The children have a place to sleep in the pop top, so now its our turn, in small campers like ours the rear seat doubles up as the bed, these are generically called rock and roll beds.
There are a lot of these beds on the market, however we had some specific criteria, which helped narrow down our search.
- We wanted it to be crash tested as our children will be travelling strapped into these, so we need to make sure it is as safe as we can.
- The seat is normally positioned at the back of the van, as when it converts to a bed it comes forward, this is not very good when travelling, as the passengers are too far away, so we wanted one that slid on rails, so we could have it closer to the front seats while travelling. This would also allow us to store our stuff behind the seat, rather than in front.
So from this narrowed down list, we chose the Smartbed EvolutionR, http://www.smart-beds.com/beds/smart-bed-evolution-rail/
This company was featured recently in a popular VW mag and the bed are highly recommended on the forums, so we placed the order and waited eagerly. We decided to have it upholstered in matching VW trim.
As promised, after six weeks the bed arrived.
First of all we had to install the rails, these are reassuringly heavy gauge steel channel, and bolt in the same place as the VW California rails bolt onto. There is a datum hole, that you pick up from under the rear of the van, drill this, and insert the first bolt.
As I had no floor in my van, it was quite easy to square the rail up, using the pressings in the floor, once it was square we drilled the hole at the other end and inserted the second bolt. After nipping the bolts up, and double checking the rail was square, we drilled the rest of the holes, removed the first two bolts, deburred the holes and painted them with zinc primer.
Nip up the two end bolts, check again to ensure it is parallel then insert all the other bolts and tighten. Then its time to fit the second one, luckily we had a large square, which made it quite easy to ensure the end of the second rail was in line.
Then, it was a case of measuring the pitch between the rails and adjusting until the rail is parallel, we then drilled the first hole, inserted the bolt, and then rechecked the pitch to ensure it was correct, before nipping the bolt up.
Once we were happy, we drilled the hole at the other end, when we went to fit the bolt, we found that it was under the heat shield, we tried to unbolt the shield and flex it out of the way, but we couldn’t access the bolt without doing a fair bit of dismantling, so I used a hole saw, and cut a hole right underneath the bolt.
This hole is a fair way from the exhaust, so I am not too concerned, although I may make a cover for it at a later date.
After nipping up this bolt and double checking the pitch between the rails, we drilled all the holes, removed the bolts, deburred the holes and treated them with the primer.
The rail, was then bolted back in, with the end two holes, double checked for pitch and alignment before we started fitting the other bolts. it all went well until we came to the last one, this one is up inside a box section that the suspension is bolted to.
This caused some entertainment (read frustration), while we struggled to get the spreader plate and nut on the end of the bolt, you can just see the bolt in this next picture.
Smartbeds could of moved this hole to make it easier to fit, but to be honest I am happier that it bolts through the double thicknesses of metal as VW do.
Now we had our rails in place.
Speaking to the guys at Smartbeds, these rails significantly increase the strength in the van floor and this is easy to see why.
The bed itself then simply drops into the holes in the rails, and slides up and down very easily.
This is the bed in its most forward position, the bed is easily locked in position with some over centre catches, the seat is in an ideal position for passengers when all the way forward. The smartbed has the added feature of being able to recline it in preset positions.
When the seat is all the way to the back, the seat cushion fits nicely round the door post.
Turning it into the bed is very easy, just release the catch and pull forward.
The bed is actually very comfy, however we will be getting a mattress topper to go on top to add to the comfort.
To turn it back into a seat, release the catch and the gas struts push the bed back up into the seating position.
If you are considering a bed for your camper, give the guys at Smartbed a call, you won’t be disappointed, it is a very well made quality piece of kit.