How I Slept in my Subaru Outback (My home from 2010-2012?)

Written in August 2012, for my (then) blog, A Free-Spirited Woman.

Some of you may be wondering how I go about sleeping in my car.

Above: In 2010 I replaced my Jimmy 4×4 with a 99 Subaru Legacy Outback – I have to be honest, this was a bit small even for me, because I kept banging my head on the door frame as I was getting in and out.

My vehicle is a Subaru Legacy Outback. The back seats fold down and lay flat. The distance between the back of the seats, and the hatchback is about five-and-a-half feet, however, some of this space is lost because the edge of the folded down seat curls up, and then there is the gap behind the front seat and the folded down seat. I am 5’ 3/4’ tall. When I lay in the back of my Subie, my feet just touch the hatchback door. By putting some of my pillows over the curled-up part of the seat, I can gain about a 1/2” in the length without getting a chink in my neck, which is enough to allow my feet to relax, and for my toes to point down a bit. If I’m parked on a slight hill though, with my head at the high end, I find myself sliding down and will often wake with my feet flat against the door at the bottom. Needless to say, I do a lot of slide sleeping and try to curl up when I can.

I currently sleep on two camp pads. A four-season Thermarest pad, about 1/2” thick, and a foam pad that is about 3/4” thick. I acquired this second pad this spring, in order to give my hips a little more cushioning from the areas where there is a ridge, where the seat folds down and so on. It has worked well, except that with the pads only being about the same width as my body, when I lay flat on my back, my arms fall off the edge, rather than laying evenly alongside me. This may not sound too bad, except it’s not very comfortable, and it makes my hands go numb and creates an uncomfortable arch in the top of my back. So I try to correct this by stuffing things between the side of the car, or my boxes of stuff, and the pads, to fill in the ‘drop-off,’ usually pillows. This can actually be quite comfortable.

I sleep with three pillows (C’mon, I’m allowed some luxuries). One for my head, one to fill the gaping hole that is between the door and my sleeping area, and the other for padding where needed, or to put under my knees when sleeping on my back. If you read the Why am I Homeless introductory post, you may recall that I have some back injuries, and sleeping is one of those areas that I feel the discomforts of these injuries the most.

I sleep on the side behind the driver’s seat. I chose this side for two reasons; quicker access to the driver’s seat, and the fact that on the other side there is a silver clip sticking up, that is just in the right places to crack my skull on.

UTApril2012 -

Above: My very well organized but really tiny home. Images were taken in April 2012 – Later that year I purchased Mitzi, the Mitsubishi Montero Sport.

On the side behind the passenger seat I keep my clothes bag, some little boxes with food, cooking stuff in and bits and bobs, and at the rear end my ice chest (or cooler). I don’t like leaving things outside the vehicle, not only because of bears but if I ever have to leave suddenly I’d much rather not have to go looking for stuff. If I had to leave because of suspicious looking men, I would prefer not to have to exit my vehicle at all. I can crawl into the front seat if I need to and just leave.

I keep my toilet near my feet, it has a good tight lid, so I don’t worry about it spilling if I were to knock it over. It is propped up by stuff though, and this hasn’t happened yet (touch wood).

During the day, my three pillows and my sleeping bag get packed around the cooler, which act as extra insulation.

So that is my sleeping arrangement.

Above: Camping in Subie and cooking on the bumper in Utah.

There is one guy here in town who lives like me, only he has a little car, with no-where to stretch out. He sleeps in the front seat, with it tilted back as far as it will go, or in his little one person tent when the weather is nice. He recently had a house-sitting job for a couple of weeks, and a real bed. He said when he woke up after the first night, he was all kinked up and stiff from sleeping in such luxury. His body was not used to a nice soft mattress, and room to sprawl, and it just about killed him. This super intelligent man used to work for the National Park Service (at least in one chapter of his life). He was a seasonal ranger, and emergency first aid responder and went on rescue calls in Rocky Mountain National Park. His pension was not enough for him to pay rent year-round, so he camped in the summer and saved up some money for rent in a motel room through the winter.

Above: Someone stuck a note on my sticker, it reads : Like Me, Deficit, right?

Another guy I know who lives in his car has his own unique style. His vehicle doesn’t even have a back seat, and he is a tall man. His car is larger though, and he has a bench seat in the back. He sleeps across the front seat, with all sorts of stuff padded around him to protect him from things that stick out and up. I guess he sticks his feet up on the dashboard near the window. He told me that one time he woke up in his sleeping bag, to find his feet were cold. When he looked at his bag, he found that something had nibbled through it in the night. His bag had been close enough to the cracked window for a squirrel or something to get at his bag and steal some insulation for its own bed.

Sleeping in style, A Free-Spirited Woman (my blog before I started A Nomad for Nature)

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