Honda Element Camper – Bed

I finally finished the 2D drawings and 3D model of my Honda Element Camper Bed. For background, this earlier post give a full tour of the camper and some of the design goals I was trying to balance. While this design provides all the details that tailor it for an Element, I think it could also be useful for any other vehicle.

If you end up using these plans in any way, I would LOVE to hear about it!

Compared to my previous bed, the design for this one has several changes to make it easier to build. The main one is that I used off-the-shelf lumber. When I was building the first one, I had a bunch of wood for a heavy duty pallet that I ended up ripping into smaller boards on the table saw. The results is that all the dimensions of all the boards were a little non-standard.

The previous bed also had small gaps between all the slats, which led to a lot of fine tuning and sanding to get the pull-out sections to slide smoothly. For this new design, only 3 slats slide against each other for each pull-out section, and the rest have much larger gaps, which resulted in zero fine tuning – phew.

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CAD assembly of the full bed. The blue and green shapes are the custom shapes that tailor the bed to an Element.

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expanded bed

Here is the actual STEP file: Honda Element Bed v26 AmyMakesStuff.step

Here is the 2D assembly drawing: Honda Element Bed Drawing v9 AmyMakesStuff

Honda Element Bed Drawing v9 AmyMakesStuff

The assembly drawing provides a lot of key dimensions. For any that I missed, feel free to reference the 3D model.

The last page is a full cut list you can use to plan out how much and what kind of material you need to get.

Honda Element Bed Drawing v9 cut list AmyMakesStuff

Its super satisfying to cut a big pile of pieces and then just non-stop assemble!

For the Honda Element specifically, here are the 2D 1:1 scale PDFs of the two funny shapes that fit the contours of the vehicle interior: Honda Element Bed TEMPLATE v1 AmyMakesStuff For tips on how to print them out, check out the video I made for how to print out full-scale templates for the my Element shelf/desk unit.

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installed

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expanded

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glamour shot of the slats

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underbelly

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room for 2x Sterlite 28Q (27L) Tupperware. I usually keep food + cooking stuff in one and have one for spare gear/clothes.

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curve fitting 1

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curve fitting 2

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curve fitting 3

Full in-process build video:

34 thoughts on “Honda Element Camper – Bed

  1. Awesome job Amy on all levels. I appreciate you sharing detailed plans with cut list, saving me a lot of time in trial and error work. Thank you

  2. Nice design. A little heavy though. However weight is difficult to avoid. In the past, I would modify a camping cot, by using material and 4-inch soft foam rubber, and 3/8 plywood panels. Cut the panels to fit the cot or area of interest. Then staple the material around the foam rubber on the plywood panels. Very cheep and easy to do. The current ones I am using are over 10 years old.

  3. Amy thank you SO MUCH for sharing your knowledge! I had found your page awhile back while searching for Element Micro camper builds and was planning on trying to make this just by the video. I am planning a 48 state trip in the next few years and I know this will make it much easier. I looked it up today while at the lumber store and low and behold you posted the most AMAZING and easy to follow build with a supply list no less. I have almost all of the pieces and I’ll be attempting creation in the next few weeks. I’d love to know your camping tips for long trips too and an idea of what works best for cooking 🙂

    • Woo!! Exciting build and more exciting trip! Really the longest trip I’ve ever done was only about 2 weeks and that was years ago, so not sure I have too much advice to share. I’ll have to think about that. For cooking, I am a huge fan of the Coleman bottle top stove because they work so well and break down very small. I’ve never needed more than one burner and try really hard to make only one pot dirty if I cook at all. I find I’m able to keep that stove, a small pot, plenty of utensils, plates, cups, and even a bunch of oatmeal all in one big Tupperware.

  4. Amy thank you SO MUCH for sharing your knowledge! I had found your page awhile back while searching for Element Micro camper builds and was planning on trying to make this just by the video. I am planning a 48 state trip in the next few years and I know this will make it much easier. I looked it up today while at the lumber store and low and behold you posted the most AMAZING and easy to follow build with a supply list no less. I have almost all of the pieces and I’ll be attempting creation in the next few weeks. I’d love to know your camping tips for long trips too and an idea of what works best for cooking 🙂

  5. hi,Amy,i saw your video many times,never saw the lady did it like you,you are great the woodworker,i proud of you.thank you for share. Mark Chan

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  10. I love this design.. I used to have a honda element and I have been trying to cinvertbit into a camper.. would love to contact you next time I get another ‘camper’ vehicle:) you are awesome!

  11. Dude this is awesome! I’m going to try and use your design in my 2005 CR-V, I will probably need to reshape the custom pieces though. I’ll let you know how it goes!

    By the way, what mattress did you use for the bed cushion?

    • Thanks for reading, Emily! I look forward to seeing your update! I used this mattress, but it looks discontinued now on Amazon: Zinus Memory Foam 4 Inch Mattress. I’m sure you can find something similar from somewhere else. The important point is to use an actual mattress, not just a foam topper. A mattress will have a stiffer foam at the bottom that will prevent you from compressing the foam all the way. I used a topper for a while and could always feel the bed frame underneath. Good luck!

  12. Hello Amy! I’ve cut out all my pieces and I’m ready to assemble but I ran into a small problem. I cut 10 of the long 21″ slats but when I look at the finished pic I’m counting 11. Same with the 20″ except instead of 13 I’m counting 12 in the pic.
    I’m probably missing something 😥 this is my first attempt at building anything from scratch and I’ve watched your video a dozens of times. You are AMAZING!

  13. Hi Amy, I DID IT! I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your generosity in sharing the specs for your bed design. I did run into a few bumps, but that was more “operator error” than anything. I couldn’t get the legs to stay on so I just used L brackets and that worked fine. It’s nowhere near as beautiful as yours but it works! I suffer from arthritis in my knees and back but I love to take trips to the mountain. This setup will allow me to move around without putting to much stress on my joints which means less pain more trips. 😁

    Thank you, thank you THANK YOU!

  14. This is SUCH an amazing build. I have been interested in building a stowable bed platform in a smaller vehicle, and was always perplexed at the use of so many builds that used big solid plywood sheets. Beds, especially in enclosed spaces, don’t do well on flat platforms! They retain heat and moisture and are too stiff. You have solved it with the sliding ventilation slats!

    I was considering adapting the design to something that uses both expandable slats as well as a hinged sections so that it not only interlaces for space saving as you have built, but also folds in half over top of itself so it can be stored in the cargo area easily. Kind of like folding a piece of paper in half and then in half again. Your slats are the first fold… Hinges in the center could be the second. It would take up a quarter of the floor space!

    You have already split the slats into two moveable sections. It seems like separation of the “fixed” portion into two independent halves that could would be a trivial change, though it may result in a loss of structural integrity. Or you might hit the ceiling…

    Would love to hear your thoughts. Keep up the amazing work.

    • Glad you enjoyed the build! I end up using the space below the bed for storage containers, so I have no incentive to collapse the bed further as this further reduces my storage volume. Also, at some point I had a bed setup with some platform sections that folded out on hinges, and I really disliked that so much space had to be clear to allow the hinging swing motion. I find that with this current setup, I can still deploy or stow the bed without really cleaning up whatever is on top of the bed. Every use scenario is different though! Curious to see what you decide to build!

  15. Hi Amy, thanks for sharing the drawings of your Honda Element Camper Bed.

    I wanted to create a modified simplified build w/o the curve fitting pieces and using stock 1×2 for Rails. I also wanted to make the “exploded” bed a total width of 48″, in order to stretch all the way across the interior width of the Element, as seen in this video: https://youtu.be/_2N1_l32OQA?t=104

    Attached STEP & SW2019 files: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1Wkx-T31Bx2d1Mwq1VY79MJ6xbcZScmZA
    Animation: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1hGLb7D2x6DDVaY8bpyPemUuNRFeEM8ev
    (This is just preliminary, I will fill out the other slats, including the guide slat(s), later on).

    My question is, do you think using stock 1×2 in the Rails would be strong enough to hold up a significant amount of weight (~300 lbs)? Or would you recommend using 1×3 (or Ripped) for the Rails for strength, which would probably require the collapsed bed to be > than it’s current width of 28″?

    Note that I made the legs at least 14″ tall because of wanting to fit a ENGEL 25 hard cooler underneath the bed: https://www.engelcoolers.com/engel-25-hard-cooler.html
    This would give about 31″ clearance from the bed frame top to the interior roof, or about 27-28″ with a mattress. Do you think this would be too little head clearance space?

    Thanks again for sharing your detailed drawings!

    • If I am understanding your CAD animation correctly, you are showing 4x 1x2s spanning the length of the bed. If this is all you plan to have (and no additional legs in the middle) I definitely don’t think this is enough to support 300 lbs. You might get lucky by choosing lumber with optimal grain, but even then, you will definitely feel the flex. I am managing to avoid this problem with the extra set of legs in the middle. 1×3 will make it better for sure, but maybe the best test for you will be to get two 1x3s (or 1x2s) and put 300 lbs near the middle to see if that feels good to you.

      Previously I did have a setup that had about that much head room. It was okay. I much prefer being able to sit up all the way now. I guess it depends on how tall you are. I prototyped headroom by just sitting on chairs or boxes of the representative height.

      • Of course, that’s the reason had the middle leg(s) as well!

        I thought I could use 1×2’s for the Rail pieces because they are only 0.375-0.5″ off from the 1×3 Ripped pieces you have listed under your Cut List. Was there a reason you split the moving bed into 2 pieces, instead of just having 1 moving piece?

        Did you do any sort of structural analysis/tests before deciding to use 1×3 Ripped, or you just hoped it would support the weight? Do you think it would be OK to use 1×3’s for the center Rail pieces (where most of the weight is distributed on the bed), and get away with using 1×2’s for the two outer Rail pieces?

        Thanks for your inputs.

      • Oops, I must have missed it in the animation!

        I split it so that I have the option of fitting a big cooler when I am traveling alone. Also, in general I think splitting it makes them easier to slide. Less binding.

        Originally I used something a lot closer to 1×2 for all the rails and I could feel it flex a little bit. Again, this may be very dependent on the exact pieces of wood you use. I think your idea of using 1x3s in the middle and thinner in the sides could work. Even better is if you put the side rails on their edge so they are even stiffer. You could even go with metal tubing and definitely be fine.

      • Hi Amy, not sure why I’m unable to reply to your latest comment.

        As recommended, I added the middle legs, along with using stronger 1×3 for the “center” Rail pieces:

        New animation (w/ middle legs): https://drive.google.com/open?id=1G5QrgXnDw4NAdMOEf2HRspzDmH3QSVTh

        Dimensions of center & side Rail pieces: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1m03JZdOba-4BXlk14Sy1vCG7LUNEyKpn

        Hopefully this will be strong enough with the slat pieces overlaid on top? I’ll also try your tip about using 1×3’s rotated 90° along its vertical axis for the side Rails for stiffness.

        Thanks!

  16. Hi Amy – just ran across your video and plans. Really nice – great job! And thanks for all the detail you provided to all of us. In the video, you were rounding off the edges of the slats and other wood pieces with what tool? A block planer of some sort? Could you share what you used and how effective it is. Many thanks!!

  17. Exactly what I needed! Looking for the perfect setup to convert my Element to a overnight mini RV and this is it! Small counter space to prepare food, a place for a laptop, storage…you thought it out well! . The place I’m going to is related to my work and it is 2:22 minutes drive each way. I just cant see myself driving to and from as a daily commute and only need to cover this work location 25 days out of the year. I’ll just boondock or stelth camp! I have a solar panel not being used and a power inverter. Probably add a flat screen TV (free repaired from ewaste pile) Add an TV antenna and receive free broadcast TV. (It just so happens that transmission broadcast antenna are with in 10 miles! Might as well have some amenities! The problem is how to stay cool in the warn humid weather. I think heat is easier to conquer with a small propane heater or diesel truck heater and also a winterized sleeping bag. I might have to run fans and pop the moon roof out for summer and use your screen mesh idea! Maybe design a fantastic fan to fit in the opening?

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