We’ve said it before, we’re not afraid to alter our RV, an Airstream travel trailer. We bought it expressly for full timing and expected to modify it. The size is great, the look is great, no complaints on either of those accounts. But we believe we can improve various features to better suit us.
As you may know, if you’ve read our website or read along with us for any time, we’ve made a lot of changes. Not all our changes have been big things, and most of them have been inexpensive. We think they have all made our rolling home better for us. You can see the lists here so we’ll only list the top contenders.
Our favorite home improvements? It’s not a fancy list by any means. These might not suit you at all but they are our favorites. Many of them were recommended to us by others. There are more than twenty-something changes we’ve made to the interior or exterior of our space ship. In no particular order, here are the best 10 because we can’t pick just one.
1. roof vent cover, MaxxAir FAN MATE – MODEL 900®. This allows us to leave our roof vent fan open irrespective of the weather. The Fantastic Fan rain sensor automatic mode would open and close repeatedly only after we had fallen asleep. We (Jim, really) had twice left a roof vent fan open, with automatic closing overridden.
Twice we returned from errands and found rain water on our bed. One of these times the bed was so wet we slept on the sofa until the bed could dry overnight. The Fan Mate 900® allows the vent to stay open even when the rain is pouring down. We only close the vent when it is very cold and if we don’t need venting for gas burning appliances.
2. cutlery drawer and knife drawer, hand crafted by Jim. Our RV’s maker failed to take advantage of a space beside the sink under the kitchen counter. Jim divided the false panel in front of the sink, added drawer pulls, installed drawer glides and a drawer box. This drawer is much handier than the lower three drawers hidden by the cabinet door.
Also Jim added a slide-out knife rack on a board supported by breadboard slides. Our knives don’t bang around, stay sharper, always present handle-first, and are out of the way but easy to access. This fits behind the cabinet door below the new drawer and above the factory’s three drawers.
3. shower head, Oxygenics BodySpa®. This shower head makes a vigorous water spray without much water pressure, and has adjustable flow. It is a vast improvement over the original hand-held shower head provided in the RV. Also it is very easy to grasp by the web designed into the handle.
4. solar panels Sharp 125w, and 6v batteries Interstate 2200. This was one of our first customizations, and the one we use the most. It is at work anytime the sun is out. We especially get great use from it when we are dry camping, providing our power needs. And it’s so darned quiet!
5. catalytic heater, Olympian Wave 6®, propane. We stay warm in cold weather without using any battery power. We tried this heater on the floor with Olympian’s accessory stand. The stand’s feet were in the way on our meager floor space. We designed a hinged mount on the cabinet wall between the kitchen and our entrance door. The heater can radiate toward the sofa, the dinette, or the kitchen and bedroom area. Sort of like our own little fireplace – cozy!
6. mattress, 10″ solid latex foam, custom cut (2 round corners). Our factory-installed mattress was almost worthless, and died at a surprisingly young age. We traced the shape of the two radiused corners for our local mattress maker. He, in almost four weeks, provided us a heavy but excellent mattress for our rolling home.
7. Intellipower® charger/converter, 9260 Progressive Dynamics. Airstream had already replaced our Parallax charger converter, a single-stage model. Matt and Beth told me which model to buy. Installation was greatly aided by some of the examples from Best Converter website. Best part has been knowing the batteries are being precisely babied by our new charger.
8. streetside and rear awnings, ZipDee®, from Airstream Service. The Airstream looks really cool with awnings out on four sides. Our refrigerator appreciates the shade from the streetside awning, helps cool the fridge on sunny days. Rear awning is less useful but helps block bright streetlights or moonlight when we’re sleeping. And we appreciate the ability to open streetside windows whether or not it’s raining.
9. oceanAir® shades, all seven windows, from Airstream Parts. Another early improvement, necessitated by the crummy RV shades provided by the manufacturer. Original vinyl roller shades worked okay, just looked poor. These aluminum cassette hatch shades look very sharp open or closed. Airstream realized how good they look too — they later made these standard equipment on some models.
10. washroom door lock, Omni MR-02-102-24 from Perlane Sales. This is one of the handiest improvements we’ve made. Formerly we constantly were hooking a pocket or belt loop on the door lever as we exited the washroom. No longer! This flush latchset is a dream. Easy to install (but you must cut approx 2″ X 3″ chunk out of your door), looks great and works beautifully. This is another one Airstream has made standard equipment on some models. Very nice change, this replacement door latchset.
It has been fun to think back on all the changes and consider which have been the best for us. Truthfully, we enjoy every last one of them. You can pick your favorite one. We haven’t been able to pick just one.
Some of our improvements didn’t make the cut for “top ten”. We would do every one of them again, they have all worked out as well or better than we expected.
> ham radio station, 12vdc distribution, antenna switch, dual band antenna, and Lift-n-Lay HF antenna system
> slate tile in oven to provide more even baking temperatures
> LED lighting for porch, wardrobes, washroom
> matching drawer pulls for utility spaces casework doors
> bolster cushions on dinette benches for leaning against walls
> headboard pad 3/4″ X 12″ X 60″ keeps heads and hands from cool wall
> ottoman footstool provides another seat and storage in living room
> relocate smoke detector from living room to bedroom – looks better, further from kitchen, and is where we sleep
> re-wire the washroom light to power from unswitched fan circuit, from the vanity light switch circuit — don’t have to turn on vanity lights for midnight visits
> Bose Almost Invisible Speakers and Subwoofer
> Conversion of some interior lights from 10w to 5w to save energy
> Hunter furnace thermostat, electronic with LCD display
> replaced Fantastic fan screens with new snap-in screens
> Quick-bite 7700 coupler for greatly easing hitching/unhitching
> Aluminum 30# propane cylinders — they just don’t rust!
> 3-pole flagpole bracket
> Additional storage tube under body, for flags
> 12v accessory outlet just inside curbside storage compartment door
> robe hook in washroom on door, matches original fixtures exactly
> Enkay rock tamers on hitch drawbar — they only ride when we’re towing
> Equalizer 4-Way stabilizer and weight-distributing hitch system
> Prodigy brake controller — set it and you can almost forget it
We think this about sums up the changes we’ve made. If you want more information about any of these just let us know and we’ll do what we can to help you. Happy Trails!