Well, I never expected that one day we’d be filming a YouTube video from our bed, but what do you know, here we are! Of course, we have a good reason – and not only cos it’s a chilly 60 degrees here this week in San Francisco! Nope, our RV is 5 years old now and so was our mattress! Our RV came with the upgraded mattress option, but it was still the original one from our RV manufacturer. As you might expect, most RV mattresses are not as high quality as the ones we typically buy for our beds in a regular home, but as full-time RVers, this IS our regular home, so having a supportive and comfortable bed is really important.
While our mattress was fine for the first couple of years we owned our coach, we gradually began noticing it was losing support and comfort. So a year ago, we ordered a memory foam topper – in the hope this would help – and it did for a while, but in recent months, we began noticing our mattress was sagging and Marc was waking up with back pain more and more frequently. It was definitely time for a new mattress!
In this blog post and the accompanying video, you’ll be learning alongside us as we share our experience buying a new RV mattress. And, at the end of this post, you’ll find a summary of what to keep in mind when it’s your time to upgrade your bed!
What’s important to us in a mattress
Several months ago, MattressInsider.com – a company that specializes in making custom RV (and boat) mattresses – reached out and invited us to contribute to their article The Top Features That The Best RV Mattress Should Have (we’re the 4th bloggers listed in the article.)
Here’s a summary of the criteria we shared:
- We want a good quality brand that will last for at least 5 years of continual use
- As full-timers, we sleep on the mattress every night, so it’s essential that it is both supportive and comfortable to help minimize Marc’s lower back pain and ensure we get a good night’s sleep
- We like a mattress that offers good all round, consistent support (not too hard yet not too soft) and has a heat dissipating memory foam topper
- A good protective cover to prevent dust or allergies should be standard
- It also has to be the right height, length, and width to properly fit on the bed in an RV – ours is a standard full-length Queen (80″ x 60″), but some RVs do require special sized – or even special shaped – mattresses
- Another consideration is weight – RVs are more limited in weight than homes, so while we do like a quality, supportive mattress, we also don’t want to carry more weight than is necessary
- Finally, the mattress needs to have some flex as you need to think about getting in through the door of your RV and maneuver it through a smaller space as you get into the bedroom.
No matter how many nights you sleep in your RV, a good quality mattress is important to fully enjoy it.
This really planted the idea of a new mattress in our minds. We learned MattressInsider.com handles most of their customer orders online and over the phone, they make the beds in South Carolina, and they also have a Build-a-Bed showroom in Denver, CO. As we were preparing to fly into Denver in February for Marc’s Grandma Jeanne’s 100th birthday, it all seemed very serendipitous so we decided to pay them a visit!
Custom making our mattress
When we arrived at their build-a-bed showroom, we met the owner of the company, Jonathan Prichard and one of his mattress experts, Jeremy. They spent some time asking questions about what we were looking for and why, how we each sleep etc, then set about “making us a bed”. They have a number of mattress component layers in the showroom, and so they were able to select a number of foam layers of various components, thickness and density – and place them on the bed base to build a bed on the spot that was just right for our needs.
As soon as we laid down on it, we were amazed. We were surprised at how comfortable and supportive the bed was – but of course we immediately realized just how old and saggy our RV mattress was… but we had just gotten used to it over time.
Jonathan and Jeremy were able to explain why Marc was waking with back pain every morning – our mattress with memory foam topper – while it felt nice initially – simply wasn’t providing us with proper support while sleeping. And the mattress itself was just getting old!
This was the first time either of us have ever experienced buying a new mattress this way – usually we just try out different beds on display in a mattress showroom and pick one. We’ve never had one custom made for us before – it felt indulgent and we assumed it would be cost prohibitive. Boy, were we happy to be wrong about that!
Our custom made, full queen size mattress with organic cotton cover ended up coming in at just under $500 – far less than we were expecting!
What’s in our mattress and why it matters
While everyone is going to have very different needs and preferences for their mattress, this is what we ended up going with in our custom RV mattress – and you can see the actual layers in the photo below:
- Base layer: 5.5 inch soy based high density foam for support
- Air flow layer: convolute foam layer that allows air to enter/exit the sides of the bed
- Top layer: one inch 4 pound quality gel memory foam (sleeps a couple of degrees cooler than traditional memory foam)
- All of these foam layers are then glued together in their factory using an environmentally friendly, water based adhesive
- Cover: The mattress has an organic cotton zippered and removable cover
The first mattress they built for us in the showroom was 3 inches thick and while it was comfortable, we decided we wanted it just a bit thicker, so they increased the base layer to 5.5 inches and voila – perfection!
Photo: The 3 layers plus cotton cover that make up our new mattress – showroom demo only
Of course, what’s comfortable in a mattress is SUCH a personal preference and the component layers, density and thickness that would work best for you may vary, depending on your preferences. This is just what worked for US.
Fortunately, these guys are VERY experienced and know how to diagnose a customer’s sleeping issues and needs over the phone and build a bed accordingly. Pretty impressive if you ask me.
Optional Extra: AireFlow Moisture Barrier
While in the showroom, we also learned about the benefits of an AireFlow Moisture Barrier, which is designed to be placed underneath your mattress to help increase the flow of air and provide an escape for the heat and moisture that build up in a mattress while sleeping – and thus prevents mold or mildew forming. Eeeew! Having lived in humid Sydney for many years, I HATE mold and I’ve experienced my fair share of it! So whatever it takes to avoid mold, I’m all for it!
The AireFlow moisture barrier has a hard plastic type webbing on the bottom side (fabric on the mattress facing side) and elevates the mattress three quarters of an inch off the platform, allowing for more circulation. This is obviously more of an issue on boats but it’s also common in RVs that spend time in humid, moist climates as these will be susceptible to mold or mildew.
So we opted to get the AireFlow as well – which you can order by the linear foot – and that was around $100. The AireFlow came in two parts which we placed under the mattress (smooth side up) and because our mattress base isn’t perfectly square, Marc simply used household scissors to cut the corners of the AireFlow in the shape of the plywood platform and placed the mattress on top of it.
Photo: Our bed platform and with our new mattress
How long did it take to make and ship?
It took them about 4-5 business days to make our mattress and another few days to ship it from the east coast. They have a machine that tightly rolls the mattress and shrink wraps it in plastic, then they put it in a box and ship it to your campground or home via Fedex ground shipping, which is free! Nice!
All up, they recommend you allow 7-10 business days from placing your order to receiving it, so allow up to 2 weeks.
When our mattress arrived, Marc was easily able to carry it into our RV bedroom, slice open the plastic wrapper and within seconds, the mattress unravelled and bam! We had a brand new RV bed!
No smelly foam or toxic off gassing
We left the mattress alone to expand for a few hours before making the bed and sleeping on it that night. And we are VERY happy to report that there was virtually NO smell – unlike the memory foam topper we’d ordered a year earlier and needed to leave outside our RV in the forest beside us for two days before bringing it inside (yes, we ended up with bits of tree and leaves on it) and the strong, unpleasant odor still hung around for at another week! But as Jonathan had assured us, our mattress was “low VOC” which means it had very little odor at all. Virtually all foam products do have some kind of odor, but the degree varies based on the VOC levels.
We’ve been sleeping on our new mattress for a few months now and yes, we still love it! Importantly, Marc is no longer waking up with back pain and we are both sleeping really well so we remain extremely happy with our new mattress.
Oh – and here’s a fun little bonus – by switching out our mattress, we actually saved 28 pounds of weight in our RV! You’ll understand why we’re extra excited about that in an upcoming blog post about our RV weight loss program 🙂
So the verdict is a big thumbs up for our new bed and the folks at MattressInsider.com! They made the whole experience really easy, convenient, affordable and above all – comfortable.
We told MattressInsider.com that we love our new bed so much that we wanted to do a video and blog post about it so they offered a discount code for us to share with you, should you decide to buy a mattress from them too. Whether you call, email or place an order direct via their website use the code RVLOVE and you will SAVE 10% off your purchase!
A few more mattress shopping tips and info
As promised in the beginning of this post, here’s a bit more info and some additional tips to help you with your mattress shopping.
Can I really order a custom mattress by phone?
It seems really weird right – ordering a custom made mattress over the phone, online or by email!? That’s what we thought too. But based on how they nailed it for us so quickly in the showroom – asking us some key questions and giving us a really great education on mattresses, what the various components do, how they work together and why it’s so important – we soon came to understand the difference and truly respect their expertise in their field.
Here are just a few of the diagnostic questions you can expect the people from MattressInsider.com to ask you over the phone to help determine what component layers you’d need in a mattress to best suit your needs:
- Do you sleep on your back, side or stomach?
- Do you like a bed that is softer or firmer?
- Do you have sleep apnoea?
- Are their any weight considerations?
- And no doubt, there are quite a few more…
These guys (and girls!) have been custom making mattresses for customers for over 10 years – almost exclusively via the phone, email and their website – and their success rate is extremely high. They are so confident they can make a bed that is just right for your needs that they actually offer a ‘121 day trial period’ to ensure you like it. That trial period is for the standard products available in their showroom and on their website and we’re pretty sure it doesn’t apply to special orders or custom shapes, but we recommend you ask them yourself to be certain of their policy.
What kind of mattresses do they make?
As you probably know, not all RVs – or boats for that matter – have standard sized or shaped mattresses in them. Many RV mattress are shorter than a standard Queen or King Size Bed and some mattresses – especially in Class B or Class C RVs or on boats – have unusual shapes and sizes, due to the limited space.
MattressInsider.com specializes in making hard to find mattress sizes and shapes to fit RVs, trucks, sofa beds, antique beds, cots, and other custom projects. Most of their customers are everyday people struggling to find a specific size, but they also service RV dealerships, RV repair shops, truck stops, truck repair companies, interior designers, hotels, b&b’s, universities, and even the military. In a nutshell, if you want just about any size or shape mattress, they can probably make it for you!
Jeremy even told us some entertaining stories about athletes and celebrities ordering unusual custom mattress – one guy ordered a fully custom 96″ ROUND mattress and another wanted a double-Queen size (that’s 80 ” x120″) and he had to have his bedroom window removed then have a crane hoist the mattress into the bedroom via the window!
Fortunately, we don’t usually have to worry about things like that with our RVs as we just don’t have the space! Speaking of space, getting a mattress in (and out) of an RV can be tricky – hence our maneuverability comment above! So the fact it came all rolled up and ready to unravel was very handy.
Tips for mattress shopping, health and safety
We asked Jonathan for some mattress shopping tips and specifically more info about the off-gassing. He advised that the smell is caused by high levels of VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) which is what creates that “new smell” in cars, RVs, paint, some clothes and also mattresses and foam toppers. Cheaper foam components and solvent based glues create this off-gassing which not only smells unpleasant, but can be toxic.
With a lot of materials, mattress components and glues coming in from overseas and different parts of Asia, Jonathan recommended looking for the CertiPur-Us certification (an independent US-based lab), to ensure there is no mercury or lead, low VOCs and to make sure the mattress and it’s components are made in the USA. You may be shocked (as we were) to learn that there are NO regulations for the mattress industry (whether for residential, RVs or boats) beyond the need for flame retardants that meet Federal Flammability Guidelines – such as cfr-1633 nvss-302 for RVs.
Jonathan said he has seen the inside of some RV mattresses that are literally made of a couple of springs and a sheet of cardboard. And based on our experience testing out RV beds on cheaper units at RV shows – as well as seeing first hand how RVs are built during factory tours and how many manufacturer like to cut corners AND costs – we believe it!
We were assured that every component of their mattresses – that’s the fabrics, memory foams, glues, and even the FR barrier – are made 100% in the USA, and their employees are all based in the USA as well.
Well, we hope you found this blog post and video helpful… may you sleep well and have sweet dreams!