A couple sits in bed in their RV master bedroom

RV Master Bedroom Claustrophobia

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Is Your RV Master Bedroom Too Small?

On my recent trip to the 2021 Tampa Summer RV Show, my wife and I spent a lot of time in mid-length (25-35 feet) travel trailers. While we enjoyed what the various RV manufacturers were doing in the living rooms, walking around the RV master bedroom was challenging. My wife asked me, “how do they expect real people to maneuver around the bed?”. 

We kept hearing the same issue come up from other people. One couple was trying to figure out their morning routine for the person who slept on the far side of the bed. Another couple was concerned about how each parent could get to the kids without disturbing the other at night getting through the narrow walkway. A third couple had serious concerns about getting out quickly in disaster situations.

There is a reason why RV manufacturers make the RV master bedroom so claustrophobic. I’ll explain why RV designers do this and what the trade-offs are. If you do need more space in the master, there are many alternatives out there. Don’t assume it’s only in bigger coaches; there are travel trailers in the mid-length and smaller that offer more walkway space around the master bed that you haven’t seen or considered.

Why Are RV Master Bedrooms so Small?

Grab a piece of paper and a pen. Draw a big rectangle. Within the rectangle, follow these instructions:

  1. There must be 3 different sections, but they don’t need borders, but the central space needs to be the biggest.
  1. The top section must fit a 4-inch by 4-inch square and cannot touch the border of the middle section. You can add a border if you choose.
  1. The bottom section must have a 2-inch by 3-inch rectangle, a 2-inch by 2-inch square, and a 1-inch by 3-inch rectangle against one of the outer borders.
  1. The central section needs two 2-inch by 3-inch rectangle against one of the outer borders.
  1. Somewhere, you need to add a 4-inch by 4-inch square against one of the side borders.

Congratulations, you’ve now completed RV design 101. For this exercise, the top section was the master bedroom. The square was the bed, and you had to leave enough room for a walkway. The bottom section required a dinette rectangle, refrigerator, and countertop. The center section asked for an entertainment center and sofa. Finally, the 4×4 square was an all-in-one bathroom.

Design Challenges

RV engineers and designers have the added pressure of containing those and other features within a specific size interior space (rectangle). There are minimum size requirements, weight limits, and budget that they can’t exceed. So when you see a new floorplan come out by one RV manufacturer, you’ll see it copied by virtually every competitor.  When RV designers create floorplans, they assume the average male weighs 191 pounds, and the average female is 159 pounds for standardization purposes. When mathematically averaged out, for calculation purposes, the average person is 175 pounds.

We respect the idea that we now live in a non-binary world, so please understand that these weights are purely for calculation purposes when RV engineers and designers create new models and floorplans. The basic premise during the design process is, every square inch counts. The RV company’s perspective is that RVers will spend most of the day either outside or in the living room and kitchen space. The target audience for mid-length travel trailers is part-time RVers. Generally, part-timers and weekenders use the master bedroom and bunks for sleeping only. If they use the bedroom spaces during the day, they’re lying in bed. Bunkhouse travel trailers of this size have bunk beds, not full bunkhouses. 

Master bedroom walkway space gets sacrificed by inches, so the main living space has extra room. RV manufacturer customer reviews and surveys tell the companies that users prefer more space in the main living section than the master bedroom. To turn the phrase, it then becomes “how low can you go” with the walkway space in the bedroom before it’s a problem. To counterbalance the tight space, designers add windows, narrow the overhead cabinetry, and make the room feel as open as possible when laying on the bed. They balance storage capacity with that relaxed open feel, so users have the best of both worlds. 

In situations where you have to get out of the bedroom quickly, RV manufacturers add secondary emergency doors, emergency exit windows, dual entries from the living room, and other compensations. If you want to avoid master bedroom claustrophobia or have peace of mind that you can escape quickly, here are some great RVs that open up the master bedroom.

RV Master Bedroom Options

Coachmen Apex Nano 208BHS: Travel Trailers With Murphy Beds

  • Length: 25 feet
  • Dry Weight: 3,948 pounds
  • GVWR: 6,000 pounds
  • Master Bed: Residential Queen Sized Murphy 60” x 80”

In 1911, William Lawrence Murphy invented his folding bed to entertain women in his studio apartment without breaking social norms of the time (it was rude to bring a lady in your bedroom). The application of the murphy bed in travel trailers is one of the best ways to utilize small interiors. By day, the Coachmen Apex Nano 208BHS has a jackknife sofa that seats three. At night, you fold down the backrest and hinge down the residential queen-size mattress on top of it. A black privacy curtain drapes around the sofa’s seats, but you can always leave it folded up on the sidewall for the best open feel possible. 

Even though murphy beds fold up against the wall, RV manufacturers allow enough room for upgraded RV mattresses. 10-12 inch thick mattresses will fit nicely into the bed cavity. You may have to squeeze the mattress while someone else locks the frame in place with a 14-inch bed. If you have a spring mattress or memory foam, the long compression period could wear out the support materials prematurely.

Forest River Grey Wolf 24JS: Non-Slideout and a Privacy Curtain

  • Length: 27.3 feet
  • Dry Weight: 4,443 pounds
  • GVWR: 7,470 pounds
  • Master Bed: Short Queen 60” x 75”

In the early Neo-Classic Era (1990-2007), due to the introduction of slideouts, people had a hard time selling their used RVs if the coach didn’t have a living room slide. Today, non-slideout travel trailers appeal to those that want full features but less weight. People are often surprised at how roomy the non-slideout floorplans feel.

The Forest River Grey Wolf 24JS uses a curtain between the full-sized sofa and short queen bed as a privacy separator. The sides and front walkway around the bed are big enough where you won’t have to sidestep to your side of the bed. The overhead cabinets and side wardrobes are recessed enough, so you don’t feel contained. The 24JS is a travel trailer with a large bathroom in the rear that’s full width. The RV outdoor kitchen and companion TV mount make your RV tailgating as incredible as the game. If you plan on purchasing an EV truck in the next few years, you’ll want something like the new Ford F-150 Lightning that pulls around 10,000 pounds for an easy towing experience.  

Grand Design Imagine XLS 22MLE: An Open Space Slideout

  • Length: 26.1 feet
  • Dry Weight: 5,176 pounds
  • GVWR: 6,995 pounds
  • Master Bed: Residential Queen 60” x 80”

Couple coaches in the mid-length travel trailer subcategory can feel weird when they break the fourth wall tradition. There is a privacy curtain, but when it’s just you and your significant other, the two of you have the run of the RV. As long as you have your window day shades pulled down, no one will see you. You’re on vacation; it’s okay to be in your pajamas at 11 a.m. For those of you that have a partner that does the easy chair doze off on the theatre seats, guiding them to bed in their zombie-like state is a lot simpler than at home. The Grand Design Imagine XLS 22MLE gives you that “wall-free” feel since there isn’t anything obstructing the front of the residential queen bed. 

The open space continues down the wide center aisle due to the near full-length slideout. The rear kitchen’s vast countertop gives two people enough room to work. There’s even a counter space between the stove and refrigerator on the slideout. Of course, everyone loves Grand Design’s showers. The company is known for the largest showers in the industry. When equipped with the 55TFSI supercharged V6, an Audi Q7 will add even more style to your Grey Wolf.

Highland Ridge Mesa Ridge S-Lite 261BH: Dual Entry Master Bedrooms

  • Length: 30.10 feet
  • Dry Weight: 5,855 pounds
  • GVWR: 7,500 pounds
  • Master Bed: Residential Queen 60” x 80”

At first glance, it’s not immediately apparent what the differences are looking at the Mesa Ridge, Open Range, Range Lite, and Silverstar series in Highland Ridge’s travel trailers. However, when you do a deep dive into them, that’s when you’ll see the individual characteristics. The company uses identical floorplans in every series, but they tweak each one to the unique features of the specific series. For example, the Mesa Ridge uses warm wood tones and is generally more family-friendly than its siblings. 

In the 261BH floorplan, the wall in front of the master bedroom doesn’t leave much space to walk through. However, the privacy barn doors on both sides allow access to both sides of the queen bed. In addition, the interior design team uses contrasting color schemes to make the master bedroom seem more prominent so that you won’t feel boxed-in at night. 

Highland Ridge has a select number of pet-friendly floorplans ideal for your four-legged fur-babies if you’re a pet lover. The Mesa Ridge S-Lite 261BH is a member of this exclusive list since it only uses residential vinyl flooring and keeps the heat registers off the floor. These and other features make cleaning up simple and prevent your pet’s claws from getting caught in the vents.

Coleman Lantern 285BH: RVs With Secondary Entry Doors

  • Length: 32.9 feet
  • Dry Weight: 6,611 pounds
  • GVWR: 8,800 pounds
  • Master Bed: Short Queen 60” x 75”

When Coleman licensed out its brand to Dutchmen in 2010, the RV manufacturer took this partnership seriously. The RV World has always known Colman as the best brand for essential accessories, but their pop-ups in the Classic Era (1971-1989) became legendary. At first, the company produced the pop-up campers themselves and later handed the reins over to Fleetwood. 

The durability of Coleman pop-ups is so good; you can still find them as family hand-me-downs. With this kind of legacy, Dutchmen knew they had to make the Coleman Lantern series something special. The master bedroom has excellent walkway spacing for an entry-level travel trailer. The secondary entry door is far enough away from the bed, so you won’t accidentally hit it with your arm. If you add an LED TV on the off-door sidewall, it’ll sit high enough and far enough away from the living room entryway so that you won’t hit your head.

The 285BH is an excellent family-friendly travel trailer with bunk beds the whole family will enjoy. You’ll need a Ford Expedition with the heavy tow package or a 150/1500 series pickup truck to tow this conventional-built stick and tin travel trailer. However, its fiberglass batt insulation will do a better job maintaining your inside temperatures, and you’ll save more money during the initial purchase and repairs versus the flat-paneled counterparts. 

Lance 2465: Rear Master Bedrooms

  • Length: 29.5 feet
  • Dry Weight: 5,875 pounds
  • GVWR: 7,800 pounds
  • Master Bed: RV King 72” x 80”

Most people think of Lance Camper as a truck camper manufacturer. Yet, when you walk through their travel trailers, the innovations and thought they put in their towables are rarely seen. Every RVer working on the road who wants a mid-length travel trailer with workspace needs to put this coach on their shortlist. Three words: King Size Bed. You won’t find too many kings in a travel trailer under 30 feet. Lance does a great job making the sides of the bed wide enough for a real human being to use too. Whenever I go to an RV show, I always stop by Lance for this reason. When this company designs something, the little things like bed spacing rarely look like the mainstream RV brands.

On the door-side sidewall of the master bedroom is an extremely long counter that’s the perfect height for a desk. The space is ideal for two people to work without bumping into each other. If your job requires many computer peripherals, there’s plenty of power outlets on both the rear wall and the wall separating the bedroom from the rest of the RV.

Harbor View 24CKRB: Rear Bathroom Wheelchair Travel Trailer

  • Length: 28.2 feet
  • Dry Weight: 6,570 pounds
  • GVWR: 10,400 pounds
  • Master Bed: RV Full 54” x 74”

Newmar and Winnebago do great things in the bedroom for accessibility enhancement in their Class A motorhomes. Yet, not everybody wants a motorhome.  For those that need a wheelchair-friendly RV, master bedroom space is vital. The 24CKRB by Harbor View places the full-size bed against the front cap. It does require the able-bodied sleeper to maneuver around the wardrobe at the foot of the bed. The trade-off gives a massive amount of space for a mobility-challenged person to transfer from a wheelchair to the bed. 

This ADA-Compliant travel trailer places the refrigerator, microwave, and other features at wheelchair levels, giving everyone the ability to live independently. The BraunAbility wheelchair lift gets its strength from the RV’s chassis, so you never have to worry about weight problems. The grab bars in the roll-in shower, commode space and privacy curtain allow everyone to take care of their daily routine personally.

We Want a Bigger RV Master Bedroom

There were some folks at the show that still wanted a larger master bedroom in an RV. Who can blame them. Some of those full-length fifth wheels and travel trailers (35-40 feet) had gorgeous master suites with private bathrooms. The bedrooms had a lot of space and plenty of features, including the adjustable frame. Many of us wanted to walk across the street to the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino to win the jackpot (Even though they weren’t there, that Prevost RV my wife dreams about would probably require the entire winnings).  

The 2022 model year RVs are about to release between July 1 through August 30, 2021. However, many RV dealers have great deals on the 2021 models despite the 2021 backlog if you’re looking to get the best deals. Also, make sure you sign up for the Camper Smarts and other RV Life affiliated weekly newsletters to stay on top of what’s New for 22. You’ll learn about state-of-the-art innovations, new RVs, essential accessories, and other RV industry changes. 

About The Author

Although he’s from Motown, Brian Newman is a legacy RVer who grew up on I-75. He, his wife, and two working-class fur-babies have enjoyed the full-time RV lifestyle since 2017. Like John Madden, he hasn’t “worked” in years because he gets to write about his passion. When Brian’s not writing, he supports his daughter’s dog rescue efforts and disability causes. 

13 thoughts on “RV Master Bedroom Claustrophobia”

  1. There is another option – the Airstream Twin Bed option – leaves a large walkway down the center and opens up the interior space, plenty of space to get dressed, reading lights, etc. We love it!

  2. Poppycock! Our 2011 Jayco Eagle 320RLDS had a walk around queen bed. Easy to change sheets. Also a full width closet. Great center hall plan. Google the floor plan.

  3. Hmmm. My soon to be picked up 17 foot Casita Liberty has a king sized bed. Big bed, nobody climbs over anybody to get out of bed and I’ve won’t feel claustrophobic with narrow hallways.

  4. The hardest job to accomplish in our 2007 Coachmen class C is putting the fitted sheet neatly around the head of the bed because there is no walk-around room. I am exhausted, and my back is aching by the time I get it done. Any suggestions on how to make this a simpler task?

  5. I have a Thor ACE 33.1 with a king bed. We have the ability to walk around the bed. It has a shelf on both sides and storage under the shelf, they fit cpap and cell phones with plug ins. Our old motorhome Jayco 29xk was impossible to get into bed because or rear storage in the back of the motorhome, there were 3 levels by the bed. Getting in or using the bathroom was terrible because these levels were in the way getting out and in. Impossible to make the bed also. The wife was so happy to sell it. Most class c motorhomes have this problem by the bed.

  6. I think most RV Design Engineers are flunkies that couldn’t make it in the real world. With Cad Cam things are easy designing. RV manufactures don’t care about about designing RV’s aesthetically pleasing, using quality materials and quality workmanship. they just want a quick buck.

  7. When you buy one of these designs, you are not buying what you want, you are buying what someone else thinks you want. Which is only one of various reasons I am designing my high top van to include what “I” want, not for what someone else “thinks” I want. Among other things, I want a bed I do not have to put together when I want to sleep, then take apart when I wake up. For me at least, this means a bed I raise to the ceiling during the day, and lower for travel or sleep. Run lengthwise and space at each side to get in and out. Don’t need an expensive lifts, can buy cheap hand powered lifts, or even cheaper, make one. They ain’t rocket science, and I get just what I want, and need.

  8. “We respect the idea that we now live in a non-binary world, so please understand that these weights are purely for calculation purposes”. I quit reading at this point.

  9. Michael Czajkowski

    Your RV design 101 exercise is missing a key component – what is the size of the “large rectangle” you raw before step 1. The rest of the steps give very specific sizes for all the parts of the RV, but without a scaled starting rectangle, your instructions are lost

  10. Forest River Rockwood Ultra Lite 2608BS and its twin sister Flagstaff 26FKBS 29 feet with a bedroom slide and living dining slide. 6800 Lbs. Check the sales figures on the number sold and you will see many like this floor plan.

  11. Bruce LaHargoue

    A lot of the bedroom access issues discussed could be remedied if more manufacturers offered a twin bed option. I think Airstream is about the only builder that hasn’t totally abandoned the concept.

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