David’s got some tendonitis / sciatica issues that makes a comfortable mattress #1 on our camper build priority list, so we spent quite a bit of time on this. The current plan is to use this 8″ foam and spring RV mattress, but design our build so that it can accommodate a nice, 13″ thick full size mattress if we decided we need it. Read on for all the options we considered:
Inflatable Mattresses for Camper Conversions
We’ll be taking our big agnes air mattresses for backpacking (David’s slept on his “a couple hundred nights” and loves it), but we’ve always wanted a full-time bed in our Camper Conversion. We considered taking this inflatable queen mattress we have for guests at home, it’s fine for a few nights, but it wasn’t going to be fun on a 6+ month adventure.
RV Mattresses for Camper Conversions
RV Mattresses can be full foam, full spring, or a mix of the two. Some foam mattresses have built in “folds” to make stowing them during the day easier (see picture). A lot of folks (including us) end up here, they’re pretty comfortable and being low profile / light weight allows for more headroom and easy-access under-bed storage.
Futon’s are a good choice because they can fold out of the way during the day, are relatively comfortable, and are sized such that they’ll fit “East-West” (Left-Right) in many Camper Conversions. We’ve seen several camper conversions where folks have just thrown a futon + futon frame in the back of a van – good to go. (If you go that route we’d recommend at least strapping it down while driving.)
Normal Mattresses for Camper Conversions
When comfort (or availability) is the priority, you can always just use a normal mattress. This is going to be your most comfortable option, you probably already have one, but there are a couple reasons we opted for an RV Mattress instead.
- Normal Sized Mattresses May Not Fit in your Camper Conversion
- A queen bed won’t fit “East-West” (Left-Right) in most vehicles and “North-south” (Front-Back) can use a prohibitive amount of space. See our post on layout planning for tips on figuring out what will work for you.
- Most residential mattresses are 10-12″ thick, more with a pillow top. That’s 4+ inches of headroom you’re loosing over an RV mattress.
- Heavy Foam Mattresses get stiff when cold
- When we had our heavy tempurpedic mattress delivered from a cold warehouse in January it was hard as a rock. Even worse, it took several hours at room temperature to be usable and even then it wasn’t quite right until morning.
- Heavy Foam/Spring Mattresses are heavy and unfoldable
- If you’re doing any sort of underbed storage you’ll have a hard time getting the mattress out of the way. We tried to design something with garage door rails to move a queen out of the way in a sprinter, but it was just too crazy. Bed drawers are an (expensive) option if you can’t lift up your mattress.
- Normal Mattresses can harbor Mold and Mildew
- People breathing and sweating all night in a confined space is a recipe for moisture, even if you’re good about keeping things ventilated and not putting extra moisture into the air with a propane heater. This can be a problem for a dense residential mattress, especially if it’s sitting on an impermeable surface like wood or metal. There are some products out there designed to help with this, but it’s likely going to be a struggle.