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Renovating a Pre-RV Vehicle? Don’t Forget the Bed



Directly adjacent to the trendy van-life movement is the revitalization of Airstreams and VW camper vans. You can relive the ‘70’s and keep up with the times all at once. We love a good vehicle-to-living-space makeover; tiny house movement, anyone? Whether it’s about sustainability or the fact that not many of us can afford mortgages anymore, building a little home on wheels is a labor of love. It’s also just fun. How do you tetris everything you need into such a small space?


How do you take advantage of the vehicle’s previous layout while improving it with modern amenities? Things are a little simpler with RV’s, because they can get to be bigger than some Manhattan apartments. But with Airstreams and VW vans, it’s a bit different. And one of the hardest things to find a solution for? – The sleeping space.


The beds standard in Airstream and VW camper van models are… not cute. You’ll wake up achy and stiff for sure. They weren’t comfy when the vehicle was made, and they’re definitely not comfy 50 years later. And since it’s such a small space, an Airstream bed or van mattress should be super comfy. It’s likely your couch and your bed. And in some models, if you fold it, it’s also your dining room booth. That Airstream mattress has a lot of work to do – so make sure you track down the best place to make the mattress for your van or trailer bed. You’ll be glad you did. We’ve got some suggestions for optimizing your space and your sleep with a custom mattress specifically made to fit your vehicle.


How to Create the Perfect Custom Mattress for Your Airstream or Van


Like we said – there are several details that need to come together if you want the smartest and most comfortable bed for your Airstream or VW van. And there is no one-size-fits-all rule for Airstream beds and camper van beds; just like cars, Airstream and VW changed up their models nearly every year. The van bed in a ’68 VW camper is not at all the same as the bed in a ’78 VW van.


Same with Airstream beds. About the only thing you can count on with all these beds is that the mattress is a sad and worn-out foam, and it’s likely only a few inches thick. Good news is, custom mattress makers have got you covered. No, really! There are mattress manufacturers that specialize specifically in bespoke, custom-sized mattresses for any space. Beds in horse trailers, boats, yachts, RV’s and more – find the right company and getting quality sleep on a luxury mattress in your Airstream is just as easy as picking out a Queen mattress at a standard mattress store.


Here are 6 things to think about to make your camper van or Airstream bed the best it can be:


1. Choose a custom foam or memory foam mattress for your Airstream or VW van.

Quality CustomFoam, memory foam, or even latex, are all great at retaining their shape and providing an ergonomic sleep. And they don’t need to be 13” thick to do it. I mean, they can be 13” thick, but if you don’t have the space for it, you only need 6” or so to get a good night sleep if your van bed is made of top-notch memory foam.


2. Consider a custom hinged mattress.

Airstreams and VW campers are limited on space, and if you’re trying to fit a full-size mattress in there, you’ll realize pretty quickly you’ve got little-to-no space left. That’s not going to work. However, having a hinged van mattress made for your Airstream or VW bus can change all of that. Fold it up during the day time and voila – a couch! Bonus points if you also build the van bed’s frame to fold up into a bench during the day… but you might need a friend who’s handy with carpentry to help you with that one.


3. Balance headroom and storage space.

Platform beds in vehicles are a great idea if you want to maximize storage space without sacrificing sleeping space. However, remember that Airstreams and camper vans don’t have a lot of ceiling clearance. Make sure that your Airstream mattress thickness + bed platform height is not so much that you’ll rack your head on the ceiling when you wake up in the morning; that’s no fun.


4. Bunk beds!

As the old Step Brothers adage goes, “It’ll give us so much extra space in our room to do activities!” Admittedly, you’re not going to fit bunk beds in a VW bus and have a bunch of headroom on the top bunk. But, hey – that’s kind of the vibe of bunk beds anyway. Plus, it makes the sleep space in the Airstream or camper van more versatile. Maybe the bottom bunk is a dedicated couch. Or maybe you like to travel with friends but aren’t into sharing a bed. People kick. People snore. Not everyone has compatible sleeping habits. Or, you could just make a “top” bunk to create a loft bed in your trailer. Then you have a lot of open space underneath for a desk, couch, countertops – anything, really.


5. A sleep solution for small spaces that screams retro is a Murphy bed.

Add cabinets and a mattress to your Airstream all at once. Fold the mattress up during the day and maximize open space, and let it down at night and maximize sleeping space. It’s the best of both worlds, and it’s a nod to the classic mid-century-modern Murphy beds you seen in houses.


6. Dining table beds are pretty common in RV’s, Airstreams and VW buses alike.

You can easily convert a sleep space to a living space to a dining space by simply folding the van mattress and sliding or unfolding a table surface.


These aren’t the only ways you can get a great night’s sleep on your Airstream or VW van bed – not by a long shot. Since custom mattress makers can make almost any kind of vehicle mattress nowadays, your options are only limited by your creativity. Poke around the web – it’s chocked full of blogs about people who’ve redone their vans, campers, buses, trailers and Airstreams, and some of them have some pretty wild ideas that totally made their space.


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