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OUTDOORS TRAVEL ON THE ROAD SUV CAMPING

How to Turn Your SUV into a Camper

This conversion is specific to my 2009 Honda CR-V, but principles can be applied to any vehicle.

I want a van. I’m about to head out on a road trip for the next six weeks, and having a van would be perfect. But I don’t have a van. I have an SUV. A Honda CR-V, to be exact.

I really like the idea of being able to have a comfortable bed pretty much anywhere, so I decided to build one in the back of my car. Here is a step-by-step guide to turning your SUV into a camper.

STEP 1

Do you need to take out the back seats? If your back seats fold down flat, skip this step.

If you’re like me, you’ll first watch some YouTube videos on how to remove the back seats from your car. Procure a socket wrench or other tools you might need.

Clean your car. Take everything out. All of the things to the garage! Take the seats out of your car and put them somewhere. The only tool I needed was a socket wrench, and taking out the seats took me all of 15 minutes. Have a victory beer. Or don’t, but I did.

No seats no problem!

No seats no problem!

STEP 2

Time to start thinking about your design. My design is a plywood platform in three parts, using 4x4s for legs. I placed the middle legs slightly off center to accommodate a storage bin. Because the floor of my car is uneven, measuring was a bit more complicated than if your car’s floor is completely flat.

Things to consider: How big do you want it to be? Do you want to be able to remove the platform easily? How will you be storing gear? Do you want to access storage from the back and/or sides?

Measure out the dimensions for the wood you are going to need. Having a friend help you with this comes in really handy. Go to Home Depot or equivalent with the measurements and have them cut it. Buy screws if you don’t have them. I used 3/4″ drywall screws.

STEP 3

Assemble the platform.

For me, it was definitely crucial to have someone help get everything in the car (thank you Henry!). We put all the pieces in the car (propped up) and tried to visualize what it would look like nailed together. It became clear that it made sense to actually put everything together inside the car, rather than taking it out and trying to put the pieces back in once assembled.

Platform assembled! Victory. Next, I put another piece of plywood near the front seats, attached with a hinge. This is an easy way to extend the length of your platform when you move the front seats forward. When you want to drive, just flip it back and move the seats.

how the hinge works

how the hinge works

STEP 4

Before you go any further, vacuum any sawdust and crap out of your car. Next, you can start planning storage and bedding.

I first put a mover’s blanket down on the platform. Alternatively, you can buy carpet and even staple it to the plywood. I wasn’t feeling picky about it.

For bedding, I bought two foam mattress toppers (think egg crates) that were on sale and put them on top of eachother. I then covered them with a full size fitted sheet to keep them in place. Sheets, blankets and pillows are up to you, but I wanted to be the coziest person in the world, so I went big on this.

One great thing about having a platform bed is the storage space underneath. Under the platform, I am keeping all of my gear, clothes, food, cooking stuff, a folding table, a camp chair, a cooler and too many pairs of shoes. Figure out a system that is both easy and organized, and one that works for you.

STEP 5

You’re probably going to want some kind of window covering. Curtains are a good option. Instead, I used Reflectix (buy at any home improvement store, comes in a big roll) and cut it to size. This means no curtains swinging around, and no velcro or tape needed. I am really happy with how these turned out– nobody can see in my car, plus the insulation will keep me a bit warmer.

Maybe I can put my car on Airbnb.

Maybe I can put my car on Airbnb now?

How much did it cost?

  • $56 for wood and hardware
  • $21 for Reflectix
  • $53 for foam
  • $71 for bedding and pillows

So in total, this project cost me $201, plus the cost of a cooler, folding table, and some storage bins. If you already have some extra bedding you like, I bet you could easily do this for $120 or less.

What are the dimensions of the platform?

When the hinge is extended, total length is 72″ and width is 41″. Height is 15″ from the very back of the car.

I’m pretty happy with how it turned out. I’m heading out today to start my road trip and I’m super excited! I’m supposed to stay at a friend’s house tonight, but I honestly might just park in her driveway so I can sleep in my new camper.

Questions? Let me know in the comments!

UPDATE: Do you have an SUV or car to camper conversion you would like me to feature on my blog? Shoot me an email at info@erinoutdoors.com. I would love to hear from you!

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103 Comments

  • Reply
    Phil (London)
    September 22, 2015 at 2:40 pm

    Hey Erin, this is genius!! Love it! It just shows that where there is a will there is a way. It looks super comfy too, I’m sure you’ll have some great times ‘camped out’ in your car under the stars.

    I’m just about to head off on a year’s RTW backpacking trip through Asia, but it’s already inspired me to make sure I find a way to spend more time outdoors when I return 🙂

    • Erin Sullivan
      Reply
      Erin Sullivan
      September 24, 2015 at 2:15 pm

      Thanks Phil! RTW backpacking is a huge adventure in itself. Have fun!!

      • Reply
        rafa
        May 31, 2017 at 8:52 am

        Hello Erin. it is a great idea! i just wanted to ask you. can 2 people sleep confortably in thins convertion? can you fit a double mattress in it? thanks a lot!

        • Erin Sullivan
          Reply
          Erin Sullivan
          May 31, 2017 at 12:10 pm

          Hey Rafa! Yes 2 people can definitely fit. I haven’t tried to fit a double mattress– I think it would be too high and you wouldn’t have much head room! But in theory, yes it would fit. Maybe just go for a thin one 🙂

          • kyrstin Lavelle
            August 28, 2018 at 7:54 pm

            They make RV mattresses that are smaller and flatter. I have on in my Honda Element.

    • Reply
      Rosalie T.
      December 11, 2017 at 2:04 pm

      I had an adventure in 2009. I have a Nissan Quest, made it into a camper, left Ca. in June, traveled to Maine and
      volunteered at a state park. Volunteering gave me a free campsite, stayed the summer. I was only 71 at the time.
      I’ll be 80 in April 2018, think I’m ready to roam the country. I plan to again stay at Walmarts for sleeping. fitness
      center for showers and libraries for internet. What an adventure. Since 2010 I’ve been traveling overseas and
      try to sleep at airports. I live on pennies and go it alone.

      • Erin Sullivan
        Reply
        Erin Sullivan
        December 13, 2017 at 10:43 am

        Hi Rosalie! So awesome to hear you are on such a great adventure. Be well 🙂

      • Reply
        Solo
        January 28, 2018 at 11:18 pm

        You’re quite inspiring and a kindred spirit, Rosalie. I aspire to be as adventurous and free in my retirement years! Ten years to go!! ✊️

  • Reply
    Aidan
    February 9, 2016 at 1:14 pm

    Sweet set up! I did something remarkably similar but in my old subaru legacy (i.e. not nearly as much room) and it worked out pretty awesome, hinge, supports, storage space underneath. I needed mine to be easily removable so as not to sacrifice seating when I need it, so i just used a coat of poly and when it’s set up i just throw my sleeping pad ontop. If i put padding in mine like yours I’d probably sleep with my nose pressed up against the roof of the car. Though yours definitely looks a lot more comfortable! And I too am heading out on a 8 week or so road trip through the west, finishing up in AK!

    • Erin Sullivan
      Reply
      Erin Sullivan
      February 10, 2016 at 10:35 am

      Hey Aidan! That’s awesome. Mine is removable too, though I wouldn’t call it easy to remove! I hear you on the space thing, I’ve definitely forgotten where I was once or twice and sat up too fast. Have fun on your trip, sounds great!

  • Reply
    bj sbarra
    March 7, 2016 at 11:34 am

    Been looking for something simple like this. How is the Reflectix attached to the windows?

    • Erin Sullivan
      Reply
      Erin Sullivan
      March 9, 2016 at 8:08 am

      Hey BJ! It’s not attached- you just trim it to size and it stays in place. I did a rough cut then popped them into the windows and traced the window with a marker, then made the final cuts a little outside that mark.

  • Reply
    carol
    March 25, 2016 at 9:42 pm

    Hey thanks for the idea. I have a 2006 CRV that is a great all around vehicle for me except I have been disappointed that it is too short for camping but apparently its not. I dont care about the rear seats as I am older and on my own. They are ususally just in the way. This is the perfect solution – I dont need a new vehicle.

    • Erin Sullivan
      Reply
      Erin Sullivan
      March 29, 2016 at 4:09 pm

      Sweet! Definitely sounds like it’ll be a good use of a space you don’t normally use! Would love to see how it turns out.

  • Reply
    Peyton
    April 6, 2016 at 2:33 pm

    In the process of doing something similar to my 2015 4runner. It’s already a solid off-road vehicle being the TRD trim so I figured it would work perfectly to be able to get to odd places and then camp there without much hassle. I’m trying to make it easily removable and quickly adjustable to allow for the seating to be used, so it’s taking some engineering. One question I’ve been trying to figure out an answer to is dealing with temperatures. Would the Relectix and parking in the shade be enough to keep cool during hot summers? Enough insulation to keep warm in the winter?

  • Reply
    Nikki
    April 26, 2016 at 9:32 pm

    This is great! How do you remove it?

    • Erin Sullivan
      Reply
      Erin Sullivan
      May 2, 2016 at 9:57 am

      Thanks Nikki! Haven’t tried yet, ha! But when it comes time to remove, since it’s in two pieces, I think if positioned properly both pieces will come out without taking them apart inside the car. That being said, I might take it apart before removing it just because it might be easier!

      • Reply
        Anonymous
        August 30, 2016 at 8:40 pm

        How do you sleep in these when you do this? Do you keep the hatch up? Bugs?

  • Reply
    Menna
    May 1, 2016 at 4:49 pm

    Love this! It totally inspired me to build a platform for my rav, but I’m making it retractable so I can put my rear seats up without taking it out of the car. I did have one question about the Reflectix. I have slept in my car before and have had to crack windows open to allow for some ventilation. did you find that to be an issue? I want to get my car pretty dark so I can sleep, but ventilation was a big problem last time I camped out in my car

    • Erin Sullivan
      Reply
      Erin Sullivan
      May 2, 2016 at 10:10 am

      Awesome! Sounds like a great set-up! I have a sun roof, so I would use that for ventilation. I think the Reflectix would still stay put if you crack the windows though!

      • Reply
        Tom B.
        April 9, 2018 at 6:46 pm

        Hi Erin,

        Thanks for inspiring post. I’ve been thinking about covering my SUV to a campervan like you did. One question: when you crack the sunroof open for ventilation at night, how do you keep the mosquitoes and bugs out?

        • Erin Sullivan
          Reply
          Erin Sullivan
          April 10, 2018 at 4:42 pm

          Good question – this wasn’t a problem for me as I wasn’t in very many buggy places, but I have seen friends deal with this by creating a mesh contraption with magnets or velcro.

  • Reply
    Meg
    May 16, 2016 at 6:20 pm

    Hey Erin, -thanks for sharing this! I too have a cr-v, dream of hitting the road self contained… I’m curious- what year is your car? After reading another reader’s comments about ventilation, I’m wondering if one could create a screen to fit into/over the sunroof when open… you’ve got my mental wheels turning!
    See ya on the road!

    • Erin Sullivan
      Reply
      Erin Sullivan
      May 17, 2016 at 10:40 am

      Hey Meg! Mine is a 2009. I bet you could make a screen for the sunroof – I was never in a buggy situation but I bet it could get uncomfortable if you were and didn’t have a screen!

      • Reply
        Anonymous
        August 30, 2016 at 8:41 pm

        Oh the sun roof open.
        Yes a screen would be necessary. Now how to make a temporary one.

        • Erin Sullivan
          Reply
          Erin Sullivan
          August 31, 2016 at 3:13 pm

          Yep – I didn’t need a screen but I’d probably buy mesh and velcro it. At least that’s what comes to mind. If you end up with another solution I’d love to hear it!

          • Chris
            June 1, 2017 at 1:48 pm

            use a screen material and then just use many small magnets to secure it to either the door window or sunroof

          • Erin Sullivan
            Erin Sullivan
            June 1, 2017 at 3:48 pm

            Great point, Chris! I have some friends who do this– I’ve also seen velcro but would prefer magnets personally.

  • Reply
    Cade
    June 15, 2016 at 9:42 pm

    Hello – I was thinking about outfitting my 4-runner similarly for an upcoming road trip. What are the specs on the plywood you used?

    • Erin Sullivan
      Reply
      Erin Sullivan
      June 16, 2016 at 9:39 pm

      Just 3/4in plywood– beyond that, not sure on specs. Just went for what worked– I think you could definitely bring ideas into a hardware store and they can make a better recommendation.

  • Reply
    Alec
    June 27, 2016 at 1:05 pm

    Hi, you’ve inspired me to convert my Jeep grand cherokee, next door neighbor is donating some 6×6 studs for my mattress in back. I wasnt going to add a second level, but i put in a 7 inch futon mattress which is so comfy, but i didnt wanna lose any headroom, but now I see I have no space for clothes. In process of saving $ for hiking equip, gas cooker etc and plan on leaving Sept 25th for 2 months, starting from Philly goin all the way north to portand and down cali coast then back south to key west and finally back to philly. reason Im leaving Oct is bc sleeping in a jeep will likely be too hot in Aug when I originally wanted to go. So when im swinging back in the southern USA it will be warm and sunny still in Oct/Nov. I want to build in battery powered fans for the inside. thabnks for all the motivation!!

    • Erin Sullivan
      Reply
      Erin Sullivan
      June 27, 2016 at 8:35 pm

      Sounds like a great plan! Hope you have an awesome trip!

  • Reply
    Sarah
    August 9, 2016 at 11:02 am

    Hello! This post inspired us to build a platform for my Subaru Forester to use next month for a road trip to the Grand Canyon! We are so excited and so far the platform is great! So much storage! My question is how you are able to fold back the head piece with the foam? Do you undo your cushion to allow it to fold flat?? With 4″ of foam ours just wants to pop right back up! Small problem but other than undoing the sheet and moving the foam every time, I can’t think of a way to remedy this! Thanks and happy travels!

    • Erin Sullivan
      Reply
      Erin Sullivan
      August 11, 2016 at 8:27 am

      Hey Sarah! That’s AWESOME and I am stoked to hear that. Great question. Usually I pull the foam up, fold the hinge, and then fold the foam under the entire platform. That way there is some cushion against the back of the seats too. Occasionally if I am feeling lazy or in a rush, I will just fold it back and let it pop up (sounds like your foam is thicker than mine though). Let me know what you end up doing!

  • Reply
    Davis
    September 20, 2016 at 1:55 am

    Hey I was wondering where you bought your foam?

    Thanks!

    • Erin Sullivan
      Reply
      Erin Sullivan
      September 20, 2016 at 11:39 am

      Hi Davis! I think I got it at Bed Bath & Beyond or a similar place. In retrospect I would spend more money on memory foam 🙂

  • Reply
    Donna
    October 5, 2016 at 11:34 am

    Fabulous job Erin! I’ve been “pinning” like crazy to find the best solutions, since my husband is a hard sell on this idea, and I may end up doing it by myself. I also have a Honda CRV. I think I’m going to go with heavy duty plastic shelving vs. plywood for the bed platform, due to the weight and ease of assembly/disassembly. Thanks for sharing your creation! I’m so inspired!

  • Reply
    nytehawk
    October 11, 2016 at 5:55 pm

    Great job, will help me when I get a vehicle. I’m undecided on whether to buy a used CRV, Ford Escape, or Honda Element and make it into a camper. I want to see the entire U.S. and Canada by camper vehicle.

    • Erin Sullivan
      Reply
      Erin Sullivan
      October 14, 2016 at 10:20 am

      Thanks! Elements make really good car-campers. I like my CR-V but I might look for something that has seats that fold flat if I had to make the purchase again!

  • Reply
    Lauren
    December 15, 2016 at 9:25 am

    Hey Erin thanks for the post! Been doing a lot of research and will likely build something like this for my grand Cherokee. I’m going back and forth between a wood base or pvc pipe base to save a little bit of weight and easier removal/breakdown. I fear I’m going a little off topic with my actual question though so pardon me. When you were on the road and sleeping in your car, where did you sleep?

    • Erin Sullivan
      Reply
      Erin Sullivan
      December 16, 2016 at 1:46 pm

      Hey Lauren! That’s awesome, I am sure you will figure out what works for you. I mainly slept at campsites or Bureau of Land Management land, but occasionally rest stops or Wal-Mart parking lots if I felt safe.

      • Reply
        Lauren
        December 21, 2016 at 2:31 am

        Thanks so much! I look forward to keeping in touch and reading your entries. I enjoy them.

  • Reply
    Schuyler
    December 27, 2016 at 1:51 am

    Thanks for sharing Erin! We are on a year long vacation in Australia and just bought a cheap Nissan Xtrail (SUV) to outfit for camping. I think we’ll do the same as you except make the base out of PVC pipes. Then we should still be able to dismantle half and put the back seats up in case we give friends a ride.

    • Erin Sullivan
      Reply
      Erin Sullivan
      December 29, 2016 at 9:01 am

      Sounds awesome! Send pics if you get some!!

  • Reply
    Roger
    January 22, 2017 at 11:19 am

    Hey Erin, when you’re ready for more space, here are a few thoughts: I put together a “micro-RV” using a Ford cargo van (it’s huge in there compared to a car or pickup topper). I’ve been traveling the west for 3 years, and I’ve gotten addicted to the freedom. The van has 7+ inches of clearance so I go off-road more than you’d expect. (Love that “wild” camping). I put together a little book about how I did it…

    http://roger-steen.squarespace.com

    Roger

  • Reply
    Andrea Smurf
    February 5, 2017 at 8:48 am

    What did you mean when you said the height is 15 inches from the back of the car?
    I am buying a Exped MegaMat 10 that is 77.5x30x4 inches on sale (its XL so hopefully my dog can fit on it with me) and I am hoping it will fit in this car. Do you think it will? Is there a car that you know of that has seats that lay flat so you don’t need to go through the trouble of making a platform? Thanks so much and happy trails!

    • Erin Sullivan
      Reply
      Erin Sullivan
      February 6, 2017 at 7:13 pm

      Hi Andrea! Look into Subaru Forresters and Toyota RAV4/Tacomas in terms of cars with seats that lay flat. I meant 15 inches in height, because right behind the front seats the 4x4s needed to be taller. Hope that makes sense! It sounds like that mat might be a bit too tall, but maybe it can fold a bit or act as a pillow.

  • Reply
    Donovan Piper
    February 13, 2017 at 12:55 pm

    This is amazing! Very well done. I have a Mercedes Benz ML350 and decided to sleep in it while going on a snowboard trip with my bro(college student struggle). So we put my futon mattress in the back and laid down the seats and it fit perfectly. I have a roof rack with an enclosed luggage holder on top for all of our snowboard luggage, but we had no room for our regular clothes or a cooler or anything. So I definitely need to build something like this to allow me to have room for more items. Quick question, any tips on a way to “shower” when out camping for multiple days and you are in a COLD environment? Very inspiring post! Thank you!

  • Reply
    Owen
    April 4, 2017 at 8:33 pm

    I’m planning a decently long road trip out west this summer, and I’m bringing a chevy trailblazer ls. However, my seats dont quite fold down to floor level. Would a platform still be practical?

    • Erin Sullivan
      Reply
      Erin Sullivan
      April 23, 2017 at 9:24 am

      Hey Owen! My seats didn’t either, so I removed them completely. It’ll just have to be a custom job– build the platform over the seats or take them out to maximize storage space underneath.

  • Reply
    Sarah
    April 16, 2017 at 12:55 pm

    Liking this idea a lot! I’m going to do something similar to my Suzuki Grand Vitara, use electric hook up at touring sites for lights and microwave oven. So’s we can have overnight stays instead of day trips 🙂

    • Reply
      Sarah
      April 16, 2017 at 1:00 pm

      ….and use the touring site shower facilities 🙂

      • Reply
        Brendan
        October 26, 2018 at 3:00 pm

        Hi we have a GV and looking to make it into a camper, how did it work out? Be great to see. Thanks

    • Erin Sullivan
      Reply
      Erin Sullivan
      April 23, 2017 at 9:26 am

      Nice! And yes to the showers 🙂

  • Reply
    Christine
    April 23, 2017 at 7:30 am

    Hi Erin – Love your idea and thanks for the post! Did you have any trouble with the hinged part of the board folding up on you? And did you put any extra “legs” under the top portion of the board where the hinge is or just under the main larger pirtion? Thanks!

    • Erin Sullivan
      Reply
      Erin Sullivan
      April 23, 2017 at 9:31 am

      Hi Christine! Nope, no issues with the hinge folding up– the weight of it was enough to keep it down. Hope that makes sense! I didn’t put legs under the top because it was awkward in my car– I would have had to make them removable because of how far the seats came back when it was set up to drive.

  • Reply
    Mike Sidoti
    May 4, 2017 at 2:46 pm

    Hey Erin. Getting ready to do this with my 2002 Toyota Highlander! Excited to start. Have seen someone else use reflectix glued to foam board to use in the windows. Maybe a bit more insulated?

    • Erin Sullivan
      Reply
      Erin Sullivan
      May 4, 2017 at 4:23 pm

      Awesome! Interesting – you definitely could do that but I’m not sure how much insulation it would really add. I think it’d also depend on how curved your windows are. With mine, I don’t think the foam board wouldn’t have stayed in place like the Reflectix alone did. If you’re after extra insulation, maybe you could double (or triple) up on the Reflectix– not sure how effective but might be better than foam board!

      • Reply
        MIke
        May 10, 2017 at 2:04 pm

        Cool -great alternative idea!

  • Reply
    steve
    May 28, 2017 at 6:57 am

    Erin,

    This is great info. I’m wondering if ,while SUV camping, you also used an awning, tent, etc. to give yourself some space to hang out outside of the vehicle?

    • Erin Sullivan
      Reply
      Erin Sullivan
      May 28, 2017 at 12:20 pm

      Hey Steve! Great question. I didn’t, but you definitely could rig something pretty easily! Check back on the blog next week– I’m featuring someone who converted his RAV4 and he has an awning. 🙂

  • Reply
    Jeffrey Whitaker
    June 6, 2017 at 11:07 pm

    Cool setup Erin…simple and easy. I’m currently looking to purchase a Honda Pilot and convert it to a camper. Its shocking to me that so few people have used the Pilot as a camper. Maybe I’ll start a trend lol.

    • Erin Sullivan
      Reply
      Erin Sullivan
      June 8, 2017 at 7:44 am

      Nice! The Pilot looks like it’ll make a great camper.

  • Reply
    Helen Keith
    August 20, 2017 at 12:59 pm

    am curious about the conversion – have a Subaru Outback 2011 and bought it because it was big enough to sleep in, but have not moved forward on it yet – am curious about bug protection, ventilation (side windows and sunroof) and what happens when it is raining (and warm…so want to keep windows open) any advice would be welcome on those aspects. Reading your blog has been fun and stimulating me to action! Thanks

    • Reply
      john
      February 19, 2018 at 8:52 pm

      Hi Helen – I’ve recently slept in my outback in Portland and L.A. Way more enjoyable in LA due to warm weather. Left a 1/4″ window gap open on all 4 side windows. Lay some baby mats and yoga mats with rear seats folded down as sleeping quarters. Used card board cut outs to block windows. Tide a rope across from roof handles to hold up privacy curtain. Plenty of room in the back for one person. Very stealthy. Will go definitely go for another adventure again.

  • Reply
    Andy Allen
    September 1, 2017 at 2:06 am

    Great post – I have the same car (2009 Honda CRV) and intend to build a very similar setup for a multi-month roadtrip where I’ll be boondocking, hiking, doing National Parks, etc. I was wondering if you had any more 2009 Honda CRV specific advice to share? Did you have any carpentry skills before this? Did you feel like you had enough storage? Also, was the airflow an issue at night? Whew, thanks for answering any or all of these for me – it seems like a daunting project at first, but I think I could pull this off!

    • Erin Sullivan
      Reply
      Erin Sullivan
      September 2, 2017 at 11:06 am

      Hey Andy! Thanks for the questions. I didn’t have any major carpentry skills, but had some basics. For storage, I was pretty happy, but definitely had to make sure my plastic bins would fit underneath the platform before deciding on a height. Airflow wasn’t a huge issue because I had a sunroof and could crack the windows an inch at night. If it were buggy, I’d probably have installed some mosquito netting or screens. I think you can definitely pull it off–– I was able to borrow power tools from friends. In terms of cutting the actual pieces, they’ll do it for free at Lowes/Home Depot, you’ll just have to know the sizes. Be prepared to make a few runs to the store in case you need to micro-adjust anything! Better to do it right than to be off on the measurements. Have fun!

      • Reply
        Andy Allen
        September 10, 2017 at 5:42 pm

        Hey Erin – thank you so much for the reply; it’s starting to come together. Seats were a bit of a pain, but they came out, bought 3/4in plywood and 4x4s, decided on a design (went with more a twin sized sleeping platform for more storage), and got it built and carpeted with the help of a friend. Unfortunately my local hardware stores will no longer cut anything wider than 2in so that was a bit tough to get done. All in all, it’s 16.5in high, 30.5in wide, and 76in long with the hinge down. I also built two hinged tables that come off the sides – one that can only be opened with the back passenger door open, and a small one for a bedside table. I’ll be taking it on the road as of October 1, and after I work out the kinks I hope to take some pictures, video, and put together a small writeup. I don’t have a blog or anything, so I may send it your way and see if you’d like it as a guest post. Either way, thanks for providing the inspiration to make something cool!

        • Erin Sullivan
          Reply
          Erin Sullivan
          September 29, 2017 at 2:08 am

          Hey Andy! That sounds awesome. Also love that you have a couple of tables that come off the sides–– super handy. Would love to feature your conversion as I’m sure lots of folks would love to see it. Email me anytime! 🙂

  • Reply
    Cameron
    October 3, 2017 at 11:41 am

    Hi Erin, nice job; however like all others who have posted videos on their SUV/VAN conversions on youtube, the question is this…”How do you poop/pee while on the road, and if its bad weather were’re your stuck in some place inside the vehicle, just how do you answer the call to nature?

    Thanks,
    Cam

    • Erin Sullivan
      Reply
      Erin Sullivan
      October 6, 2017 at 9:28 am

      Ha! Sometimes you gotta brave the elements. That or park near a bathroom facility. 😛

  • Reply
    Maggie
    October 4, 2017 at 12:58 am

    These are wonderful ideas. My seats fold down so I will try it without a platform. Also, The idea of using a screen on the moon roof for ventilation is a great idea as are battery operated fans. My sense of security dictates I’d feel safer if all the windows were closed however the moon roof, etc and fans are a great idea. Thank you for the inspiration.

    • Erin Sullivan
      Reply
      Erin Sullivan
      October 6, 2017 at 9:29 am

      Thanks Maggie! You could probably get a clip fan–– my concern would just be making sure you had it mounted securely so it didn’t fall on you during the night.

  • Reply
    Murph
    October 5, 2017 at 3:43 pm

    Is the Platform a must? I have a RAV4…can’t I just put the seats down, lay some padding and bundle up? Is being raised important? Thanks for your help.

    • Erin Sullivan
      Reply
      Erin Sullivan
      October 6, 2017 at 9:32 am

      Hi Murph–– I don’t think it’s a must, just depends on your preferences. I needed a platform because my seats don’t fold down flat; the bottom is also not flat when the seats are removed, so I needed to build something. I also wanted storage underneath. If your seats fold down flat and you don’t need the storage space, not building a platform is certainly easier! 🙂

    • Reply
      Jim
      August 1, 2018 at 10:43 pm

      I have a RAV4 and have slept in it without a platform. It was uncomfortable even with padding due to an uneven surface. It’s easy to carry a tent, but it’s just plain time-consuming. I liked this post.

  • Reply
    Murph
    October 7, 2017 at 9:57 am

    Awesome! I didn’t know if a platform had some extra insulating properties…

    • Erin Sullivan
      Reply
      Erin Sullivan
      October 9, 2017 at 5:28 pm

      Perhaps just by being off the ground–– but as long as you have a well-insulated pad, I don’t think it’d make a huge difference if you’re on the floor of your car or not.

  • Reply
    Lisa
    December 4, 2017 at 2:15 pm

    Hi Erin, I’m very impressed with your setup and I have a 2013 CRV I am getting ready to convert. My question is; I have read that bears will break into a car to get at the food. Do you store food inside the vehicle at night and have you had any issues with hungry animals? Just wondering if I need to invest in a locking cooler and keep it outside at night. Also, I’d love to hear any advice you have on security as a female camping solo.
    Thanks! Lisa

    • Erin Sullivan
      Reply
      Erin Sullivan
      December 7, 2017 at 4:00 pm

      Hey Lisa! Congrats on your conversion. I think this very much depends on where you are going. If you are going to any National Parks with serious bear issues like Yosemite, they will often have lockers for you to store your food in. Unless you plan on going solo in remote bear country, I don’t think you need to plan for this. I just had a cooler and some containers so I could easily transport my food into lockers if necessary. For security, I recommend having bear mace (you’ll want this for hiking in bear country anyway) and always being sure my car was locked (obviously) when sleeping or hanging out in it. Beyond that, it is a lot of common sense stuff you already do! Telling your friends/family where you are going and when to expect you back, and ALWAYS following your gut. I have bailed on places I wanted to see because I didn’t feel safe–– you can always go back, plus, if you don’t feel safe you probably won’t enjoy it anyway. Hope that helps!

  • Reply
    Solo
    January 28, 2018 at 11:21 pm

    Thanks for posting this Erin! I’m planning to cross country trip and have been researching van conversions. It hadn’t occurred to me that I could do it in an SUV. You’ve given me a lot to think about now.

    • Erin Sullivan
      Reply
      Erin Sullivan
      February 1, 2018 at 10:46 am

      Thank you! Yes there are lots of possibilities 🙂

  • Reply
    Jamin Rice
    January 29, 2018 at 9:30 am

    Of all the people on the internet doing this sort of thing, your post is one of the better ones. I’m in the process of transforming my 2002 CR-V, and I’m very thankful for your inspiration. Each year, I drive to/from Alaska. Being able to sleep in the vehicle I’m driving is a game changer!

    • Erin Sullivan
      Reply
      Erin Sullivan
      February 1, 2018 at 10:50 am

      Thanks Jamin! Appreciate the feedback 🙂

  • Reply
    Rich McHale
    February 7, 2018 at 6:49 pm

    Hello Erin; in planning my own trip for the upcoming summer, I came across your blog, which answered a lot of my questions as to whether this would work or not. “Thanks!” In trying to save on costs, I would think you could blend in anywhere, overnight that, when you aren’t staying in a park or a hotel. Any advice for finding free, “safe” spots to park overnight? What are some issues that you didn’t expect or, are things you didn’t think about before you set out on the road? Thanks, Rich /NJ

    • Erin Sullivan
      Reply
      Erin Sullivan
      February 15, 2018 at 9:58 am

      Hi Rich! You are right that you can blend in lots of places. Campsites, Bureau of Land Management land, and rest stops are good places to park. Roads in suburban neighborhoods can be a good option, but of course, make sure there is a bathroom nearby as it’s frowned upon to pee on people’s gardens 😛 You can also often park overnight at Wal-Mart parking lots, but the rules depend on the individual store, so check with the manager first, though sometimes it is obvious if there are tons of campervans and RVs in the parking lot. For me, my safety was a concern since I was traveling alone and did feel vulnerable at times. So if I ever felt creeped out or had a bad feeling about a place, I did not question it and left. Otherwise I would find it hard to sleep anyway! Hope that helps.

  • Reply
    Wendi
    April 15, 2018 at 4:42 pm

    Hi Erin-
    My husband and I are starting to camp in our RAV4. One of my questions is about where to put the cooler at night? Did you have to buy a certain cooler so it would fit under the platform? We don’t want to leave our cooler outside at night. Thanks!

    • Erin Sullivan
      Reply
      Erin Sullivan
      May 9, 2018 at 12:56 am

      Hi Wendi – great question, I left mine underneath the platform (it was a small cooler). If you are in bear country, definitely take this into consideration and be sure to store all food in a provided food locker. You could look into a soft-sided cooler bag (like a Yeti) for more flexibility on storage options.

  • Reply
    Benjamin Perri
    June 25, 2018 at 11:28 am

    Hi Erin. Thanks for posting about this. I’m currently designing mine for my 2015 Forester. How much headroom is there from the top of the bed to the ceiling?

    Also, is your platform 15″ in height from the floor of the trunk? If so, that’s lucky. I can most likely only get 10″ comfortably.

    • Erin Sullivan
      Reply
      Erin Sullivan
      July 8, 2018 at 2:02 am

      Thanks Benjamin! I’ve uninstalled this now so I can’t go measure it, but to estimate I’d say I had enough room to move around, but definitely not enough to sit up completely. And yes on the 15″ from the floor of the trunk.

  • Reply
    Quinn
    July 29, 2018 at 1:15 pm

    where do you park at night? Just a cheap campground?

    • Erin Sullivan
      Reply
      Erin Sullivan
      August 1, 2018 at 10:10 am

      I prefer campgrounds because they feel safest, but in a pinch I’ve stayed in Walmart parking lots (many allow overnight parking), or rest stops.

  • Reply
    Dee Dee
    July 31, 2018 at 12:08 pm

    Thanks for the great hack, Erin.

    Using your tips, I successfully transformed my Kia Sorento! In fact I specifically sourced that vehicle since the back seats folded almost totally flat.

    The camping space measures 50” x 70”, which precipitated my purchase of a 6” deep trifold foam mattress by Millard (a 4.5”deep one would have done fine, but what the heck…we’re glamping now).

    If is just too easy to fold one of the mattress thirds up and back, allowing for the back seats to sit upright again. This means I didn’t need the plywood platform and it left more sleeping room between the top of the mattress and the roof.

    To compensate for decreased storage space, I could have placed a Thul car carrier on the roof, but I don’t want to be hauling a lot of stuff this trip. I have just a small cooler for the front seat, and the Sorento has surprisingly a lot of empty storage compartments under the trunk floor. That’s all that was needed for clothing. I added just two black folding camp chairs.

    For food these days, on road trips vs backwoods camping, for example, the grocery stores have delis that are cheap to get lunch or dinner. Plus, there are fish markets and farm stands that cater to travellers during the summer season. Why not stop at those artisanal food stops to try something new and regional.

    Loved, loved, loved the Reflectix hack! That worked way too well. Cut out a template out of newspaper and the finished product fit perfectly. Stayed in place by itself when crimped around the window mouldings. For the Nosy Neighbours’ benefit, though, I did take black duct tape and cover the outward facing side. Now, there is no shiny silver drawing people in for a snoop. Similarly, used all black bedding so we didn’t look like the Clampets rolling into town, should there be a ferry or border inspection.

    All in all, in that Canadian campgrounds run by the government, either municipally, provincially or federally cost $23-$33 Cdn a night (that’s like $18-25 USD), this $300 project is going to save a lot of money! …plus it was a lot of fun putting together. I stayed at Walmart once and someone ran a cart into the vehicle…feel much better in a park, plus they are soooo beautiful.

    Thanks again for sharing your ideas, Erin!

    • Erin Sullivan
      Reply
      Erin Sullivan
      August 1, 2018 at 10:19 am

      Hi Dee Dee,

      How awesome! Thanks so much for sharing with me. It sounds like you came up with a really great system. Thule roof boxes are great, I have one now. I also completely agree with you with the campground thing… personally, these days I would rather pay more and stay somewhere beautiful (and SAFE).

      Thanks again for your comment! Hopefully folks looking to do the same will come down to the comments section and find it helpful as well. 🙂

  • Reply
    Jim
    August 1, 2018 at 10:45 pm

    Love what you did, but being an engineer (and a traveler and amateur photographer) I saw some room for improvement, mainly in the area of strength-to-weight and space saving. I’m pretty sure 1/2″ plywood on 2×4 posts would have sufficed. Plywood doesn’t sag as much as OSB and is not so heavy. You might have also been able to stretch canvas over a 2×2 frame on 2×2 posts like a traditional cot. Or use 1×1 steel. Whatever you use I’d recommend angle brackets to secure the top to posts and bolt posts to the car body.

  • Reply
    Mary-Anne
    August 31, 2018 at 8:11 pm

    Erin, we have a Subaru Forester, and are thinking about using this as a first time camper for small trips.
    Your ideas are wonderful and I feel quite inspired now. Thank you so much for all the information.
    My main concern is having a toilet and a little privacy. This is just for me and my husband and our
    little yorkie-poo,as we are retired and the children are both adults now. I am so glad I found your
    information. Thanks again so much and good luck to you. Mary-Anne

    • Erin Sullivan
      Reply
      Erin Sullivan
      September 8, 2018 at 4:40 pm

      Thanks Mary-Anne! Yes, toilet and privacy are important factors. You will get a feel for what you need 🙂 Have fun!

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