OTT Subaru Conversion For Camping

As I’ve mentioned in other comments, I’m setting up one of my Mercedes Wagons as a Car Camping Mobile.

Yes, a Mercedes so I can live like a Grapes Of Wrath Vagabond and not check into a hotel. Really. Yes. Honestly. No, nothing to do with Covid. I’m just a cheap SOB who doesn’t like financial proctology to rent a box to sleep in it. And I have allergy issues with scents & cleaners and fragrance crap. And I’ve had miserable times far too often with $80 / night rooms so screw it.

So I’ve watched a LOT of various videos on car camping. FWIW, that’s where I got the idea of using a Camping Cot to level out the back instead of building a box. The Mercedes DOES have a level back, but it is about 3 inches too short for me. I could take out the lower seat and gain 3 inches and have my feet hang off the end, and I’m OK with that, but that has the problem that at the “other end” of the trip, your car seat is not with you. As part of the goal here is to ferry 5 cars “coast to coast” during a relocation to Florida, that’s a bit of an issue. Manageable, but is there a better way?

Thus the Cot, with one end cantilevered (i.e. no fold down foot) that exactly fits in the back with maybe a 1 inch tilted up part at that end. I’m OK with that much of non-level. Heck, I might just slide something under the rest of it and have level exactly. But certainly more than fine for “coast to coast once”.

This, BTW, ought to work FINE for both Mercedes wagons, mine and the spousal wagon. But we’ll see. It may be that “me and dogs” go in one car and the other doesn’t involve as much camping.

Then there’s the Mercedes 190E. Passenger seat fully flat, it’s fine for a one-way trip (as I’ve done at least 2 round trips in it and they were just fine too).

The Mercedes Sedan will be a bit more problematic, but it will come last. Most likely just me and a tent. The front seats do not lay down. The back seat is about a foot too short when laid on side-to-side and I’m not fond of presenting feet for bears to lick… So some more to do there.

Which leaves the Subaru Forester. I have the older more Truck Like square one, not the new SUV Wanna Be shaped one. I’ve taken it coast to coast, sleeping in the fully reclined passenger seat. It works OK too. But is there a better way?

I just measured, and with the passenger seat fully forward, there’s enough room for the 72 inch cot. Or a long enough platform. But the back does NOT lay fully flat. You get an up slope area between the rear deck and the folded down rear seats. So as platform would likely work better than the cot.

Which lead me to this video. This is an Outback, which is a little longer than my Forester, but that’s OK. I don’t need to outfit this thing for a year in the Yukon either. Still, it has a lot of nice build ideas in it. I’m thinking maybe about 1/2 of this build would make a nice bit of kit.

With not much further ado, an interesting OTT (Over The Top) build of an Outback Camper Conversion:

In particular, I’m OK without having it form fitted to the side of the car. A simple box with wedge bottom and appropriate width, set in place as sleeping platform is fine for now. Then, I don’t need all that cabinet stuff at the moment. Another box with slide out stove and kitchen area would be great. Then I can stuff the irregular sides with other gear.

A lot easier to build, and it can form the basis for something more, once any relocation efforts are done and over.

“Someday” it might be nice to finish out the form fit, and add a solar panel / fridge etc. So this matters longer term. But for now, it’s just a very nicely done base from which to select the immediate necessaries. I especially like the slide out kitchen and cooking area. (For cabinets, I’m OK with plastic tubs set on top of that at the moment…)

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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69 Responses to OTT Subaru Conversion For Camping

  1. Taz says:

  2. jim2 says:

    Posted May 2???

    OTT Subaru Conversion For Camping
    Posted on 2 May 2021 by E.M.Smith

  3. Nancy & John Hultquist says:

    For a day or a couple of days, about anything will do.
    My two worst nights were (a) parking a station wagon in the middle of a mosquito convention,
    and (b) a cold night in a bed of of a pickup with a metal canopy.

    With (a) it is not obvious that you made a mistake until you open a door at night
    and the light comes on.
    With (b), by 3am condensation started dripping from the roof.
    The Brittany wanted in the sleeping bag. That helped warm my feet.
    Subarus are the car of choice; we have had Outbacks, a Forester, and a Crosstrek. No truck though.

  4. jim2 says:

    Well. That was awesome :)

  5. H.R. says:

    How much weight did all that contribute to the GVWR, particularly after loading the goodies that go into the storage spaces?

    Will getting in the driver’s seat break the load limit?

    (I don’t think so in this case, but it’s a factor that must be taken into account.)

  6. Terry Jackson says:

    For a single 5 day trip ferrying the car, 4 if you push it, you may be entering wretched excess country. Sleep is important, but few of us actually need to stretch full length to sleep. A nip here, a tuck there, a bend elsewhere and we manage. Also, might you also be carrying “last minute” needies? For a single ferry trip, KISS may be the best staring point. Have fun sorting it out.

  7. E.M.Smith says:


    I think that has more to do with W.O.O.D. than a Subaru Camper…


    Blog runs on UTC…

    @Terry Jackson:

    I’ve done the “push it” way too many times already. I’ve lost count of my cross country trips count. Dozens. I’ve done it in a week+ and I’ve done it as short as 56 hours.

    I’m done with the “nip and tuck”… I’ve done 25 hours then sleep. I’ve done 36 hours then nap then 2 then nap then 4 then nap… You name it, I’ve done it. I want 6+ hours of sleep FLAT (cause I’ve spent far too many times doing 5 hours sleeping bent… or 2 hours napping on a bench or…).

    So yeah, I know how to do all those things. I’ve decided I’ve had enough of them most of the time.

  8. John Andrews says:

    All that plywood is way too heavy. A 2-inch hole drill could do a lot of good.

  9. Ossqss says:

    FWIW, fly and rent a car.

  10. Ossqss says:

    FWIW, everyone on the globe, with few exceptions, has been exposed at this point.

  11. E.M.Smith says:


    Perhaps I was unclear on the goals.

    #1) Beyond all else, I’m talking about MOVING from California to Florida and MOVING my cars From California TO Florida (flying back to California between each drive to pick up the next car).

    #2) I like camping. I’m planning on at least one car being my Camper for local camping trips.

    For both of those, “Fly and rent a car” is not a solution.

  12. E.M.Smith says:

    Per these folks:
    5/8 ” Birch Plywood is about 50 lbs a sheet. Looks to me like they used under 2 full sheets, so 100 lbs. As 2 big guys in the rear seats would be 400 lbs, looks to me like they have excess GVWR left over to play with.

  13. H.R. says:

    @E.M. – I figured that the setup in the video wouldn’t even be close to going over the weight limit. What starts adding weight is a week’s worth of canned goods, water (water!), and other stuff.

    We already know you have backpack-weight camping gear, so your stove, coffee kit, sleeping bag, etc. wouldn’t add much. But because the shelves & cabinets allow for more layering and more densely packed items, the total package starts adding up. Add in that kayak on the roof, for example.

    John Andrews had a good suggestion for the cabinetry if you get settled in and decide to make a really nice camper car. The woodwork can be lightened with holes or some of it could be stick and thin plywood construction.

    Anyhow, I doubt you’d ever max out one of your wagons, but you’d be surprised how close you’d come to doing so.

  14. John S Howard Jr says:

    Just wanted to let you know that your work on global warming years back got me digging. There is beginning to be so much more information, that folks are beginning to take notice, especially with all of the weird weather around the globe. So, a great big thanks.

  15. stewartpid says:

    What strange craziness has two retired people needing / wanting 5 old cars? It seems like the move to Florida is the perfect time to get rid of at least 2 of the 5.
    If you had vintage / collectible cars then I could understand but the fleet seems to be just old cars.
    Have u ever thought of getting rid of the merc wagons and going with something like a honda Odyssey van … I still have a 2008 Odyssey from when we had two kids at home and keep it because it is so useful around the house (has the trailer hitch) and is worth next to nothing at 13 years but has only 129,000 km / 80,000 miles. It gets over 30 mpg with a V6 that shuts down 3 of the 6 cylinders when appropriate.
    To each his own Mr Smith but 5 cars seems like a couple too many unless they are vintage corvettes or convertibles etc.
    Good luck on the move and camping.

    Do you ever intend to revisit some of your weather station / temperature analysis? I enjoyed those posts.

  16. jim2 says:

    Softwood plywood is a bit lighter.

  17. jim2 says:

    @ John S Howard Jr, said;

    especially with all of the weird weather around the globe

    So, John. Were is your proof that the weather WASN’T “weird” in the past? I submit to you, it’s no “weirder” than its ever been.

  18. H.R. says:

    Well, jim2, the weather at our place is absolutely wild and wooly compared to the recent geological past.

    Back when, our property was covered by just under a mile of ice. The wind was the same every day. The temperature was the same every day. The humidity was the same every day. No tornadoes. No thunderstorms. No heat waves. I can’t say what the cloud cover was like, but it didn’t matter much. Even the change of seasons didn’t affect the weather or climate much at all at our place.

    It was that way for much of 100,000 years, and then that dang interglacial weather showed up. Talk about weird weather! Holocene optimum, Younger Dryas, Roman Optimum, Little Ice Age, all the while the weather was doing weird things it hadn’t done for millennia.

    It’s been crazy times around my place for the last 12,000 years or so. Thank goodness things will settle down again with the next glaciation, and our place will go back to a nice, stable climate.

  19. Nancy & John Hultquist says:


    Despite Oriented Strand Board’s (OSB) many useful characteristics, sheets of osb are not friendly
    to cotton sheets, other fabrics, and human skin.
    I’d try hard-foam insulation (Owens-Corning Foamular) that is light weight
    and less expensive than wood.

  20. YMMV says:

    stewartpid: “What strange craziness has two retired people needing / wanting 5 old cars?”

    If you asked me why I would do this, I would say, one, they don’t make ’em like that anymore and some old cars are better than the new ones for what I want. And two, once they ban new ICE cars, the old ICE cars will be the hot items. For the e-cars, there will be no electricity. For the ICE cars, there may be no gas. But you could still DIY diesel.

  21. YMMV says:

    Terry Jackson: “but few of us actually need to stretch full length to sleep.”

    I can’t say the proportion, but some do. Maybe it’s small, but it is there. What do you think of 12 or so hours straight in a economy airline seat? I think deep vein thrombosis.

  22. YMMV says:

    For RVs, pop-ups and slide-outs have really caught on. Not so much as retro-fits, but having a slide-out bed extension sounds easy enough, you just need to fix some tent-canvas around the open back hatch for bugs and privacy. Cars have become so much shorter. It’s almost impossible to buy a real station wagon now. Vans and mini-vans have gone out of fashion. The fashion, transit vans and sprinter vans are upscale replacements. Or… if you can spread out, spread up … roof-top tents. Not stealth exactly, but it works.

  23. E.M.Smith says:


    I’m more worried about overloading the wagon WITHOUT a sleeping platform in the back!

    I once loaded my entire dorm room into a VW Fastback. Both trunks (front and rear) packed. Things like socks inside cups inside shoes… not a single cubic inch empty. It also had a net ‘tray’ across below the dash. It was filled too. The passenger compartment was filled to shoulder height, and was cantilevered over the shifter ( I had to reach under sideways to shift…).

    It was bottomed on the suspension sitting on the rubber stops… Tires were inflated to max, and still looked a little underinflated…

    This saved me about 150 miles of a 2nd run, but knowing my physics, I very slowly crept out of the parking lot (and over any other ‘edge’ discontinuities in driveways) and “puttered” home at about 50 MPH instead of my usual 75… Ride was an odd mix of ‘very smooth’ from mass dampening and ‘suddenly bump’ on any surface issue… It did take a LONG time to get up to speed ;-)

    For the Wagons, I’m not looking at a plywood conversion. The (very very light) folding cot works great. (That’s why I bought it…) So it folds up about like a lawn chair, but unfolds to a 24 inch x 72 inch sleeping platform. Add pad and sleeping bag, plus road (backpack) camping kit and done. As I need to be able to unfold it, and lay on it, that 1/2 of the wagon will be nearly empty.

    The 2 x sedans are not candidates for the platform either. They will either be “sleep in the car sitting up”, which I don’t like but can nap that way, or “sleep in the car on the back seat feet in the wind”, that I also don’t like but can nap that way, or much more likely “Tent in a campgrounds” as I’m happy with that and want to do more camping.

    What this leaves is the Subaru. It has a nice reclining seat passenger side, and I slept there when I did a coast to coast run in it (about 1.5 years ago?). It isn’t too bad, really. And I can see doing that with the occasional camp grounds / tent when it is dry. But…

    My long term goal is for it to be a camping / fishing / fun mobile. So I’d like to have a (simplified) set up like that in the video so I can just “hop in and go”. AND not care about: Bears in the mountains. Mosquitoes near the swamp. Rain everywhere. Etc. etc. Something about being in a waterproof steel can is attractive ;-) There’s lots of folks do this and I’ve been learning tricks. (Like a mesh sleeve that goes over the door top and lets you put a window down for air, while not letting buggers in to bite you…)

    So I’m thinking MAYBE I’ll do a partial build. Just enough to sleep flat, the rest being my usual car bag / pack. Then finish it out once relocated. So just a (roughly) 24 x 72 inch (or maybe 25 x 72 ;-) plank with wedges under it for starters. (Cabinetry? Not really… I like the way other folks get cheap clear plastic boxes and slide them under. Fast, cheap, easy to change your mind. Light weight. I’ve also seen a stack of 3 plastic drawer / bins bungied to a seat back… so why have real cabinets?)

    I would like to have a “pull out kitchen” (someday) as I like to cook and that just looks so much more usable than a single Trangia on a pick-nick table… There’s a bunch of builds that do that, many that are simpler and lighter. I don’t need but about 1/2 the length of the one in the video. One that would stay under the open ‘hatch’ (as roof) when in modest rain…

    But all that said, I really like the looks of what they did, and watching a “pro” build it was enlightening too. FWIW, I’m more likely to just start with a board that has a hook to hang on the bumper and a leg to hold up the far end (seen several of those). So despite admiring the OTT build, I’m going to start with “minimalist”… (As seems my ‘style’… Start at what just works well enough, then build up from there to comfortable as I like.)

    Still, knowing both end points (minimum acceptable / OTT Pro Style) let’s me choose better where “my style” is on that spectrum.

    @John S. Howard, Jr.:

    Thanks! Nice to know it was worth it.

    I’m sorry I’ve done so little lately. Something about realizing it is all just a Rigged Game and nobody really gives a damn about the actual Science of it all, the “research” by the “pros” is just for political cover (and they don’t even need that anymore what with machine election stealing a done deal). It just left me wondering “Why Bother?”. Why bash my head on showing the “science” is bogus when it just Will Not Matter as the Political Machine just wants a varnished cover story and don’t care if there’s rot under it.

    So yeah, I’d like to do more. But with nobody caring enough to fund any of it (me, not having credentials in the field and not published is a prevent on grants, for example) and with the Truth pretty much out there already (and being ignored by the GEBs in power) and with it now obvious that they have stolen a Government so they can just ignore everyone anyway; I just kind of decided my time was better spent on the technical side building toward a free deep-net for folks.

    Per “weird weather”: IMHO it will be getting consistently colder for the next few years / decades. The “Global Warming” push will mutate to “horrible cold caused by CARBON!!!”. The goal is the destruction of Anglo-Western Economies as they stand in the way of Euro-Empire Neo-Romans and the Chinese Empire In The Making. So shutting down fuel is the surest way to do that. If we all freeze in the process, so much the better (in their POV). They want us gone anyway.

    Hopefully I’ll get motivated on the temperature data stuff again. Maybe next year ;-0


    Selling some of them is still “on the table”.

    What happened is pretty simple: Lack of discipline.

    I was “running off the fleet” as kids grew up and moved on. Figured they might take one with them, but they didn’t. Leaving me with 2 old cars as others died off (one, the SLC, via deer impact…).

    The 240 D is my ‘forever car’. It is for Doomsday Scenarios and for just generally liking cars that don’t tell me I can’t do things. It is in very good condition for a 42 year old car, other than needing new paint. Post Florida move, it gets painted (or perhaps just before the drive). I hope it has the destiny of being a Restored Classic and hope to take it to meets in Florida (went to one last trip).

    The Spousal 300 TE wagon was to be Her Car in Florida. She does best in Mercedes seats (neck support etc.) so other brands don’t quite cut it. (Subaru is OK but not quite as good). However, due to my not triple checking when backing out of a space into another car that also didn’t triple check, I bent the rear hatch… So to make amends, bought the spouse a replacement wagon (in all wheel drive). Plan was (is?) to let the 33 year old TE ‘go away’. It might still be sold here. However, I’ve discovered it makes a dandy easy fast set up “camper” with one cot and a backpack so… maybe not.

    BTW, there’s more to classic cars than Convertibles & Coups. Some of us cherish the wagons and panel vans of bygone days.

    Her Newer 4Matic is the Keeper for Florida and has good bad weather characteristics.

    So far, so good…

    Now the lack of discipline sets in…

    About a week after buying spousal make-up car, I had the desire for a 4×4 of my own… Saw a Subaru Forester for sale cheap and jumped on it. OK, I can let the 300 TE go… but I don’t really fit well for sleeping in the Forester (thus my interest in the “build” above… IF I can get it ‘sleepable’ for camping, the other wagon has little use / easier to let it go).

    Sidebar on Mercedes Repairs in Florida:

    I found ONE guy in Florida who would work on old Mercedes. Dealer and others said “Prior to 2000? We don’t work on them.” This was with my ’79 4 cylinder gas wagon. Grey market. So the original idea was the 240 D (being diesel) can be done by any Diesel mechanic. The replacement wagon is in the 2000s so good to go, and the ’89 Wagon is up for grabs / sale. Subaru not an issue. That was the plan anyway.

    Back on un-discipline:

    About that time, the neighbor says he has a Mercedes he wants gone from his driveway. Sister dumped it on him a year or two prior… and now wants to get it gone. He’s going to just scrap it. A nice mechanically sound 190E. I get it for $400. Hauled to the mechanic as things like the battery are no longer right, and it is out of reg. Long story longer:

    I go to smog it and California refuses due to the wrong part number on the Cat Converter. It has a Bigger and much BETTER one welded in to replace the blown one, but the fact that the numbers are better is not important. Yeah, that nuts. So instead I take it to Florida. It is the Florida Car, and registered there. And can not be registered in California without a $$$$ Cat Converter swap.

    So OK, I’m now up 2 extra cars from lack of discipline. I get it.

    The 190 has been a nice car for shooting back and forth. I think I’ve done 3? trips in it so far. (Maybe 4… I lose track). Plus left it in Florida and arrived by other transport a time or maybe 2. But Florida Friend has sold his house (long story) so Florida Car is back in California. Where I can’t sell it. The Plan, as of now, is to drive it to Florida, pre-positioned at another place (that’s given the OK) and then I can resume “fly in and use car” (unless I’m forbidden to fly via fiat – Oh, did I mention that Chinese Wuhan COVID crapped right in the middle of my Florida Move plans? And car sales?)

    At some point, it will be sold as it is the least desired in the fleet. I like it, really I do, but I like the wagons better for utility (and spouse will not let me do things like haul stuff in Her Wagon…) and the 240 D is “Special” to me. Then I’m figuring on the Subaru as my real Camping Car for serious camping / fishing stuff – IFF I can get a ‘build’ in it that lets me sleep flat in it…). But selling the 190E can only really happen in Florida…

    So, summary: 2 x “new to us” cars in All Wheel Drive – bought just before Covid as the New Fleet.
    1 x Classic Diesel to be restoration / show.
    2 x WT? how did I end up with this? Potential for sale. 1 Florida Only. 1 My Wagon for Stuff.

    Anyone wants to buy a ’89 300TE wagon, just let me know. Not willing to let it be crushed, so over the $1k you get for crushing mandatory. Otherwise, it is worth more than that to me as a junk truck analog.

    Anyone in Florida wants to buy a ’93 190E, let me know. “Will deliver” … eventually…

    So that’s why 2 retired people have 5 cars.

    BTW, the “current plan” is to just drive things until they die and let the “Fleet” age out as we do. I figure first major repair on the ’89 or ’93 in Florida and they are off to the recycle yard as it is unlikely I can find a mechanic to fix them. Also note: Mercedes has relatively recently changed their parts policy from “Yes, we have parts” to “only for a few years” that I think is 5 years? Maybe 10. So it is increasingly hard to get certain major parts. (3rd party gaskets and such are easy, I’m talking things like distributors or cam shafts). So both of those cars are on Death Watch really. Only reason they are still going, IMHO, is that I have a mechanic who machines parts if needed and, post retirement, I’m putting very few miles on some of the cars (other than coast to coast runs in other cars).

    Note, too, that a cot in the back of an ’89 Wagon and a backpack is all of a $40 “Camper Conversion” for this spring. I’m not “investing” in it as a “keeper”. Just as a useful toy. It may well be that the ’89 never leaves California and gets sold. In which case I take the newer wagon (with 2 dogs) cross country using the “cot conversion” to avoid hotel hassles (and so I can camp some ;-) That is ALL that will be done in terms of Mercedes Wagon camping ‘builds’. It’s the Subaru where I’m looking at a longer term “build” and where I’m not sure the ‘cot solution’ will work (need to test it but it eyeballs as not level by a lot).

    Note 2, too: We have not even put the house up for sale yet. We’re months away from that, and several trips to / fro Florida setting up for a move, finding a place, etc. It’s quite likely that somewhere in that, one of the older cars will croak and / or the 190 E finds a new home in Florida with someone else. I’m FINE with dumping it in Texas with a blown head gasket or junking it in Alabama after a deer strike, should such a thing happen. There is no expectation that all the cars make it to Florida. Only 3. The 2 “daily drivers” and the “classic wannabe”. Even there, it is a possible that we sell the newer Mercedes Wagon here and buy a Subaru Wagon there. Spouse does OK in Forester, and it might work, but she needs some ‘time in seat’ in a Subaru Wagon to know for sure. We both like Subaru more than Mercedes now, especially for things like cost and availability of maintenance in Florida. So we might end up with just Forester, the 190E & 240 D in Florida with the 190E up for sale.

    Nothing is decided and every option is open. But until something changes, I’ve got 5 cars and need a prep / plan should a miracle happen and we’re suddenly in Florida. (One job in Florida, or one offer on the house here, and we’re moving pronto.)

    I know, waaay TMI. But you asked the question…

  24. Ossqss says:

    @EM, would a cheap inflatable mattress not work for your application? I got a cheap one at Wallyworld for <$10 and inflate it with my Ridgid cordless vacuum and deflate it with the same in literally seconds. We also have a queen size that has the pump built in it with 4-D batteries.

  25. Chiefio

    In 1948 a service started from Kent In SE England to fly your car to the other side of the Channel.

    So, all you need is a similar service Chiefio and you are in business.

    I remember that when we first started going to France with my parents that the ‘ferry’ was merely a cargo ship and the vehicles were dropped into the hold via a big net and a crane. That would be in the early sixties I imagine

  26. H.R. says:

    @E.M. – I’m well aware that you can do ultralight camping but generally go just a bit (very little bit) more deluxe, since you have room in the car.

    I was just under the impression that you’d want to do a more deluxe build once you got settled in Florida; for the fun and engineering of the build, and enjoyment/wider camping options when it is done.

    And you may wish to scrap the car conversion altogether. Remember that thread on ultralight campers a couple of years ago? There were some nice videos in that thread. You might want to design and build one of those instead. Once it’s outfitted, you just hook up and go whenever you want. Also, when you get to your destination, you can drop the camper and have your car freed up to explore the surroundings.

    I’m figuring that once you get settled in, you can then choose the option that best suits how you intend to go gallivanting around. But I think you won’t be able to resist an upgrade to the cot and go bag.

    Meanwhile, IMO, (that you didn’t ask for) the cot and go bag is definitely the best option for the present circumstances.

  27. Ed Forbes says:

    Thanks for the camping conversion video!

    We are downsizing from a class C as I have found I am not much for camping. The significant other still wants to go to several weekend camping events a year to Bluegrass music festivals and does not want to handle the class C and the towed car by herself.

    Currently looking for a used extended transit van to convert to a weekend camper and your video is a great way to start on the design.

  28. E.M.Smith says:



    I’ve made “BioDiesel” in my kitchen. Not hard at all. (19% alcohol, methanol or ethanol preferred, 1% lye as catalyst, 80% any biological oil – soy and corn both work great, gently warm to about 100 F or make it in summer outdoors ;-) Let stand to separate. “Polish” filter if desired.

    My Diesel has about 178,000 miles on an engine good for 1/2 million. Interior is in good shape (modulo some wood trim bits that are easy to replace, and some fabric on the windowsill that’s also easy to fix). Only really bad parts are the hood and paint. Hood to be replaced in a few weeks, paint “soonish maybe”.

    Then I’ve got one of the worlds greatest ICE Cars for the rest of my life. Transmission is manual so any transmission shop can fix it. Engine is Diesel so any Diesel shop can fix it if anything ever needs fixing. NO electronics to have parts fail from age. (Electrolytic capacitors in all that e-Gear, in electronics heavy cars, are going to start popping about year 10…) Only issue will be “rubber goods”.

    I’m pretty sure I can cast my own synthetic replacements if it ever came to that, but so far the parts are still around.

    The gas cars not so much. The “computerized” ones, not at all.

    BTW, the “zoom” in the 190E is a lot of fun ;-)

    Per “stretch out flat”: There’s “need” and there’s “want”. I have done at least a dozen cross country without. I now have decided I “want” a lot.

    12 hours? HA! Piker. Try 36 stopping only for gas and eating in motion. Then try to sleep sitting in that same damn seat. I’ve done it, but hopefully “never again”. Partly I’m not as able to do it as before (more things complain) and partly I’m just not seeing the “need” to do it. I can camp, and like camping.

    Frankly, just getting “fully reclining seats” (Subaru, 190 E) was a major benefit / leap forward. They are now my preferred Hail Mary Cross Country drivers for just that reason. The 240 D least as it has no way to get near to flat / straight other than across the rear seat curled up or door open… Wagons in between, but I’m just about 3 inches too long for flat and straight. Diagonal just barely, but then I can carry near zero stuff in the back…

    Which brings us to:

    @Ossqss & Jim2 & N&J H et. al:

    The Wagons are almost flat and would be FINE as is, boards or not, plywood or OSB if urethaned to smooth EXCEPT the rear seat folds up and INTO THE WAY. ( I thought I covered this in the posting…) So I’m TOO LONG for the available space WHATEVER is put in it.

    HOWEVER if I move the ‘sleeping platform’ UP by about a foot, and hang the end of it over the rear seat (or over the hole if that folded up rear seat bottom is removed) then I have the needed 6 feet of sleeping space. NOTHING ELSE WILL FIX THIS. EVER.

    Stuff in way. Remove it you have a hole to bridge. Don’t remove it, only way to get 6 feet of flat and straight is to go UP and over it. Doesn’t matter if it is wood, plastic, concrete, steel, inflated, cast or welded. And a nice cheap $40 fold up cot that was so cheap as to not have ‘legs’ under the foot end does it very nicely. So that’s what I bought.

    Maybe I need to post a photo, since folks clearly are not following the plot…

    In Forester, the problem is worse in 2 ways. First, the rear seat does NOT fold flat. It folds to an incline toward the front. 2nd, there’s an “air gap” between the rear seat (folded down) and the front seat (all the way forward). So either I sleep with my feet dangling in air and my head about a foot lower than my feet (cue headaches, insomnia, sinus pressure, etc. etc.) or I try to sleep with my head hanging into a hole behind the seat (cue other list of horrors).

    The traditional, easy, simple, effective cheap and widely practices solution is a ‘platform’ that either cantilevers over that gap or has feet to the floor in it AND has a wedge bottom support such that it levels out the terrain. One piece of plywood 24 to 28 inches by 72 inches, some wedge bits and any other desired braces, pockets, drawers, hinges, whatever as the owner desires. All the rest of the “build” is for owner satisfaction on some point they care about, not for the sleeping platform part.

    Note again: Nothing but a platform of some sort is going to fix the ‘span the gap’ for the needed length. Might as well make it flat while you do it. Also there’s a “chance” the cot might work here too. It will not flatten the platform as much as I’d like, but I might be able to raise the rear part with something under it. We’ll see (later, days later).

    Note too: IFF I had an old Oldsmobile Skyliner or whatever it was called, I’d not have this problem as they are over 6 feet of bed in the back with the seats down. The death of the American Classic Wagon is the cause of all this “stuff” to deal with.


    Um, you’ve convinced me. The last thing I want now is “stable climate”! ;-)

    BTW, the weather of the Little Ice Age was very wild. Think of “1800 and froze to death” AKA the “year without a summer” with snow in mid summer in New England…

    Or Washington crossing the Delaware River with ice floes… (the painting is accurate).


    I actually started out looking at “roof top tents”. Then the cost hit me. OVER $1,000 for the cheap ones. Into the several thousand for the good ones. Also the weight is an issue. It puts you near max pretty fast when fully loaded with gear. Then you get to pay for it with gas mileage all the time you use it.

    I still might get one, but only AFTER I’m in Florida and the car population has been adjusted. I’m thinking “Top of Subaru” and lives in garage most of the time fixes most of it but the cost. Not real interested in spending $2k to destroy my gas mileage for 3k miles and then be done…

    I did spend a chunk of time 2 days ago buying 2 tarps and doing trial fits on the lawn. One as “side awning” worked nicely. I didn’t test the set-up, but using part of the side awning was good enough to demonstrate that “hatch as tarp holder” works, and a “tunnel” out the back would work very well. So figure 15 foot x 20 foot or so. 5 feet up each side of the car, 5 over the top. Now you have covered your windows and all (10′) and only need to add a sun screen to the windshield. Out the back, you have 10 feet more for “patio”. I cut some bamboo poles to test with and them, with guy paracord, worked fine.

    So, in fact, my plan is to have the needed tarp, guys, stakes, and poles in the car. When in a place what allows it, set up such. When “stealth camping” in a Lowe’s or WalMart, just fabric over the windows and onto the cot. And yes, that’s a part of why I’m reticent about letting go of my Real Wagon… it is long enough even if just barely and needing a tiny bit of cot help.


    Like this, only more cleanly set up:

    or with friends:

    IF the weather is really nice, and bugs absent like in Quartzite, I’d even set the cot out under the tarp…

    Or throw $120 at a formal and cleaner version:

    I’m going to try the DIY tarp & poles in the next few weeks and find out if I need to toss money at it too…

    So, in fact, I started at the notion of a Roof Top Tent System, and realized it was for after I was settled and intending to camp a lot in “local set-up for a while” spots. Just get the car across the country not so much…

    Also, at least 2 trips cross country will have “other stuff” stacked on the roof. Bikes, kayak, etc. so for them it’s either “cot in car” or “tent in campgrounds”…

    But as of now, I’ve got a tent in each of 3 cars (the canonical collection of old tents bought as the family grew for “the Quake”…) along with 3 tarps and a few bungees, rope, and stakes. No big plan here. Just cleaning out the garage and found “tent for one” and “tent for married couple” and then “tent for family” and figured “Might as well put them in a car”.

    But yeah, I’m on board with the whole “tarp out the back” and “tarp side awning” thing (depending on camp ground layout / access to car side or back). Even if the cot doesn’t ‘span the gap’ in the Subaru, I might skip a “build” and just do “tent, tarp, cot” with it. Or even “Tent, Tarp, insulated pad / inflated mattress” ( I have a few of them, too. Outfitted for 4 to sleep in the front yard in a tent for 2 weeks post Big One… Cheap insurance, now recreational gear ;-)

  29. E.M.Smith says:



    “Cot & Go Bag” is ONLY for getting the wagons across the country (with 2 dogs…) and a little bit of “work out the kinks” camping here prior to The Event.

    Ideation on the Subaru and a “build” is waffling between “cot, tarp, tent & go bag” just to get it moved, and an eventual Dream Camper with formal Build inside and optional Top Tent for longer stays in the boonies / fishing camp. Almost certainly to wait until dust settles in Florida.


    Car transport services exist here. I’ve not priced all of them but some are painfully expensive. Also, a wagon load of stuff gets moved with the car if I’m driving it…

    That said, I’m open to the idea, just haven not reached the point of pricing them (yet). Heck, I’m not even sure I won’t be driving a Big U-Haul Van with car trailer behind it for at least one trip…

    While I’m hoping for a “load and go” one big truck apply money, that’s not answered yet. It might end up with me towing stuff.

    The other one is “guy with Diesel truck and car trailer”. That has potential, but I don’t know prices yet. I expect not cheap, but who knows. It’s about $500 of gas to drive the car, plus personal expenses (i.e. food, camp grounds, hotels, whatever). I figure at about $1000 / car it might be worth it for the big ones. (Little ones take less gas so economics different). I vaguely remember looking into this a decade or two ago and it was more like $1500 but the memory is fuzzy, times change, and I didn’t check much then, just one spot.

    It might be interesting to see if any of the rental companies rent multi-car trailers too ;-) I could see loading up a big van, and putting 2 to 4 cars (loaded too) on a big trailer and then just poking across the country…

    Decisions decisions….

    But “facts not in evidence” so no decision possible (yet).

    For now it’s still “need to explore and set up” and that’s One car and me. Then fly back. Then “one car and me” for the next bit. Then fly back. And somewhere in there “It sold? Pack everything that’s left, sell or junk what you can’t take, and git gone!”..

    @Ed Forbes:

    Class C, eh? How much? (only 1/2 ;-)

    There’s a LOT of “van camper conversion” videos out there. Some are spectacular. One is by an 18 year old girl doing a complete van outfitting. Insulating walls and floor. Built in sink, counter, etc. Makes me feel like I’m a wimp about it in comparison. I mean, heck, an 18 year old kid can do it, so maybe I can do a Subaru Build ;-)

  30. Ed Forbes says:

    EM…selling as a package with the towable small car. You get to up your vehicle count by 2 with this deal 😜

  31. E.M.Smith says:

    I think I’ll skip the “package” deal… ;-)

    FWIW, this video shows a Subaru Forester with a sleep platform in the back. It also shows how the rear seats don’t fold flat and the BIG gap to cover between rear seat surfaces and back of front seats (and long enough to sleep on).

    I’m thinking about something as simple as this, but only 1/2 wide. It will be just one person in the car when camping, so I don’t need to fill the whole back.

    But now at about 2 min 9 seconds, you can clearly see the “issue” with just tossing a mattress pad in it, or similar. At 4 min 48 seconds you can see the foot well gap.

    This one at about 8:50 shows almost exactly what I want to do, and why. A simple one person sized sleep area and pull out table top. The boxes and such not so much…

  32. The True Nolan says:

    Nice flat place to stretch out? Just thinking outside the box… Is there any way to have a flat bed that hangs level from the ceiling? Maybe stows raised all the way up?

  33. jim2 says:

    TTN – thinking about a conversion van, I’ve had that thought also. Might be a pain to move all the stuff under it when going to bed.

  34. H.R. says:

    @E.M. re the 2 May 2021 at 10:32 pm video:

    Now that’s a good setup based on what you have described you’d like to do. I’d raise the bed surface just enough to be able to store fishing rods, kayak paddles, and tarp poles under the bed; long but skinny stuff.

    The other thing about his approach is that it seems everything is easily removable. So I guess he has a Subaru daily driver if he parks his modifications in the garage or storage shed while he’s not out on the trail.

    Hahahahhaha! You have a bunch of decisions to make, my friend. You’ll have a ball figuring out what works best for the long haul.

    Because you have a few vehicles to choose from, I’d advise budgeting a few hundred bucks for plywood and such for ‘mistakes’. Well, not exactly mistakes, but for refinements as you settle in on your favored ‘style’ of getaways. Most wood can be cut down or reshaped to use for refinements or new ideas, but you should plan – happily, I might add – for a lot of “Gee, I wish I’d done…” changes.

    Overall, I’m not seeing a lot of money for do-overs… maybe a couple of hundred bucks at the very most.
    Then there’s that ultralight trailer option, which will run a fair bit more in build money and total material cost. But you will have even more flexibility with de-e-e-e-luxe addons such as in that young girl’s van build.

    And there’s nothing that precludes you from outfitting the Subaru for not too much money while working on a dream, ultralight trailer setup. (There was one video, back when, of a young woman who had the ultralight trailer that expanded to a tent living space and had all the comforts one person would need for an extended stay just about anywhere… ummm… not too frigid. I think it was good for three seasons, as I recall. She was set to stay for months in a spot if she cared to. And she had her tow car available to run errands or explore the surrounding territory.)
    Fun times! You have fun times ahead and the tough decisions all have a good outcome no matter which way you choose to jump.

    Hey! You’re not looking at $500,000 motor homes, where a wrong move is a real bummer. At most, anything you don’t like and want to scrap and redo will only set you back in the $100, $200, $300… let’s get wild… $1,000 dollar range.

    You can’t go wrong.

  35. E.M.Smith says:


    Just saw one “no build build” where the guy just put cut plywood plank on rolled up old towels in the back, and a storage tub in the front foot well… Instant Platform. And you still have the plywood as wood should you need / want a different build with it.

    I’m going out to measure the space and make SURE it will do 6 foot. IF so, I’m just going to start with a chunk of wood and some old fabric…

    Oh, and any of this made from wood that turns out to be Very Disappointing? Well, there’s always the campfire… ;-)

    Any Trailer requires two things:

    1) I get a hitch installed. A few $hundreds minimum (and limit, IIRC, of 1500 lbs).

    2) I’m already out of California. In California, ALL trailers are limited to 55 MPH. Max. Anywhere. I am NOT going to turn a nice 7 to 8 hour drive at 80 MPH into a 10 to 12 hour trip just to escape the State… It’s just crazy to be driving south on I-5 with folks whipping past you at 80 to 85 MPH and you are stuck at 55… It is risky at best, and demoralizing.

  36. E.M.Smith says:


    Um, at first I thought: “That’s just crazy. The roof sheet metal isn’t strong enough to hold the bolts…”

    Then thought some more…

    I have a roof rack. It is bolted to sturdy metal channels. So… Use cargo straps from the roof rack, in the windows and back up the other side. Slide wood plank into it. Snug windows up just to touching. I think that might actually work. Golly.

    Plus, you can adjust, separately, height of each end if parked uphill or down a bit. Plus 2, with some kind of sliding adjusters you can adjust the tilt of the plank side to side for parked on a sideways slope….

    I may need to try that just to see if it can work 8-)

    (If so, it’s the Nolan-Smith Build ;-)

  37. H.R. says:

    @jim2 – Huh… You’re one of the usually more serious ones here. Side projects, hobbies, and interests are not part of your regular commenting fare. Nice to see some side interests. A camping van, eh?

    If you go with a conversion van for some adventuring, based on what I’m seeing in various videos, a DIY van is better than most of the aftermarket conversion vans.

    So the fit and finish might not be a slick as some factory job, but I think a conversion made by you exactly to your wants and needs would more than make up the difference.

    Our starter travel trailer drove home that lesson to me. I made several modifications that I couldn’t believe the factory engineers didn’t think to incorporate. I didn’t do all that much, really, but I had several ‘Duh! Why didn’t those dummies do… such and such’ and I made a fix myself.

    That said, if you don’t want to tie up much money because you only want a van ‘sometimes’, have you considered a used conversion van that you could hack to please yourself?

    I’d think there are quite a few used conversion vans out there at reasonable prices for you to go the last mile and modify one exactly to your needs. I don’t know your skilz, so what you do may or may not be pretty, but you strike me as highly competent to get the final results you want.
    P.S. The main reason projects wind up ‘pretty’ (professional looking) is because of the specialty tools that the experts in the trade have.

    Long ago, when my wife decided that I or we would do a project, she caught on quickly that it paid to have the right tools for the job. If I had a solo project and some specialty tool was needed, she never begrudged the expense. Just buy it. We’ve done tile work, kitchen cabinets, built-in appliances, and wood flooring that show no signs that “amateur DIYers were here.”

    I don’t know how well you are equipped, but if you do a DIY conversion, buy whatever tools you need for the job that you don’t already have, and you will be very happy with the end result.

    P.P.S. – If you’re a dabbling hobbyist woodworker, or even a very serious one, there are a couple of good threads over on p.g.sherrow’s blog.

    E.M. doesn’t have a blog roll, so just click on p.g.’s name in one of his comments if you are interested. (Simon Derricutt is quite the woodworker, but he posts on that topic on p.g.’s blog, not here.)

  38. jim2 says:

    Yes, I learned the “right tool” lesson many years ago. I like building things, but for the last several years, it’s been home projects.

  39. Ossqss says:

    @HR, it’s about tools and knowledge on much. I got a recent example.

    Replaced the guts on a 32 year old bathroom faucet yesterday. One of the things that happens with old faucets is they corrode internally. The parts and fix are easy, the part to get to there can be a challenge. On old fixture, the retaining ring can sometimes require you to cut the old one off with a Dremel tool, if your lucky (Like I was), you can just use a pair of channel locks to town (why are plyers called a pair anyhow?)

    So, here is the knowledge part of the sink equation.

    When you replace internals in a water feeding environment, you gotta clean the stuff a bit. White vinegar does the job, but you could use anything applicable to dissolving deposits. Then once cleaned for install, put a crap load of plumber lube stuff. That not only helps with any potential leak on the front end, it makes the stuff more easily removable later.

    My example is pretty easy. Delta star handle 32 year old bathroom faucet guts. I have also replaced the showers also. The get more used.

    Now, the other was a Pentair Great White Shark pool sweeper. Those things are 500 bucks to replace. Turned out it just needed a $20 sweeper foot. Just sayin, anything can be fixed. I fixed my 8 year old 70″ porch TV a year ago with a 40 dollar power supply board. There are basically 3 internal component boards in most newer TV’s. I could have replaced all 3 in this TV for $120 bucks. As long as the LCD* is good, the 16 screws work is worth it.

  40. E.M.Smith says:

    Just did a re-measuring of the Forester with the seats all the way forward, and backs leaned forward. It’s 6 feet toward the edges and about 6′ 4″ or a bit more in the center. So I can easily do the Cot as long as I work out some leg lift structure for the rear end of it and don’t mind sleeping with my head under the rear window.

    IF I get a storage box of the right height to support the cantilever end, I can sleep in either direction.

    For a wood plank: It’s just barely 24 inches wide at the pinch point (with one rear seat down) at the stanchion, OTOH, IF I countour the edges for a best fit, it becomes about 28 inches wide at the shoulders / knees. I’ll likely do that at some point (after I find my jig saw, last seen about 27 years ago…). Similarly, rounding the corners in the rear can add an inch or two of usable length.

    BUT, I can choose to just put two seats down and use the middle where it’s about 6′ 4″ anyway and way more than wide enough. Put “stuff” on each side.

    Then for “someday” have a custom cut chunk of plywood for platform instead of the cot.

    I really like the idea of the cot with adjustable lifts (think tubular leg in slot cut in stacked plywood slices or chunks of 2 x 4. Maybe 3 different heights…). IF the weather is good, I set up the tent and it’s a “Lawn Chair”. IF weather is crap, I move some stuff around, shift seats forward, and set it up in the back avoiding all that weather. When not in use, it all folds and stows nicely.

    So that’s my first “target build”. Probably have time about Wednesday to give it a try. (Dark now, and tomorrow is spoken for…)

    The “legs” on the cot are a fold down square C shape of aluminum tube. So a 2 foot piece of wood with a shallow ‘slot’ in it is a fine lift / foot. Have one for level, one for “up 2 more inches” and one for “2 inches less” and it ought to be just dandy even on shallow slopes.

    Houston, I think we have an “almost no build, build” for about $40 and some scrap wood!

  41. H.R. says:

    E.M.: “Oh, and any of this made from wood that turns out to be Very Disappointing? Well, there’s always the campfire… ;-)”


    E.M. writes further: Any Trailer requires two things:

    1) I get a hitch installed. A few $hundreds minimum (and limit, IIRC, of 1500 lbs).”

    A hitch was about $350 for my wife’s Cadillac SRX and I did replace the extra, extra heavy-duty hitch on the F-250 for $500

    I thought the goal of an ultralight trailer would be about 1,000 pounds, +/-. A fully loaded trailer at a smidge under 1,500 pounds would be the definition of ultralight trailering.

    “2) I’m already out of California. In California, ALL trailers are limited to 55 MPH. Max. Anywhere. I am NOT going to turn a nice 7 to 8 hour drive at 80 MPH into a 10 to 12 hour trip just to escape the State… It’s just crazy to be driving south on I-5 with folks whipping past you at 80 to 85 MPH and you are stuck at 55… It is risky at best, and demoralizing.”

    I was under the impression that you might do an ultralight trailer down the road, long after you moved from California; nothing immediate. I didn’t even think of those issues. Even if I had been aware of them, I wouldn’t have thought about any trailering issues for a Florida resident.

    Although…. I’m not sure what the issues might be for a Florida resident. Maybe Ossqss can chime in on any laws he’s aware of that matter and any home builds he knows of that ran into regulatory difficulties.

  42. Ossqss says:

    Why have a cot made for purpose when a 60/40 fold down seat would manage a blow up for most universally. Just sayin, 1-10th the space used, light, and for storage, more manageable.

    Hey, that’s why we discuss thing, right?

  43. E.M.Smith says:


    The problem with any flexible object is the approximately 6 inch difference in height between the rear seat hinge area (and rest of cargo area) and the head rest / top of seat “roll”; and then the roughly 16 inch open foot well. The foot well area can be “fixed” with either a cantilever strong support (plywood or cot foot end that’s built as a cantilever) or via a box / support / crate of appropriate height.

    The “sleeping bent up hill with a ridge of 6 inches in your back” is not so easy to fix for ANYTHING that’s just a floppy mattress or inflated.

    I think this is about the 3rd time I’ve explained this same point in this thread, and I’ve supplied video illustration. Am I not saying it clearly?

    In Forester, the problem is worse in 2 ways. First, the rear seat does NOT fold flat. It folds to an incline toward the front. 2nd, there’s an “air gap” between the rear seat (folded down) and the front seat (all the way forward). So either I sleep with my feet dangling in air and my head about a foot lower than my feet (cue headaches, insomnia, sinus pressure, etc. etc.) or I try to sleep with my head hanging into a hole behind the seat (cue other list of horrors).

    No, I think that was pretty clear…

    Now, just to maybe hopefully this time for sure make it clear:

    IFF I were about 4 feet tall, it would work fine to have an inflatable mattress. Since I’m about 6 foot range, that’s not acceptable.

    IFF I were happy to have a 6 inch high ridge pressed into my ribs, it would work fine to have an inflatable mattress. Since that isn’t acceptable, as the goal is sleep not spinal dislocation, that’s not acceptable.

    Oh, and then there’s that issue of having all your blood pool in the downhill end from the up-sloping rear seats that DO NOT FOLD FLAT.

    (This time for sure… he hopes…)

  44. Ossqss says:

    LOL, I think you could stuff any hole with cargo and make it semi-flat , and an air mattress is like a level if not inflated fully. Hey, good on ya bro. Ya gotta do what feels right.

    And your right, I don’t get it ;-)

  45. E.M.Smith says:

    Maybe this will help.

    I could not find an exact match photo of a early years Forester rear seat. These two are a “Legacy” seat and an “Outback” seat. They give the idea though.

    I have the split seat design, and I think the “top of seat roll” is a bit higher on mine. Maybe I’ll get a matching photo when it’s light out again.


    1) The seat slopes up hill significantly.
    2) There is a roll or ridge at the top.
    3) There’s a gap of open air at the foot well right where your head would be when sleeping.

    Those three “defects” prevent this from being a FLAT surface, 6 FOOT LONG, without a RIDGE and WITHOUT SLOPE.

    Putting ANY inflated thing over that will leave you with your head in the hole, the ridge in your side, and the blood pooling in your feet. Oh, and you bent in an uncomfortable part of your back.

    Your choices to “fix it” are to:

    Cantilever over the hole.
    Put feet under a platform over the hole.
    Fill in the hole with some kind of box.
    Be 4 foot tall.

    Raise the foot of any sleeping platform so as to not have a slope.
    Put in place a sleeping platform that is already flat.
    Have a platform that cantilevers over the sloping part.
    Be 4 foot tall.

    Have a raised platform that is above the ridges (both the ‘seat roll’ and the rubber dirt pan in the cargo area).
    Have a cot that has legs and is above the ridges.
    Fill the whole area with 6 inches of {carpet, towels, rugs, rags, cement, etc.}
    Be 4 foot tall.

    What is guaranteed to NOT work:

    Put something inflated hanging over the hole.
    Put something inflated in the slope.
    Put something inflated over the ridges / rolls.
    Be 6 foot tall.

    (Maybe this time… though I’m starting to wonder if anyone really reads the prior comments. One would think that, with it answered “a few times now”, it must be that folks don’t bother reading the comments. But that would mean this is a wasted effort too. Nah, that can’t be it… Sob…)

  46. E.M.Smith says:


    “Size Matters”. An air mattress is less than 6 inches thick. If deflated enough to let the forward end be level with the tail end, the forward end will be dead flat and on the back of seat “roll” ridge. Further, being at best 1/2 full, you will sink through it to be in contact with the rubber mud pan ridge AND you will have no cushion left.

    The cot just unfolds and sits there and you are done. At most, add a bit of footing material under the rear part to level it IF the 3rd leg ends up on the sloped seat back somewhere. Nearly trivial to do and it WILL be comfortable (unlike any air mattress I’ve used that tends to be a clammy moisture barrier, and deflates in the middle of the night as things get cold, putting me hard on the hard ground. Then there’s the fact that the heavy shoulders parts bottom out while the feet float on the balloon… Yes, I’ve tried this many times. Cots work. Air Mattresses only barely and often for only a little while. For me to not bottom out somewhere, they need to be taught full.

    BTW, I have a very good fabric reinforced one in the car as part of the emergency / camping kit. It can work OK if FULLY inflated and on level ground.

  47. YMMV says:

    “sleeping bent up hill with a ridge of 6 inches in your back” — I know exactly what you are talking about. I’ve been known to remove seats. But I wanted to see a picture. Details probably depend on the year. Some look flat, but the camera may lie. Some look awful.

    I’d be tempted to see if the rear seat back could be unhinged, then folded down and slid forward, perhaps with some props to support it. If not, the platform idea is good, although I would go skimpy on the plywood thickness and add some foam underneath it instead.

  48. E.M.Smith says:

    Well, “close but no cigar”…

    My seats are a lot like the Legacy seats in the top photo. A slightly larger “lump” at the top of the seat, and I’ve got a “rubber mud pan” in the cargo area like it has. The Forester seats posted by YMMV show the upslope better, but look like they are from newer years with the seat top hump removed.

    The “up slope” is a bit more in those photos too.

    The cot, will, in fact, fit in that area if the seats are all the way forward and with a couple of inches to spare. It isn’t too sloped, such that a couple of inches of lift would likely fix it.

    The problem is the 3rd leg.

    This fold up cot has 3 sections. The foot section cantilevers off the middle so there are no feet at the end of the foot section. (put your shoulders and upper body weight there, I doubt it would hold…) Sort of like:
    / \ \

    The first two sets of legs land nicely in the Mud Pan. It’s that third, and most important, leg that lands right on the top of seat hump. Drag it forward an inch or two, you start shoving that end up as it hits the seat backs (and need some support added in the foot wells). Drag it back an inch or two the rear hits the hatch and the first hinge starts to arch upward.

    So “nice idea” but foot placement an issue. (This cot was intended for the Mercedes Wagon anyway, so not a loss. Just was hoping for a “one size fits all” solution).

    With that, I’m on to the #2 and known to work solution. A slab of plywood, about 6′ x 2′ (or maybe 28 inches…) and wood blocks under it to level. Optional slide out kitchen table shelf. (As in the 2nd video in at about the 8 minute mark as noted.)

    I’ll likely start the build on that some time next week (This week I’m expected to actually work at, well, work. Go figure… ;-)

    I’ll still keep my eyes out for a slightly different camping cot, just to see what’s possible. And because even if tent camping I’d like to have a cot to sleep on. No need to sweep out the tent site for annoying pebbles or worry about wet tent floors if a leak springs ;-) So will likely need one for each of the two wagons being ferried… (IF that happens). But now I’ll do it with a tape measure in hand.

    For now, the Subaru is Tent Camping Equipped only. I’m OK with that as the weather is fine here. Unlikely to see rain again for the next 6 months+. I’m also most likely to try out the “Cot In Wagon” on any local trip, rather than take a 4×4 to a paved campground… So there’s that.

    Talk about your slow project…

  49. jim2 says:

    Seems like one could use plywood for the supports underneath the plywood sleeping platform. Might even be able to hinge it so it folds up. Maybe two pieces, suitably shaped, running parallel along the length, and one or two cross pieces to make it stable; all hinged to fold up. Might also need latches?

    But 2x4s really look like overkill.

  50. E.M.Smith says:


    A lot of folks do it like that in various combinations. See the first video in that set of two I posted. Hinged bit at the front that folds up for driving.

    As to plywood vs 2×4 spacers for the back “legs”: It is typically dependent on what scrap wood you have laying about. I’ve seen videos with everything from 2 x 6 chunks to 1 x 2 to plywood and even one with a rolled up towel. I just said 2 x 4 as that’s what I have in the scrap pile at present.

    By eyeball it’s about a 4 or 5 inch “lift” needed in the back to be level with the front, A lot of folks look to use either 2 x 4 or 2 x 6 (depending on model / yr of Subaru and their specific tilt) “rails” cut as tapering wedges. One on each side of the plank.

    Having played with the cot was a good idea. Learned a few things. Like a simple 6 foot plank will fit, but if you want a potential passenger in the front seat, you either hinge the plank, or expect to put it on the roof… Some appropriate sized support in the foot well is important. Plan and measure that prior to starting the plank install. Put some protective cloth over the back of the seat top roll / lump. Having it be two sections, one that stands in the rubber mud tub, the other on the seat back ramp and foot well, might be a good idea.

    Cot also has a ratcheting up part (the cantilever) that must to 100% up to unlock the pawl and allow fully flat again. This hits the roof before it hits 100%… so if you lift the front at all, it’s everything out of the car and start over… Nice in a lawn chair conversion, an issue in a sleeping platform.

    I also got to have it drummed into my head just how big the lip is on the mud well and now big that Strut Cover is at the side. I’m now leaning much more toward contoured edges around that strut cover and away from straight sided plank. You get much more platform area that way.

    Another lesson learned was that full camping gear under the tonneau cover in the back must be unloaded to test or set up the cot. Including the cross bar for the cover. PITA. No wonder folks build those storage boxes along the driver side…

    So on my TODO list is to get one of those storage boxes that’s Just Right as the far end plank support in the foot well, and rearrange my stuff in the car into some kind of box along the driver side, even if just initially cardboard moving boxes. Supposedly I won’t need the big tent in the car if I have a plank bed in it, so that would save some space too. OTOH, I like the idea of both: “Tent and, Car with Plank” options on any given camping trip.

    So breaking down the build even more:

    First, repack the present stuff into moving boxes along the drivers side.
    Remove the tanneau cover bar, store it along that side.
    Build a box that sits in the rubber mud tub of the right height and support slope (if any slope is needed, I think it is flat). Roughly 2 x 4 feet, or perhaps 2.5 with contour cuts, x 4.
    Build a 2nd box that folds down with the seat, and rests on the back of the seat with wedges for the slope, and a storage box in the foot well.
    Urethane coat it all.
    Add top carpet / pad.

    Call it done and test camp.

  51. E.M.Smith says:

    Almost identical problem in a Rav 4. I like the use of pre-made legs and screw inserts.

    I’ll likely make one of these first, use some kind of buffer cloth under it on the seat end. Later cut a across it for a piano hinge to let me fold it up and have a usable passenger front seat.

    I’ll skip the oak, though. Regular plywood is way more than strong enough. Then varnish it with polyurethane for a smooth finish.

  52. The True Nolan says:

    @E.M. “Um, at first I thought: “That’s just crazy. The roof sheet metal isn’t strong enough to hold the bolts…”

    Yes, my first thought as well — but most roofs have at least one or two heavier ribs up there somewhere.

    “Then thought some more… I have a roof rack. It is bolted to sturdy metal channels. So… Use cargo straps from the roof rack, in the windows and back up the other side. Slide wood plank into it. Snug windows up just to touching. I think that might actually work. Golly. Plus, you can adjust, separately, height of each end if parked uphill or down a bit. Plus 2, with some kind of sliding adjusters you can adjust the tilt of the plank side to side for parked on a sideways slope….”

    THAT is a brilliant solution! Lot to be said for simplicity, especially when it is simple to remove if you don’t want it any more. Maybe put the plank on the roof rack until you need it.

    “(If so, it’s the Nolan-Smith Build ;-)”

    Just the “Smith Build”. You did the ingenious part!

  53. E.M.Smith says:

    No, no… if someone sees this and says “What the heck is that? Some idiot think that up?” I want them to hear Smith second… and softly ;-)

  54. E.M.Smith says:

    More camping related than much else, so I’ll put this here.

    And here I thought my “pile of bricks” stove was a new idea…

    At about 17 minutes into this 1941 German Eastern Front film, some soldiers cooking what look like ducks in a “field expedient” oven (water bucket) over a fire in a kind of a pile-of-bricks stove:

    For those who might not have seen it, my version:

    G70 Stove Pictures and Use Report

  55. The True Nolan says:

    @E.M.: “I want them to hear Smith second… and softly ;-)”

    Lots to be said for using pseudonyms online! :)

  56. H.R. says:

    @E.M. – That WWII Eastern Front footage was fascinating.

    One thing it brought to mind; for a blitzkrieg, they sure used a lot of horses. I thought the German army was a bit more mechanized than that.

    Another note, in light of the current Covid hullaballoo, the soldiers seemed to strip to their skivvies as often as possible to get some sun. I’m not sure they were aware it was for the Vitamin D, but I am sure they knew that it kept them healthy.

  57. Ossqss says:

    @EM, I think the simple solution is to not stuff that of which needs more space in the equation.

    Try this Suburban :-) You could put bunks beds in it, and a couple Ubers to offset the gas >

  58. jim2 says:

    Smith is a pseudonym. Just sayin’. It’s like saying Gonzalez did it.

  59. E.M.Smith says:


    Herrera or Herrero is the equivalent of “Smith”

    Herrera is a surname of Spanish origin, from the Latin word ferrāria, meaning “iron mine” or “iron works” and also the feminine of Latin ferrārius (and ultimately from the Proto-Indo-European root “bhar” “to carry”), “of or pertaining to iron”; or, alternatively, the feminine of Spanish herrero (“ironsmith”, from ferrārius), which also gives the surname Herrero. Variants of the name include Errera, Ferrera and the less common Bherrera. Its equivalent in Portuguese and Galician is Ferreira.

    Similarly Ferrari in Italian. Yes, I get a chuckle out of all those Ferrari drivers driving around in a car name “Smith”… ;-)

    (And Novak, Kojack, etc. etc.)

    As there’s one person with my two names for every 2000 working population, I’m functionally Anonymous Anonymous. There’s even another one a couple of houses down the street…


    But the purpose is to allow the easy ferry of the cars to the opposite coast. IF I wanted to change vehicles, I’d just sell these here and buy others there. BUT I like these old models as they have features I like (and do not have features I despise… A giant TABLET to operate my car? No thanks, I’d rather have knobs I can feel in the dark and NOT have something with electrochemical parts that will expire in 10 years – or sometimes less…)

    The more electronics and electric motorized bits, the longer a car spends in the shop, more often, and at higher cost.


    Yup. B&W and silent. I was “reminded” that W.W.II still had a lot of W.W.I stuff and methods in use. Yes, the Germans had some integrated “Lightning War” units; but they also had a lot of old line units… Then, in Eastern Europe, not a lot of Autobahns for the mechanized stuff… Horses do better in mud…

    I found myself thinking: It looks like one long camping trip, interrupted by short periods of fighting and marching…

  60. H.R. says:

    The other thing I noticed in the video was the amount of footage that was taken of soldiers eating.

    The old saying, “An army marches on its stomach” is absolutely true. Best way to defeat an enemy is not to shoot more of theirs than they shoot of yours, but to cut their supply lines.

    One clip in the vague middle of the video was of a horse drawn wagon with smoke coming out of the back of the wagon bed. It was in the midst of a march; a movement of troops from somewhere to somewhere else.

    It was brief, but my first strong impression of the scene was that it was the ‘chuck wagon’ for the troops. I was guessing that beans were somehow simmering in a tub or pot on the wagon so they would be ready when the troops halted for the day.

    The boiled (maybe) ducks you pointed out was not the only scene of poultry being cooked. After several other clips of much the same, it seemed that a bit of meat was very much a big deal and also very much enjoyed by all. I think you you could have shot all those soldiers then and there and they were so meat-starved that they would have died happy.
    Hmmm… My grandfather was with the troops trapped in the Argonne Forest in WWI. They were getting the crap shelled out of them and losing men like crazy. They were holding off direct advances by the Germans as best they could.

    The Allies were trying to break through to save them, but German fighting was fierce and effective. Progress was slow and it was up in the air if the Allies could break through to the remaining trapped soldiers.

    The trapped soldiers were starving. My grandfather told me that his unit spotted a hare. They all joined hands in a circle and crouched low, slowly collapsing the circle until they got the rabbit. They were s-o-o-o very worried that someone would screw up or the hare would be too quick that it would get away between someone’s legs or something.

    Didn’t happen. They got it. They cooked it up and each got their morsel. My grandfather said it was the best thing he ever ate in his life. Lord only knows what else they found to eat to survive. Tree bark soup, maybe? I dunno.

    I got to hear that story directly from my grandfather. It was my observation that my grandfather would make a Cajun look like a picky eater, and they’ll eat anything.

  61. H.R. says:

    Huh… I don’t know how many were trapped with my grandfather. He told me how many men there were, but I can’t recall. I think is was fifteen or twenty. Not a lot left.

    Anyhow, it just now occurred to me that someone’s share was an ear, or maybe half an ear of that rabbit, and they were grateful to get it.

  62. E.M.Smith says:

    My Mother told me about rationing in Britain during W.W.II. She did this by mixing up a can of tuna with some mayo and putting about 1/2 dozen crackers on a plate. Then we sat in the back yard. She told how little there was to eat. Only then, let me have ONE cracker with ONE small spoon of tuna on it. Then said “Now look at the bowl. You’ve had your meal for the day. The rest of this must last a week”…

    Dad told me his story of The Great Depression too. Hunting rabbits. He was given a single .22 LR shell (and, IIRC, a single shot bolt rifle) sent out to hunt. IIRC he was 12 y.o. at the time. IF he got a rabbit, he had dinner that night with fried rabbit and a new .22 LR shell the next day. IF he didn’t find and shoot anything, a reduced ration (what everyone got). IF he shot, and missed, dinner was skipped… Let’s just say my Dad was a Very Very good shot. I think there were a lot like him in W.W.II from farm country…

    It is largely thanks to their experience by proxy that I’m involved in “Prepping” and carry an emergency food supply (and a nice .22 rifle and a brick of shells for it… and eye the fat squirrels that run down the back fence ;-)

    I’ve told this before, but Spousal Dad (Father In Law) was 101st Airborne Drill Sargent and ended up at Bastogne … Needless to say he also reinforced the notion about food being a good thing to have ;-) Didn’t say much, but did say that food drops from air were a very welcome sight (several times in the war). Also had a thing about warm dry socks…

    His squad met Marlene Dietrich side of a road somewhere in France. She was in a jeep (with office escort) driving around to give encouragement to troops. Stopped and talked to them for a few minutes.

    On the socks thing: Once he managed to snag a big box of socks, knitted by English Housewives, for his squad. Everyone got 2 pair of new, clean, warm, dry socks! (And some English unit ended up one box short…) Don’t know the details, but he was the British Liaison Officer on D.Day and went in on a British Glider, so may have had some contacts still after he was back with a US Unit. At one point got separated from his unit, and after some (long time) found some 82nd Airborne and joined them. Got reassigned to them too. So he was both 101st and 82nd… Go figure. Oh, and he transferred into a paratroop unit. So went in gliders, came out jumper (said they had better boots…). Not many were spread that far over the whole battlefield.

    Dad had a story of one guy who dropped a deer… and everyone got a heck of a meal that night, making that guy a hero for the day (or two…). I sometimes wonder how any wildlife at all survived Europe WW I&II …

  63. YMMV says:

    This is a bit OT, but I noticed one thing the 18 y.o. female did not put in her van conversion. The little room. She skipped the shower and the potty. The shower she managed elsewhere, and the other, perhaps being only 18 she could hold it. Both of those things are hassles, especially the black water. There is something you can use, or at least carry for emergencies, the Wag Bag by Cleanwaste. Available at REI, Cabelas, and Amazon. I’ll skip the photo. No smell, and you can dispose of it later in normal garbage. Just raising awareness. Back to the topic.

  64. jim2 says:

    If weight is an issue, one could make the bed from fiberglass. People make their own boats with it and it’s probably got the best strength to weight ratio of materials common for common people. It would probably be thinner to boot.

  65. E.M.Smith says:


    I’ll have to look up that product. What I’ve got somewhere in a “Quake Kit” is a folding “potty”. Really just a seat on a folding support that holds up a plastic bag. Bought 30 years+ ago and so far never used. The “Field Expedient” version is an old toilet seat over a 5 gallon construction pail…

    It’s not hard at all to find restrooms on the road. From formal rest areas to fast food places & gas stations. Then there’s camp grounds with showers too. Truck stops have showers. Even public swimming pools have them.

    Oh, and RV parks usually have a shower & potty barn that you can walk to.

    What they don’t have is “OMG I need to go, now!”… so yeah, you get to “hold it” for a while when in motion. Plan ahead ;-) and “Don’t drink and drive”… anything…..


    Fiberglass made right can be light weight, made wrong can be very heavy.

    The ultimate in light weight is Carbon Fiber, and that isn’t too hard to do.

    As a single rear seat is made to hold over 200 lbs, and a single sheet of plywood is about 40 pounds, and I’ll be using 12 square feet for a 2′ x 6′ of it (out of 32 for a 4′ x 8′ sheet) that’s going to be 12/32 x 40 = 15 lbs. Add an extreme amount for legs and varnish and call it 20 lbs.

    So we’re talking a 10% of expected load “weight”. Or “nearly nothing”.

    Can we now proceed to “put to bed” the notion that a plywood sleeping platform is “heavy”?

    An “ugly bag of mostly water” is massively heavier by about 10 times, and that’s the design point of the car. Putting a plywood plank in it is LOW LOAD in comparison. Basically “IF you can pick it up, it is lighter than the expected 200 lb. person”

    Big bag of water, heavy. Thin plank of plywood, very light.

  66. jim2 says:

    EM – I wasn’t concerned about the weight of the plywood. Just putting another option on the table.

  67. H.R. says:

    @E.M. – I was only concerned about weight it you got into a crazy, max out every cubic foot and the roof rack, type of build. As you say, a sleeping platform and even some sort of wood storage box/shelves is absolutely no worry for the weight.

    But I’m with jim2 on thinner supports. Those spindles in that CRV modification were good. The thin supports give a couple of more inches to work with if you’re going to put some slide out ‘something’ under the sleeping platform.

    So yeah, for your current needs, slap in a sheet of plywood and support it with cement blocks(😜), if that’s what you have around. Or just go with the cot. All that matters right now is a good sleeping platform. That’s it.

    Some of the ideas and ‘be carefuls’ on this thread are to tuck away in the back of your mind for a Florida build when you should get a little crazy with a build… just for fun. They aren’t meant for right now

  68. E.M.Smith says:

    I appreciate the motivation and the notion, but it is simply the case that dry wood is natures foam plastic. Strength per unit weight is remarkably good. That’s why early airplanes were made of it.

    What’s heavy is the resin used in things like thick strand board, but even that isn’t too heavy.

    To make very light weight fiberglass panels, the first approaches were using balsa wood cores. Later changed to foam plastics. Balsa is still used today sometimes. Other folks have used various regular woods too.

    So to make light weight strong fiberglass structures, you start with a wood chunk and glass over it… You don’t eliminate the wood.

    Now what you can do is use thinner wood as the glass is adding strength. Instead of, say, 5/8 inch you could use 3/8 inch ply and then glass over it for smooth finish and weather / water proof along with smooth and potentially colorful.

    But note that the density of resin & glass is a lot higher than that of dry wood. For any given section, you are not making it lighter. You are making it heavier. The way to make it lighter is to use a longer lever arm between the two skin layers. You do this by putting a light weight low density material, like soft wood, in between…

    That’s the long form of what I meant by “done right fiberglass is lighter, done wrong, heavier”.

    In the extreme cases, you put in styrofoam or similar and make a very thick section profile. This is how you make composite aircraft. Note though that the de Havilland Mosquito was mostly wood, and predated glass/foam by many years.
    also the “Spruce Goose”:

    Built from wood because of
    wartime restrictions on the use of aluminum and concerns about weight, the aircraft was nicknamed the Spruce Goose by critics, although it was made almost entirely of birch. The Hercules is the largest flying boat ever built, and it had the largest wingspan of any aircraft that had ever flown until the Scaled Composites Stratolaunch first flew on April 13, 2019.

    IF you want light weight, light enough to fly, you can use Birch Plywood…

    THE major reason for using glass / foam instead of wood is weather proofing. Wood decays and rots and plywood delaminates if wet for long. It is the durability of glass / foam that’s the big advantage. Also the ability to custom shape the skin is easier. (Don’t need steaming and bending thin veneers and then gluing them.)

    The max weight savings comes from ditching the glass and using carbon fiber. That’s where you save LOTS of weight. Then if you can ditch the resin, as in some carbon-carbon stuff, it gets really light (but that takes molds you can cook…)

    None of this maters in a car sleeping platform for the simple reason that all the space above it is empty (as you will go there with your bedding) and the platform itself will be very light compared to anything else you might have put there instead.

    It is just trying to fix a non-problem.

    Where I can see it being very beneficial is the issue of “upholstery friendliness”. That plywood is going to sit on the ‘roll’ at the top of the seat unless I do something. That’s going to wear a hole in it if done long enough (years?). Some folks put a kind of tape foam there. Another suggested a cloth layer. Some used carpet.

    I could easily see a nice smooth 1 layer glass / resin finish there… Added strength, but also a slick surface (after polishing…)

    My present notion is polyurethane coating until smooth AND a towel as rubbing protection. Either that or feet onto a travel box in the foot well and not have it touch at all.

    IF I needed to dump 20% of the weight (or about 4 pounds), the easiest way to do that is would be to go on a ‘sweat down’ diet for a couple of days before the trip, then eat light along the way. Or just not load a flat of water into the car. 32 x 24 ounce bottles (my usual) is 48 pounds right there. Make that a 24 pack instead, at 36 pounds, and I’ve cut my load weight by 12 pounds.

    That’s a lot easier than making a strong fiberglass plank…

    Now if you want to talk Surfboards, then we’ve got something with glass…

  69. E.M.Smith says:


    I must apologize for my snippiness about air-mattresses. I was dismissive of the ability to make them work (for flatness over the bump of height change, lack of support in the footwell, and being non-leveling of the floor area). Usually I am more willing to embrace the notion that “There’s always a way”.

    Well, seems someone DID “find a way”. Lunolife mattresses. They use inflated cubes to fill the footwell and support what is the cantilever end space for solid platforms. It is also thick enough and designed such that you don’t “bottom out” on the bump / discontinuity (though, per this video, you can still tell it has a height discontinuity, but he also “fixes it” even though not problematic via a single piece of plywood.) That just leaves the “sloping uphill” by about 3 or 4 inches from the rear to the front, and some of that is taken up in more compression of the air mattress under your torso than under your legs / feet (one of my complaints about air mattresses is the tendency for your feet to end up “uphill” from the rest of you, so a ‘feature’ in this case). Besides, you are unlikely to find perfectly level parking spaces anyway… So looks like, in fact, you were right and I was wrong.

    I don’t know how much they cost, and I don’t need the full width as bed (since doing that leaves all my camping “stuff” with nowhere to be when I’m sleeping…) so I’m unlikely to buy one for my use case; but they do exist and would work well for folks with a cargo carrier up top, or where they set out their camp gear in the camp set-up. (I’m looking more at leaving stuff in the car and just pulling into a camp space to sleep for the night, cooking a meal on a pull out table with camp stove).

    So with that, here’s the site:

    Their current top photo shows an interesting cooking setup. Camp stove on a table that’s on a “swing out arm” mounted to the trailer hitch. I don’t have a hitch, and don’t have a trailer, but have thought of getting one installed “for that day”… but can’t justify it w/o a trailer… chicken / egg and all that… But having a hitch mounted table is an interesting idea ;-)

    And the video:

    Why I tend to keep digging at things, even when I don’t believe they will work. Because sometimes I’m just wrong.

    I also like how he used the rubber mud well mat as template for cutting his plywood leveling chunk. I’m likely going to do exactly that, but use the piece as a top over a 6 inch “box” base. Add 2 pull out planks about 3 feet each for kitchen and table, and then have a forward section of sleeping platform (with leveling ‘feet’) that can fold back over the rear section when not in use so the rear seats can be used (if desired). In another video saw something much like that. 3 segments that folded up into the rear. Mud well area, over rear seats, cantilever over footwell. 2 sets of hinges. All folds up when not in use into the rear.

    And yes, I’ll be putting some kind of air mattress over it to start with. I don’t have a big chunk of foam, but do have 3 air mattresses. 2 with self inflating foam cores, one high quality blow-up. They will be able to mask any hinge discontinuities. (I did a ‘trial fit’ of the cot in the Subaru and while I can make it fit, it just isn’t right and is a pita in the process. Chosen for the Mercedes Wagons, it works well there.)

    I’m unlikely to get a Luno mattress mostly due to the “cubes” filling the space where I tend to put a cooler and other gear (so where does it go?…) and that it’s a full width and I’m just one person (so where does the gear in the other 1/2 of the back go? Why buy 2 x as much mattress, and is that 2 x the cost?…) so I’m not seeing it as being as useful for me as a ‘slide out kitchen’ from a box platform for one on one side. But, in fact, you CAN make an air mattress work, and reasonably well.

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