How To Sleep In A SUV

29 Mar

Do you have any questions or comments about sleeping in a sport utility vehicle? Please ask your question or make a comment in the space provided below!

Have you ever tried to sleep in a SUV? It can be tougher than it looks! A lot of people fold the rear seats down, and then attempt to use the cargo and rear seat area as a sleeping area. I’ve tried that, but I’m a tall guy and that doesn’t work so well for me. I find that is is just about impossible to stretch out fully using the cargo and back seat area with the rear seats folded down. So let me share with you my trick: camping in my Toyota 4Runner…

I find it is best to remove the headrest from the front seat, move the seat up, recline the seat all the way back, then back the seat up so that the top of the front seat butts up against the rear seats. Then, I use the entire length of the front seat, plus the additional rear seat room as a bed. You can sleep 2 people in your SUV this way. If you are solo, you are better off moving to the passenger side seat, so you won’t have the interference of the pedals and steering column. Sleeping this way won’t work well in all SUV’s, but I find this does work very well in my 4Runner. Plus, you’ll still have all that cargo space in the back to store your gear. Sleeping on an extended front seat like this is not the most comfortable experience in the world, but if you need to sleep in your car for emergency purposes, or if you are just roughing it for a night, it is not so bad. Using some sort of sleeping pad or air mattress can make the experience a little more pleasant. If you own a Honda Element, you can actually position all your seats so that your bed extends all the back through the rear seats (see below picture)

Have you ever tried sleeping in your car, truck, van, or SUV? What worked best for you? Leave a comment and share your story!  :)

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13 Responses to “How To Sleep In A SUV”

  1. Kevin May 1, 2011 at 11:05 pm #

    Heh Heh. I’ve done this before myself. Years ago I bought a new Chevy Tracker convertible, I love small cars and convertibles. Many year ago I was making a trip to Joshua Tree, California to renew my Climbing instructors certification. I do outdoor adventure work and often people mistake me for being “outdoorsy”. Nope, never camped, but loved adventure. I was expected to camp by the climbing site with all the other students. I was dreading it until I discovered like the writer here, that my Tracker seats did the same thing. :o). With the addition of an air mattress and blower powered by the cigarette lighter my bed was perfect. Every new car I bought since then I’d check to see if the front seats could slide that far and most don’t. The tracker is not a very long car but my 5’9″ frame fit just fine. Remember I like small economy cars with great MPG’s so I checked out the standard Mini Cooper; but even with all its kool features the seats failed to move that far forward. I looked into seeing if installing longer seat tracks could make a difference in the Mini but my mechanic talked me out of it. I bought a beetle convertible but after it nickel and dimed me to the tune of 8Gs i traded it in for a Toyota Yaris. I love this little car. Im on my 3 one because my first one was destroyed on an embankment rollover and the second one in a head on collision. Both accidents I walked away with minimal injuries. I live by the beach but my favorite beach is south of me a 100 miles and has camping grounds. Get this, I discovered that when I fold forward the back seats, move the front seats forward and extend the headrests on the back seats I have enough room for a full sized air mattress, eureka! I installed a nice roof rack for a bike, surfboard, or to tie down my bulkier traveling supplies while im sleeping inside.

  2. makais.com May 3, 2011 at 11:44 am #

    Hi Kevin, thanks for sharing your story! I would like to try this in a Subaru wagon. I imagine a Subaru would be very practical for sleeping in, since it gets good MPG’s and is pretty roomy inside. What do you think?

    • Kevin June 15, 2011 at 12:39 am #

      Hi Makais. I have long admired those full time 4×4 subaru wagons but have never played with the seats. One of my best friends has one, she’s a climber too. She’s never tried car camping in the Subaru because she prefers the open air. Im totally impressed with KIA Soul. That car just looks like it should have surf board racks on top of it. Please don”t confuse the Soul with the new scion xb(blah); I have to give mention though that some models of the scion xb seats fold completely level from driver to back seat; the Soul is wider. Both cars get ok mpg 29 hwy but not like my Yaris.

  3. seven seater suv May 3, 2011 at 12:25 pm #

    It very easy to sleep in SUV because it is a big car.
    You can drive it to the tent area and sleep on it without tent.
    Make our trip to easy.

    • makais August 22, 2011 at 1:02 pm #

      what kind of SUV do you sleep in?

  4. A Car Top Camper June 13, 2011 at 9:21 pm #

    I’ve tried sleeping in minvans, camper shells on pickups and SUVs with very limited success. Sleeping uncomfortably is like getting no sleep at all. Best solution for me is to mount a roof top tent to my SUV. I’m 6’3″ and the 8 foot bed long built in mattress in a a car top camper work great for me.

    • makais.com June 14, 2011 at 10:09 am #

      What sort of tent do you use for the roof?

  5. Dave Steinway October 25, 2012 at 11:09 pm #

    A few years ago I drove my little 98 Honda CR-v from the Midwest to CA, stopping at hot springs to camp. I brought my camping gear; but after the 3rd night realized I could fold the back seats completely over, cram everything in the front, and get my $30 Coleman “double” air mattress to just fit. I’m 6′ and admittedly felt best at an angle, but it sure beat the hassle of tenting.

  6. Dave Steinway October 25, 2012 at 11:15 pm #

    I realize this thread is over a year old, but I lost my beloved CR-v recently and was searching for comments about great cars for sleeping on roadtrips. It’s my favorite way to travel solo, and guess I can’t resist the urge to share

    • makais October 29, 2012 at 11:25 am #

      thanks for sharing Dave! what kind of vehicle do you drive now? do you ever sleep in it also?

      • kevin October 29, 2012 at 5:11 pm #

        Hi Makais, thanks for your note. So you let go of your CRV, too bad. Keep me posted on which versatile vehicle you decided to replace it with. I still have my Yaris, I actually haven’t planned a car camping trip lately but my mattress is packed neatly away above the spare tire compartment.
        I was at Trader Joe’s yesterday where I ran into an older gentleman who lived in a VW Westfalia. I asked him how he liked it and he told me he loved it. He has a boat in a rented slip at Coronado island and shares the time sleeping in the two vehicles. Around here you can’t stay in your docked boat over 3 days a week. He told me he’s had the VW for 30 years and its been no trouble at all.
        I often dream of living off the grid like that.
        I asked him if he takes his laptop to the library or Coffee shops to stream TV and movies for free. He said that it was just him in his life now and that he was content living without a computer. I imagine its entertaining for him just to take his boat out on the open sea and fish; who knows, he might even have other friends that do it with him. He did have a cute little dog with him, a long haired datsun.
        I have often dreamed of selling my car and pimping out a westfalia to to live in. You see a lot of ideas on the internet from other people who retro fit cabinetry, sinks, and entertainment systems for their VW’s and Toyota minibuses.
        Cheers!

  7. Ilia B November 6, 2012 at 10:29 pm #

    I’m 6’3″ and absolutely enjoy sleeping in my 2-door 1994 Ford Explorer. I actually bought it because it has soooo much interior room while still being a two-door and looking somewhat sporty. I have to lie down diagonally, and it helps to completely remove the left bottom part of the rear seat — you gain an extra 4-5 inches in the opening between the bed/floor and the front seat that way. I had attempted the same in my 2003 Nissan Murano, but understandably it was less spacious.

    In pursuit of even more comfortable camping sleep I’m considering building a simple raised platform/storage cabinet that can span an even longer length — perhaps folding out towards the front when necessary…

    • makais November 7, 2012 at 3:52 pm #

      Hi Ilia, thanks for your comment! Have you tried laying down on one of the front seats when it is fully reclined, or do you sleep in the back? Can you remove the front passenger seat at all? Maybe that would give more room in the back?

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