My Honda CR-V Camper Setup

During colder and rainy weather, I turn to my Honda CR-V for camping adventures. This one-person setup is easy to install without removing any of the car seats.

Video showing my full setup

Planning the setup

This is our only vehicle, so I was looking for a camping setup that is simple and easy to install – and just as easy to remove. And since I’m the only person sleeping in it, I don’t need a full platform, preferring a single bed platform so there’s more space for gear inside.

my Honda CR-V camper setup - 2021 updates

Simple DIY bed platform

The seats in older model CR-Vs don’t fold down flat, and since I didn’t want the hassle of taking them out and storing them, I needed to figure out how to keep them in and still have a bed platform. For the top of the platform, I used a 25″ x 72″ board. To make it easier to to get the board in and out of the car (and for storage), I cut the board into three pieces and added hinges to allow it to fold accordion-style. This also allows me to raise up the top board section to access gear under it.

my Honda CR-V camper setup

This is what my Honda CR-V looks like before setup for camping

To make space for the bed platform, I move the front passenger seat forward as far as it goes. Then I fold down the middle and right back seats, which go under the bed platform. I leave the left back seat up and slide it back as far as it will go. This provides an easy way to get in and of the bed, as well as a place to sit inside. For more leg room, move the driver seat forward.

adding hinges to the board

my Honda CR-V camper setup - 2021 updates

the bed platform with legs

Since the bed platform sections fold over on top of each other, we could only attach legs permanently to one of the boards, so we did this on the back section. For the other two sections, we drilled holes into the platform board and into 2×4 boards placed under it for support legs and put drop pins (which are just bolts without washers) in them. The bolts hold it together but can be taken out easily for storing the platform when I’m not using it.

SUV camper platform

Canopy

camping kitchen gear

Kelty Sideroads Car Awning: I added a canopy to my SUV camper setup so I’d have a place to be out of the rain when cooking. This canopy sets up similar to a tent using a lightweight fabric and poles, and it can be attached to the back or the side of a vehicle. I like placing it on the side where I get in and out of my vehicle when camping in it. Learn more about the canopy in this review.

View at REI

Sleep Setup

Mattress

SUV camper mattress

UST Fillmatic Sleeping Mat: this 4″ thick self-inflating foam mattress is the ultimate in comfort. With an R-value of 6, it’s rated high for warmth and is great for camping during colder weather. The self-inflation feature means I don’t have to blow it up. The outer fabric of the mattress is softer than a typical air mattress, with a feel similar to a flannel sheet. And while this mattress seems quite durable, my platform board has hinges on the top so I place a yoga mat under the mattress for protection.

View at UST Gear

Sleeping Bag & Pillow

SUV camper sleep system

Zenbivy Bed: this innovative quilt and sheet combination makes sleeping on camping trips a more comfortable experience than when using a traditional sleeping bag. I toss and turn a lot when I sleep, and don’t like feeling constricted by a mummy bag, while rectangular bags tend to let in drafts and make me cold. The Zenbivy gives me plenty of room to move around inside – and the top acts more like a blanket that can be tucked in or folded down. The setup includes a sheet for a mattress, and the sheet has “wings” that zip to the quilt to prevent drafts. The sheet also includes an extra-large hood for holding a pillow in place. For more info, see my full review of the Zenbivy Bed.

View at Zenbivy

Therm-a-Rest Compressible Pillow: My favorite pillow for camping, whether in a tent or in my car, is a compressible foam pillow from Therm-a-Rest. I have a medium-size and love how cushy it is while still providing support when I sleep on my side. The ZenBivy Bed has an oversized hood that the pillow fits inside, and a full length sheet to cover the mattress.

View at Therm-a-Rest   View at REI

Window Coverings

my Honda CR-V camper setup

Heatshield Window Coverings: For me, one of the most important items in my camper setup are the window coverings… I wouldn’t want to sleep in my car without them. Not only do they provide privacy, they add a thermal layer on the windows to help retain heat. I found window coverings that are two-sided and custom-fit for the model of my car. One side is black and the other is reflective gold. For use in cold weather, place the black side out and while the sun is out, it will help warm the interior. The reflective side helps to retain heat inside the vehicle. In warmer weather, place the reflective side facing out to keep the interior cooler. The coverings are sized so you can press them into the window frame to stay put, although mine also come with suction cups to keep them in place.

View at Heatshield

Since condensation can build up inside overnight, I use a window screen over one of the passenger windows so I can keep it open partway while keeping bugs out.

Lighting

SUV camper lighting

UST Gear Spright Solar Lantern: Instead of using my car’s interior lights and risk running down the car battery, I prefer to use a solar lantern and two light strings for lighting. I hang a solar lantern from the back seat grab bar. This LED lantern has four modes of light: high (120 lumens), low (50 lumens), amber nightlight, and amber candlelight flicker mode, and can be charged via solar or USB. The silicone globe collapses into the base to take up less space.

View at UST Gear

Big Agnes MtnGlo string lights

Big Agnes MtnGlo tent light strings: I add two light strings for soft light throughout the interior space. I love the fairy light ambiance that they provide. The lights I use can be powered via 3 AAA batteries, or by plugging into a USB power bank device. I hung them using Command hooks made for light strings.

View at REI

Back Seat Lounger

SUV camper lounger

Since my setup uses a single bed platform, I can use one of the backseats as a lounger – one of my favorite features of my camper. I use it to get in and out of the bed, and it gives me a place to sit up and relax inside. On my first trip, the lounger came in handy when it was dark and raining and I sat inside journaling and then watched a movie before going to bed.

back seat organizer

Tsumbay Car Backseat Organizer: I added a backseat organizer with multiple pockets and a tray to the back of the driver seat – good for keeping all of those easy-to-lose items like car keys, eyeglasses, or a smartphone.

View at Amazon

Camp Chair

REI Camp Dreamer Chair

REI Flexlite Camp Dreamer Chair: More comfortable than a typical camp chair, the Camp Dreamer has some flexibility with movement and a shape that cradles your body like a hammock. Two slot pockets on the sides are handy for holding small items like phones or car keys.

View at REI

Gear organization

Space is limited when camping in a vehicle, so it helps to keep the gear you take organized for easy loading and unloading.

REI Pack-away Bin

REI Pack-Away Bin: this 150-liter soft-sided bin holds a ton of gear – and it fits under my bed platform. When it’s not being used, it packs down small for storing. Grab handles on every side make it easy to carry and place in my vehicle.

View at REI

REI Pack-Away Adjustable Cube 25L: this bin includes two dividers that can be placed wherever you need them – perfect for keeping small items organized. The zippered mesh top allows for seeing the contents inside without needing to open it.

View at REI

Kitchen Bin

SUV camp kitchen bin

For a full list of what’s in my kitchen bin, see the post: Kitchen Gear for SUV Camping.

Additional storage space

I stash extra items in the floorboards and front seat for items such as my backpack and camera gear.

my Honda CR-V camper setup

front passenger seat storage

SUV camper storage

additional storage in back floorboard

Overall, I’m very happy with how my SUV camper turned out. I like having an option for camping in inclement and cold weather, and I love how easy it is to load and unload for quick adventures.

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