In Search of a Better Bunk Bed

First, I’m going to guess that it’s been quite a while since you’ve slept in one of the old camp bunk beds. If you had, they’d be a higher priority.

Bad Bunks Are Pain In The... Back!

Second, I’ll bet your bunk beds are a pain in the neck (and back). Worst case, they’re old, metal, army-style cots that sag in the middle, squeak all night, and don’t have safety guardrails. Maybe they’re made of wood, but even then they have four posts on the floor that have to be swept around and scratch the floor when the bed gets moved and left willy-nilly by the guests, and then there’s still that darn squeak.

Get Rid Of The Posts

Let’s Get Started–Get Rid Of The Posts

To start with, let’s get rid of all four posts. That’s right–hang the bed from the ceiling and the walls. Just run a 2-by-3 board at the bed’s corners right up to the ceiling and bolt them to a joist. It is now easy to clean the floors, and the bunk bed looks like a tree house. Add another 2 by 3 with some thick dowels in between, and you have a safe ladder to get up and down from the top bunk. Bolt the backsides of the bunks to the walls, and they’ll be strong enough for an army and won’t squeak a peep. Use a piece of one-half-inch OSB (Oriented Strand Board, the inexpensive and forgiving plywood substitute) as the foundation, and glue and screw it into place.

How Big?

Most standard camp beds are only 30 inches wide. (How wide are you these days?) My suggestion is to go 36 inches wide. More room to roll over, but more important, fitted sheets will fit the mattress. And make the mattress at least 5 inches thick, which is still economical, but much more comfortable.

Longer Bunks Are Better Bunks

How Long?

Ever try to sleep on your stomach with no place to put your toes? Make your bunks at least 6 feet 6 inches long. But if your OSB comes 8 feet long, why cut it off? I always use the full length, giving the campers and guests extra space at the head of their bed as a built-in “night stand” for their ditty bag and stuffed animals, and for chaperones, their cell phone and glasses.

Really want to do it right? Add a duplex outlet (for a small fan, cell charger, etc.) and a wall-mounted reading light.

The accompanying photos should get you started, but here are a few more details so you can go right to work.

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