Narrowboat Beds


There are few things more important in life than a good night’s sleep. If you have ever been sleep deprived you’ll know that it only takes a bad night to ruin and effect the entire day. Choosing the right bed can be tricky at the best of times. When you add the logistical considerations from staying on a narrowboat, you’ll have your work cut out. But don’t worry we are here to talk about some tips, tricks and considerations that will mean you are as snug as a bug in a rug.


Why is a narrowboat bed so important?

Let’s be frank. There can be times when living on board a canal boat can be downright uncomfortable. When you’ve had enough for the day, you should absolutely be able to retire to get a good night’s sleep so you are able to face the next day with fresh eyes.

If you still don’t think its that important, listen to this. How many hours sleep do most people need? That’s right around eight. If you spend on average eight hours per night in bed, that’s literally a third of your life. It makes sense for that third to be as comfortable as possible.

The two main governing factors in narrowboat beds

These two things, and these two things alone will determine the bulk of your decision-making process. The two questions are: –

  • How tall are you?
  • How big is your boat?

You need to know both of these things before you invest in anything. It will be no good to unroll your top of the range mattress, only to find that you’ve got two feet hanging off the end of the bed frame. Or, even worse, it wont fit in the boat at all without seriously impacting your freedom of movement.

Likewise, if you are somebody who looks like they slept in a grow-bag, choose a bed that is too small and you are always going to be uncomfortable.


Have a measure and see what you are working with. Then think logistics. The size of your boat will determine which option may be the best approach. You can generally have your bed set up in one of two ways.

Widthways is where the head and foot of the bed are located at a 90-degree angle to the direction in which the boat is pointing. Lengthways means that you are lying in the same axis as the length of the boat.

Room for two?

If you are fortunate enough to be accompanied on your voyages then you are going to need a bigger bed. The amount of people sleeping in the boat will obviously affect your decision. It might sound nice to share a single bed, but be realistic. As a one off, maybe its ok. Every night? No chance. If you aren’t bothered about being all that close, bunk beds have been used on ships for centuries and represent a really great solution to fit two sleeping people in a room at any one time. It’s not the cosiest, but is a workable solution that reduces the amount of floor space needed.

Folding or fixed?

There are pros and cons to both. A fixed bed is probably going to be slightly more comfortable as it is a little more permanent. That said it will take up much more space day to day, which could otherwise be utilised (and space is always at a premium on a narrowboat).

If you place more emphasis on space, then a folding bed is the answer. You’ll get more space for two reasons. First you have usable floor area during the day (and don’t end up constantly stubbing you toe on bed frames or posts) and secondly, depending on how you configure it you may be able to store things under it. Some really great designs we have seen incorporate cupboards under the bed, using the mattress as a ‘lid’.

The down side to a folding bed, particularly when using it as a storage solution comes when one person is sleeping and the other needs to get something out of the cupboard.

We are going to give you a tip now that will transform even the most mediocre bed into something really special.

And it’s so obvious…

Get a comfy mattress.

Don’t skimp on this. As we have said you spend around a third of your life in bed so it is worth every penny. Don’t worry about size either. There are several solutions to make sure that your mattress fits perfectly.

The first port of call (pun intended) is to contact mattress makers. In fact, there are some who’s entire marketing strategy is based around customising mattresses for boat users.

The second way is a bit rough and ready, but also works. A memory foam mattress can actually be hand cut to size by yourself (just do a good job as they aren’t particularly cheap). Memory foam, provided it is thick enough will hide a multitude of sins and offers really decent comfort.

Consider a hammock

Back in the day hammocks were exclusively used by sailors. The reason? They are comfortable and save space. The only downside to a hammock is figuring out where to mount it so you aren’t awakened by gravity in the night (and by gravity we mean the floor if one of the ends comes loose). Oh, and the fact that you will be using it in the UK. You might be surprised to learn how much a mattress actually keeps you warm. Hammocks offer little in the way of insulation so expect to be colder, even in the summer months.




As you will have seen there is an awful lot to think about when it comes to choosing the right bed for your canal boat. You are limited by two things. Your size and that of the boat. When you add into the mix that you need to be comfortable and save space you can appreciate why people sometimes struggle. By taking into account the above you will hopefully be able to make a better choice. Sweet dreams.

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