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How Do You Camp in the Back Of an SUV?

You may be dreaming of going on an epic road trip in your SUV or planning a camping adventure with your existing SUV without breaking the bank. Any way you should have to prepare your SUV for a good sleep at night. In this guide I’m going to tell you how you can manage your limited space to camp comfortably in the back of an SUV and what are the other things you should consider.

Basically to camp in the back of an SUV you have to make a sleeping platform with folding or removing the rear seats. Then you can buy a good mattress or can make a mattress by placing foam pads sheets on the platform. After that you have to set up lighting, curtains, bug protection and ventilation.


How to sleep in the back of an SUV?


First we have to think of a way to sleep in the SUV. Normally a couple can sleep comfortably in a SUV like a 4RUNNER or Honda CR-V if we can arrange the sleeping area properly.

Removing rear seats

You have to decide whether you remove the rear seats or not. It’s easier if you remove the rear seats, because it gives you more room to pack your luggages under the platform after assembling everything. 

It’s not hard to remove the seats. You can easily do it with probably a socket wrench in a few minutes. 

Then clean everything inside the vehicle and keep the rear seats safely inside the garage.

Making the platform 

You can make a platform with plywood or ¾” UHMW sheeting (Ultra-High molecular weight polyethylene). Plywood is a bit more inexpensive option than the UHMW sheets. 

Before buying any of the above things you have to plan how you are going to place the platform.

You can place the platform on the floor of the suv or a few inches above the floor. 

There are few advantages to making the platform a few inches above the floor.

One is the mudguard hump does not restrict the sleeping space if we place the platform above it. So we can get more room for a comfortable sleep.

Another advantage is we can store our luggages under the platform. So we don’t want to deal with them every time when going to sleep.

Taking measurements

After deciding the way you place the platform, take the measurements and buy the sheats. You can buy them from a local store. (Plywood or UHMW)

You need some woods to use as legs under the platform and ½” or ¾” screws with washers to set up everything. 


Before assembling, think about how you are going to store the luggages under the platform. Because when placing the legs you may restrict the storage space according to the placements. As an example you place the legs off the centere to get more room on one side under the platform.

Then you can assemble the platform with boards, screws and washers.

If you haven’t removed the seats..

You have few other options according to your vehicle. 

You can make a DIY platform on the floor of your vehicle with a few centimeter raising or you can find aftermarket plate matches for your vehicle. 

As an example if you have a toyota 4Runner there are ready made goose gear sleeping platforms. You can check them in here

If you are doing this yourself without buying an aftermarket plate, you can go to the previous steps. But without raising that much you can set up the boards leveling to the folded rear seats.

If you want you can remove just one side of the rear seats and set up the platform. This is better if you are solo camping. There are goose gear plates also for that.

If you want more length

If you want more length out of your platform you can set up an extra foldable few inch plate to the front end with hinges. That can be extended by drawing front seats forward as much as possible when you are going to sleep. 


After assembling the platform you have to set up the mattress. 

For this also you have few options.

> Buying a ready made mattress 

> Buying an air mattress

> Buying foam pads,sheets and  blankets 

Any of the above options can be used according to your preference. Air mattress is more feasible because it can deflate and keep aside when not in use. So it’s a space saving method.


After setting the bed we have to consider privacy and protection from bugs and mosquitos in the campsites.

For this we can use window covering curtains. They can be fabric curtains or Reflectix covers.

Reflectix covers are more convenient if you are camping in cold weather conditions. These can give some insulation to the vehicle and keep the warmth inside the jeep.

When setting up curtains you have to mainly consider the light blocking ability, ventilation and easy setting up without drilling.

You can find suitable Reflectix or few yards of fabric (depending on the window sizes) and bungee cords for a few bucks from a retail store. 

Protection from bugs

If you want more protection from mosquitoes and bugs you can buy a cheap mosquito net and attach it when you sleep. 


This is a main think you should consider when sleeping inside the SUV. Don’t turn on the engine and sleep inside the SUV. (For turn on AC). It’s very dangerous.

You can keep a window down about a few inches for ventilation. 

If you are camping in a hot climate condition you will need more ventilation. For a better sleep in the summer you can get a portable fan. There are portable fans which can be used with a rechargeable battery pack. 

It is more safe to use a rechargeable one than using the cigarette lighter port because, if you end up with a dead car battery when you wake up in off-grid is not a good case scenario!!


When setting up the sleeping area in the SUV lighting also plays a crucial role. Because before going to sleep we can enjoy the evening by reading a book while resting inside the SUV. You can use LED lights for this. 

For this also I prefer using solar LED lanterns. They can be charged in the day time even by keeping in the dashboard and used at night. It’s safer than using a car battery overnight. 


After setting above things your SUV is ready for a cool adventure. You can organize your clothings, electronic equipment and all the accessories inside collapsible plastic boxes. They can keep under the platform or between front and rear seat space under the platform. 

Other than that you can keep these boxes on the front seats when sleeping if you set up the platform on the floor.

Parking in a suitable place

This is just an extra reminder for you. When parking try to choose a level place. If you were not able to find such a place , park vehicles front side on the higher side and place head on that side when sleeping. That will give you a comfortable sleep inside the SUV. 

Next thing is make sure you are parked in a permitted area for camping or sleeping inside the vehicle. Keep the passes or licence (if have) in a visible place before sleeping.

Final word

I think now you can plan your next adventure with your SUV. If you think this guide may be helpful for someone else, share this with them. You just have to hit a share button below.

Have fun and safe camping!!

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