SUV CAMPING

How to Turn Your SUV into a Camper

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I am a photographer and writer passionate about the outdoors, meaningful travel, and living deliberately. I hope to use my platform online to show the beauty and complexity of the world we live in, and to encourage genuine connection to the outdoors, culture, people and wildlife.

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Add some wonder to your space

SHOP PRINTS

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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  1. Phil (London) says:

    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 🙂

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

      • rafa says:

        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!

      • Sylvia Lucero says:

        Thanks Erin ,I was actually looking for someone that had done this to a SUV in great detail but not until you .i really like what you did so simple but looks comfy .We have a 2004 Cadillac SUV going to use your system can’t wait …

    • Rosalie T. says:

      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.

  2. Aidan says:

    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!

    • 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!

  3. bj sbarra says:

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

    • 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.

  4. carol says:

    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.

  5. Peyton says:

    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?

  6. Nikki says:

    This is great! How do you remove it?

    • 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!

  7. Menna says:

    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

    • 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!

      • Tom B. says:

        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?

        • 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.

  8. Meg says:

    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!

  9. Cade says:

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

    • 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.

  10. Alec says:

    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!!

  11. Sarah says:

    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!

    • 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!

  12. Davis says:

    Hey I was wondering where you bought your foam?

    Thanks!

  13. Donna says:

    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!

  14. nytehawk says:

    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.

  15. Lauren says:

    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?

  16. Schuyler says:

    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.

  17. Roger says:

    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

  18. Andrea Smurf says:

    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!

    • 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.

  19. Donovan Piper says:

    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!

  20. Owen says:

    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?

    • 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.

  21. Sarah says:

    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 🙂

  22. Christine says:

    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!

    • 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.

  23. Mike Sidoti says:

    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?

    • 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!

  24. steve says:

    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?

    • 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. 🙂

  25. Jeffrey Whitaker says:

    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.

  26. Helen Keith says:

    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

    • john says:

      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.

  27. Andy Allen says:

    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!

    • 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!

      • Andy Allen says:

        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!

        • 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! 🙂

  28. Cameron says:

    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

  29. Maggie says:

    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.

  30. Murph says:

    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.

    • 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! 🙂

    • Jim says:

      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.

  31. Murph says:

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

    • 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.

  32. Lisa says:

    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

    • 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!

  33. Solo says:

    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.

  34. Jamin Rice says:

    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!

  35. Rich McHale says:

    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

    • 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.

  36. Wendi says:

    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!

    • 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.

  37. 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.

    • 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.

  38. Quinn says:

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

  39. Dee Dee says:

    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!

    • 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. 🙂

  40. Jim says:

    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.

  41. Mary-Anne says:

    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

  42. kanukid says:

    An easier solution to the bedding challenge is a self-inflating Thermarest mattress and a sleeping bag. I’ve camped for years with my Thermarest, and have slept comfortably on a cement floor with it. When not inflated, it rolls into a 5″ thick bundle. If i think I
    ‘m going to run into some really cold weather, I also take a winter bag, and I’m snug as a bug in a rug. Thermarest mattresses are available at outdoor co-op stores like REI and Mountain Equipment (in Canada.) These days they come in two lengths and two widths, I think. I also take a small tent with me for when I plan to spend longer at a site. Though I enjoy the convenience of camper camping, you can’t beat the smell and sounds of tent sleeping in the wild!
    kanukid

  43. Susan A Dunkelberger says:

    Hi Erin Thank you for your wonderful ideas. It was good to read all the comments as well. I am a 75 year old and am ready to try this type of camping. Have tent camped with husband and children when much younger. Children are all grown and i am now a widow. this last year i did camp in my Ford Expedition and also used a screen tent. The tent was ok for enjoying the outside without the mosquitoes but not something I want to put up and take down every night or two. I felt safe sleeping in it in a campground but slept in the car when not in the campground. tried using a blow up mattress but found it difficult to get out of in the cramped space, especially when my Dutch Shepard service dog found it so much fun to lick my face while I was trying to get up! Want to put your ideas to work so I can camp more comfortably and be able to visit my family who are spread out all over. There are many places I would like to visit and am not ready to sit at home yet. Thank you again for giving me hope that this is possible.

  44. Emily Carino says:

    Hi Erin! You noted you assembled the bed inside the car. Did you have any troubles when you needed to take the platform out? I can’t decide whether to use 4×4 or longer wood pieces for the spines. I will be taking my platform bed out frequently

  45. TMom says:

    Great idea! I only have one bit of advice. The board you show is particle board, not plywood. It is pressed together with glue, and other chemicals that emit gasses. When we use it we seal it with a coat of paint. The bonus besides no chemicals, is that it is nice and smooth, material won’t snag, no splinters. Enjoy your travels!

  46. Kennady Kent says:

    This post is super helpful! Thanks for sharing your process!

  47. Greg Perkins says:

    After burning up my search engine looking for a way to make my Honda Pilot a bed on wheels, I came across an image of your CRV. Following the link led me to the solution I was looking for. Thanks for the inspiration and watch out WalMart parking lots!

  48. Kari says:

    This looks awesome! I’m doing something similar and wondering… when you hinge the final piece closed to use the front seats, does the foam mattress fold up too? Or do you fold the piece underneath it and just squish the foam? Having a hard time visualizing it. Thanks for the reply! 🙂

  49. nicole says:

    Hey there! Really enjoyed reading your post because I’m thinking of converting my CRV as well. But I did have one question, The model I have has a spare tire in the inside rear of the car, in compartment, which it looks like yours might have as well. I noticed so many people building platforms but I don’t see any spare tires. I was wondering if you have had any issues with that, as if you get a flat, would it be accessible to get it out with everything on top of it? I’ve been searching and cant find any information about that. Was just curious your viewpoint, having done traveling in the car. Thank you! : )

  50. Eugene says:

    Erin, hi! Love your design! Have the same exact CRV and planning to build a platform but with milk crates as studs. Do you still have those plywood sheets measurements?

  51. How inspiring. I NEED to do this. What a wonderful idea.

  52. Mea says:

    Hi, I think the last time Erin responded was September 8th, 2018. Erin, are you still blogging? I am so inspired by your sense of adventure! I am also really resonating with the women travelers, especially the older ones, since I am nearing retirement and am in my mid 60s. Thank you, Erin, and all the wonderful people who posted. Happy traveling!
    Mea

  53. Matthew Dorsey says:

    Do you have specific dimensions and things for this project?

  54. tracey ross says:

    Gr8 chicks can do camper conversion projects 2! rightio no more doubting myself coz im female & only a build it fix it novice…
    the comfy mattress idea looks & sounds like a winner.. thx & throw some thxs over to your window work! i like will copy.. curtains r ugly, dusty & invade space.. what u did makes it look more open & clean.. plus how practicle! for storage space options i will keep looking coz i think theres a gr8 idea/ inspiration design to be taken straight out of the kitchen! Pantries & corner cupboard upgrades from chipboard shelves to pull out & out some more & up down round a corner metal cage storing units & sections that rolled out into previously empty space.
    im thinking pull out metal trays that run on tracks & can be creatively extended when space permits.. its lightweight will stay put if u make it & seeing trays contents is easy.. ill fins a way to adapt this idea even if i kidnap a cabinet maker!
    1 last thing.. the bed base…
    is there any way or person b4 me that has tried adapting the couch fold out bed furniture piece.. or fold out futon coach, or the seat bench by day & pull out bed by night.. what about those beds that pull out from the wall & get tucked away back into wall by day to save space & look neat.. anyone done anything like that? id really like the option to have a place to sit upright in van with a small table to do table things on! hmm not sure if i can get this idea to happen & or work quickly safely & easy as needed.. i will photo & blog my project camper conversion every step of way but it might take me awhile to get to that step as i need to see it in my mind & see how it all works before i lift a tool! ive learnt by now my beter ideas & work come later.. wowza conversion b4 your article had no fun or creativity in it & I wanted to find a recycled DIY set up that was kinda what i pictured a clever designed space for storage or cooking or washing area in a camper!

  55. Laura McConachy says:

    Hi Erin!
    I’m Laura, I’m 16 years old and plan to do a road trip around Australia in 2 years (i live there). i will be going with my bestfriend, how did you convert for car for such a cheap price and what did you do for power?

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