The RV lifestyle is not for everyone, but anyone who lives in a factory-issued one knows a remodel is needed to fit your style. About three years ago we decided to invest in a Travel Trailer.
While l love roughing it, I’d rather be in a hammock over a tent any day. Unfortunately, that doesn’t work well with a family and dogs.
And sometimes it’s nice to pull your own hotel with you everywhere you go. The best part about having a travel trailer is that it’s lightweight. And if you make some killer RV upgrades, you’ll have it feeling like home in no time.
The first thing we noticed after getting it home was that the factory model RV needed a little work. Things were not to our liking and even the craftsmanship from the RV manufacturer wasn’t what we were expecting. We blew it off to “we got the cheap model”.
Come to find out after my parents bought a more expensive model the following year, and were having the same problems.
After three years of making minor adjustments to give it the homey feel, we decided to pull the trigger and do the killer RV upgrades we had been dreaming about.
Killer RV Upgrades and Mods you need to make
Exterior RV Upgrades
Drill Adapter For Jack
The first couple of times out we used the handy crank tool we were given to raise and lower the jacks on the RV.
Then someone pulls in next to us and we watched him take out his drill and put down all jacks in one minute. If you can only afford to do one thing, get the leveling scissor jack drill adapter. Trust me!
RV Step Covers
Keeping down the dirt is a must in small spaces. That’s why you need RV step covers. We tried to do without but finally decided enough was enough.
We needed to cover up those steps to keep some of the dirt out. It really does a great job. You can buy them online or make them yourself I like I did.
(10-minute upgrade if buying ) (45-minute upgrade for DIY)
Expandable Flexible Water Hose
I had no idea how much space a traditional water hose took up. That was until we swapped ours out for an expandable flexible water hose.
The entire thing fits inside a shoebox. The front nozzle has an on/off trigger, so we have more control over the water going in and it prevents overflow. It saves weight and space. For more ideas on hoses, check out: The Best Drinking Water Hose for RVs and Campers
To keep everything organized and make the dump station a better experience, we added a glove box holder to the inside of the camper gunnel. We always know where our gloves are now.
Brightening the RV Interior
Paint the RV Walls
Painting your RV walls is the one thing that went from a factory feel to a homey feel. It was what inspired the killer RV upgrades that took place this year.
When I first decided to paint a perfectly good wall in my camper, I was a little nervous. Why paint perfectly good wallpaper? The wallpaper is what set the tone for their space and gave it the dark drab feel.
I couldn’t be happier with the results. Choosing to go with a white color opened the place so much. We started with a little TSP to clean all the surfaces, then sanded the wallpaper with a block.
A layer of primer followed by three layers of white. I’m sure everyone knows how to paint so I’m not going to bore you with the details.
But the one tip I have is, to take your time and have some fun. Our entire camper went from drabby and dark to bright and inviting.
(5 hr upgrade + dry time)
Add Custom Curtains & Track
When you are in close proximity to each other sometimes you need a little extra privacy. I’m not sure why but Travel Trailers and RVs don’t always come with these luxuries.
With the addition of some inexpensive curtain tracks, you can add in your own set of curtains. The track was easy to install and screwed into the top of the ceiling. It comes with all the hooks needed to hang your curtains.
Instead of buying fancy curtains at the store, I swung by the fabric store and got my favorite type of fabric, ripstop.
This stuff worked great because it was lightweight and I could get it for close to $6 a yard. There was plenty remaining to redo the valances too.
I spend about $30 on fabric. If you have a sewing machine, please, please make your own curtains. Not only will it be the color you love, but it was super easy. I cut up a panel and did a quick hem on all sides. Then put in buttonholes for the curtains to hang.
(1.5hr upgrade for installation and sewing)
Looking for detailed instructions on making your own? Check out How To Make DIY Camper Curtains
Reupholstery the Valances
If you are taking the time to do the curtains, do the valances at the same time. This RV mod intimidated me at first but I love how it turned out. The valances came off with a screw-on on each side.
Using a staple gun and scissors, wrap the fabric right over the old stuff. No need to pull off the old fabric. I found it worked best with two people to get everything tight.
Front Curtains Attached to the Wall
The one thing in our camper we had found completely useless was the front window. It opens up with a hinge on the outside. It’s a great way to add in extra light, as long as you want to walk outside and open it up.
Come nighttime, or if you want to change, you have to run outside and shut it. It was really impractical and therefore never used. That was until this season when we added a curtain inside.
To do this mod, we added four eye hook screws to the four corners of the window. Then I bought some elastic string and tied it to one side of the eye hooks. Threaded on the newly made curtains and tied it to the other side.
I choose elastic so it would stay tight against the wall but have some give. Now when we pull into our spot, the first thing we do is open the window and get some serious light in there.
Upgrade the door window. Another problem we had was the lack of light coming from the front door. The factory-installed door is a hazy opaque. It let in defused light but you couldn’t see out of it. We swapped it out with a slim shade window.
This new window has tinted glass to prevent people from seeing in but is crystal clear on the inside, allowing plenty of extra light to pass through.
It also has a shade built into the window, allowing you to have complete darkness if you like. The window is easy to install into the existing frame with just a few screws.
Add a Kitchen Backsplash
Upgrade the kitchen with a peel-and-stick backsplash. Giving yourself a fresh look on behind the kitchen stove opens the space. It also helps protect the walls from grease.
Home stores all sell a peel-and-stick variety, but they want a premium dollar for it. That’s because it’s designed for in-home use and has a higher weight to it.
If you want to stay ultralight, consider getting the 3D printed variety. It is considerably cheaper around $30 for one package, which can cover most small camper spaces. I also felt it was a little more forgiving if you need to make an adjustment.
Add Framed Pictures
Swing by the dollar store and get a few frames and command hooks. They secure to the walls fine, be ultra-lightweight and add an extra bit of home with a pop of color in some drab areas of the trailer.
Functional RV Upgrades
Bench Seat Hinge
This was the first thing we did when we pulled it into the driveway. When we went to open the seats under the dinette, it was a floating board.
I cannot tell you how much having a floating board drives me crazy. Before you even hit the road, add a hinge to secure it in place.
Update the electrical plugs to USB Ports. RV life is not life without having power. Let’s face it with most people using their charging ports for phones and tablets, having a few extra USB ports around is priceless.
Instead of plugging in bulky adapters, we swapped out the outlets for outlets with USB ports. Before buying check the depth of your existing outlets. Camper walls are thinner than your home walls.
We also got extra-long USB cords for all our devices. This way we could be plugged in and do our nightly technology fix.
I also recommend having a dedicated set of cords left in the camper, so they are never forgotten. There are no more fights over the outlets now or who gets what cord.
Add a Bar on the Door
Add a bar to the door. This one was something my husband insisted on that I didn’t know we even needed. The bar sits just above the handle.
It gave a little more rigidity to the door. I have been using it to open and close the screen door without even thinking about it.
Keyless Entry Door Lock
This is one of the most exciting updates. I can’t tell you how many extra trips I’ve made back to the garage looking for the camper keys.
Having a Keyless Entry Door Lock on the door allows anyone in the family to quickly lock or unlock the front door.
No more trying to remember which way to turn the key. It drove me CRAZY. Plus the Keyless Entry Door Lock comes with a keyfob so we can even lock the door when we are pulling away in the car.
Order your Keyless Entry Door Lock system for your RV. TRUST ME!!!
This one is a little controversial. With a travel trailer, you want to keep everything as light as possible. That is why the RV manufacturer put in foam mattresses. The factory-issued mattress, umm, it’s like sleeping on a board.
After our first night sleeping on it, we stopped at the home store and picked up an amazing mattress topper. It got us through a couple more years before we finally decided enough is enough.
The weight of the mattress (50lb), plus the mattress topper (20lbs) is the same as our extra full-size mattress we have sitting unused in the basement.
Swapping it out was the best thing we could have done. It is worth every extra bit of weight for a comfortable night’s sleep.
Now for the kids. The kid’s bunk also has a foam RV mattress about half the thickness of the masters. Instead of throwing away the old master mattress, we decided to put it to work.
Cut directly down the middle, and with a little shortening, it fits great in the kid’s bunks. We took the mattress cover, and cut it down in the center.
I used fabric from an old bed sheet and cut it the size of the other side panel. I made a solid side to attach to the mattress cover with a zipper already, and one with an extra-long zipper, so they both open up like the existing mattress cover. The kids didn’t have one complaint the entire trip about sore backs.
In order to do this killer RV upgrade, you’ll need a sewing machine, scissors, and a foam cutter. If you don’t have a foam cutter, a box knife will also work, it just used a little more muscle and patience.
(1 hr upgrade)
Comforts of Home
Ditch the DVD Player
When we first got our Travel Trailer, we installed a TV and added a DVD Player. Grabbed a few DVDs and chilled the first night.
It became such an ordeal trying to manage cords strung halfway across the camper it wasn’t worth it. Then I found a digital media converter box for the TV.
Now I load all my favorite shows onto a flash drive. I can take hundreds of movies and TVs shows with me where ever we go. And my kids don’t have to miss out on our Family Movie night tradition while we are on the road.
Get a Nice Comforter
This year we also decided to upgrade from the factory-issued comforter and got something that went with the rest of the upgrade.
I’m practical in that if there is nothing wrong with it, why buy something new? Having a good comforter made us feel like we were sleeping in luxury.
The old comforter got demoted to a dog blanket. We put it on the bed during the day so our dog can lay on it, without tracking in dirt our nice new bedspread. With limited space, it’s impossible to keep her off there.
We also threw a couple of lightweight outdoor blankets into the kid’s bunks. This gave them the same level of upgrade, plus they can easily take them out and use them around the campfire!
Add a touch of home with these indoor-outdoor blankets. You can pick them up on Amazon.
Get a Travel Keurig
A Keurig takes up a little bit of real estate under the bench seat, but OMG, walking around the campground in the morning with a good drink makes all the difference in the world.
My kids use it for Hot Chocolate, I warm up my water for Hot Tea and my husband gets his morning coffee. It’s a little luxury we all love.
To make it completely you also need an insulated coffee mug. I originally thought it would be fun to have the camping tin cups. I couldn’t believe how fast your drink gets cold. Spend a few extra dollars and you won’t be sorry.
How much time did all the Killer RV upgrades take?
The entire project was completed within one week. Most of it was done during my lunch break and a couple of hours after work.
After the painting was completed, my husband went to work on the installation of outlets, curtain track, and windows, while I got to work on the mattress and curtains inside. Then it was just a matter of putting together the fine touches.
It’s been our objective to make a few changes each year because all the small things add up. The first year we did only a few things because of the investment needed on things that don’t come standard. Each summer we have a budget and try and make a few new upgrades.
This year was probably the biggest overhaul, only because we were planning on using it so much more for our Northern Loop Trip.
Whatever you decide to do, don’t be afraid to break up the project into smaller chunks and do what’s in your budget. I will tell you, most of these projects cost no more than $30, with the biggest one being the window replacement closer to $70.
Do I need Special Tools or knowledge to complete these Killer RV updates?
Almost everything on the list was completed with either a drill, box cutting knife, paintbrush, or sewing machine. You don’t have to have any special skills. If some of these things are new to you, go slow and take your time.
What does the future have in store for more Killer RV Upgrades?
There are only one or two more things that we plan to do in the next couple of years. The next is to upgrade the air conditioning unit to include temperature control.
We spend way too much time turning it off and on. And you might convince me in a couple of years to gut the bathroom and do something practical with the unused shower space.
I’ll have to keep you posted. For now, we are happy with our new camper thanks to our killer RV upgrades. It’s like living in a luxury RV.