No matter the size of the motorhome, travel trailer, or 5th wheel, all RV owners appreciate multi-use items of all kinds. Anything that can serve more than one purpose to help save space and weight in an RV is a win! And since both sofas and beds are often large and heavy, maybe one of the most valuable multi-use items we can have is an RV sleeper sofa.
Of course, a dedicated RV sofa is a great place to lounge. And as a sofa, it could even sleep a child or small adult. But as soon as the “sleeper” option is added, it becomes far more versatile.
But not all sleeper sofas are the same. You may hear some types referred to as a “jackknife sofa” or “hide-a-bed”, but there are actually several different types of sofa beds that offer subtle (and not-so-subtle) differences.
Either way, an RV sleeper sofa can be a real game-changer for anyone who may want to have guests on board at some point. So, today we’re taking a look at the options!
What’s an RV Sleeper Sofa?
Generally speaking, an RV sleeper sofa is a useful piece of RV furniture that can turn your RV couch into comfortable sleeping quarters for kids, grandkids, friends, or
mothers-in-law other fun traveling companions. (All kidding aside, there’s been considerable “mother-in-law” guest visitation on board our RV. Video evidence here.)
Instead of a regular RV sofa which takes up a similar amount of space, an RV sleeper sofa generally hides a full-size bed inside your RV couch, very much like you’d find in a sticks-and-bricks house. This gives you the ability to turn your couch into a sofa bed.
So, an RV sleeper sofa is typically a pull-out bed hidden inside your RV’s living room sofa. But again, they’re not all the same.
Are There Different Types of RV Sleeper Sofas?
There certainly are! As an example, we’ve got a very high-quality 43′ diesel pusher RV with some fairly luxurious accommodations throughout the rig. But our jackknife sofa is definitely not comfortable for sleeping, even when deployed as a bed. We’ve come up with an alternate solution because we’ve got sufficient space in our main living area. (More on that below.)
But every RV is different.
If your RV is just perfect for you but you’d like to have the option to be able to take other loved ones along for an epic road trip every now and again, a bed hidden inside your RV sofa may be just the thing for you.
But there are several ways to go about adding a sleeping area to your RV. In the sections that follow, we’ll look at several different types so that we’re offering ideas for every budget.
Back in 2015, we made a video about various ways to add sleeping capacity to an RV for guests. We talked about our experiences with both of our rigs and how onboard RV sofas measure up in terms of guest sleeping arrangements.
If you’d like to see our sleeper sofa situation for yourselves, or if you’re simply in the mood for a little entertainment in terms of a couple of cameo appearances by some special people whom you may recognize, have a look at the video:
How to Add Another Bed to an RV
There are a number of options for adding a bed to your RV including some different types of RV sleeper sofas.
Let’s take a look at the options and how they work.
This is the option that came with our current RV. With a jackknife sofa the bottom cushions pull out and away from the couch while the back lays flat, making the couch into a bed.
This option saves space and can leave room for a storage drawer under the couch, but it’s not comfortable to sleep on and usually isn’t as large as a standard bed size. This also makes it difficult to find sheets to fit.
Standard Sofa Bed
A standard sofa bed (sometimes called a “hide-a-bed”) generally has a fold-out mechanism with a mattress that is usually quite thin.
There’s no storage or drawer space under a standard sofa bed. They’re also usually pretty uncomfortable and may be best for a kid or two.
Air Mattress Sofa Bed
These are actually an upgrade from a standard sofa bed in terms of comfort.
When you unfold the sofa bed, you’ll find an inflatable air mattress inside. You blow that up with the (usually included) pump, and it can produce a fairly comfortable bed.
Another benefit of an air mattress sofa bed is that it weighs less than a standard sofa bed.
A fold-and-tumble bed is a hybrid of a standard sofa bed and a jackknife sofa bed.
This type of RV sleeper sofa actually forms a larger sleeping surface than a jackknife bed, but it still presents multiple sections. The problem with this is that any sleeping options with multiple sections leave you with uncomfortable seams.
One option for dealing with this is to put an inflatable air mattress on top of the extended bed area. This not only improves comfort but also gives you a more standard size to accommodate regular bed sheets.
This one isn’t easy to visualize, so here’s an example of an RV fold-and-tumble bed courtesy of Lichtsinn RV.
A murphy bed is more common in smaller RVs due to their versatile space usage. In fact, murphy beds are often the option for the primary bed in some RVs to truly maximize space.
A murphy bed is sometimes a couch by day, and then a bed pivots down from the wall, with the couch folding beneath.
This type of bed saves lots of space but usually limits the unit to be either a couch OR a bed, but not both. It also blocks the wall it folds up against, so it may limit the ability to have cabinets above. Depending on the location, you might also lose a window when it’s closed.
While an air mattress isn’t really related to a sleeper sofa, we’re including it because it does offer a cost-effective way to add sleeping space to your RV without dealing with an RV sleeper sofa.
A quality air mattress can be placed directly on the floor. Some are actually quite comfortable and inexpensive. This is the alternate solution we use that we mentioned earlier. It’s a viable option for us because we have a big rig with 4 slide-outs and plenty of floor space.
Our queen-size air mattress is pretty comfortable (we’ve slept on it whenever the aforementioned mother-in-law visitation occurred — we’re good sons, aren’t we? LOL). It’s also small when deflated, so easy to store. And it’s even reasonably priced.
With over 33,000 user reviews, you can probably get a good sense of how comfortable and easy to use/store an air mattress like this would be.
- ✔ COMFORT – With a bed height of 18" this luxurious and unique dual-layer air pocket system contours to your body for supreme comfort; with a...
- ✔ UNIQUE EDGE CONSTRUCTION – Dura-Beam Air Mattresses are designed with a unique edge construction to withstand the weight of the sleeper without...
Can I Upgrade the RV Sleeper Sofa In My RV?
You absolutely can upgrade your RV sleeper sofa and any other furniture in your RV. For more information, see our post on RV furniture upgrades.
One of our favorite RV interior retailers is Bradd and Hall. They’ve been in the RV interior furnishings business for over 40 years and produce very high-quality furniture and other RV interior upgrades, such as window blinds/shades (look for a Bradd and Hall upgrade to ours in the near future).
You can see some of Bradd and Hall’s RV sleeper sofa options here, including various sizes of jackknife, traditional, and tri-fold sleepers.
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Monday 26th of September 2022
We have a top quality Air Mattress Sofa Bed in the RV that users have said it's the "best sleep" they've had in a long time. The pump to blow it up (and deflate it) takes about 25 seconds and it does not leak during the night. It also has a quilted top cover which I think makes it feel soft yet firm.
When the whole gang comes to visit we have some sleep in the casita and use two air mattresses like you have. Again - no complaints from the sleepers. Unless it's time they get up and have a different idea about that.
Tuesday 27th of September 2022
Sounds like you've got lots of sleeping options all sorted out, John!
Gay RV Enthusiast (Jason)
Monday 26th of September 2022
Great idea. Whether you use it to accommodate guests who are traveling with you or you're resting while one drives the motorhome, one needs a place to sleep.