Turn your Minivan into an RV. Sort of.

We actually sleep in our minivan quite often. Over the past 5 months I’d say we’ve slept in the van at least 6 times. There are occasions when a tent just isn’t practical. Wind storms, unseasonably cold weather, precipitation, sleeping right off the side of the highway, etc.

Check it out! Looks cozy right?


A couple of tips for sleeping 2 adults, 2 kids and a dog in a minivan:
Note: Max height in our family is 5′ 7″

  • If you have stow’n go fold down the middle seats, if you don’t, leave the middle seats home.
  • Pack all the loose stuff that floats around your van in a tote that can be thrown outside with the cooler and the car seats (or piled drivers seat) to make way for your sleeping transformation.
  • Adult 1 sleeps in a hammock along the ceiling (see video above for installment).
  • Adult 2 and Child 1 sleep on the floor. Fold out some sleeping pads, mattress foam or bouldering pad.
  • Child 2 sleeps along the back bench.
  • Dog sleeps on a sheet or pillow on the front passenger seat.

Thanks to Joe for agreeing to do this video. For the record, I was in the house bathing the kids who were both screaming their heads off (it was hair washing day). Not sure who got the short end of the stick on that…

55 Comments so far

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  1. Joe deserves big for this. He is awesome. And to see it in the video makes a huge difference!

    This is so brilliant. We are totally doing it. I don’t know if we could fit 6 though… especially since anything we leave outside the van during the night will get completely soaked 10 months out of the year… But, we’ve got to figure it out!

    Thanks tons!!

    • Liz- Thanks. If you find a way to fit 6 I would love to know! Maybe you could fold down all the seats, hang an extra hammock in the front (from the drivers side to the passengers side) and put a tarp over all your stuff? Hahahaa.

  2. Jen

    Wow, my plan is to pull this off in three minutes too!Thanks. Super excited to get camping!

    • Jen – Better start practicing! Haaha. Let me know how it goes.

  3. Josh

    I recognized a couple of those carabiners and cordage. Retired 1970’s vintage climbing gear used in Yosemite back in the day.

    • Josh – Ahhh the cycle of life continues… That gear was just immortalized in YouTube!

  4. You guys are awesome. You *almost* make me wish we had a minivan.

  5. So cool. I am very impressed with Joe’s instructional video skills. Very well done! Wonder if it would work on my KIA sportage??? =) Hope the kids hair came out clean and shiny!

    • Liv – I know. He did great. So did K-So, did you notice how well she sat on the grass? For some reason I laugh through that whole video, in a good way! The kids were clean, but I do recall a certain 4 year old earning a ‘time out’ in the process…

  6. Bary Boggess

    This is some fine Wilson Engineering!

  7. […] After you’re done with this post you’ll know how to turn your minivan into an RV. […]

  8. Ginny Bilz

    I’m a grandma of 4 (6,5,3,2) and I just bought a used minvan. I hope to take the two oldest camping next summer and I’m curious as to why you don’t recommend an inflatable mattress. Too fragile?

    • Ginny – That sounds awesome! I can see your grandkids remembering this for a long time to come. You know, an inflatable mattress might work. I like using the bouldering pad because it fits in the space perfectly AND we can drag it out and use it for other things. It’s made to be thrown in the dirt and jumped on, so it also serves as a camping couch/baby lounge area of sorts. I also like the egg crate foam mattress because you can easily cut it to be the exact size you need. I say if the air mattress fits the space, go for it! It might work out really well if you have stow-and-go and can create an even larger sleeping area. If you try it I would LOVE to know how it works out!

  9. Susan S.

    Just recently found your website and love it. :) I really love the idea of the hammock in the minivan, thanks for the instructional video! Will have to try that out.

    • Susan – Thanks! And welcome to the website. If you do try it, I’d love to know how it turns out!

  10. Joy

    I’m buying a (very used) minivan tomorrow! And looking for ideas for camping conversions tonight. Don’t want to use space for a bed. Will either sleep on recliner front seat OR use your hammock idea. Thanks! I didn’t know a minivan wasn’t cool! :)

    • Joy – Congrats on the new mini! You’ll love the hammock method, unless your over 6 feet tall… And not to worry, apparently minis are only uncool in certain circles, turns out those circles are totally wrong! ;) GOOD LUCK.

  11. Greg

    Love your blog and the hammock idea!

    My family of 5 sleeps in our Sienna as well on roadtrips. We prefer the tent, but when we are driving long distances we use the van in reststops and trucker gas stations.

    We have the next generation Sienna to yours where the rear seats fold into the floor. Then we remove the middle sits and put them on the front seats. Finally we sleep on thermarests, 3 lengthwise (mom, dad and 7 yr old) and the other 2 younger kids widthwise, toward the front. It works well, is quick to set up and requires minimal gear.

    Oh ya, and for the record Mini-vans rule!

    • Greg – Thanks for the comment. I envy your fold down seats in the back, we’re trying to figure out how we’re going to sleep a family of 5 in our van… Might need to upgrade, your plan sounds perfect!

  12. Tina

    I love the hammock. We have a family of 5. Our van does not have stow and go seats. I considered folding the backs of the 2 bench seats flat with board and egg crate mattress on top and having the kids sleep underneath between the seats and in the back. Have you ever tried this method?

    • Tina – I have not tried that, our bench doesn’t fold very flat unfortunately, but it sounds like it might work. We’re about to become a family of 5 so I’m going to be up against the same thing. Hummm I wonder if you could hang 2 hammocks… ;)

  13. Jennifer

    In our van (2004 Honda Odyssey) a queen size air mattress just right. Me and my two boys (7 & 14 y/o) fit wonderfully. Discovered this by a happy accident, when the weather for camping became a sudden severe thunderstorm, lasting 4 hours (and of course during the night, LOL). Also, have done the hammock now too! Works wonderfully. Thanks for such a wonderful site that keeps children in mind!!!!!

    • Jennifer – I can’t believe you can fit a queen mattress in there. You must have stow-n-go? That would be so nice! Glad the hammock is also working out for you. Always nice to know there’s another hammock out there hooked to the celing of a minivan ;) Thanks for leaving a comment!

  14. I love what you guys are doing! We’ve come up with a few ideas of our own and have posted them at

    • Chelle – What a great site you have!! I love it. Thanks for sharing our stuff, I’ll have to let my readers know your out there. Minivan campers unite!

      • Yay! Thanks, Lindsey– and congrats on that new baby of yours! My daughter is an eye-rolling teen, now, and I sure do miss the days when she was still a “puppy.”

        You seem like a very cool mom– and your husband seems like your perfect counterpart. Cheers to you two for keeping your priorities straight in a crazy world!


  15. […] Outside Mom […]

  16. I love the video tutorial for that. I could not have been done so well in pics. I also like the ingenuity in the sleeping arrangements for the 2 adults, 2 kids and the dog…my only question is, where to you put kid # 3- #6 :) I’ll have to try that in my Yukon and see if we can find some nooks and crannies.

    • Andrea – Hahaa, I’m not sure what to do with more children! We just had child #3 and have yet to try this out as a family of 5 people and 1 dog. There’s got to be a way to fit everyone in your Yukon… more hammocks perhaps? :)

  17. Lindsey, Congrats on #3. Not to jinx you but #3 was our most difficult, we were out numbered after that :) I actually did think about a couple of hammocks but you’d have to cross them and would need some more height in the vehicle to make that work…I know, I’ll take the hammock and pack tube tents for the guys :)

  18. Are you kidding? I love this! I found you via the post linked at Bonbon Break! I love it! I love your blog! :)

  19. […] MINIVAN TURNED RV ::: Outside Mom […]

  20. AlliPalli

    Ok this is amazing!! MacGyver eat your heart out!

  21. Lori

    Thank you for this wonderful video….I grew up camping but my husband grew up in hotel vacations so we don’t always see eye to eye on the trips. I think the kids and I will convert our van and take a few trips without my husband. They enjoy the camping we do but we always stay in a rented camper or KOA cabin. This gives us many more options for some short, fast trips! Would the hammock work with a tent conversion in the back since it is really hung by the cords over the roof?
    Thanks for the tips!

  22. […] MINIVAN TURNED RV ::: Outside Mom […]

  23. […] MINIVAN TURNED RV ::: Outside Mom Filed Under: Backyard […]

  24. […] real estate. We typically don’t camp in the same place more than one night (if so we usually sleep in our van), but if we plan to stay awhile, each patch of flat ground is critically evaluated.  I envision it […]

  25. Deneen Waddell

    I’m looking into some bunk cots to fit in a stow and go car we haven’t purchased yet. Funny I found your site…I was looking for ideas to do te samr thing! There are five of us so I thought stacking us would be a good idea but I’m having trouble finding bunk cots tat will fit and allow the bottom people a way out! Any ideas for five? Thank you!

    • Deneen – We are a family of 5 now, so we need to think of a new configuration. I have not considered cots, that could work. One thing we have considered is hanging 1 hammock as shown in the video, then hanging another hammock over the 2 front seats for a child. So far we’ve just resorted to putting up the tent, but we would love to find something that works for the van! But we are still brainstorming…

  26. Heidi ahrens

    Just got our mini van a 2003 Toyota sienna. No stow and go. I was considering building a platform I front of the third row seats, leaving the second row seats at home and having the whole family sleep side by side on the platform with our feet on the third row seats. I really like the hammock idea. Anyone do the platform thing?

    • Hey Heidi – I have never seen anything like that, but if you do it, let me know how it turns out. Sounds like a great idea!!

  27. Sara

    I just wanted to tell you thank you for posting this in internet land. This post made me “okay” with buying a minivan. We finally took the plunge and own a minivan now…next step is to install the hammock. :) Thanks again for sharing!

  28. antoine

    Me and my wife are going to travel from Miami to Los angeles on our wonderful Sienna. We love the way you do travel. You are an inspiration. We love your trip !!!! Thank you

  29. markbehouden

    good times. thanks for sharing (authors and commenters). out west we will go!

  30. NICE!
    I’m 60+ now and looking into buying a used Odyssey to convert it for at least one (more) cross-country trip.

    I’ve been van-converting for fun for 40 years. My second cross-country trip was with our one-year old, back in 1980. She’s now 34-ish and LOVES to travel. She’s been on every continent, has friends all around the world, and saves her money to vacation in a new country every chance she gets. I didn’t realize that the “get-in-the-car-and-go” obsession of our young marriage could impact our kids (girl and two boys) much as it did, but it does…for the rest of their lives…until THEY have kids!

    You are also showing them how to live on less, the unity of family love, and the creativity and ingenuity it takes to build necessities for 4&5 in less than 200 cu ft. of cargo space!

    Keep up the good work! And wish me luck…the kids are gone, and now I want to hit the road with the hubby all over again…this passion never dies!

  31. none

    WoW! This was the inspiration I needed… You just saved me from buying a VW camper van! My minivan is more reliable and plus we already own it! I am thinking of hanging the kids (2&5) side to side across the front and rear of the car while the adult get to lay full length (we are tall). Outstanding idea and outstanding post!

    • Holly

      I’ve been thinking the same thing! Did you try this out, and how did it work out for you?

  32. Sarah

    Great ideas! Can you stack more than 1?

  33. Jonny

    You can open the doors after its strapped down on top without problems, correct? I like your hammock idea because Im going on tour with a male friend of mine and a female I’ve never met. It would be possible to fit the three of us in the bed, but I’m not sure if they’d be comfortable with that, and were probably going to smell too bad to be right on top of each other anyway.  Mini vans are so punk rock. Lol. Thanks!

  34. Holly

    I have wonderful childhood memories of road trips and camping in our VW pop-top back in the 70’s. Having one of my own has been a bit of a fantasy, but I’ve finally accepted that a minivan will be more reliable, practical, cheaper and get better gas mileage. We’re in the market for a Sienna with a fold-down third row seat and your site has helped me come to terms with becoming a minivan momma. :) We have 16-mo-old twin girls and I am thinking we’ll do something like the hanging cot pictured here

    and also add one across the back somehow. Hoping to create a removable camper conversion of sorts for climbing and sight-seeing trips. Thanks for the inspiration!


    I'm Lindsey. I'm an environmental educator, my husband's a biologist. The outdoors is infused into everything we do; which explains why I'm better at mud pies than home decorating. More About Me

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