How To Build A Camper Van Bed Frame (Step-by-Step)

Get detailed, step-by-step, instructions for how to build your own sturdy, comfortable bed in your camper van. DIY tips & product advice.

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Sleep. It’s what we do for roughly a third of our lives. Therefore, building a good bed in your van should be a top priority. Whether you’re looking for camper bed design inspiration or need  detailed information for how to build a camper van bed frame, this post has got you covered.

Some of the best sleep in our lives has come while living in our camper and we believe our van’s foam mattress plays a huge part in our sleep quality. Further below, we’ll talk about our mattress and why we think it’s the best option on the market today.

“If you’re ready, let’s get to it!

Learning Objectives

By the end of this section, you should be able to achieve each of the following steps:

  1. Creating a digital outline for your bed.
  2. Build your camper van bed frame.
  3. Add paneling to your bed frame.
  4. Cut a foam mattress and add upholstery.

Step 1:

Plan Your Camper Van Bed Frame Dimensions

Before you begin buying the materials and hammering together your campervan bed, it’s a good idea to plan ahead and design the bed floor plan either on paper or on your computer.

Creating a dimensional plan is a critical first step because it helps to:

  • Make sure your bed is the correct size for your body.
  • Ensure you can fit all the products you want (i.e. water tanks, electrical) under your bed.
  • Mistakes and errors can be costly, both in terms of time, wallet, and sanity.

The best part is that creating your own bed frame model doesn’t require fancy floor plan software. We used Adobe InDesign, but you can use any free software (like MS Paint). Just make sure all your shapes and lines are proportionally consistent.

Our Camper Van Bed Frame Floor Plan Diagram

Camper Van Bed Frame Floor Plan Diagram
Digital floor plan of our camper van bed frame area

The above image is a bird’s eye view of our bed frame layout (shaded in LIGHT BLUE). In our design sketch, we made sure our bed frame was able to comfortably fit our:

  • Inverter – Shaded in TAN
  • 3x100ah batteries – Shaded in YELLOW
  • 10 gallon freshwater tank – Shaded in DARK BLUE

It’s a good idea to make sure you have accurate dimension information for the products you want to fit under your van’s bed frame. For many of our products, we found the dimensions on their Amazon product page.

Want to learn to create your own camper floor plan for free? Check out our other post: How To Design Your Own Conversion Van Layout

Build The Camper Bed Frame

See the similarity in shape between our digital bed plan and our actual bed frame?

Laying The Foundation Of The Van Bed

We used 2″x2″ wood beams to build the foundation of our camper van’s bed frame.

First, we laid the 2×2 beams on the floor to match the exact dimensions of our digital floor plan. We then fixed these beams, with strong wood screws, to the floor of the van.

When selecting the proper screw length here, be sure to add together the thickness of the wood beam, the floor, and the plywood subfloor. The screw should ideally reach into the subfloor for the best grip.

Building Up From The Foundation Layer

Next, with the camper bed foundation set, we built upwards. Using a combination of 2×4 wood beams, wood glue, AND strong L-brackets we created vertical vertices

Lastly, we would lay 2×2 beams on top of the 2×4 pieces to create the top layer of our bed frame.

Build A Van Bed Frame - Wood Beams and Brackets

Above you can see how we used a combination of wood beams and metal brackets to create the frame of our bench and bed system.

DIY Pro Tip: To create strong 90-degree holds in your van bed’s frame, we really recommend purchasing sturdy L-brackets. This will help your wood joints to better withstand bumpy drives and when jumping around on the bed.

L-Brackets For Bed Frame

Add Paneling To The Camper Bed Frame

With our camper van’s bed frame installed, we can begin to add the paneling to the bed frame.

Cutout Plywood Panels

To do this, we first measured the dimensions of every side of our van bed frame and cut out the corresponding sizes on ½” birch plywood.

DIY Pro Tip: While the birch plywood quality at big box hardware stores, like Home Depot, is OKAY, look for higher quality “Baltic Birch” plywood at your local lumber yard. It’ll be stronger and be less prone to warping.

To fix the plywood panels to our bed frame, we countersunk flat-head wood screws and covered the screw heads with spackling.

Bed Frame Hardware For Top Lids

For our top panels, we wanted to be able to lift the panels to access our storage area inside the benches. 

Because of this, we did NOT screw the top plywood panels to the bench frame.

Instead, we attached these top-facing panels to the bed frame using hinges and gas struts.

Although gas struts are optional, they really work well to keep your lid open while putting items in and out of storage.

Paint The Plywood Panels

With all the plywood panels set up, you can finally start the painting process.

Step 1: Sand The Plywood Panels

We used an electric sander to sand our plywood panels twice over.

Also, sanding is a dusty business. Wear a high quality filtered mask. This mask is also useful when painting to filter out harmful chemicals and smells.

Step 2: Time To Paint Your Bed!

Van Bed After Adding Primer Paint

To keep our van interior color scheme consistent, we painted our camper bed an off-white color, the same color as our van walls.

White Paint Test
Four samples of different white paint shades

Which white is best?: To help us decide which white color we wanted to go with we purchased four different off-white paint samples and painted them onto a scrap piece of plywood.

In total, we gave our camper bed 4 coats of paint:

  • Two coats of anti-mold primer
  • Two coats of paint

Build The Table (Center Of Bed)

Working In Our Camper Van

At this point, we only have a U-shaped bed/bench system installed. With this huge hole in the middle, that’s not very good for sleeping.

We would need to fill this gap to properly sleep to properly sleep on our camper van bed at night.

And that’s where the center table comes in.

During the day, we use this table to eat and work on. But at night, we lower the table top so that it becomes flush with the van bed frame.

Select & Prepare Table Top Material

Due to weight considerations, we selected ¾” Walnut plywood for our table top material. But you can also use solid wood instead.

We measured the dimensions of the empty middle space and cut the corresponding dimension from our walnut plywood board.

It’s optional, but we beautified our walnut table top in the following 3 ways:

  1. Add walnut edge banding on the plywood edges
  2. Sand plywood board with 120-grit sandpaper
  3. Add several layers of tung oil (with applicator) for waterproof resistance (a polyurethane coating also works)

Add The Table Hardware

We purchased the table hardware directly from Lagun USA, and similar products can also be found on Amazon.

The swivel table system makes it super easy to rotate and move the tabletop around so that it’s never in our way. This makes it a great option for RVs and vans with limited interior space to move around.

Best of all, with this particular swivel table design, the table top can be easily removed and set down to be a part of our bed frame.

Lagun Swivel Table

Add Bed Rails For Table To Sit On

When assembling the bed at night, the table top will need to sit on rails to support the table. Without the rails, the table top would simply fall through to the floor.

For the material, we selected ½” x ½” wood sticks.

With a combination of wood glue and countersunk flat head screws, we affixed these sticks ¾” from the top of our bed/bench frame, since our table top plywood is ¾” thick.

Foam Mattress Topper For Camper Van Beds

With the bed frame finished, we can now focus on the soft and cushy part of our van bed build: mattress cutting.

Foam Mattress Material

Building A Camper Van Bed - Foam Mattress Material

Chances are, like us, your bed’s dimensions do not match a standard bed mattress’ dimensions. Therefore, your best solution is probably to buy a foam mattress and cut it to fit your bed’s dimensions.

We purchased a king size 5” Thick Foam Mattress from Linenspa. And LOVE it. For the past 2 years, we’ve had some of the best sleep in our lives. This is 100% true. The mattress is firm and has a cooling gel top layer for those hot nights.

LINENSPA 5" Mattress

Cutting The Foam

If you have a fixed bed, you can simply cut the foam mattress to fit the dimensions of your bed.

But if, like us, you have a convertible bed, your mattress will consist of smaller cushions pieced together like Tetris.

In our van: When putting together our bed at night, our back cushions come to the center and are placed on our table top to form a finished bed mattress.

DIY Pro Tip: To cut a mattress topper to size, we highly, highly recommend getting an electric carving knife instead of just grabbing a serrated knife from your kitchen. We tried the free knife approach and it went AWFUL. Our cuts were jaggedy and it was difficult to get a clean perpendicular cut on the foam mattress.

Electric Carving Knife

Cushion Covers For Your Bed

Van Interior - Working Space

For the mattress covers, we went to a fabric store and purchased a light-blue, durable upholstery fabric. 

Select A Durable Fabric

Because we will be sitting and sleeping on this fabric every day, we wanted to use a strong fabric that wouldn’t wear out over time.

(We recommend getting a 100% polyester fabric with a durability rating of at least 15,000 ‘double rubs’)

Sewing Time!...Or Just Hire A Seamstress?

Finally, because none of us had any idea of how to sew, we contacted a seamstress to create all our upholstery. 

We simply dropped off all our mattress cushions and let the seamstress do the rest.

And there you have it! A finished convertible camper van bed and U-Bench system!

Our Finished Camper Van Bed

Camper Van Bed and Living Space

In this post, we will teach how we built our van bed frame.

In the above photo, we opted to build a convertible bed in our camper. This means that our ‘bedroom’ is actually a multi-use space that converts into a living, dining, and work room during the day.

This has been great for space efficiency and getting the most out of our limited interior space.

Even if you’re looking to build a more permanent camper bed fixture, many of the following building concepts will be similar.

Essential Products & Tools To Build A Van Bed

  • Saw: Though we prefer a table saw for perfect straight cuts, a simple jig saw and large framing square would do just fine.
  • Drill: Self-explanatory. Lots of screws to drill in to build a van bed. 
  • Sander: Useful just before the painting stage to smooth out the plywood panels.
  • L-Brackets: Used to fortify the van bed frame and decrease wobbling.
  • Hinges: Great to use if you plan to have storage space under your camper bed.
  • Gas Struts: A good idea to have to help prop open the bed storage lid doors.
  • Swivel Table Hardware: A must have. We’ve firm believers that a swivel table is the best type of table to have in an RV and/or camper.
  • Electric Carving Knife: For cutting the foam mattress.

Campervan Bed Conversion Short Video

Watch our video above to see, in action, how we convert our back benches into a bed.

The video is in Japanese, so you may want to turn on English captions.

Additional Camper Van Bed Build Resources

Van Flares: Want a slightly wider van so you can sleep sideways? This company installs flares on the rear sides of van conversions so you can build a bed lengthwise. Very useful and great for space efficiency.

Useful 3D Model: This blog post contains useful information on constructing a camper bed frame. But even more useful is the 3D bed model that they created, making it easy to construct a similar bed frame for your van.

Thank You For Reading!

We hope you learned a thing (or two!) about our campervan bed construction and that it inspires you to do the same.

To read more great campervan build articles, head back to our DIY Campervan Build Guide.

If you’re interested to learn how we build other interior furniture, you can read:

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