What’s the most critical part of your van build? The bed, of course!
Although there are many things to consider when designing your van for life on the road, starting with the bed and building everything around is often the best course of action.
Why’s that, you ask? Besides ensuring a good night’s sleep, your bed can also significantly impact how much space you have in your van. Your bed is a necessity, so you’ll want to maximize the area around it.
Using the garage space underneath and above our van’s bed is one of our favorite ways to maximize the space it takes up.
Yes, you’re going to need garage space as well. Yet, your van has ample space to accommodate all your essentials, large and small. Your van bed can have both cozy sleeping quarters and adequate storage and workstation for your bikes and surfboards, as well as tiny screws and hammers.
Here are our best van garage storage hacks using your bed as a reference point. We will cover all aspects of garage storage, from flammable fuel to screwdrivers to surfboards.
Vanuild Bed Ideas
Before we talk about under the bed storage, let’s discuss how you’ll be building your bed. There are, of course, multiple options, each one with its pros and cons. If you plan to use a lot of garage space (i.e., you want to store larger items inside your vehicle like bikes, surfboards, batteries, etc.), choosing the right bed design is paramount to maximizing space in your van build. Here are some common van build ideas and their benefits and drawbacks.
Raised Beds or Platform Beds are some of the most popular vans build beds. With ample space for storage below and above your bed, you’ll have plenty of room for all of your garage and other storage needs.
- Easy to build
- No assembly every night
- Takes up a lot of space
- Limited room for seating
Note that some people have ultra-raised beds to maximize their under-bed storage space. This is entirely up to you and what you want to store. Some people like using overhead space in addition to under the bed space to hang things, so keep that in mind when deciding on a raised platform design. If you’re planning to use your bed as a joint work or lounge area, you may want it to lower down as well so you can sit up comfortably in bed.
This design maximizes space without being challenging to set up a bed at the end of the night. The table in the middle provides a good workspace and eating area that can be lowered, and the cushions pulled out to make a comfortable bed.
- Dining area
- Open Space
- Comfortable seating
- Limited garage storage
- The bed might not be as comfortable or thick
The perfect option for vanlife families, a bunk bed, is a great way to maximize space. Kids can climb up a little ladder to their bed, making use of the height of your van.
- Good for families
- Uses height of the van
- No space to sit up
- Can’t use ceiling for storage
One of the classic bed choices for tiny homes and small apartments worldwide, a murphy bed provides you with a cozy bed and maximum space throughout the day.
- Frees up floor space
- Must be set up every night
- Might not be comfortable
We love a custom-shaped bed for its versatility. If you’re tall, it’s a great place to stretch your legs on the bed. And if you want to combine a sleeping and sitting option, it’s also an excellent choice.
- Makes your bed longer
- Can be a makeshift second bed for visitors
- Takes up more space
- Might be unnecessary
Indoor Garage Storage Hacks
Ok, now that you have your bed design, let’s look at ways to organize your stuff! As you know, a successful van build is all about maximizing the limited space you have. So, how you’ll arrange around your bed depends on the design you chose.
Most of these ideas are for the platform bed design. But edit them as needed to suit your specific van build.
One of the easiest ways to store things in your van with limited construction is boxes. You can use industrial storage boxes or decorative ones of any size to suit your needs. We recommend labeling everything so that you can find what you need in a flash. Put them under the bed, and you’ve got an organized and cheap way to store garage or closet items!
- Ceiling Storage
Using your ceiling is another way to maximize space you didn’t think you had. Attach long, thin items like surfboards and fishing rods on the top using ropes or nets (See more about that below).
Nets are also an excellent way to store clothing, sleeping bags, or other items on the ceiling.
Overhead storage cabinets beside and above your bed can utilize that space above your head too.
We love how this keeps items accessible without using space for other things.
- Use the doors!
Attach hooks for coats, tie your camp chairs with bungee cords, and attach little shelves to your back doors. Some back doors can be gutted to reveal indentations that are the perfect place to hang something up.
- Slots under bed Storage
This nifty way to store boards and other thin items keeps your big gear organized and readily accessible. Combine the narrow slides with drawers for other smaller items, and you have an ideal garage van build set up.
- Suspended Shelves
Make use of all the nooks and crannies in your garage space by creating thin pull-out storage shelves under your bed. Although these shelves won’t be deep, you can store tools and other smaller items out of the way of your larger gear.
You can even store extra solar panels on these shelves!
- Slides/Pull Out Storage
You will never regret putting a pull-out storage unit in the back of your van! Instead of reaching in the back of drawers and stacking things precariously, slides provide you with tons more space and none of the hassle. They aren’t only suitable for extra counter space (see our article in kitchen storage); they are excellent for garage items too.
- Bike Platform
These vanlifers use their slides to store their bikes inside their van. Although you can, of course, store gear outside (see more about that later in the article), if you’re stealth camping or worried about theft, keeping your bikes inside is your best bet. And, if you’re bed is high enough, you can store these two-wheelers underneath your place of rest.
You can never have enough drawers, can you? Placing drawers under your bed will keep everything neat and organized. Especially useful if you don’t have large garage items, you can combine drawers with bike platforms in your van build. It is also possible to create exterior and interior drawers. This means you have some that pull out into your van and others in the back of your van that can be opened when the door is open – great for storing garage necessities.
A cubby underneath the bed is a great way to store clothes, rags, and boxes. Since you can see in, you won’t be opening drawers, searching for where you put stuff. Combined with a few drawers or slides, they’ll keep your garage items tidy.
- Misc Space
Forego fancy storage construction altogether and use the space below your bed for storing odd-shaped items that won’t necessarily fit in a box. Although this method can get messy quickly, you won’t be using up space with wood and fancy designs that might be more hassle than an organizational strategy.
Outside Storage Ideas
Not all of your garage needs to be under your bed. Consider storing more oversized items outside. If you aren’t going to be stealth camping, use that outdoor surface area! The roof, hitch, and sides of your vehicle can be a fantastic way to store your bicycles, surfboards, and/or skis!
- Bike Racks
Just because you’re a van doesn’t mean you can’t use car storage hacks! A bike rack attached to your van will save you so much space, and you can access your bicycles in a flash.
- Surfboard Side Hang
Who says you need to store things on the roof? Look into gear that can be stored on the side of your van – like surfboards. This hack is handy if your van already has solar panels or a patio on top of it.
- Thule Box
Thule Boxes or roof racks have been saving drivers space for years. Installing a Thule box or two on your van is also an excellent idea. Having your gear out of the way will free up space in your van for clothes, food, and other necessities. It also keeps large or unattractive items out of your living space. Camping gear, surfboards, skis, and other miscellaneous items will do well in a Thule box.
- Other Roof Storage Ideas
We love this new lock and load option that can go on top of your van. This will carry anything literally from spare tires, containers, fuel, generators, and sports equipment! With simple hold-down ties, anything that you need out of the way can go on top.
How to Store Batteries
You’re probably going to want to have at least a spare battery in your van, and storing it can be a challenge.
Here are some factors to consider when determining where your van battery should be stored. Van batteries need spaces that are:
- Won’t freeze.
Mounting a lithium battery on the wall underneath your bed is a good place to keep your battery clean and out of the way.
Another option is to create a battery drawer in the back for your backup battery. Giving your battery its own separate drawer in your garage van storage will ensure that the battery is kept clean, dry, and readily accessible.
Harsh temperatures will ruin batteries, so ensure that wherever you store it, it does not get overly cold (it will crack) or hot (it will overheat).
Where to Store Generators
There are important safety considerations if you use a generator to power up your van or as a backup. Because the fuel that generators use (propane, gas, or diesel) is flammable, it’s dangerous to transport your generator in your van. If you’re planning to use a generator, invest in proper generator carriers available from many RV stores.
The best place to put generator mounts is generally in the back of your van, but make sure that your van can handle the weight, and the bumper and rest of the vehicle will be well balanced with the addition of heavy items. You can also consider carrying the generator on top of the van.
Here are a couple ideas.
A montage storage box is a completely enclosed container that can be locked. Attach it to the back or side of your van. Do pay attention to the weight capacity of your van, though.
This mount will carry your propane tank and generator. It is not quite as heavy-duty as the storage mount, but it is easier to set up.
Other important generator safety notes.
To avoid a safety risk or a van fire while traveling with a generator, follow these steps.
- Turn off the fuel valve.
- Wait at least 15-20 minutes after using, before moving is anywhere.
- Always keep the generator upright for travel.
- Use extreme caution when transporting fuel.
- Secure fuel and ventilation caps.
- Secure fuel in place using bungee cords or other methods.
- If transporting inside, keep the windows open to ensure ventilation.
- Don’t keep generator fuel inside for too long.
Did you learn anything new in this article? What van bed design are you going to build in your van conversion? We’d love to know in our comments down below!