RV Features to Make Your Rig Comfy and Warm

The Guidry's customized 1972 Airstream.
Laura and Marc’s customized 1972 Airstream is full of homey features that make it more comfortable. Laura Guidry photos.

Essential Design Elements to Improve your RV Renovation

By Laura Guidry

A pocket door reveals the rear bathroom.
A pocket door reveals the rear bathroom.

While the world navigates a new normal in COVID-19 days, travelers are looking for alternative ways to adventure but also stay safe.

RV Travel 2020

While some full-timer RVers worked to get off the road at the start of the pandemic, people are now looking at RV travel as an option to get that travel fix but also continuing their social distancing.

Fulltime RVers

I live and travel full time in a 1972 Airstream with my husband and three cats. We did a full gut renovation, meaning we stripped the Airstream down to its shell and built it back out.

We always knew living in 188 square feet would be tight. To balance that, we made decisions to account for more storage, small luxuries, and how we would coexist with three animals.

Maybe this won’t be the year you hit the road but maybe it’s the year you can start on your RV renovation, bus conversions or van flip to make a rig that truly fits you.

Upgraded finishes

It may sound counter-intuitive, but the quickest way to get tired of an RV is to feel like you are camping full time. Roughing it in a tent might be nice occasionally but creature comforts make a difference when you are living full time in an RV.

A before renovation look at the 1972 Airstream.
A before renovation look at the 1972 Airstream.

For us, that meant using finishes you usually see in a house. We used real wood and tile, but you can also default to faux options if you are concerned with adding weight to your rig.

Adhesive tile and faux marble add a look of luxury for a fraction of the cost.

Little bits of polished brass, small pieces of marble, and spending a little extra on fixtures has made our home cozier and stylish.

Expand your bathroom

Traditional RVs have small showers and small water heaters. It’s just a fact. And while a quick rinse isn’t the end of the world, there may be times you’d like more than five minutes of hot water. I can almost guarantee that. We opted for a tankless water heater to allow for that endless stream of hot water.

If you are considering more involved renovation, think about the importance of a comfortable shower is to you.

Raised bed allows for more storage options
A raised bed allows for more storage options

It was important for us so while we could have simply used an RV shower pan, we made a custom shower pan to enlarge the shower.

Our bath is a wet bath sculpted from fiberglass which has not only made showering not feel cramped, it makes for easy cleaning.

Maximize your storage

Marie Kondo didn’t ask you to throw everything away and neither will I. Just because you’re in an RV doesn’t mean your storage has to be small. We raised our bed to account for more drawers.

Access to our closet is at the bed. This expands the amount of hanging space for clothes. Consider deviating from the original design of your RV. Airstreams don’t typically have closets next to the front sofa. We wanted more storage options, so we built one.

Temperature Control

Hallway view from bathroom.
Hallway view from the bathroom.

You might not need it in the summer, but sooner or later you are bound to encounter cold temperatures. Some people have installed tiny wood stoves. We might go that direction one day but for now, we’ve got a propane heater and heated floors.

Heated floors could be cost-prohibitive in a house but when you consider how many square feet in your rig are actually spaces you walk on, heated floors suddenly seem affordable.

Creative Solutions for Pets

Our design considered our lifestyle and we have three cats. That meant a litter box. We wanted to minimize the ick factor so we built a custom litter box into our cabinetry.

In order to access the box, the cats pass through a cat door. The only way to clean the litter box is through an external panel outside. We’ve never had to walk past the bed carrying a dirty litter box and that feels like a win.

For dog owners, built-in crates into the cabinetry could be a solution. And whether you have cats or dogs, a designated space for the food and water bowls will save you tripping over them in a small space.

Be boondock ready

The raised bed provides under the bed storage in the Airstream.
The raised bed provides under the bed storage in the Airstream.

If you want true freedom on the road, one thing you should work towards is making your rig as off-grid ready as you can. Boondocking is dry camping.

You are camping without the typical RV hookups – sewer, water, and electricity. This is the secret to affordable travel. Your travel expenses will plummet when you eliminate the need to pay for a campground spot every night.

Solar panels and composting toilets help immensely with that effort. You don’t need thousands of dollars of solar panels or the fanciest composting toilet.

Consider how much electricity you actually need and how you are willing to compromise if you need to make a smaller system work.

You’ll be able to change your plumbing over to just a gray-water tank, reducing water use. These features extend the time you can spend off-grid and maximize the adventure we are all looking for.

Plan for future improvements

There will always be a project on your RV Just like a house. Thinking ahead is important. We have hookups for a washer/dryer combo that we might add later. Our sofa can be transformed into a bed in case we have additional travelers with us for weekend trips one day.

A custom wet bath breaks the mold of a typical cramped RV shower.
A custom wet bath breaks the mold of a typical cramped RV shower.

If you plan to live in your rig full time, realize that your life might change and you may need to adapt your design. That’s what keeps making your home yours.

A full gut renovation might not be something you want to tackle but by prioritizing storage, off-grid solutions, and tiny accents that make your rig feel more like a home, you are well on your way to a comfortable home on wheels.

laura guidryLaura Guidry is a writer who previously worked in social services and now travels the US in her self-renovated airstream. You can read her work on her website or find her on Instagram

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