Worried about being comfortable in an RV? Don’t be

By Russ and Tiña De Maris

OliBac on flickr.com

A couple new to RVing spent a dismaying weekend scouting out an RV show. Rig after rig they visited, it seemed all of them were lacking in one big thing: comfort. Is it possible to RV and be comfortable?

First, you’ll need to define your idea of “comfort.” RVs are, by their nature, smaller than the typical stix-n-brix home. That being said, if your idea of comfort means you need to take a lot of stuff with you to be comfortable that may mean a bit more adjusting. Not every big Class A motorhome you see towing a “cargo trailer” is owned by a vendor carrying stock. Some RVers actually do “take it with them.”

More often, though, comfort is a place to sit without feeling you’re propped up on a park bench. It means sitting on the toilet without having to first learn the finer art of contortionism, sitting on the couch without feeling like you’re on a bed of rocks, and watching the television without breaking your neck.

Much in terms of these kinds of comfort can be adjusted – well, maybe not the toilet space, but furniture issues often can be dealt with. If there’s a “hide-a-bed” in the sofa, you can be pretty well assured that it will be neither comfortable for sitting nor for sleeping. Complaints about the discomfort of RV beds are legend. So what’s to do?

First, if you love the floor plan but hate the furniture, don’t give up immediately. Our big pull trailer came with a horrible hide-a-bed. Sure, the fabric matched the decor of the living room, but who spends much time looking at the sofa? We soon calculated how often we had folks overnighting – almost never. How often would we, the trailer owners, sit on the sofa? Just about daily. We soon had the sofa on Craigslist, and a trip to the furniture store (along with careful measurements) had us ordering a new, double reclining sofa. When company needs to stay overnight, we have an air bed that can be pumped up and installed on the living room floor.

Similarly, stock dining room furniture in an RV is often disgraceful. Ours came equipped with a tiny, seats-two-on-a-good-day table, and “don’t sneeze or it’ll fall over” warranty. That, too, posted on a want-ad, and soon enough, it went away on the back of a pickup truck. What we really wanted was a round table that could be set for “half” size when just the two of us were home, but put up “full” when company would dine with us. We hunted high and low around furniture stores to no avail. Light bulb? Check the Internet. We soon had a 3-way table: Open full round, seats about five, open half, seats the two of us comfortably and tucks the other half under the window, or set with both wings down, gives enough floor space for a small square dance. A couple of “good” chairs for our own use and some folders for company rounded out the purchase.

In our old fifth wheel, the issue of comfort and small space really came into play: We had no slideouts. The full rear of the rig was taken up with a lumpy hide-a-bed. We had no money for new furniture purchases, but one day a garage sale presented two La-Z-Boy recliners at a super price.

Bed not skookum? Many RV beds are simply a plywood platform, topped off with a cheap mattress. Might as well be trying to sleep at Motel 6 for all the comfort you find there. Will a memory foam mattress topper make the difference? Perhaps a more extreme approach will make the difference: We purchased (via the Internet) an appropriately sized air bed with two adjustable sides. It’s lasted us for years, and when we got grumpier with age, we added a memory foam topper. Now sleep doesn’t depend as much on mattress comfort as it does how much sawing the bed partner does after falling asleep.

Other discomfort issues may require a bit more imagination. It would seem RV floor plan designers don’t spend much time in their own rigs. When RV shopping we find one of our biggest complaints is that the TV is set up so only one position in the house can comfortably see the set, or it’s perched so high you’ll need a standing walk-in appointment with the chiropractor for a neck adjustment after watching the six-o-clock news.

One of our friends is a remodeling contractor with a great imagination. If something doesn’t work right in terms of shelves, cupboards or other “placements” he can fix it. These guys are gold, and if you find one, hang onto him. If you can picture a place for the set (or the books, or the closet rod) but don’t know how to get it there, a good retrofit man can help. This may not be as inexpensive as tossing in a new recliner, but it’s something to keep in mind if the “dream rig” has a few facets that need polishing.