The adventure van, part 2

In the previous post I talked about all of the musings and considerations that led us to get a minivan for our adventure van. In this part I want to talk about the bed platform that I built, how I designed it, put it together, and a quick report from my first outing.

I had a few things that needed to go into the bed design:

  1. It needs to be elevated with storage underneath.
  2. But it can’t be too tall, as I want to be able to sit up on the bed.
  3. The width can’t be more than 28 inches wide, because I want to still be able to put up one of the back seats, and have room for bikes without taking the bed out.
  4. It must be at least 6 feet long as I don’t want to sleep diagonal.
  5. Simple and quick to build, and not too heavy.

As luck would have it, I located some folding memory foam mattresses on line that measured 75×25. Perfect dimensions for what I was looking for. Next, I hit Home Depot and got some misc lumber for the legs, as well as a large sheet of plywood. The sales associate talked me into something cheaper than I ended up liking, so after getting it assembled I went back and got a nicer piece (3/4 pine). The nice thing was that I was able to get the wood ripped down to my 75×25 dimensions at the store so I could get right to work at home.

I kept the construction very simple, with 6 legs attached with screws. However, the floor in the Grand Caravan isn’t flat. It gets deeper the farther forward you get, that means my legs needed to be different lengths to keep the platform level. What I ended up with is 8″ legs at the back of the van, 11 3/8″ legs at the front, and 10″ 2×6 legs in the middle. I rotated the 2×6 legs to provide more support in the middle, and kept the legs on the end perpendicular to maximize storage space underneath. I started with cutting the front and back legs and then positioned the middle legs where they’d have the most stable flooring, and measured from there.

The construction process was quick and easy; just cut down the legs, drill pilot holes, and then screw in the hardware. I had also bought some brackets for additional stability, but realized that those were completely unnecessary. The platform was solid and stable with the six legs, and there’s no wobble in any direction. I was able to fit my bins underneath, as well as a carry-on sized suitcase in the front.

One enhancement I might make in the future is to put in a piano hinge near the middle legs, remove one of the screws, and allow the platform to fold over on itself. I need to do some measuring of the height I’d need for that, and think through the construction more before I attempt that. For now, a solid platform serves me well.

A few days later my mattress arrived, and it fit perfectly. The mattress does a trifold so I can store it inside the house easier, but I’m leaving it extended inside the van. I want it to protect the wood underneath from nicks and scratches, and having a mattress on top of the platform will discourage me from putting things on top that could damage anything. I do still need to drill some ventilation holes, but I need to re-find my hole saw bits first.

So how does it work? This past week I headed out for a quick overnight trip to meet my buddy Mike at Zumbro and do a pre-course marking check (as requested by the race director). I had so much space that I grabbed all of our camping boxes, put them under the bed frame and headed out. It was awesome to pull in to camp and have to set up nothing. I pulled out the cooking bin to make my dinner, and after hanging out at the campfire for a while, bedded down for my first night of sleep in the van.

I’m a side sleeper and that dictated that I get a 4″ pad to support my hips. The pad was super comfortable, and the platform was just wide enough to accommodate my sleeping style. I usually don’t sleep well the first night away from home, but actually got a great night of sleep. There was rain overnight and the light patter on the roof was very soothing. I woke up in the morning and felt great and ready to go.

A few things that I need to still work on. I need some kind of reflectix window coverings if I’m going to sleep in more public places (like a rest stop). I usually get up with the sun anyway, but a little bit more light dimming would be great. I also need to figure out a way to vent the van while I’m sleeping in it during warm weather. That will probably involve some bug netting on windows that I can attach/detach as needed depending on the situation. The ultimate fix would be to put a fan on the roof, but I’m not really interested in cutting into my van roof.

I need to remember to bring along a battery pack to power some LED lights for evening time. I had a string of lights, but the closest outlet in the car didn’t work if the key wasn’t turned to “accessory”. Finally, I need to attach some bungee cords between the platform legs to keep bins from sliding around. That should be a quick and easy fix.

Beyond a few minor tweaks, I’m very happy with how this turned out. It did everything I wanted it to and my night away was a huge success. I can’t wait to keep building out some features and try it out on some longer road trips. Next big project is a bike mount system for keeping our rides secure.


Beer, running, and geeky things.

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