Thanks to hard-working archaeologists, museums now house several examples of Viking slat beds, like the ones found in the Oseberg barrow or the Gokstad ship. You can find patterns for these on the Internet. A sharp-eyed researcher also spotted this Byzantine rope bed in a miniature carving, and figured out why most recreations of rope beds sag and what to do about it.
But, I still wonder whether those beds were meant for use in the home. Would field beds have been different? Pictures of beds in camp are scarce. The only one I have seen is this drawing from the great Cologne Bible of 1478-1480.
As soon as I made our camp table and benches, my children suggested a solution. They promptly climbed up on the furniture and stretched out as though napping. This reminded me of the mead hall in Beowulf, where some of the people slept on benches.
So, I drew up this plan for a sleeping bench. It's a cross between my bench and table patterns, and like them it uses exactly one sheet of plywood, and comes apart to lie flat for transport. At two and a half feet by six, they are sleeping bag-sized, and two of them side by side can act as a foundation for a double air mattress.
Is it authentic? No. But, it will do until I can think of something better.
Now, here's a problem: sleeping bags and air mattresses are slippery. To keep kids from sliding off, I added these 1x4 rails around the side. They have 3/8" dowels glued into them, and poke down through holes in the bed platform. In this picture, you may also be able to see that I have added two small holes in each end of the platform and one in each upright. That lets me tie the top down with a cord to make sure the platform can't flip if you sit on the edge.
Not only do I want my bed up off the ground, I would like to have room to store luggage under it. Being soggy and miserable is an authentic part of the middle ages that I can live without. Bitter experience has taught me that Rubbermaid tubs are the key to keeping clothes and gear dry, even when a temporary river runs through your tent. So, 18" of ground clearance becomes a priority.