How to make a makeshift bed

Project Bus # 5 - Conversion of the VW T5 Transporter: bed and seat.

VW T5 Transporter as a campervan. You could certainly see the bed in the VW T5 as the heart of the whole car. Especially in such small campervans, it has to fulfill several functions at once: it has to be a place of retreat, seating and lounging area, the center point and heaven on earth. Comfortable, space-saving and functional - a bit like the egg-laying woolly milk pig. In addition, there is the space available in the bus to choose the shape and size of the bed. In today's article you will find out what I finally decided on.

Space-saving and inexpensive solution for a bed in the campervan to build yourself.

My campervan is a VW T5, built in 2007, with a short wheelbase. The available space is therefore limited and is very manageable. Before the expansion, I had to ask myself a few questions that ran through the whole concept and made various decisions either more difficult or easier. With regard to the bed, you can find my question and answer game in the following lines.

Transparency: The article contains * affiliate links, which are marked with a (*). If you order a product with it, I get a small commission, but there are no additional costs for you.

Should the bus still be suitable for everyday use after the expansion?

Yes! One of the most difficult decisions that cost me a few more or less sleepless nights. The transporter was equipped with 3 rows of seats and 9 seats. At least 6 seats should be usable in everyday life. The rear bench has been moved out and mothballed, the middle row of seats, consisting of a double bench and a single seat, can be installed and removed if necessary. The decision was made during the removal from the floor, as the holding devices for the seats had to remain free. In addition, this solution and the short wheelbase mean that the bed must be designed to be foldable, as otherwise the bed surface and row of seats would get in each other's way.

Should the bed be both a bed and a seat at the same time?

Yes again! On the road, I usually spend most of my time outside. I cook outside, I sit outside, I read outside and I work outside. But sometimes, especially in rain and very cold temperatures, everyday life shifts indoors. Then it should be cozy and tidy on the few square meters. If I also have visitors, then I don't want to offer them a place directly on my bed, but rather one with a backrest in a feel-good atmosphere. Together with the decision from question 1, the result is a four-part bed (2x fixed, 2x foldable) and a construction that you can see step by step in the installation instructions below.

What width should the bed be?

Wide enough to comfortably lie in for two and narrow enough to create as much storage space as possible on one side. In total, approx. 1.60 m are available in the VW T5. After some back and forth, I decided on almost 0.40m of storage space in the form of a cupboard and 1.20m of lying area. When you plan, consider the taper on the D-pillars at the rear of the tailgate.

What height should the bed be?

In my case, this decision was the sum of the storage space under the bed, the height of the seat and the space between the mattress and the sky. The lying surface should not be too restrictive towards the top, the space underneath should offer enough storage space and the seat height should be ergonomically comfortable. In the end, my considerations resulted in 0.44 m from the top edge of the construction to the floor (0.40 m under the bed, a seat height of 0.56 m from the top edge of the mattress and 0.77 m between the mattress and the sky). In retrospect, 10cm more height might have been better, as the bed height affects the bed length in my case.

And what about the bed length?

With anything over 1.60 m tall, I am more of a smaller person. I don't need a lot of space, neither in width nor in length. The bed height and the foldable foot section result in a bed length of approx. 1.70 m in my VW T5. But if I had built the bed 10cm higher, I could have made the foot part 10cm longer and would have come to 1.80m. The game could now be continued in centimeter increments ... would have, would be if - in any case, I am now smarter when it comes to planning.

Step by step instructions for assembling a foldable bed with backrest in the VW T5.

I have to admit that I underestimated the planning of the bed a little. At the beginning, a few key points were not yet determined, which in retrospect had greater effects. For example, the backrest holder was initially provisional, but the final solution ultimately had to be cobbled together a little. Nevertheless, I do not want to withhold the individual steps from you. Just see what you can use of it.

STEP 1: The basic construction.

The basic construction, on which the bed and cupboard are located at the end, consists of six wooden planks (38 x 58mm) sawn to length as bed posts, which are attached directly to the base plate with the help of angles. The foam / black felt pad underneath serves as a seamless connection and reduces movement noise.

Smaller wooden planks (24 x 48mm) are then attached to the side, as well as a middle bar (serves as a support for the slats) and another bar to the side, which marks the transition between bed and cupboard. The length of the basic construction results from the bed length minus the foldable foot section.

Note: In retrospect, I would have preferred to install angles without the bridge, as this bead later caused problems with the tailgate construction under the bed. To fix the side bars before fastening, screw clamps are ideal.

STEP 2: The slatted frame in the camper.

The second step as such is not to be considered conclusive, as some of the slats can only be attached during steps 3 and 4. In order to save money, but also to conserve resources, I asked friends and relatives who still had old, unused slatted frames at home. In the end, two banal roll-up gratings * with a width of 1.40 m were found in various attics and in garages, from which I removed this fabric-like connection and attached the slats to the basic structure in the correct length.

Instead of a closed wooden surface, I opted for the slats, as they are attached about 1cm apart and so no moisture can later accumulate under the mattress. An important point that you have to take into account when planning.

STEP 3: The foldable foot section.

With the help of hinges, the foot section can be folded up or down at a 90-degree angle. Magnets fix the supports when folded.

An angled hinge is attached to the cross brace to the right or left of the base supports, to which a wooden plank is then screwed. The length results from the distance to the ground. In order to bring stability to the whole construction, the wooden slats are attached in the correct length immediately afterwards. Two supports hold the foot section in a horizontal position and can be folded in using angles. Finally, two magnets are missing that hold the supports (attention: due to their length, the supports are laterally offset from one another because they would otherwise collide with each other when they are folded in) when they are folded.

STEP 4: The back.

The construction of the foldable backrest was a bit tricky. In addition to the side strips of the basic construction, two further wooden planks are arranged, to which the slats of the roll-up grille are screwed. A board in the middle stabilizes the whole construction. The mobility of the backrest is ensured by a kind of hinge, a garage find from the deepest GDR (possibly comparable to such a kitchen cabinet hinge *).

Two folding fittings * fix the backrest in the unfolded state. I had to tinker with something here, because a completely different solution was planned at the beginning. Two boards between the side strips and the middle bar and two on the wooden slats form the attachment for the fittings, which can be folded in stages.

Possible alternatives for the bed in a self-made camper.

Especially when space is not an issue or if you rely on other basic concepts for interior design, there are many other great ideas for seating and lounging areas. I've scoured the WorldWideWeb a bit and put together a small selection for you.

A fixed bed.

Melli and Jürgen vonLifetravellerz have installed a fixed bed with a lying area of ​​1.40mx 2.00m in their VW T5 with a long wheelbase and chat about the how and why in an article. They have also summarized the entire T5 expansion in an eBook *, which you can order via the link.

A foldable and pull-out bed (rock'n'roll bed).

A really perfect solution - it's a shame that the idea didn't come to me at the beginning of my expansion. Mathis shows in a YouTube video how he simply built such a rock'n'roll bed in his VW T4 himself. You can also buy such an element and integrate it into the DIY campervan, like Sophie and Andes from Silvervan Project in their VW T5 on Instagram.

A pull-out bed.

A simple solution with a big impact. With the variant, you can design a variable bed that adapts to all campervan sizes without much effort. As an example, I recommend the short video of Finn and Sarah in their VW T4 pidivan on Instagram.

A pull-out bed with an L-shaped seat.

This solution is one of my favorites. During the day you will find an L-shaped seating area, at night an element is simply pulled out and the whole room is transformed into a large lying area. I found an example at Sina & Carsten vonWandering horizons in her VW T4, to be seen in her DIY campervan - The eBook *.

Costs and materials used for the bed in the DIY camper.

I used the following materials for the foldable bed frame in the VW T5:
• Spruce wooden planks - for the bed posts and the dividers (38 x 58mm - from the hardware store)
• Spruce wooden planks - for lateral stabilization (24 x 48mm - from the hardware store)
• black felt (2.19 €)
• Perforated plate angles in various sizes - for attaching the bed posts and dividers
• Metal plates (flat connectors) - for attaching the supports for the hinged fittings
• Hinges in different sizes - for the supports of the foot section
• Roll-up gratings * (2 pieces, 1.40mx 2.00m, found at friends and relatives)
• Folding fitting *, 2 pieces (€ 29.90)
• various screws

Needed tools:
• Circular saw (was already owned)
• Jigsaw * (borrowed from roommate)
• Cordless screwdriver * (was already in possession)
• Pencil and folding rule

Do you have any questions or suggestions or do you want to learn more about building a bed in a camper? Then please leave me a comment or write an email to elisa (at) I am also very happy to receive feedback, pictures and my own experience reports.

The following topics await you in future articles or have already been published:

√ Project Bus # 1 - Conversion of the VW T5 Transporter: preparation.

√ Project Bus # 2 - Conversion of the VW T5 Transporter: floor and underground.

√ Project bus # 3 - conversion of VW T5 Transporter: insulation and insulation.

√ Project Bus # 4 - Conversion VW T5 Transporter: Interior lining of the camper.

√ Project Bus # 5 - Conversion VW T5 Transporter: bed and seat.

√ Project Bus # 6 - Conversion of the VW T5 Transporter: mattress, cushion and cover.

√ Project Bus # 7 - Conversion VW T5 Transporter: pull-out drawer in XXL.

√ Project Bus # 8 - Conversion VW T5 Transporter: cupboard and storage space.

√ Project Bus # 9 - Conversion of the VW T5 Transporter: Installation of a swivel bracket for the double seat bench.

√ Project Bus # 10 - Conversion VW T5 Transporter: Do it yourself campervan electrics & solar.

√ Project Bus # 11 - Conversion VW T5 Transporter: Build your own kitchen.

√ Project Bus # 12 - Conversion VW T5 Transporter: curtains and window tinting.

… Sequel follows.

If you don't want to miss any (expansion) articles and always want to be up to date, follow me on Facebook or Instagram. There I also share current photos and stories from on the road as well as thoughts and experiences. You can also find a board on Pinterest that I have completely dedicated to the expansion of my camper.

Elisa | take an adVANture

Elisa loves road trips, the mountains and nature. She prefers to travel the streets of the world with a mattress in the trunk and a backpack on the back seat bench.