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VW Transporter beds: how we sleep in our camper van

VW Transporter beds: how we sleep in our camper van

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One question I get asked a lot is: how does a family sleep in a camper van? So in this post I’m sharing the VW Transporter beds we have used in our VW T5 and VW T6 day vans – sleeping a family of four with options for more beds if needed.

VW Transporter beds in our campers

Camper vans – no two are exactly the same. You can customise them in hundreds of ways to make them the perfect set up for you. 

Long Wheel Base or Short Wheel Base. Pop top or not. Full kitchen conversion or day van. The options are endless, especially when in comes to the sleeping arrangements.

We’ve been lucky to be able to try out two different bed arrangements in our camper vans.

VW T5 camper van with awning in camping field
Tin Box 3 – our first camper

Out first camper was a Long Wheel Base VW T5 day van. It was not a fully converted camper van but it was a good option for us when we were new to camper van life.

VW T6  camper van and awning on campsite pitch
Tin Box 4

Our next camper was a VW T6 short wheel base with a pop top. Again it wasn’t fully converted but it had a Caravelle rail system and seat which was a new feature for us. This combined with the super practical Slidepod in the boot made the same size big double bed we are used to. 

The ability to move the seat backwards and forwards is also great for extra space when having picnics. 

Here’s some more things to consider when buying a camper van.

Want more ideas for family holidays and days out? Read my tips for smashing family travel and sign up for my newsletter.

Kids camper van beds

So, here’s a bit more about the bed set ups we’ve had for the kids.

Cabbunk removable bunk beds for camper vans and motorhomes

Cabbunk kids camper van bed
Cabbunk bed in from of V5 camper

Our first camper – a day van kombi with two rotating seats in the front – allowed us to use the Cabbunk children’s camper van bed

This provided a bunk bed capable of supporting two people weighing up to 70kg each and up to 170cm tall. This is more than adequate for our girls from the ages of five to eight.

Child in bunk in VW T5

Putting the Cabbunk up is quick and easy, once you have done it a few times, and it packs away very neatly. 

In our T5 we used the sliding door kit which doesn’t need to be screwed into the body work making it a completely removable system. 

Bunk strut on Cabbunk VW Transporter bed for kids

If we were going out for the day the bunk got stowed away, but if we were staying on site we simply left it in place as we used our awning for living space.

Tip: It’s worth practicing putting up the Cabbunk at home as there is some adjustment to be done to make the system perfect for you. 

A slightly ‘slacker hammock’ is ideal for very small children to ensure they don’t fall out, while larger children will prefer a more taught hammock to give them greater space and make it easier to get in and out. 

Our youngest found the bunk really comfy without extra padding but our older daughter (then aged seven) liked the addition of a small self inflating mattress for extra comfort. They both slept in their sleeping bags with a pillow from home.

Pop top

Girl looking out lot front window of camper van pop top

The Cabbunk system was ideal while the girls were smaller. But they had started to outgrow it and that meant putting up an awning for them to sleep in. Not ideal when you just want a quick night away. 

This is where the big SCA 194 pop top that came with our V6 camper van was a welcome change. This had loads of room for them and, with a mattress and sprung frame, it was super comfy.

Getting into the pop top bed means standing on the chairs at the front and swinging up, so I was glad this is where the kids were happy to sleep.

The head room when the bed was up also makes changing into wetsuits at the beach much easier!

Our pop top was fitted from new. If you’re considering getting a pop top added after buying your van make sure it is done by a reputable fitter.


Inside the OLPRO Cocoon Breeze awning
The OLPRO Cocoon Breeze has two sleeping compartments

Of course you can also put the kids, or your other half, out in an awning.

We had the OLPRO Cocoon Breeze air awning with out first camper van. This has two sleeping compartments that are big enough for a couple of single camp beds or self inflation mattresses.

This is probably the ideal option for larger families or those with teens so everyone has their own space.

Take a look at my full review of this OLPRO air awning which includes a special discount code for OLPRO products.

If you’re undecided between a camper van or caravan you might also like to read my post about caravan beds for kids.

VW Transporter beds for adults 

One of the ‘must haves’ for any of our Tin Boxes has been a large and comfortable bed. 

Mr Tin Box is not a narrow sleeping companion and takes up rather more than his fair share of the bed. He’d probably say the same about me!

For this reason we have ruled out the traditional 3/4 width rock and roll VW Transporter beds (you find theses in many full camper van conversions) when buying our vans.

Kombi beds

Our first van was a blank canvas having been a tradersman’s van before we bought it.

We decided to get a Forty Winks Kombi bed fitted.

Child in Forty Winks bed in back of VW Transporter

This simple design is great for providing a flat, large and comfortable sleeping platform while retaining the usability of the van’s load space. 

Because we had a Long Wheel Based van we could have the bed in place without having to worry about folding away the rear seats and it gave us pretty close to a full size double bed. 

The system uses the existing VW load space floor mounts so doesn’t require any drilling or modification and can be fully removed if required. It also folds in half allowing half of the load space to still be full height – ideal if transporting bikes.

We had a high density foam mattress made to measure. It folded at the same place the sleeping platform did so stowed away neatly.  

We deliberately got this done with a water proof cover and dense foam so that we didn’t have to worry about taking the mattress out if we were out and about paddle boarding or on wet, muddy dog walks.

For added luxury we had a standard double memory foam mattress topper (a special from ALDI) that came away with us on camping trips.

Rock and roll camper van bed

Rock and roll camper van bed

Our second camper – a short wheel base – came with different bed solution.

The back seats roll fully forward on the Caravelle rail system and then fold down to make two thirds of the double bed base. The final third is provided by the Slidepod at the back of the van. We topped this with a mattress to complete the bed.

This was just as comfortable as our other van and probably made for a better use of the space.

How many people can sleep in a VW camper van?

We’re a family of four and have found we have plenty of room to sleep inside our camper vans.

But you could fit more.

It would be possible to sleep three small children in a pop top – the weight limit on our last one was 70kg. And you could top and tail on the bed in the back of the van.

For more beds inside you could add a Cabbunk to the front seats. A single bunk might be the best option as a double could make it difficult for people to exit the pop top.

Adding an awning obviously ups the maximum number of people you could bring away.

So the answer to how does a VW camper sleep comes down to how friendly you want to get.

How wide is a VW Transporter bed?

This depends on the layout of your van and the type of bed you have installed – full width or three quarter width.

As a guide, our full width rock and roll bed in our VW T6 was 145cm wide. That’s 5cm less than a UK King sized bed, so not to shabby.

Camper van bedding

So, which is best? A sleeping bag or duvet?

We started out with a double sleeping bag*, with pillows and a king sized sheet from home. The main benefit is that it’s easy to pack away and store on days out.

You do need to spend a reasonable amount of money on a cotton sleeping bag to ensure it’s comfortable and doesn’t get sweaty.

An alternative that we’ve recently been introduced to is a coverless duvet, which adds a bit of luxury to van life while still being practical.

Read my review of the Night Owl coverless duvet and why it works as camper van bedding.

Mum and child in duvet in the back of a camper van

Why our VW camper beds work for us

These camper van set ups have worked for us for several reasons. 

Firstly, when going away we will almost always put up and awning.

We always used an awning with our caravan because the extra space it gives with two children and a dog is invaluable. It also means the van can just be for sleeping not living. 

Inside OLPRO Cocoon Breeze

That said we have done occasional overnight stops without an awning. 

Second, we don’t travel light! Bikes, scooters, paddle boards, the list is endless. 

The space we have to carry ‘stuff’ is huge and the van has the load capacity to take it all. I don’t know how we would get everything in a full camper conversion. 

Lastly, the van is our primary family transport, so while the kids have been in ISOFIX seats we’ve been able to use these in our vans.

How do you sleep in your camper van?

Looking in side door of camper van

So, that’s our VW Transporter bed set up. Would this work for you? Or, if you already own a camper van, what set up works for you?

I’m always interested in seeing how other people use their vans so please share your set ups with me. Do you use a camping pod systems such as the slide pods?

Could you live without your pop top? What about a roof tent? Do share!

Read more of my camper van blog posts:

Researching your camper van bed options? Why not save this post about VW Transporter beds on Pinterest.

If you're wondering how a family sleeps in a camper van this is our set up. We have a VW T5 day van with VW Transporter beds for two kids and two adults #camper #camping #VW #T5 #Transporter #van #beds #family #sleep #travel #holidays #familytravel #blog #day #dayvan

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Tuesday 16th of May 2023

I've just read your article on going caravan holidays with a baby and now this one, lots of interesting points - so thank you.

Can I ask why you decided to swap the caravan lifestyle for a campervan, especially if setting up on campsites? I'm debating which one to get currently.

Thanks !

Claire Hall - Tin Box Traveller

Wednesday 17th of May 2023

Hi Stu, it was mostly because of our lifestyle - my husband's job takes him away a lot and I don't have a towing license. We're all currently living in Oman so have had to give up caravans and camper vans altogether for a while. I've written more about caravans vs camper vans in this post: I hope it helps.

Jessica Wood

Thursday 29th of July 2021

I love this page you have set up. Really helpful!!We are a family of 4, girls are 8 & 7, plus a dog. We are thinking of getting a transporter as we want to travel more and do more spontaneous overnight stays! My question to the husband is, this is not an everyday car to pop to the shops or school run!! is this your primary vehicle?

Claire Hall - Tin Box Traveller

Tuesday 3rd of August 2021

Hi Jessica, yes, it was for the first six months that we had it. You can fit it in most car parks as long as they aren't old multi-storeys with restricted height limits. We got an electric car after six months because it was cheaper to run. I also prefer to drive a smaller car around the narrow roads where we live in Devon.

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