An SUV camper is a great way to get out and start camping without the hassle of throwing up a tent. You can throw a mattress in the back, add a sleeping platform, or get fancier with a conversion kit or rooftop tent.
SUVs are great for camping, often AWD or 4WD, the perfect rig for exploring bumpy dirt roads or driving on sand and snow. Plus, many SUV models are now hybrids, saving you gas money.
If you already have an SUV sitting in your driveway or garage, right now might be time to create your very own SUV camper conversion.
However involved you want to get in turning your SUV into a camper, we have suggestions and tips to help you get outdoors in no time.
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1. DIY SUV Camper Conversion: Cheapest Option
The most affordable way to create an SUV RV for SUV camping is to do it yourself.
If you do all the work yourself, you’ll probably spend only a few hundred bucks on your SUV camper conversion. Plus, an SUV can be converted into a comfortable camper in a few days.
Check out the bed platform and storage in the RAV 4 SUV below:
Here are a few easy steps to remember when doing a DIY SUV camper conversion:
- Take out or fold down the middle seats
- Build a bed platform out of plywood or wooden beams. A platform bed will give you storage space underneath
- Buy a memory foam mattress or air mattress to put on top of your new bed platform
- Find window coverings to make your SUV camper private
Those four steps are all you need to create a bed and storage space in your SUV. Here’s more you can do with an SUV camper conversion and what you might want to have inside your SUV:
- If you want to power anything like a portable refrigerator or roof vent fan, buy a house battery and connect it to your alternator via a battery isolator relay. This means your car’s alternator will charge your house battery when the car is running. If you do this set-up, you will need to run your SUV every day to keep that battery charged.
- You might want to bring along a solar shower
- Also, think about bringing a folding camp table, a camping stove, and a couple of chairs for an outdoor kitchen and relaxation area
2. Honda Element SUV Camper Conversion
This Honda Element Camper is built out to maximize a small space. We love the single bed, the storage, and the back hatch. The hatch in this “down” position is the perfect spot to create your campervan kitchen.
Emily Mannisto built this SUV camper conversion and said her memory foam mattress folds away when not in use. She also suggests having a big multi-gallon jug for water (we recommend this collapsible jug), window blockers for privacy and curtains that go over the front seats.
This is a super simple DIY SUV camper that anyone can build.
3. Honda CRV SUV Camper
Here’s an example of a simple Honda CRV SUV camper conversion with a platform bed and storage beneath for SUV camping! As you can see, an SUV camper doesn’t have to be fancy.
Just a cozy, comfortable bed and some storage are the most important parts.
We also love the twinkle lights on the roof, which gives this SUV camper conversion a really homey feel.
I just love how she set out a table and chairs to create a mobile, outdoor “office.”
5. Jeep Grand Cherokee Camper
Jennifer Vegvari lives in this 1989 Jeep Grand Cherokee camper. It has a simple bed platform with pull-out plastic bins.
If you’re interested in a Jeep camper, check our in-depth article: Jeep Camper: A Rugged Off-Grid Rig
6. 4- Runner SUV Camper
He told The Wayward Home his favorite components are his bed platform and his 12-volt refrigerator.
7. Nissan 2003 X-Trail T30 SUV Camper
A Nissan is another rig you can easily turn into an SUV Camper.
This one has a plywood platform with a cotton rug and foam mattress. The van’s owner, Shona, did a lot to make her SUV cozy.
The drawers were repurposed from a kitchen fit out frame. She also has panels to cover the windows secured by Velcro dots. Also, she has mesh covers for the back windows so they can be open at night to let a breeze through.
A small ring light clip – one that’s made for selfies – creates light in the interior of the SUV camper at night.
8. Bounty Hunter Compact SUV Sleeping Platform Kit (Freeway Campers)
If you don’t feel like investing the time and energy to construct your own sleeping platform in an SUV camper conversion, you can order this one from Freeway Campers.
Choose between a variety of wood finishes or no finish at all on this completed bed platform, made out of Baltic birch. You can also add on a 4″ memory foam mattress.
This SUV camper sleeping platform conversion kit features adjustable legs to create a bed of any level. It’s super easy to put together with zero tools. Take it out when you’re ready to transform your SUV back into a daily driver.
Kit includes a huge sliding work table in the back with a collapsible 9.5”(24 cm) x 13.5”(34 cm) container that can be used as a sink.
The entire SUV bed platform kit is 80 pounds.
9. Honda Element SUV Camper Conversion Kit (Freeway Campers)
The Honda Element SUV camper conversion kit is also an awesome offering by Freeway Campers.
This interlocking kit, made from Baltic birch panels, was made to fit Honda Elements from the years 2003-2011 but isn’t limited to that particular vehicle. You can easily slide this kit into other flat-bottomed vehicles like the Dodge Grand Caravan.
This incredible SUV camper conversion kit can be installed with zero tools and is easy to store if you want to remove it from your Element. Just order it online and Freeway Camper Kit sends it straight to your address!
You can choose between several styles of kits and can add a mattress, mattress cover, and 37-quart portable fridge for a few hundred more bucks.
10. Home On Wheels Furniture Kit (Camp N Car)
Looking for something functional you can customize yourself? This DIY kit by Camp N Car is a little different. It fits SUVs, truck, minivans, and more.
It features a bunk, which can extend to become a double bed, and an L-shaped piece of furniture for storage at the rear. Under the bunk, there are deep drawers which open towards the furniture. The furniture comprises eight shelves and half of these can be accessed from the back of your vehicle.
You can opt for two different bed heights: 9.5″ and 17″, depending on how much headroom you want to retain. The bed comes in three measures: 5ft, 5.5ft, and 6ft, so it can fit multiple vehicle lengths. You can also decide whether to have a single bunk or one which slides out to create a double bed. Based on which options you go for, the weight varies between 80 and 110 pounds.
The kit comes with everything you need to assemble it and can be built and installed in just two hours.
11. Trunk Bunk (Camp N Car)
Do you like the look of the Home On Wheels Furniture Kit but prefer to travel light and sleep more comfortably? They also make a bunk-only kit. This is a modular sleeping platform which slides to become a double bed, which allows you to use the whole width of your vehicle. There are no drawers under the bed, but you can still store your gear underneath.
This kit is very minimalistic and is easy to remove when you need the back seats of your vehicle.
Find out more about the Trunk Bunk and order it on the Simpler Ways website.
12. Universal Aluminium Car Camper Bed Platform (Compass Camper)
Want a lightweight, cheap ($699), and super-fast-to-assemble kit? Look no further than this aluminum conversion kit by Compass Camper. It’s as simple as it gets – a low platform bed made out of aluminum with open storage underneath. This is lined with foam, so you don’t need to place a high mattress on top of it. Installation doesn’t require any drilling or screwing either – simply attach the frame to your vehicle’s tie-downs to keep it in place.
This kit is compatible with the Subaru Outback 2009-2022, the Subaru Forester 2008-2022, the Toyota Rav4 2013-2022, and the Toyota Runner 4th and 5th gen.
Assembly only takes a staggering 20 minutes! You can quickly build it and install it first thing in the morning and be wild camping somewhere rad on the same night.
Want to know more? Head to the Simpler Ways website, where you can read up about the kit and order it.
13. Nestbox Camper by Egoe
Another really cool SUV camper kit we have our eye on is the Nestbox Camper by Egoe. This European company is beginning to debut its products in the U.S. at various expos and camper van shows.
The Nestbox Camper is one of Egoe’s smallest offerings, built for SUVs and offers a bed platform, outdoor kitchen, storage space and cooler.
These elegant SUV camper conversion kits create a perfect little camper for two, and we love that the cooking module is removable if you prefer cooking at a picnic table.
An electric pump makes getting water and doing dishes a breeze.
There aren’t any Nestbox dealers yet in the U.S., but you can order one from the company directly.
14. Sleep’In Kit (VanPackers)
The Sleep’In Kit is a functional sleeping platform with storage underneath and a slide-out kitchen area at the back. One of the bed panels can be detached and used as an outdoor table – super clever.
The Sleep’In Kit comes with a retractable sink, a custom storage bag, an exterior leg support, and a 14″ table leg. Extras include a 2″ mattress, a cooler, a 2-burner camping stove, and custom-made curtains. The camper features a strap system, which allows you to fix the frame to the trunk of your car, so you won’t need to permanently attach it to it.
The kit is compatible with a number of vehicles, such as the Ford Escape S, the Hyunday Santa Fe, and more. You’ll need to look at the table on the Vanpackers site to check compatibility. If you’re note sure it will fit your car, you can always email the guys and ask.
Interested? Find out more on the VanPackers website.
The Skycamp 2X rooftop tent is a more expensive option for an SUV camper but comes with some added features and luxuries.
The biggest draw is the 60-second setup time, which means you can crawl up for a nap right after you park your SUV.
The aerodynamic design of this rooftop tent, huge 4-person interior, and inclusion of creature comforts like a thick memory foam mattress make this rooftop tent feel more like an oasis.
We also love the hard shell locks, the breathable, poly-cotton canvas, and aerodynamic lightweight design.
If the price tag doesn’t scare you too much, the iKamper Skycamp is an awesome option for SUV camping.
Bed Ideas for SUV Camping
There are lots of choices when it comes to putting a bed in your SUV. You can have a camping mattress with a mix of air and foam, and air mattress, a memory foam mattress or even a futon.
Here are some top-ranked choices to look at!
This Thermarest mattress gets great reviews from people who sleep in vehicles. The mattress is insanely warm, great for cold weather camping, and has a tapered end, making it easier to store gear.
The mattress is a combination of air and foam, and is soft and packable.
Luno Life has air mattresses that fit into 1,800 types of vehicles, and your SUV is most likely on this list! This air mattress for SUV camping inflates quickly and is super comfortable for up to two people. If you’re a solo camper, just inflate one side of the air mattress, and use the rest of your vehicle for gear.
Memory foam is really big amongst people who sleep in cars, SUVs and vans. This plush material is supportive and super comfortable. A tri-fold in the mattress makes it easier to store. Make sure you measure your SUV’s dimensions before buying. However, it is possible to cut memory foam with an electric turkey carving knife, we’ve done it!
This comfortable double-bed gets high marks in car camping Facebook groups. It’s thick, luxurious and can sleep up to two people. One guy who uses this bed puts a blanket over the top and has slept in cold temperatures, and the mat held up well.
The MegaMat camping bed for a Prius weighs 7.5 pounds when deflated and is 11″x22″ when fully packed.
Are You Going to Turn Your SUV Into a Camper?
If you already own an SUV, it may make more sense to turn your SUV into a camper rather than purchasing a new campervan.
You can build out an SUV camper conversion in a matter of days and it won’t break the bank. Some people even do SUV conversions for a few hundred dollars!
A DIY SUV conversion is one way to go, or you can purchase an SUV camper conversion kit if you’re not feeling handy.
The downside of SUV campers is they are not as big as a van, so there isn’t hang out space, headroom, or space for a kitchen or toilet.