It’s not surprising to anyone out there that the standard mattresses that come with your Airstream (or any RV, really) is pretty crappy. Let me just say that after a year of sleeping on it, we could kick ourselves for not replacing it sooner. Hello new Airstream mattress!
I don’t know exactly when we realized the mattress would have to go, but I think it was sometime around Alumapalooza ’11. Kate and Al (of Mabel on the Move fame) have the same model as us, and I remember looking back into their bedroom and seeing this big, puffy bed and thinking — “Wow, that looks way more comfortable than ours.”
Like everything we do with large purchases (let’s face it, mattresses aren’t cheap) we researched and studied and tried out all the mattresses we thought might work (our 2nd choice was Keetsa — Brenda and CeCe have great things to say about theirs). We also needed to look at models that had some kind of mold and mildew resistant qualities, had very little (or no) off-gassing, and were easy on the carbon footprint. A lot to ask you may say, but we found all these things and more in one company: Soaring Heart Natural Bed Company.
Soaring Heart has been building mattresses by hand in Seattle for 29 years with the philosophy that they aren’t just making beds, they’re creating a tool to make your life better (how many times have you woken up in a bad mood because you didn’t sleep well?). And they’re doing it with locally resourced wool (naturally flame resistant so you don’t need all the harsh chemicals) and organically grown cotton. Plus each product is made by hand in their local Seattle shop. Everything about this experience was great — from the showroom, to Jason and John who sat with us as we tried to draw diagrams for a custom mattress (which we scrapped when we decided just to rebuild the platform) to their website which is filled with a ton of information about their products and what goes into them.
(which actually turned out to be The Not-So-Bad)
Deke’s 6’1″ and his feet hung off the end of the bed in the Airstream. If you’re spending 1/3 of your life in bed, you want to fit in your bed, so this was one of the first major problems to tackle. The Soaring Heart beds don’t need to have a regular box spring for support, but they do need some kind of support, so if we wanted a regular Queen (80×60 inches) we’d have to rebuild the bed platform to add support to the new mattress. If you know us, you know we’re not particularly handy, so before deciding to do this, I made sure I had the number of Chuck the Handyman here in Redmond, and one generous Airstreamers email address ready (Hi Kathy H!).
Rebuilding the Airstream Mattress Platform
The first problem we encountered was finding a piece of sturdy plywood large enough for the base of the new mattress. We had no idea this would be so hard, but Home Depot, Lowe’s and our local lumber place were no help. Turns out standard plywood size is 48″x48″which left us wondering if we could fit two pieces together and still have it be strong enough to hold the mattress when lifted if we bolted them together in the middle. This seemed too difficult, so I went to yelp.com and found Crosscut Hardwoods in Seattle. They have everything and they’ll cut it down to size for you!
Once we had the right plywood, we start taking apart the old platform and measuring where the hardware was, so we could transfer the measurements when it was time to screw the hardware back on to the new plywood.
This might be cheating, I don’t know, but since the new plywood was bigger than the old, we decided just to lay the old piece on top of the new, and using the old screw holes as a template, just drill through them to the new plywood. It’s probably not the preferred method of construction workers, but it worked fine.
Once the holes were drilled, we just reattached the hardware into the new holes and everything lined up perfectly!
As we learned from the Soaring Heart website, our new mattress needs air circulating around it. We should’ve done this sooner with the original mattress (we had a lot of mold on the old one) and I know people have found great ways to avoid the whole mold issue but we really didn’t want to screw up this new beautiful cloud of comfort, so we did what the guys at Soaring Heart suggested and screwed a series of 1″x3″ slats to the new platform at 3′ intervals.
Then we drilled little air holes into the plywood between the slats and placed a fan underneath for air. Hopefully this will work!
The Good: Part 2, The Mattress
We went with an Extra-Firm Organic Latex Mattress with a Deluxe Eco-Wool Topper and a Cotton Mattress Pad. We also go two Kapok pillows (from the website, Kapok is: a fluffy, silky fiber from the seed of the kapok tree (also called the ceiba tree), is incredibly light and airy, water-resistant, and 100% botanical). The wool topper is really soft and fluffy, so we felt the extra firmness of the mattress would be a good balance. Originally we were going to have the mattress delivered, but since it was ready on a weekend and we have the truck, we just decided to pick it up. Unfortunately, I dont have a photo of the mattress in the truck (I just forgot to take one), but it was folded in thirds and wrapped in plastic, so we just tossed it into the back. This is the topper in the back seat — I had no idea it would be this big:
Here’s the topper on top of the mattress:
In the end, it all fit perfectly and we’ve been sleeping so well for the last week. Besides the truck, this is probably the most expensive Airstream-related item we’ve purchased, but living in it fulltime, I think the cost will be worth it. Two other important things:
And, even with extending the bed platform out to 80 inches, we still have plenty of room to walk around the bed.
Besides being really uncomfortable, the Airstream mattress is ugly in so many other ways. They’re foam with a Teflon treated cotton cover. They also claim to be waterproof and dust mite resistant, which they may be, however, I really don’t want to be smelling those chemicals every time I sleep. And ours got moldy on the bottom. Gross.
One thing we didnt consider with a better bed – its way heavier! We didn’t weigh it, but carrying it in felt close to 2-300 lbs with mattress, topper, covers, and all the pillows Tiff insists on piling on top 🙂
The dinky gas springs Airstream installs are next to useless when lifting our new heavy bed, but finding replacements can be more difficult than a trip to your local hardware store. After an exhaustive search on Airforums, we found a post by someone who had ordered replacements as well – so we followed their steps. Here’s what we did (and you should do as well, assuming you have an Airstream with a Queen size mattress platform:
- Go to McMaster-Carr’s website and try to not get lost in all the parts!
- Order these items (only order the ball brackets if you want to replace the ones already installed – you dont have to, these gas springs will fit the old ones – but we like new and stronger)
|1||9416K28||Gas Spring with Threaded Ends, 200 Force, 18.18″ Extended Length, 7.87″ Stroke||2||16.56|
|2||4536T1||Aluminum Ball Bracket, Flat, with 10 mm Ball||2||5.76|
|3||4536T3||Aluminum Ball Bracket, 90-Degree Angle, Long Stem, with 10 mm Ball||2||7.42|
|4||9416K76||10 mm Ball Socket, M8 Thread, Nylon for, Gas Spring with Threaded Ends||4||1.41|
And finally, all you have to do is put it all together! Remove the old gas spring with a small flat head screwdriver. You may also need to move one of the bracket locations to match the new, slightly longer gas springs.
After this change, the bed should be much easier to lift, and much less likely to break!