This page covers the design and build for the beds/storage compartments for our RAM ProMaster camper van conversion.
We went with a bunk on each side of the van which also provides a seating area for eating etc. The bunk platform tops hinge up to provide most of the storage fro the van and a home for the house battery/electronics and fresh water tank.
We had a double size 5 inch thick futon mattress cut into the two sizes we needed for the van, and had covers made from fabric that we ordered online by a local seamstress. The bunks are 25 inches wide with the longer one being 73 inches long.
Bed platforms with mattresses.
After looking at a lot of potential layouts and mocking up several, we decided on a van layout with two beds at the back of the van like this:
The bed platforms each provide a flat place for a mattress and also provide most of the van storage and a place to mount water tank, batteries, and the propane tank.
The finished bed platforms look like this:
Note that some changes were made in the beds after the first trip which don’t show in the pictures above, but are explained below.
The bed platforms store heavy stuff like batteries and water tanks, and we don’t want those coming loose in the case of an accident, so they are heavily built and are well anchored through the van floor.
The bed platforms are constructed from Medium Density Overlay plywood (MDO) because it is strong, flat, and has nice smooth face sheets that take paint well. I’ve used this on many projects and really like it for its strength, stability, and weather resistance (its used for freeway signs). It is more expensive that most plywood, but to my mind well worth the extra expense.
Building the Driver side bed:
The driver side bed has the electrical system (including two golf cart batteries) stored in its forward end and the propane tank compartment in its aft end. The part between these two is storage that is accessed via a hinged lid.
Propane tank compartment end:
The propane tank is stored in a sealed compartment at the aft end of the driver side bunk. The compartment is sealed and is vented to the outside through the floor. Its also very sturdy so as not to come loose in a crash.
Forward end with battery compartment:
The electronics and house battery are stored in the forward end of the drivers side bunk platform. The battery compartment is pretty well sealed and will be vented to the outside to vent hydrogen from the charging process outside (have not done this yet).
More details on the battery and electronics installation…
The basic bed structure was built in the shop and then moved into the van and bolted down. There are a set of through the floor bolts at the battery end, and another set at the propane tank end.
Building the Passenger Side Bed:
The passenger side bed houses the fresh water tank at its forward end. The part aft of the water tank is dedicated to storage that is accessed via a hinged lid.
Bolting beds to floor
Due to the heavy items in this bed platform, it is bolted to the floor in several locations.
Looking down and forward at the electronics area of the bed platform. The three bolts (and a couple on the other side in the battery area) go through the floor to secure the bed platform (and batteries/electronics/propane tank) in place.
Still working out what kind of latch to use for the storage compartment lids.
Note: see the “after first trip” changes below to the hinge location on the lids.
Fresh Water Tank:
The fresh water tank is located in the forward part of the passenger side bed platform. To fill the tank, the PVC cap (in picture) is removed and a short potable water rated garden hose is used to fill the tank.
Changes After First Trip
After our first trip, we made some changes to the beds …
The passenger side mattress had nothing to stop forward motion when braking the van. We added a stop board at the front to keep it in place:
I initially located the piano hinges for the lids about 3 inches from the wall. This made it hard to open the lids without removing the mattress, which is a pain. I moved the hinge out so that it was a little further from the wall than the thickness of the mattress (about 6 inches) — with this setup, the lid opens easily with the mattress in place and the mattress just sits on the ledge between the wall and the hing.
We found that having to open the bed platform lids to reach nearly all of our storage was a hassle. There are usually a few thinks on the bunks that have to be removed first and this just gets to be a nuisance.
We decided to add some access hatches to part of the area in the bed platforms so that you can get at a few things that are needed frequently without having to lift the lids.
The forward opening can accommodate a carry bag and the aft one is good for a laptop and a book etc.
I’ll put our thoughts on the galley table here since the table fits between the two bunks — its used mostly for eating meals.
We initially tried a standard sort of RV pedestal table that fits in a socket in the floor, but can easily be removed when not in use. It looked like this:
I just made it out of half inch plywood and covered the top with some of the laminate that was left over from the galley counter. It has a ledge around the edge to keep things from sliding off. Its supported by an RV pedestal and socket kit that you can buy from many of the RV supply places. When not in use, you pull the table of of the socket and stow the pole and the table top away.
This worked “OK”, but we found that when it was up, it was always in the way. In addition, stowing away the table top and pedestal uses up some storage space.
What we are going to try next trip is just to have a couple of flat trays that you can just put on your lap. The will be flat enough to just stow under the mattresses when not in use.
Not sure how this is going to work — it may turn out that some form of fold up legs under the tray will be needed — these legs would rest on the mattress. Will report on how it works out.
Between Bed Shelf
After a few trips, we decided to add a shelf between the beds and right in front of the back doors. This holds odds and ends at night (like a book). It also provides a space to store the dog bag and other odds and ends under the shelf.
The shelf slides in from the back (with back doors open) and can be removed in just a few seconds to allow carrying things like sheets of plywood.
Night Time Head of Bed Storage
We needed a place to store a few odds and ends like watch, glasses, flashlight, bear spray, … at the head of the beds so that they are easy to find in the middle of the night.
We ended up taking off the black plastic thing that RAM installs in the back two corners of the van just outboard of the back doors. This exposes some nice cubby holes that are just the right size for storing a few small odds and ends. We replaced the plastic with a wood panel with holes in it to access the cubby holes.
The wood panel is made from the same Hickory flooring used for the galley cabinet. It is planned down to reduce the thickness, and then a couple pieces are edge glued together to make a wide enough sheet. The edges and openings are then rounded over with a router. It is held in place with some #14 stainless steel sheet metal screws that go into the metal behind the panel. I might add a small batten across the bottom of each opening to keep stuff from falling out, although this has not been a problem so far.
Cost, Weight and Time
These are estimated cost, weight and labor for the beds.
|Item||Cost ($)||Weight (lb)|
|Bed MDO||$108||137 lb|
|Piano hinges (2)||$16||8 lbs?|
|Bolts and fasteners||$10?||5 lbs?|
|Paint||$15||5 lb (aprox 1/2 gallon)|
I worked on the beds over a long time period while also working on other things, so don’t have a precise idea how much time they took — say 3 full days. If I had to make a guess:
Cutting out and gluing up the bed platform bases — 1.5 days
Installing and bolting down and detail fitting — 1 day
Installing hinged lids and fixed covers — 1 day
Here some rough dimensions for the passenger side bunk.
This is a view looking down on the passenger side bunk with some rough dimensions. The middle (19 inch) section hinges up at the piano hinge to provide access to storage under the bunk. The 6 inch board just above it needs to be about as wide as the mattress is thick so the mattress can fold against the wall when the lid is open. The front part of the bunk top (15 3/4 inches) covers the water tank, and the back fixed piece covers the shore power extension cord. These top of bunk pieces are 1/2 inch MDO plywood, the rest of the bunk platform is made from 3/4 inch MDO.
This is a view looking outboard from the aisle between the two bunks. The two “open cubbys” provide quick access to some of the space under the bunk without opening the lid. The area aft of the aft “vertical divider” holds the shore power cord.
The driver side bunk is shorter, so the dimensions are not the same (but could be if you have two tall people).
These dimensioned sketches do not show all of the parts, but just give some of the key dimensions of our setup. Building a mockup in your van is always a very good thing to do to make sure the beds will fit your needs.
November 30, 2014, June 21, 2015