The Best SUV Bed Platform For Camping - Maps Over Coffee (2023)

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Do you Want to experience Van Life without the van? Have you ever dreamed of the freedom to camp anywhere without the struggles of a tent? Or have you ever thought about converting your SUV into a camper but don’t have the skills to build it yourself?

Keep reading because we found the perfect solution for all of your woes: Here is our review of TrunkMate. Is it the best SUV bed platform?

Why We Need a Platform Bed for Our SUV

We have discovered something recently that we hate to admit; we aren’t great summer campers. We like to sleep cool at night, which is very difficult in a tent.

Last January we discovered something else; we’re not the best winter campers either. While we like it cool, we aren’t into freezing our toes off all night. And we dread getting out of our sleeping bags with icicles hanging off of our noses.

But we found a solution that we want to implement more often.

On a camping trip over the New Year’s weekend in upstate New York, we set up camp in the back of our Honda Pilot.

And as much as I hate to admit it, we loved it. We stayed warm all night, didn’t have to pack up a wet tent after 4” of snow and got dressed in warm clothes.

That weekend got us thinking about a different kind of camping: car camping!

Of course, we had slept in cars before. And frankly, we don’t recommend sleeping in any kind of a sedan. I’m pretty sure the iron maiden was the backseat of a Buick with just a couple of extra seat belt buckles.

But, sleeping in our SUV was more than just an upgrade to car camping. It was, dare I say, luxurious!

So, how do we go about making this better?

How to Turn Your SUV Into a Camper

That was the question we asked ourselves – how do we turn our SUV into a rolling campsite?

It turns out there are plenty of things that you can do to make this sweet little setup even better. Over the next few weeks, we will be exploring some of those with you and put some of them to the test on our next expedition.

The first thing we wanted to do was find a way to create a space for sleeping while still storing all of our camping paraphernalia.

After some research, we came across some plans for building your own platform bed in your car.

I’m a fan of Bourbon Moth and was inspired by his build in his friend’s Subaru Outback.

(Video) I Turned My SUV Into A CAMPER | Easy DIY Platform Build

I come from a background in carpentry, so I could build an SUV camping platform bed myself. So I set out to make some plans for our Pilot.

The Downside of Building Your Own SUV Sleeping Platform

So during our research phase, we kept bumping into the same issue: once installed, this platform converts our vehicle into a mobile tent.

What we love about our Pilot is the versatility. With 3 rows of seats, we have the option of loading it with our friends and running into town or the trailhead.

Or we could keep the 3rd row up and have tons of storage while still having 5 seatbelts.

And with the 2nd row folded down, we have the capacity of, I don’t know, a hearse?

Anyway, building our own platform would mean we lose all of those configurations.

I seem to have commitment issues where I like to leave my options open. So, how do we make the platform transformable to get the most use out of it?

Enter TrunkMate!

The Easy Way to Build a Platform Bed in Your SUV

Ok, if you watched the video from Bourbon Moth you’ll see that there is a lot of trial and error to get the platform bed just right.

And while it comes apart easy enough, it takes up a lot of space when it’s not being used.

But we stumbled across a no-brainer, done for you, universal platform bed: TrunkMate.

While this seemed like a mythical creation at the time, we were blown away by its design.

It ticked off all of our lists:

  • A mobile bed ✔️
  • A storable kitchen ✔️
  • Drawers for our clothes and camping gear ✔️
  • Easy to remove ✔️
  • Packable when not in use ✔️
  • Storage space underneath✔️

This was the ultimate solution! A mobile kitchen and bedroom that would easily disassemble for universal use of our SUV.

That’s right, our Sport Utility Vehicle would be truly utilitarian.

We reached out to TrunkMate and they were gracious enough to provide us with some photos of their new product.

(Video) Building an Unusual Sleeping Platform in the Back of My SUV! (DIY SUV Camper Bed Setup)

However, this is not a sponsored post. Just an honest review of what we think of an up-and-coming company in the camping space.

Will it improve SUV camping? Let’s find out.

  • Update! Read My Hands On Review of the Blitz Bed – The Modular SUV Bed Solution!
The Best SUV Bed Platform For Camping - Maps Over Coffee (1)

Does TrunkMate Work for Everyone?

Ok, so obviously this is a great solution for us. We can build things and we have tons of space in our Honda.

But, what about you? Would this be a good fit if you’re not handy? Or if you have a different vehicle?

That’s the beauty of this thing! It’s universal and easy to assemble.

Easy to Assemble

First off, I want to cover the easy to assemble part. While I am handy with my tools, I don’t mind the simple installation of anything.

My uncle once said, “give a lazy man a hard job and he’ll find an easy way to do it.”

Now I don’t promote laziness. Unless it can get me into the woods any quicker. Then I am all about working smarter.

So if you have ever assembled IKEA furniture before, you can put this little piece of camping heaven together. It even comes with a screwdriver.

Actually, the instructions are written in words, not Nordic hieroglyphics. In that sense, it’s much simpler than IKEA.

Not to go down the IKEA road too far though. This is built with solid birch plywood, so it’s heavy-duty and will withstand repeated assembly and disassembly.

Which you will do quite frequently with ease. It comes apart enough to fit into your cargo area with all of your seats up. Well, at least the second row seats up. You will need the cargo room, so if you have a third-row seat, it will have to be stowed whenever TrunkMate is in your SUV.

The Best SUV Bed Platform For Camping - Maps Over Coffee (2)

But that still leaves you with 5 seatbelts when driving to your campsite. This is great anytime you are not using it and want to have space for your friends. Or your kids.

(Video) How to Sleep in an SUV (Sleeping or Car Camping in an SUV)

But you don’t have to tell your friends or your kids that you have room for them. TrunkMate provides a good alibi for a quiet drive into the woods. (I didn’t say that out loud. That was just the thought in the back of your mind. It’s ok. You’re still a nice person.)

It’s good to note, there are absolutely no alterations to your car. You don’t need to remove any seats. And there is no drilling into your vehicle.

Universal Fit

The Best SUV Bed Platform For Camping - Maps Over Coffee (3)

The second part is that TrunkMate will fit in almost any SUV or minivan.

Because most seats don’t lay flat, the elevated platform provides a level surface for the base of your bed.

And thanks to its modular design, you can configure it to be the full width of the cargo area or set it up to fit next to the 60/40 split rear seats. This would allow it to be set up with one back seat still upright.

The Best SUV Bed Platform For Camping - Maps Over Coffee (4)

For solo campers, the extra space could be used for a single mattress while still allowing room for a camping fridge.

Fully Functional Campsite

Our final point is the functionality of it. Once set up, the drawers pull out and a platform is raised to set your camp stove on.

Below that is the built-in cutting board countertop to set up and prep your meal. And afterwards use the included pop-up sink to clean up in.

Plus it comes with a camp stool to do it all in comfort.

The Best SUV Bed Platform For Camping - Maps Over Coffee (5)

These features makes a complete camp bedroom and camp kitchen in one compact space. No need for extra tables and stands. It may be the most versatile folding sleeping platform car configuration out there.

Our Take – Is TrunkMate the Best SUV Bed Platform?

Be sure to read more about Trunk Mate with our review of their Blitz Bed.

This is one of the best new ideas we have seen this year. With the increase in interest in camping and the outdoors, I think TrunkMate is going to be a hit.

Because of it provides a universal fit, requires no carpentry skills, and stows easily when not in use, we think this will have a wide appeal to a lot of happy campers.

(Video) Simplest sleeping platform for your Rav4 -- or any SUV

The price tag is just under $2000, which is a bit of an investment. But compared to the alternatives of renting or buying an rv or staying in a hotel or house rental, it would really pay for itself on one or two camping trips.

We haven’t pulled the trigger on this deal just yet. But we will keep our eyes on it over the next year or so.

At any rate, TrunkMate has definitely grabbed our attention. It rightfully deserves its place on some of the coolest camping gear of 2022.

You can find out more by visiting their website at

What Can Make it Better?

Ok, we have stumbled across something that we think would take Trunk Mate over the top. While this is a complete kit, you will still need some bedding. If you haven’t heard of Sleep and Beyond, they make some super comfortable organic cotton and Merino wool bedding.

They have a Merino wool mattress topper that would be the perfect addition to any car camping setup. It’s all the comfort of home, with the satisfaction of car camping.

We loved it enough to sign up as an affiliate. At no cost to you, we earn a small commission if you choose to make a purchase.

No pressure, but you can learn more about the Sleep and Beyond myMerino Topper by clicking here.

More Great Camping Guides

We aim to provide the most valuable guides to camping including where to camp, how to camp, and how to improve camping.

If you are just getting into camping, we want to welcome you. For those of you that already love to camp, we’re glad to have you, too.

Whether you’re a seasoned camper or just starting out, here are some of our suggestions to get you in the woods, on the mountain, near the beach, or under the desert stars.

If you are into setting up your own camp rig, check out our camping fridges review. We compare the top 16 portable camp fridges to find the winner of the best camping fridge of 2022.

If you want to dream of the best places to camp in the world, we have a whole series on it. In fact, may I suggest starting with our first article: Bucket List Camping?

We start with some big suggestions and then break down the world into regions. Where would you like to start?

You can find all of our camping articles, hiking descriptions, and road trip advice here or under the menu above. Enjoy!


How do you sleep in the back of an SUV? ›

Below, we'll give tips on how to do so safely.
  1. Stay Upright With Your Seatbelt On. ...
  2. Wear Comfortable Clothes. ...
  3. Put on a Sleep Mask. ...
  4. Use a Sunshade. ...
  5. Try a Neck Pillow. ...
  6. Listen to Music or White Noise. ...
  7. Snuggle Up With a Blanket. ...
  8. Rest on a Comfy Pillow.
Feb 28, 2022

Can you camp out of an SUV? ›

A basic conversion of an SUV only requires you to add a mattress for sleeping and some bedding. In addition, a cooler, portable battery, and camp stove would make traveling more comfortable and give you more independence. Blackout curtains or screens will give you both daytime and nighttime privacy.

What is the best sleeping solution for car camping? ›

Sleep with your head toward the front of the car

If you find yourself at an angle, make sure to position the car so your head is above your feet. Sleeping with your head to the front of the car will also give you more elbow room generally, since most cars have wheel wells at the back that take up precious space.

Should you crack a window when sleeping in your car? ›

If you need to, use the AC to cool down your car first, ensuring you turn it off before sleeping. You can also heat up your car prior to sleeping, provided you turn off the engine afterwards. Cracking a window open to allow fresh air in is OK, but not required for safe breathing as outlined above.

How do I keep my car warm in winter camping? ›

Add insulation.

Cars lose most of their heat through their windows. Trap warmth by putting a thick reflective sun shield in your front windshield, and cutting insets out of Reflectix wrap (available at most hardware stores) for your other windows. Push the insets into the windows before getting ready for bed.

Can you sleep in a full-size SUV? ›

Most SUVs Can Be Used for Sleeping

While full-size SUVs offer the most room for car camping, most SUVs can accommodate one or two people in the back for sleeping. Again, seats would need to be removed or completely folded down to accommodate a sleeping area, but even smaller models can make it work.

Is sleeping in a car colder than a tent? ›

Sleeping in a car is warmer- Vehicles have built-in insulation that traps some heat inside. When the sun goes down, your car interior won't cool off as fast as the inside of a tent. The insulation also traps some of your body heat as you sleep.

What is camping out of your car called? ›

Some also refer to car camping as "base camping" or “tent camping”. The beauty of car camping is the accessibility of your tent site. Since your tent site is so close to your vehicle, there's no reason to skimp on “luxury” items that make your camping experience enjoyable.

How can I sleep in my car without overheating? ›

A fan near a window that is slightly open will pull in cool air from the outside and circulate it through the vehicle. If you have windows cracked open on both sides this can allow hot air to escape and cooler air to enter. This heavy-duty car air fan is a good choice to keep your cool.

Do I need a sleeping pad for car camping? ›

As you can see, sleeping pads are almost always necessary. Sleeping pads not only provide a cushioned sleeping surface to keep you comfortable, but they also provide critical insulation from cold ground temperatures.

What is an SUV conversion package? ›

​ One of the biggest advantages of owning a SUV is that it can easily be converted into a mobile living space. An RV camper conversion kit usually includes everything you need to make your vehicle livable including full kitchen with drawers, beds, storage compartments, and more.

Can an SUV be converted to a camper? ›

Turning an SUV into a camper is a great option that allows you to use your daily driver for a camper conversion, and even for full time nomadic living. SUVs are also much easier to find than full-sized vans, so an SUV camper is an easier and cheaper way to get out there on the road.

What is the best vehicle to turn into a camper? ›

The Sprinter Van is by far the most popular van for camper van conversions. Sprinter vans are durable, versatile, and most are built as cargo vans so their interiors are highly customizable.

What is the best material for bed platform? ›

Wood. Wood is one of the most popular materials for these frames. When made with high-quality wood, a platform bed can generate a stable, heavy-duty feel. Wood also offers a range of styles based on the type of wood and choice of stain.

What is a Bunkie board for a bed? ›

A bunkie board is generally a thin, flat wood board that is placed between a mattress and its base. Essentially, a bunkie board is used in addition to or on top of a box spring or foundation to provide more substantial support for a mattress.

Will a mattress slide on a platform bed? ›

Platform beds are known for their modern and sleek look, and the absence of side panels in these bed frames often causes the mattresses to slide. Users can place non-slip rugs or rubber mats between the mattress and the frame to prevent them from sliding off the platform beds.

Is it OK to sleep in your car at WalMart? ›

The policy of Walmart welcomes RVers to spend a night in their parking lot, as long as you have the individual location's permission. In some places, city zoning laws or ordinances will prohibit overnight stays in parking lots. Typically, larger cities are most likely to have these types of restrictions in place.

Why can't you sleep in your car? ›

The primary cause of death while sleeping in a car is carbon monoxide. This gas is a colourless, odourless gas released when burning fuels, such as coal, wood, charcoal, natural gas, and fuel oil. It usually dissipates quickly in the open air but is harmful to human health when it accumulates in enclosed areas.

How long can you sit in a car with the engine on? ›

If you're going to be sitting in your car for more than 10 seconds, then turn off your engine. If you are sitting near a school, hospital, or heavily populated area then turn off your engine as these are the areas that are most likely to be policed with fines.

Can you fit a twin size mattress in an SUV? ›

The good news is that twin mattresses can fit in an SUV as the vehicle is wide enough to accommodate up to 8 passengers with leg space and storage. Many branded SUVs can fit a twin mattress with a little squeeze.

Can a mattress fit in the back of an SUV? ›

If you wonder if a full-size mattress fit in an SUV, then the answer is likely yes. As we see above, a standard full-size mattress is 54” x 75”, so it is highly possible to be able to lay it flat inside a SUV (if the 2nd and 3rd row of seats are lowered).

Is it safe to strap a mattress to a car? ›

Yes, it is safe to drive with a mattress strapped to your car's roof as long it's secured in a safe manner. Just like many things in life, there is a right way to do it and a wrong way. Believe it or not, the wrong way is to use rope or twine and secure the mattress to the roof of the car, but we'll get to that later.

How cold is too cold for car camping? ›

Most experts agree, an outside temperature below -30°F is too cold to sleep in your car, period. But in reality, any temps lower than 32°F involve some level of danger. In fact, hypothermia can occur anywhere between 30 and 50°F with prolonged exposure, especially if you get wet.

Will a candle keep your car warm? ›

A candle produces a great deal of heat, Mann said. It can be used to help keep the inside of the car warm, but Mann cautioned to burn the candle inside of the coffee can and to open one window slightly.

Is a full-size SUV bigger than a standard SUV? ›

A standard SUV is larger than a midsize SUV but smaller than a full-size SUV. Avis has a wide variety of standard SUV rentals ready for any adventure you have planned.

Which full-size SUV will last the longest? ›

The iconic Toyota Land Cruiser earns the top spot on the list of longest-lasting vehicles by a wide margin. This classic off-road SUV debuted in the 1950s, and while it isn't sold in high volumes, Toyota's oldest nameplate has amassed a following of loyal enthusiasts who enjoy racking up miles on their Land Cruisers.

How high should you sit in SUV? ›

Raise your seat up until your hips are level with your knees. Raise the seat higher if you can't see clearly out the windshield or windows. Don't drive with your hips lower than your knees. If your car doesn't have a control to adjust the seat height, sit on a cushion to help keep your hips level with your knees.

What is the coldest part of a parked car? ›

The floor tends to be the coolest area, and with the air conditioner on, the car should be cool enough to get you home before the fresh produce wilts and the ice cream melts. The cabin also tends to be better insulated than the trunk. So you'll have a better chance of avoiding extreme swings in temperature.

What is the best temperature to sleep in car? ›

Keep it cool

Prime sleep temperatures are somewhere between 60 and 67 degrees, so do what you can to manage the temperature in the car accordingly. That may mean fiddling with the air conditioner, heater, or cracking a window. Dressing in layers will help, and a travel blanket may also be a good idea.

Is it warmer to sleep in a tent or outside? ›

Quick answer: Three-season tents are usually only about 5 degrees F warmer inside than outside. Winter tents are better designed to trap heat and are typically 10-15 degrees warmer inside. Insulated or expedition tents can be over 25F warmer inside.

What is stealth car camping? ›

Stealth camping is sleeping in your vehicle without drawing attention to yourself. This is similar to boondocking which generally refers to sleeping overnight on BLM or free public lands. Is sleeping in your car illegal? In some areas, sleeping in your car overnight is illegal.

What is it called when you camp in a parking lot? ›

Wallydocking. One of the most common examples of the overnight boondock stay is a night spent at a Walmart parking lot while on your way to your campsite–Wallydocking. It's important to know how to boondock because there will almost certainly come a time, as an RVer, when you'll stay at a Walmart.

What is the difference between car camping and tent camping? ›

The only actual difference we've found is that car camping gives you access to your car easily, while tent camping does not. You do camp separately, but everyone is in the same main lot. Tent campers have access to everything car campers do, and you can still hang out in the car camping lots.

How do you sleep in a car with privacy? ›

The most common methods involve running string around the top of the windows, or using velcro or magnets. Then use blackout curtains horizontally to keep light out. And even though there are DIY window tinting kits, I recommend getting it done professionally.

What is it called when you always sleep in the car? ›

Our minds and bodies are not doing anything except getting ready for sleep, so they become quiet and calm. So in a moving car, your mind and body can go into the same kind of quiet “daze” as they do at bed time. This is sometimes called highway hypnosis and can happen to drivers too.

What is it called when you fall asleep in the car? ›

People with narcolepsy fall asleep without warning. It can happen anywhere and at any time. It may happen when you're bored or during a task. For example, you may be working or talking with friends and suddenly fall asleep. It can be especially dangerous if you fall asleep while driving.

Will I freeze if I sleep in my car? ›

Yes, you can freeze sleeping in a car. Your vehicle is made of metal and glass. These will do practically nothing to keep your body heat inside on a cold night. Remember, hypothermia can occur between 30 and 50°F with prolonged exposure, especially if you get wet.

Is it bad to sleep in a hot car? ›

It is a risky condition that can lead to severe tissue damage or even death. This can happen when carbon monoxide builds up in your bloodstream. Carbon monoxide can easily poison you, your family, and your pets. This chemical compound is even more hazardous when you are sleeping inside the vehicle.

What do I need to sleep in my SUV? ›

Invest in a comfortable bed

So, you can splurge on heavier, cushier mats, pillows and blankets. You can go for a compact camping pillow or just bring a full-size pillow. Don't forget that cars can get just as cold as tents at night, so pack an insulated blanket like a Rumpl or a temperature-rated sleeping bag.

How do you use the bathroom when car camping? ›

Dig a cathole, use a wag bag, or bring along a portable toilet - these are the 3 primary methods for using the bathroom while wild camping or boondocking, at least when it comes to dealing with #2.

How can I make my car sleepable? ›

Wagon: Fold down the rear seats and use the flat space. Hatchback: Fold down the rear seats and use the flat space. Sedan: If the seats do not fold down to create a long surface, use the back seat. Coupe: If it's dry outside, maybe just sleep in the grass.

Can I put a mattress on my SUV? ›

A large SUV is big enough to carry almost any mattress on the roof, provided that the mattress is properly secured, while a small vehicle may be appropriate for carrying a smaller mattress on the roof.

How to turn your car into a bed? ›

Put your seat back and get cozy with pillows, blankets, or whatever soft, cushioned items you have on hand. Get a rear-seat mattress for the most comfortable sleeping experience. Create a sleeping platform for your back seat, trunk or hatch area, or truck bed out of plywood and 2 x 4s.

Is it safe to sleep in a car with the engine off? ›

The best thing to do is to avoid sleeping in the car. If you badly need to take a nap in your car, make sure the engine is switched off and the windows are rolled down but first find a safe place where you can park your car and rest.

What temp is too hot to sleep in car? ›

Keep it cool

Prime sleep temperatures are somewhere between 60 and 67 degrees, so do what you can to manage the temperature in the car accordingly. That may mean fiddling with the air conditioner, heater, or cracking a window. Dressing in layers will help, and a travel blanket may also be a good idea.

Is it legal to strap mattress to roof of car? ›

However, tying a mattress improperly onto the roof of your car is 100 percent illegal, because you're endangering not just your life, but also the life of other road users. Chances of getting pulled over if you do this are very high.

What size mattress fits in an SUV? ›

Double mattresses are full mattresses with 54" x 75" dimensions and can fit inside a standard SUV.

Why is it easier to sleep in a car than my bed? ›

The gentle rocking movement of the car can make us sleepy. Sleep scientists say that rocking or slow, gentle movements can make us fall asleep if we are tired, just like when we are babies and our parents rock us to sleep. It might remind us of when we were in our mother's tummy.


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