Sunset in the Coconino National Forest, looking northeast toward Sedona, AZ, 4/17/15

The Bed

I have a 26"x70" cot-sized bed in my 2004 Toyota Prius.

View from back -- front and back passenger seats laid down
ready to put in the bed.
View from back passenger door -- head rests removed and seats laid flat.

The second generation (2004-2009) Prius is a good vehicle to put a bed in.  The passenger-side seats fold down completely flat with the removal of just the headrests.  By adding some plastic drawers on the front seat to raise the base, someone over 7' tall can easily stretch out and sleep in it.  I have more than enough room at 5'1" tall.

View from back -- sheep fleece pad and ThermaRest make a base for a bed.
View from front passenger door -- plastic drawers are
added to extend a level base.  A small bungee keeps
drawers closed while driving.

View from back passenger door -- the base layer is
tucked behind drawers to make a level base for a mattress.
 Here is how I make up the bed.  For a base, and to cover any bumps from the child's car seat latches, I use a twin-size sheep fleece pad and a 20"x72" ThermaRest pad.  I cover this base layer with a fitted sheet (for a cot or massage table).  The top end is tucked down to bring the base of the bed to the same level as the drawers.
Cot mattress over base, now covered with a fitted sheet.
More plastic drawers added for storage.

Size of cot mattress:  26x70
Cot mattress with sheets on it.  A stuff sack with a down sleeping bag
is added to bolster the corner, and for use in extreme cold.
A small bungee cord is stretched across the drawers while driving.
Over this base is a cot mattress.  When ready to get on the road, I put two sets of sheets on it -- pad, fitted sheet, flat sheet, fitted sheet, and flat sheet.  When the top set of sheets are ready to be washed, I strip them off and still have a clean set to use without having to rush to a laundry mat. 

Bed made with black sheet over a folded-over king size down comforter.
Some cooking gear packed in the back drawers.  A black cargo
strap secures items while driving.
Over the sheets I have a king-size down comforter in a duvet cover.  Depending on how cold the nights are, I can used it as a single layer, double layer, or throw it off.  When the bed is made up, I cover it with a black twin flat sheet so that someone looking into the windows can't readily see a bed inside. 



  1. 7' huh? If I could have moved the two boxes outside last night, I could have slept in mine (only 6'2"). But the a/c would have had to be ran all night, still, food for thought. And I have carried several 8' 2x6s in it.

  2. Well, I have a Prius myself and am getting ready to take a 12+ day trek on the open road from S.FL to who knows where starting on 11/17/2011. Any suggestions on how to fight the cold and is there enough oxygen in the car with the windows all closed up to breathe all night long? My 2008 Prius will be off all night. It's going to be below 32 degrees every night, possibly below 20. Thanks for your suggestions.

    1. Easy...I used to do it all the time bit not in a Prius. Just get a very warm speeping bag rated for super cold temps.

    2. Get a cooler and store it full with bottles of hot water from restaurants or heated on top of engine before getting in sleep/bag and replace them during the night as they lose temp. They last a long time though.

    3. Get a cooler and store it full with bottles of hot water from restaurants or heated on top of engine before getting in sleep/bag and replace them during the night as they lose temp. They last a long time though.

  3. Thanks Suanne for all of the wonderful work you have put into your informative blog!! I bet it took a long time to set up the bed step by step and take pictures! Thanks for that.

    Happy and safe travels Suanne!

    -A fellow sista on the road of life (we have a Eurovan- but it won't last for ever, so mini-van blogs are great for ideas!).

  4. This might be a stupid question but does anyone know if the newer prius models are like this.

    1. Actually, that's a good question. All 2nd Generation Pruis are like mine, years 2004-2009. Third generation, 2010-Present, do not have back seats that lay flat when the front passenger seat is laid all of the way down. So, you have to be about about 5'6" or shorter to be able to sleep in the 3rd Gen Prius lift back. I haven't looked at the Prius V yet to see if the seats work like a 2nd or 3rd Gen Prius. Thanks for checking out my blog. Suanne

    2. Actually, I have a 2013 Prius and the back seats fold down flat but, like you said, not 100% if the passenger seat is folded backwards/flat. You can just pad it all to make an even surface, but there's an easier method. If you need the extra room in a 3rd gen, you just make sure the front seats are pushed all the way forward towards the dash with the seat backs tilted forward as well. Then you put a container or luggage or whatever on the floor behind the front seats to build up a sort of platform that is 18-19 inches high, then when you cover it all with a full size mattress/pad and you have a 2 person bed for people up to 6'4"!

    3. Thanks for the clarification Ashley. Good ideas!

  5. Hi Suanne,
    I have a Prius v, and spent the weekend in a Michigan State Park. First time camping in the car. Even though it got down below 40 degrees I was warm enough, even without running the heat. I think hot weather is going to be more of a problem.

    My bed needs work. I have 3 couch cushions covered with 2" of memory foam and then a thick sleeping bag. The problem is the bed isn't completely flat because the front seat/back seat part isn't completely flat. Do you sleep with your head at the front or back? I tried head back but because my feet were higher I got heartburn. Head forward bed was a little lumpy but the bigger problem was maneuvering. Which door do you use to get in and out? I use driver door and even with the driver seat reclined it is very awkward to turn myself around to get into the bed - and I'm an average size person. Thanks again.

    1. Hi Scottie,

      I sleep with my head toward the front, with my feet under the hatch. I get into bed from the drivers-side passenger seat. It is a bit awkward and requires some flexibility. Here is how I climb into bed:

      From the driver's-side passenger seat, I start by sitting on the very edge of the bed next to the seat back, The next step is to lay on my back with my legs still in the back passenger's seat. I put my head on the bed as far forward and to the left as possible. Then I scootch my butt toward the middle, and swing my legs onto the bed.

      To get out of bed, I just do the reverse.

      Hope that helps and works in the V.


    2. Oh my! So the difficulty isn't just my imagination. I'm afraid I'm going to get stuck one of these times. It wouldn't be so bad if I just got in and out of the car one time per day but I take trips to the bathroom, and I also like to read in the car and that involves rearranging myself

    3. Hello Scottie,
      I've just bought a 2013 Prius v. Not having a flat surface for sleeping is a problem for me. I took the rear seats out (piece of cake to go in or out) and I'm looking for the best way to handle this. I'll be using my thermarest self-inflating mattress.Would you have any suggestions or links to help?
      Thank you,

    4. Check out how Jessica did it here:

    5. Suanne- I'm wondering why you need the fleece and Thermarest since you have a foam mattress on top that looks pretty thick. I assume the sheep fleece is for warmth and insulation but why the Thermarest cot? I am asking because I am planning the bed for my 2014 Prius. Deb

  6. Deb, You are right, it was somewhat thick. I had the fleece, Thermarest and foam mattress for comfort. The Thermarest was only about a quarter filled, and it's a thin Thermarest so it didn't provide much loft. But, provided me a way to easily adjust the thickness. Since this post, I've changed to only using the fleece and a thicker (3.5") Thermarest (which I keep about half full).

  7. I wish my Prius C front seat would fold down like that! It looks comfortable.

    1. Jim, If I were taller than I am (5'1"), I'd definately appreciate the extra length. As it is, I no longer lay the front seat back flat. (Note: none of the Prii made 2010 or later offer this feature.) Instead, I just lay the back passenger-side seat flat which fits my REI inflatable foam pad perfectly. (Another Note: I just finished taking photos of my current bed set up and will update this web page in the next week or so.)

    2. Jim, Here is the link to the updated page about the bed in my Prius --


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