Camper vans are an incredibly cool way to move around and discover the world. However, what’s not incredibly cool is not sleeping well.
That’s why it’s important to choose the right bed.
The fun part is seeing which type of bed works well with the campervan layout and your personal style.
Considering that where a bed is in the van makes a huge difference in the layout of the van and ambiance, it’s important to consider bed design carefully.
Read on to check what are the best small van bed ideas.
Choosing a Camper Van Bed Style
There is a myriad of different bed styles that are possible in a small van; the key is knowing what works for your setup and van measurements.
There are two main styles of bed designs for small vans: the platform bed and the convertible bed.
Platforms are generally fixed, while convertible beds are more foldable and work as a couch or dinette, too. From these two basic styles, many other inspirational ideas have formed.
When choosing a camper van bed style, it’s important to consider if you are okay with folding up and putting away the convertible bed every day.
Another consideration to keep in mind is if you would like to have additional storage possibilities since beds take up so much space.
For example, bikes require a lot of space, but perhaps they can tuck away nicely under the bed.
It might seem self-explanatory, but it’s also essential to be able to lay down flat and comfortably in the bed.
Making sure that the measurements and setup are correct is very important.
12 Best Camper Small Van Bed Ideas For Your Van Conversion
1. The Platform Bed
The platform bed is the standard and practical bed design in most camper vans. It’s often built from a pre-made wooden design and then fixed in place at the rear or front of the van.
It’s great for conversion vans since it has a large storage area underneath the wooden platform, an ideal space for storing outdoor gear, and the camper’s electrical system.
Plus, the bed is already assembled every night.
However, these are bulky and take up a lot of space.
2. Convertible Beds
Convertible beds are ideal for smaller vans or vans that have more passengers in them (such as a family).
They fold up when they’re not used and offer more storage in open areas during the day.
However, they are inconvenient if you are on a different sleep schedule than your other van companions and can take time to assemble.
That said, they only take a few minutes to put up and way again, and the extra daytime space they provide far outweighs any downside.
3. The Table Bed
Table beds are practical and space-efficient due to the drop-down dinette table, which forms a bed along with the seats/benches next to it.
This design makes it a dinette with benches by day and a bed by night. The shape and size of the table match the free space between the couch cushions.
It’s either wall-mounted or on an adjustable leg with a pedestal. (the most common).
Unfortunately, it’s not possible to have a dinette and bed at the same time, and the bed has to be made up every night and taken down every morning.
Plus, there may be gaps between the cushions depending on the design and wear and tear of the table bed.
On the bright side, it is very quick and easy to set up and saves a lot of space by merging the dinette with the bed – an easy two-in-one.
4. The Flip Bench Bed Design
Kind of similar to the table bed, the flip bench or joint bench bed is a great adaptation that plays on the same idea – using the benches as a bed.
The difference is that the flip bench bed design does not require a table – just cushions. The bench(es) is mounted to a sidewall, and when it is time to sleep, the bench flips open into a single bed design.
However, if there are two benches – then there are two beds that flip open together, creating a bigger-sized bed.
This design is great for people who want to save on maximum space in a small van.
The design also works well for people who want an area that allows them to sit up straight on the road while also having a comfortable sleeping situation at the end of the day.
While it’s difficult or sometimes impossible to store gear and items underneath the benches while they are open, depending on the van design, this is a versatile setup, and it is quick and easy to put together.
5. Bunk Bed
Traveling as a family or with a group of people is not always easy – especially when it comes to sleep. To save space on beds, bunk beds are a great solution.
Assuming the van has a high enough ceiling height, the beds can be fixed into place via the floor and ceiling of the van.
There are two ways to go about the setup. First, having a single bunk bed on top of a platform bed or by having two single bunk beds on top of each other.
The latter design is able to work via a sidewall or at the rear of the small van. A permanent wooden ladder can sit vertically to one side of the bunk bed, too.
This is a fantastic solution for groups of singles or families – it is incredibly space-efficient and can be a permanent solution (or a foldable bunk bed depending on the design and space allotment – like a Murphy bed).
However, it’s not the best idea for couples without kids and doesn’t allow for much storage space.
6. Murphy Bed
Using a murphy bed leaves a lot of space to fit bikes, boards, and supplies. It is a pull-down wall bed that hinges on the floor of the small van and is stored vertically.
It keeps the van clean and organized in terms of storage options.
If there is enough space between the platform and the sidewall, it’s also possible to leave the mattress and bed accessories sandwiched between them.
The pro is that this is the ultimate way to save space for small vans when it comes to beds.
Large gear can be stored during the day when the bed is up, although it does have to be stored elsewhere when the beds are in use.
Plus, it’s easy to put together.
However, if you want a double bed design in a small van, this idea might be challenging. Plus, although it saves space in general, it does lose space for shelves and lockers.
7. Drawbridge-Style Bed
Drawbridge-style beds have a set up close to the Murphy bed; however, the mattress folds up instead of staying flat – like an accordion or fan.
A huge benefit, if you are a space saver, is that this style of the bed allows for even more storage space than the Murphy bed.
That said, they can be inconvenient to assemble and is not the most comfortable in terms of the mattress since it needs to be foldable. A good mattress topper will help resolve this issue.
8. Couch Bed
Falling asleep on the couch can be incredibly comfortable – sometimes more than on the bed. So, why not combine them?
The couch bed, or sofa bed, is common for vanlifers and has a multipurpose design that uses the original bed as deployment into a sofa.
The bottom of the sofa is built using a slat system. It also has upholstery and cushions for design and comfort.
The bed is “re-organized” into a couch sofa. It’s a straightforward setup that allows for single or double bed configurations, which is a great benefit.
9. Slider Bed
Slider beds, also known as pull-out or couch slider beds, are a great multi-purpose solution for building out a van. In essence, it is a couch extension.
The bed is made by mounting the couch against a side van wall or at the rear of the van and then installing sliding slats.
These slats facilitate making up the bed at night, too. There is a lock also installed, so the slats don’t move and slide around while driving.
It’s a great solution if living space is more valuable than having a permanent sleeping space.
It’s a two-in-one: the same item works as both a bed and a couch. Plus, it is quite easy to set up.
However, it is necessary to make up the bed every day and night, which can be time-consuming if you are trying to get on the road early.
10. Custom Shaped Bed
Each van is different, and each setup is even more so. Not everyone requires a traditional square bed setup, and sometimes, especially in small vans, using different shapes is the most space-efficient.
For example, building an L-shaped bed in the corner to serve as a sleeping spot for two people as well as a permanent sofa and eating bench.
This is great for customizing a van, but it can be costly, and the knowledge of how to cut a mattress without destroying it is essential.
11. Drop Down Bed Systems
The drop-down bed system is a hybrid design between a convertible bed and a platform one. It uses lift supports from the ceiling to raise and lower the bed.
It’s a two-in-one design since it can also be used as a table which makes it a great space saver. In order to make it, it’s best to have someone who is handy and knowledgeable about designing and building.
Hammocks are easy to (un)install and take anywhere – from stringing them across the inside of the van to hanging them between two trees in a forest.
They’re lightweight, too.
Unfortunately, if there isn’t room inside the van, hammocks are not great for sleeping in wet, cold, and rainy weather outside, which means they are a summertime-only sleeping situation.
Plus, they can be difficult on the back, depending on the position you sleep in.
Flares as an Option for Added Space
Small vans are just that – small. Most vans only fit a full-sized or queen mattress length-wise, and with those, a lot of space is lost inside the van.
An easy fix to that is to add flares – fiberglass panels that widen the usable space in the small van.
This means the mattress can be installed width-wise, which helps gain usable space elsewhere in the van.
Unfortunately, they are not cheap and are difficult to install – often requiring professional installation.
They also don’t insulate the part of the van very well where they are installed, which can make for some cold nights.
Fixed Platform Van Beds
Having a fixed platform bed, also known as a permanent elevated bed, provides great storage underneath for many useful things such as a toilet, water tanks, gear, or bikes.
They are great because they can be customized to fit you and your vans’ needs – built as high as you want and using different mattress sizes.
Plus, unlike convertible beds, fixed platform beds don’t need to be open and closed daily – they are always ready for naps, sleep, and relaxation time.
Plus, the bed can be extended into an awning or a tent for extra space.
The only real con, but it’s a big one, is that a fixed platform bed takes up more space than a convertible bed and has less flexibility to use the space around it when not in use.
Sleep is important and good sleep while traveling is even more important with long hours of driving and exploring.
From hanging from the ceiling to bunking below your friend to having the dinette work as the bed, each of these small van bed ideas hopefully makes it easier to choose what works best for your camper van and personal style while riding in comfort.
Angela Devaney, a former IT project management professional, embarked on an adventurous journey of full-time travel, which included touring West Africa in a converted overland truck and converting an ex-military 4×4 Sprinter van into a camper for a five-year South American expedition. She now utilizes her hands-on experience to create practical RV living and van life advice as a full-time digital media producer, reaching over a million users annually through her YouTube channel, blog, and newsletter. Angela also lends her expertise as the editor-in-chief of the Campervan Electrics Handbook.