DIY: Building my Jeep Camping Platform

So with this whole semi-homeless year, I am effectively living out of my car right now as I travel constantly in between places.  I have a 2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee (Jeep WJ), and to have a more organized way to store my clothes, food and gear, as well as still have access to a lot of my car and be able to sleep in it, I built a platform inside of it.  The plan for the platform and photos of the build are below:

The Plan

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The plan was to have two separate units – one for the cargo area and one to go across my back seats when they are down.  The cargo platform has two openings where I can slide two “under the bed” sized Rubbermaids into them (one holding my gear and one holding my toiletries, towels and some miscellaneous stuff).  The backseat platform had supports going across it horizontally and one very long Rubbermaid that held most of my clothes to go underneath that.

The Build

The first step was to clean out my car and then make the cuts of wood and lay it out how I wanted it (it’s upside down in the photo, of course).  There were some slight modifications made to the layout since that photo, but it really depends on what you want.

I realized after getting this set up that if I ever wanted to remove the backseat platform and put those seats back up, then the cargo platform had to have angled supports and a shorter top, since the seats lean back slightly.  So I ended up making the backseat platform top 3″ longer, and the cargo platform top 3″ shorter, as well as cutting angles in the cargo platform supports.  You can see some of it in my sketches when I was thinking about doing something like that initially.

Also, in an effort to maximize the little amount of space I had, I ditched the second support for the backseat platform and ended up screwing a few blocks of wood into the front of the cargo platform, and resting that side of the backseat platform on them instead.  This way, I had at least an extra inch of room underneath for the Rubbermaid I was using for my clothes.

The cargo platform was the first to go in, and fit like a glove!  I bought two of these Rubbermaids for my stuff and they couldn’t have fit in the spaces any better.

The Result

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Here’s a dark photo of the finished platform the night before I moved out of my friend’s apartment that I was crashing at. 🙂  Note that I later cut the top of the backseat platform in half and attached a hinge to it, so I could more easily lift that up to access my clothes each day.

I used 3/4″ thick plywood, 1×8″ lumber for the supports and Kreg Jig screws to fasten everything together without the screws sticking out.  I bought the materials and built the entire platform in just a few hours and for about $90.

With this contraption in place, I have a bed on the left side (just using a Thermarest, sheets and a comforter) and my Yeti cooler and a Rubbermaid of dry food on the right side.  My shoes also fit really well in the space behind the wheel well, between the cargo platform and the Jeep’s left wall.  And on the right in the same spot, I have my yoga mat, Camelbak and a few other odds and ends for camping/living.

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Car camping in Chattanooga, TN at the start of a road trip

I’m a little over a month in, and the platform has worked out really great so far!  And I am finding that it is really convenient to have everything stored away in my car (mostly out of site under the plywood), so I can access my things any time I need them, wherever I am.  Space is a little tight for actually living, but when I’m camping, it’s great, and I may be upgrading to something else soon… Stay tuned. 🙂

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The “Glamor-less” Side of Travel

I just returned to the US from an incredible three weeks both vacationing and working remotely in Europe.  I spent a week in Tuscany, Italy with my family, then just under a week in Slovenia, a weekend in Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina and a week in Croatia.

You can check out some of my photos and documented experiences on my Instagram profile – click on the Europe story highlight to see more.

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Ljubljana, Slovenia – My favorite city from this trip!

In my (totally unbiased…) opinion, I think my travels looked pretty cool for those three weeks. 🙂  Let’s be real though, not every moment is perfect.  Though I wouldn’t trade my experiences on this for anything, I felt like it was important to highlight some of the lesser-loved travel moments that I had along the way to emphasize that what you see on social media is never 100% real life.

I literally had to run to almost every flight, bus and train I took.  Long delays, tight connections, spread out airports and and not always knowing where to go led to some really exhausting travel days.  On my way to Italy in particular, I’m not exaggerating when I say I actually had to run to all of my connections between my three flights and 2/3 trains.

I had a bad cold for two weeks.  Yeah, you get sick a lot when you travel.  Planes, trains, buses, hostels, community bathrooms… germs are everywhere.  I caught a cold right after I left Italy and was pretty knocked out from it for the first five days or so.  That meant being super tired when trying to explore and a lot of early bedtimes in hostel dorm rooms, which isn’t always the easiest thing when so many backpackers stay up late partying every night.

It was really, really freaking hot.  Croatia, you made me question if I really do love the heat as much as I thought.  Stepping as much as a toe out of the shade and into the sunshine between 8am and 8pm immediately drenches your entire body in sweat there, especially in Dubrovnik, where the sun’s heat reflects off all of the light-colored buildings, pedestrian roads and Old Town walls.  Luckily, you are never more than a 10-minute walk from a beach and those beautifully clear Adriatic waters. 🙂  But this is also a reminder that uncomfortableness happens a lot when traveling in new countries, especially when places don’t use air conditioning as extensively here as in the US.  It’s just something to get used to.

I almost ran out of cash.  Traveling with dependence on a credit card is really difficult when you are in some largely cash-driven countries.  In the states, I charge literally everything.  When budgeting for this trip, I just straight up did not think about the possibility (or fact) that my travel account would probably need to have some more cash money in it.  I was living and working in Europe for two out of my three weeks there, so my vacation fund wasn’t going to cover my actual living expenses during those weeks.  To every restaurant and store that took my credit card instead of cash, thank you.  I am eternally grateful.

Working in cities without good wifi is super stressful.  When I was in Dubrovnik, Croatia, all of my worst fears about my big remote work stint came to be.  My hostel (that I paid extra for so I could work from a private room) had bad wifi, which meant I had to run to a café any time I needed to do something more advanced than search the web.  This made for some really expensive days, because when you are at a café in a touristy city, they charge touristy prices and you have to keep buying things to keep your seat there.  And cafés get loud sometimes, so when you are on a Skype meeting with a client, it can be a little stressful wondering just how much of the conversations around you they can hear (hopefully none).

So there’s a quick look into some of the normalities of travel from my last trip.  Though none of these should ever scare you away from wanting to explore this beautiful earth, it’s important to remember that things like this do happen, and it won’t be all smiles and beautiful Instagram shots the entire time (though there are lots more of those than usual).

Happy travels!