My entire approach to outfitting the family for adventures can be expressed by the mantra “minimizing the schlep”. In line with that, we celebrated the 4th of July by finally trying to put together the bed/storage platform for the van. The end goal is to have two sleep in the van and two sleep on top in a tent for an easy sleep set up for long road trips. Many google searches, build threads, trips to the hardware store, and minor marital squabbles later, we have come up with a system that I think will meet our needs. They are:
1. This is a daily driver and we have two kids in car seats, so the bed has to allow for that and must be easily removable.
2. We don’t want to have to remove the car seats to set up the bed.
3. Must allow for easy access to gear.
4. Must be something I can put in the van myself (with a baby and a toddler “assisting”) because I often pack the car for camping trips while my the man is at work.
5. We wanted something modular, so we can keep some of our gear organized in the van for quick day trips without having to pack. (Raft, fishing gear, small grill, etc).
6. Minimal carpentry because ain’t nobody with two small children got time for that.
It is not sophisticated, but after mulling over many alternatives, we decided to err on the side of extreme simplicity.
We bought three pre-glued panels of aspen (more expensive than plywood, but also more attractive and less formaldehyde); and a bunch of 1/2 “x 12” threaded plumbing nipples and floor flanges (can be steel or pvc); and rubber caps. The flanges are screwed into the panels and this enables us to have removeable legs for easy stacking for transport.
Now we can use one as just a shelf for the cargo area for day to day use, and throw the two remaining hinged together panels, which form a 48×48″ square, in the van when we are ready for or a trip. We are going to attach the panels with slide bolts on the edges to make a sturdy platform. This is also beautiful because the single panel is the perfect table height for our low camping chairs if removed from the van. If it stays in the van, it provides a surface at a convenient height for cooking or changing diapers. (Not at the same time)
We spent a couple of days camping this weekend and our setup performed beautifully. Our companions admired our organization and I slept like a baby with the baby inside the van. (Inspite of a bunch of drunk archers roaming the campsite for an archery convention). Double plus bonus for the modular set up because we had an extra unexpected passenger on the way home. I unscrewed the legs off the center panel and back panels and stacked the remaining panel on top of those two. This enabled me to pull up the single stow and go seat, store something in the newly opened up cargo space, and then put my shelving on top of that, retaining the organization afforded by the shelving while seating my third row passenger comfortably enough for him to take a long nap on the way home.