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DIY Minimal Van Build Part I: Bed

Originally published: March 27, 2021

All Cash Well, the fun has begun. Now that I know the Roadtrek is not an option, I’m going full tilt with converting my 2005 Chevy Express Conversion van (her name is Faith). The good thing about this van build is it is much cheaper than purchasing the Roadtrek I wanted. Also, my conversion is an all-cash build. I won’t be going into debt to accomplish the task.

Van Build - The Basics

When I think of a van conversion, there are just a few basics that I must have. They are as follows:

  1. A comfortable place to sleep

  2. A portable toilet

  3. A place to make coffee and clean up afterward. In other words, a kitchen area which includes a sink and place to cook

  4. Something to keep my wine chilled (i.e., refrigerator or cooler)

  5. Airflow for the summer

  6. Heat source for the winter

  7. Drinkable water

Those are the minimum requirements of my build. Fortunately, most of those items were easy to create. One or two are still on my to-do list.

Let’s take the basic needs one at a time starting with a comfortable place to sleep.

A No-Build Van Bed

Since the conversion van comes equipped with a fold-out bench seat, making the bed was simple. First, I removed the two middle-row captain's chairs. DIY Van BuildThis left enough space for me to extend the bed and have enough space to walk around. I did, however, have to work some magic to cover up the holes/protruding bolts left behind from the chair removals.

Although Faith came equipped with a fold-out bed, the bed was short. It is as wide as a full-sized bed but not as long. It’s missing about two feet of length. If I were to sleep on it, being 5’ 8”, I’d have to sleep diagonally across the bed so my feet or head wouldn’t hang over the edges.

As you can see in this photo of my 5 ½-year-old grandson, just how inadequately sized this bed is.

Small Bed

I could manage sleeping on it for a night or two, but it would get old real fast. Also, on occasion, the hubby would want to spend a night in the van and that fold-out bed just wouldn’t cut it. So, I purchased a 3” thick, full-sized foam topper from Amazon (affiliate link) to extend the bed size. I also bought a mattress bag to store the mattress when not in use.

In addition to the foam topper, I bought a bamboo mattress pad and of course, pillows, sheets and blankets to complete the bed conversion. I must say, the bed is now very comfortable.

Comfy Van Bed

Supporting the Extremities

Because the topper extends further than the bed, I had to place items at the head and foot of the bed for support. At the foot of the bed, the topper rests upon a cooler and portable toilet. The head of the topper rests on a Coleman camp table and a foldable storage crate by made by CleverMade that I picked up at Walmart.

Storage Container

I had to play around with arranging the support to make sure the height and weight-bearing capacity were adequate.

Fortunately, unlike MoCa, Faith’s bed is tall enough to allow for storage beneath it. Anyone converting a van knows that storage space is important. Although I don’t have complete access to all of the space beneath the bed, there is enough space to accommodate my needs.

Bed/Seat Dual Action

Unfortunately, I’m unable to use Faith exclusively as a Class B camper. I’ve got to switch between camper and taxi mode. Depending on the day, I usually have one or two car seats attached to the bench.

Child Car Seat

As such, I’ve got to remove the bedding to revert the bed to a bench seat. The bedding removal process includes placing the foam mattress in the mattress bag, rolling it up bringing it in the house and storing it beneath the bed in my bedroom.

Rolled Foam Mattress

The Coleman camping tables break down into a long flat suitcase and are stored under the bench seat. The storage crate is foldable and of course, the cooler and portable toilet get put back in their original positions; the cooler in the kitchen and the portable toilet in the back of the van.

The biggest hassle is getting the mattress in the bag and rolling it up. Everything else is a piece of cake. If I had the Roadtrek, I wouldn’t have to transition back and forth, but alas, I don’t have a Roadtrek.

Cost for Bed

I’ve decided to include the cost for my van build. Here’s what I spent on the bed:

$63.20 - Foam Mattress
$32.99 - Bamboo Mattress Cover
$19.99 - Sheets
$24.99 - Pillows
$32.99 - Blanket
$28.50 - Three Storage Containers at $9.50 each
$29.89 - Vacuum Bag
Total Spent: $232.55

As I analyze the expenses for the bed, I realize I only needed 2 containers (actually just 1, because I found a great storage cubby that I’ll discuss in a later post).

I went with inexpensive sheets at the start. If I truly take to the van traveling life, I’ll eventually get sheets with a higher thread count, but for now, my inexpensive and pretty sheets will do.

Coming up...I’ll discuss the next most important items in the build, the toilet and kitchen.

About the Author: Felicia likes to traipse around and write about her traipsings. FeliciaIn her mind, she lives in an RV and gets to travel to beautiful places far and near. However, in reality, she traipses around in her mobile cabin, Faith, a 2005 Chevy Express Conversion van. With Faith, she’s slowly (and I mean slowly) transitioning her mind to leave the ‘safe world’ of bricks and sticks in favor of the unpredictable world of van travel.

Last Modified: 9 May 2021

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