Over the years of travelling using Recreational Vehicles (RVs), I’ve often longed for an “ultimate” RV, although I don’t really know exactly what’s an “ultimate” RV would really be like. I’ve tried numerous type of RVs, travel trailers with their cumbersome hitch and towing requirements, Class A RVs with their luxurious and comfortable ride but unless you tow along a small car, you really can’t explore all those exciting places. I’ve tried Class C and Class B RVs as well. These RVs are more nimble but don’t really provide sufficient comfort for the long term stays. As it turned out, the “ultimate” RV is a matter of personal choices. For us, when our family was much younger, we started out with tent camping and gradually graduated to Class C and Class A RVs. As I’ve have mentioned in the previous post, in the near future, when our travel consisting of staying longer in some places and driving less in between them, a travel trailer and an “ultimate” tow vehicle combo may be the answer (more on the “ultimate” tow vehicle in the much, much later post!).
Now that our decision to settle on the travel trailer/tow vehicle combo is settled, our fruitless search for our “ultimate” travel trailer was exhaustive. The list of negatives was endless: too big, too small, too heavy, low quality build, bad floor plan, too claustrophobic, etc.. just to name a few. After looking at too many travel trailers, we could not come to a mutual agreement on any of them. As it turned out, that was the perfect excuse for me to launch this project. As an engineer, it would be more fun to design and build the RV itself than actually owing or using it.
Looking at our notes, we were wondering what exactly were we looking for and why didn’t we find it? We were looking for something that would provide the comfort of a Class A RV but as nimble as a Class B RV while we travel. So the design has to be extremely compact. At the destinations, we wanted to be able to explore and stay at the primitive camping places, yet after a long day of hiking and exploring, we wanted to settle in with a comfortable home-like environment. So, our short list of the 30,000-feet level requirements are:
- Extremely compact design for travelling
- Home-like environment (e.g. Tiny Home style) when we are at our desired destinations
- Low maintenance requirements since we are not getting younger. We’d like to spend more time enjoying life than fixing things
In my previous post, I’ve presented a possible solution for design compactness. However, RVs with dual full-wall slide-outs are not new. In fact, full-wall slide-out with a bath room has a big engineering challenge: Preventing Black water leakage. This is not a trivial issue and needed a practical solution which we will explore in a later post. Right now, I’d like to dedicate this post to what I’d consider to be one of the most important design aspects of the RV: The Floor Plan.
The Floor Plan
As I’ve mentioned previously, full-wall slide-outs are not new and they provide a beautiful solution for design compactness. You can literally double the floor space of your RV with a push of a button. However, how do you take the advantage of this capability to provide a home-like environment design? Our search for small floor plans has taken us to the latest crave: The Tiny Home movement. What peoples have been able to do with the smallest of spaces was simply amazing. However, most Tiny Homes are not very mobile due to their size and weight. Here again, if we can apply the creativity of the Tiny Homes designs to the RV design, we may have something very desirable.
Traditional full-wall slide-out RV designs are typically slide-outs that are protruding out of a main RV body:
The major drawback of this arrangement is when the slide-outs are retracted, there is just no room to maneuver. What if you need a quick nap or a quick use of your toilet at a rest area during your travel? Do you really want to go through the trouble of extending the slide-out to use it? So here what I’ve come up is a patented solution where the most important facilities, i.e. the bed and the bathroom area, are wholly preserved when the slide-outs are fully retracted.
So here are the “rooms” for each side of the travel trailer/Tiny Home with their side walls removed.
Consisting of a kitchen and living area. The sofa is a foldable type so it will be folded away when the curbside slide-out is retracted.
As you can see, when the slide-outs are fully retracted, you will lose the use of the living room and the kitchen but you will retain full use of the bedroom and the bathroom. At the first glance, it looks like I had the rooms in the wrong side of the street. However, this was done deliberately so that the waste water tanks drain ports match with the typical RV pad layout in North American RV Resorts and camp grounds.
Since the overall size of the RV is deliberately designed to be small and efficient, the bedroom and the living room are each equipped with a huge double-pane window each almost as large as the room itself. This was done deliberately to eliminate the claustrophobic feeling of the small enclosed space. However, because they are so large, heating and cooling became a problem, hence, the double-pane, dressed with day and night shade design. They did cost a few pretty pennies but I felt the design cost was justifiable.
Before I end this post, I’d like to ask if you would leave your thoughts on the most important design aspects of an RV:
- Floor plan?
- Slide-out or no slide-out?
- AC vs. DC?
So what are the most important RV design features to you?