#WAGONLIFE | How to convert your station wagon into an adventure vehicle

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In this blog post, I'm going to show you how to quickly convert a 2006 Subaru Legacy station wagon into a very competent adventure vehicle, so that you can get out and enjoy #WAGONLIFE.

We've all probably heard of #VANLIFE by now.  Now don't get me wrong, I think the whole #vanlife thing is cool, but vans are expensive and for many of us, we don't have the time and resources to put into building out a beat up Vanagon, or dropping 60k on a Sprinter.  That said, In this blog post, I'm going to show you how to quickly convert a 2006 Subaru Legacy station wagon into a very competent adventure vehicle, so that you can get out and enjoy #WAGONLIFE.

When I decided to build out my Subaru, I had a few requirements.  I wanted to create a system that would allow the use of my rear seats, I wanted a place for my wife and I to sleep (that could be setup in less time than a tent), and I needed storage that could be accessed when the sleeping platform was setup. 

I essentially built the entire system around my storage solution.  I was able to find these rolling bins at WalMart for around $70.  I took measurements and found that I could fit two in the trunk with enough room to close the back hatch and still maintain the use of my back seats.  I intentionally bought the bins that had the half opening.  This would allow me to access the storage without pulling the bin entirely out of the back of the car.

Once I had the storage solution locked down, I began building out the sleeping platform.  The sleeping needed to be sturdy enough to hold my wife and I, but it also had to be fairly lightweight, so that it would fit around the storage bins.  I also wanted the whole thing to fold up and lay flat, so that I could store sleeping gear on top of it while traveling.  I ended up building the whole platform out of three main pieces - the frame, the second deck platform, and the support for the second deck platform.  The frame of the platform was built using 1/4" plywood for the sides and 1/2" plywood for the back and middle support.  I built the deck on top out of 3/4" plywood and used 2x3's for the support posts.

You can see that the deck ends before the back of the frame leaving a slight gap.  This allows the second deck platform to seamlessly be supported by the main portion of the frame.


Center and rear panels made using 1/2" plywood (above).  Side and rear panels made using 1/4" plywood and 1/2" plywood (below).

Once I was finished constructing the main platform frame, I went to work on the secondary deck platform.  I used the same 3/4" plywood that used for the main deck.  Because of the way that the back door is shaped on my Subaru, I wasn't able to fit a large enough panel that would lay flat on the main deck of the frame. In order to get around that, I had to build a hinge that would allow the panel to fold out and expand when in use.

This hinge actually ended up being incredibly advantageous.  It would allow me to move the front driver and passenger seats back to help support the whole system.

Finally, I needed to add a support to the secondary deck platform.  To do this, I built a quick support using scrap wood from the main platform.  The support actually fits perfectly in one of the storage bins, so that I'm able to maintain a flat surface for storage when the system is not in use.

A couple of other things to note.  I would definitely recommend covering the top deck with carpet.  this makes for an overall more comfortable sleeping experience and it also keeps you from getting slivers while sleeping and during setup/teardown.  Also, I have a Thule box that I keep on the top of my car for additional storage.  If you live in a relatively wet climate, I would definitely recommend a rooftop box.  In addition to more storage, this will help you keep wet gear out of your sleeping quarters.

There you have it!  That's how to convert your station wagon into an adventure vehicle! Here are some pictures of the final product:

If you have any questions, please leave them in the comment section!

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I often sleep in my 2006 Subaru while camping. However, I have difficulty getting in & out via either the side door or back hatch. There’s just not enough room to sit up and swing legs around without crunching back and when I climb back in, it hurts my knee to pull myself up and back into. I am 56 and arthritic and these pains are causing me to start saving money for a van again. It’s just too hard on my body to get in & out of this limited space. I love my Subaru otherwise, but in fact, my older one 1999 was easier and flatter to sleep on. This 2006 version I have to lay with my head at the hatchback end because it’s not flat like the 1999 wagon, it tilts up a little where the seats are underneath, once again, causing back pain the next morning.


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