to join me back at my creepy white van, then the foam backing of what was the seat can be used as the base of the ¾ double bed, giving some extra room, but not so much room to discourage cuddling.