The number one priority whenever I’m designing the interior of my van is almost always the bed. If I’m not building anything fancy, just a simple sleeping platform that allows me to lie flat and put some gear underneath. A Fiat Doblo is quite small for camping in, but believe it or not, it still has room to build out a permanent “living space.” However, for right now, I just needed a sleeping platform that could be down quickly and effortlessly.
If you’re not interested in the details, click here or the image to the right to go to the completed video at the bottom of the screen. Otherwise, read on for all the design considerations and what went into making this sleeping platform.
Fiat Doblo Cargo Dimensions
Finding the cargo dimensions online wasn’t very easy so I was kind of hesitant to even consider buying a Doblo. I wasn’t 100% sure it was big enough to be a weekend warrior mobile in general, much less if I’d be able to lie down and stretch out in it. After a frustrating hour of googling around and staring at YouTube videos, I was convinced that it could be done.
If you push the front seats forwards and fold over the back seats, it’s 180cm long (almost 71″ or 5’11”). Since I’m only 175cm (5’9″) this was perfect. First hurdle jumped.
Next was the width. As I said, the Doblo is pretty small for a campervan so I was surprised to see that it is also 120cm wide between the wheel wells (3’11”). For anyone keeping track at home, that’s almost a full, normal sized double bed!
So again, the full inner dimensions of the cargo area is 180cm by 120cm (practically 6′ x 4′).
Sleeping platform vs. bed
We’re really splitting hairs here, but I consider a sleeping platform something very basic and serves no other purpose than being a place to sleep and doesn’t really transform into anything else. Whereas a bed is something that a little more elegant, homey, and might serve as some other purpose in the van as well.
I know, pretty dumb, right?
Anyways, I decided to just do a sleeping platform because it needed to be done fast for some upcoming visitors and road trips. I wasn’t planning on integrating any other “home” features like a kitchen, table, or drawers for storage so I knew this could be done in a matter of hours. In the future, I’ll definitely be doing all the rest.
Sleeping platform materials
The amount and type of materials available in Spain are a little different than in the U.S., but finding what I needed was simple enough.
- Three – 2.5cm by 5cm by 240cm boards for the structural support
- Three – 120cm by 60cm by 1cm thick plywood for the top of the platform
- One – 3.5cm by 3.5cm by 240cm boards for the “legs”
- A couple pieces of scrap pallet wood I had laying around
- Two – 10cm hinges
- Two – 3cm hinges
- Screws of varying length
I already threw away the receipt so I don’t have a per-item breakdown for you. But I can tell you that I walked out of the store paying just shy of 60€.
Sleeping platform design considerations
Aside from being able to sleep completely stretched out, there were a few other design considerations for the platform:
- It had to be easily removable and stowable so that we could still use the back seats
- We wanted to be able to sit in it completely upright and not crouched over.
The back seats in the Doblo not only fold in half, but they fold forward as well. However, just folding them once made it obvious that we could use them as part of the structural support. Not only that, but when I sat on them, I was able to sit completely up without hitting my head on the ceiling.
The only thing left was to figure out how the third sheet of plywood would be supported over the backseat footwells. Easy enough, some simple leg supports.
Building the sleeping platform
Sheets 2 and 3 were already taken care of. Sheet 2 would be supported almost entirely by the backseats. Sheet 3 would also be supported by the back seats as well as the legs.
That meant all that was left was building the structure for Sheet 1 in the way back of the van. Since the sheet is only 120cm by 60cm, and I was using 5cm wide boards, the structure didn’t need to be drastically overbuilt. Just a simple “box” with two horizontal pieces and 3 vertical pieces — 2 at each end and 1 in the middle.
I already knew the width was 120cm so the only thing left was “eyeballing” the height to fit over the back of the folded seats. As it turns out, it was 37cm. Then taking into consideration the 2.5cm thickness of the boards meant cutting the vertical supports at 31cm long.
Now just put everything together with some 3.5cm long screws, and I was basically done!
Hinges and couch mode
At the very last second, literally as we were filming the video, we realized this could easily be “upgraded” to be used as a couch too. That wasn’t the original plan, but where all the joints of the plywood came together made everything fall into place.
We just added the 10cm hinges between sheets 2 and 3, the 3cm hinges to the foldable legs, and everything was done. (Which also makes setup and take down so much easier too).
Setting up and taking down the sleeping platform
As I mentioned, we needed to make this thing portable and stowable. Portable so that we could take the whole thing out when going through ITV inspection. Stowable so that we could still use the back seats while on road trips with multiple people.
Now with the hinges, Sheet 3 folds completely flat onto Sheet 2. The legs on Sheet 3 fold onto itself. And all that’s left is to slide them into place, either onto the back of the seat or on top of the Sheet 1.
I couldn’t be happier with how this turned out. It’s a couch, a sleeping platform, and a cooking surface. I can lie completely flat, we can sit up straight, and there’s plenty of storage for 3 people going on a short weekend trip. Best of all, I could have built the whole thing in about two hours if I weren’t filming a how-to video.
I’m already stoked on the future build too. I love design challenges, and it will be interesting to see how we utilize what little space there is. We want a more permanent “kitchen”, better storage solution, and keep the ability to sit and sleep comfortably.
Fiat Doblo sleeping platform video
All my tools are in storage back in the U.S. so I really didn’t feel like buying more in Spain. I did the WHOLE thing with a hand saw, tape measure, speed square, and cordless drill (with one bit and one driver). You can easily pick these up on Amazon or at your local home improvement store.
For a complete kit of tools and VanLife essentials, visit my Amazon powered VanLife Store.