We don't quite have the spare cash for the van in #vanlife. We also don't want to pay for lodging every single night we're out on the road. The solution? The humble sleeping platform.
In the past, on cross-country drives like the one(s) we have planned, we've employed a mixed approach to overnight accommodations. We pitched the tent in campgrounds, though I always felt silly paying $20 or more to sleep on ground conveniently close to a parking spot. We shelled out for motels along the way, and while they've been nice they haven't seemed the smartest financial choice. Increasingly, we've used the back of the car as our bed, laying the seats down flat and spreading out sleeping pads and bags on top to sleep in relative comfort. Even this has drawbacks though. First, the configuration of the back, even with the seats down, doesn't allow for full extension. Second, using the back as a bed means moving any gear stored back there to the sides or front seats to make space for sleeping pads. This is a minor inconvenience on a little weekend trip, but on a month-long, cross-country drive with more supplies it would quickly become tedious.
Enter the sleeping platform. I stumbled upon this clever build online one day and knew it was worth making for ourselves. There weren't many measurements mentioned with these photos, but the images showed almost every angle and the car was a Ford Escape (just like ours). Combining the scant numbers included with the dimensions of our car and estimations based on the images, I drew up my own plans in Illustrator. Parts: $140. Labor: a few hours. Result: good nights' sleeps.
It's fairly lightweight, but sturdy enough. Its strength would be greater were it not for the hinges on the frame that allow it to be folded up for storage, but the benefits outweigh the costs there so there's really not much to complain about.
The platform has been tested twice thus far: once on a two-night trip along the Southern Oregon coast and once on the South Fork of the John Day River. I consider it a rousing success to this point because I don't think of myself a master craftsman and yet it has failed to collapse beneath us in the night. With a foot of clearance underneath, it also allows for storage that can just stay put. The only prep work required is to slide the front seats forward, flip over the hinged leaf that rests on the folded seats, and spread out the sleeping pads and bags.
To step up the comfort level, we got two of these sleeping pad covers. This isn't ultralight backpacking: we're sleeping in the car. No need to conserve weight here. Now we've got a flat surface and comfy sleeping pads topped off with a layer of memory foam. It's quite nice. We bought a used roof box, as well, to free up more space in the interior of the car. At our disposal are storage, a sleeping space, and millions of acres of National Forests with dispersed camping to provide us with a place to park, eat, and rest each evening along our merry way.
The car is called Moraine, because every good car needs a name, I'm a geographer at heart, and this Escape is the color of an icy blue lake at the foot of a glacier. In it, we will sleep well and dream of adventures had and the trails tomorrow holds. Hence the title of this post, "Moraine Dreams."
Naturalist, Photographer, Cartographer