Building a raised platform in the back of your van (or truck) will let you make the most of your storage space and also give you a comfortable place to sleep when you don't want to bother with setting up a tent or finding a motel.
Step 1: Measure (maybe even twice)
The first thing you need for a road trip is a good vehicle. We used Bertha, our 2000 Ford E-150 van - a somewhat reliable automobile.
We decided to keep one bench seat (so she could still carry up to 5 people) and remove the last row of seats to give us more room for the bed.
Measure the space you have available in the vehicle for the bed and make careful notes about any obstructions including the wheel wells, seat mounting brackets, etc.
If you already have storage bins, measure their height and width. You really don't want to build the raised bed and then find out your stuff won't fit under it!
Step 2: Plan
Take all those measurements and decide how big your bed will be and how high you'll raise it.
Sketch out a plan - we used SketchUp, but drawing on a napkin would work just as well. Basically you want a flat bottom, two risers on either side and a top. While you might be tempted to skip the bottom, it adds structural stability and prevents the whole thing from sliding around. A flat plywood bottom is also preferable to 2x4 bracing as it makes it much easier to slide the storage bins in and out.
Things to consider:
- size of the bed (we fit a double mattress with room on all sides)
- how you will fit in the storage bins (we made sure the openings were wide enough to utilize the most space possible)
- best use of lumber - you'll want to minimize the number of cuts and scrap