Get your shikibuton on

You know you're in trouble when your van mattress is every bit as comfortable as your home mattress. Who needs more incentive to skip work and get outta town? Not us...

Sleeping in a van promises to be much more comfortable than a tent, provided you can find a good mattress. What makes a good mattress? Our criteria included:

  • queen size,
  • firm,
  • durable,
  • tri-fold,
  • removable cover,
  • affordable,
  • not entirely bad for the environment, and
  • made locally, or at least in California.

The Futon Shop's "shikibuton" met all of the criteria above.

What is a shikibuton you might ask? We did. It's basically a guest futon. As such, shikibutons are light and thin so as to be easily folded and stored in a closet or other tight space when not in use. Our tri-fold mattress is 5" deep and surprisingly firm. While a bit awkward to carry alone, it isn't too heavy to lug solo. Only time will tell if it's truly durable.

Our shikibuton. Notice the two folds. Eventually, we'll flip up the foot -- closest end in photo -- to reveal our table and bench seats.

Our shikibuton. Notice the two folds. Eventually, we'll flip up the foot -- closest end in photo -- to reveal our table and bench seats.

As is all too common, the eco-friendly requirement was actually the most difficult to meet. To start, I looked for 100% natural latex foam, but that was cost prohibitive. Local stores would custom-make a cotton or a wool mattress, but those proved to be a bit too firm and rather heavy. Also, we worried a bit about moisture retention, particularly with the cotton option.

The California-based Futon Shop offered what I found to be a good compromise. They mix a soybean-based foam with traditional, petroleum-based foam to make a more eco-friendly but still very affordable soy foam mattress.

We bought our shikibuton during a big holiday sale and paid about $300 for it. The Futon Shop offers free shipping to any of their stores, saving shipping costs and minimizing the environmental impact of transit.

As of the writing of this post, I've slept on the mattress 7 nights on three separate trips. I have zero complaints. I've slept incredibly well. We're even thinking we might move the mattress to our guest room and spare visitors the discomfort of our pull-out sofa.

Our shikibuton with duvet cover.

Our shikibuton with duvet cover.

The mattress came with a removable cotton cover, and we wrapped that in a zippered mattress cover thatthat protects against allergens and bugs. We're using two flat sheets and standard pillows and cases. So far, the flat sheet stays on the low-profile shikibuton just fine.  

Thanks to Brian's parents for the duvet cover!