How To Build A Bed In A Cargo Van

Bed with comforter on it

For the bed in my custom build camper van, I decided on a fixed bed. I didn’t want a bed that had to be set up and then broken down to use as a table.

While these types of beds do have their advantages and are certainly nice, it wasn’t what I wanted.

I wanted to be able to have the bed set up at all times.

The first thing I needed to do was figure out what size bed I wanted to go with. Initially, I had planned on putting in a queen size bed but after further examination decided that would be a bit too large and would take up too much space.

In my size of a van, a queen size would not allow me as much space for the shower and the dining area that I had planned.

I ended up changing my plan to include a full-size bed and the bed dimensions that I went with are a standard full-size bed which measures 54″ x 75″.

This allowed me to build a bed frame that would hold any full-size mattress instead of some odd-shaped size made for RVs.

I also would not have to cut the mattress like many people do making it easier to purchase bedding since you can buy full-size bedding anywhere.

The height of my bed needed to be at least 31 inches high so that I could fit bikes underneath the bed frame.

We intend to haul our bikes with us when we travel so that we can do some off-road mountain biking from time to time. My bed needed to set up enough to clear the bikes stored underneath it.

Building The Bed Frame

For the frame, the first order of business was to install the two supports that were going to hold the bed up for the most part.

This is easy in a Ram Promaster because the two side supports have holes in them that are used to bolt the 2x6s I used.

I put four 7/16” bolts on each side to hold the 2×6 supports to the sides of the van.

I ended up using regular stainless steel bolts, washers and nuts since I could easily reach my hand around the back to tighten them. I didn’t have to use anything special like Plus nuts or Rivet nuts.

I preferred this way of doing it since it was cheaper and bolts are readily available at my local Home Depot.

Once the supports were done, the next thing was to put in the actual bed frame supports. I used 2x4s for this, strung across, connecting to the 2x6s on either side of the van.

There would be three of these with two on the outside and one in the middle.

I had to build supports that the 2x4s would sit in on the 2×6 supports. I could have opted to purchase the metal supports but I chose to use wood since I had plenty of it laying around.

Why waste more money on metal supports when there is already wood sitting around? This worked fine for my needs.

Bed Base

For the base of my bed, I didn’t want to use a solid piece of plywood. This was mainly because of the weight.

A 3/4 inch piece of plywood of this size would have added quite some weight to my bed. I chose to use slats that I purchased from IKEA instead.

I have used IKEA beds before and the slats have always worked great in my house so I chose to use them in my van as well.

They fit perfectly within the frame that I had built and were much lighter than 3/4 inch plywood would have been.


I ended up using a cheap memory foam mattress that I purchased online. It’s an OK mattress but not quite as good as the one I have in my house.

However, I didn’t want to spend a lot of money on a mattress since I will not be using this van full time. If it were something that I lived in full-time, I would want to spend more money on this part.

The mattress I chose was a Zinus Memory Foam 6 Inch Green Tea Mattress. You can learn more about it here.

One problem that I saw right away when receiving this mattress was that it has fiberglass in it.

This is a bit strange to have fiberglass in a mattress but after research, I learned that this is quite common with cheaper mattresses. This shouldn’t be an issue as long as you don’t pull the cover off of the mattress.

I have read horror stories of people that have done this and have ended up with fiberglass shards all over their house.

To protect myself from these fiberglass particles, I purchased a mattress cover that covers the entire mattress including the bottom so nothing could get through it or fall out from underneath the mattress on the bottom.

I also purchased a second mattress cover but the second one was more to keep moisture off the mattress. It was a waterproof, cooling cover so it should keep out any moisture as well as help to regulate heat.

Although, both of the covers I purchased are waterproof covers so you could say my mattress is well protected.

You can’t tell that the covers are on the mattress when you lay on it and the mattress is just as comfortable as it is without any covers.

Avoiding Mold In Your Mattress

There have been some people that have reported getting mold in their mattress in their van or their camper. However, this is due to a lack of preparation and a total disregard for how mold forms and grows.

Mold needs moisture to thrive so if you can keep your mattress clean and dry, you shouldn’t have an issue.

My plan for avoiding mold mainly was to use a waterproof cover, which as mentioned above, I have done that and have two waterproof covers around the mattress. Yes, I know that is probably overkill but it is what I have done nonetheless.

I think it’s safe to say that there will be no moisture that can get to my mattress unless one of the mattress covers punctures in which case I would likely know about it and fix it.

Another thing that I did was to use the slats instead of a solid piece of plywood. Although, this is not required.

If your mattress doesn’t get moisture in it, you can just use a solid piece of plywood.

I used slats mainly to save weight and so the added benefit is that slats allow more airflow. I see it as just a little additional insurance in avoiding any mold issues.


The bed was the first thing I built in my van and it was really simple. There isn’t much to it other than a couple of supports on either side and the bed frame which consists of 3 2x4s.

Beyond that, slats and a mattress are all you need to complete the bed.

One issue with the bed being higher up is that you need a footstool to get up on it or you will need to have a bench or something built in front of your bed that provides a step.

I couldn’t do this since my fridge is going under my bed so I have been using a portable step stool for now.

In the future, I will build an ottoman that I can step on to get into bed and when it’s not in use for that purpose, it will become a footrest for my swivel seats upfront.

It will also serve as an extra storage area for miscellaneous items. I look forward to building that and showing you the process as well.

So far, the bed has worked great. It’s very sturdy and the height of it is perfectly fine. It does sit up higher than a normal be would, but not too high.

The mattress starts at 35 inches above the floor and the top of the mattress sits 41 inches from the floor.

I have plenty of headroom and I can sit up straight in bed with no problems and my bikes fit perfectly underneath.

The full-size bed is nice to have in the van because I can fully stretch out just as I would in my bed at home.

I am about 5’ 10” and I still have a little space above my head and below my feet when I’m fully stretched out.

I also love how you can easily buy bedding for the mattress since it’s a standard size. I purchased a full-size sheet set and a synthetic down-filled comforter and my bed is nice and cozy even on those cool nights.

It’s comfortable and I sleep like a baby. I look forward to traveling and the many nights that I will sleep in this bed.

Dan Collins

I consider myself an outdoor enthusiast. I love to travel and go to places that most people don't get a chance to go. I want to see it all and live life to the fullest while I'm alive. My camper van is helping me to do just that. I write about my experiences to help inspire others to do the same.

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