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.
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.
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.
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.
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…