Hours after purchasing Sebastian, I was several hours from home in Joshua Tree airing up a full-sized mattress to sleep in the back. At the time I didn’t know the rear seat bottoms could be removed — and so we spent that first night freezing to death with the hatch cracked.
Enough is enough. What I really need is a full 5′ X 7′ flat (and level) sleeping area, cubbie storage, and six-gallons of onboard running water. I want as much gear inside and off the roof with room inside for four adults. And most importantly, I don’t want to hear rattles, squeaks or sloshing.
So I set to work and after lots of measuring, sketching and foam board modeling — created what you see below. It’s built out of mostly 3/4″ birch plywood. The water tank is six gallons and utilizes a 1.2 GPM diaphragm pump connected to a trigger operated shower like head on a hose. That makes it easy to do both dishes and fill water bottles… or spray nearby bystanders.
The tailgate is hinged on a 30″ stainless hinge. The rear seats when up and cubbie area muffle the water tank (sloshing). And the whole thing is built on a 32″ beam so it sits about an inch down inbetween the tracks of the tailgate area. That and good measuring and cutting made for a tight fit that doesn’t make a sound — even when doing 40MPH down a sandy washout.
The whole contraption slides back and tucks away to allow for use of the back seats and still have full visibility out of the back. Dropping the seats, sliding out the sleeping platform and rolling out the Dream Island takes about a minute (setup or take down). I think one of my favorite parts is having the windows at eye level when you’re sleeping to catch the stars, keep an eye on camp and watch the sunrise.
Worth noting is the slant of the rear cargo area. It drops about an inch over its 35″ length. I compensated for that in the shape of the box to make the platform completely level from head to foot.
The only thing it doesn’t have that I originally planned was a drawer system. I think I’ve vetoed that for now. Anyone familiar with the Xterra knows about the sweet four-inch deep honey hole that drops below the rear cargo area. Right now I can slide things in and out of there, or place taller items upright. I’d lose all that with a fancy drawer.
So far I like it — but sure it can be improved. If you have ideas or links to better things let me know. Also, if you’re curious and want more information on how to build your own — reach out to me on twitter or use the contact form.
UPDATE: April 8, 2015
Been using this heavily now for several months and really like it. But, like any good project, there are a few things I’d do differently next time, or may change on this version:
- Larger water tank
- Change the location of the water tank and hose so they’re oriented to the tailgate instead behind the seats
- Integration of a Yeti cooler
- Install a “door” on the seat side of the box so when the seats are down, things aren’t “open” to move about
- Better integrate the track system to allow for tie downs (they work now, but are a PITA)
- Change the the construction of the edges, the plywood has chipped in several spots
- Leave a bigger gap between the top and tailgate… getting my arm in there to open the tailgate is tight
- Integrate a battery, inverter and solar charging system rather than mess with a “real” dual battery setup
- Hot water… not sure if auxiliary or integrated into the truck
- Use 3/4″ everywhere. I used 1/2″ in places to “save on weight”