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How To Sleep In A Subaru Crosstrek

How To Sleep In A Subaru Crosstrek

We are tent campers, first and foremost. But sometimes, a tent is really not ideal for camping. A few days in a rainy desert, temperatures well below freezing at night, and winds gusting... suddenly, we were looking at the Subaru a bit differently. 

  • We tried piling every blanket and sleeping bag we owned into the back, to create a bedding mattress. It didn't work, because the Subaru Crosstrek has this incredibly large hump in between the cargo and the folded down back seats. It pushes right on the hip bone, and turns an attempt to sleep into a game of just trying to keep blood flowing into your legs. 

  • We tried to solve the "hump problem" by putting our backpacking sleeping pads into the back. This didn't work either, because the pads were too wide to fit between the wheel bumps in the cargo space. 

  • We tried a mattress pad from Ikea... 2 inches of plushness that would be a dream to sleep on and easy to just roll up during the day. Nope, that hump was much bolder than the plushness of the pad.

  • We made plans to build a wooden slab for the back, which would be flat, and somehow stabilized... but we are not carpenters and it all got a little overwhelming while we were standing in the middle of the hardware store looking at all the wood options.

Then, a mental light bulb went off and we had an idea. Shouldn't a dense foam be able to cover the hump? Off to Amazon, in search of foam mats. Eventually, "Puzzle Exercise Mats" appeared in our search and the idea was ready. We ordered two sets of the 24"x24" mats, just to make sure we had enough to work with. We got the grey and black colors, instead of the primary colored ones that you may be familiar with. Once they arrived, we got started right away and it took about an hour to outfit the back of the car. A few measurements, and measuring again to be sure, and then a few brave slices on the foam pads... and ta-da, a pad was born. No carpentry or power tools required.

We measured around the wheel bumps, into the little side grooves, and up to the back of the rear seats (in folded down position). This gave us a good idea of where to cut the pads. We used a basic box cutter to cut, and a large pair a kitchen shears for snipping in some places. A measuring tape took measurements and gave us a straight line to follow. I used a Sharpie to mark some of the lines to cut. Pro tip, cut cautiously and you can continue to trim, if needed. And measure twice. Once we had one side trimmed to fit, we sliced the opposite side to match. After that, we just put the puzzle pieces together and it was almost done!

The cargo and seat area used 4 pieces. We used an additional 2 pieces to attach at the front, behind the front seats (pushed fully forward), to extend the "bed". By putting tubs, a cooler, duffel bags, or other stuff in the floor boards, storage stacks up tall enough to support the extended 2 pieces. It's useful storage space underneath, and makes the bed longer. Any other storage pretty much has to go in the front seat, which we cover with a small, black fleece blanket (stealthy!). While an elevated bed would provide some additional storage, we opted for the extra head room of a flat bad over storage under a riser.

The puzzle pieces fit to cover the cargo space quite perfectly, but they didn't completely solve the bump. The second set of pieces came in handy at this point. We had to slice about 7 inches off of 3 of the pieces, then put them together with full pieces in sets of 2. This fits perfectly in the cargo area, and solves the bump problem. Basically, using the foam mats to create a lift to level out the cargo and seats. I'm sure you could use any roughly 1 1/2" thick pad or mat to fill that gap, but for us, a $15 set of puzzle pieces did the trick nicely - and breaks down quite easily for storage.

We added our old Coleman sleeping bags, and thought we were almost there, but it just wasn't quite so soft yet. We hunted for the right camping mats for quite some time, trying to find a "cheap" option since it was just for the car. After coming up empty for the size and price we needed, we headed to REI to try out their pads. After laying on just about every pad they had out to try, and speaking to a couple of car camping store associates, we opted for the R.E.I. Trekker Self-Inflating pad (Womens version). The main selling point was that it fit the car perfectly in width and length. Additionally, the pad is not huge or heavy, so it will come in handy for cooler tent camping on the ground with it's higher insulation values. The pads are more foam than air, so the dense nature adds warmth and comfort, and a more durable product than a basic air pad. 

Those pads were the final touch - the bed was finally complete. Right after we got it all together, we spent three nights sleeping in the Crosstrek in Yosemite, and it was quite comfortable. No hump poking our hips, and a nice padded base of support. This has to be considered "glamping" right?! Not quite yet, we have to take it up another notch or two first...

So, three nights in Yosemite, in February, with lots of snow... how will we stay warm?! A padded and insulated base under us, inside warm sleeping bags, with a Sea to Summit bag liner (we have the "Extreme", don't leave home without this, if you camp in chilly weather), and a falsa and a Rumpl blanket on top. This is a very warm way to sleep, but we were heading into 20 degree or colder weather, knowing that at 35 degrees, the windows had a tendency to be very chilly at night. Sleeping next to a bunch of cold glass is just not ideal. A bit of research online led us to "Reflectix", which is basically foil bubble wrap, and can be obtained for around $20 a roll. The smaller 16" (33.3 square feet) roll works for the Crosstrek, because the windows are all under 16" high. We covered all of the side and rear windows with one roll, and had a good amount leftover. (Zoe, our cat, likes to try to help...)

My method for cutting the Reflectix to fit was to start with the measuring the longest edge of each window and cutting a rectangle of material to trim. I put the Reflectix rectangles up to the window and used a Sharpie to mark where I needed to trim, and proceeded to trim (with standard scissors) small amounts until it fit. On the Crosstrek, the Reflectix fits nicely into the groove at the bottom of all of the windows, and with a little extra material around the edges, it just folds into the edges and stays put. No extra securing was needed. Another pro tip, measure the front side windows at an angle, or you'll come up short. I came up short on my first cut by about 2 inches because of the angle of the window, which I didn't catch in all of the excitement of making window covers. 

After actually sleeping in the Crosstrek for those very cold nights in Yosemite, I think the Reflectix served a purpose other than just adding insulation (which I think it did!). In slightly warmer weather on a previous trip, we woke up to condensation covering all of the glass in the vehicle. Dripping wet windows. With the Reflectix in place, the windows were all dry when we woke up - except for the metal frames around them. Those were quickly wiped dry, and the car seemed mostly dry. For condensation purposes alone, the Reflectix was worth the few dollars and time it took to cut down (less than an hour for all windows). It did seem to help us stay a bit more warm than on previous trips. Added bonus, it will keep the car much cooler when we hit the hot desert days!

We have a cheap old windshield privacy shield, which seems to be made out of the same material as Reflectix... it works well enough for the front window, but it's the accordion folded style, so the windshield had all the condensation. We stuffed a towel along the dashboard to catch any stray drips, and had to mop the glass dry each morning and run the defroster for a few minutes. Our windshield system still needs work... but overall, we turned the little Crosstrek into a cozy place to spend some very cold nights. 

We added a couple of small details to make it a bit more cozy. We use a small caribiner with our Luminaid attached hanging from the sun roof cover for a lamp. Two larger caribiners attach to the posts on the front seat head rests and pinch a blanket to cover any contents in the front seat. The caribiners also serve as a place to attach keys and hang items for safe keeping. We also string up a set of ENO TwiLights, which just add a bit of dreaminess to the space. They are bright enough to allow for reading, but dim enough to just be a soft light.

While the car is still somewhat small, which prevents you from fully sitting up in the back, it is plenty long and wide enough for both of us to sleep comfortably (we're 5'6" each, so not tall, but we are not small sleepers... sprawlers, really). The right padding and some additions to the back make a soft bed, and some lights and insulation help things stay cozy. We pop the sun roof a bit, and keep the cover cracked just under an inch, to keep some air flow in the small space. 

All in all, our Crosstrek makes a great option for camping on longer road trips, in cold weather, and even in rain... the Subaru Crosstrek can be a mini-camper! One more reason we love this car.


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