Subaru Car Camping – The Setup

Subaru Car Camping – The Setup

completed car camping Subaru set up
With my photo adventure to the Southwest fast approaching, I’ve been trying to figure out the best setup for camping in my 2007 Subaru Forrester. I did plenty of research, reading article after article about how people were camping in their car. Many people said a 6 foot person just couldn’t get comfortable in the back. I did eventually find one guy, who claimed to be 6’4″, that had used his Forrester to drive to Yosemite every weekend and camp in it, along with his girlfriend AND dog. His trick, a sleeping platform with a hinged piece at the head that can flip down when you slide your front seats forward. That sounded like it might work. Now to build it. 

Empty back seat

My limited carpentry skills along with an incomplete toolset required help. My buddy Jason Gillman came to the rescue. I called him and told him my idea, he then came by my house to get a look at what we would be working with. After a few days of thinking it over, I drove my hopeful future cabin out to his garage (as a professional carpenter, he had everything we needed there).


What we started with:

  • 1 – 6′ piece of 1/2″ plywood
  • 3 – 6′ 1×8’s
  • 2 – standard hinges
  • a whole bunch of wood screws

And that is pretty much it. Later on I added some indoor/outdoor carpet to the top but that is a “nice to have” and not a necessity. 

Cutting a plank

boards ready to be cut

Once the back seats are down, it creates an angle that slopes toward the back. We cut the 1×8’s to match that angle so I would be able to lay on a flat surface. This angle created enough room under the platform to store all kinds of things like camp stove, tent, camp chair, etc. and I won’t feel like I’m sleeping in a coffin. Then we took the 1/2″ plywood and ripped it to fit the width between the wheel wells (that was 37″). At that point we joined the angled 1×8’s to the plywood, set it back in the car and (of course) it fit.

measuring before cutting

cutting the board

screwing the boards together

assembled in the back of the Subaru

Having completed the base, we worked on the custom attachment, the hinged board at the head that would give me the full 6′ of sleeping area. We then put the entire setup back in the car. When I moved the seats up, we flipped the extra length over and resting on the console, you guessed it, it fit perfectly. 

cutting of the next boards

cutting wood in the shop

how the center piece flips downfinished in the back of the car

All the credit goes to Jason on this one. I would still be cutting and going back to the hardware store again and again if it wasn’t for his help. I hope anyone else thinking about doing something like this can use any of these plans. In my research I saw nearly every possible car converted into a camper, it can be done. 

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