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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 wet desert, with 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 soft mattress of bedding. It didn't work, because the Subaru Crosstrek has this large hump in between the cargo and the folded down back seats. It pushes right on the hip bone, and turned an attempt to sleep into a game of just trying to keep blood flowing into our legs. 

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

  • We tried a mattress pad from Ikea... a twin size, with two inches of padding 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. It was also really pretty big rolled up, and took up a lot of space.

  • We considered and drew out plans to build a wooden slab for the back, which would be flat and 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. Expensive, too!

Then, we had an idea. Shouldn't a dense foam be able to cover the hump? I browsed online, in search of foam mats. Eventually, "Puzzle Exercise Mats" came up and this seemed like it could be a good idea. We ordered two sets of the 24"x24" mats, just to make sure we had enough to work with. Once they arrived, we got started on fitting them into the cargo space and it took about an hour to outfit the back of the car. A few measurements and a few slices on the foam pads... and ta-da, a bed! No carpentry or power tools required.

For less than $40 and an hour of time, we have a great winter camping option ready to go!

For some specifics - we measured around the wheel bumps, and from the back hatch to the back of the front seats (in pushed forward position). We used a basic box cutter to cut, and a large pair a kitchen shears for snipping in some places. Once we had one side trimmed to fit, we sliced the opposite side to match. After that, it just literally took putting the puzzle pieces together and laying them out in the back of the car!

The cargo and seat area used 4 foam pieces. We used an additional 2 pieces to attach at the front, behind the front seats (pushed fully forward), to extend the "bed" over the foot wells. When in use, we put a cooler, duffel bags, or other stuff in the floor boards, to support the extended pieces. There’s a useful storage space underneath, and this makes the bed longer. Any other bags or items go up in the front seats or floor. While an elevated bed would provide additional storage, we wanted as much space as possible for sleeping. We didn’t want to lose the height by lifting things.

The puzzle pieces fit to cover the cargo space quite perfectly, and since we had some extra squares, we used them to really level out the sleeping area. We put two additional pieces under the “cut to fit” pieces. They fits perfectly in the cargo area, and completely leveled the bed out, removing the “bump problem”. The extra pieces don’t get in the way, since they are totally flat and fit in the cargo space. We can easily just throw all of our gear on top and roll out. If the back seat needs to be put up, all of the pieces can fit in the cargo space.

For a short or not freezing trip, we lay out cheap Coleman sleeping bags, and it’s soft and cozy. For the really cold, below freezing trips, we add two camping pads which add more insulation. We have the R.E.I. Trekker Self-Inflating pad (Womens version), and they fit perfectly in the back, side by side and in length. The pads are not big or heavy, but are well insulated, which is necessary in frigid temps. They are more foam than air, so they increase warmth and comfort. They roll up small enough to get out of the way during the drives or daytime, too.

Obviously, a good sleeping bag will keep a person warm all night, but sometimes we want a more cozy option. Our cheap Coleman bags zip together to create a double bag and that’s just super cozy. If we’re trying to save space, we sleep on the pads in our good bags. For multi-night comfort, we go for the “glamping” option of blankets!

Right after we got it all together, we spent several nights sleeping in our Crosstrek in Yosemite, and it was very comfortable. No bump poking our hips, and a nice padded base of support. This has to be considered "glamping" right?! We stayed pretty warm, huddled together on some very cold nights!

Since it was Yosemite, in February, with lots of snow... we took an extra step to 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 10-15 degree weather. We knew that at 35 degrees, the windows were cold at night. We stole the idea from some van lifers we follow - "Reflectix". This is basically foil bubble wrap, and comes cheap at around $20 a roll. The smaller 16" (33.3 square feet) roll worked for our 2015 Crosstrek, because the windows are all under 16" high. We cut out window covers to fit all of the side and rear windows with one roll, and had a good amount leftover. (Zoe, our cat, likes to try to help...)

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.

After sleeping in the Crosstrek for those very cold nights in Yosemite, the Reflectix served a purpose other than just adding insulation. 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, which could quickly be wiped dry. It did seem to help us stay a bit warmer than on previous trips. Added bonus, it will keep the car much cooler when we hit the hot desert days!

We use a Subaru windshield screen to block the windshield. It fits snug enough that we can make the car almost dark, even when parked next to the lights on the campground bathroom.

For the warmer trips we’ve taken, we just use the foam and blankets. We also use mesh sun shades on the rear windows. They allow the window to be rolled down, but still covered. I don’t want bugs buzzing around in the car, so these keep the pests out, and let air in. These are just stretchy mesh material and stretch over the windows. No custom fitting necessary.

We added a couple of small details to make it a bit more cozy. We use a small caribiner with our Luminaid (which we got from our monthly Cairn Subscription Box) attached hanging from the sun roof cover for a lamp. We also string up a set of ENO TwiLights. They are bright enough to allow for reading, but dim enough to just be a soft light.

While the car is still somewhat small, and you can’t really fully sit 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). With the right padding and a soft bed, some lights, and insulation to keep warm - we were thankful we had the Crosstrek to sleep in. It was brutally cold on that trip, which is why we added so much to make the car warm. We have used various configurations on other trips, but those foam pads are the mainstay. They don’t take up space, but really flatten the back to make it comfortable.

A lot of people suggest just adding a twin size mattress, which would probably work for a warmer night. For these very cold nights, we needed something more. With two people sleeping in the back, it’s nice to leave as much space as possible, so keeping the bed flat was a goal. We love the multi-purpose configuration that we ended up with.

All in all, our Crosstrek makes a great option for camping on longer road trips, in very cold weather, and even in rain! One more reason we love our car!


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