Creating our very own campervan has been a dream of ours for a few years now. In May of 2020, we finally bought a Dodge Sprinter T1N and began renovations.The bed frame is something that we put a ton of time and thought into; and it has become our van build pride and joy. Keep reading for a step-by-step guide on how to create the best campervan bed frame with tons of storage and a slide-out kitchen table!
When we began looking for campervan bed frame inspiration, we had trouble finding anything that we liked. It was kind of shocking. I mean… with the mountain of information out there on converting a van, surely someone would have built a bed frame similar to what we had in mind? Nope, No dice.
As it turns out, we were having such a hard time because we had dreamt something up that was very specific. Cayleigh and I were lucky enough to rent a campervan for 10 days a few months before buying our own. This is something I would highly recommend to anyone who is thinking about doing a van conversion. You can see what you like, what you don’t like, and what might not be worth your time.
Here were the biggest takeaways from our rental van:
We never converted the bed into a table
Having a bed that folds into a table is a very common thing in van conversions. It makes sense, it’s a space saver. What we found, however, was that we never actually took the time to switch our sleeping area into a living area two times a day. It was a lot of stuff to shuffle around and although it probably only took 5 minutes to do, it felt like too much work. We ended up just sitting on the edge of the bed and eating dinner in our laps. Not ideal.
The bed was extremely uncomfortable
Here’s the thing, if you are making your mattress out of a bunch of little cushions that you also use for your table, it is probably not going to be the best sleep of your life. Our goal was to build a van that we wanted to spend time in. For us, that meant a queen-sized mattress for a fantastic sleep.
There was not nearly enough storage
They had 1 drawer where all the cooking utensils lived and that was pretty much it. We kept our bags, our skis, and everything else we brought underneath the bed (another reason we never converted it into a table) and things got messy very quickly.
We needed a taller van
I’m 6’3 and the short top van was extremely uncomfortable to be in. To put it into perspective, Cayleigh is 5’6 and she couldn’t even stand upright. You can imagine how much I had to hunch over to try and move around. Not being able to stand up and stretch out gets old really fast and it makes you want to spend less time in your van.
There was no good place to put skis, the hammock, lawn chairs, skates, and other outdoor gear
By having a bed that converts into a table, you are using the entirety of your van. While this is great for space-saving, it didn’t seem very realistic to us when it came to storing all the gear that we wanted to bring along. We knew we wanted a permanent storage place for all of the activities that were going to make van life more fun.
With all of that in mind, we decided to create a permanent bed frame for our campervan. It is made out of lightweight aluminum, steel, and plywood.
It holds a queen-sized mattress, as well as 3 storage cubbies and a bookshelf on top.Our kitchen table slides out from underneath the bed on the front with 2 large drawers for clothes underneath. In the back, we have a large garage to store our outdoor equipment, batteries, a freshwater tank, the hot water heater, and anything else we want to bring along!
Our bench seats are located in between the bedframe and the door, allowing space to pull the table out in front of us when seated. Underneath the bench cushions are more storage cubbies and a shoe rack that you can access both from inside and outside the van. For this entire project including the queen-sized mattress, we spent $1,095.22 CAD (approx. $865 USD).
NOTE: This bed frame will work best in a campervan with an extended wheelbase. If you have a short van, you may not have room for a full queen-sized bed in the back.
Are you more of a visual learner? Me too! Thats why we also go over all of these steps in this YouTube video. We have also linked our full van tour to give you a little extra inspiration in other areas.
Step 1: Campervan Bed Frame
The first thing you need to do is start with a solid frame. I used 1.5×1.5 inch aluminum angle iron that was 1/8th of an inch thick. You could also go with steel, but I opted for aluminum as we are trying to keep things as light as possible. NOTE: most people use wood for their campervan bed frames. I chose to use metal for a more compact and sturdier design.
Measure and cut the aluminum to the length of your bed, ours was 80 inches. Next, you will want to measure and mark out where you are going to bolt your aluminum to the van. I marked out 5 spots on each side, then drilled pilot holes followed by holes for 8mm bolts on each mark.
Next, we held the angle iron up to the ribs on the side of the van and marked each hole with a permanent marker. After that, I drilled corresponding holes in the side ribs of the van. Before proceeding, you are going to want to spray paint the holes with metal primer to avoid rust in the future.
I then used a rivet gun which I purchased on Amazon for about $80CAD to secure rib nuts into the holes on the sides of the van.
*For a more detailed tutorial on how to use the rib gun, watch this YouTube video(Rib gun info @ 02:10)*
Once all the rib nuts are in, you are ready to mount the aluminum angle. I used 8mm x 1 1/4 inch bolts with a washer and added some lock tight before fastening them in.
Now, you are ready for your cross beams.I used 1.5 x1 .5 inch cold rolled steel angle iron that was 1/8th of an inch thick. If you’d like to save on weight you can also use aluminum. You are going to want to cut 5 pieces the width of your bed that snug up underneath the angle iron you just mounted to the side of the van.
After drilling the appropriately sized holes in both the aluminum frame and steel crossbeams, I secured them together by using a 5/16 x 1 inch bolt with a washer and a locknut underneath. Finally, I attached some shorter support beams in the middle of the frame for a little added structural support.
Step 2: Plywood Base
Once the frame was complete, I cut two 3/4 inch pieces of plywood to cover the top. After you decide where they are going to be (HINT: Make sure the seam is over a beam) you’ll want to drill some holes where the bolts from the frame will sit. This will ensure that the plywood fits flush on top.
DON’T SECURE THE PLYWOOD TO THE FRAME YET. IT WILL MAKE THE FOLLOWING STEPS MUCH MORE CHALLENGING THAN THEY NEED TO BE.
Next, we painted the frame and the plywood. We went with white because that is the colour of our walls, but you can paint it black or any other colour you’d like. I then cut a piece of plywood to cover the front and fastened it to frame. NOTE: We put shiplap wall panelling on the front of our bed frame so we did not bother painting it. If you would prefer to paint this sheet of plywood, you can do that as well.
Step 3: Pull Out Drawers
At this point, you will need to have an idea of what your kitchen is going to look like. In particular, you need to know the size of your cabinets and your bench seat. Once you know how much space you will have in between these two things, you can decide on the size of your campervan’s bed frame drawers.
We used all Ikea cabinets which we would highly recommend. It made things very easy and they are relatively affordable. We decided to go with an 18-inch drawer in the middle because it gave us enough space to open and close our kitchen cabinets on the right and it wasn’t too close to the bench on the left.
To start, we bought an 18 x 24-inch cabinet from Ikea.We calculated how tall the 2 drawers could be, leaving room for the table above and accounting for the base of the cabinet below. I then cut a few inches off the top to make it the exact size we needed.
NOTE: Don’t forget to leave room for the table when doing this! It’s not a bad idea to skip ahead to the table section and figure out your sizing before making the cuts.
Next, I measured and cut a hole in the plywood on the front of the bed frame to fit the cabinet perfectly. We decided to build a simple base out of 2×4’s as it is a lot more solid than the legs from Ikea. Make sure to account for the base when you cut your hole.
Step 4: The Table
For the table, we decided to go with some heavy-duty locking sliders from Amazon. They have little blue tabs that you pull up on to move. These sliders allow our table to be locked into place both when it’s all the way in and all the way out. This is extremely handy when driving and if parked on a bit of a slant. Each of these industrial-grade sliders is 2 inches thick and slides out 3 feet.
For the tabletop, we used the same butcher block that we bought for our countertop. First, I secured each slider to a 2×2 that I cut to 3 feet long (the same size as the table & sliders). I then secured each 2×2 to the bottom edges of the table.
NOTE: Make sure that the slider is mounted flush to the side edge of the table. This is necessary when sliding the table in and out. We also made sure that the tabs were flush with the front of the table. it’s important that they do not stick out past the front of the bedframe to aviod them catching on things and breaking off.
Next up, you are going to cut a hole in the plywood for the table to fit into. I used a circular saw to cut the basic rectangle and a jigsaw to allow a little more space for our fingers where the 2x2s are.
Next, I cut 2×4’s to length and ran them along the bottom of the crossbeams directly beside where the table will slide in. I fastened them to the front of the plywood (right beside the hole I cut for the table) and to the crossbeams in the back.
This is the tricky part. You’re going to need to level off the table and attach the sliders to the 2x4s you just ran along the crossbeams. The tolerances are pretty tight meaning everything needs to be level and square for the table to slide in and out effectively.
Step 5: Finishing The Front
Once you have the table all ready to go, you can start to put together the front of your campervan bed frame. As mentioned earlier, Cayleigh and I used white shiplap on our walls and on the front of the bed. First, I cut a rectangular piece to cover the entire area. I then removed the table and the drawers to trace out the holes I would need to cut in the shiplap from the back. Once secured, I installed the table and the drawers for good.
Step 6: Installing The Plywood on Top
Hallelujah! We are getting close to the end. The next thing I did was pick up some weather stripping. The kind that you would put on windows, it’s made of rubber with one sticky side. I ran it all along the top of the angle iron frame to help with noise and creaking when we are getting on and off of the bed.Next up, I used about 4 sheet metal screws per crossbeam to secure the pre-cut and painted plywood sheets to the top of the bed frame.
I then used a circular drill bit to create several mattress air vent holes in the plywood. This is just to ensure airflow comes up into the mattress so that nothing gets stale or mouldy. It only needs to be done underneath where your mattress will go, NOT underneath the storage cubbies. Make sure to pull out your table before you do this or you run the risk of drilling down into it!
Step 6: Storage Cubbies & Bookshelf
The bedside cubbies are certainly not mandatory in your campervan bed frame. When storage is so limited, though, why not take advantage of space that would otherwise be wasted? There were about 8 inches of space between the side of our mattress and the sidewall, so we added some simple cupboards.
We decided on 3 closed cubbies and one section we would leave open for a bookshelf. Since the bedframe is 80 inches long, each of these components would be 20 inches long by 8 inches wide by 8 inches tall(the height of our mattress).
I decided to make the bookshelf separate from 3 cupboards for convenience.
First, I cut 1 piece of half-inch plywood to 60 inches long and 8 inches high. I then cut four 8 inch x 8-inch pieces of plywood for each end and the dividers. To save on space, we opted to use the wall of the van as the back of the cubbies and the plywood frame for the bottom. I did use a 60 inch 1×4 to run along the top portion of the back. This allowed me to assemble the frame before installing it in the campervan.
I cut 3 equal top pieces and secured them to the 1×4 using 2 hinges on each lid. Since you will be seeing these lids, I used 3/4 inch birch pieces just for looks. We then painted this entire piece white and brought it out to the van. I secured the 3 cubbies to be flush with the back of the bed frame. Once in place, Cayleigh stapled some grey fabric inside to line each one and makes it look more finished. Finally, we secured a handle on the top of each lid so they were easily accessible.
After that, the bookshelf was very simple. I made a 20x8x8 inch box out of plywood. We painted it white, secured it in place, and voila! Campervan bed frame complete.
Thank you so much for being here, we are thrilled that you chose us to help you with your campervan bed frame build! Make sure to check out our Van Build & Van Life page for tips, tricks, and everything else we know about a DIY campervan conversion.