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Creation of the Van Bed

The post is long overdue as I have had a legit bed in my van for a while now as this is probably the most important feature of a van conversion. Let’s see if I can break this down as this was not an easy build for me. For whatever reason, I really struggled with the concept of what I thought I was going to build. As I got more and more into it, the bed went in a different direction and one that I am really happy with. I have not seen “this bed” anywhere out there. I’m sure it exists, I just haven’t seen it.

I wanted to create a bed that would go from couch mode to “full” bed mode if needed. Therefore, I knew I wanted to build the slider style bed that many van dwellers make. I pulled the ideas from two main sources (youtube and van dog traveller) but still struggled to articulate exactly how I was going to do this. As with any woodworking project, I pulled out a piece of paper and started to sketch and get a game plan together.

Once I thought I knew what I was doing, I cut up my wood and then laid it out. You essentially have two main pieces to this style of bed: your platform that doesn’t move (the couch) and your moving/sliding bed that you would pull out for a bigger sleeping platform.

I wanted to create the same space so I cut a “jig” to lay each piece out.

My spacers
Dry fit everything before screwing anything down. This is the dry run of the stationary platform.

Next came figuring out the moving/sliding part of the bed. Think of it this way: you need to be able to slide this out without hassle, needs to support the weight of a person and it needs to be supported from the backside so the sliding platform doesn’t fall (I’ll address this issue later in the post).

The next tricky part was attaching this to the van and not having it collapse while you are on it. Support is a priority for this.

As you can see, I screwed directly into the side of the van wall (the wooden wall) and then supported it from the bottom. This is where I would attach the platform using hinges as I originally wanted to be able to access storage (below the bed) from the top. The idea later went in a completely different direction (addressed later in the post).

I did many dry runs before I ever secured anything down. Once I was satisfied with the current state of things, I would screw things down. In this case, I added two hinges from the static platform to the support piece I put up in the previous step.

Next up, I needed to address the issue of the sliding platform falling so I added a brace below both platforms to act as a runner.

The “runner”

At this point, I had temporary legs in place and this is where the entire project took a turn. I realized with the hinges, I could turn this whole bed into a murphy bed but I needed to figure out the legs as they needed to be able to swing up while in murphy mode. My wheels were turning and I kept going back to the idea of legs on a cornhole board. So I made a run to the local hardware store, took in a test piece of wood and started to play around with hardware. I bought carriage bolts, washers and locking nuts and went home. I did a dry run and knew this was going to work so the next step was to add an end board that would hold the mattress in place. This needed to be cut exact so that it could go up without a hiccup in murphy mode.

Next came the legs. The one on the front was straight forward. The legs on each end were not straight forward as they needed to be folded up and not hit each other. Out came the jigsaw. In total the bed has 5 mobile legs. Don’t forget your level! Also, the hardware needed to be low enough that it would not interfere with the mattress. This was unavoidable on the ends but it is minimal that they stick out.

And finally, the rough bed was complete. Couch mode, bed mode and murphy mode (How I hold the entire thing up is I attached eye hooks to the van wall and the bed, attached a small carabiner to each hook and connected the two with a small rope).

Finished raw product

While I do think it could slide in and out a bit better, for the limited amount I pull it out in full bed mode, I am not too worried about this. I did add some paste wax to the moving components.

I did paint this and I ordered a mattress off Amazon and sewed a custom waterproof cover for it but I will cover the details of that in another post.


I started kayaking in Wisconsin of all places, because this is where I am from. I then moved to San Diego and took on kayak surfing along with heading to the Kern River when water was available. I then made the move to Asheville, NC and have been hooked on this sport since my Wisconsin days. With whatever it is that you do, do it because you love it, not because society tells you should or for other outside factors. Don't simply exist, live!