Van Camping: Finding the Perfect Mattress

 

Are you looking for van camping mattress ideas? If so, you’re in the right place.

One of the most important aspects of sleeping in a vehicle is being comfortable. We truck camped on and off for years and our bedding situation, an egg crate foam with extra blankets, did not cut it for long-term.

It isn’t horribly uncomfortable, just something you don’t want to sleep on night after night. My max was about three nights.

Now that we are turning our minivan into a campervan, it’s time to get serious about our sleeping arrangements. Never underestimate the importance of a good night’s sleep! And don’t miss a video tour of our Pacifica conversion with an installed fridge and microwave.

 

Now let’s find the best van mattress…

Disclaimer: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. Some of the links included in this post are affiliate links and will provide me with a commission at no additional cost to you.

What about an Air Mattress?

We had two things in mind when choosing a mattress for van conversion, it should provide: comfort and simplicity.

Our first thought was an air mattress. But when it comes down to it, they aren’t that comfortable and take up a lot of space when blown up.

In order for us to have extra room in the back when driving around, we would have to inflate and deflate every day. Sounds like a nuisance to me so the air mattress was out. 

RELATED POST: Why We Chose a Campervan as our Next Travel Vehicle

Are you turning your truck or van into a camper? Your first priority should be comfortable sleeping arrangements. Here is the perfect van camping mattress!


What about a Build-a-Bed?

If you search on the web or Pinterest for cool campervans, you will be sure to find many different over-the-top examples of campervan mattress ideas.

There are some really awesome layouts out there but take a lot of extra work.

Building a bed frame with storage underneath is one of those ideas. We thought about this layout but ultimately decided against it as it is permanent, takes up space, and takes a lot more work than we are willing to do.

We are also focused on simplicity remember!

So what kind did we decide is the best van camping mattress? 

SEE BELOW FOR THE UPDATE VIDEO TOUR OF THE VAN!

The Perfect Van Mattress

We searched the internet high and low looking for our best available options. And we found it!

Our final choice is two tri-folding foam mattresses with ultra-soft removable covers and non-slip bottoms side by side. In order to get the best fit for our Chrysler Pacifica, we chose two separate campervan folding mattresses instead of one. 

It also gives us the opportunity to use one folding mattress for the van if we go on any solo trips in the future. If you are serious about turning your van into a travel vehicle, check out our other article on MUST-HAVE VAN ESSENTIALS

Are you turning your truck or van into a camper? Your first priority should be comfortable sleeping arrangements. Here is the perfect van camping mattress!
Campervan mattress ideas: A tri-fold mattress folds up to allow room behind the main seats.

READ NEXT: DIY BATHROOM SET UP FOR VAN CAMPING

Pros and Cons of a Foam Mattress

The downside to a foam mattress? The cost. Plain and simple.

It is not the cheapest option, but we decided when we ultimately made the big decision to buy a minivan versus an RV or trailer that we were not going to skimp on the important stuff. And comfort while sleeping is probably THE most important aspect.

The upside of a foam mattress? It is SO comfortable. It is 4 inches of pure foam bliss. I cannot wait to sleep on this thing. Yes, I am actually looking forward to sleeping in our van! Sounds a little crazy but it’s true.

*Update: We have been on multiple extended camping trips and these mattresses are extremely comfortable. The longest we camped in a row is 15 days and the mattress works great. The only reason we were looking for a hotel room after that was for some space as we had bad weather on that particular trip.*

The campervan folding mattress is also a huge benefit. It easily folds up in seconds, leaving us with our space for when we want to set up our tables and chairs on a rainy day or at night when we want to be inside relaxing.

What size mattress fits in a minivan? There are a few minivans that have the capability to fit a full-size mattress which is 53 inches wide and 75 inches long.

The Dodge Grand Caravan, Chrysler Pacifica, Toyota Sienna, Honda Odyssey, and the Kia Sedona can typically accommodate a full-size mattress if the third-row seats are taken out and the mattress is bent a little. But every van is different so your best bet is to measure the space.

In the fully flat position, the folding mattress we picked out measures 75in.x25in.x4in. so we have enough room to extend our feet all the way out. Times two, it’s a little smaller in width than one full size which fits perfectly in the Pacifica. Make a note though, if you are over six feet tall this may be an issue. Neither of us has that to worry about though!

Best Sprinter Van Mattress

Are you turning your truck or van into a camper? Your first priority should be comfortable sleeping arrangements. Here is the perfect van camping mattress!
Comfy. Comfy.

Where You can Purchase the Perfect Van Camping Mattress

We bought our two Milliard Tri-Folding Mattresses on Amazon.com and they were eligible for FREE shipping.

If you purchase the mattresses for your van, make sure to also buy a waterproof breathable mattress cover as well.

Turning our minivan into a campervan is an ongoing process so stay tuned for more information on the conversion!

 

Would you ever van camp? Tell us in the comments below!

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All the best van camping accessories to make your life on the road easier. If you are thinking about converting a van or car, check these out! #vanlife #campervan #gear

 

39 Responses

  1. Lara Dunning

    My hubs has been fixing up an old Ford van and we plan to camp in it. We haven’t gotten to the “fix up the inside stage” but we will soon. Thanks for the tip on the mattress! I love how it folds up and saves space.

    • Dang Travelers

      Exciting! And out west by you will be perfect for stealth camping. We met a lot of people when we were in Washington that didn’t even bat an eyelash when we talked about it. Here near the city we get a lot of confused looks 😊

  2. Paul

    We would love to van camp some day, it sounds like it would be an amazing adventure! These mattresses really do look comfy, it definitely seems worth the outlay for a good nights sleep!

  3. Kaylene

    Wow, the foam mattress looks really comfortable! My boyfriend and I would love to van camp sometime (just gotta get a van first! haha). We just did a 2.5 week road trip and thought how convenient it would be to van camp.

  4. Eric || The Bucket List Project

    So is the plan to use the matress when folded up as a seat while driving because I am curious how you added seat belts.
    Love the concept though. I would have started with cost effective options first (Darcee would say the word is cheap) but to be honest you are making an investment and a good foam mattress sounds like it works great and offers you the best comfort.

    • Dang Travelers

      No, we won’t be using them as seats ever. The seats that came with the van automatically fold in the floor so when or if we need to use them they pop right up. Also, we have traveled long enough to know cheap is not always the best option especially when it has to do with quality sleep. In my opinion, sleeping in my car alone is dropping our day-to-day lodging costs enough. No need to skimp on the mattress.

  5. Corinne

    I agree those mattresses are wonderful and comfy. We used to sleep on them all the time. Perfect for the van.

  6. Dave (Silverbackpacker)

    Mattresses are so important for a good nights sleep. Its great that you thought of a folding one to save space during the day. Have you thought about taking along a couple of hammocks too.?

  7. Kerri

    Interesting to see this fold out foam. Looks like you are having a great time kitting out your vehicle. We’ve just bought a camper ourselves so are having plenty of fun sprucing it up a bit. The bed looks super comfy.

  8. Dave

    I’ve got an old Dodge B350 one-tone 15 passenger van I’m converting. I had a twin frame & mattress, lengthwise along the driver’s side wall, but it took up too much space. The frame will fir crossways just fine, with about 5″ to spare, but the mattress is about 7″ too long. I know there are mattresses out there that are 68″ long, more or less, but just try to find one.

  9. jeff phillips

    I have a pacifica and the space between the back of the from the seats to the cargo area ( with seats in floor) is a bit over 60 inches. How do you fit a 72″ mattress in that area ? Do you have the front seats moved all the way forward ?

    • Dang Travelers

      What year is your Pacifica? Ours is a 2017 minivan. We have the 2nd row seats in the floor, 3rd row seats removed with the front seats moved up BUT also a cabinet in the back at our feet that takes up space as well. We have at least 8 feet in the back.

  10. jeff

    i too have a 2017 and i dohave 8 feet behind the front seat, but that includes th cargo area ( where your fridge is). there is onle about 72 in if you discount the cargo area.

    • Dang Travelers

      Hey Jeff. The 72 inch mattress fits perfectly with the front seats moved forward. The space is about 74 inches so it spreads all the way out. We don’t use the van for travel full-time so we wanted something that we could easily remove and fold up when driving around. Here’s the link to my video if you want to see it pulled out. We are making a few minor changes to the electrical for the fridge and adding some things this summer so I will be putting out a new one soon. I’ll show the mattress from the folded up position as well. https://youtu.be/G7qqPp_-yDs

  11. Mary

    So how do you like the Pacifica…reliability and driving comfort?
    Mary

  12. Marlys

    We’re just getting started with our campervan experience. Did you do anything about the sloping floor to level out your bed surface?

    • Dang Travelers

      We didn’t. We lay with our heads behind the front seats and we don’t really notice it. We talked about it before we slept a few nights but since it doesn’t bother us, we are going to leave it be.

  13. Rhonda

    How do you handle the uneven floor of the van? In the pic above your feet are clearly higher than your head. Certainly THAT is not comfortable???

    • Dang Travelers

      We were going to buy padding to put underneath to level it out but we found it is such a small elevation, it doesn’t bother either of us.

  14. Wendy

    Can you remove the second row seats? You could then use that space for storage. Wonder if that is an option when you’re traveling. We are also thinking about the Pacifica as a camper van.

    • Dang Travelers

      Hi Wendy. Yes, you can remove them but we choose to keep them stowed away instead. It could potentially be more storage if you’d like.

  15. Dan

    If you have the mentioned mattress cover on, does the mattress still fold up easily, or do you have to take the cover off first?

  16. Chris

    Thank you for your post David and Angela. We were looking at Dodge Grand Caravans when we veered to a 2018 Chrysler Pacifica. We purchased it last week, bought the trifold Milliard cot mats, as you have, and went on our first road trip to South Carolina, North Carolina, and Georgia from Florida. Saved a ton of money without hotel costs and had a great adventure. We purchased the Weathertech full car techShades for the windows, to use on our next trip, as they did not come in time. Received them today and they are awesome. Bought the whole Weathertech floor and cargo protection kit as well. We are going all in. We too use the vehicle in our daily lives and will not be creating permanent modifications. We brought a cooler, but found we really did not need one, as we ate our meals out. We slept in Wal-Mart and Cracker Barrel parking lots with no issues. We will be looking for seat organizers in the future. Thank you for your posts and we will share more in the future. Chris and Kim

    • Dang Travelers

      I am SO happy reading this Chris!! And so excited for you guys. It’s comments like these that keep me motivated to keep the blog going and to write more about our experiences and adventures. Safe travels and looking forward to hearing more about your trips!

  17. Chris W

    Can the stow and go seats come out for in floor storage? Do you have a picture or PDF of wiring for fridge, inverter, charger etc?

    • Dang Travelers

      The third row can, not sure about the second. As of right now, we haven’t put together all our notes on the installs but if you sign up to our newsletter you’ll be notified when we do.

  18. Honolulu Trader

    I have owned many vans here in Hawaii over the years to camp in or live in. Night time temps are usually comfortable. With 1 bedroom Apts. running around $1600 month its forcing some to the streets & many end up living in a van. Hawaii laws don’t allow sleeping in vehicles 10pm to 6am. I’ve woke up to $30 tickets on my windshield in the past. But that’s cheap compared to renting an Apartment.

    • Dang Travelers

      I didn’t realize many people were going that route in Hawaii. But you’re right, compared to those prices it seems like a logical option.

  19. Michael Murphy

    I was going to buy these mattresses, but I noticed in one of the photos it says it has a fiberglass inner cover for fire protection. That made me hesitate. When I was young I got a terrible rash from exposure to fiberglass insulation. Is this inner cover raw fiberglass or do they do something to it so the fibers can’t get to you? I can imagine a fabric top cover could prevent glass fibers from getting through. Is there anything I’m not getting about this that would reassure me that I won’t get a rash if I get them?

    • Dang Travelers

      Hi Michael. It is covered but I’m not sure if you’d have a reaction depending on how sensitive you are to the material. We don’t have any issues at with it but we also bought a mattress cover separate as well. Maybe you can reach out to the company for more info.

  20. David Doll

    After living through 6 hurricanes and one overcrowded shelter, the thought of a getaway vehicle came to mind, since we already had the 17 Pacifica. We are in our 80’s and have had about 6 coaches so this is sort of like starting over.
    Dave in Ft Myers

  21. Maurice Woodmansee

    I am 5’6″ my wife is 4’11” We have van camped coast to coast for over 20 years. We currently have our second KIA Sedona. We remove the center seats when traveling and fold the rear seats into the floor. I built a 6′ platform bed that hinges into 3′ sections. This allows me to fold it up, bring the rear seats up and put the bed behind them to have seating room if needed. A queen size air mattress provides good support for sleeping. Clothes, supplies and equipment fits under the platform bed double stacked in plastic boxes. The essential porta pottty and medium size cooler also fit under the bed. A plastic , 4 drawer cabinet behind the drives seat provides quick access to toiletries , etc. When parked we move the front seats full forward to gain living space. We are 80 & 78 year old hippies.

    • Dang Travelers

      80 & 78 year old hippies – we love it! We thought about configuring a platform bed as well but, ultimately, decided against it since we use the van as a secondary vehicle and wanted more head space. Sounds like you figured out a fantastic option for that!

  22. Lou and KC

    Hi guys, great info! So we just bought a 2003 Mazda MPV (for $500) as our getaway camper. We too don’t want anything permanent so decided against frames etc. we have about 45″ across at the narrowest spot in the back and are thinking about the full size tri-fold, which is 52×73 so we will have to fold up the sides a bit but at least wont feel any protruding clips etc. Question: do you know of a waterproof mattress pad that you recommend? Thanks!

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