Life on the road is tough. Getting a good night's rest is imperative if you want to stay on the road long term. Here we will lay out everything you need to know to find the best mattress for your van conversion.

By the end of this article you will be able to:

Van Bed Options

There are so many different ways you can opt to set up your campervan bed. The most popular options are fixed beds, convertible beds and futon style beds. How you choose to set your bed up will affect the van mattress you choose. 

If you’re having a tough time deciding how you would like to set up your bed— you aren’t alone!

Many van lifers regret their decision to have a convertible bed. I regret my decision to have a stationary bed. So choose wisely!

Fixed Bed Versus Convertible Bed

Here is the lowdown on all of the pros and cons of each to ensure you are making the right choice for your van conversion. 

Fixed bed

A fixed bed is fantastic because it provides quite a lot of under the bed storage, doesn’t require tedious set up, and they tend to be overall more comfortable. 

The main gripe some van lifers have with this style of bed is that your entire section of your van is just dedicated to a bed. 

Personally, I find that I spend so much time every day removing all of my bedding to thoroughly shake it out. I spend a lot of time in the woods and every single surface of my van gets a  coating of dust and dirt— my bed as well. 

I feel like it would be just as much work to have to convert my bed as it is for me to already remove my bedding and shake it out. Plus, my bed sheets would be put away during the day so they wouldn’t gather dust. 

That being said, I do appreciate the added storage under the bed. 

Convertible Bed

Convertible beds absolutely provide the best versatility for your space. If you’re someone who works remotely, like most van lifers, there is no doubt that you will appreciate and adore your designated work station and dinner table. 

There are plenty of different ways you can build your bed frame to make it convertible. You can build it to be a futon style bed, use a sliding french cleat, or even a folding table that turns into the base of your bed frame. There are plenty of options.

That being said, you will lose approximately a third of your under the bed storage space no matter what. Before you choose this method, be absolutely positive you can sacrifice the storage space. 

If you are willing to do the work to set your bed up every night and take it down in the mornings— a convertible bed will help your space be utilized well.

What Size Should Your Mattress Should Be

Your entire van set-up will be dependent on how big or small you are. I am short and that allowed me to purchase a smaller van and even sleep the width of the van instead of front to back. This means I get to have a lot of the same luxuries as some larger vans, just because I am short. 

A taller human would not enjoy my space. Anyone over 5’7 can’t stand up fully or even sleep the length of my bed. If you know you will be traveling alone, you could always opt to sleep in a twin sized bed to save space. I frequently have visitors, so this was not a feasible option for me.

You also want to consider your body weight and weight distribution when choosing the thickness of your mattress. Three inches seems small until you realize you can’t comfortably sit up in bed. You’ll need to find the right balance of mattress thickness to body weight to ensure you are getting a comfortable night's rest. 

Some foam mattresses like gel foam, latex foam and other mattress foam options come in different thicknesses, so smaller and lighter humans can get away with thinner mattresses, and denser and larger bodies will appreciate the extra support. 

How you sleep will affect the size of bed you choose for your camper van conversion as well. One of my nomad friends sleeps in a curled up ball in her Toyota Prius on a camping pad with a pillow top cover over. This works for her because she doesn’t require a ton of space. 

How to Position your Bed in Your Camper Van

Positioning your bed in your van can be a little tricky. Your bed can easily take up over half of the liveable area in your van, and you’ll want it to provide the most comfortable experience while taking up the least amount of usable space. 

It seems like most van dwellers opt to position their bed so they are sleeping with their heads at the back and their feet toward the cab. This is the best way to position your bed if you are traveling as a couple or pair. 

As someone who does not sleep this way but frequently has friends travel with me, it is no fun having them climb over me in the middle of the night for a bathroom break.

Sleeping long ways also allows for quicker access in and out of bed which can provide peace of mind in an emergency. Being able to jump quickly out of bed and into the driver's seat can bring you peace of mind. 

If you choose to sleep the width of the van, you are allowing for more living space elsewhere. Although there are downsides, I much prefer the extra space that sleeping the width of my van provides. 

As for the rules of feng shui— you’ll want your bed to be positioned so you can see the entrance to the space. For most, this will be the side door. Ensure you are getting the most restful sleep you can by placing your pillows facing the door instead of away from it. 

How To Choose the Right Mattress For You

Depending on what kind of sleeper you are, you may need different kinds of mattresses. Side sleepers will require something different than back sleepers. Some people also love firm mattresses, others prefer super soft options. 

It’s important that you identify which kinds of mattresses work best with your body and preferences. The easiest way to figure out what kind of mattresses you prefer is to try them out. Head to a mattress store and try out all of the different options. It may surprise you!

I was convinced I preferred super soft mattresses because of my shoulder injury and the fact that I am a side sleeper. However, medium density mattresses felt much more comfortable for me.

There are also quizzes you can take that will point you in the right direction as to which mattresses are best for you.

Quizzes like this one will ask you questions about if you sleep on your back, side or stomach. And also if you ever experience pain while you sleep, if you sleep hot, and even if you sleep with a partner or not. Then they will suggest different styles of mattress that would best suit you based on your answer. has tons of information about how to choose the right mattress for you and your needs. They even have tons of resources for helping you figure out how to have the best night sleep such as perfecting your sleep schedule, fighting sleep apnea, finding the best pillows, and tips for what to do when you can’t sleep. 

Here is a general overview of what to look for depending on your sleep style:

Back Sleepers

Back sleepers in general should opt for a medium-firm mattress material. This will ensure that the mattress isn’t pushing too hard on their upper back while still supporting their lower back. A medium-firm mattress will have the right balance of give and structure to ensure your entire back stays supported all night long.  

Side Sleepers

Side sleepers are in a unique position when they sleep because they are wrestling between their wide shoulders and their narrower waists. This means they will typically experience a lack of support in some areas and too much firmness in others. Because of this, it is recommended that side sleepers choose a mattress somewhere in between medium-soft to medium-firm.

Finding the right mattress for your side sleeping habits can really depend on your specific body shape, weight and weight distribution. It is best to try out different mattresses to see what feels the best. 

Stomach Sleepers

Stomach sleepers in general do best with firmer mattresses because they will prevent your body from falling into an uncomfortable U-shape while you sleep. A firm mattress will prevent your body from falling out of alignment.

Mattress Options

Here are some of the best mattress options for your camper van conversion and your preferred mattress style. 

Custom Van Mattress

If you are wanting the most comfortable sleeping situation possible, a custom van mattress is absolutely going to provide that. 

You can order your mattress to be one solid piece, or in multiple pieces if you choose to have a convertible bed. 

When you order a custom mattress you are typically able to choose if you'd like a firm mattress or a softer mattress as well. 

Some of the best van mattress companies to order from are:

Mattress Insider

Mattress Insider is the company I personally chose to make my oddly shaped mattress. They make custom cut mattresses to any size and shape you could possibly need. I am quite short, so I opted to save space in my van by sleeping the width of the van instead of back to front. 

This means my mattress is only 67 inches from wall to wall. There are no standard mattresses that fit my needs. My bed size is somewhere in between a full and a queen, but didn’t fit either specifications. 

I can personally attest that these mattresses are high quality, incredibly comfortable and came incredibly fast! 

Although Mattress Insider doesn’t let you choose the density and softness of your mattress, you can choose between their Elaton, Luxury, or Scarsdale Luxury options. All of their mattresses are built with a cooling gel foam, and come in either 8 inches or 11.5 inches in thickness. 

North American Mattress Corp

North American Mattress Corp specializes in outdoor recreational mattresses. They have an unmatched selection of different kinds of mattresses geared toward truckers, RV dwellers, and even health care workers.

They are based in Oregon and custom make every single order, so if you are in need of a uniquely shaped van mattress, they will surely accommodate. Plus regardless of whether you prefer a soft or firm mattress, they will surely have what you’re looking for.

Memory Foam Mattress

If you’re a sucker for a really good night’s sleep, but don’t want to shell out for custom mattresses, you won't be disappointed with a memory foam mattress. 

Choosing to use a traditional memory foam mattress is an incredibly easy and inexpensive option for your mattress. Many van mattresses are made from foam because they are easy to cut and shape to whatever sizes fit your needs.

Most van lifers who choose to cut up their memory foam mattresses themselves will use an electric bread knife. 

The best part about using a memory foam mattress is that you can still choose different densities and thicknesses that suit your sleeping habits. For instance, high density foam mattresses are known to be incredibly comfortable, and don’t need to be so many inches thick to provide a comfortable sleeping experience. 

When your memory foam mattress arrives it typically will come vacuum sealed and require a few days to fully expand. But truly, they are some of the best mattresses on the market for van life because of their versatility, durability and affordable price point.

Other Foam Mattresses 

Another great option for an easy to work with foam bed is an organic latex foam mattress. This mattress is firm, but is amazing for keeping moisture out and providing a great restful night’s sleep. The downside is that organic latex foam mattresses are pretty expensive compared to even some of the custom camper van mattress options on this list. 

For something a little more affordable, you could opt for a gel infused memory foam mattress. Gel infused memory foam mattresses provide all of the comfort of traditional memory foam, but also keep your mattress cool while you sleep. 

Pillow Top mattress

Pillow top mattresses are exactly what they sound like— essentially a regular mattress base with a soft pillow type topper placed on top. This option is fantastic for side sleepers. You can always buy a pillow top mattress topper for your existing mattress.

The downside to pillow tops is that it would be incredibly hard to use if you opted for a convertible bed. They are also typically a thicker mattress than some of the others because of the soft pillow top.

Futon Mattress

If your convertible bed functions similarly to a regular futon, you may just choose to purchase a futon mattress. This will ensure there are no cracks from separating pieces while you sleep, and futon mattresses are super inexpensive to buy. 

In fact,  there are plenty of van lifers who choose to just use a traditional futon mattress in their build. This is a super inexpensive and easy option, and saves you the hassle of trying to build a bed. 

Air Mattresses 

While this option is the most tedious long term, it is a great option for those who aren’t quite sure what they want their van mattress to look like, or need a temporary solution. 

The downside to an air mattress is that they are tedious and time consuming to blow up and take down, they often malfunction and deflate in the middle of the night, and are definitely not the most comfortable mattress option.  

If this is the route you choose to go, be sure to invest in a high quality air mattress like this one

Latex Mattress Toppers 

Latex mattress toppers are actually a surprisingly great option for van life. They are very eco friendly since they are made from rubber tree sap, and this material is incredibly durable. Latex mattresses are great for keeping you cool at night as well. 

Options like this Pure Green Natural Latex Topper are very affordable and can easily be modified to fit your space. They are also guaranteed for life, so you’ll never have to worry. They are built to be used as a mattress topper, although you could purchase the extra thick topper, or just double them up. 

Affiliate Disclosure and Advertising Disclosure
We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program as well as other affiliate programs. We earn money on qualifying purchases through our affiliation with Amazon and other affiliates. Most outbound links are affiliate links, and we may earn a commission at no cost to you (thank you, by the way!). However, our articles and the views, opinions, and advice are entirely our own.
The Road Awaits...
The road awaits. Explore our passion and love for outdoor life and traveling. Have something to say? Start with hello!
linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram