Sleeping in a VW Sharan (2013 – 5 seater) – car camping bed and storage under €110 / $130

DIY Car camping conversions
sleeping in vw sharan 5 seats car bed camping matress 1
Ta daaaa! 🙂 the finishing touches are up to you!

The Volkswagen Sharan is on it’s own a great camping car – it offers plenty of space, sliding doors, foldable seats. If you have the 5-seater version and want to sleep in your car, you have one more thing to worry about – a 14cm (5.5inch) drop from the middle row of seats. But not to worry – if you’re into a bit of DIY, there’s an easy fix. Here’s how I did it…

The boot – make an advantage out of it!

The boot in a 5-seater VW Sharan is an advantage for loading more stuff into it. Reason being – when you fold down the middle row of seats (or back row, as there are no other rear seats further back in this one…), you’re left with a 14cm (5.5inch) drop from the flat bed of seats to the bottom of the boot. Great as you get quite a bit more space without the folded rear seats as you would in a 7-seater. But what if you want to sleep in it? Well, it’s actually an advantage too, for two reasons:

  • storage space for all your camping gear and food
  • more headroom when you make your car bed (and sit on it!)

Create room for storage below your car bed

You need to fill that space somehow in order to create a flat bed surface. I’ve highlighted it with green lines on the image to the right. When the seats are down, that’s about the level you need to fill in with … something. Now it makes perfect sense to use every inch of space efficiently right? So what do you fill that space with?

Your stuff of course! All the food, cutlery, stove and gas bottles, knives, hammocks, blankets or whatever else you carry with you when camping and sleeping in your car.

Now you could go DIY crazy and build yourself a custom rack or storage space and boxes. But we are not about hardcore DIY – we’re about keeping things simple, minimalistic and low budget.

Instead, I headed down to our local DIY store and found wooden crates with almost the exact height we needed. I’m sure you can find something similar where you live – or get some delivered from Amazon. Or worst case scenario – buy slightly bigger boxes and just shave off how much you need from the top.

All you need to do is to place them as you feel fit – the spaces in between them are good for longer items. I found ones with partitions – handy for smaller items, so they don’t slide around when you drive, but you can use hollow ones too.

Next – we need a bed to sleep on:

Base / rack for sleeping in your Sharan – lightweight & low cost

It’s going well so far – we have a leveled surface to put our car bed / mattress on. Where to start? Hmmm… I’d start here:

  • it should be lightweight
  • it should move / lift easilly (as you have stuff stored below it)
  • it should be cheap
  • it should be easy to remove if needed
  • it should be easy to make

With these criteria, I went on a foraging trip to my local DIY superstore, what else :). First, I tested standard OSB sheets, but they were quite heavy and also rough – they left lots of woodchips in the car. Then I looked at MDF sheets, but they were also quite heavy. The winner? Simple cottonwood plywood. You might find different types of wood better for you, I chose cottonwood, as it’s very light and easy to work with.

60cm x 120cm (24” x 48”) is the standard size, the thickness should depend on the structure that supports it underneath. As my wooden crates have partitions, the whole sheet is well supported, so I could opt for a thinner one – 6mm (0.24” – 1/4 of an inch).

The width of 60cm is perfect as the entire boot length is well over 200cm, so 3 x sheet = 180cm (5.9ft), plenty room to sleep on, including some gaps between the sheets, see below.

The last thing I did was to join the three sheets + give them handles (so when you take them out, you can carry them like a suitcase). The handles aren’t necessary, but joining them makes sense, they are much easier to handle this way (when you lift one, it doesn’t get misplaced by the movement). I chose soft material – simple heavy duty straps (you find in ratchets, but can buy separate, without the ratchet or hooks in any hardware store, or even cut up an old belt) cut into short pieces and joined with a staple gun. Or you can use polypropylene rope too. The length of the pieces depends on how big a gap you need between the plywood sheets.

You will need to cut the sheets to the required length – each car is different, my Sharan’s width is about 109cm (3.57ft), so I cut them to about 105cm (3.44ft) to leave some wiggle room, but not too much. You don’t want the sheets to rub against your car upholstery, but you don’t want to have big holes on each side either.

There, now we have a car bed base to throw a mattress or any inflatable bed on. As I was still testing, I decided to go for a simple foam rubber option until I’m happy with the final solution. There’s various types – the soft one you roll up or rebonded foam sheets – a bit more sturdy, but also durable.

The rest is up to you – put a sleeping mat on it, decorate however you please to feel comfortable – the main and most important thing is ready for you – a bed to sleep on anywhere you go + good storage spage.

There is no need to hold anything in place by fixing it to the car – it stays where it is, held in place by it’s own weight + there’s not much room for the plywood sheets to move around as they are cut roughly to the width of the car – not much wiggle room.

And the result…

Now all that’s left is to enjoy moments like these:

So what do you think? Are you going to make something like this yourself? Or have you created something better?

Let me know in the comments!

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