Tips For Making A Comfortable Mattress Out Of Foam And Carpet Padding

Sleep, it’s as important to life as food and shelter. If you don’t have a comfortable bed your life as a Van Dweller will be very miserable, indeed. An over night camping trip is a whole different situation than long term living in a van. When you’re looking at how your going to sleep for weeks, months or even permanently, finding the most comfortable arrangement becomes pretty darn important.

The first step is to find a happy medium between your standard sized mattresses and the space available for your bed. My first attempt was a bed cross ways in the van but even though it was only 2″ to short the inability to stretch out made it a completely unworkable arrangement.

The new bed is 30″ wide and 72″ long. Not a standard sized bed by any means so the best approach was to build my own mattress to fit the situation.

At 240 lbs and rapidly approaching 60 yrs of age it was important to find a combination that was both soft enough to be comfortable on my creaky old bones yet offered some level of support to avoid bottoming out.

For the soft portion I used a 3″ thick mattress topper from Sam’s Club. For the support I used ½” carpet padding foam. Like many things in life it took a few failures to come up with something that finally was workable.

The first bed was 48″ wide by 68″ long. Cut down from a Queen sized mattress topper which cost me $120 I wasn’t going to discard the failed attempt and start form scratch. As I had carefully kept all scraps from the original mattress topper I decided to glue things back together and re-cut to form two single mattresses each 30″ wide and 72″ long.

Off to the home center I went and purchased what was labeled a spray adhesive capable of adhering foam to foam. This amounted to about $9 wasted as anything in a spray can won’t hold for any length of time. Over night the joints separated and I was back to square one.

The only glue that will work is Contact Cement in a bulk container. I bought a 1qt can hoping it would be enough to glue up two mattresses. As it turned out two 1qt cans wasn’t quite enough. If I had originally gone with the two single beds 2 cans would have done the job. I used a cheap throw away 2″ paint brush to apply the cement. I tried a small paint roller but it just wouldn’t transfer the glue to such a soft surface. Don’t go for 100% coverage with the glue. Around the perimeter and an “X” pattern in the middle will do well enough.

My first thoughts were to place two layers of the carpet padding on the bottom to prevent bottoming out. This seemed ok, but the softness of the mattress topper seemed to allow you to sink in substantially. My final design had me gluing one layer of ½” carpet padding to both the top and bottom of the foam. By doing this your weight is spread out better and the soft foam is less apt to collapse under weight.

If you don’t care for the more grainy feel of the carpet padding you can make a mattress cover from an old blanket.

Yes this size mattress is somewhat smaller then a twin sized mattress. The difference is small enough that when you go to buy bed linens sheets for a twin mattress will be loose but still will fit well enough that there is no real need to modify them. I found a couple of complete sets at Walmart for $7.50 each.

One concern to remember, Contact Cement has strong vapors and off gassing will be an issue for some days after you glue your mattress together. It’s recommended that you work out doors and when done allow plenty of ventilation until the odor subsides. It will probably take a week or two before the smell will allow you to sleep on the mattress.