SUV Sleeping Platform Camper Conversion for Subaru Forester


This article is written by Benjamin Perri. Check out the first part of Benjamin’s journey to travel to 28 national parks in search of the best running trails, here

Dusting myself off and fedora firmly planted on my head, my plan became crystal clear. A strategy was formulated, gear lists created, and a route planned.

First thing was to build out my 2015 Subaru (Subbie) Forester, affectionately named Cassady, so that I could live in it for the duration of my trip and beyond… It would have to have plenty of storage, a comfortable sleeping area, and a little more toughness. Stock Soobies are great, but to be adventure-ready (and more importantly, safe) a few things needed an upgrade.

Napoleon Hill said it best, “It takes half your life before you discover life is a do-it-yourself project.” And with that firmly in mind, I thought about my life and how true that statement is. Why should this build out be any different? So, I forged on, by myself, with nary a carpentry skill in my repertoire. Not only will this journey to the Parks test me mentally and spiritually, it will also test my ingenuity.

I started with tires. My research was exhausting. I went with the Continental TerrainContact A/T and so far, so good. They were fairly new to the market, but Continental has a ridiculous reputation as being reliable. I also installed a two-inch lift kit from Anderson Design Fabrications. Two inches up front and a tad under three inches in the rear due to weight. A new battery from Odyssey and a skid plate to protect the oil pan from Primitive Racing. Now, if only this could protect my body in the backcountry, I would be all set.

Next, was to plan the buildout of the interior. The rear seats were fully removed to give more space for storage. Then came the measurements and brainstorming. The sketches were finalized, and the idea had life, a trip to Home Depot (HD) was called for. For those of you without tools, HD will cut wood to your specifications. This service was nothing short of a miracle and just like that, I had all the pieces to the puzzle.

plywood home depot

For the sleeping platform itself, alder wood was chosen for its strength and clean feel. The legs are made of two by fours which also brace the center to give it rigidity. One issue with the newer Forester is an angle from the tailgate to the end of the storage compartment in the rear that needs to be compensated for when measuring length for the legs. With a level and a friend, it’s not difficult. I wanted ten inches of space underneath the bed for storage bins. I took two ten-inch pieces of wood, placed them at the foot end and positioned a flat board the proper length of the platform on top of those legs. Then, placed the level in the exact middle of the platform, adjusted to make it level, and measured from the platform to the floor wherever you want supports to be. I am sure there a mathematical way to figure this out, but this made sense to me and came out perfect. Then, to give it more structure I screwed L-brackets on each leg and attached them to the bed platform.

suv sleeping platform

The measurements of the sleeping platform are seventy-two inches long by forty inches wide and separated into three standalone sections. This was done so that the bed could easily be taken out of the vehicle. The middle section of the bed is joined with the foot section by steel pegs that slide through the platform and into the leg of the foot section.

subaru forester sleeping platform

The only issue with the measurements listed above is that the front seats have to be moved every time the bed is fully extended. To achieve a length in the Forester that I can fully extend on, being five foot nine, I had to create a section that can either be removed, or by adding hinges as I did, so the headpiece could swing out of the way when not in use. For my needs, the headpiece is only half the width of the bed itself so that the driver’s seat doesn’t ever have to move.

I covered the platform with light carpet, purchased a 3” memory foam mattress with sheets and a Pendleton blanket to make it cozy as heck. There isn’t a ton of headroom to sit up fully but I can prop myself up to read, or work, or just lounge. The memory foam mattress is half the width of the full platform. Since this is a solo trip, I wanted more storage. There is a crate that I fashioned into a book and computer storage center next to where I sleep. A tiny convenience in a tiny “home.”

suv camper conversion bed

Now, it isn’t perfect, and every day I find someone’s build I like better or an idea that makes more sense or a different vehicle that would have worked better. For the purposes of my trip, which will not be full-time living, Cassady has everything one would need to be comfortable. Below is a list of the mods made to the vehicle, plus some other gear that should make living out of a Subaru Forester Hatchback a little more like home.

Continental TerrainContact A/T Tires
Anderson Design Fabrications Lift Lit – 2” front, 2 3/8” rear
Primitive Racing Skid Plate
Odyssey Battery
Yakima Skybox 16
Yakima Slim Shady Awning

Single burner butane/propane stove
Solar Shower
Camp Table/Chair
Goal Zero Yeti
RITC Cooler
Maxoak Type-C Powerbank
ARB Deflator
EP Auto DC Air Compressor
Jump – n – Carry

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