Modify Your RV for Fulltiming – Ergonomics and Comfort

 Modify Your RV for Fulltiming – Ergonomics and Comfort

I’ve covered the high-tech modifications I made to my Roadtrek when I set out to modify it for fulltiming – solar power, internet and TV satellite dishes, a big inverter and extra batteries, etc. What I’d like to do now is look at the little, low-tech things that are just as important but not as flashy.  It’s a big step from weekends an hour or two’s drive away from home to living on the road, and these subtle changes in configuration make a big difference in comfort and ease of operation for fulltimers.

The major issue when modifying your RV for fulltiming is storage. When you fulltime, you’re carrying your house on your back like a turtle. You need more than a weekend bag’s worth of clothing – you need enough different outfits to suit you in all the weather you’re going to encounter year  round.   You need more than a picnic basket’s worth of food – you need to have enough food and equipment to prepare three meals a day wherever you go. You also need emergency mechanical supplies in case of breakdowns or unscheduled repairs – tools, a jack and jack stands, spare belts and hoses, etc.

armoire
My homemade armoire.

Our 2003 Roadtrek 190 Popular came with a third passenger seat at the side door, which we rarely used.  Out it came, and in went an armoire – a tall cabinet to store dishes, pots and pans, and other cooking utensils and supplies.  Some of these can be purchased from Roadtrek – my interior was maple, and I didn’t see any armoires for sale in maple (there are now, I believe), so I made one out of 3/4 inch plywood covered with maple veneer, and a solid maple door I ordered from a cabinet supply outfit. The drawer that was under the third seat was reused as a drawer at the bottom of the armoire.

Sliding shelves for the cabinet under the countertop.
Sliding shelves for the cabinet under the countertop.

I also built sliding shelves for the cabinet under the countertop, where we now store our food. Before, the procedure to get to things in the back of these shelves involved pulling out the items in front of them, and messily stuffing them all back in. Now, you slide the drawer out, pick up your item, and slide it back in. With the armoire holding the dishes, pots and pans, and other food preparation equipment, I could now dedicate this entire space to food storage instead of food, dishes, and pots being all jammed in there.   We could probably go for a couple of weeks easily on these supplies if we decided to stop anywhere we wanted to and spend some time, since we frequently stumble across beautiful boondocking spots as we travel. It’s a boost to your spontaneity to always have what you need on hand.  Hey, you like it here?  We’ll stay here.  Let’s see what we have for dinner…

Another storage area we have created is the space where the air conditioner used to be. After lugging it around the country for a year and a half without ever turning it on, we decided that it was just dead weight taking up space, so out it came. Now there’s a cavernous storage space for bed linens and bulky clothing articles to supplement the clothing storage in the rear side cabinets and hang-up closet.

Since we have a cargo carrier box on the rear hitch to carry the satellite dishes, we are also able to store our outside furniture in there as well – folding chairs, a hammock and an outside table. This frees up the space inside the rear doors and under the bed for enough tools, auto supplies, and spare parts to meet almost any roadside emergency.  Cargo carriers are the best way to increase storage outside your vehicle – there’s no trailer to make it difficult to back up, and you can still park in a regular parking space.

Our expert bed tester, evaluating the latest improvements.
Our expert bed tester, evaluating the latest improvements.

The bed is another item you’ll look at with a different perspective if you make the decision to fulltime. For weekenders, it just has to be comfortable enough to sleep on for a couple of nights a month. For fulltimers, you’ll have hours each night, night after night, to evaluate its comfort – maybe TOO much time.  Our original bed converted to a rear table, and was made up of cushions for the back bench seats laid flat on a platform. We never used the rear table, even before we started fulltiming, and spaces between the cushions had a way of getting wider as the night wore on and you tossed and turned, even with memory foam on top.

At first, I tried to take the cushion covers off and glue the foam together, but it didn’t stay glued. Foam is a difficult thing to securely attach, especially to other foam. After a year of fulltiming, we finally ditched the foam pieces and bought a big piece of foam from a mattress supply company, put the memory foam on top, and stuffed the whole thing in a mattress cover. Success! It’s better than the bed we had back at the house, and the entire under-bed area where the footwell for the table used to be there’s more storage for the laundry bag, extra soda cartons, shoes, etc.

Sheepskin seat covers.
Sheepskin seat covers undergoing more testing.

A final modification we made was easy – sheepskin seat covers. The front seats will get much more wear and tear on them fulltiming than with occasional use, so we decided to protect the original fabric covers by installing seat covers.  There are many types of seat covers out there – fabric, vinyl, etc., but sheepskin is the best as far as appearance and  comfort in all weather.  Some of us seem to benefit from this more than others…

campskunk

"campskunk" is a blissfully retired former public servant who has left the challenges of how to run the government to younger and less cynical hands, and wanders the continent in his Roadtrek Class B RV with his wife and cat. In addition to his work in the public sector, he has also at various times been a mechanic and delivery driver, skills which come in handy in his new role. Because his former job involved the forensic evaluation and sometimes the subsequent detention of some not-so-nice people, he uses the name campskunk instead of his legal name on the Internet. His was not the type of job where customer service feedback would be welcome.

33 Comments

  • Beautiful work….but I wouldn’t expect anything less 🙂

  • Love all the modifications you made-nice job on the cabinets. Where did you find your sheepskin covers-I’ve been looking around and am having a hard time finding them for the Adventurous.

    • i got them from driving comfort- you have to get the custom fit ones because of the extra armrest Roadtrek puts on them. however, you don’t get separate covers for the armrests, just some extra material on that side of the seat so the seatcover will go over the armrest when it’s in the up position. http://www.drivingcomfort.com/car-seat-covers/custom-fit-sheepskin-seat-cover.cfm

  • Another informative article, Campskunk. I’m going to suggest that we install sliding shelves…

    • many husbands have said unkind things about me when their wives saw those… i made them out of 5 mm paneling and euro-type 75 pound slides. it took me about a day to make each one. my mother liked them so much she had me make them for the under-counter cabinet in her kitchen where she keeps her pots and pans. she slides it out with her toe so she doesn’t have to bend over and rummage around in there.

  • Beautiful & you made them for your mother … Awe that’s so nice. Now, how about a article of what you eat, carry bread, etc?

    • sigh – more work… 😉

  • Campskunk, I think we need to elect you as an instructor for a training camp for fulltimer husbands. You seem to be a jack of all trades. 🙂

    • well, i had to teach myself a lot of different skills in fixing up my Roadtrek. this is the first cabinetry/veneer work i’d ever done – same with the house wiring, plumbing, sewing curtains… let’s just say i wasn’t the fastest worker as i figured out how to do things. i think that armoire took me 80 hours of labor. i can be generous with the time i spend on things like this in a way someone who knows what they’re doing and is earning a living doing it can’t .

  • “you need to have enough food and equipment to prepare three meals a day wherever you go” I don’t know how many RT’ers you’ve met, but very few I have met prepare three meals a day in their mobile kitchens. Restaurants seem to be the kitchens of choice with Roadtrekkers. LOL!

  • I have a question about the bed. We have a 2007 190 Popular and the bed is not that comfortable. What would you recommend? How do you find something that fits?

    • do you have the dinette with platform seats, or the electric couch? mine is pre-electric couch. what i did was pitch the table top, cut a piece of 3/4 inch plywood to cover the footwell area between the seats (just as strong as the table and half the weight) to make a big platform. then i went to a mattress supply place and for around $500 got a 6 inch piece of foam cut to fit the platform, put my 2 inch memory foam on top, and put the whole thing in a mattress cover.

      • Can you use plywood and a regular mattress?

        • the problem with a regular mattress is the shape. one side of the bed (the driver’s side) is longer than the other, and there are curves by the rear doors that would make a rectangular mattress a bad fit. a mattress that would fit would have holes around the sides and across the back – it wouldn’t be snug up against the back doors and sides of the van.

        • How about a Futon mattress?

          • now that would probably work, as long as the mattress is flexible enough.

  • Thank you!!!!!

  • Do you think a king-sized piece of 5″ memory foam would suffice in place of the seat pads in a 2002 RT Popular?

    • if it’s dense enough, sure. sit on it and see if it bottoms out. if it doesn’t yes. if you’re buying it sight unseen, look for “high density” or similar descriptors. compare the shipping weight to similar offerings – heavier is better. some memory foam is meant to be used as a topper for heavier foam and may not be up to the job. mine is 6 inches of high density regular foam with a 2 inch memory foam topper, but then i’m probably doing overkill because my wife was very concerned about it being thick enough. i married a princess, and have been scrambling to procure sufficiently comfortable bedding for her ever since 😉

  • I love the idea of more space, including the Stowaway you use.

    Did the addition of the armoire
    1.) cause a sense of claustrophobia with less to view?
    2.) make entrance into the van more difficult?

    • not really – from the driver’s seat, the view out the passenger side door windows is almost the same as before the armoire. it takes up the same footprint as the seat it replaces, so the entrance through the side door is the same width from the knees down, and a bit narrower that before for the torso. but then i’m tall and skinny, so i’m used to being able to slip through narrow spaces.

  • How do you see a floor plan

  • Montana Wright

  • Certainly like the slide out drawers!

  • Adrian Medrano

  • I need the hanging space and there are already enough drawers in my RT.

  • Tracey Lannan, go to roadtrek.com and check out the different models

  • Love the slide outs. I want some now

  • We took out the 3rd seat and put in a small freezer.

    • How do attach furniture like that?

  • I couldn’t make it without our air conditioner.

  • Where did you get the sheepskin seat covers for your Roadtrek? Do you know of anyone that makes slipcovers or is there a tutorial on how to make your own slipcovers?
    Thanks

  • What is link for buying Roadtrek wardrobe from Roadtrek? I want to replace. Possible both chairs w/ Wadrobe.

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