The Toyota 4runner makes an excellent adventure vehicle. As a matter of fact, it’s one of the best on the market. It can take you far off the beaten path but that often requires spending the night in a remote location. That begs the question, could you sleep in the back of your 4runner if you need to?
Most average-sized males (around 5’9″) can comfortably sleep in the back of a 4th or 5th generation 4runner with the rear seats folded down. It’s also wide enough to accommodate a partner that’s the same or smaller in size.
Interior dimensions of a 4th gen 4runner
The cargo size of both 4th and 5th generation 4runners is relatively the same. With that said, these measurements are of my personal 2007 model. Some versions might have an uneven floor and require some type of sleeping platform for comfort.
With the rear seats folded down, there is 73″ (185 cm) in length from the hatch to the back of the center console. The narrowest area is obviously between the wheel wells – and that measures 41″ (104 cm) in width.
That means you can fit a twin size air mattress in the rear of your 4runner for an extra comfy sleeping experience. Here is a list of mattresses found on Amazon that will fit in the rear of a 4th gen 4runner:
|PAVONI Car Inflatable Air Camping Mattress||74″ x 57″ x 8.7″||PAVONI Mattress|
|Etekcity Camping Air Mattress||75″ x 39″ x 9″||Etekcity Mattress|
|QDH SUV Air Mattress||72.8″ x 51.2″ x 4.7″||QDH SUV Mattress|
|Berocia SUV Air Mattress||70.86″ x 50.4″ x 4.7″||Berocia SUV Mattress|
|LUOOV Multifunctional Car SUV Air Mattress||77″ x 55″ x 4″||LUOOV SUV Mattress|
A trick for gaining more space for sleeping in your 4runner
There is a very easy way to gain a few extra inches of legroom in the rear of your 4runner. I’ve done this myself and it makes quite a difference. It also gives you some extra storage space for cargo which is never a bad thing.
It’s as simple as removing the bases of the rear seats. Normally, they have to roll forward in order for the backs of the seats to fold down. They fit nicely between the backside of the front seats and the folded down rear seats. They sit higher than the floor of the cargo area though which hinders your legroom (if you’re sleeping with your head at the hatch.)
The bases can be removed easily by taking out the 14mm bolts on the floor. Simply fold the seat bases forward and you can access the bolts without having to remove the plastic covers. Now you can leave these big, useless chunks of leather/upholstery at home and use that space for something much more helpful, like coolers.
At 6’3″, I can lay down very comfortably in the back of my 4runner with the seat bases removed and the front seats pushed all the way forward. You might want to build the floor up so it’s level with the folded seats but it’s fine if you don’t mind your feet hanging off the end of your “bed”.
Pros and cons to sleeping inside your 4runner
Of course, there are trade-offs when it comes to sleeping in your 4runner (or any SUV for that matter). It might not suit some people but for others, it could be the perfect solution. Here’s how the good and bad measure up:
You can spend money on improving your sleeping experience if you want to but it isn’t required. Technically, your 4runner can be converted into a Redneck Hotel with nothing more than a few pillows and blankets. It might be primitive and you might wake up with a sore back – but it won’t cost you a dime.
This is a big positive. Being able to lock yourself in a cabin made of sheet metal and glass is about as safe as it gets when you’re in a remote location. You’ll have much better protection from wildlife like bears and sasquatches, as well as local criminals. Aside from someone breaking a window or picking a lock, sleeping in your 4runner is the ultimate in security.
It’s elevated off the ground
If you’ve ever woken up in a soaking wet tent, you know just how nice it is to be elevated off the ground. You’d need to park your 4runner in the middle of a lake or stream in order to flood your sleeping area. Rocky ground won’t be threatening your comfort and the creepy crawlers won’t be giving you a surprise wake up call either.
It provides great shelter from the weather
You’ll stay safe and dry in the back of your 4runner even during high winds and torrential rain. Once again, being surrounded by steel and glass is a lot more comforting during a bad storm than having to rely on canvas, zippers, and clasps.
You might even find that the worse a storm is, the more fun your camping experience becomes. You’ll have a great view of Mother Nature doing her thing from the safety of your 4runner.
It’s heated and cooled
Now it isn’t safe or economical to leave your engine running the whole time you’re sleeping in your 4runner – but that doesn’t mean you can’t start it up to warm up or cool down temporarily. Being able to run the heat can really help you out if you get caught in colder weather than you were prepared for.
It’s quick to set up and tear down
I’m sure you’d never set up camp in a spot that wasn’t legal (right?) but in the event you need to pack up and leave fast, sleeping in your 4runner provides a quick getaway. Grab all of your stuff and throw it in the back – you can sort it all out when you get to another location.
You also don’t need to spend an hour getting all of your camping equipment set up when you arrive at your site. Simply shift some things around and make your bed. Good to go.
Loss of cargo space
Unfortunately, your sleeping area will greatly impact the amount of room you have to store your belongings for the night. You can still use the front seats and the floor of the rear seat area for storage but for some people that might not be enough.
You can always hide things under the vehicle or store them up top on the roof rack if you need more space but those aren’t exactly the most secure options. Perhaps a luggage container like this one would be beneficial for locking things up on the roof.
No airflow without allowing bugs in
Things can get pretty stuffy in the back of your 4runner if you have the windows up. That can be fixed easily by cracking them but the trade-off is that you’ll be allowing bugs in along with the fresh air. Coming up with some type of bug netting for your windows is a great solution that will grant you the best of both worlds.
Less of a camping experience
Sleeping in your 4runner can be really comfortable – but sometimes too comfortable. Being locked up in such a secure cabin can take the excitement away from the camping experience for some people. It certainly doesn’t feel like you’re sleeping in a tent. While this is arguably safer and more practical, it does lack the rugged feel you get when camping in a tent.
A sleeping platform might be needed
Remember, the measurements and photos in this article are for a 2003-2009 4runner. While all generations share the same folding rear seats, they might not provide a flat floor to sleep on. There may be a height difference between the rear seats and the cargo area or a hump here or there. The best way to remedy that is to build some sort of wooden sleeping platform.
Other sleeping options for your 4runner
If folding down the rear seats and sleeping inside your 4runner isn’t for you, there are plenty of other options available.
You can keep it cheap and simple and go with a traditional tent. Sleeping on the ground is less than luxurious but this style of camping has worked for many people for decades. There’s no reason why it isn’t still a great option.
If you like the idea of camping in a tent but don’t want to be on the ground, a rooftop tent might be for you. These mount easily to the roof of your 4runner and fold out into position without too much hassle. Be prepared to spend some money on these though.
Another downside is the height and shape of it on your roof can both hurt your fuel economy and limit your clearance in places like parking garages.
Finally, you can always go the “glamping” route and pull a trailer with all the amenities you could wish for. This is also a good option because the 4runner makes a great tow rig for small to mid-size camping trailers.
You can still fold your rear seats down and have tons of cargo space if you want to while saving the trailer itself for living space only. You also have the ability to leave the trailer setup while unhooking the 4runner for short drives to and from your site.
The Toyota 4runner is a really versatile vehicle. It has the ability to take you to some of the most scenic, remote areas on earth. Your choice of sleeping arrangements comes down to personal preference but you can always fall back on sleeping inside in a pinch. Happy camping!
Tim is the creator of Canadian Gearhead. His experience with auto detailing and working for Toyota shows through all of the articles posted here. He runs the Canadian Gearhead site and YouTube channel full-time now and currently owns a 2007 4runner, 2006 Tacoma, and 1991 MR2. Read more about Tim: