DIY Campervan: Extendable Bed

The first few weeks in New Zealand were a whirlwind of setting up phones, buying a van, and road tripping down the North Island (which you can read about here). This past week has been a nice change of pace, because we’ve been able to get settled at the house that we’re sitting.

Also, because of the generosity of the people we’re house sitting for, I’ve had a few basic tools at my disposal. Thus, I started working on sprucing up our campervan.

When we bought Gimli (our van), there was a makeshift bed in the back which served us well on our road trip down from Auckland. However, the bed was too low to fit our bags underneath, and I wanted to find a way to have more space in the back when we weren’t actually sleeping. Enter the campervan extendable bed.

Step 1 – Make a Plan

As you can hopefully see from the pictures above, the goal was to make a bed which has extending slats. This allows the bed to fold up to about half the size during the day and then extend at night.

First, I measured the interior of the van and determined that I wanted the bed to be 190cm x 120cm when the bed was fully extended. This was about as wide as I could go in the van, and short enough to allow for a cabinet to be built in the back of the van.

I decided that since there would be quite a bit of overlap even when the bed was fully extended, I would make the initial frame 190×70 and then the extension would add another 50cm of width.

Step 2 – Build the Frame

I knew the initial frame was going to be 190cm x 70cm. This also meant that each slat was going to be 70 cm long. In order to build the frame, I simply screwed the 4 sides onto 4 legs at each of the corners.

Side note: in the end, I added a leg in the middle of each long side so that we would have more support.

Step 3 – Fix Every Other Slat

Once I had built the initial frame, I lined up all of my slats on top of the frame. I only wanted about 1cm between each slat, because we have a thin mattress and don’t want to feel each individual slat underneath us.

With all of the slats lined up, I fixed every other slat onto the main frame with a single screw on each side.

 

Step 4 – Build the Extending Arm

The next step is to build the extending arm of the bed. This arm is essentially the exact same as one of the long sides of the original frame.

 

Step 5 – Attach the Extending Arm

This is the tricky part. Up until now, we’ve basically just built an Ikea bench. It may be trendy and wooden, but it’s nothing to write home about.

The key to attaching the extending arm is to have someone help you hold everything. Essentially, every slat that is not connected to the main frame (which should be 1 less than half of them) will connect to the extending arm on one side and to a sliding bar on the other side. This sliding bar, is identical to the long sides of the main frame and simply stops the un-fixed slats from popping out of the bed.

In order to attach the un-fixed slats, you’ll need to have someone hold the sliding bar flush against the underside of the fixed slats while you screw the un-fixed slats to it. In the picture below, you can see how the un-fixed slats are screwed to the “extending arm” and the “sliding bar.”

 

Step 6 – Build Tracks for the Sliding Bar

This final step was made up on the fly. Initially, I thought I would be done after step 5. I realized once I got done with step 5 that the bed was fine when it was extended, but the “sliding bar” would fall down when the bed was in bench form. Essentially, I needed a way to hold the “sliding bar” up next to the fixed slats, even when it was in bench form.

This is when I came up with the idea for tracks for the sliding bar. Since the sliding bar was the same length as the long sides of the frame, there was about 8 cm on each end of the sliding bar that was not attached to any slats. All I did was screw boards underneath each end of the sliding board to hold it flush against the fixed slats. In the picture below, you can see the little track I made on one side.

Side note: make sure you don’t screw the tracks too tight, because the sliding board still needs to be able to slide.

 

 

There you have it. That’s how I built my camper van extendable bed. If you’ve got any thoughts or ideas on how to improve this design, I’d love to hear about them in the comments section. Also, as always, if you dig Yonderstoke and want to follow along on our adventures, please subscribe to our email list.

If you want to see the next part of our campervan build, click here.

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11 Comments

  1. Kevin Arnold September 2, 2016

    Clever idea! Can’t wait to see more of this van life!!

  2. Teani June 2, 2019

    What did you use for a cushion/mattress? Can you feel the slats in between?

    • Josh June 17, 2019 — Post Author

      We used a 4-inch piece of foam. Surprisingly, we couldn’t feel the slats at all. It is a very comfortable campervan bed design because the slats act like a box-spring to give you flexible support. I think it’s important to choose relatively thin slats (as opposed to 2×4 or something) because then you can place the slats closer together.

  3. Rose August 4, 2020

    Hah! I thought that beach looked very New Zealand-esque. I’m from NZ and am hoping to build an extendable couch for my house.

    • Josh August 4, 2020 — Post Author

      Yep. My wife and I spent a year traveling around New Zealand. It is such a beautiful country!

  4. Brenda Roche September 2, 2020

    This bed looks great and very doable! I love the amount of space underneath for storage and the track is genius. Now that you’ve had it for a while is there anything you’d change? Also, could you tell me what wood you used, I’m afraid I’ll make something that won’t support 2 people!

    • Josh November 12, 2020 — Post Author

      The bed held up great for us. I don’t think there’s anything I would change. For the wood, I used 2×4’s for the legs and 1×2’s for everything else. It was plenty sturdy for my both of us.

  5. Barbara November 11, 2020

    Very nice simple and creative bed frame. What size slats and apron frame did you use, and are your legs 2 x 4?

    • Josh November 12, 2020 — Post Author

      Yep. The legs were 2×4’s, and everything else was 1×2’s. It held up great for us and was plenty strong to support two people.

  6. jennifer thornhill September 25, 2021

    How much wood do you think you used altogether? Trying to figure out how much to buy. Love this boy the way!

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