East West vs North South Beds in Campers and Caravans

When it comes to buying a caravan, camper trailer or RV, you’ll probably stumble across the term East West and North South beds. In this post, I want to explain what the difference is, and then go into some of the considerations you should think about before committing to one way or another.

East West vs North South Beds
What’s better; East West, or North South Beds?

What is an East West and North South Bed?

Put simply, this description refers to the direction of the bed in the caravan, RV or camper. It doesn’t refer to the direction the bed faces, rather the orientation of the bed within the van.

A North South Bed runs in the same orientation as the Caravan or RV would travel. For some caravans, that means the bed head, or where you put your pillow is up against the drawbar end, or where you hook the van on, and your feet hang the opposite way.

Of course, you can get vans with the beds at the back, in which case your feet point towards the drawbar. 

East West Beds then, run side to side in the caravan or RV, with your feet hanging towards one side or the other of the van, rather than the front, or rear in a North South configuration.

Parkes 18 Hybrid
This has a North South Bed, with your feet facing the drawbar

Why are there two types of bed directions?

You might wonder why everyone doesn’t just use North South beds, or East West Beds, and it’s a good question that has plenty of merit behind it. Each way has its own set of benefits and downsides, and we go into them below

What is good about an East West Bed?

East West Beds make maximum use of interior space, and allow you to have a bed in a location that is too small to have a north south one. For example, if you wanted a Hybrid Caravan that had bunks, internal cooking and an internal toilet and shower one of the only ways you’d keep it under 16 foot is to have an East West Bed.

Fitting a North South one would mean the whole van would have to be much longer, and that brings its own downsides.

What’s not good about an East West Bed?

Inevitably, if these were the best solution everyone would run them. I’ve noticed quite a few people hate the East West beds, and its almost always related to the fact that one person gets good access off the bed, and the other has to climb over someone else to get off the bed.

For those who regularly get up in the middle of the night to go to the toilet, this can be a huge pain in the backside, as the person who’s on the inside of the bed has to climb over the person on the outside to get out.

As the bed takes up the entire width (not always, but most of the time) you have no other way of getting out of bed. I have seen a couple of vans with a small sliver down the edge of the van to allow both people to get out off the end of the bed, but its not that common.

The length you get is what you get

A lot of North South beds are designed to be extendable, so during the day when you want more room in the van you can push the bed in a bit. Most East West Beds are hard up against either side of the van, and that means you have no way of extending the length even if you wanted to.

This presents an interesting problem for someone who is tall, with East West Beds being fitted to vans that are only 1800mm wide. For me, I wouldn’t even fit in a bed that length, and it’s a straight out no in terms of options.

You need to be careful of the north south bed lengths as well (as they are often not a normal bed), but at least there is room for your feet to hang off the end if its needed.

Caravan luxury
How is the bedding arrangement going to suit your circumstances? (this one raises and lowers!)

What’s good about a north south bed

North South Beds usually allow both people to get off the bed on their side, and walk down a small edge to the rest of the van (in most circumstances). If the small walkway isn’t there, they are still able to get off the bed without hugely disturbing the person next to them. This is the case with caravans that run big king beds, but you can still climb off the end of the bed without disturbing the person next to you.

Our Reconn R2 is North South, but the bed is the full width of the van, so we have no way to walk (and its up so high you couldn’t anyway).

What’s not good about a north south bed?

These take up a fair chunk of room, especially if you have walkways down the side of the bed. It’s not the end of the world if you are happy with a big unit, but if you are trying to get a small van then it’s a problem.

What is best?

Ultimately, its up to your circumstances. I’d say a North South Bed is probably nicer, if you have the real estate to allow for it. I’d be happy with an East West Bed if the camper was wide enough (and many are not!).

Our previous soft floor camper had an East West Bed, and I always slept on the side that needed you to climb over a person if you wanted to get out, but it never mattered as I rarely got out of bed.

Soft floor vs hybrid
Our soft floor with its bed East West on top of the trailer

What do you run? Are you happy with it?

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