The 27 Dollar RV – Ford Escape Conversion

I made a sleeping platform that converts our Ford Escape into an RV using $27 of lumber. This incredibly cheap project is something you could complete in a single afternoon with almost no tools. The full materials, tools, and cuts lists are below.

The valuable simplicity of this setup is skipping the build of a permanent platform with storage underneath that is so common in van conversions. Simply get the wood required to make a flat surface. Ford owners can repeat exactly. Others can modify to fit the specific dimensions of their own SUV.

This removable platform makes a great crash pad for weekend trips to the wild without the commitment of a permanent conversion.

Estimated time to complete:
1-2 hours including drive time to get materials.

Materials:
Two 48″x48″ pieces of 1/2″ MDF

Cost:
$26.97

Tools:
Tape measure
Saw

Cuts:

  1. Prior to buying, Home Depot or Lowes will panel saw each piece of MDF to 34″x47″
  2. Cut a 8″x4″ portion from the corner of each. I used a power reciprocating saw for this. These small cuts could easily be accomplished with a hand saw.

Cut 2 Complete

Assemble by simply placing in the vehicle. For this small SUV, the front seats need moved all the way forward to create the sleeping platform.
RV Conversion - Platform Complete

Result:
Sleeping platform 73″ long, 40.5″ wide at foot & 47″ wide at torso level. Mid way up there is a half inch lip to cover the joint between the seats trunk floor. This 1/2″ lip meets flush with the 1/2″ MDF.

I had a twin air mattress that was the perfect length fit and would accommodate 1 sleeper.
Twin Airmattress

We were thinking of custom making a mattress to accommodate two. The day after the build, we stumbled into the idea of using a 4″ thick full sized mattress topper that we bought for $20. It is the perfect width at torso height and the sides of the foot area fold up slightly to fit. There is a slight bulge at top center where mattress sits on the center console but this is an unused part of the mattress when two are laying on each side. Sara opted for a yoga mat beneath her side to give a little more support.
Mattress topper

This edition of the Ford Escape was a perfect choice for this conversion because the folded down rear seats lay down into an almost completely flat platform. After years of driving a truck with a camper shell, I was specifically checking for a sleepable space when searching for our SUV. I folded down the seats and laid in pretty much every SUV we considered buying at several different car dealerships. Whether you own an Escape or another model, I highly recommend configuring for in car camping.

Pros:
Nearly free camper
Can easily fold away & use rear seats
Perfect for short trips & dispersed camping

Cons:
Sleeping with windows open wouldn’t work as well in rainy or buggy areas
Sleeping gear fills a lot of storage space if not optimized properly

Inaugural Trip:
After building the platform the 13th and getting the mattress topper on the 14th, we loaded up the rig to test out on the 15th in the Mojave National Preserve. We packed our backpacking packs with quilts and clothes. We filled a cooler with food and grabbed 2 pillows. We hiked to the top of Kelso Dunes and camped out at the base. Woke to a beautiful view and had a nice second day in the desert.

Packed for Mojave

Kelso Dunes

Descending Kelso Dunes

Morning View

Raptor

3 Comments

  1. […] using our $27 RV for nearly 1 year worth of weekend trips, we decided it was time for some upgrades. While our basic […]

  2. […] using our $27 RV platform and $20 Mattress Topper for a few months worth of trips, we made time to tailor a better fit for our vehicle. Our sleeping […]

  3. […] we loaded the car and turned in our keys! In our SUV, we have a sleeping platform, which is the $27 RV that I originally created for weekend trips. We have 2 blankets, 2 pillows, and a sheet set. We have a sun shade shelf to store light items […]

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