A couple of years ago, I decided to try out the dirtbag lifestyle. I had just experienced a disappointment of the heart and had to change my plans, which was all for the better, really. I had also recently become a climber and had some lofty goals about becoming better a climbing in the outdoors, so decided to conceive a road trip that would allow me to do just that. Thus, I spend a week in September, 2016 camped out in my aunt and uncle’s garage in Bozeman, MT, banging my head against the challenge of designing a sleeping platform for my little Honda Fit while wildfire smoke surrounded me all all sides of the valley.
People have asked me, “Have you considered just buying a different car?” It’s a legitimate question. There are places that I’ve wanted to get to, such as Hole in the Rock Rd. in the deserts of Utah that I have not been able to approach because my little car is not capable of it. If money was not a problem I would own a little truck as well as my little Fit. That way I also wouldn’t have to worry so much about getting stuck when its snows more than…I don’t know…THREE inches (her clearance is very low).
Here are the things, though: my Honda Fit currently gets 40 miles to the gallon of gas; she’s a standard transmission so I can control the speed of the tire rotation, making her handy when roads get slick; if I take proper care of her, she will mostly likely last me another ten years; in terms of cars, she’s not that expensive to maintain; I can sleep in her, no problem.
Do I get the same level of cushy privacy as a van? No. Do I get to cook inside? No. Do I have to clamber in when I want to go to sleep? Yes. Do I have $16,000 for a different car? No.
I’m an advocate for working with what you have, and I’m working with this car. Maybe someday I’ll have enough financial independence to change up my camping/dirt bagging scene, but today I have a Honda Fit. A majestic sewing machine on wheels. She’s been hit twice by separate F-150s and survived. She’s been driven through sand drifts in the desert and icy mountain highways in the dark with all-season tires. She’s a survivor, and she’ll get the job done.
The sleeping platform I built in 2016 is for one person, her climbing gear, soap, food things, and stupid number of books. This year I’m preparing to road trip with a friend, and Little Blue needs to be able to sleep two, their clothes, food things, climbing gear, and maybe just a couple of books.
I am currently in the market for a used Yakima roof topper, so let me know if you’re selling one for cheap on the Front Range of Colorado. That will take care of the climbing gear.
The sleeping two, however, requires another platform build, and I am so psyched to start working on it. I present to you my design sketches for a two person platform to go into a Honda Fit. Pre-requisite: you have to be 5’6″ tall or shorter in order to sleep comfortably.
This initial sketch was just to start formulating a general look and get some essential measurements before getting too complicated. The back end of the Fit has some curvature in the side panels, which must be built around. The plan is to make the back part of the platform capable of lifting up to make it easier to access the storage underneath, which will hold food supplies, camping supplies, soaps, etc.
Secondary Sketch to Scale:
This sketch is more to scale, and I’ve tried to accurately depict the way I’ve designed the frame. The top and bottom of the frame will be built with a 2×4. The sides of the frame will be 1x3s. I will have to carve out a lap joint where the 1x3s meet the 2×4 so that the frame itself is flush. This will allow me to place the center bar on top of the frame. I will cut out pieces of plywood to fit around the side panels of the car. The top will meet the bottom edge of the center bar, where I will affix the plywood with a piano hinge. This will allow the plywood panel to be lifted.
On the top end, I’ve designed another swinging piece of plywood for our heads. You have to move the two front seats all the way forward so that you can open up the head panels of plywood. Support arms swing out from the bottom of the platform to help lessen the stress on the piano hinge- even through its should be strong enough to hold the head panel on its own.
The other challenge is that the floor of the fit is by no means even. The trunk is higher up than the back seats area and there is a lump in the middle of the back seat area. I have no idea how I determined the height of the platform from the floor and the means to make the platform level when I built my first platform. But thankfully I can just go off the measurements of the original platform now- yay! The trick will be to find the proper placement of the legs for good support of the platform-especially in the middle of the car.
I’ve taken the back seat of the car completely out. I have not be able to take more than one passenger in my car for about two years now. It was ridiculously easy. All I did was remove six bolts and the seats popped right out. They are currently in my parent’s garage in New Hampshire.
My lumber is ordered, my design is done, so now I move on to the building phase. I need to find some tools….hmmmm. I’ll be updating the blog with my progress, so stay tuned!