Monday, April 28, 2014

Bunk Bed (Camping with Kids)

Front Bunk Beds for Kids in U-haul (uhaul) Fiberglass Camper
So we have 4 people in our family and so it was important to get a camper that would sleep 4. The U-haul CT13 campers do sleep 4. The adult bed is in the back and then the front bench pops up into a bunk.The back cushion is on a hinge similar to a piano hinge and the back cushion swings up. Two poles fold down and each rests in metal indention on the bottom. This style is common across other fiberglass campers.

There are a couple of problems with the design though:
  1. There is nothing on the top bunk to keep a kid from rolling off during sleep.
  2. A really small kid (2-3) on the bottom bunk could potentially roll off between the poles. 
  3. The poles rely on gravity/weight to keep them in the holes. They are not fastened to it any way and can bounce out. Or it's possible for a child on the lower bunk to kick it out during sleep. This could potentially cause the bunk to come down. (Do not drive with the bunk setup; road bounce will make it come down!)
My first concern was to make it safe for our kids. At the time we bought the camper they were 4 and 2 years old. I use the front bench during travel to hold the screen room and our table and some other gear we pack to keep weight up front on the tongue. So whatever designs I came up with would have to be flexible and not impact the ability to break down the bunk to a bench.

Bunk Bed Rail for U-haul (uhaul) Fiberglass Camper
View of wingnuts on Bunk Bed Rail for U-haul (uhaul) Fiberglass CamperThe top bunk is backed by a piece of plywood. I picked up a couple of right angle shelf brackets and had an extra board laying around that turned out to be the right size. I used some wood screws to hold the brackets to the bottom of the bunk. I measured them so they could stay attached and be under the bench cushions when it's folded down. The distance measured is between the bottom cording of the top bunk cushion (when it's folded down as the back of the bench) and the top of the fiberglass bottom of the bench with cushions removed. I can put the cushions on the bench on top of the L brackets and you won't even know they're there. I then drilled holes in the wooden board and got a couple of nuts with locking washers and wing nuts to fasten the board. That way I can quickly unfasten it for travel. This provides the protection I needed for my 4 yr old not to roll off the top bunk in the middle of the night. It's been working very well for us. The reason I went with a board was because I didn't want a gap from pvc or other tubing that he'd get his legs caught in. The solidness of the board combined with the small curtain we put up that hangs from the ceiling also help provide the sense that it's his own room. I have a small Tupperware container that I keep in the cabinet over the stove that I put the nuts, washers and bolts in when I have it broken down.

Curtain for lower bunk in our Fiberglass U-haul (uhaul) Camper
My wife's fun camping fabric.
Close up of Curtain for lower bunk in our Fiberglass U-haul (uhaul) Camper
Close-up from back side
With the 2 year old going to be in the bottom bunk, we were concerned with her falling out between the poles. While discussing how the kids would probably go to bed earlier than us, my wife decided that a curtain would be a fantastic way to divide the camper into basically two rooms. But a large curtain hanging all the way down wouldn't work for several reasons. First it would be too heavy for suction cups and with the curve of the roof we couldn't make a curtain bar work. So we brainstormed and came up with the idea to take a fun cloth shower curtain my wife had found to make new window curtains for the front window and make a short curtain across the top and make a second one on the bottom. The top one is held by suction cups across the top. The lower one we designed to be a panel that slipped over the bars that support the top bunk. We sewed two sleeves that fit perfectly around the poles so you can slide it on. With the poles setup, it's tight and makes the bottom bunk a dark little cave. There's no way she's rolling out of there!

To resolve the issue of the poles possibly bouncing/sliding out of their hole, I looked at rubber bumpers. I have ordered some conical bumpers that measure 21mm x 12mm. My camper has wooden boards under the lower fiberglass to help transfer the weight of the upper bunk poles down through to the frame without cracking the fiberglass seat area. With a screw, washer and these rubber bumpers, I should be able to secure the poles pretty easily by having them slide over the bumpers. I'll post an update when this is done with pics. (EDIT: Post on bumpers.)

Front Bunk Beds for Kids in U-haul (uhaul) Fiberglass Camper
Kid's Bunk in our U-haul Camper
The kids love their "rooms". It's amazing with a little creativity how you can divide such a small space into more personal spaces. I close the rock guard on the front window every night to help the top bunk remain just as dark and cozy as the bottom one so my son can sleep good. We got a couple of camping themed twin bed sheet sets for them that we make up the bunk beds with. We also got two husband pillows similar to these that go at the head of their beds (left side of camper) providing some insulation and filling the small gaps. You can see the edges of them in the picture to the left. By adding some small led camp lanterns to light their rooms, they're happy and set. Now they can have their own personal space in our tiny camper to play with dolls, cars, and read books. I'm currently looking at some storage ideas to better organize their little "rooms."

(Update: See my post on replacement poles for the bunk bed if you need those.)

(EDIT: Post on the other bed; the one us adults use. )