sharan diy camping conversion

Sharan camper conversion under €110 / $130 (2013 – 5 seater)

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sharan camper
Ta daaaa! 🙂 the finishing touches are up to you!

The Volkswagen Sharan is on its own a great camping car – it offers plenty of space, sliding doors, and 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 kitted out my Sharan camper…

How it all started – why I chose a Sharan for my camper conversion?

I love to travel on a budget and freely – without having to use buses, trains and their fixed schedules. I tried backpacking and carrying a tent with me, hitchhiking, but that has its limitations and disadvantages. Then I tried sleeping in a car that I rented whilst travelling in Greece – at 20 EUR per day, it was very cheap transport + accommodation in one. Aside from the low cost, it gives you a lot of freedom and comfort – you can travel easily to anywhere you want (no buses or public transport) at your own time, stop anywhere, sleep almost anywhere.

I loved this idea so after renting a bunch of cars and sleeping in them over a few years, I decided to buy a car that will serve two purposes – as my everyday car (so should be small enough, easy to maintain, cheap to run and not too big to drive – no vans, caravans etc). But it also had to be comfortable for sleeping in (long enough for me to stretch my legs, have good storage and be reversible from camper to a normal 5 seater and back). Plus I didn’t have tens of thousands to spend on a ready-made camper.

After doing lots of research into what cars fulfil these criteria, the VW Sharan was the best option for me – it’s big but also comfortable for long journeys and everyday use. You can find all my research about what cars are best, their measurements, consumption, comfort rating and much more in this best cars for camping database.

Now I had to figure out a simple way to sleep in the car without spending 2000 or more on a camping box (on top of the higher cost, a camping box is much bulkier – it takes up a lot of space in the boot that I would use for other stuff, like shopping bags, in everyday use). And I really didn’t see myself carrying the camping box in and out of the flat every time + it taking up a lot of room in the flat too.

I like simplicity – nothing too fancy, but sturdy enough to last a long time, nothing too big and tall (to have enough room for everyday use + enough headroom for sleeping / sitting in the “bedroom”).

Here’s what did the trick – an everyday car and a camper in one for less than €110 / $130:

  • four simple wooden crates
  • three pieces of light plywood
  • some heavy duty straps
  • a foam rubber sheet

Continue reading for details of the construction.

And Voilà – I have a 24×7 everyday car and camper in one :). I’ve added a bunch of comfort / homely touches (LED decoration lights, curtains, comfy pillows) and have been enjoying driving and sleeping around Europe since :).

Here’s how I did it:

The boot – sooo much room!

The boot in a 5-seater VW Sharan is an advantage for loading more stuff into it. The reason is – 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.


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The best budget car tent you can find:
ARPENAZ BASE M tent

Confirmed to fit: Sharan, Touran, Berlingo, Caddy, Partner, Kangoo, Combo
At around 100 GBP - 120 GBP, it's a bargain that does the job of a 300+ GBP tent

See my full review + video here arpenaz base m car tent BUY NOW
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Or see my full review here
pressure solar camping shower 10 litres 600x600 1 - Sharan camper conversion under €110 / $130 (2013 - 5 seater)

Pressure solar camping shower (pumped) – 10l
£49.99

This camping shower is easy to transfer and doesn’t need to hang in the air – it has a built-in pump that lets you pressurise the chamber and shower or use it in the sink anywhere. It’s black, so the longer you leave it in the sun, the warmer the water will be (or just leave it in a hot closed car in the summer).

  • Lightweight: 870 g including the bag
  • 10 litre capacity | On/off button on the handle to prevent waste
PORTABLE CHEMICAL TOILETS FOR CAMPING - 20L

4.2/5 stars
- Clean water tank up to 50 uses - tank capacity: 16 litres - a seat with antibacterial coating, a lid and a tank that prevents odours and mould

portable toilet £89.99 - BUY NOW
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cshow - Sharan camper conversion under €110 / $130 (2013 - 5 seater)
Small, foldable and sits 4 with plenty of space for food preparation
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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!

More about Sharan as a camper:

Boot dimensions, DIY conversions, images and more specs.

6 person inflatable camping shelter air seconds base connect 11 - Sharan camper conversion under €110 / $130 (2013 - 5 seater)
6-person inflatable camping shelter – air seconds base connect – £299.99

Don’t like fiddling around with poles? This inflatable car tent might be the right choice for you. The sheet + poles make joining it to your car even more flexible. It has two large openings on opposite ends, giving you a choice of which side you’ll attach to the vehicle. It fits most MPVs – tailgate or side-door, you can connect it from two ends

  • Height: 2.25 m (opening for tailgate 1.75m) | Floor area: 6.25 m2 (2.5×2.5m) | Comfortable for 6 people
  • Openings on 4 sides (2 suitable for a car) | but only 1 mosquito net
  • Weight 13kg
  • Easy installation: Rapid pitching thanks to its all-in-one inflatable structure (requires a separate pump though)
  • The fabric filters UV rays with a UPF of 50+, Waterproof, good quality – tested in long rain and strong winds, it holds up pretty well (relatively to the price)
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+ 170cm opening for any tailgate

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Fresh fabric: reduces heat inside your tent in the sun

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dometic 1 - Sharan camper conversion under €110 / $130 (2013 - 5 seater)

Dometic HUB Air Modular Shelter
£624.99

This car/suv tent offers very cool design and I love the versatility – fits SUVs, MPVs and campervans. You can pitch it freestanding on the beach, on-site with your camper or as valuable shelter when off-roading with your 4×4. Best feature is the ability to REMOVE (unzip) ALL 4 WALLS – making it an awning + tent in one!

  • Width:230cm, Depth:230cm
  • Attachment Heigtht: 180-210cm (fits tailgate as well as side door, MPV, SUV, Multivan)
  • Windows have mosquito nets
  • Weight: 13.8kg

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4 Comments

  1. Hey Lukas, this is a very cool conversion. Thanks for taking the time to provide details on how you did it. I am looking at doing a similar car camper conversion and I found your article inspiring. May I ask, what model Sharan you used? Cheers, Jamie

    1. Hi Jamie, thanks! Glad you found it inspiring. It’s a 2013 Sharan, 5 seats, so the boot is deeper. I found the wooden crates to match the depth of the boot from the folded seats to the boot floor.

  2. Hi Lukas, thank you for taking the time to write such an informative website. Could you please provide height, boot length and boot width dimensions when the seats are down and the plywood pieces are in place? I’m thinking of transporting two bicycles on top of the plywood… Thanks again 🙂

    1. Hey Helen,

      the boot length and width are pretty much the same with the wooden crates and plywood in place (~109cm width and ~210cm length / sleeping area). The crates are 15cm, plywood is 1cm, so if we take 16cm off Sharan’s boot height of 113cm, you’re left with 97cm. Take some off for the mattress say another 5cm (as it’s soft and the bike can squeeze it down), then it’s about 92cm you’re left with. It depends on the thickness of the plywood and the mattress.

      The mattress is soft, so you can also lift it up and put the bike directly onto the plywood. It will also keep the mattress cleaner 🙂

      I do take my bike with me too, you can stand it up (front wheel + the saddle off), but I usually just lie it down as it’s easier to secure it that way and simpler to just throw in :).

      If you want to take your bike on a camping trip with other gear in the boot or another bike, then it makes sense to stand it up on the side of course.

      Or, what I sometimes do, you can put one bike just behind the front seats (wheel off, the saddle can remain on) and the second bike will have more room at the back.

      Or, you could make one piece of plywood shorter on one side (where you would have your legs when sleeping – the one furthest back in the boot), so that your bike wheel would sit on the boot floor, not on the plywood – which would also keep it in one place more securely. One bike on each side and off you go.