Posts in Category: Design

Ford Escape RV Conversion – Custom Mattress

After 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 platform is 73″ long, 40.5″ wide at foot & 47″ wide at torso level. The length and torso width are the correct dimensions for a full mattress. We had satisficed with the folded sides in the foot box on weekend trips.

Mattress topper

We had considered custom ordered but never seemed to prioritize it.

We used a large roll of red paper (from the paint section of home depot) to make templates of our sleeping platform.

Template in Car

We then took those inside and laid them out on the mattress.

Template on Mattress

We then cut the mattress to size with an exacto knife.

Exacto Cut Mattress

We also flipped the mattress and carved a section of the foam out to seat over the center console with a slightly reduced bulge.

Carved out head rest

The finished product gives more foot room and makes taking the mattress in and out easier.

Mattress Trimmed

Ford Escape RV Conversion – Sun Shade Shelf

After using our $27 RV for nearly 1 year worth of weekend trips, we decided it was time for some upgrades. While our basic conversion functioned fine for short trips, storage and gear was far from optimized. There was always a good deal of digging for things and shuffling of goods.

I sketched out a plan to build an 8″ platform sleeping platform with sliding storage underneath. I thought it through about 50% as well as I should have and wound up at Home Depot picking out the materials. I had boards in the cart and was on the verge of setting that in motion when I hit a snag with my incomplete design. We put the wood all back & returned to drawing board that evening at home while we shaped our mattress to a custom fit.

In the already small sleeping quarters, we did not particularly want to sacrifice a substantial amount of our sitting room to permanent under platform storage. 

We thought through other ways to get storage, including the idea of a roof top carrier. We realized the pinch point for storage was while sleeping. During the day while not using the sleeping platform, it was a massive cargo compartment with ample storage. While driving, we wanted the rear windshield clear. While sleeping, the area above our feet was unused and an ideal space for more storage. 

Trunk Cover Inspiration

I immediately started turning over the idea of a shelving system on vertical tracks that could be raised or lowered to an up or down position, which lead Sara to say that sounded complicated.

Simplicity was the savior again.

Sara suggested that the removable trunk sun shade was essentially the perfect height for a shelf and that it would have been perfect if the roll up shade had been built to hold weight. 

The sun shade itself rolls into a bar, which is dropped into a 2” x 2” sturdy holder. The screen then pulls out like a projector a projector screen. It is extended beyond 2 “c” shaped mounts that face the tailgate. Two irregular shaped rubber tips fit in the mount and the force of the screen trying to retract towards the front of the car holds it in place. This later attachment point is weaker than the front and is not an ideal place for most other forms of attachment.

I took some measurements and made a plan for a shelf using the available sun shade attachment points.

The original plan consisted of a square 2×2 cut to length for the front cross piece and a dowel for the rear cross peice. I was thinking to bracket the dowel to the underside of shelf leaving the appropriate length extending beyond the shelf surface which could slide into the irregular mount and allow the shelf to rotate down to rest on the front cross piece. To keep the dowel from sliding out of the “c” mounts, I planned to attach a strip or two of scrap wood under the front edge of the shelf that would rest with an edge flush to the front of the front cross peice.

I then bought materials. Because the rear mounting brackets are lightweight, I wanted an appropriately lightweight piece of wood for the shelf by using one piece of 0.205″ x 23.75″ x 47.75″ plywood ($9.92). I had it cut to size in store. I also bought one 8′ x 2″ x 2″ to cut down at home for the front cross piece. I wound up using another piece of the same board for the rear cross member as well rather than the dowel. The “c” bracket needed a much more specific fit than a dowel. I made a mold of the “c” bracket using cling wrap over putty. I then carved down the tip of the rear 2 x 2 until it fit in the opening.

On our initial test trip, we used 3 big loops of painters tape to hold the 2 cross members together, and we have since upgraded to using to tie down straps for this.

Tape Test

The shelf then rested on top, which rattled much on gravel roads to the campground. This noise bothered Sara, and she came up with using heavy duty velcro to secure the shelf to the cross members in a fixed but removable way. I also wrapped the shelf in the roll of heavy duty paper to increase its longevity and prevent splinters from the unfinished plywood.

The shelf has been a great storage increaser ever since!

Shelf Loaded

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.

Two 48″x48″ pieces of 1/2″ MDF


Tape measure


  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

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.

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

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