RV innovations add more fun to recreational trips

June 10, 2005|By JEFF JOHNSTON/Motor Matters

Sometimes it can be a bit difficult to tell the difference between a gadget and a really good idea. Both make their way into the RV industry, but the gadgets often fade away, while good ideas can make a resounding impact on the industry.

Fleetwood introduced the Bounder motor home as the first affordable Class A with a raised-floor, basement-storage design, and it launched a whole new segment in the motor-home industry. Likewise, Champion developed the Eurocoach in the late 1980s, and it was the first smooth-side, bus-style Class A with styling and design feature elements that companies still use today.

Some design elements are smaller and lower-key. One idea that seemed terrific at the time was the Fleetwood "Smart Room," in essence an island-style queen bed that folded up, like a Murphy bed, and changed the area into a functional office. It was not a big seller and was dropped the year after its introduction.


The power bed concept recently launched by Thor California (, 951/697-4190) in its Wanderer Theatre and Lounge model trailers, has proven to be a runaway success. There's a good reason for that. It's an idea that helps make efficient use of a rig's interior space, which is a goal that most RV builders strive for, especially in the smaller-unit arena.

In essence, the power bed is a queen-size bed that stores flush against the ceiling when not in use. When the bed is needed, a powered winch and guide rail mechanism lowers it to an accessible level. It's simple, and the system has terrific possibilities.

This overall powered-bed design was first applied to an RV many years ago by Matt Perlot of Safari Motorhomes. Perlot used the concept to add a queen- or king-size bed to the very compact Safari Trek Class A motor home. The bed occupied the forward lounge area by night and made the lounge available for seated occupants by day. It was an ingenious use of the space. An RV area that serves double duty is the key to the power bed's versatility.

"The Lounge and Theater models were designed to provide the amenities of a larger trailer in a compact size," explained Brandon Alexander, Thor California marketing manager. "With the overhead power bed, the Lounge and Theater models are innovative as they provide two queen-size sleeping areas in a shorter overall length."

"In addition, the unique 102-inch exterior width provides greater interior space and allows for full-size bathrooms and wider hallways. Huge rear windows in the Lounge models allow customers to enjoy great views." Alexander continued.

The Wanderer Lounge model 161L travel trailer is an excellent example of how the power bed is applied. It measures approximately 20 feet long overall, including the hitch, so the body is somewhere around 18 feet long. At the front of the trailer there's a large full-width bathroom, the aft end is occupied by an L-shaped lounge that's also a dinette, and the galley is positioned mid-trailer. It has a 6,800-pound gross vehicle weight rating, so it's easily towable by many light trucks and full-size sport-utility vehicles.

By day, the 161L offers flexible, roomy living and lounging. At night, the power bed moves down into place above the rear sofa/dinette setup. To enjoy a bed of this size in a standard RV, the buyer would need a unit at least four to six feet longer; and the bath, galley and other features might be downsized to make room for the larger fixed-position bed.

Users enjoy large-trailer liveability in a smaller, more towable package. Smaller can also mean less costly, and that's always a plus.

The Wanderer Theatre models likewise use the power bed to good effect. These rigs are fitted with a large entertainment center that spans the rear interior wall, a much larger feature than there's normally space for in a smaller RV. The power bed lowers into place just ahead of the entertainment center.

Since there's no need to cram the full-size bed into the rest of the trailer's interior space, the balance of the interior features can be big enough for practical use and comfort.

Thor also has several larger models that feature conventional island-style fixed beds in addition to the power bed, which makes them truly two-bedroom RVs.

Given the way customers are taking to the Wanderer power bed models, we expect we'll see other RV manufacturers applying the same technology in other product lines. Like slideout rooms, the power bed may be another leap forward in RV design that results in even more choices at your local dealer, and more fun for you.

Copyright, Motor Matters, 2005

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