my Honda CR-V camper setup
This is a simple camper setup for a 2007 Honda CR-V that allows for leaving the back seats in. Instead of building a platform for the bed, I use two plastic bins and a board for support.
This year, I decided to branch out and try another form of camping: in my vehicle! I’m planning to do a lot of camping over the winter when it’s cold and rainy or when I’d rather not be in a tent.
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. After watching quite a few YouTube videos on how to convert a SUV into a camper, I found a setup that didn’t use a full platform. Since I plan on being the only person sleeping in it, I don’t need space for two people and the setup shown in the video was exactly what I was hoping to do in my car.
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. I had planned on hiring someone to build a platform to fit over the seats when folded down, but I found a simpler (and much cheaper) method using a 25″ x 72″ board and two plastic bins.
To setup the bed platform, I move the front passenger seat forward as far as it goes to make room for the length of the bed platform. Then I fold down the middle and right back seats and slide them forward using the adjustor bar under the seats. The folded-down back seats become part of the bed platform, with two plastic bins placed behind the seats for the rest of the bed support. 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.
On top of the folded seats and the bins, I placed a board (25″ wide by 72″ long) that I formerly used as a desktop. 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.
When the seats are folded, they are angled and higher at the front. My bins aren’t the same height as the folded seats, so I use a moving blanket folded to create a flat and stable surface under the board. As long as I don’t put too much weight at the top of the board, it hasn’t needed additional support under it where it hangs past the seats. Someone much taller than me (I’m 5’1″) might find that they need support under the top section. If so, staking a couple of 2×4 boards under it could work.
For the ultimate in comfort while sleeping, I use a 4″ thick self-inflating foam mattress: the UST Gear Fillmatic Sleeping Mat. With an R-value of 6, this mattress helps me stay super warm at night. I like not having to blow it up, and I don’t worry about punctures like I would if using my backpacking air mattress. I also like the outer fabric… it feels durable but it’s also soft and feels similar to a flannel sheet. Since the board has hinges on the top, I use a thin foam pad under the mattress to protect it.
Sleeping Bags & Pillow
For cold weather trips (which is when I primarily plan to use this camper), I use two sleeping bags for warmth. I don’t want to rely on using the car’s heater to stay warm, so I’d rather bundle up. I’m used to cold nights on backpacking trips – and I find that sleeping in my car is much warmer than in a tent.
To double up the sleeping bags, I use a large rectangular synthetic sleeping bag on the outside and place a down backpacking quilt inside it. See my review of the Outdoor Vitals StormLoft Quilt.
My favorite pillow for camping, whether in a tent or in my car, is the Therm-a-Rest Compressible Pillow. I have a medium-size and love how cushy it is while still providing support when I sleep on my side.
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 with out 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 from HeatShield. 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.
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.
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 UST Gear Spright 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.
I add two Big Agnes MtnGlo tent light strings for soft light throughout the interior space. I love the fairy light ambiance that they provide. These lights can be powered via 3 AAA batteries, or by plugging into a USB power bank device. I hung them using Command hooks, although I need to replace the tiny versions I used with larger hooks.
Back Seat Lounger
The back seat ‘lounger’ is one of my favorite features of my camper. I use it to get in out of the bed, and it gives me a place to sit up and relax inside. 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. 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.
To hang jackets and hats, I installed large Command hooks in several places.
Since my platform utilizes two plastic bins, I keep most of my gear in them, and use the space in the front seats and floor areas to store extra items like my backpack and camera gear. Larger items such as my cooler and water container fit in the space behind the back seat.
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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