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Thread: Simple/inexpensive bed platform pics...

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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Englewood, CO

    Default Simple/inexpensive bed platform pics...

    Don't know if this is the correct forum or if it should be in "general vehicle mods" but I wanted to share my bed platform design.

    For the last two years I've been using a commercial "carpet kit" of the type usually sold at stores that sell toppers/shells. The standard kit includes 6 pieces and is fine for "light duty" work or mild exploration.

    In "sleeping configuration" this is what it looked like (note this is a photo of my 1999 Ford Ranger which had the same type of kit):

    This is the kit in "travel configuration" which is how I had it most of the time:

    My kit, purchased off of Craigslist in 2007, was well used and not in the greatest of condition.

    Moreover, the more I used it the more I realized there were some very real drawbacks inherent in the design.

    For one thing, although the padded surface of the "sleep platform" was indeed comfortable to sleep on (and required no air mattress) I found that when driving off road the back of the truck gets filled with fine, silty dust which then settles onto every surface. Sleeping on the platform with a coat of dust was not much fun, even when I tried to knock some of the dust off.

    Short of sealing the the interior of the shell (impractical, given the type of shell I have and the large gaps in the tailgate area) the only other solution I could try is putting a tarp over the sleeping surface and then taking it off at night, which works somewhat but not really that well.

    However, by far the biggest drawback was that the area under the sleeping platform is not very high - maybe 7" maximum.

    What that means is that all of the gear that's normally carried in the back of the truck (cooler, box with camping gear, food, fuel cans, water cans, etc) cannot be in the truck when the carpet kit is in "sleeping" configuration. That means this gear has to either (a) be placed outside, or (b) be shoehorned into the cab, which is not all that spacious.

    When camping in the wild this isn't a big deal (I normally leave a lot of gear outside and have never had it touched/molested in 20+ years of back country exploring.) But it severely impacts the ability to engage in "stealth camping" at rest areas and the like. Furthermore, I know there are times when it's nice to be able to keep my gear out of the weather.

    It also makes it difficult to do a quick departure or "bug out" from my campsite because of the time it takes to assemble all of the gear that is outside and put it in the truck before departing.

    So I was determined to make some kind of more practical platform. Unfortunately for me, my carpentry skills are not all that great, so some of the really fancy cabinet-type systems I've seen here are just not feasible for me. Not only that, but one of the absolute requirements of my design is that it be 100% removable quickly and easily because during the Summer I plan on running the truck with no top on it at all.

    After considering a bunch of ideas, I finally figured out what would be probably the simplest way to get a sleep platform that was the full width of the bed: 2x4's running across the bottom 'rail' of the shell, with two pieces of 5/8" plywood on top.

    The hardest part was figuring out how to "hang" the 2x4's. I finally settled on using some 1 1/2" L brackets, "doubled up." I know these L brackets can't hold a lot of weight but when you consider that there are a total of 16 of them, I think they'll work (though I'd entertain any suggestions people might have of some sturdier metal angle bracketst that might work better!)

    I don't have a close-up of the L brackets but here's how the supports go onto the rail of the shell:

    Here I've placed one of the two sheets of plywood on the supports to start measuring and cutting around the C-clamps that hold the shell on:

    Now, some people might wonder why I used two sheets when a single plywood sheet would probably work.

    A couple of reasons: Two sheets are smaller and lighter and easier to move around. Also, two sheets lets me remove one so I can better access stuff in the forward area of the cargo compartment. Also, two sheets allows me to run the platform all the way to the edge of the shell which gives me more surface area.

    After carefully cutting and trimming (making sure to cut the sheets a bit undersize) I stapled indoor/outdoor carpeting to them and placed them side by side. They actually fit very snugly:

    There's a fair amount of clearance underneat the supports, about 14" which will easily accomodate most of my plastic totes (and to the extent that it doesn't, I'll get new totes, they're cheap.) All the gear I normally carried in the side compartments of the carpet kit (jumper cables, road flares, snatch strap, gloves, air compressor, flashlight, warning triangles, entrenching tool) are now in the black tote you see in this photo, held in place by my cargo bar:

    One nice (though unplanned) feature is that my water can and blitz-type gas can will fit under the platform, but not under the support, which means that they will be held in place by the support (and I may invest in another cargo bar to insure they don't slide forward.) This puts my water and gas where it is most easily accessible.

    The only issue this leaves unresolved now is what to sleep on? I need a mattress pad of some type. Can anyone make any suggestions? I'd rather not use a therm-a-rest (too thin) and would prefer not to use anything inflatable (too much time/effort to inflate, too likely to leak or get a puncture.) I'll be looking at some foam mattress-topper type things today but would appreciate any suggestions. One key is that it has to be something I can roll up and put into a plastic bag so it won't get covered in dust while I'm driving.

    Total cost was right around $60 which included 2 sheets of 19/32" plywood, 4 8' 2x4s, 8 sets of angle brackets and 36 square feet if indoor/outdoor carpet. Time was 3-4 hours, most of that spent cutting and trimming the top boards so they'd fit around the c-clamps.

    Anyway, this whole thing is going to get its first "field test" this coming week when I go out to meet some other ExPo folks to tour the Upper Great Basin area for memorial day week.

    Edited to add: Although this will work with any kind of shell, keep in mind that if you have a cab-high shell this will severly restrict your headroom while sleeping. This may or may not be an isue for you but it's something to consider. One of the reasons I went with a high-rise shell is I like the additional headroom and it's really not much heavier.
    Last edited by Martinjmpr; 05-18-2009 at 06:04 PM.
    2004 Chevy Suburban 1500 LT in "Expedition White"
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    "I am the Man with No Name: Zapp Branigan!"

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