How we built our Honda CR-V sleeping platform to turn a car into a camper

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If you’re looking for an easy way to give yourself a tonne of freedom, building a bed in the back of your car is the answer. We’ve all seen loads of those awesome self-build camper vans on social media (I’m still obsessed) but let’s be honest, not everyone has the time, patience or skills for that. Tom and I have been on-and-off living in our car for the past year in Australia and it’s been awesome. Whilst camping in a car rather than a van certainly has its challenges, building a bed in the back was the best decision we made. There’s not a great deal of information online about how to build a bed for your car, so I’ve put together this guide on how we built our Honda CR-V sleeping platform that I think can easily be adapted to fit most SUVs.

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Why should you turn your car into a camper?

Before Tom and I had even left the UK to travel to Australia, we knew we wanted to road trip.  There’s nowhere we didn’t want to see and life road tripping around Australian was a fantasy we were determined to see through. Things worked out differently when we got here though, and after buying a faulty camper van (you can read about that here) and having our hopes knocked somewhat, we decided to buy a Honda CR-V 4×4 instead. This was hands down the best decision we could have made. It’s more inconspicuous, we don’t have any problem parking it and we have been able to hit up the free campsites that require a bit of off-roading to get to.

Having a camper car simply gives you flexibility. It becomes a 2-in-1 vehicle and you now have the option to just pack some stuff and head out to where ever you want to go. Whether it be a weekend trip just a few miles up the road or a much bigger, long-term trip, it’s so exciting to be able to go. It’s warmer and more secure than a tent and surprisingly not too tricky to turn into a camper!

Turning your car into a camper is the perfect way to escape

How we built our Honda CR-V sleeping platform

With neither of us having any experience in making anything, we knew it would have to be a simple and easy folding sleeping platform for the car. As the back seats in our Honda CR-V (2004 Sport model) didn’t fold flat, we had to have to work around that. We didn’t want to take the seats out because we liked the idea of having it as a normal car as well, so we had to design the bed to fold fully into the boot space. As we were travelling at the time we made the bed, we actually built it in the car park of the local hardware store. This was perfect as they could cut the wood to size and we could easily get things amended as we went along. So here are the steps to building a car sleeping platform.

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The design in a nutshell

The base of the bed is made from 3 sheets of sturdy plywood connected together by hinges to make it a foldable. Sheet 1 covers the area of the boot, sheet 2 goes over the back seats and rests on them once folded down, and sheet 3 covers the space over the passenger footwells. The piece covering the boot space has 4 fixed legs to support it and the piece that goes over the footwell as 2 legs on hinges to support the other end and so they can be folded flat too.

Be sure it’s tall enough for storage underneath

The sleeping platform and foam mattress folded up

Tools you’ll need

  • Screws (the right type for the wood you’re using- the hardware store should be able to help with this)
  • Drill – I used a battery powered drill as we were building the bed outside.
  • Drill bits to fit your screws
  • 8 x hinges – 6 x big ones and 2 x small ones
  • Plywood sheets for the platform
  • wood to make the legs
  • Tape measure
  • Spirit level
  • Pencil
  • Notepad
  • Foam or something to use as a mattress – I would recommend buying some upholstery foam around 3-4 inches thick to make sure it’s comfy.

Take measurements

You will need to take the following measurements to make sure that not only will your bed fit inside the car, that you will be able to get it in there once it’s built and also that you have space to fold it as well as storage underneath it.

Your height

  • Lay flat on your front and have someone measure your full height. You ideally want the 3 sheets to add up to this measurement to make sure you’re comfortable.

For the legs

  • Measure the height from the passenger floor to the top of the passenger seats when folded down – this is the height of the 2 x hinged legs that will support sheet 3.
  • Measure the height from the boot floor to the top of the passenger seats when folded down – this is the height of the 4 x legs that will support sheet 1.

For the plywood platform

For sheet 1 in the boot

  • Measure the width of the boot door at the height your bed will be. This will be the maximum width.
  • Measure the distance between the inside of the boot door to the passenger seat hinges. This is the length.

For sheet 2 over the back of the passenger seats

  • Measure the distance from the passenger seat hinges to the top of the passenger seats, at the height the bed will be at. This is the length.
  • Take the length of the sheet and measure up from the height of the bed. Measure across the car from this point. This is the width.
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For sheet 3 over the passenger footwells

  • Measure the distance from the top of the passenger seats to the back of the front seats when they are pulled and forward. This will be the length.
  • The width of sheet 3 should be the same as sheet 2 as it’s the smallest piece.

How to build the folding sleeping platform

Now you have all your measurements and the sheets of plywood and legs cut to size, it’s time to assemble the platform. Be sure to use the spirit level while you’re putting it together as you don’t want to be sleeping on a wonky bed!

Attach the 3 sheets of plywood together

  • Use 3 hinges to join each sheet together. All the hinges are to go on the same side of the plywood.
  • Measure the middle point on sheets 1 and 2 and use the drill to screw the hinge on here.
  • Screw the left and right hinges on an inch or two in from the edges.
  • Repeat this to join sheet 2 and 3.

Sheets 1, 2 and 3 connected by hinges

Attach the 4 legs to sheet 1

  • Pull the measuring tape out to the length of sheet one and lay it in the boot. Use this to decipher where you would like the 4 legs to go. You want to maximise space under the bed for storage purposes, but you also want to ensure the frame is well supported. Our Honda CR-V also has a built-in picnic table in the boot that we used so we needed to make sure the legs were not over that.
  • Take a pencil and mark where the legs will go on sheet 1.
  • Drill the legs on by the marks.

Attach the 2 hinged legs to sheet 3

  • These legs need to be placed with enough room to fit the hinges. We placed them fairly close to the edge and a couple of inches in from the sides.
  • Take a pencil and mark this on sheet 3.
  • Screw the hinges on to each of the two legs.
  • Place one leg on to the plywood so that the hinge will make it lay flat on the sheet when folded.
  • Screw the other half of the hinge to the plywood.
  • Repeat for the other leg.

Sheet 3 over passenger footwells

Now you’re all done! The bed for your car should easily fit in and can be folded and stored away. Now all you need is some cosy bedding and a road trip plan to get you on your way!

In this guide I show you how we made our Honda CR-V sleeping platform, how you can make one for your car and all the reasons why you should! #roadtrip #campercar #hondacrvsleepingplatform #carbed
In this guide I show you how we made our Honda CR-V sleeping platform, how you can make one for your car and all the reasons why you should! #roadtrip #campercar #hondacrvsleepingplatform #carbed

18 Comments

  1. Simple and practical, I like the project. The only doubt I have is when you fold the platform to the trunk and put the rear seats up, I understand it does not lay flat because of the front sheet legs?

  2. Drederick Tatum on

    Love this. Just wondering do you have to have the 2 front seats pushed right forward to have the bed set up or is it possible to drive around with the bed set up in the back?

    • We used to keep it with one section folded back in the day so the seats could be pulled back. There wasn’t enough room to have it all the way down without having the front seats pulled forward.

  3. Drederick Tatum on

    Hi, great design. Just wondering do you have to have the front seats pushed forward to make the bed work or is it possible to have the bed set up in the back while you drive along with someone in the passenger seat?

  4. hey laura 🙂 thanks for sharing thats great!
    could I might get the plan as well? just on the way to buy my 2004 CRV, and do you maybe have a picture how it looks when the mattress is folded? thank you

    • Hi Carina, thanks so much for getting in touch! You can actually get the dimensions sent straight to you via email. All you need to do is sign up using the form in the post. Sadly I don’t think I have any photos of the mattress when it was folded but we literally just used to fold it in half and tuck it under the parcel shelf or use something to weigh it down while we drove along. Hope that helps!

  5. Ken Turner on

    I know the complications of making the back of a CR-V a bit too well. My 2014 has the rear seat back fold 4 inches above the cargo space so it’ll take hinges or sawing the rests at angles. I plan a 28″ wide bed just to sleep on that is 8 or 10 inches high. Now another fly in the ointment is my 6’3 height and the lumps near the head of the folded seat. I won’t worry about the wheel wells; I dislike having everything above window level thus the low height of the bed. I’ll keep you posted.

  6. This is awesome! I have a 2006 Cr-V that I am converting. Thanks so much for sharing your design!

  7. Silke Laethem on

    Hi!
    Do you by any chance still have the measurements of your platform? We have a Honda 2004 sport model as well so would suit perfectly!

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