Subaru Forester Camper Conversion: How I Built My Car Camper

subaru forester camper conversion

Subaru Forester Camper Conversion: How I Built My Car Camper

Why Build a Car Camper

If you have an SUV and you can just lie the seats down flat, why bother with a car camper conversion? For me, it came down to a few key points:

Build Goal: Have More Storage Space

The Subaru Forester is a smaller SUV and it’s actually a lot shorter than similar SUVs so maximizing storage was a huge goal for my camper conversion. I wanted extra storage under the sleeping space so I could fit my camping gear. Bonus, my camp gear basically just lives in my car now so it saves me time packing on my next trip!

Build Goal: Full-Size Bed

If you’ve ever tried to sleep in the back of your Subaru Forester as a tall human, you might have realized you don’t quiiiiiite fit. I was constantly putting the front seats forward, but then having this awkward gap under my head, so I needed an extending platform that would ensure I had a full-size bed I could fully spread out on.

Build Goal: Keep it Cheap & Simple

There are a TON of different builds you could do for a Subaru Forester camper conversion. I personally had limited tools, woodworking skills, and budget, so keeping the build SIMPLE, effective, and cheap was the way to go. I wanted the build to not take a lot of time so I could get out on the road sooner, and I wanted it to be as cost-effective as possible so that it made sense to build it out.

Materials & Cost for My Subaru Forester camper conversion

  • Build budget: $200
  • Materials: $174.78 at Lowes for plywood, carpet, staples, screws, staple gun, hinges, & Shellac
  • Bins: $19.18 at Target for two clear storage bins
  • Tools: measuring tape, sander, sanding paper, drill, saw, 2 sawhorses, safety glasses, gloves, ear protection, pencil (all already owned, so double check if this will factor into your own build)
  • Optional: foam
  • Other costs: see list of car camping necessities below

Build Layout

I kept the build very basic: a large platform supported & lifted by columns of wood underneath, with two hinged pieces that could fold back. Underneath the platform would be three vertical columns of wood, between which the plastic bins would sit. I added two extra horizontal columns under the platform that would sit on the folded down seats that would run perpendicular to the other columns (just what worked best to be sitting on top of the seats).

On top of the platform I’d add carpet to have a bit of a softer surface and help protect the wood and my gear from splinters. I kept the seats in my car – honestly for ease of having my car be fully and quickly functional if I pull the platform out. If you take the seats out, you’ll have more room on the sides to store things, and you will just have to modify the columns.

Build Process

And that was the build! I tacked it in two separate weekends, but you could definitely jam it out on a weekend if you are ambitious. I had help with the build since I was less familiar with some of the tools, and it was definitely helpful to have an extra set of hands to hold pieces together. You could definitely do this build on your own, although some parts would definitely pose more difficulty than others.

An extra option for this build would be to divide the platform into two pieces horizontally, so that the middle piece can stack on the back piece to allow you to put the seats back up without fully taking the platform out. I don’t usually ever need more than two seats in my car, so leaving the platform in one piece (+ hinges) made sense for me.

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Car Camping Gear Necessities

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I hope this answered all of your car camper build questions but if I left anything out, leave me a comment below! And let me know if you end up doing a car camper build too, I would love to see it! 

TL:DR: here’s the Subaru Forester camper conversion build video:

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RoamFreeRebecca content creator photographer

Hey I’m Rebecca!

I’m a travel & outdoors photographer, blogger, and content greator living in the US but you can find me adventuring around the globe! On this blog I share tips to help you improve your photography, inspiration and advice to explore the outdoors, destination guides, travel tips, and more to plan your own adventures!

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