Slide-out aluminum campervan bed design
October 22, 2022 · 2 min read
Since publishing the video above, I have received numerous asks for more details on the design of the bed I built out of 80/20 aluminum T-slot for my campervan. Although specifically designed for a Mitsubishi Delica, this design can be generalized for most campers by tweaking the dimensions and mounting points. In this post, I share some insights into the whole process and cover common questions. You can also purchase the SketchUp file (.skp) and the full parts list of my build here.
Why a slide-out design?
A slide-out design allows a bed to wear many hats, maximizing usage of the limited space available in campers. However, it's not the only multi-hat-wearing design out there. A rock and roll bed was also a contender. The slide-out design won over because of its simplicity and better alignment with the configuration I had in mind for the van.
Why 80/20 aluminum?
At the time, I didn't trust my woodworking skills enough to build the camper's centrepiece out of wood and have it come out looking good. Building with 80/20 seemed pretty straightforward: you order the pieces to the exact millimeter length and assemble them–seemingly low effort for a professional-looking end product. Its strength also made for a simpler design with fewer support pieces. Using the deflection calculator, I decided on the 1" profile.
Perhaps the biggest drawback to 80/20 aluminum is its cost. Building this bed ended up costing me more than any residential bed I'd purchased prior (though to be fair, most of those were from IKEA). I had heard 80/20 can get pricey but the reality of this only set in when I received an invoice for the parts I had ordered. Cost was the main reason why I turned to wood for the shelf/slide-out desk unit I built later on.
Test your design
I started the arduous but amusing design process before the van arrived in Canada (you can read more about the import process here) using interior dimensions I found on the internet. However, given it'll take up a significant portion of the interior and function not only as a bed but also a couch and storage unit (amongst other things), I recommend doing some prototyping of the proposed dimensions inside your camper before ordering parts.
I ended up having to shorten the legs of mine by 5cm to be able to sit up straight on the 4" thick mattress. A revision in the other direction would've been much pricier (cutting aluminum is cheaper than ordering 8 new legs).
Ordering 80/20 aluminum
Depending on where you live, the availability of these coveted aluminum extrusion pieces can vary. I was in Vancouver when doing this build and managed to find a local supplier that was about an hour drive away. Most suppliers will cut the ordered pieces to length (sometimes for a small fee). Do some calling around in your area and compare availability and pricing with online options such as 8020.net and Amazon.