Vehicles: car as bedroom
On road trips I like to sleep in my car whenever possible. This saves me money, gives me flexibility in choosing a place to sleep, and avoids the inconvenience of using a tent.

The thought of regularly spending money on a bed for ten hours rubs me the wrong way, though an occasional motel stay is desirable. I neither need nor want "luxury"---in fact, I hate it. When I patronize motels I choose those that are inexpensive. Hostels fit the bill nicely.

What about tents? I would rather not deal with a tent at all because of all the work involved: one must unpack the tent, set it up, put things in it for the night, get in it, and put it all away when done. Rain converts this mildly annoying effort into a greatly annoying one---packing up a wet tent is not a pretty sight. Sleeping in a car eliminates these hassles.


My first system for sleeping in a car was simply lying on the floor of my Subaru GL wagon (a predecessor of the Loyale and Outback). With the back seat folded down, there was barely enough room to lie diagonally on the floor. It worked, but was not without drawbacks. Moving equipment around to create this sleeping space was a monumental hassle. The corrugated rear floor panel was uncomfortable. And the folded-down seat back seat was not flush with the rest of the floor.


My second system in the Subaru solved the problems of space and discomfort. I built a custom plywood floor that covered all of the rear cargo space, the area occupied by the rear seat and the area occupied by the front passenger seat. (Removing the back seat and the front passenger seat was easy and the seats were not heavy.) It was a great improvement over the diagonal system as it allowed me to lie parallel to the car's long axis, eliminated the discomfort of the corrugated floor, and made the entire sleeping area flush. It also reduced---but did not eliminate---the need to move things around to set up my bed. However, the moving of things got easier after I discovered that I could store some tote boxes on the hood of the car at night (a tarp kept them dry).


My third system was created in 2007 after I sold the station wagon and bought a Toyota Sienna mini-van. Once I removed two rows of seats I had lots more room inside for sleeping, but the Sienna's floor was not level, not flush (there was a dip in it), had metal seat anchors "sticking out of it," and a big "hole" in the back that is used to store folded-down back seats. A custom plywood floor solved the problem of the dip, the anchors, and the hole, but in my rush to build it I did not make it level. Thus during trips I tried to park in places where there was a slight gradient to compensate for the sloping floor. Removing the heavy second-row seats and rear seats was difficult and moving those beasts (50-60 pounds each) into the house required a hand truck.

This third system gave me tons of room, but I still had to move stuff around to create a sleeping space. (Did I mention that I take too much stuff with me?) The hood of the Sienna is sloped too steeply to act as a storage platform, so a new storage solution was required.


My fourth system was born out of the idea of sleeping atop the Rubbermaid Roughtote storage boxes that held much of my travel gear. A headroom test confirmed that when lying on the totes I had just enough room to sit up. The only problem was that the boxes were not flat on top. To solve that problem I cut four pieces of plywood to lay atop the boxes, providing a flush sleeping surface. It seemed good on paper, but was more trouble to use than the previous system. The relatively large pieces of plywood had to be stored out of the way during the day so I could get stuff out of the boxes. Storing and installing them was very inconvenient. Thus led to my current system.


My fifth and curretn system involves sleeping atop a set of plywood boxes having detachable lids. In the Summer of 2010 I built ten plywood boxes of various sizes to hold travel gear. This system eliminates the need to move things because the boxes stay in place throughout a trip. It also eliminates the plywood-handling nightmare of the previous system---the lids are small enough to be easily handled and stay with the boxes.

The boxes are nine inches (23cm) tall with lids installed. When placed in the car, they occupy a space 30 inches (0.9m) wide and 84 inches (2.4m) long. They were assembled with butt joints and wood screws: I figured they did not have to be bombproof because they just sit in place during a trip. Nylon cord acts as carrying handles and lid handles, causing no discomfort while lying atop them. The thin handles also allow the boxes to be pushed close together to make a smooth surface. In 2011 I covered the lids with indoor-outdoor carpeting to eliminate the need for the rug that protected my air mattress from splinters. Later I painted the boxes gray to match the Sienna's interior


I am a happy (car) camper.
27 photos · 24,158 views