Why is Our Camper Van so Comfortable?

We are sitting in a beautiful Florida State Park waiting for the snow and wintry mix to pass through Georgia before we head north. We will winterize tomorrow morning after breakfast. Usually we can get halfway home before winterizing, but this winter has been cold – even in the south.

We spent most of the day in the Roadtrek – it was raining – and we starting thinking back on all we have learned in five years we have had Red Rover. There are so many big and little things we have picked up along the way to make life more pleasant in a Class B. We got into a discussion of why our Roadtrek is such a comfortable cozy place. Not all RVs are like that. But why?

We have been in much larger RVs – Class A units of all sizes, a rented 38-foot Allegro Bus, a 34-foot Airstream silver bullet motorhome, and others. We explored RVs at RV shows, from pop-up campers to magnificent Prevosts with every luxury including electric fireplaces and exterior plasma HDTVs. Nothing had matched the comfort we experienced in our Roadtrek. Why?

Red Rover Floorplan
Red Rover’s Floorplan – The Classic 190 Popular

Roger thinks it is because our 190 Popular has a variety of spaces in it – not like the spacious behemoths. The ceiling height varies, low in front over the driver and passenger seats, higher where the three windows lead up, then down again to the space in the rear. Also, we make up the rear into a table and two long seats in the daytime. This gives us a comfortable additional sitting and eating space with picture windows in daylight, cozy curtains at night.

Red Rover Kitchen (Medium)
Kitchen borrows space from dinette with pull out shelf under pantry. Bathroom borrows space from the kitchen.

Lynn found the books A Pattern Language and the Not So Big House enlightening by defining principles for what makes spaces comfortable. The original Roadtrek interior designers purposely or perhaps just from the experience of living in a camper van applied many of the principles outlined in those books. The concepts of alcoves, ceiling height changes, extended sight lines, moving toward the light and the suggestion of more space just out of sight make the 19-foot long camper seem larger than its size. The combination of the warm golden oak cabinets harmonizes with the cool blue upholstery. The inclusion of front and rear tables means two people can work in comfort and be out of sight of each other. The 30-inch wide aisle is just enough to make the kitchen / bath spacious – any narrower would have changed the feel, but also to provide the separation between areas.

Dinette - Driver Side (Medium)
Use of pillows on one side allows easy removal for naps. Other side has standard dinette back so bed can be used as king as well as twins. The table has been replaced with one with rounded front corners.

Pillows from Pier-1 punch up the blue color scheme. We do not leave the rear bed made up full time – as many class B owners do – because in our experience that cuts down our daytime use and pleasure of a cozy living space. Also, we have installed several additional mirrors on cabinet doors that reflect the attractive cabinetry by night and increase the visual spaciousness of all the views by daylight.

 

Dinette Strip Light & Dimmer (Medium)
Dinette LED Strip Light & Dimmer

We have changed to LED lighting for power conservation, but installed LED strip lights over the rear table, in the kitchen, and toilet compartment. A dimmer on the table overhead makes it easy to dial down the right light level for a romantic dinner or dial up the illumination and turn on the big light for working on scrapbooks, cartoons or computers. In short, we have adopted home designer principles of variable lighting, materials, borrowed space, and views to make an attractive living space into an even more enjoyable and comfortable basic surrounding. Of course, our ideas of attractiveness are deeply personal and the result of years of reflection on why our Roadtrek is fun to live and travel in.

 

6 thoughts on “Why is Our Camper Van so Comfortable?”

  1. Loved the article. What do you use for sleeping and where do you store it in order to keep the rear bed area open?

    1. Cheryl,
      We use Travasaks for sleeping. Two of the twin size – in blue. We roll them up (use an elastic sleeping bag bungee tie) and put them into the bags that came with them. Normally we stick them upright between the dinette benches at the rear door. It does block access the the underfloor “trunk” and the cabinet with the water heater and tools, but they are easily moved. However newer Roadtreks don’t have an aisle that goes all the way to the rear door, so this will not work for everyone. When we invite folks over (for ice cream and coffee) this limits the foot room under the table, so when we have 4 people at the table, we put the Travasaks on the dinette bench under the pantry and the opposite cabinet, since that space can’t be used for sitting anway. Most Populars have these over hanging cabinets. In the really cold weather we use down sleeping bags, and two of them stuff easily into a smaller bag that a single travasak. It can be tucked away anywhere.

      Travasaks are not made anymore but Mike Wendland has written about a similar product – I believe it is called the Superbag.

  2. One of the selling points on my Agile the smallest of the RT designs was the feeling of spaciousness when I walked into it the first few times.
    I would be interested to know where you store the bedding as well.

    1. Janet,

      We were surprised by how the feel of spaciousness is not control by the physical size of the space, but by the suggestion of more space just out of sight. I’ve seen the concept demonstrated in houses where square footage had nothing to do with the “feel” of spaciousness. We have mirrors on the pantry, clothes cupboard, and closet as well as the original mirror on the bathroom door that reflect light and views and give the feel of more space.

      We realize the “feel” of a space is subjective and you obviously noticed that the “feel” of your Agile was what appealed to you. Until we read the book A Pattern Language by Alexander, et al (and some of the books it spawned) we didn’t even know how to put into words why some spaces were comfortable and others were not. We’d love to see an RV interior designed by those who understand how to apply these concepts. And we were very impressed with how many of the “patterns” were successfully applied in our old Roadtrek.

  3. mirrors are an interesting idea. I use small ones in my house to reflect other items.do you cover the whole doors with mirrors and when you say clothes closet and closet do you have two wardrobe type spaces?Would love to see some pictures of where the mirrors are placed and to see how it looks. I am getting ready to ft inmy 190 and it made all the difference when i changed how I sleep, bedding etc. and undid back every day. Also having some other modifications done. Thanks for great articles.

  4. The full length doors (closet & bathroom) only have mirrors on the upper half. The clothes cupboard and pantry have mirrors on the whole door (the inset panel). We just went to a glass/mirror shop and had them cut to fit and they installed them. Roadtrek had installed a mirror on the bathroom door and the previous owned added one to the cupboard. We added the other two. We have photos but can’t attach them to comments. Guess we will have to write another article.

    What we call the clothes cupboard is just labelled cupboard on the Roadtrek floor plan. It is to the rear of the bathroom, across from the pantry (which is the TV cabinet in some models). We made cubbyholes on the bottom two shelves of the cupboard for storing rolled up clothes. There is a photo on this page: http://www.redroverroadtrek.com/Org.html

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