A UK on-line community and information
resource for European motorcaravanners.

Sitting & Travelling Comfortably?

Hard or soft:  One Hymer CS544K Budget Interiorof the great divides between British and continental motorhomes seems to be in seating comfort. Many UK converters go for body hugging comfort with relatively soft foams and lots of soft padding, perhaps including fancy shapes to give added support under the knees for example.  Nothing in motorcaravans is ever straightforward so although immediately appealing, this 'soft' approach does have its drawbacks particularly in hot weather in Spain say, and when these same cushions are converted into a flat, or not so flat bed.  There's also the issue of adequate support and insulation from the rigid base when travelling but since rear seat belts are relatively new in British motorhomes this hasn't been a big issue in the past.  The other side of the coin of course is the rather firm continental upholstery that really doesn't lend itself to comfortable sprawling on cool British evenings or wet days!

I should comment here that many of the dearer vehicles are already fitted with good seating solutions while budget models like our Camp Swing may not be quite so good.  Designers have to balance both cost and weight against comfort and local preference so truly Hymer Luxury Seatingluxurious materials like latex foam are usually out of the question on both counts.  Anyway we thought our own Hymer upholstery tended towards the over-firm and gave some thought to making changes to the rather basic polyurethane foam fillings - this being a much cheaper solution than trading up to a luxury class motorhome! 

Improvement needed:  It wasn't long before we'd established our criteria for improvement.  First we wanted a softer feel to all the upholstery on the dinette and the side couch and possibly even the over-cab bed.  Second we wanted to maintain adequate travel support for rear passengers especially bearing in mind the firm vehicle springing.  Third if possible we would like to improve the thigh/under knee support but not at the expense of a flat bed.  Defining 'softer' turned out to be a two part process since foams have two distinct characteristics, hardness and resilience.  By collecting and comparing samples we established that our Hymer foams were both too hard and also rather 'dead'.  It turns out that resilient foams tend to be more expensive and slightly heavier so it wasn't hard to work out why!  We rejected latex foam for exactly this reason, it would have trebled the cost and doubled the weight - reducing our available payload in the process.

Supreme PU Foam from SMUFoams:  Small quantities of cut foam are available from many local suppliers up and down the country but we felt we would like to deal with companies with a really good selection of grades and preferably with motorhome experience.  After all selecting foams for seating on a (semi-)rigid base being bounced along on commercial vehicle springs at 60+ mph doesn't bear much comparison to your lounge sofa!  We contacted a number of web based suppliers but for us three stood out, Foam for Comfort of Leeds and Priory Upholstery of Christchurch and SM Upholstery of Cardiff.  We eventually did most business with SM Upholstery because they were both very helpful and very competitive on the grade we chose.  I do strongly recommend that you try out the grade you are interested in and do try it on the same base as in your motorhome.  The dearer grades are more resilient and in my opinion are definitely needed when the base is rigid.

Innovation:  Wrapped Cushion from SMUThe standard Hymer dinette bed is made up using the two seat cushions plus one wedge shaped back cushion plus a small infill cushion plus an optional long extension cushion - not very satisfactory.  It soon dawned on us that we could get rid of the odd pieces in the bed if we simply made up a third base cushion matching the other two - and then we could also have different, softer and more comfortable grades for the seat backs.  Hymer make the upholstery covers removable so it was a simple job to unzip them and get the measurements for SM who then made up the foam blocks complete with Dacron wrap and stockinette covers, shipped promptly to my door.  The results are a great improvement and worth every penny.  For simplicity we decided to go for one-piece single grade foam but it is also possible to make up foam sandwiches.  If I was doing this again I'd be tempted to try this using a firm-ish base and softer top layer. For domestic upholstery these sandwiches are usually symmetrical and reversible but could easily be a graded stack of two or even three non-reversible grades in a motorhome.

We also added a Luxury Pressure Relief Mattress Overlay from FFCmattress overlay to the over-cab bed choosing one from FFC, again one of the better non-latex grades is the optimum choice.  Although reducing head height slightly the improvement in comfort has made this well worthwhile too.  As a final tweak I also ordered some stockinette covered recon foam wedges to velcro under the seat cushions.  These provide under-knee support while sitting but are put to one side when the bed is made up.  When not in use they store conveniently on top of the wall cupboards.  I experimented with a similar wedge for the long couch but this has proved to be something of a waste of time, it really isn't needed there.  Suppliers like SM & FFC will cover any extra cushions for you or you can do your own in matching or sympathetic fabrics to finish the job off.

I hope this personal story will help you make your own decisions about your own circumstances but I will say, if thinking about it - don't delay, do it, you'll not regret it!


All material copyright Motorcaravanning.com and/or Neill & Dilys King 1999 - 2013 unless otherwise stated.