Continuing with the tiny trailer living series, today we’re going to talk about beds! (Non-teardrop people, you can scroll down to the bottom for a little update on what I’ve been up to the past week.)
In a standard RV, the bed isn’t usually something a new owner needs to think about, as just about all RVs come with a bed frame and mattress included. The mattress may not be the most comfortable, but it’s there. Some teardrop brands may come with a bed included, but many do not, leaving you to come up with your own solution.
The easiest solution, and the one I’ve chosen for the time being, is to simply buy a mattress for the bottom of the teardrop. Since traditional teardrops are too short to stand in you don’t need a bed frame to add height, and having a mattress without a frame gives you the most clearance inside.
It’s not uncommon for the inside of a teardrop to be a non-standard size, so just going out and buying any old mattress rarely works. Before anything else, take (or look up) measurements of your interior space. Couples will probably want a mattress that fills the entire interior of the teardrop. Singles may decide to have a smaller bed. I chose to have only half the interior of mine be a bed, so that the half facing the door is clear to be my changing room, a flat area where I can set up my Buddy heater, and more storage.
If you’re one of the many teardrop owners whose space will not fit a standard size mattress, never fear. The mattress industry is booming, and there are plenty of companies out there that make products for odd-sized spaces. In fact, there are so many that choosing the ‘best’ one can be a daunting task. My friends Kelly and Marshall of Camp Addict have a whole page dedicated to RV mattresses which you can view here. It’s also definitely worth perusing teardrop trailer owner’s groups and forums, and seeing what others who have the same type of teardrop as you do have done. Just be aware of the size of the mattress when rolled up, teardrop doors are smaller than standard doors, and you need to be able to get it inside!
Different people have different tastes, but below I’ll talk about my own thought process I went through when buying my mattress.
The interior of my Hiker Trailer is 74” long and 60” wide. The mattress I bought ended up being from Amazon by a company called Magshion. It measures 27” wide, 75” long, and 4” deep, and cost $80 at the time of purchase. I went with this one because ordering from Amazon is easy, other Hiker Trailer owners had good luck with the brand, and it had good ratings.
I specifically wanted a foam mattress because my interior space is not a perfect square. The front of my tiny trailer has a diagonal corner on the left side, and foam can be cut to fit (some of the companies reviewed in Camp Addict’s article actually let you order a custom mattress with the corners the exact shape you need them to be). Squishy foam also meant that even though the mattress was technically 1” longer than the interior space, it would fit. The fact that it’s snug means it doesn’t slide around much on travel days.
The most notable feature of this mattress is that it’s a trifold, which is a pretty common option chosen by teardroppers. You can fold the mattress up to double as a couch or chair during the day. Honestly, as a full-timer I rarely want to deal with the effort of making and taking apart the bed every day so I keep it as a bed all the time, but it’s nice to know I have that option if I ever need it. Plus, the trifold option does make it easier to pull it out of the teardrop for cleaning.
Reviews for this mattress pegged it as on the hard side, which was perfect to me because I enjoy harder mattresses. Those who want more comfort may desire something thicker than 4”, I decided on that depth for two reasons. First, because my mattress in the Casita was simply the 19 year-old, 4” cushions that came stock without any sort of topper – compared to that, any mattress was going to feel amazing. And second, because less height gives me more wiggle room if I decide I want to get a frame made at some point to put the mattress on top of… more about bed frames in a bit.
If you’re going the just-a-mattress route, there’s probably one more thing you’ll want. Having a mattress right up against the floor of a teardrop can be pretty cold sleeping, and the combination of your body heat on top of the mattress with cold air running under the floor, and humidity from breathing in an enclosed space causes condensation – especially when camping in wet climates. For the part-time teardropper that only sleeps in their rig a few days at a time this might not be an issue, but for full-timers or people taking a long trip in their teardrop, repeated condensation can lead to mold on the bottom of the mattress.
Pulling the bed apart on a regular basis to let the condensation evaporate is one solution (those people who make their trifold bed into a couch everyday are probably safe). The other is to prop the mattress up a bit from the floor and allow air to circulate under it (this air buffer also keeps your mattress warmer when it’s cold out).
You can get pieces of wood to use as slats under your mattress. But what I did is buy a 3/4” mat made of spun polymer that is bonded to a breathable fabric sheet. There’s a brand named version called Hypervent that is marketed to boat owners to put under their mattresses (boats have an even bigger problem with condensation than RVs do), but you can also sometimes find it in rolls at home improvement stores.
The benefits of this kind of product is you can’t feel the texture of it underneath the mattress, and it doesn’t weigh much. The cons are that it can be pricey to buy brand name (usually $10-$12 per foot), and that it comes in a 40” wide roll that you’ll probably have to cut to make the right size for your mattress. The stuff can be cut with regular scissors though if you have decent hand strength.
I recommend sizing the mat so that it’s a couple inches narrower than your mattress, as the cut edges are pretty rough and can give you scrapes. For my 27” by 74” bed, I got 4 feet, and I cut the roll in half, giving me two, 40” by 24” pieces that I laid end to end, then I cut 6” off one piece to fit in my 74” long space. There’s extra fabric on the end of the roll, so overlapping two pieces like this is quite easy. I didn’t even need tape.
Lastly, don’t put your bed up right against the wall. Leave an inch or two of space between the mattress and the wall of your teardrop so that air can get under there, otherwise the mat won’t do its job.
And finally, bed frames. When ordering a Hiker Trailer you have the option of having a bed frame put in right from the factory, other teardrop manufacturers may have that option too. If you’re a do-it-yourself type, you can also put one in yourself.
The main benefit of putting a bed frame in teardrops is to add storage underneath the bed. There is no right or wrong height, you just need to decide for yourself how much space you want underneath the bed vs. how much clearance you want above the bed. Not being a do-it-yourself person, I don’t have good advice on how to go about building a bed frame. But again, owners groups are a wealth of information, as is YouTube. There are a lot of creative ideas out there!
For a while, I considered having a bed frame put in my Hiker from the factory. In the end I decided against it because I wanted to be able to sit in bed and have a good viewing angle out my windows (I’m currently typing this while sitting cross-legged in bed), and because I didn’t need the extra storage space. Not having a bed frame bolted in place also means I can change the interior very easily if at some point down the road I decide I want a larger bed, etc.
As to what to put on top of your mattress for bedding, that’s entirely up to you. Some tiny trailer owners go the traditional route of sheets and blankets, although again you may need to order special sizes to fit an odd-sized mattress. If you don’t have a frame, the sheets will just puddle off the edges of the mattress, so you might not want them as large as you would on a house bed.
I prefer the ease of using a sleeping bag to avoid wrestling with a fitted sheet in a small space. My sleeping bag is a small and light mummy-style that I also take with me on backpacking trips. I own a few blankets that I throw on top of it depending on temperature. I’ve camped with lows in the 20’s and been comfortable without heat with this setup (in the 20’s you’ll want thermals on under your pajamas).
That concludes today’s topic. If any of you prospective tiny trailer owners have questions, ask below. And if any of you tiny trailer owners have bed ideas you’d like to share, also comment below.
Previous Teardrop Living articles:
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January has always been crazy busy for me with the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous event followed immediately by the Xscapers Annual Bash, but this week I can take a break from non-stop activities to catch up on work and sleep. Thanks everyone who came out to see me, and I hope those of you who attended my work-camping seminar at the RTR or my beginner’s poi workshop at the AB enjoyed them. I probably won’t be doing a full write-up on those events this year as I have talked about them extensively in past years, plus I have so much other stuff to talk about with Costa Rica now less than three weeks away (eeep!).
In other news, this week marks my four month anniversary of living in the Hiker Trailer! I have no regrets about switching and am enjoying Tribble immensely. I love the simplicity, travel days are a breeze, and the space is so cozy. No it’s not perfect, no rig is perfect, but I’m enjoying the challenges and looking forward to many more adventures in my tiny trailer.
Thank you Patreon supporters and PayPal donators!