A Mobile Vacation Home or a Portable Hotel Room?
I remember standing in a 26 foot travel trailer at an RV show when a lady walked in followed by her husband, “Ugh!” she groaned, “This is way too cramped! I could never stay in this!” She left quickly. I looked around at all the space and wondered what she would have said about our Roadtrek.
I’ve never felt cramped or claustrophobic in our Roadtrek – but I can’t say that about every Class B I have been inside. One fulltiming couple proudly showed us the innovative features of their custom Sprinter Sportsmobile. Some really unique ideas stood out, but I couldn’t have lived in it for two weeks let alone fulltime. The front seats were not usable as living space and there were exactly two spots to sit – opposite couches with or without a table in between. The bathroom took up ¼ of the living space. It is one thing to travel and sleep in a Roadtrek – with most of your time spent either driving or outside of the Roadtrek. The Roadtrek becomes just a portable hotel room for the night. That’s good, we use our Roadtrek that way too, but it can be so much more than a portable hotel room.
I view our Roadtrek as a mobile vacation home. It can be that cottage in the woods, or a beach house or a mountain cabin. If this is how you use your Roadtrek, there is a need for more comfort – but not necessarily more space. The comfort comes from both how you use and how you configure your space. I think Roadtrek did some wonderful things with their designs to maximize comfort in a minimum amount of space. And by making minor additions and modifications you can have a very comfortable “home”.
It is important that you do things differently in your Roadtrek than you do at home - unless you live in a very tiny home.
Put It Away. Increasing comfort in a small space has to do with decreasing clutter. To make life in your Roadtrek better, each item you have needs to have a place to be “put away”. And put it away right after you use it. Don’t let stuff sit around. Stuff that is lying around is stuff you have to keep moving around. Or it fills up your limited space. Don’t do it. I tend to leave stuff out at home, but I’m learning not to do that in the Roadtrek
Avoid Moving Stuff. Things need one home not several. The exceptions should be as few as possible and should still have a moving vs camped spot. In our case the laundry hamper is one of these. It is the pop up variety so it is on the towel shelf until needed. Then it sits on the toilet when traveling, and it is moved into the passenger foot well when camped (and the seat is rotated). Many of our modifications have been to provide “put away” spots for items. Our laptops, cameras and all the various charger cords were a problem in our early Roadtrek days. Now they all have a home.
Get Rid of It. Another way to decrease clutter is to remove the stuff you aren’t using from the Roadtrek. All those nifty gadgets you bought at Camping World but have never been used can be left at home. Do you really need measuring cups or spoons? Those brochures and maps from the last trip? Toss them or leave them at home.
Use It All. It is amazing to us how many people miss out on the finer things in their Roadtrek. And I don’t just mean the people who have never used their toilet (let alone the shower). We run into many Roadtrek owners who leave their bed set up permanently. If you leave the bed set up you lost more than half of your living space! You lost the dining room, the living room, the game room, the TV room, and the large office – you sacrificed all of those for something only useful at night. Do you really want to give up those “rooms” to save yourself 5 minutes of time in the morning and evening to take down the bed? No wonder some people decide their camper vans are too small! Good small RV design involves multiple use of space and using borrowed space. You can only be in one space at a time. If there are two of you, you can be in two places. You change the spaces to be what you need at the time. Jac Hanemaayer played with a number of designs before settling on a 3 section floorplan for the Roadtrek. Those 3 sections had more than a single use. Single use spaces should be kept to a minimum and made small or designed to use borrowed space only when needed. The aisle bath is a wonderfully clever design – the footprint of the single use bathroom space is only about 18 inches x 18 inches and contains the toilet, shelf of towels and some toiletries. But when the bathroom is in existence it has counter space, a sink, a big changing room, a vent fan, a shower with more elbow room than most big RVs and two doors to make it private. It is in the perfect spot at night when both the rear master bedroom and the front guest bedroom are in use. Our dinette area is our favorite place in the Roadtrek. How could others miss out on that wonderful spot surrounded by 3 windows? For sleeping in the Popular try both the king and the twin configuration. You may be surprised at which you prefer.
Physical Comfort. There is a physical part of maximizing comfort as well. Knowing what window to open and how far to open it to get the best breeze is important. It took us awhile to realize that opening as many windows as possible only decreased the breeze. The Fantastic Fan is worth its weight in gold. Learning how to redirect the A/C air back into the sleeping area is important on a hot night. Depending on where your furnace is located (varies a lot over the years) you may need to learn how to redirect the heat as well. Reflectix is the wonder product for both hot and cold weather camping. But it needs a “put away” spot when not in use. Little things make a big difference. A standard pillow is not only a pain to store; it is so deep it effectively shortens your bed. Find a travel size pillow instead.
Housekeeping. Maybe you are a bit lax about this at home. Or you do it once a week. Don’t do it that way in a Roadtrek. Clean the stove and wash and put away the dishes right after dinner. Wipe out the microwave, get out the cleaner and clean the mirrors, sweep the floor with your little whisk broom – it only takes a couple of minutes. Don’t you wish you could do it that fast at home? A squirt of 409 and a paper towel wipe and the bathroom floor is clean. Not only will you be more comfortable in a neat and clean Roadtrek, you are prepared to show it off to anyone who asks you about it.
Simplify. Simplifying the basic tasks goes a long way toward maximizing comfort. How to set up and break camp, how to wash dishes, how to take a shower, how to prepare breakfast – these need to become routines. Dream up ways to make things easier. An example: We almost always have sandwiches for lunch. I found some stacking plastic containers we use for lunch meat and cheese that fit nicely under the fins on the second shelf. Now it only takes a quick opening of the fridge to grab the containers and condiments – no fishing around for individual packages and warming up the fridge. This is very important with sleeping; preparing the bed and putting it away should be quick and easy. If not, change things to make it that way.
The Away Room. I admired the book, The Not So Big House. The author emphasized the importance of sight distances to avoid things feeling small (I’ve seen a few Class Bs with extremely short sight distances and they really feel cramped). The illusion of more space is important in how a place feels. If you can see everything from one spot the space feels smaller than when there are (or could be) things around the corner. Changes in ceiling and floor level add to this. Our closet, bath, pantry, and clothes cabinet doors all have mirrors on them. It gives the impression of more space and increases the sight distances. The author also was a proponent of the Away Room – a room away from the hubbub of the rest of the house. Obviously a Roadtrek doesn’t have that, but if we set up front and rear tables, we can each have a nice work space and we are out of each other’s way – and depending on which seats we chose, may not even be visible to the other. It is the Roadtrek equivalent of the Away Room – something lacking in many bigger RVs.
No Fear. Don’t be afraid to modify your Roadtrek. But don’t jump into it immediately as a new owner. Use it awhile, travel in it, sleep in it, and spend a few rainy days stuck inside it. So many new owners immediately start “remodeling” their Roadtrek without actually using it first. We see so many of these up for sale again the next year. And revise what you need to pack for your travels after you have some experience. If the designer of your rig was talented (and actually traveled in the RV and made changes based on experience), you may discover that the original design was far more practical and delightful that you thought at first. You bought it for you to use. Make it what you need for your lifestyle – but you need some time and use to find out what that really is. And please don’t paint the inside until you have had it a few years and know you will keep it. The same is true for other non-reversible mods. Haven’t seen a painted interior that still looks good 2 years after painting (unless it was unused). The wear and tear on small spaces is really tough on paint.
Experiment. Some of the mods we have made just didn’t pan out. They turned out to be more trouble than they were worth, or we really didn’t use them as much as we thought we might. Sometimes a better idea comes along. Or perhaps our style of travel changed. Look at what others have done. Boating and RV stores, magazines, and websites can have some great ideas. Many of our modifications were first done by others on the Yahoo Roadtrek Group. Try our ideas if you think they will suit you. And come up with some better ones to share with others.