V and I plan to live out of my Mazda pickup truck for about four months while travelling around the western U.S. and Canada beginning in mid-September. We decided to add a sleeping platform to the bed of the truck as a place to store our gear, and to provide a flat comfortable surface to sleep on. I did a ton of research and drew up a basic design. Over Easter weekend, we were lucky to use my dad’s tools, but even more so to receive his experience and suggestions.
We designed the platform to take into account a few general goals:
- Storage: We had been advised by multiple experienced truck campers to limit the amount of gear that needs to be moved each night before going to sleep.
- Organization: With extremely limited space, we wanted to be able to quickly access any given piece of gear.
- Headroom: A common complaint that arose during my research was the lack of space for sitting in bad weather, changing clothes, and comfortably accessing gear in the back of the truck.
Our finished design called for a platform at wheel well height to compromise between storage and headroom. We designed the structure with eight compartments, each with a removable decking panel for easy access. We covered the decking panels with carpet to make it more comfortable, and to allow for a more snug fit. Finally, per a friend’s suggestion we added a layer of carpeting below the structure to prevent road vibrations and keep us insulated while we sleep.
We began by cutting 2x8s to the proper sizes and assembling them with deck screws into a grid pattern to produce both the support structure and storage compartments. The structure was positioned on top of the corrugations in the truck bed, and perfectly lined up with the small shelf that Mazda formed into the sides of my truck bed. We decided to use both the wooden structure and this existing shelf to support the decking panels.
Since we designed our panels to be generally rectangular, it was easy to measure the spans across each support and cut our panels accordingly. While we cut the panels with simple shapes, my Dad was able to make a cardboard model of the curved panel that would abut the wheel well. We traced this guide onto wood and with a couple of follow-up cuts, were able to create a panel with a snug fit.
We cut carpeting to match our panel shapes, but scaled up an additional three inches on each edge for attachment. We then used spray adhesive to adhere the carpet cutouts to the panels. Finally we wrapped the additional three inches around to the backside of the panels and attached them with more spray adhesive and heavy duty staples.
When we got home we attached the camper shell and bike rack, making our new home almost complete. Still to go: curtains and Velcro accessories – stay tuned!
The project took a couple of long days to complete, but the platform came out exactly as we envisioned. We have organized all of our gear by grouping each compartment by activity, and everything but a cooler and a tupperware full of firewood fit under the platform. These two items will be removed for use most nights anyway, so we feel like minimal hassle will be required before crawling into bed. The wheel-well height platform is lower than most other builds that I have seen, and provides enough headroom to lounge comfortably for an extended time in the event of bad weather.