I recently bought a Citroen Berlingo van, and in this short post, I wanted to quickly share how to go about building a small DIY bed for your camper. It’s a fun and reatively short and simple process, and worked wonders on the space that I had, which at first glace seemed pretty tight and unusable. Here’s my guide on building a bed in a van, and carrying out the construction of a small minivan conversion ready for accessible and easy adventures.
Measure, measure and measure again
It’s easy to say, but the importance of this part of course cannot be underestimated. Measure and write it down, and then measure and write it down somewhere else. An important point to remember is to err on the side of caution – there’s nothing more frustrating than cutting the wood for your bed and realising that because you’ve made it exactly the right size, it doesn’t quite fit in the van. Make your measurements a little thinner and shorter if you have to – you’ll be thankful for it when your bed slides in easily.
Go to a hardware shop – and ask for the wood to be cut
It’s easier than you think to get the wood you need. Most good hardware shops will cut the wood for you – and will certainly be able to advise you on which type of hardwood to use. I think the thicker the better – you don’t want it to warp and bend and you also don’t want it to feel flimsy when you’re sleeping on it. You’ll probably need to saw the legs yourself, but if you don’t have a saw, just borrow one from the shop and do it in the car park – most will let you do this – and the benefit is that you then return home with a full set of bits you need.
Once you’ve cleared a good space, lay your solid piece of hardwood down on the floor. This will form the bed itself. Using your van measurements and where you’ve decided would be a good fit for the legs (I used two either side, the wood above the wheel arches to support it, and then three down the middle). If you don’t have boxed-out wheel arches to support it, I’d recommend using 9 legs in total – 3 sets of 3.
Lay your already cut legs on the wood and draw around them. Then, drill 2 guide holes for each leg. This will form the location and positioning for the legs so when you turn the bed round, you know where the screws need to go.
Fixing the legs
Using wood glue, and with the bed still ‘bottom up,’ glue the legs into position. Leave to dry for 30 minutes or so – it’s tempting to want to get going and turn the bed around before that but without the glue setting, the legs will fall off and you’ll be back to square one.
Once you’ve left the glue to set and they’re not moving around, turn the whole piece of hardboard, legs including, around. Then, using the guide holes you drilled earlier, drill two wood screws in per leg.
Bracket the legs
It’s a good idea to put brackets on the legs. These are 90 degree supports for each leg and prevent them from skewing and moving anywhere. If you’re going to be on the bed a lot, or there’s going to be more than just you, it’s a sensible idea. Using a small pack of brackets (they come with the right screws), fix the legs and your DIY bed for your small van will be made even sturdier.
Installing the bed!
The fun bit! Slide the bed in. This might be a two man job. If you’ve got the measurements right, you should be able to slot the bed in at the van’s widest point.
Making it nice
The most important and coveted part of building a bed in a van – making it nice and cosy. I bought a cheap throw normally used for a sofa for my bed, and it fitted perfectly. A good idea is to staple the fabric to the wood, or at least tuck it around something, so it doesn’t shift around when you sleep on it. Then you can source a small mattress, put up some fairly lights, and you’re good to go!
The first adventure
No van bed is complete without a good opportunity to test it out. The first roadtrip will be a memorable achievement, and it’ll be a good feeling knowing you’ve built what you’re sleeping on and the fact it not only takes your own weight, but feels cosy and comfortable. Is there anything better than waking up in your own van next to some beautiful countryside? I don’t think there is…
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