Back in May, we serendipitously purchased a camper van – a 2016 Winnebago Travato 59K we’ve named Coopernicus.
Quick recap: We wanted a van to replace our Mini Cooper, which we had towed behind our 1961 vintage bus conversion since 2011 – and now used to hopscotch between marinas during our boating season about our 1999 Bayliner 4788.
The first time spent in a new to you home, you have all sorts of first impressions.
The things you like.
The things you don’t.
The ‘stuff’ you want to acquire to make it better.
You can never repeat your first time, and if you don’t jot this stuff down – you may grow complacent about the stuff that annoys you.
So we always take the time to record our first impressions – right there on the spot.
We thought it might be fun to share our first impressions that we filmed at the end of our first camping trip.
But wait.. there’s more – we not only share our first impressions, we follow up a week later with the stuff we acquired to smooth out the rough edges.
Some of the top questions we wanted to answer during our first camping trip were:
Could we replace our bus with the van?
I’m not gonna gloss over it, the prospect of maintaining three livable moving vessels is intimidating.
Especially when one is a boat and the other a vintage bus.
We love our bus so much, we’ve put our heart and souls into making Zephyr our very own over the years. We definitely WANT to keep her in our fleet.
But will it be practical long term? Would buying a camper van shift our thoughts and perhaps have us wanting to part ways with Zephyr and just focus on the boat and van?
Well.. after this first trip, it was pretty much a resounding NO.
Our first four years on the road was in super tiny travel trailers (a 16′ T@B teardrop and a 17′ Oliver Travel Trailer fiberglass egg).
There are definite advantages to being so nimble, but we’ve done our time living with the space compromises for extended long term travel.
At this point in time – we don’t see the Travato being comfortable for us for more than a couple weeks at a time.
But it’s going to be PERFECT for our intended purpose of shorter camping trips, daily driver and repositioning between our summer and winter homes.
And since our intentions are still to slowly do the Great Loop and eventually get the boat up to where it actually gets too cold to cruise – there are upcoming winters where having a comfortable winter home will be essential.
That’s not to say that our winter home might become something else eventually – like a rental home or other nomadic pursuits. But we can’t see spending an entire season in just the van.
So for now, we’re proceeding with the plan of a 3-vessel nomadic fleet.
What Are the Space Compromises of the Travato?
There are always compromises in mobile living vessels. There’s a lot we LOVE about the Travato 59G (you can check out our tour to see those), but here are the things we identified as not-quite-so-perfect:
Lack of counter space in the kitchen
While we don’t imagine we’ll be doing too much real cooking while roaming in the van – we do like a comfortable kitchen space. The Travato’s is surprisingly large for a van, but it’s still a bit limiting for meal preps.
When the stovetop and the sink are both open, there’s basically…. none. Which leaves you no where to set meal prep stuff. No place to easily keep things like paper towels and other kitchen stuff.
I’ll share our solution below.
Propane Stove Top
We are super spoiled with an induction cooktop in both our boat and bus. Going back to a propane stovetop is like moving into the stone age. I love the quick responsiveness and lack of heat getting into the living space that induction provides. And not needing a lid to create counter space.
And even on the current lithium ion versions of the Travato, they don’t have induction.
More and more new RVs are coming equipped with induction – they’re just awesome for a small living space. It seems it’s time for camper vans to get this option too.
Bed / Mattress
A lot of folks were concerned about the size of the bed in the 59G – it is more narrow than a full size bed and blocked in on three and half sides. That turned out to not be a problem for us, at least for a few nights at a time.
The three of us sleep in a big pile anyway. Chris and I spooned, with Kiki draped over us or around our heads.
And exiting the bed at the corner foot is a LOT easier than the full body crawl over style beds we had in both of our former trailers.
But in 2016, Winnebago wasn’t putting a lot of foam in the mattress (apparently in new years they have added additional foam). And we are memory foam addicts and have great mattresses in both our bus and boat.
The bathroom in the 59G is actually quite spacious… for a van. And very usable. But there are some oddities that make it a touch annoying.
For one – lighting. It’s over the toilet (and it’s not LED?!!?). Which means if you’re using the sink, you’re in the dark as the only light is behind you – casting a shadow on the mirror. And Chris complains that when using the toilet for peeing, the light is right in his eyes. And for me, applying make-up is quite difficult.
The snap on shower curtain is basically a joke. It attaches midway to block off the toilet from getting wet (and, covers the light too), which leaves you in a super tiny cramped dark space. We found just skipping it is fine, the toilet doesn’t get that wet.
There’s limited counter space in the bathroom for storing tooth & hairbrushes.
Oh, and because the grey tank is above the shower drain, it uses a sump pump to drain. We’re used to that, standard boat stuff to us. But the tiny little filters in the path clog up quickly. Apparently, it’s normal to need to clean them out every 3-4 showers (and showers in a van with tiny tanks aren’t long showers). Joy.
We love the layout of the 59G with the seating for 5 in the front and big table. And it mostly works out great.
However, the passenger side seat doesn’t spin all the way around – it’s blocked by the little side bench (which is also the fresh water tank). Probably not an issue form most – but I like to sit with my feet up. And it would be super nice if the seat lined up with the bench – it would be the perfect Cherie-lounger.
Also, the dinette bench has a stiff area down the center – supposedly to create two ‘seats’. But for a work space for one, it’s more ideal to sit center so you have elbow room.
And that puts a crack.. well.. right down your crack.
Stuff to Acquire
So after our first camping trip, we dove into the Travato Owners and Wannabees Facebook group for solutions others had. Hey, why re-invent the wheel?
Here are some of the items we acquired, and tested out on our second camping trip:
Camco Bamboo Folding Table
While working in the kitchen, I came up with the idea of a flat surface we could put on the bed to create a meal prep area. Chris expanded on the idea of finding a table with folding legs that could also double as an outdoor table.
We found this Camco Bamboo Folding Table that fits the bill – it even has two positions for the legs so it can be coffee table height or dining height. And, when the legs are stowed, it fits perfectly on it’s side under the bed taking up a minimal of space.
And super bonus, with the table on the bed – it makes a great standing desk location.
Paper Towel Holder
The go-to paper towel holder in the Travato groups is this ratcheting one – Kamenstein Perfect Tear Paper Towel Holder. It fits perfectly above the sink, and the towels don’t just unravel with a breeze (or a cat). Great addition!
Any small space is going to get dirty floors early and often… even with removing your shoes. And especially with a cat and a litter box.
Sweeping had already become annoying, especially with the textured vinyl. So, we needed a small but powerful vacuum.
We settled on the highly rated BLACK DECKER Pivot Vacuum. And.. it’s awesome. We’re getting one for the bus and boat too (actually, I stole it off the van for use on the boat for now).
Latex Mattress Topper
Since the bed in the Travato folds up to make rear storage space, we were hesitant to solve the mattress situation with a topper. We know from experience that memory foam pretty quickly will split, and we weren’t sure if the bed could still fold with a topper.
But several in the Travato group reported that a latex topper is less prone to splitting – and a 2″ topper would still allow the bed to fold.
So, we decided to give it a shot. We ordered a Natural Latex Mattress Topper in full size and cut it to fit.
It’s super comfy. We’ll have to see how it holds up long term.
For more on solutions for crappy RV & boat mattresses and solutions we’ve tried: Crappy RV or Boat Mattress?? Tips for a Great Night’s Sleep!
We also got a Suction Cup Magnifying Makeup Mirror with Light to help with the lighting issues in the bathroom.
And a Suction Cup Shower Caddy Storage Basket that other owners say works on the porous walls of the bathroom for adding extra storage space.
We bought a bunch of other ‘stuff’ too. If you’re interested in other gear we use in our mobile vessels – head on over to our Gear Page.
That’s a Wrap!
We’ve now gone on two camping trips in our Travato for a total of 5 nights. We look forward to many more in the future. Just spread out over time into shorter trips.