This is a pretty big bummer because so many RVers are initially drawn to the RV way of life out of a desire for comfort. These are outdoorsy, adventurous, nature-loving travelers who, due to personal preferences or medical needs, have opted for the comfort of an RV over tent-camping. But upon buying a camper, they quickly find that sleeping on the ground in a tent would be more comfortable than enduring another night on their new RV’s mattress.
So, what’s the deal?
Why Are RV Mattresses So Uncomfortable?
Short answer: money.
Surprise, surprise, right?
Like so many of the design decisions made by RV manufacturers, most travel trailers and motorhomes are sold new with a sub-par mattress as a way to save money. RV manufacturers are aware that a bad mattress is unlikely to deter a potential buyer from sealing the deal.
People in the market for a new RV have countless variables to consider while they search for their new rig. Plumbing, electrical, mechanical issues, appliances, square footage, insulation, accident history, waste tanks- these are just a few of the many things RVers must consider while buying. More often than not, the quality of the mattress ranks very low on the list of deal-breakers, and RV manufacturers know this.
So, instead of installing quality mattresses that an RVer can enjoy for years, manufacturers opt for flimsy, fabric covered sheets of foam and call it a day.
Unfortunately, this practice is so embedded in the industry that veteran RVers don’t even consider mattress quality while RV shopping anymore. They (correctly) assume they will want to replace the mattress after purchasing a new rig and budget accordingly. This simply reinforces to manufacturers that they are in no way responsible for providing a comfortable mattress and the trend continues.
Is a Comfortable Mattress Important?
A comfortable mattress is only important if you want to actually enjoy sleeping while camping in your RV… and I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume that most of you do.
A poor night’s sleep can lead to stress, irritability, and poor emotional control. Not exactly what most people are looking for from a night sleeping in their camper, especially considering that many people camp to escape the strain and stresses of everyday life.
If you only use your RV a couple of times a year and don’t mind a slightly uncomfortable mattress, then maybe it’s not a big deal to you. But with increased use comes increased importance of having a comfy spot to lay your head. Frequent campers and full-time RVers should prioritize a comfortable mattress to promote their own healthy sleep patterns.
A healthy camper is a happy camper!
How to Make a Camper Bed More Comfortable
If your RV mattress isn’t winning any comfort awards, give some of these tips a try.
Use a Mattress Toppers
I’m going to go ahead and start with the simplest and most common method used by RVers to make an RV bed more comfortable. Mattress toppers are best used on mattresses that are either too thin or too hard. They are typically 2-3″ thick and most often made of foam.
When an RV mattress is too thin, the weight of a person laying on it can cause it to compress all the way down to the surface supporting it. Usually in RVs this support surface is hard plywood. In situations such as these, the sleeper ends up feeling as though they’re sleeping directly on plywood with no mattress in between.
Enter the mattress topper.
Adding an extra two or three inches to a thin mattress’s overall thickness can make a world of difference. It will lift the sleeping person up and keep their body’s pressure points from resting on any hard surface underneath. Similarly, a soft topper can add enough cushion to diminish discomfort caused by an overly hard mattress.
RV mattress toppers come in three common forms, eggshell foam, memory foam, and featherbed. In the past decade or so memory foam has skyrocketed in popularity and there are an abundance of companies offering various sizes and thicknesses of memory foam mattress toppers.
Fix the Frame
While unlikely, there is always a chance that an uncomfortable RV mattress is being caused by a broken or misaligned bed frame. I’m sure you are probably thinking that you would notice if your bed platform was broken, but when a mattress is fully covering a faulty section, it can take a while for that problem to be found.
If you suspect that your bed frame might be the cause of an uncomfortable RV mattress, you’ll want to remove the mattress and give the frame and platform a thorough inspection. With the mattress off, hop up onto the platform and crawl around, watching for exaggerated flex or broken components.
If you do find a broken section of your platform, it is likely the cause of your discomfort. A saggy platform will not be able to sufficiently support your spine, which in turn leads to back pain and poor sleep.
Upgrade Your Pillows
Pillows are not talked about enough when it comes to good sleep. The quality of a pillow can absolutely make or break a sleeping experience.
Have you considered that your uncomfortable RV bed might be due to bad pillows, not a bad mattress?
Or even if your RV pillows aren’t “bad” per se, they might not be right for you! Similar to mattresses, most people have specific preferences when it comes to pillows. Some like them soft, some hard. Others like a big fluffy pillow while some prefer a flat, low-profile pillow.
A pillow upgrade could be just what you need to elevate your RV bed from “bearable” to “unbelievable”. I highly suggest that people check out if a memory foam pillow is right for them. Memory foam pillows offer a uniquely soft/stiff pillow experience that is just right for some people.
Change Your Sheets
Just like pillows, sheets can play a big role in the quality of sleep a bed can provide. However, whereas the differences in pillows mostly have to do with shape, size, and density, the primary difference in sheets is the material they are made of.
Cotton, silk, linen, and synthetic fabrics are just a few of the material types commonly used for bed sheet production. Each one of these fabrics has a unique sleep-feel and will result in a different night’s sleep.
Do you run hot while sleeping? If you do, cotton and linen sheets will serve you best. The natural fibers in these sheets are breathable and will keep you cool through the night. Cotton and linen sheets with a thread count in the 200-300 range is best for staying cool.
If you have the opposite problem and can never seem to stay warm at night, make your RV bed up with a nice flannel sheet. Flannel sheets are known for keeping people toasty on cold winter nights. Cotton flannel sheets are the warmest but also the most expensive option when buying flannel sheets. For a more budget-friendly flannel sheet, look into synthetic micro-flannel.
Add a Padded Headboard
Most RVs do not feature any form of headboard on the bed. More often than not, the bed is simply nestled in between the two walls of the bedroom and the RV owner can choose which end of the bed is considered the “head”.
A padded headboard is an easy way to make your RV bed more comfortable for lounging in. Having at least one wall of your bed area cushioned allows you to sit up and lean back in bed without the need for multiple pillows. This is ideal if you end up needing to take refuge in the RV all day due to a rainstorm or an illness and want to sit upright while reading or watching a movie.
A homemade padded headboard can be easily made with materials from a home improvement store. All you need is some 1/4″ particle board, 2″ thick foam, fabric of choice, some glue and a staple gun. After cutting the particle board and foam to the (same) desired dimension, glue the foam to the board. Once the glue has cured, cover the foam with your fabric, wrapping it around to the other side of the particle board where it will be stapled in place.
Check out this instructional video by the YouTube channel White Cottage Farm if you want to see how to make your own padded headboard. They made their headboard with a few extra features, but the process is more or less the same as I described above.
Replace Your RV Mattress
This suggestion has been placed on the bottom of the list because it is the most expensive and least preferable option. Please try any or all of the above tips to save money and keep waste out of our landfills.
With that said, sometimes all the help in the world can’t fix a crappy mattress. In cases such as these, a new mattress is the way to go. Many companies offer RV mattresses for sale in a wide range of qualities and prices.
But buying a new mattress is a big deal and shouldn’t be handled flippantly! As humans, we spend an average of 1/3 of each day in bed, asleep. Any surface we spend that much time on needs to be quality and tailored to each individual’s specific needs. Keep the following factors in mind while shopping for a new mattress:
- Thickness – Mattresses intended for use by an adult should be no thinner than 6″. Children and small-bodied folk can get away with thinner mattresses in the 4-5″ range because their bodies are more lightweight than an average adult. The ideal thickness range for an adult mattress is 8-10″.
- Breathability – Some mattresses sleep “hotter” than others. This essentially means that the material the mattress is made of retains heat and keeps the sleeper warm. Memory foam mattresses are notorious for “sleeping hot”. Foam mattresses typically sleep hot while coil spring mattresses are a cooler sleep.
- Layers – Foam mattresses are made of multiple layers of foam, with each layer having a different density and purpose. Custom-made foam mattresses can be constructed to support a person’s unique needs. If you have an above average BMI or wide hips and shoulders, a custom-made foam mattress might be a solution to your sleep issues.
Frequently Asked Questions
Check out some questions from our readers.
Why are foam mattresses so expensive?
Mattress foam is expensive due to high production costs and the quality of the materials used to manufacture it. Check online stores to find the best deals on a foam mattress or memory foam topper.
Can I just put a new mattress on top of my old one?
Yes, you absolutely can, and more than a few folks have reported doing this as a way to make their RV bed more comfortable. The only potential hang-up in this plan is if you have camper slide-outs that would interfere with an extra tall mattress.
Well, I hope one of these tips helps you sort out your uncomfortable bed issues. A bad bed is a bad time, trust me, I know. In my years traveling and adventuring around the USA (and the world), I have slept on more than my fair share of bad beds. I can attest that it’s never fun to have to sleep in an uncomfortable bed, especially when you are on a camping trip that is supposed to be relaxing.
So good luck sorting it out! I’m sure with a bit of dogged determination and maybe a bit of elbow grease, you’ll find a way to fix up that old bed of yours.