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How To Sleep In A SUV

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! 🙂 Makais

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!  🙂 Makais

23 Comments Post a comment
  1. Kevin #

    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.

    May 1, 2011
  2. 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?

    May 3, 2011
    • Kevin #

      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.

      June 15, 2011
  3. seven seater suv #

    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.

    May 3, 2011
    • what kind of SUV do you sleep in?

      August 22, 2011
  4. A Car Top Camper #

    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.

    June 13, 2011
  5. Dave Steinway #

    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.

    October 25, 2012
  6. Dave Steinway #

    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

    October 25, 2012
    • thanks for sharing Dave! what kind of vehicle do you drive now? do you ever sleep in it also?

      October 29, 2012
      • 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.

        October 29, 2012
  7. Ilia B #

    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…

    November 6, 2012
    • 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?

      November 7, 2012
  8. john #

    How about using an actual metal Queen sized bed frame- since the 2 side rails connect with an adjustable rail it could fit any width. Queen has 6 caster legs on outside and 2 stand legs underneath. Just replace the casters with a taller leg- 13″‘ high so you can slide in some plastic storage bins underneath. Put 3/4″ plywood inside the top frame and you’d have quick and cheap bed platform.

    April 22, 2015
    • good idea john, have you tried this?

      April 23, 2015
  9. Eric #

    Amazing what random late night Google searches can turn up 🙂

    I recently picked up a 2002 Suzuki Vitara 4 door (basically the same thing as the similar year Chevy Tracker), as a cheap 4×4 to play with during the rebuild of my ’62 Scout, so I would be less tempted to rush the rebuild.

    As someone who always had monster V8s in all my vehicles, this thing is pretty gutless in comparison, so I wasn’t wild about the idea of a roof top tent and pulling a trailer down a trail didn’t excite me either. I’d rather stay awake all night than sleep in a ground tent, so I found myself with few options for camping with this vehicle.

    I briefly considered one of those cot tent deals, then found this page where I realised it never occurred to me to attempt to recline the front seats all the way flat…and lo and behold, they do!

    I’m still not sure how I’m going to handle the gear, though I think if it’s solo camping, I can get by with a twin mattress on one side, and bolt in the fridge, and holders for the stove, water jugs, etc on the other. May have to build a roof rack for the future to put this stuff on overnight if I ever meet anyone nuts enough to do this with me, lol.

    August 24, 2015
    • thanks for your comment Eric, can you get any good sleep in your vehicle?

      August 25, 2015
      • Eric #

        In the Vitara? No clue, haven’t attempted it yet…just realized this possibility about 5 minutes before I posted that comment, lol. As long as I don’t have to curl up at all though, I should be fine. The last few times I went out, I took my Dodge truck that I have a Kodiak tent that sets up over/in the bed of the truck. Combined with an air mattress, I think I sleep better that way than I do at home! 🙂

        August 27, 2015
  10. jo #

    Hi, Have you tried Subaru Forester?
    Thank you,

    September 2, 2015
  11. VeloMac #

    What do you car sleepers do about ambient light when your are NOT in the outback, i.e., when you are on the Interstate or in a Walmart parking lot trying to get some shut eye late at night? A layout air mattress and a pillow or two are fine for your 5’9′ frame. But, how do stay asleep? Do you hang some type of temporary curtain inside the vehicle. Ideas, please?

    October 16, 2015
    • one idea is you could use some sort of bivy sack or small tent inside the vehicle, if space allows. something like this might work:

      October 17, 2015
    • robebates #

      I took a month long trip in my 2009 Honda Fit from Texas to Ohio, to Maryland, Vermont, Maine, Nova Scotia, Quebec and then back to Texas (with a stop to do the Graceland tour in Nashville).

      I slept in my car for about 15 of those nights. Many were spent in rest stations and a couple in Walmart parking lots. I improvized by getting some blackout curtains at Walmart and using safety pins and paracord to hang them around the front of the car.

      There was still quite a bit of light as I hadn’t thought about the issue beforehand and actually planned, but enough light was blocked out that I was able to sleep for 6-7 hours during the day when my days and nights got wonky.

      I was amazed that using a sleeping platform in the Fit with the front seats leaning forward, I was able to fully stretch out my 5’11” frame. There wasn’t much room to spare, but at least I wasn’t curled up.

      January 6, 2016

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