Your van bed is one of the essential parts of living on the road. After a long day of driving and adventures, you want a reliable bed that can help you relax throughout the night. Having the right set up for your bed is crucial for you and your family to get a good night’s sleep. Now, before setting up your comfy bed, you need to consider a lot of different factors such as the size of your van, the type of bed you want to install, and so much more.
In this article, I will talk about the different types of beds that you can install in your van. I will also talk about whether they are suitable for a family, a solo traveler, or a couple. Lastly, I will discuss the different types of mattresses you can choose from and keep them clean for long-term use.
The Classic Static Bed
The classic static bed is also known as platform beds. This is the most traditional type of bed that is installed in a van. It is excellent for those who want to convert their van and is usually done in Sprinter-style vans. However, it is not limited to Sprinter vans but also other brands as well.
The classic static bed is popular because you don’t have to set up this bed every day. It’s just there, ready for you to sleep on and relax. If you are tired after a long day of adventures, you can easily crawl in anytime you want. Now, this type of bed is usually placed in the back area of the van, giving you an extra storage area available below the bed.
You can also sleep or relax with your van’s back doors open or even extend the bedroom by installing an awning or tent. This type of bed is usually made from wooden frames and can also be placed low so that you can enjoy more headroom in your van. Underneath the bed, you can install drawers or a sliding table.
Now, if you have a narrower van, you may need a more extended platform to provide the full lying space, which will take up more room. Also, when you have this setup, you will miss out on a large sitting area that is not great when you plan to host people in your van and plan to spend a lot of time inside your van.
Creating More Space in Your Van
If you have the Dodge ProMaster, it can fit a queen or full-size mattress running lengthwise. You can fit a mattress in any direction without cutting it down to fit the van. If you don’t have a Dodge ProMaster that can provide the space you need for your static bed, there are other ways that you can make more space in your van.
For instance, you can add flares such as fiberglass panels. You can widen the usable space in the van, which can be done in Sprinters, ProMasters, Transits, and Nissan NV. When doing this, you can install your mattress widthwise and gain a few feet of usable space. However, this additional feature is expensive and requires a professional to complete the job.
Lastly, if you add flares, you won’t be able to insulate the place where the flares are installed well.
Space Saving Convertible Beds
Source: The Singletrack Sampler
The space-saving convertible beds fold up when they are not being used. It will give you more space for dinettes, sofas, or large pieces of adventure equipment that you may have. If you need a comfortable workspace, convertible beds will provide convenience. You will also have a chance to host guests in your van.
Unlike the static beds, it will take some time to assemble a convertible bed. The convertible bed set up can leave more room for a workspace and can be placed in different positions around the van. Now, this setup is inconvenient for those who are sleeping with different schedules.
If you plan to go this route when it comes to your bed, you would need to sacrifice some storage space. This means you won’t be able to store mountain bikes or bigger gear items in your van. It will be the best bet if you are not too concerned about the storage space in your van. With this type of bed, you will usually sleep in multiple cushions, so you might feel the crease when you sleep.
The Easy Pull Out Bed
If you want more room to move during the day, the easy pull-out bed is the best set up for you. You will have a place to sit and have more space to chill out comfortably. Also, you don’t need to feel like being in bed all day which usually happens when you have the platform beds.
The pull-out bed is easy to construct since it is made to slide out from the seat and can also be positioned easily. Now, the mattress is formed from two sofa cushions, so there’s no need for mattress pads. You can store the beddings and extra pillows that you may have underneath the seat as well.
The Dual Purpose Table Campervan Bed
The table campervan bed is another popular design that van lifers choose. You can get the most out of what little space you have in your van. The table campervan bed set up is practical and space-efficient. The table can be mounted on the wall, or you can add an adjustable leg and pedestal to it as well.
This type of bed is dual purpose, where it can be both a bench cushion and a sleeping spot making it a great place to hang out in the morning and get comfy during the night. It will allow ample room for you to work while you are on the road and sleep like a baby at night.
There are a couple of downsides to the table campervan. First, the gap between the cushions can be uncomfortable, and you can have both a bed as well as a dinette at the same time.
The Space Saver Flip Bench Design
Now, the flip bench design is not as popular as the other bed designs, but it’s definitely worth a mention. With this type of bed, you can have maximum space efficiency. It is a wooden bench with a wooden platform that features a backrest mounted and hinged to one side. It is usually placed at the backside of the van, and the platform flips out where the backrest serves at the legs of the bed.
When the bench is closed, it can be used as a couch, and when you flip it open, you will have a pretty decent size bed. This bed set up is great for those who need an area to sit straight up on the road and turn into a bed at night. All you need are some decent cushions, and you will be good to go.
The disadvantage of the flip bench design is you have to make the bed every night and store extra cushions elsewhere. It doesn’t give much storage space as well, but if this is not important to you, the flip bench is still a great bed to have in your van.
Great for Different Situations: The Joint Bench Twin Bed
The joint bench twin bed is a versatile setup, providing an excellent design that can adapt to your different needs and adventures. It is easy and quick to set up. You can use them as two separate single beds or turn them into a big double bed. It is made up of two benches, with each one mounted on the other sides of the wall.
When you sleep at night, all you need to do is slide the beds together, which will make a bigger bed. Other van lifers use wooden panels to fill the space between the twin beds or a lifting table. When the bench is closed, it can be used as a couch to hang out during the day.
The only downside to the joint bench twin bed set up is you can’t store your belongings underneath it.
The Unique Slide Platform Bed
The slide platform bed offers a unique design for your van life bed. While you are traveling, the bed can be pushed against the back wall. When stationary, the entire platform will slide out, and you can hang out in the sunlight or under the stars. You can also add an extension tent if you don’t want to be exposed to too much sunlight.
With the slide platform bed, you will have plenty of storage underneath the bed, and it is usually made up of wooden materials. It is easy to set up, so you can go the DIY route with this van life bed set up.
Stackable Bed Great for the Adventurous Soul
The stackable bed is great for outdoorsy and adventurous people. It provides the freedom of having large storage spaces and is great for those who have large items. This bed set up can be dismantled into sections when stored away, which gives you more space during the day for your gear.
You can easily move around because it has an open plan and airy feel. Now, you have to assemble this bed every night, and it can be a hassle, especially when you are tired after a long day on the trail.
The Famous Murphy Bed
The Murphy bed is great for those who are into construction because you can do this yourself. It is the cleanest and most organized bed build that you can have in your van. It provides you a great amount of space and can fit any bikes, surfboards, etc.
The bed platform rests on the sidewall and folds down when you need to use it. It allows enough space between the platform and the sidewall of your van. You can leave the mattress, covers, and pillows inside, so no need to look for extra storage space for them. You can also use a Murphy bed design for two bunk beds if you have kids with you.
For this type of design, you need to have a pretty big campervan to pull it off. You can lose space for lockers and shelves if you choose to go this route.
The Fun Bunk Beds
Source: Nate Murphy
Bunk beds are great because it is space-efficient and it’s a permanent design for your van. It’s the best way to go if you are two or more people living in a van, perfect for families with kids. It is a great way to fit multiple beds in the van. You can have a single bunk bed on top of each other or have both on a side wall at the rear of the van.
When it comes to the ladder, you can build a permanent one sitting vertically on one side of the bunk bed. You can also make the ladder foldable so that it wouldn’t take up too much space in your van. The sky’s the limit when it comes to placing the ladder in your van life bed set up.
The Draw-Bridge Style Bed
Now, the draw-bridge style bed is pretty similar to the Murphy bed. The only difference is it folds like an accordion instead of flat. It takes up less room than the Murphy beds and more inconvenient to assemble when needed. With this style, you will have more storage space and can place cabinets underneath the bed.
It provides maximum flexibility where you can have extra space to walk through the rear of your van when it is pulled up. It can also add extra counter space when you need it.
Make Sleeping Fun: Kid’s Pods
The kid’s pod is perfect when you have children around. However, it can be challenging to figure out where the kid’s bed goes. As you all know, providing some privacy is important when you have children that are growing up. It may be hard when you are all cramped in one van. With the pods installed in your van, you can give them the privacy that they want.
It is something that they can call their own ‘room.’ It is a great design that provides practicality and aesthetically pleasing touch. You can squeeze space for four beds with the pods installed in your van. Now, this is not a typical DIY job, so you might want to hire a skilled builder or commission someone else to get the job done.
Old School Motorhomes: Over the Cab Bed
The over the cab bed is great for old-school motorhomes where you have space over the driver’s cab. You will get a permanent bed, and there’s no need to take the time to set up the bed before sleep. It will give you more space for your living room and move around whether it is day or night.
You can also have more gear storage and a seating area with this type of bed. If you plan to have guests over, you have all the space for them to be comfortable inside your van. It is also a great layout if you have pets around, providing them a bigger area to walk around.
As I’ve said above, this is only a good fit for those who have an overhead room in their van. Not very ideal for those who have short and small vans.
Ultimate Van Solution: Drop Down Bed System
The drop-down bed is a hybrid design that falls between a platform bed and a convertible one. It has a lift support that raises and lowers the bed, which will disappear in the ceiling at the press of a button. The drop-down bed system is like having a static bed and a seating area at the same time.
The bed is always made and ready for you to sleep in and can be put out of the site if you want a chill day. It is a great solution for space efficiency in your van but can be expensive to install. If you are concerned about the weight of your van, this system can be heavy and will take up your van’s weight allowance.
You will also lose ‘garage’ storage space but can still have plenty of storage under the bench seats. If this is not important to you and you don’t mind the extra expense you need for the build, this is the best bed for you.
Go the Hammock or Ground Pad Route
If your budget is not enough to install the beds that I’ve mentioned above or you are not planning to spend much, go for the hammock or ground pad instead. Also, if construction or DIY things are not your things, going the easiest route is your best bet.
You can simply throw a mattress on the floor with a sleeping bag and head off to dreamland. With this type of sleeping setup, you don’t need to worry about fully constructing your van. It can save you a lot of weight and help gas mileage in the long run.
Hammock, on the other hand, is perfect for the minimal living situation. You can simply string a hammock across the van, which is a reasonable solution. As long as you think you will be comfortable sleeping in a hammock a night, then go right ahead.
Choosing the Type of Mattress for Your Van Life Bed
Aside from the bed itself, choosing the right mattress is also important. You can choose five types of materials: memory foam, gel, innerspring, latex, and pillow-top. Everyone wants a comfy bed, so making sure you select the suitable material and thickness would give you a good night’s sleep.
Memory foams are top-rated around the world because it provides breathability, comfort, and cushioning. It comes in all sizes, and you can even buy toppers if you need to. You can even customize the support, and it is great for people who have bad back pains. With memory foam as your mattress, you can get comfy all night long.
Gel foams are great for dispersing body heat throughout the surface, which is not hot and sticky. It can keep you nice and cool throughout the night, which can have you sleeping like a baby. It is similar to memory foam, where the material molds the shape out of the body—making it a great mattress for support and comfort.
The innerspring is one of the prevalent types of mattress out of all the ones mentioned here. It has been available for decades and has been tested and proven. Now, it may not be as common these days, but it is still a viable option for your van. The support of innerspring comes from multiple springs, as the name suggests. The only drawback of this type of mattress is it can get uncomfortable as the years pass.
Latex is made with natural materials, which is a popular choice for van lifers. You can choose different firmness and plushness, depending on the brand. It is less dense than other mattresses and prevents excess heat from building up when you are sleeping on the mattress.
The pillow-top mattress adds a few inches to another mattress, but it is still comfortable to use on its own. There are different types of foam, such as cotton and wool. The most significant benefit of this mattress is it’s machine washable.
Maintaining A Perfect and Clean Van Life Bed
Maintaining clean bedding is the best way to prevent buying a new mattress too soon. Mattresses should last for about five to ten years before they start to wear down and get uncomfy. Make sure to follow these suggestions for the optimal maintenance of your beddings.
Wash Those Sheets, Pillowcases, and Blankets
Make sure to wash sheets, pillowcases, and blankets at least once a week. The bacteria and dust will build up over time which can be unhealthy and will cause bad smells. Clean your mattress with soap, water, and essential oils so that it is fresh throughout the entire month.
Move Mattress in Different Locations
When you wash everything, make sure to move the mattress in different locations for an hour, which can help let the air out a bit. Condensation is caused by exhaling, which can find its way under the mattress and can lead to mold pretty quickly. Make sure to prop the mattress against the front seats for better results.
Do Not Eat in Bed
It can be challenging and limiting but eating in bed can lead to spills and crumbs getting trapped in the porous material. Remember that foam is absorbent, and you will have a hard time cleaning the mattress in the end. Also, you can have bugs and mold living in the foam, which can be bad for your health.
Knowing the proper setup for your van life bed is important, but there’s a lot of factors that you can consider. The size and weight of the bed are some of the main components that you need to consider when setting up your van life bed. With all the different bed ideas I’ve provided above, you can rest assured that you will find the right bed that will fit your van life bed set up. Sleep tight, van lifers!