The first time I decided to live out of my pickup truck, I learned that in order to be comfortable and practical, it took more than just throwing an air mattress in the bed of the truck and jamming my gear and supplies around it (for one example; I learned that an air mattress on the bare metal truck bed will suck the heat right out of your body in even moderately cool temperatures!)
The following article illustrates how to build sleeping and storage arrangements in the back of your pickup for maximum comfort and practicality when camping or bugging out.
Building a pickup truck sleeping platform can be very beneficial for, not only camping, but for use as a bug out vehicle. For those who don’t know what a bug out vehicle is, it is used to quickly get to a safe location—whether a disaster occurs or there is just economic and social instability. If you can’t afford an RV or a cab-over camper a pickup truck sleeping platform may be your best option. The most expensive item you will need to make this effective is a camper shell.
Benefits of having a pickup truck sleeping platform versus a tent:
- You will stay dry when a tent would be flooded.
- It is much warmer than a tent.
- You do not have to do any preparation to sleep as it is already built and ready to go. In other words, no pitching a tent.
- It is easily and quickly mobile; no rolling up sleeping bags or putting away tents.
- In a pinch you could sleep in a parking lot without being noticed.
- The foam or mattress is much more comfortable than the ground or small sleeping pad.
- It can be made to fit your needs, and can have a lot of storage space. It can even be made to have electricity, water and heat.
Tents could be beneficial if you needed to hike and camp in an emergency. This would be the only downside to having a pickup truck sleeping platform, as it could be difficult to get completely off-road and isolated. It can only go where your truck goes. The solution to this problem is to have a small, cheapie tent in the truck at all times.
Where do you start with a pickup truck sleeping platform? The first thing you will need is the pickup truck. This is really all about preference of brand, mode, size and its function. The bigger the truck and bed, the more room you will have. The pickup truck I have used is a 2002 Chevy 2500hd extended cab short bed automatic with a 6.0 liter gas engine.
After you have the pickup truck, you will need the camper shell to keep you dry, warm and prevent your possessions and sleeping platform from being stolen. There are quite a few options in this department; the one I used is a Leer, one of the most popular camper shells on the market. If you are willing to buy used, you can check craigslist, ebay, and your local classified ads.
You now have your camper shell and truck, but you don’t want to sleep on the pickup bed as the metal is cold and uncomfortable. Here is where the pickup truck sleep platform comes in handy. There are many ways to design and build your truck bed platform, but I will show you how mine looks. My truck bed platform is quite complex compared to the common ones I have seen, but it is built with easily accessible parts.
Pickup Truck Sleeping Platform Parts List
The parts used to build the platform are as follows:
- 4-6 ½” or ¾” plywood sheets
- 15-20 ft 2 x2 lumber
- 10-40 feet automotive carpeting
- 10-15 feet 48” wide upholstery foam
- Metal Hinges
- 2-3 Cans of spray adhesive
- 2-4 boxes of staples
- Staple gun
- Measuring tape
- Circular saw or table saw
- Jig saw
- Other miscellaneous standard tools
All the stuff needed depends totally on the design, bed length, and complexity of the truck bed sleeping platform you would like to make. Many of the items on the list are things you may have laying around or can easily and cheaply get at a hardware store. The automotive carpeting and upholstery foam can be found online or at an upholstery or automotive upholstery shop.
The first step to making your pickup truck sleeping platform is to brainstorm the design, the functionality and the features you would like. Make sure everything will fit and is workable with the space. Then draw out a rough sketch of how it is going to look. The features I felt were most important were a comfortable platform to sleep on, storage and easy uninstall.
There can be many different approaches to the design. A very simple design would be to run a metal L bracket all the way down both sides of the truck. You would then put 2 x 4’s across the gap and ply wood on top of that to make the platform. Then you could either use the foam and carpet to upholster it or just lay an air mattress on top of it for comfort. This would give you a full bed width of storage under the sleeping platform. This design gets the job done, but doesn’t look great and does not have many features. The next type is one you would build with a platform sitting on top of boxes made from wood. It could have drawers that pull out from inside the boxes (these boxes would be the full length of the bed). This design is quite complex and looks clean, but has some drawbacks. It can be heavy and is not easily removed. The design I used is quite easy to make, has some great features and is very easy to remove from the bed. Below are the pictures of my pickup truck sleeping platform and how it fits together. This will be easier to show than explain.
After you have the design in your mind or on paper, you need to take measurements. You must make sure that your design accounts for the wheel wells (if it is a step side you will not have to worry about this) and any other characteristics of the bed that are not square. Draw each piece that you will need to cut out for each side of the platform. Both sides of the platform can be made identical or almost identical so you should have two of each piece.
When you have cut the pieces out now you can actually start putting it together. To attach each piece, you can use heavy duty staples or finishing nails. You will also want to use wood glue to hold it together more effectively. When you have the pickup truck bed platform together and it looks as you had envisioned, put it in the back of the bed to see if it fits correctly. Make sure that all of the wood is together and will fit into the space before you even start to upholster it.
If your bed platform fits correctly now is the time to start upholstering it. I figured this would be very difficult, but it was mostly just time-consuming. The most difficult part of the upholstering is getting the corners to look correct. I just went to youtube and found many videos that showed how to cut and fold the carpet to make the corners look correct. On the pieces of plywood that had foam, make sure to make the foam just a tad bigger than the board because the foam may compress down some, and when the foam is bigger than the board, the carpet can be tighter. To attach carpet to pieces with foam, I just went crazy with staples to make sure it held. For the side and front pieces, I used the adhesive and sprayed the whole thing. I then stapled the back to hold the carpet tight. You want to ensure that you purchase enough carpet and foam. Remember the carpet has to wrap around the backs of every piece to guarantee that no wood is showing. You will have to cut the carpet a bit longer than the wood (depending on the piece) to do so.
When you are done and you feel the pickup truck bed platform is put together correctly, install each piece in the truck. So for about $700-$1000 (including the camper shell) you can have a great camping rig that you can be proud of. Additionally, a camper shell and truck bed lock are essential for keeping people from stealing your items.