Van Beds: Fixed Vs. Convertible Vs. Murphy

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When you choose van life, you’re selecting a lifestyle where everything is done on the road. This includes cooking, showering and — of course — sleeping. In fact, one of the first things you’ll need to do is purchase a van bed.

It’s important to put some careful thought into this decision. After all, you want a bed that’s comfortable, aesthetically pleasing and integrates with your van layout. In this article, we’ll go over some popular van bed ideas and how you can choose the best bed for van life.

1) Fixed Platform Bed

Fixed Platform bed for Van
@reissussapoikainkanssa on IG | Photo

A fixed bed refers to a stationary bed that cannot be moved or folded away. It’s generally attached to a van bed platform (which is elevated above the floor). While this campervan bed model tends to consume a substantial amount of space, it also offers extra room underneath the bed. This area is called a “garage” and can be used to store equipment, mountain bikes and other gear.

Pros of Fixed Platform Van Beds

Here are some pros of fixed platform beds for vans:

  • Additional storage space: The raised platform creates extra storage room, which is useful if you have lots of gear or materials.
  • Easy set-up: Unlike a folding bench seat van bed, fixed platform beds don’t need to be set up every night. Once they’re installed, there’s no set-up required.
  • Easy construction: Constructing a fixed platform bed is fairly straightforward and can be done by virtually anyone (even those without carpentry experience).
  • Easy to store bedding: Since the bed is permanently fixed, you can just leave your bedding and pillows on it (rather than store them in a separate closet, like you have to do with campervan seat beds).

Cons of Fixed Platform Beds

Here are a few cons of fixed platform campervan beds:

  • Minimal headroom: Since this van bed is on an elevated platform, you may not have much room to raise your head.
  • Limited functionality: The bed has no use besides sleeping. For example, it cannot be used as a couch or furniture (like van sofa beds can).
  • Consumes space: A fixed platform van bed takes up more space than convertible models, which can be a problem for small van owners.

Who Do Fixed Platform Beds Work Well For?

In terms of comfort, it’s hard to beat the luxurious feel of a fixed platform van bed — it’s one of the closest things you’ll find to a traditional, residential bed. However, due to the large size and limited functionality, this model is best suited for people who have plenty of space in their vehicles.

2) Van Bunk Bed

Van Bunk Bed
@wimbellwade_adventures on IG | Photo

A camper van bunk bed system consists of two or three beds stacked above each other. It’s a great way to use the vertical space available in your vehicle and keep the floor free. The most common type of van bunk bed features an extra bed attached to a wall above a main bed. This set-up takes advantage of unused vertical space, while still leaving storage space under the main bed.

Pros of Bunk Beds

Here are some of the top advantages of van bunk beds:

  • Double sleeping space: This set-up creates a double sleeping space in an area that would have otherwise been occupied by a single bed.
  • Safe: Most bunk beds are fitted with barriers that ensure the person sleeping on the top bunker won’t accidentally fall off.
  • Extra storage space: There is usually some empty space underneath the bottom bunker or main bed in this kind of arrangement (which can be used to store gear).
  • Fun for kids: Van life bunk beds are especially fun for kids — they let children share an area while still enjoying their own beds.

Cons of Bunk Beds

  • Limited headroom: If you’re sleeping on the top bunker, you may not have much room between the bed and van ceiling.
  • Difficult to build: Bunk beds are difficult to build and install. If you don’t have carpentry experience, you may need to a hire a professional for installation.
  • Uncomfortable: Compared to fixed platform van beds, bunk beds are not the most comfortable sleeping solution.

Who Do Van Bunk Beds Work Well For?

Bunk beds are a great camper van bed idea for families travelling with kids. Since kids are small, they can handle the lack of headroom better than the average adult. These beds are also useful for small van owners looking to conserve space.

3) Convertible Dinette Van Bed

Van Dinette Convertible Bed
@roostvans on IG | Photo

A convertible dinette van bed consists of a van bench, or van seats, that fold into a bed. During the day, van owners will enjoy a small dinette area, complete with a table and seats. At night, the table is removed and placed on the ledges of the seats. The backrest cushions are then placed on top of the table to form a mattress.

Pros of Convertible Dinette Van Beds

Let’s review some advantages of camper van bench seat beds:

  • Multi-functionality: This model lets you enjoy a bed and dining table set-up with just one appliance.
  • Conserves space: With this bed, you don’t need to purchase a separate dining table (which helps save space). However, you will need to find storage space for the bedding/pillows during the day.
  • Lots of headroom: A convertible dinette bed is usually lower than a fixed platform bed, meaning you’ll enjoy a great deal of headroom while sleeping.
  • Encourages productivity: The wooden table that comes with this van bed can be used for doing work, eating meals and playing board games.

Cons of Convertible Dinette Van Beds

Let’s review some cons of campervan folding bed seats:

  • Requires daily set-up: Stripping and converting the dinette van bed every day can be tiresome. Moreover, you can’t enjoy the table and bed simultaneously.
  • Difficult construction: Planning and constructing a convertible dinette van bed is complex, especially if you don’t have carpentry experience.
  • Not very uncomfortable: Since this bed uses sofa cushions as a mattress, it’s not as comfortable or supportive as real beds.

Who Do Convertible Dinette Van Beds Work Well For?

Convertible dinette beds are a popular small van bed idea due to their functionality. They’re a great option for anyone who wants to enjoy multiple furniture items, but doesn’t have the room for both a dining table and a bed.

4) Convertible Couch Bed for Vans

Convertible Dinette Van Bed
@drivepatagonia on IG | Photo

As the name suggests, a convertible van couch bed is a multipurpose bed that folds into a sofa. Most models feature a single couch with a foldable bed inside (which can be extracted by removing the couch cushions). Other types consist of two separate couches facing each other. At night, the backrests of both sofas are folded to form a continuous, flat surface that serves as a bed.

Pros of Convertible Couch Beds

Here are some of the perks of sofa beds for campervans:

  • Multifunctional: With a van folding bed, you can enjoy a comfortable couch area and a van bed through a single furniture item. This helps conserve the limited space in your van.
  • Storage space: Many couch beds offer additional storage space along the undersides. Moreover, the collapsed backrests can generally be used as storage room during the night.
  • Easy to build: Compared to other van conversion beds, sofa beds are fairly easy to install.
  • Lots of headroom: Since this bed is low-lying, you’ll enjoy plenty of headroom while sleeping.

Cons of Convertible Couch Beds

Here are some of the drawbacks of van sofa beds:

  • Must choose between bed and couch: You cannot use the bed and sofa simultaneously (which can be an issue if one person wants to go to bed, but the other doesn’t).
  • Requires daily set-up: Like most convertible van bed solutions, a couch bed requires being disassembled every morning, then pulled back out at night.
  • Not very comfortable: This bed type prioritizes functionality, which means it’s typically not the most comfortable sleeping solution.

Who Do Convertible Couch Van Beds Work Well For?

If you want to enjoy a couch during the day, but don’t have enough space within your van, then a convertible couch camper van bed is an excellent fit. Not only is it highly functional, but it’s also pretty easy for novices to install.

5) Murphy Beds for Vans

Murphy Van Bed
@loveyerland on IG | Photo

A Murphy van bed is a wall-mounted bed that’s folded on its hinges and stored against the wall when not in use. This set-up is designed to save space during the day. In the evening, you can simply pull the bed out from the wall and enjoy a peaceful night of sleep.

Pros of Murphy Van Beds

Pros of Murphy camper van beds include the following:

  • Conserves space: This bed lets you make the most out of your limited space by folding up against the wall.
  • Clean appearance: During the day, the bed is completely hidden away, giving your van a clean, organized look. The underside can even be designed to match the decor of your van.
  • Easy to assemble: Folding and unfolding a Murphy bed is relatively easy and tends to be faster than assembling a sofa bed.

Cons of Murphy Van Beds

Cons of Murphy van life beds include:

  • Hard to build: The initial construction of Murphy beds may be complicated.
  • Consumes wall space: While the bed is great for conserving floor space, it does take up some of your wall space. For instance, you cannot install storage cabinets where the Murphy bed is.
  • Not durable: The repeated folding and unfolding may result in some wear and tear, which shortens the lifespan of Murphy beds.
  • Can be dangerous: If the safety mechanism fails or the bed isn’t handled carefully, an accident may occur.

Who Do Murphy Van Beds Work Well For?

If you want to save as much room as possible, then a Murphy van bed is the way to go. In addition to providing extra floor space, it’s very easy to assemble every night. However, it’s not ideal if you need wall space. It should also not be used with children (due to potential safety hazards).

What if None of These Work For Me? (Simpler Van Bed Options)

While the aforementioned van bed plans will work for most people, you might not be satisfied with any of the options. Most require some sort of construction and installation process, and they can take a chunk of your budget. If you’re trying to save money or just need a quick, temporary sleeping arrangement, try one of these conversion van bed ideas instead.

Hammock

Van Bed Hammock
@duocovery on IG | Photo

Even if you’ve never used a hammock before, you’re probably familiar with the concept. A hammock is essentially a bed that’s made of canvas and suspended from two supports. It provides the following benefits:

  • Inexpensive
  • Easy to set up and dismantle
  • Portable

Hammocks are great sleeping solutions if you’re on a limited budge or are not ready to make a more permanent bed decision.

The Mattress

Van Bed With No Frame
@vinnie_t5mc on IG | Photo

If you want to enjoy the comfort of a mattress, but don’t have the time or budget to worry about construction, consider skipping the camper van bed frame and just sleeping on a mattress. Benefits of this arrangement include the following:

  • Simple set-up
  • Cost-effective
  • Comfortable

To really save space, you should get a folding or inflatable mattress. Whenever it’s not being used, you can just fold it up and store it away.

Which Van Bed Will You Choose?

When it comes to van beds, the possibilities are endless. The perfect bed comes down to your preferences, space and budgetary demands. If you want to save time and maximize comfort, you might opt for a van with a bed platform that comes pre-installed. Conversely, if you need a quick, easy solution, you may be better off with a sofa bed or even a hammock.

Are you still unsure about which bed is right for you? Our team is here to help. Feel free to reach out with any questions!

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