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Remember When RV Saunas Were a Thing? Yeah, Neither Do We

RV manufacturers occasionally push the limits regarding the features they offer. They’ll try anything to entice consumers to purchase one of their units. However, the RV sauna was one feature that fell flat with shoppers.

So why didn’t consumers like this feature or purchase rigs with it? Can you expect to see these in the future? If you’re like us, you have plenty of questions that deserve answers.

Today, we’re looking at the short life of the RV sauna and why it was an epic failure. Let’s get started!

Motorcoach with a Cold Plunge Tub, Steam Shower and Dry Sauna!! Newell Coach #1760

If You’ve Never Heard of an RV Sauna, You’re Not Alone

In 2006, the world met Twitter, Taylor Swift, and the Grand RV Sauna for the first time. However, one of the three didn’t gain traction and never became popular. Can you guess which one?

At the 44th Annual National RV Trade Show, Michigan-based Grand Packaging Inc. revealed its innovative Grand RV Sauna. Attendees could see the product in luxury rigs. 

There was excitement to start taking orders and getting feedback from consumers. However, since 2006, we’ve walked through hundreds of RVs and have never seen one with the Grand RV Sauna. Unfortunately, consumers weren’t nearly as excited about the sauna as its manufacturer. It disappeared as quickly as it came onto the scene.

What Is an RV Sauna?

RV saunas are similar to standard saunas but are much more compact and located, as you may have guessed, in a recreational vehicle. They’re usually smaller, about the size of a traditional closet in a camper, and typically one-person units. However, they use self-venting and infrared dry-heating elements instead of fire or steam. These are much safer technologies that provide a similar experience. Could you imagine the RV fire risk and water damage that could result from an improperly installed sauna?

The idea of bringing your sauna along for a camping trip may appeal to many in concept, but it probably really only makes sense in a handful of situations. Beyond the weight and space concerns most RVers may have, many RV parks and campgrounds have saunas as amenities during your stay. Regardless, these factors didn’t stop the Grand RV Sauna from giving it a go.

Relaxing in RV sauna
Life on the road doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy some luxury, like having a sauna in your RV.

What Was the Grand RV Sauna?

Grand Packaging Inc. released the Grand RV Sauna in 2006. However, it wasn’t available in luxury rigs until 2007 models. Andre Levesque, president of Grand Packaging, described the product to RV Business as giving “owners a spa-like environment everywhere their travels take them.”

The Grand RV Sauna heated the space to 150 degrees in approximately 15 minutes. The auto-venting double French doors helped reduce the chances of heat escaping the unit. For those looking for a luxury experience while RVing, they were sure this was going to be hard to top.

The general manager at Dutchmen’s Colorado and Grand Junction group, Matt Buckman, told RV Business “Grand Packaging has found an innovative way to repackage a traditional closet space to create a new and enjoyable experience for every RV owner.”

Did RV Manufacturers Ever Even Offer RV Saunas?

Despite its short existence, some RV manufacturers gave RV saunas a chance. It was an option for select models from DoubleTree (now DRV), Dutchmen Manufacturing Inc., Gulf Stream Coach Inc., and Chariot Eagle Inc. However, as you might expect, there wasn’t wide acceptance in the industry for such a niche market.

Pro Tip: You may not find a sauna in a luxury RV, but you will find these Top 10 Fun and Impressive Features You’ll Find in Luxury RVs.

Small RV sauna
RV saunas never really took off within the industry.

Why RV Saunas Totally Flopped

Unfortunately, RV saunas were a bust. Several factors contributed to their failure and why we don’t see them in rigs today. Let’s take a look!

Energy Consumption

One of the biggest frustrations for RVers is managing power. Power-hungry devices can test an RV’s electrical system or the power supply. Heating the space to 150 degrees requires a tremendous amount of energy. While there aren’t specifics readily available about these saunas anymore, we imagine they would be similar to other small 120V saunas which are around 1,500 watts (12.5 amps).

Here is a 2007 Doubletree Mobile Suites Brochure with an image of one of these infrared RV saunas.

RV sauna from 2007 doubletree drv mobile suites brochure
Source

This isn’t a terrible amount of power for many modern 50 AMP RVs. However, 20 years ago, the number of 50-amp campers wasn’t what it is today. Regardless having a sauna inside an RV might not be worth the juggling act for most owners. This could be made worse in warm months when you are trying to cool the rest of the RV. Adding that much heat load would require even more energy to remove it when done.

Space Constraints

RVs are notorious for having limited amounts of space. Many owners find unique ways to take advantage of every nook and cranny. Adding a sauna would complicate an already complex and frustrating situation.

While the Grand RV Sauna maintained multi-purpose functionality, it wasn’t practical or convenient. Consumers likely didn’t enjoy emptying their closets whenever they wanted to use their sauna. Afterward, they’d have to let the unit cool down and carefully place all the items back into the space.

Steamy sauna
RV saunas struggled to take off due to their size, energy consumption, and overall cost.

Weight Limitations

Another concern for many RVers is their rig’s weight. This is essential for weight distribution and towing, as a driver must stay within the ratings of their vehicle. The increased insulation and other components could have increased the camper’s overall weight.

A heavier RV significantly impacts fuel economy and strain on the vehicle. Owners and manufacturers often try to shave as much weight as possible. The benefits weren’t worth the issues for owners and manufacturers. 

Cost

According to the 2006 press release, the Grand RV Sauna came with a $4,000 to $5,000 price tag. Prices varied depending on the manufacturer and the model. However, this is a relatively expensive upgrade, especially 20 years ago. The cost was unappealing for many consumers considering how often they would really use it.

Limited Appeal

Most manufacturers decide on features and functions based on the appeal to the broad market: the more niche the market, the less demand for the item. A manufacturer doesn’t want campers that aren’t in need. As a result, they typically stay within the status quo during the manufacturing process.

While some people may have found a sauna during their adventures appealing, that appeal was minimal. The number of people willing to pay a premium price was even fewer. As a result, it’s no wonder this wasn’t a widely adopted feature in the industry.

Woman relaxing in RV sauna
While it is hard to find RVs with saunas on the market, you can build your own into your rig.

Could You Build a Sauna in an RV?

It is possible to build a sauna in an RV. However, it’s not very common, and it’s not easy. Newell Coach builds custom-built rigs. One such rig for a professional athlete featured a cold plunge tub, steam shower, and a dry sauna. However, the rig required two 50-amp supplies to run multiple power-hungry devices. This custom rig likely costs well over seven figures.

Titan Vans installed a bathroom, shower, and sauna in a custom camper van. They achieved this by routing a furnace vent into the shower area. This allows them to pump 135-degree heat into the space. With such a small space, it will feel like a sauna in minutes.

Pro Tip: RV in style in one of these 6 Top Luxury Motorhome RV Brands You Won’t Believe.

RV to Sauna Conversions

One small trend linking RVs and saunas is turning unused RVs into mobile saunas. Having a sauna on wheels is great for polar plunges at the lake. The YouTube channel Max Bear demonstrated this when he purchased an old RV and converted it. The finished product was an incredible masterpiece. However, it took a considerable amount of time. 

Now that the project is complete, Max Bear can haul it anywhere. A mobile RV sauna is a massive and time-consuming endeavor. However, it has some incredible potential. Think of all the beautiful places you could enjoy as you step out of your sauna on wheels.

RV CONVERSION TO RUSSIAN SAUNA || PART 1 || (DEMOLITION)

Don’t Expect to See an RV Sauna Anytime Soon

For better or worse, don’t expect to see an RV sauna in campers anytime soon. There’s a reason why the Grand RV Sauna was a dud. There isn’t a massive interest from the RVing community. However, as the Newell Coach and DIY conversion van show, anything is possible if you order a custom build or have the skills and drive yourself.

Would you use an RV sauna? Tell us your thoughts in the comments!

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About Cait Morton

Co-Founder, Logistics Queen, Business & Content Manager, and Animal Lover

An Upper Peninsula of Michigan native (aka a Yooper), Caitlin is the organization, big-picture, and content strategy queen of our operation. She keeps everything orderly and on track.

With a background in Business Management, she supports and helps channel Tom’s technical prowess into the helpful content our readers and viewers expect. That’s not to say you won’t find her turning wrenches and talking shop – RV life is a team effort. She keeps the business and the blog moving forward with a variety of topics and resources for our audience.

Believe it or not, she is rather camera shy, though she co-hosts the Mortons’ personal videos and The RVers TV show.

Caitlin’s passion lies in outdoor recreation and with animals. Some of her favorite things to do are hiking, biking, and getting out on the water via kayak, SUP, or boat.

She also loves the RV life due to the fact that you can bring your pets along. Sharing information about safely recreating outdoors with your whole family – pets included! – is very important to her. Because of this, Caitlin spearheaded the launch of HypePets in 2023.

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Bob

Saturday 21st of October 2023

Too bad the thing that took off was Taylor Swift.