Tuesday, November 30, 2021


RV Mods: Mod your rig for comfort


By Russ and Tiña De Maris

A couple new to RVing spent a dismaying weekend scouting out an RV show. Rig after rig they visited, and 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 takes a bit more accommodating. 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 arts of contortionism, and 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 was 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 wood-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 remodel 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. Obviously this is not as inexpensive an approach 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.



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4 years ago

2017 Forest River flagstaff. Came with two swivel rockers that were total trash and only fit in trailer if wedged tightly in back – blocking the rear door. We used one at home for a while – broke after a week of light use. The “sleeper” sofa was an unsleepable three different levels of foam. We donated the chairs and couch and replaced them with a sleeper sofa with a real mattress (same size and weight) and a pair of aluminum frame swivel rockers from Menards. New mattress in the main bedroom too. They should sell the trailers empty, but they couldn’t inflate the prices if they did that.

John Koenig
4 years ago

After three+ years of searching for my second RV (my first was a 2010 17′ Casita Spirit Deluxe Travel Trailer I bought new; an EXCELLENT way to get started RVing), I decided on a Super-C Class diesel puller. It was a 2015 Dynamax DX3-37RB I bought new in May of 2014. The floorplan (99% usable with the two slides IN) and the fact that it was built on a Class 7 Freightliner HDT chassis (Heavy Duty Truck) with a Cummins 9L 350HP engine up front was the best overall package I had seen. What I had NOT done was to actually SIT in the dinette, sofa or lie on the bed for an EXTENDED period of time (more than thirty minutes) before buying. Although all those items looked beautiful, after as little as thirty minutes, it became painfully obvious that they were really just “eye candy” and were NOT suitable for extended use. I had retired and, was an “extended time” RVer (and hope to become a “full timer” soon). In 2015, I found ProCustomInc (Elkhart, IN). They specialize in altering factory RVs to the owner’s liking. I paid to have the OEM sofa, dinette and Serta mattress removed and replaced by furniture that IS comfortable. WHAT a difference comfortable furniture makes! If you only use your RV for weekends or a once a year vacation, you can probably put up with the “standard” furniture that RV builders usually install. If however, you plan on using you RV a LOT, comfortable furniture makes a HUGE difference in how happy you’ll be in your RV.

4 years ago

Good article, Russ! I think a lot of people don’t realize you CAN replace the ultra-cheap furniture with better quality at the same (often much better) prices.

When I wanted to swap an unused bunk for a sofa at purchase, dealer wanted $2000 for a sofa that wasn’t even comfortable — $200 for a craigslist leather loveseat and a few L-brackets to hold it down, and it’s the best upright seats in my rig!

Similarly, the absurd spring-torture mattress that came with my rig went into storage unused. I ordered a new $250 foam mattress online that makes the plywood platform rival my bed at home — and the foam was easily trimmed to fit the RV “short queen” format without a “special RV mattress” price.