Looking for a cut-price camper van? I tried Dacia's smart Sleep Pack accessory and it won me over

Dacia Sleep Pack
(Image credit: Dacia/Adrien Cortesi)

There's been an explosion in vehicular-based camping accessories since 2020, when the global pandemic encouraged folk to ditch the desk-based grind and hit the open road.

Camper conversions, roof tents and state-of-the-art leisure vehicles, such as the Volkswagen California, have all witnessed a meteoric rise in popularity, but much of this outdoorsy paraphernalia is becoming increasingly expensive and, if it isn’t, can prove cumbersome when bolted on to family car.

Last year, Romanian carmaker Dacia, which is a subsidiary of Renault, unveiled its Sleep Pack folding bed that neatly slid into the back of its Jogger estate and provided a handy solution for those who wanted to catch some zeds in the car without the inevitable spinal recalibration.

With the launch of its all-new Duster SUV, which is on sale in much of Europe already, Dacia hopes the accessory will be an affordable and popular option that sits alongside a line of 'InNature' accessories that transform its small and affordable crossover into a versatile adventurer.

Go outdoors

Dacia Sleep Pack

(Image credit: Dacia/Adrien Cortesi)

There are many automotive brands that claim to possess an outdoor, adventurous spirit, but many simply wheel out a couple of surfboards or bicycles and scatter them around a photoshoot for marketing purposes.

Dacia is arguably different, as it creates affordable vehicles that are designed to be used every day. It understands that its customers clamber over seats with muddy boots, load them up with fishing gear and generally abuse their cars on the daily – these aren’t pristine garage queens and many of those working within the business genuinely enjoy nature.

According to François Aupierre, Dacia Product Performance Director and a keen outdoorsman, Sleep Pack was the mastermind of an engineer in Renault’s Qstomize team, who spent most of his days fitting out vans and vehicles for bespoke business and motability requirements.

Dacia Sleep Pack

(Image credit: Dacia/Adrien Cortesi)

The crafty chap was an adept carpenter and used his spare time to knock-up a prototype wooden box that stashed in the boot and folded out into a double bed for impromptu sleeps.

Fast forward a few months and Dacia’s CEO was sprawled out on the device giving his nod of approval for it to go into production as an official optional extra.

But with the latest Jogger estate and new Duster SUV, which starts at around £20,000 in the UK (the equivalent of around $25,500/AU$38,000), the company has gone one step further in creating a line of accessories under the InNature umbrella, which sees blackout blinds, storage bags and even a rear-mounted tent all offered for a reasonable sum. 

The Sleep Pack, which costs around £1,500 (around $2,000/AU$2,850), has been redesigned specifically to fit inside the rear of new Duster, offering a three-in-one camping solution that includes a storage box and shelf for eating and cooking.

Made your bed, now lie in it

Dacia Sleep Pack

(Image credit: Dacia/Adrien Cortesi)

In the picturesque surrounds of the French Alps, Aupierre is busy demonstrating the ease at which Sleep Pack can be set up. With stopwatch at the ready, he races to the boot and gets constructing.

Lifting the lid off the box, he fetches a couple of wooden legs and cross members to give the frame some rigidity. It’s like a giant wooden jigsaw puzzle and within 30 seconds he has the rear seats folded flat and the basic outline of the bed set-up.

From here, he folds out the bed base, locates the mattress and presents what looks like a very comfortable place to sleep. There’s even a couple of side bolster pillows for a bit of extra width. It has taken less than a minute. 

At 1.90 metres long and up to 1.30 metres wide, the bed is arguably large enough for two, but it would be cosy. Naturally, there’s limited headroom due to the bed’s height and you have to clamber in via the rear doors, but the mattress is soft and it all looks inviting. 

What’s more, the box from which the bed sprang provides ample storage space for sleeping bags, pillows and other camping kit, such as a gas stove and cooking essentials.

Dacia Sleep Pack

(Image credit: Dacia/Adrien Cortesi)

Cleverly, the rear hatch of the Duster provides shelter from rain and a shelf that extends from the box lid has been designed to hold up to 20kg of kit, so makes an obvious kitchen or snack preparation station.

There are a number of after-market companies that make wooden structures for car camping, but very few are made bespoke for the model in question and none are available at your local Dacia dealership. 

Similarly, my smug Tesla friends have informed me that aftermarket companies make fitted mattresses for the rear of most models, but many of these are inflatable, prone to punctures and air leaks, while they lay on the back of the rear seats and boot floor, meaning you can often feel every undulation and change in surface as you sleep. 

In addition to the Sleep Pack, Dacia also offers a pack of specially designed window blackout blinds, as well as an array of low-cost YouClip accessories. 

These include things like phone holders, rechargeable lamps and smartphone or tablet clamps that neatly attach to a plethora of mounting points dotted around the cabin, enabling several accessories to be moved around the interior when and where required. 

With a couple of LED lamps and a cupholder within easy reach, the scene is set for a comfortable night’s sleep.

Sweet (ish) dreams are made of these

Dacia Sleep Pack

(Image credit: Dacia/Adrien Cortesi)

Waking up to the sound of Alpine cow bells and the smell of, erm, Alpine cow pats, is a magnificent feeling and the night’s sleep hasn’t been bad either.

A lack of auxiliary heater (like you might find in a dedicated camper van) and the limited head space meant I woke up a couple of times, occasionally bashing my head on the roof. But it was otherwise comfortable and restful.

The YouClip accessory mounts ensured a bottle of water was within easy reach and the LED lamps came in handy for the inevitable toilet breaks that seem to spring up with an unnatural urgency when parked in the middle of nowhere.

“We didn’t want to create something that would compete with a camper van. The Sleep Pack isn’t really designed for a week-long trip,” Aupierre explains.

Dacia Sleep Pack

(Image credit: Dacia/Adrien Cortesi)

“It’s a fun accessory for those who want to be first to the lake on a fishing trip or couples who want to go off exploring at the weekend,” he adds.

Decidedly simple and low tech, Sleep Pack goes against the current grain of gigantic optional touchscreen displays and the ability to game from the back seats. Granted, it’s nowhere near as luxurious as a dedicated camper van or leisure vehicle, but it costs a fraction of the price.

Dacia has long stood for great value, with the company claiming its products are 'Robust and Outdoor' and it shows.

The Sleep Pack is an extension of this mentality and while it might not be the last word in precision engineering, it works, and it's built to last. Unlike those flimsy airbeds available online. 

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Leon Poultney

Leon has been navigating a world where automotive and tech collide for almost 20 years, reporting on everything from in-car entertainment to robotised manufacturing plants. Currently, EVs are the focus of his attentions, but give it a few years and it will be electric vertical take-off and landing craft. Outside of work hours, he can be found tinkering with distinctly analogue motorcycles, because electric motors are no replacement for an old Honda inline four.