How I Turned my SUV into a Camper with Easy Instructions and Video

I’ve always wanted to turn my SUV into a camper since I fell in love with car camping.  Indiana and I have done 3 road trips where I just put a foam mattress on top of my folded down seats in my SUV and slept in there waking up to the most amazing views that a hotel or tent just couldn’t give you.  The only downside with that set up is it leaves no room for storage.  So I set out on Pintrest to find the best ideas so that I could turn my Toyota Highlander Hybrid SUV into an amazing camper with storage.

 Now I do have to say this was a trial and error DIY project.  Mostly because the first design I choose off of someone on Pintrest pretty much fell apart the first night I tested sleeping in it.   So I feel like I should show you the failed design and what I did to fix it so that it was more study.


First things first.  You must measure out the back of your SUV to make sure you get the correct measurements so you can get them cut at Home Depot like I did or cut them at home yourself if you have your own sawing equipment.    I also suggest measuring how tall the inside of your SUV is as well.  That is if you plan on making the camper fold up so you can have access to your 2nd row seats.  I failed to do that and had to go back to Home Depot to have them cut a piece shorter.

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Once I got done measuring out my SUV, I established that I needed to make the longest top board 37x41in & then have 2 boards that will be attached by hinges to flip back at 17x41in (This is where measuring the inside hight of your SUV will be important).

The original design also was going to use 2 long boards that were going to be the base at 13x37in.   I went to Home Depot where I bought one big .5in board that I could make all these cuts using one board, as well as, one long 1x48in that I had cut up to 1x13in pieces so they could be the legs for the pieces that were going to flip back.

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The cut wood pieces

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The main base of the original design.  37x41in board on top of the two 13x37in boards.

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The first flip board piece 17x41in attached with 2 hinges with the 1x13in legs attached by a folding bracket.

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The last flip board piece which had to be cut down to 15x41in attached with 2 hinges and the 1×13 legs attached by a bracket.

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I then added a few more of the 1x13in legs to stabilize the design.

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Since the screws I used went through the boards I used carpet to cover it up so it wouldn’t hurt anyone when folding up.

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Folding brackets bought off Amazon to help the legs bend back when she wanted to gain access to the 2nd row seats.

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You can now see that the design can now fold back so I can gain access to the 2nd row seats.

The next thing to do was to add carpet, foam mattress, comforter, and two totes that were 12.5×16.25×26.  Then we hit the road to test this bad boy out to see if it needed any improvements (which it did).

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We hit up Borrego Springs and stayed the night there.  The camper was comfortable thanks to the foam mattress, however, it was still very wobbly.  Indiana and I love to move around a lot at night so the wobbliness was not a great safety feature.  When we got back to San Diego I noticed that the camper was about ready to fall apart.  So it was back to the drawing board to find a more sturdy way to make the camper work.

The idea was to get more legs but make the wood thicker than .5in.  It was another trip to the Home Deport to buy 2×4 boards that were cut at 13in in length.  The idea was to have 3 on each side of the main board and 2 in the middle.  Then 2 for each of the boards that flip back.  The legs for the flip back boards were cut down to 11in and 10.5in at an angle to make them fit flush with the 2nd row seats (this was also trial by error to get the hight and angle cut perfectly to make the camper completely flat.  Shout out to my neighbor in my old apartment complex who came with a handsaw to get those angles cut perfectly).

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Now the camper is completely flat with out a slope as the previous design.  It’s a lot a lot more sturdy given the thicker legs.  The only downside is I had to drill the legs onto the flip back boards to make sure they were more secure since the leg attachments still made them fairly wobbly.   Which means when I want to flip these pieces back to get the the 2nd row seats I will have to unscrew the legs and flip the boards back.  While inconvenient, stability is more important since this will be our home for most of this year.

I will continue to make some tweaks here and there but will keep posting anything new I’ve done to the camper or tips and tricks I’ve discovered while car camping.


mattressThis is the 4in foam mattress I bought for my camper.

You can buy it by clicking HERE


​Indiana’s Final Thoughts

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