You can sleep as well in your Campervan as you do at home
It’s truly possible to get the same quality of sleep in your van as you do in your home.
It’s worthwhile to take the time to get your campervan bed right so you’re never traveling with a sleep deficit.
Even when renting a campervan, it’s a good idea to check on the mattress type to be sure the owner is providing the best mattress for van camping.
Table of Contents
First, consider your personal sleeping needs. Do you prefer a soft or firm mattress? Are you a side- or back-sleeper?
Mattress materials available nowadays are vast. If possible, try out the material before you commit.
Every town has a few mattress stores. Don’t feel bad about going in to try a few different types of mattress material.
Just don’t get caught up in the world of high pressure, scammy mattress stores sales.
Once you’ve found the mattress material you want to use for your campervan bed, you can find one on line much cheaper than in a retail store.
And of course there are used options such as Craigslist, thrift stores and OfferUp. I’ve bought used mattresses and never had any problem with them.
Just take the time to look them over carefully before buying and don’t be afraid to walk away if it’s stained or has odors.
Some of our Top Picks for Best Campervan Mattress
|Zinus 8 Inch Memory Foam Campervan Mattress|
What is the best mattress for a campervan?
Continuing with our vanlife sleep quality series, it’s time to look at the best campervan mattress for your van build.
Choosing the right material is crucial for a good night’s sleep, and to avoid back pain that can accompany long drives in your van.
Modern products and materials mean you don’t have to sacrifice comfort.
We recorded an episode of The Campervan Podcast that answers the question: What is the best mattress for a campervan?
Please listen and subscribe for many more valuable Vanlife tips and discussions.
What is the best mattress for a campervan?
When deciding on the best campervan mattress for your unique conversion van build, It’s important to keep the following in mind:
- Do you need to customize the size of your mattress? If so, you’ll need either a foam mattress, or a futon that can be cut.
- If your bed frame allows for a standard mattress size, aka Single, Double, Queen, King…, you can use any mattress style.
- You can create the perfect mattress for your personal sleep needs by combing foam rubber, memory foam, futon mattresses, and wool or cotton mattress toppers.
Probably the number one issue for camper van design and build with regard to beds and mattresses is that it's very likely that your mattress size will be a custom shape.
So that eliminates the vast majority of manufactured beds that aren't basic foam. That is, foam that can be cut.
You'll find on our site an entire episode about how to cut a foam mattress. And I will link to that in show notes. So I won't talk about how to cut foam in this episode, but I will talk about which foam or which type of mattress can be adjusted in size.
But getting back to the best mattress for a camper van, my advice with regard to beds and mattresses in general, because I'm a very light sleeper, personally, the smallest sound wakes me up, and if I'm on an uneven surface or in some way, the surface is uncomfortable, then I'm awake and it's that simple. So beds are very important to me.
My advice, is always to prioritize your bed design and the quality of your mattress over just about everything else in your campervan design and build and that would include the size of course of the bed and the fact that everything lays perfectly flat and smooth so that when your mattress lays flat on the bed platform.
Getting back to specifically which mattress is best for your campervan, It's the one that is going to be most comfortable for you personally.
Okay. If you're one of the very, very fortunate people who can sleep through anything under any circumstances, that's wonderful. I'm so I'm so happy for you for first of all, and I'm also so jealous.
But for the rest of us, we want the mattress that works best for you personally. And so I'm just going to take this from the perspective of kind of the average sleeper. You know, your home mattress is probably going to be at least six inches thick.
Typically in this day and age, more like 10 or 12 inches thick eight would be the absolute minimum for a home-style mattress. And so to make a mattress really work well in a camper van, you know, we want to be in the eight inch range and if you're going with a six inch mattress or thinner, then you'll probably want to combine that with a mattress topper.
Mattress toppers, by the way, can completely transform a basic slab of say six inch foam from something that's barely sleepable into something that's wonderfully comfortable.
For example, a high quality wool topper will allow your body to breathe when it's very hot and. That alone can make all the difference in whether or not you sleep well in your campervan, on your mattress.
So things like that, you know, essentially we're going to be typically combining some aspects of good mattresses in order to arrive at the mattress that we really need.
If again you're fortunate enough to be able to sleep under any circumstances, you just need to get some foam and cut it to size.
Maybe two pieces of some nice firm foam rubber plus some memory foam. Not everybody can handle memory foam. It gives a lot and it can be too soft for some people. And it's kind of oddly squishy.
When you get into thinner mattresses, such as for campervan beds and cushions and things like that, memory foam gets a little odd.
But the good news is that on Amazon and most of the mattress companies allow you to purchase the memory foam mattress or topper or the full mattress that you're considering and try it out sometimes for as many as a hundred days and you can return it if you don't like it. So that's a good thing.
That's relatively new. It used to be, you buy a mattress, you're stuck with it, but there's so much profit in the mattress industry that they can afford to do that kind of thing. That's an option to test it.
So what I suggest you do is just get the size that's closest to your bed, frame size, whether that's a single or a double or a queen, and just stuff it in there.
And even if, even though it doesn't fit, or put it on the floor of your apartment or a friend's house or something like that, or maybe just on the bare floor of your van, as long as it's flat, as long as you've got your flooring installed and test it, sleep on it a couple of nights and see how it feels.
Then you can feel comfortable cutting it because they're not going to refund you that mattress foam if you cut it, I guarantee you that. So, so that's one way to do it is just keep in mind that it's returnable treat it nice, don't get it dirty, and if it doesn't work, return it.
And then of course, if you are fortunate enough to have enough room for a queen size mattress, such as a sprinter with the mattress turned sideways and you've got the bump-outs well then you can fit a queen size mattress in there. I think, I think a queen size mattress is six feet long. I'm looking at one right now. Maybe it's seven. Anyway, whatever it is that you end up with for a normal size, if you happen to have room for a normal sized mattress, then you can go to some mattress stores and try them out and see how they feel and, and if they don't work out and you haven't cut it, and so you can go bring it back.
A couple of things to keep in mind, you will want to have an outdoor style covering on your mattress, whatever it is, because you'll have more humidity in your van. So you don't want to just leave a normal house style mattress in your van and expect that it won't get moldy or collect some mildew.
So plan to cover your mattress, whatever it is that you get.
For example, if you love cotton futons, like I do, for some reason I sleep really well on a cotton futon with a foam core, and I'm fortunate that way, by the way, because those are very adjustable. You can cut a futon down to fit any bed frame size.
What you do is unstitch one end or one side whichever way, or both if you need to cut it both ways, and then you peel back the, the cotton cover and you cut through the cotton with scissors, and then you cut through the foam as instructed in our article on how to cut foam and then you just stitch up, you trim the cover of the futon and you just hand stitch it up.
It takes maybe an hour to do that, but no big deal. And now you've got a totally custom mattress. So futons can be a nice way to go. But the way that I got into talking about futons is that cotton absorbs moisture so you really need to cover that with another layer for a kind of outdoor material. You're going to be out in a variety of elements. There will be a wide range of humidity and a mattress, especially cotton, but really any mattress will go bad on you if you don't protect it from the elements.
So that's something to keep in mind if you have to have that cover custom made, do it, it's worth it.
Again. The best mattress for a camper van is the one that you're most comfortable on first of all.
Second of all the mattress that can be adjusted to fit the van, if necessary.
Thirdly, the one that you can cover and take care of for a long period of time, because mattresses are expensive.
Fourth: assemble pieces to create the perfect mattress for yourself, such as memory foam, normal foam rubber toppers.
I'll add another tip, Fifth: Maybe combine more than one mattress. Two, three inch futon mattresses or two already covered three inch or four inch foam mattresses can equal one really good, very comfortable mattress that feels more like a home style mattress.
If you have questions for me or my team about best mattresses for campervans, send me an email at Podcast@vansage.com. We will get back to you as soon as we can. And we can discuss this through email. Or, you can leave a comment on our camper van mattresses article vansage.com and we'll discuss it there. Okay. Thanks for listening.
What is a mattress topper used for?
Mattress toppers provide a layer of extra softness, can improve breathability, and can even be used as a backup mattress for guests or kids.
Many van campers rely on mattress toppers to improve their campervan beds.
A good topper can transform a mediocre or even uncomfortable bed into an excellent sleep experience.
Mattress toppers come in a variety of material options.
What are Campervan mattresses made of?
Your campervan mattress can be made of the same materials as a standard mattress, though many rv and van builders need to cut their mattresses to fit custom beds and cushions.
So materials like inner springs and air mattresses are less common in vans, due to the difficulty of making custom sizes.
Memory foam is a popular option for campervans because it’s readily available, and can be custom-cut to your van’s bed dimensions.
Memory foam is good for side sleepers, as it provides great support and comfort for your shoulders and hips.
Gel campervan mattress
Gel is similar to memory foam in that it’s readily available and can be easily cut to shape.
Where it differs is in feel and temperature control — memory foam can tend to absorb body heat, while gel helps to dissipate it.
A pillow top mattress is basically what it sounds like: a mattress topped with an extra layer of pillow to make it softer.
They’re usually quite cushiony, and are good for side-sleepers because your body will sink into the material.
Another benefit to pillow-tops is that you can choose the level of softness, and custom build your mattress from the bottom up.
Pillow tops are available as toppers to add to an existing campervan mattress.
Innerspring mattress design
Innerspring mattresses are what you’ll typically find in homes. They typically come in standard sizes, and to customize them is expensive and that can be a major downside for campervan builders.
However, if you’re designing your bed to be a standard twin, full, queen or king, you shouldn’t have any trouble fitting an innerspring mattress in your campervan.
Innerspring mattresses can vary in the number and distribution of coils, which means variety in firmness.
They’re good for all sleeping styles: back, side, and stomach sleepers can be comfortable on this type of mattress.
Air mattresses are a great option for the minimalist Vandweller. While they can’t be custom-cut, they’re very easy to store when deflated.
If you do go with this option, it’s a good idea to combine it with a mattress topper for extra comfort.
Even if the air mattress isn’t best for you, it’s handy to have one in the van for guests or for when you might want to break out the tent.
Latex campervan mattress
Latex mattresses are another option for van builders who are looking to make a customized bed.
They’re made with latex foam instead of memory foam, which makes them easy to cut into shape.
Latex provides different levels of firmness, so side, back, or stomach sleepers can all get a good night’s sleep.
Futon campervan mattress
Futon mattresses are yet another option: they can be custom-cut, but remember than the cover is part of the mattress itself.
The futon cover will need to be re-sewn to fit the new size, or the cotton and foam filling will simply spill out of the mattress.
Futons are generally filled with cotton, which isn’t good if you’re traveling in humid climates.
If you’re looking for a futon mattress, aim for one that is wool and or foam filled.
What is the best tool to cut a memory foam campervan mattress?
Now that you’ve chosen your material, you’re ready to create a customized mattress.
The first step is to draw up your bed design, noting not only the length and width, but also how high you’d like it.
This is a crucial design element: if you have a smaller van and you get it wrong, and you might find your nose pressed up against the ceiling.
With memory foam and latex beds, an electric bread knife works great for cutting mattress foam to the right size.
Another option for cutting mattress foam or a futon is a fresh snap blade utility knife on full extension.
However, if you’re going this route, you must remember the golden rule: measure twice, cut once.
How do you cut a foam mattress?
We recorded an episode of The Campervan Podcast that’s all about how to cut foam including how to cut memory foam, which tools to use, which tools to NOT use, how to measure foam for cutting and more.
Please give it a listen and please subscribe to The Campervan Podcast via your favorite podcast app.
In this episode of The Campervan Podcast from Vansage.com, we answer the questions:
• How do you cut a foam mattress?
• What’s the best DIY way to cut a foam mattress?
• What tools are need to cut foam?
• How do you measure and cut foam?
And this applies to us because so many of us are creating custom campervan mattresses and cushions and bed sections. There are a lot of people asking this question online.
I've cut many pieces of foam myself for custom mattresses, bed sections and cushions. And it's not difficult. You can do it.
The best DIY approach to cutting a foam mattress is with a snap blade knife because the long sharp, thin blade will easily cut through the foam while allowing you to maintain a straight accurate cut.
Conversely, the best professional approach to cutting a foam mattress is with a foam cutting tool. Well, here's the thing with foam cutting tools: They cost several hundred dollars. The only advantages to using a foam cutting tool are that the cut will be slightly more straight or clean, and you can make the cut quickly.
So just real briefly, first of all, there's no reason to spend several hundred dollars on a foam cutting tool, unless you're going to get into the foam cutting business.
Don't spend the several hundred dollars for a tool that you'll use once every several years.
And as far as the speed and accuracy of the cuts go, here's what you're going to find:
When you use your snap blade knife, or some of the other tools I'm about to talk about here, you'll find that the cut will be a little bit imperfect.
You'll find that cut is somewhat imperfect, but you're going to cover it up with a mattress cover or a cushion cover. And no one will be the wiser.
The only people who know that my foam mattress cuts are a little bit jagged are me and you. So don't worry about that. It's not a big deal.
Again, the, the characteristics you're looking for in a cutting tool for foam are
• The knife should be thin and long and very sharp.
• So it is possible to use something other than a $2 snap blade knife, such as a chef's knife or a bread knife, but that knife has to be very, very sharp.
Snap blade knives: The nice thing about them is that they provide a long, straight, very sharp, almost razor-sharp edge. And of course you would want your snap blade knife to be new.
So you extend it all the way. If you're not familiar with snap blade knives, the way that they work is the reason that they are called snap blade knives is because you come out maybe it's an inch and you use this section of blade for a while until it's dull and then you snap it off and then can slide the knife out, another click and there's another section of blade there and it's new and sharp.
Well, when you're cutting foam, you just extend the snap blade knife all the way, and it comes out four or six inches or so.
When cutting foam, the length of the knife doesn't have to be the same as the thickness of your foam.
In other words, if you have a six inch piece of foam, six inch thick piece of foam, your knife, even if it's only three inches long, that's fine because no matter what, you'll need to make several passes to make one cut.
So before we get into that, let's talk about how to measure and mark your foam before you cut it.
There are two best ways to mark the foam:
The, the best way to measure it, of course, is just with a measuring tape. Now it's nice to have an upholsters tape, or a sewing tape, just a flexible cloth tape.
I keep one of those around. Sometimes they’re very handy when you don't want a carpenters measuring tape, that's stiff and kind of unwieldy when you're working with soft materials, such as foam or the cover that you're going to be making.
So it measure accurately, first of all, for length and width, however, you're cutting the foam.
And then the two ways to mark: one is with a straight edge. Now, if you've got limited space, you may not want to store a four-foot straight edge or a six foot straight edge in your garage or whatever your workspace is.
You can just use a section of a two by two or you could use a length of two by four. You just want to site down it and make sure that it's very straight before you use that as a guide.
My favorite way to mark foam for cutting is with a chalk line, actually snap a chalk line. It creates a beautiful straight straight line, every time.
You'll probably need someone to hold one end because normally with wood, if you're using a snap line on a sheet of plywood, you can use a small nail or just hook the snap line at the edge of the wood.
And then one person can hold the hold the line tight and reach out and snap… this may not work so great with foam, so an extra set of hands is a good idea.
If you do use a straight edge, then use a Sharpie to mark your phone that way. Sharpie shows up really clear on foam. I keep two or three different colors of the smaller fine pointed Sharpies around.
Now getting back to blades real quickly. Okay. You know, there's a lot of talk online about using electric meat carving knife and some claim that that's the only way and the best way and use the power saw power knife.
If you have an electric meat carving knife, go ahead and experiment with it. See if it works, but really don't go buy one for this job. It's not necessary. For example, my everyday carry pocket knives are so sharp that I can cut foam with them.
Right. So there's an example of just just how much special gear you don't need to cut foam. It's not complicated. It doesn't require special equipment, again, unless you're a professional cutting mountains of foam.
Just use a thin sharp knife and I've tried the electric meat carving knife. It works fine. I wouldn't say that it creates a cut that's that much cleaner than a snap blade knife.
But your mileage may vary. Give a meat carving knife a try if you've got one, or maybe your neighbor has one and won't mind if you use it to cut foam.
So the real trick with cutting a foam, the secret to cutting foam, is that you're going to go slow and easy. So don't expect this to be like a hot knife through butter.
That's not how it's going to go. Uh, let's just picture that you've got a slab of foam laid out. And by the way, this could be normal foam or it could be memory foam. There's also the question all over the place of how do you cut memory foam? Well, memory foam can be kind of gooey and oddly soft and it behaves weird under the knife when you're pressing into it.
But this tip of how to cut foam in general will resolve all of those issues. And that is again, slow and easy.
Imagine you've got your slab of foam out. You've marked it very straight and clean with your straight edge or your chalk line and your Sharpie. Now what you're going to do is, open your snap blade knife up, or whatever knife you're using, and just make a kind of gentle pressure, even motion cut into the foam, perpendicular to the foam and along your line.
Move the blade very consistently and smooth from one end of the piece of foam to the other. And then what you'll see is that you probably didn't go very deep into the foam.
Even if you went in with a four-inch snap blade knife, you're probably only going to cut in on that first pass an inch, or maybe if you're lucky, an inch and a half or two inches.
Now, what you don't want to do is press really hard and try to cut all at once, because what will happen is the foam will bunch up under your knife and it will be really jagged and it'll wander off in some direction. Again, the secret to cutting foam is to go slow and easy.
So once you've made that first. Uh, kind of a gentle test cut then you want to kind of spread that cut open a bit and get the knife right down in the lowest point of the cut, where you've already cut through and do that same cut again. You can kind of spread the foam with your fingers as you're cutting, and you can see how deep it's going and you can make sure that you're staying along your straight line and that you're keeping the knife perpendicular as you cut.
And what will happen is on that second cut, you might end up cutting a little less deep. You don't want to push too hard. Make this nice and slow and easy.
You might find that your foam is cutting really nicely and a little more pressure is okay, and it doesn't bunch up and your knife is sliding through beautifully and you can get your cut done in two or three passes.
But here's the thing: If it takes six or 10 passes to get that cut clean and straight and perpendicular, then take your time. You know, you're only going to do this once and it's for a mattress that you're going to sleep on many, many times for years and years.
So take your time and get it right. And don't be in a hurry. Now all of those rules apply at a much higher level to cutting memory foam. Really take your time and really pay attention to how it behaves under the knife. You know, you might find that your power knife, your meat, carving knife, gums up really quickly with memory foam.
So just skip that if it doesn't work and do it in this slow, gradual fashion, as I've described, with a very sharp snap blade knife.
Now snap blade knives are cheap. So if yours is old and worn out, go to the hardware store or get on Amazon and buy a new one. It is worth it to have a very sharp knife to do this. Especially if you wind up doing a bunch of cushions and bed sections, you'll want a really sharp knife.
So maybe even grab a couple of them while you're at the store, just so you're sure you've got a good sharp knife while you're working. Okay. I've said enough about how to cut a foam mattress. I hope that works for you.
If you have questions about cutting foam or anything else related to van life. Shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I'd love to chat with you, answer your questions, whatever.
Maybe I'll even answer your question on the show. All right. Thanks for listening to my foam cutting how-to on The Campervan Podcast from Vansage.com.
Protecting your custom cut mattress with a cover
Once you make your cuts, you’ll want to recover the material to keep it clean.
If you’re planning to have your bed transform into a couch during the day, pick a cover material that’s heavy enough.
And, think about your color scheme when you choose your material, as the couch should complement the rest of the interior of your van.
Unless you have great sewing skills, you’ll probably want to seek out a professional for this.
If you’re comfortable working with a sewing machine, you’ll find lots of info on line for DIY mattress covers.
Video shows how to cover your campervan mattress and cushions
Our Best Mattress for Van Camping Top Picks
- Whether you’re buying new or used campervans for sale by owner, the bed needs to be right for you
- Consider your personal sleeping needs at home
- A Topper can make all the difference
- Material choices like foam, gel, latex, inner spring, air, cotton and wool are available to get the best mattress for you
- Get a good cover to protect your mattress from the grime of the road
Thanks for reading
Please comment below to share you thoughts and experiences about campervan mattresses.