Do you share my love for bathrooms?
When it comes to bathrooms, I've seen them all, whether it's a hotel, restaurant, airport, jet plane, doctor's office, spa, school, grocery store, boat, friend's house, movie theatre, and every type of trailer and camper under the sun. I’m drawn to bathrooms that are stylish and have a spa-like quality about them. To me, they are one of the most important and underrated spaces.
What's most important?
What are the most important factors to look out for in the best RV bathroom? Of all the RV features available, a great bathroom needs to be your sanctuary, a comfortable place where people leave you alone, and you feel great in the space. It's a true place of solace that you can retreat to for a moment of privacy and quiet and emerge feeling refreshed and renewed.
Bigger is better
For me, a large bathroom is not complete without a large shower space. It's similar to a cozy master bedroom with a larger queen-sized bed; The shower is where I spend most of my time in the bathroom, and the bed is where I spend most of my time in the bedroom. It’s a place of safety where I can wash the day away.
Generally, it is acceptable to excuse yourself to the bathroom without any further explanation. The bathroom is a place we feel free enough to sing in the shower and capture a bit of me-time. In order to get the most out of what I call bathroom magic, it needs to check some important boxes. Here are 15 things I look out for in the best RV bathroom.
Features of the Best RV Bathrooms
- Smells good
- Natural light
- Natural ventilation
- Corner walk-in shower
- Storage space throughout
- Functional toilet
- Large bathrooms for tall people
- Colors -- light and natural
- Easy to clean
- Warm and inviting Master Bathroom
- Ambient music
- Endless hot water
- Towel warmer
- Humidity control
- Quality stable toilet
1. Smells good
The first thing I immediately take stock of when I walk into a bathroom is whether it is clean and smells good. Features such as ample storage space, a functional toilet, and a spacious room to move around are all important, too.
In many travel trailers -- all sizes -- nowadays, you'll see more composting toilets, also known as negative pressure ventilated toilets, which means there's a negative flow of air that's being exhausted out of the toilet of the trailer, either out of the wall or ceiling, which keeps the inside air naturally flowing through and out of the bathroom. It also keeps any unpleasant smells from the composting solids in the toilet from entering the bathroom so you'll never smell anything.
Opinions on composting toilets are starting to shift, too, because the reality is they have less smell than a black water tank system which stores the liquid and solid effluent in a black water holding tank. The black water tank smells are reduced by adding biodegradable deodorant pods into the tank. Either way, it's one of the features that need to be considered.
2. Natural light
Does the bathroom have adequate natural light from windows and skylights? Looking out into the Great Outdoors brings a sense of balance to your inner world.
Scientific research has proven that people subconsciously seek out sunlit places and enjoy spending time in natural light. Research has also proven that there are real benefits associated with spending time in spaces that offer abundant natural light. Natural lighting helps people be more productive, happier, healthier, and calmer.
The more time my brain is exposed to life outside of my head, the more I am reminded that the bubble I live my life in is just that and that there is an open road and adventure out there waiting for me.
One design trick, especially for small travel trailers, is to capture that light entering in and reflect it on a wall. An RV can expand the length, width, and height of a space by simply using white walls throughout the living space, including in the bathroom. Ideally, if you can get a skylight over the shower that's ideal.
Lights on dimmers in every room are necessary features from my experience. There is nothing enjoyable about getting up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night only to be blinded when you flip the switch.
Another great benefit of using natural light in your full-time RV home is that it reduces the amount of mildew and mold which keeps your space healthier. Architects know the value of ample light and fresh air produces happiness, naturally. This brings us to the next value to consider, natural ventilation.
3. Natural ventilation
To put it bluntly, condensation inside any travel trailer, motorhome, or recreational vehicle is not your friend. A quality camper is built to be watertight, which also means that they're airtight, so over time, it's going to get smelly because of the mildew that forms from all of the water. Think of the entire floor plan of your travel trailer as a steam sauna and you'll understand how if you don't have a lot of great ventilation, then where's the condensation going? You've seen it form on the glass doors, windows, mirrors, and walls dripping down in streaks.
Ventilation can come in two ways: passive openings such as doors or windows and roof vents. Whichever ways you're using to ventilate your trailer, the goal is to reduce humidity to prevent condensation, which creates mold and mildew from forming. Ventilation also exhausts unwanted smells.
4. Corner walk-in shower
A spa-style shower is extremely important because the shower is what anchors the luxury experience of a master bathroom. The feature I consider most important in a walk-in shower is materiality. It needs to have natural materials, minimalist clean lines, a rain shower head, and a shower tower, with a lot of spray options. It's also important that your shower is a generous size, so I recommend at least a 30" by 30" space or greater so you have plenty of elbow room and can easily move around.
Options like a rain shower that comes straight down from above are essential for a spa-like experience. A shower wand is another handy feature that allow you to have a wide range of motion and get to those harder-to-reach spots. If you're traveling off-grid and you're trying to conserve water, you'll definitely want to use the handheld shower wand with low flow settings so that you can maximize the onboard water.
The other advantage of this type of walk-in spa shower is that it doesn't have a lip, so you don't have to step up onto it from the floor level. The drain is recessed down into the floor and you walk straight into the shower. It also allows the ceiling to be higher because the floor's not raised up. No more tripping and it feels like an extension of the bathroom itself, so the space feels larger, generous, and open.
I also like a functional wet bath design that drains into a spa-like wood-slotted floor made of natural materials such as hardwood that is naturally mildew-resistant, and I prefer walnut or teak because it's durable and attractive.
5. Storage throughout
A large shower with various nooks to place shampoo bottles, soap, and shavers is key. Extra storage shouldn't just be in the shower, but throughout the bathroom, easily accessed. I recommend two types of storage: one up high at eye level and another hidden away under the sink.
The one down low can be larger for storing baskets and tall bottles. And don't be tricked by a large cabinet door because it's very common in travel trailers for there to be a water heater blocking more than half your storage area. (Major design fail).
Up high, one or more medicine cabinets are very important because you'll need eye-level storage so you're not constantly having to bend down to access your day-to-day items, such as a toothbrush, hairbrush, lotions, first aid, and cosmetics.
Any way you look at it, extra and large bathroom spaces are always welcome.
6. Functional toilet
It may be obvious, but one of the most important features of a bathroom is a functional and comfortable toilet. The most common is a foot flush or hand flush toilet where you depress a lever, a valve opens up a gate valve, water flows, and the effluent flows into the black water tank.
There are many other luxury toilet options that elevate your bathroom game. One that I can recommend is an electric master toilet where you push a button and it automatically fills the bowl, flushes, and then refills. As it's flushing a macerator, which is like a blender that liquefies solids. This helps keep your black water tank from the cursed black pyramid of death. Trust me, you don't want to visit these pyramids!
The other type of toilet -- a composting toilet -- is for those who are super focused on saving water and maximizing their time off the grid because compost toilets don't use any water. You can also use that precious water you saved for a longer shower! If you opt for a compost toilet, choose a urine-diverting compost toilet that separates the liquids from the solids.
Basically, the solids go into a closable bucket with a compostable bag and the fluids go down into your grey water holding tank. The bag holds multiple uses and can be disposed of in any trash receptacle. Best of all, with a composting toilet, there's no need for a blackwater holding tank.
7. Large bathrooms for tall people
The next category is specific to my lifeMost RV bathrooms are what I would call small and tall unfriendly. Recreational vehicles are not typically known for their big bathrooms with a corner walk-in shower. Your next RV should have a residential style floor plan that gives you a flexible living area and more bathroom space.
If you're a tall individual such as myself (5'9") and my husband (6'5") we definitely need a large bathroom with extra space and elbow room.
We've lived in lots of different boats and RV camper setups -- unfortunately, we couldn't stand up in most of the spaces. We'd have to crouch down like in the movie, Elf, feeling way too big for the bath.
A spa-style shower can have great features where you can sit down on a fold-down seat. Now, that's wonderful for shaving legs or for folks who want to sit and relax, but having enough extra space to stand up comfortably is important, especially for those living in their travel trailers full time.
In summary, a large bathroom with enough space for human-sized people is a must.
8. Colors -- light and natural
A master bathroom with wallpaper or finishes that are too dark with lots of brown wood is an immediate turnoff for me. What I do like is a space with a light and bright feeling. Having white walls throughout your living area reflects light and make the space feels bigger than it is.
When I choose RV travel destinations, I place a high value on big views outside. Having a large bathroom space with plenty of natural light and pretty views instantly improves one's bathroom experience. Bright, light colors can make any smaller bathroom space feel larger.
Light colors also don't let dirt or bacteria (yuck!) hide. So, while considering your next RV purchase and considering features at your local RV dealership, such as countertop colors, keep the vanity solid surfaces light.
This is a great segue into my next point, easy to clean.
9. Easy to clean
For optimal cleanliness, I recommend big bathrooms with nonporous surfaces on the walls and the ceiling -- and yes, the ceiling is especially important. Frankly, lots of (fake) grouted tile or wooden walls in a bathroom are a nail in the coffin because small cracks, seams, and wood trap moisture.
You can't see it, but the wallpaper retains moisture, and eventually, you'll find mold back there. I like powder-coated or heat-treated paint epoxy coated metal finishes which are lightweight but incredibly durable. It's basically the same materials that are used on the exterior of commercial vehicles like 18-wheelers trucks so you know it's stain and mildew resistant.
Best of all, it's easy to clean. Wash it like you wash your car with a natural multipurpose cleaner. And treated metal surfaces are waterproof and won't degrade and rot like wood, with one exception. If there's wood in the bathroom, I love teak or black walnut, which is very common in the marine industry because it weathers so well. Having the material extend to the floor in the shower or wrap around the wall in the shower as an accent brings an element of warmth and nature.
10. Warm and inviting
I've already discussed how bringing in natural light exudes peace and happiness, while darkness can manifest other not so desirable feelings. Through the use of colors and textures, we can create a space that's warm and inviting, and one of the best ways to accomplish this is a space that has a comfortable temperature.
Neither too cold nor too hot is ideal, so you want a nice ambient temperature when you're in the bathroom -- between 70 and 75 degrees. For most humans, the comfort zone is between 65 and 80 degrees, but I like it a little closer to 70. Whatever your preference, you want it to be controllable.
This includes warm surfaces to the touch, too, so the windows should be dual pane, so the room retains the heat or cool inside whether it's hot or cold outside. We want to make sure the floor is warm, too, which can be accomplished with heating pads or hydroponic heating. Personally, I don't prefer either because they require a lot of energy and these system can be finicky and overly complicated. The best way to do this is to simply make the floor build a floor out of metal and create what I call passive heating warm floor circulation running throughout a basement that provides natural circulation around the space.
11. Ambient music
Ambient music is a nice luxury class feature in a bathroom. What I like best about ambient music is that it creates a true day spa experience. We may not even notice that in a luxury hotel, there's always soft music playing in the background. Why not have some spa music in the bathroom? It's the little things that add joy and tranquility into our everyday routines.
The music needs to be independently controlled because the audio that you have inside the bathroom isn't necessarily the audio or the level of volume that you want in the rest of the travel trailer, and since trailers are small spaces and others in the rest of the trailer may prefer another type of music or none at all.
Music is also a great way to drown out background noise, especially if you're traveling in a place with outside distractions. Getting yourself away and disconnecting from the rest of the world and reconnecting with yourself is a part of good self-care, and soothing music, such as a piano in the background makes for a relaxing time.
12. Endless hot water
While most of my tips are aesthetic and feed my soul, this next one is a functional one -- endless hot water. If you've ever been the second, third or fourth person to take a shower in an RV, you know what I'm talking about.
Fortunately, that doesn't need to occur anymore because of modern-day technology; we have tankless water heaters and a large fresh water tank that can provide plenty of hot water. In my book, a tankless water heater is vital.
There's another type of tankless water heater that transcends just heating water -- it also heats the space. Plus, it provides instant hot water through the entire plumbing system from the rear bathroom to the kitchen sink in front -- including all fixtures and faucets between! This is a beautiful design that provides immediate and endless hot water.
13. Towel warmer
Next, is a functional element that may seem too luxurious, but for me it's essential, and that is a towel warmer. Of course, it preheats your bath towel or robe, but it serves multiple purposes. I like to turn on the towel warmer a few minutes before my shower to heat up the room. You can also use it to hang and air dry delicates that you don't want to put through the dry cycle.
Towel warmers are great for having a cozy towel ready for you when you get out of the shower. Yes, it's very comforting and very luxurious, but it also is very functional because wet towels and a travel trailer don't mix. Remember, excess water is one of the primary sources of humidity and condensation. A towel that's drawing all of that moisture from your body has to evaporate and go somewhere, even if it takes a long time. And over time, it can get moldy.
A towel warmer overcomes this problem because the heat dries out your towel quickly, which reduces the overall humidity.
14. Humidity control
We all know now that humidity control is very important in a travel trailer, and partly solved by installing a towel warmer, but of course, all electric appliances that create heat (or cold) use a lot of energy, so you'll need a powerful energy system to run these electrical appliances.
Humidity control is related to the natural ventilation topic discussed earlier, and there are many ways to reduce high humidity. The best way to keep your RV's overall humidity low is to keep the bathroom warmer than the rest of the travel trailer because the greater the differential in temperature the more humidity is created.
This is where the trailer's construction quality is key. The tighter the envelope, the less air coming in and out, the better. The ideal scenario is to control the flow of humid air in and out.
The humidity in a small bathroom space will trap water everywhere on the walls, the ceiling, and the floor. Unless you wipe down all of these surfaces each time you shower, that water condensation is going to raise the humidity of your entire travel trailer. The same occurs in the kitchen when you're running water in the sink.
The simplest tip to remove the moisture inside is to turn on ceiling and stove vents, open windows, doors, and even a sliding glass door, if your travel trailer has one.
The last item on my list is to maximize quality. This one is all-encompassing because a luxurious bathroom is only as good as the quality and the design philosophy that it was built around.
When you enter a five-star hotel and walk into the large bathroom, it's self-evident that the attention to detail really elevates the experience. For me, quality finishes and fixtures bring it all together.
While I have a passion for minimalism and simple, intentional design, functional design is not possible without quality, because when you strip everything down, quality is all that really matters.
One example of this in a travel trailer is how two materials come together -- this is extremely important. The union of materials and the way that intersection happens is extremely important, especially in bathrooms, because they receive lots of wear and tear.
Using metal versus wood or high-quality wood products versus fake plastic laminates made to look like wood or tile means the manufacturer is relying on glues, beaded molding, and caulking to cover up a host of poor designs and workmanship.
It might shock you how many million-dollar travel trailers use a lot of MDF (medium-density fiberboard) with fake veneers, which means there are a lot of VOCs (volatile organic compounds) off-gassing into your cozy home.
And while those inherently poor quality materials come with cheap prices, they will fall apart in a few years after your warranty has run out, guaranteed. Even the best bathroom, no matter how great it looks, without quality, isn't worth much.
When living full-time in a smaller space, having a trailer with a large bathroom and thoughtful, well-appointed features are essential. Think about how many times a day you interact with this space and how it feels; You have control over the environment you'd like to create. Imagine being off-grid in remote nature and having all of these amazing features be part of your everyday living situation. Now, that's my idea of an ideal bathroom!
Learn more about Living Vehicle's spa bathroom package and other luxury options here.
Learn more about Living Vehicle's spa bathroom package and other luxury options here.