Building a Lightweight, Removable Camper Van Bed Platform
Updated: Jun 29, 2022
Like a lot of folks setting out to convert a van to camper, the bed is the top priority and also the largest element in the conversion. Our particular use cases include camping and taking our bikes along so we need the platform to be high enough to carry bikes standing up in the gear garage blow the bed.
The image above shows one of the early concepts and shows the bed above the bikes. The bad is shown in a stacked position and the top portion can slide down over the seating/eating area. I spend a lot of time contemplating the mechanism for a bed that could be collapsed like a trundle bed.
After thinking about this and sketching various things I abandoned creating a mechanism for sliding the bed frame and gravitated toward something that could be folded or stacked out of the interest of simplicity and reducing the change for something to be broken or become jammed. I also wanted be able to quickly remove the entire bed and frame to be able to carry large cube cargo when needed. Not only is this our camper but also my daily driver. I need to be able to carry bulky photography equipment for work during the week and then be able to quickly be able to restore the bed for camping on the weekends. What I needed was a bedframe that was very light, very strong, and could be removed and stored very easily.
Somewhere in my research I came across someone using ATV Ramps to span between walls of the van and serve as a removable platform for the bed. And by stacking two of the ramps on the other two ramps we would be able to fold the bed back and reveal access to the seating/eating area.
Now I needed to come up with a way to hold the ramps securely in place both for sleeping and for traveling down rough roads with a bunch of rattling.
I ended up creating a ledge out of the same 3/4" birch ply with notches to accommodate the ends of the atv ramps and hold them in place. I used bicycle inner tube to cover the aluminum ends of the atv ramps so they stay quiet and squeak free after cutting them to the exact length.
I decided that I would like to cover the square openings in the ramps with lightweight 1/4" ply and some outdoor carpet.
Each one of the ramps is rated at 500 lbs. and used to load 4 wheelers and another powersports vehicles into the back of pickups so this has resulted in a very strong platform that allows for very open storage below.
The bottom of our platform is at 37 inches above the floor as that's what we needed for my very large bicycles.
Another advantage of these ATV ramps is that they are only an inch and a half thick but still very strong and able to span from wall to wall with no additional support.
And, when removed it allow access to large cube of space to be able to carry miscellaneous and bulky cargo.
I bought the ATV ramps at a local Northern Tool retail store and they are available in my styles and lengths and style to meet your requirements and preferences.
We ended up with more than enough room for a queen size mattress. We ordered a 4" folding memory foam mattress from Amazon with the idea that we would return it for a 6" mattress if it was not comfy enough but we ended up keeping the 4". It's surprisingly comfortable and still folds up compact for storage.