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Building a bed in an RV can be as simple as throwing a mattress on the floor or as complicated as building a permanent platform bed with storage underneath. Your choice depends on your need, the type of RV you drive and your level of carpentry skill.
Think It Through
Spend some time in the RV to consider what sleeping arrangement problem you’re trying to address. If you simply need a spot where infrequent guests can sleep, an air mattress that won’t take up much room when it’s stowed is an easy solution. If you’re starting with a shell and planning a complete rebuild of your RV, you have many options.
Keep weight distribution in mind. You don’t want to build a heavy bed at the end of the RV that might put extra stress on your hitch when you’re towing, or that tilts your Class A, no matter how slightly, to one side or the other. Remember that you will have to bolt the bed in place so it doesn’t shift during travel or become a heavy, moving mass in an accident.
A Bed With Storage
Create a bed frame by arranging four-cube storage organizers on their sides, placed in the size of the bed you want to build. Measure the surface and buy a piece of builder grade, 1.25-inch thick plywood. Cut it to size, or, if you don’t own the proper saw for the job, have your home improvement store cut it for you.
Lay the plywood on top of the storage organizers, but before you bolt it in place, assess whether or not you’ll need support in the middle of the bed. This is most likely if you’re building a large bed, which will probably not be the case in an RV. If the center needs support, screw together 2-by-4 pieces of lumber into an H shape of the bed's appropriate height and length, and lay it on its side beneath the sheet of plywood. Screw all of the pieces together, and bolt the bed into place. Slide baskets into the open cubby holes for storage.
Simple and Elegant
If having an attractive bed is important, you can build a copy of Modernica's Case Study V-Leg Bed.
Decide what size bed you want, and buy a piece of builder grade 1.25-inch plywood. Cut it to size, or have it cut at the home improvement store. Buy four hairpin legs, and screw them into the plywood about 5 inches from each corner. Sand and stain the top and edges of the plywood, and attach the bed to the RV wall with sturdy L brackets.
This design is not a good choice for a large bed because of the lack of support in the center, but a single-sized bed becomes a couch in the daytime when you position the bed against a wall and add pillows or a cushion for a back rest.
A Space-Saving Touch of Whimsy
If you have ample headroom in your camper and appreciate the quirky, a hanging bed will set your RV apart from the other rigs at the campground. Purchase a sheet of 1.25-inch plywood, four heavy-duty screw eyes and a length of manila, nylon or polypropylene rope. Cut the plywood to the appropriate size, and drill holes large enough for the rope to fit through, a few inches away from each corner. Decide how far off the floor you want the bed to float and measure from that point to the ceiling of the RV. Cut the rope into four lengths of that measurement plus 10 inches to allow space for the knots.
Screw the screw eyes into the ceiling at points equal to the corresponding drill holes in the plywood. Thread one length of rope through each screw eye, and tie a sturdy knot at the shorter end to hold it in place. Repeat with each rope, then thread the other end of the rope through the drilled holes in the plywood. Tie a thick knot on the underside of the plywood. Repeat on each corner. When the bed isn’t in use, hoist it up to the ceiling by pulling on each rope and wrapping the ends around hooks in the RV walls. During the night, the hooks can do double duty as a place to hang your robe or a reading lamp.
Before you begin drilling holes and attaching things to the walls or floor of your RV, read the manual to make sure nothing you do will damage the structural integrity of your RV. Be careful not to pierce the outside of your rig.
If your bed is not a standard mattress size, buy thick foam and cut it to size with an electric carving knife.
Consider building the bed in place, because it may not fit through the door once it’s complete.
Native New Yorker Meg Jernigan stayed in Washington, D.C. after attending the George Washington University, and worked in the tourism industry with the National Park Service for many years. She has extensive experience in tent and RV camping, hiking, backcountry exploration and cycling.