Van Life Here I Come

Well, that title might be overstating it a bit but, I just checked another item off that retirement “to do” list; building a platform in the back of my Rav4 to accommodate sleeping and extra storage.

It was a pretty easy process, really didn’t cost that much and I’m very happy I did it.

Photo looking into back of small van at installed platform.
The back of the platform, with one cover moved aside. You can also see the Allen wrenches used at the top, in the front section.

Essentially I built a frame with 2 x 6s, cut some sheets of wood in the appropriate size, put them on top and viola, err, voila, done!


The overall size is 42 inches wide and 65 inches long. I’m six-foot tall so it is short but curling up a bit, maybe laying at an angle and I can easily sleep back there.


That’s not something I plan on doing a lot. I’m really not joining the van life crowd. It will be great though if I decide to just camp out for a night on a road trip and don’t want to take the time to set up a tent.


I’m also thinking it will be great when I go to places like Codfish Hollow outside Maquoketa for a performance, where they allow camping in the nearby field. By the way, if you’ve never been to Codfish Hollow, you owe it to yourself to do so.


Even if I never sleep back there, having the additional storage space is going to be great. The panels easily lift up so I can store a lot of stuff away under there.


For those who want details:

Photo of platform built inside a small van.
Taking a peek in from the side.

I constructed it in two sections. The front section is on top of the folded down back seat. The seat doesn’t fold perfectly flat, making it difficult to create the platform in one long piece plus, having two sections makes it easier to remove the platform, especially the back half that sits over the top of the spare tire.


As mentioned above, both sections are 42 inches wide. The front section is 32½ inches long and the back section is 31½.


The panels on the front section overhang the actual platform by an inch-and-a-half. That’s so the platform can sit behind the seat head rests and the extra length extends over the top of the rests, giving me a little extra length.


Also on the front section, I put a strip of quarter inch plywood on the edge of the framing that faces the back of the vehicle. This keeps the panels on top from sliding to the back. I drilled holes in the top edge and stuck a couple of random Allen wrenches I’ve acquired over time into the holes. They’ll be easy to pull up and out when I need to remove the panels.

Photo of platform in back of Toyota Rav4 covered by sleeping bag.
Sleeping in the back will be tight but it's totally doable.

For the bottom section I used the quarter inch plywood around three sides of the platform to keep those panels from sliding. I’m not fastening them down in any other way, trusting they won’t slide with three sides already blocked. If that doesn’t work. I’ll probably use a couple of Allen wrenches in those as well.


The front platform is in a basic H form, providing access from the side, and the back is an E form so that it is open to the back of the vehicle.


That’s it. I seldom use the back seats for passengers and can easily pull the platform out when I do. I just have to plan for it in advance. For now, I’m going to leave the platform in place.


Now I just have to figure out what goes where in those storage sections. Fun problem to have.


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Never saying,
"I wish I had"

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