Psyched for a big day in the mountains, you drive to the trailhead to sleep in your vehicle. You lower the car seats and roll out your backpacking pad to cozy up for a good rest before an alpine start.
But then you spend the entire night trying to ignore the uneven, lumpy car seats and seatbelts poking you in the back. Pretty soon, your alarm is going off and you’re not sure if you even slept at all.
We’ve all been there.
Enter the REI Co-op Trailgate Vehicle Sleeping Platform. With its adjustable design, you can easily turn one side of your car into an even, comfortable bed for your next trailhead bivy or car camping trip. As a climbing guide, I’m frequently traveling for work and need a good night’s rest before a day of climbing. I recently tried out the Trailgate while leading a climbing retreat. It worked as a lower-profile alternative to the bulky, DIY plywood platform in my van.
In short: For those looking for a temporary vehicle sleeping arrangement that’s easy to set up and way comfier than a car seat, the Trailgate is a perfect fit. It’s especially useful in mini SUVs or hatchbacks with fold-down seats. For committed van lifers, a more custom setup is likely preferred, and the cot won’t fit in most small sedans.
For a full rundown on the many cot options for tent camping, check out GearJunkie’s full guide to the Best Camping Cots.
- Weight 31 lbs. (25"), 45 lbs. (40")
- Weight limit 250 lbs. (25"), 400 lbs. (40")
- Unfolded dimensions 72" x 25" x 10.7-30.5" (25"), 72" x 40" x 10.7-30.5" (40")
- Packed dimensions 31.5" x 19" x 13" (25"), 40" x 18.5" x 14" (40")
- Best use Converting your daily driver into a comfortable nest for the night
- Simple assembly for on-the-fly setup
- Good adjustability to accommodate different seat and foot-well heights
- Foam cushion is comfy and easy to clean
- Available in both 25" and 40" widths
- Won't adapt to every vehicle seamlessly
- Not too much storage underneath
REI Co-op Trailgate Vehicle Sleeping Platform Review
What I’m Looking for in a Sleeping Platform
I tested the REI Co-op Trailgate in my Ford Transit Connect while guiding camping-based climbing retreats during the summer. I frequently travel and camp for work. So, I have a basic wooden build-out in my mini cargo van.
My platform features an adjustable bed and a fold-down table for food prep. I also have several bins of climbing gear, camping equipment, food, and dishes over which my custom buildout is designed to fit.
For me, storage space is essential in a sleeping platform. I’m often going straight from guiding a retreat to pursuing my own climbing objectives, so I keep a lot of gear in my vehicle. I want to be able to tuck my storage bins under my bed while still having easy access to them.
I also like to have enough room to comfortably change my clothes inside my van. That’s why my wooden platform adjusts between a twin and full bed. It creates more space.
Finally, comfort is key. If I don’t sleep well before a big day of guiding or climbing, it affects my ability to perform my job or achieve my goals. It also inhibits my ability to recover well from hard physical activity. Traveling in my vehicle is only sustainable for longer periods of time if I can reliably get a good night’s sleep.
Setup and Adjustability
The cot’s easy setup is a major plus. After following the setup instructions on the first go, I was able to quickly repeat the process on subsequent attempts. The longer front two legs are independently adjustable, so they can accommodate wheel wells or uneven surfaces.
The back two sets of legs extend 7-10 inches and are designed to rest on folded-down car seats. Velcro strips secure the wooden slats to the metal frame. Elastic straps prevent the cushion from sliding around.
My main complaint is that the back legs only extend to 10 inches. In order to create a level sleeping surface, I had to extend the front legs to their full height of 27 inches and rest the shorter back legs on my storage bins and back platform.
Set up in this way, I had a harder time accessing my equipment. It’s possible to swap out the longer front legs for a third set of shorter legs. That creates a level sleeping surface that is elevated to a maximum of 10 inches. But that would eliminate precious storage space. This setup would be ideal for those setting up in the back of a pickup, or for the occasional outdoor use as a more traditional camping cot.
I also set up the cot in a Subaru CrossTrek, and it just barely fit. Smaller than a Forester or Outback, the CrossTrek’s front wheel well isn’t quite wide enough for both front legs to rest solidly on the floor. The independent adjustment of the front legs made it possible to set them up at different lengths, with one resting on the floor and the other on the metal slider for the passenger seat.
With the passenger seat folded down and slid forward, the bed of the vehicle was barely long enough for the full frame. A larger hatchback or mini SUV would fit the cot more comfortably.
When it comes to catching z’s, this cot gets the job done. The wooden slats help create a level sleeping surface. Though the relatively thin front legs wobble more than my wooden frame platform.
The recycled polyester foam cushion is more plush than the backpacking pad that I typically use for an impromptu car bivy. It’s a bit thinner and firmer than I prefer for long-term use. Full-time road trippers would likely want to invest in a more substantial mattress.
The cot’s 25-inch width was enough sleeping space for me, a smaller-than-average adult woman. For two people or for folks who might want more sleeping area, the cot also comes in a 40-inch width. The low-profile design of the Trailgate gave me a little more space to move around in my van than I have with my wider buildout. That made changing my clothes inside less awkward.
Because I had to rest the back legs on part of my existing platform, I was closer to the van’s ceiling than I am with my regular setup. To compare, I had even less headroom in the Subaru CrossTrek.
Since the cot is elevated a minimum of 7 inches from a vehicle’s seat, the sleeping space is tight in smaller vehicles. A mini SUV, larger hatchback, or minivan is ideal for this cot.
Packability and Convenience
Breaking the bed down is also simple. The storage bag is big enough that all the parts fit easily with minimal puzzling. With all parts weighing a total of 31 pounds, the bag isn’t too cumbersome to heft to and from your vehicle.
The folded-up cot fits easily in the trunk next to the rest of your outdoor gear. It could also be set up halfway during transit, ready to fully extend when you arrive at your destination close to bedtime.
The foam cushion has a polyester tricot cover that is removable and easy to clean. The fabric on the sleeping side of the cover is soft and fuzzy. You could sleep directly on the cushion without a set of sheets.
I did notice that the fabric built up a lot of static electricity. That made it attract pieces of lint, down feathers from my sleeping bag, and other particles from my car within a week or so of use. A quick brush-off from time to time will keep this tidy.
Who Is the REI Co-op Trailgate Vehicle Sleeping Platform For?
Most outdoor lovers have multiple uses for their vehicles and don’t need a permanent buildout. They might give friends a ride to the climbing gym or drop their kids off at school. But when the weekend comes, the REI Co-op Trailgate Vehicle Sleeping Platform will transform their wagon, SUV, or minivan into a comfy, impromptu bed for their outdoor adventures.
Where this cot really shines is its ability to adapt to a variety of vehicles with fold-down seats. Removing car seats to create a level sleeping surface is a chore. The Trailgate removes this burden.
Folks will appreciate the quick setup when they roll up to a campground after dark, and most will find a mattress width that works for them. Dedicated van lifers may desire a more custom build designed to fit over multiple large storage bins. Long-term road-trippers will also likely want a more substantial mattress for optimal sleep.
But for the weekend warrior, the Trailgate Vehicle Sleeping Platform creates a cozy home away from home at any trailhead or campground.