Category Archives: RVing

Exploring RV Living – Camping vs. Living

(This post is part of a series. If you’re new to my blog or this is the first you’ve seen of this series, you might look at the introduction first.)

Let’s clarify what I mean when I say camping. Some people would go so far as to say that RVing isn’t camping at all. Well, according to my dictionary, camping means “lodging in a camp” with no mention of what or even if any shelter is involved. While there may be different styles of camping, and some folks may prefer more primitive camping, RVing is indeed camping. The confusion can also go in the opposite direction. One might think “if you live in your RV, are you then camping all the time?” Maybe so.

Let’s Go Camping!

For the purpose of this discussion, “camping” is what someone does when they leave their normal home for a period of time, and pack what they expect to need for the period of time they plan to be away. Like a vacation. They do not usually carry all of their earthly possessions with them. They know that they will be eventually returning home.

Home Is Where I Park It

No matter where I go, I take my home with me. All my possessions. Everything. Whether I’m spending the night in a parking lot, a month in the middle of the desert, or a year in a small town, there’s no going home because I’m already here. And so’s all my stuff. While the vacation camper only needs to pack what he or she will need for a week or so, the full timer takes everything. Well, that’s not always true. Some full timers do store off-season clothing or items they aren’t ready to part with. Not me.

That’s Life

Campers need only be prepared for their planned trip. The full timer must be prepared for every day life. While this includes the obvious things, such as food and clothing, it also includes things that one doesn’t give daily thought to. Stuff like business records, passports, birth certificates, medical records, and more. Maybe work-related tools or equipment. Even the obvious isn’t as obvious as it seems. Take clothing, for example. Unless I want to maintain storage at some permanent location, and return to it as needed, I must carry with me clothing appropriate for all seasons and any climate I expect to travel to. To complicate matters further, most RVs are designed with the occasional traveler, not the full timer, in mind, with precious little storage space.

Not Always a Holiday

The recreational RVer might enjoy leaving cares behind, forgetting about computers, telephones, bills, and other responsibilities. To live full-time in an RV is not the same as always being on vacation. In a future installment of this series, I’ll get into things like mail, telephone, and Internet, as well as how to stay on top of bills and other obligations.

Minimalism Helps

As you can imagine, if you want to carry your home and all its contents with you everywhere, a minimalist mindset will make things much easier. You will want to own only what you really need or really love. Although I downsized 90% of my possessions when I moved out of my 1200 square f00t home and into my 126 square f00t RV, I’m learning now that I still have a long way to go. Experience has really been my best teacher. If you’ve been following me for a while (and if not, feel free to browse the archives) you know I’m still working on my clutter, in order to live more comfortably in this tiny space.

One-Size-Fits-All?

That’s not to say you have to be able to fit in 100 square feet. Still, you’ll probably be significantly downsizing from whatever you live in now, unless you already live in an RV, a hotel room, or a really really small studio apartment. The tiniest pop-ups and pickup campers are well under 100 square feet, while the largest, most luxurious motor homes and trailers are barely 300 square feet. Still pretty small by traditional standards. If you’ve ever thought about living in an RV, or any sort of “tiny house”, you might consider the following experiment. Try living for a month in just your kitchen, bathroom, and smallest bedroom. In fact, if you have a large eat in kitchen, try confining yourself to just the kitchen and bathroom. For the whole month, all other parts of the house are off-limits, except for navigation purposes. This includes their contents, so before you begin, make sure everything you’ll need is in your kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom.

Are You Experienced?

Have you ever been RVing? Have you ever imagined spending more than a week or two in one? Are you a fellow full timer, or have you been in the past? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Comments are open; questions are welcome.

IMPORTANT – About My Home – Clutter Porn

Well, maybe not that important. Just a mini rant about the overuse of the word important, along with its close cousin, urgent, in communications and especially on mail items. They seems to be cluttering half of the envelopes that arrive in my mailbox, yet their contents are rarely important to anybody except the sender.

Why do mail marketers and others continue to use this tired old trick? I suppose that’s rhetorical — they use it because it works. After all, even though we know the odds are it isn’t important, and may be of no interest to us at all, we don’t dare throw it away unopened just in case it actually is important.

More Tricks

Sure, sometimes you can tell from the return address who it’s from, but sometimes there’s no name; just an address. Or worse yet, the return address is misleading. Bank Of America (or its “marketing partners” – euphemism for “companies we sold your name and address to”) sends all sorts of things in essentially identical envelopes, all with the bank’s return address. Usually it’s an offer for some sort of insurance, or trying to get me to apply for some sort of loan or another, but I am forced to open each and every one and give its contents at least a cursory glance, lest I discard my statement or other legitimate communication regarding my account.

OK, now that I have that mini-rant out  of my system, and just to show you my headline isn’t totally bogus, let’s move on to something that, while it might not be too important in the overall scheme of things, you might enjoy.

About My Home

With all that describing of different kinds of RVs in my last post, I didn’t even tell you what I live in. My home is a 1979  Georgie Boy Cruise Master  CM20RB. It is a 20-foot class C motorhome. Interior space  is 18 feet long by 7 feet wide, or 126 square feet.  Here’s the floor plan:

Here’s what it looks like on the inside…

…or at least what the one in this brochure did when it was new:

If you’d like to learn more, or are just into 70’s advertising or shag carpeting, you can click the brochure cover for an eight-page PDF.

Ahhh, but what does it look like now, 32 years later, you ask? Time for…

Clutter Porn!

I know that at least one of my readers (Hi Tanja!) has been patiently waiting for me to post some photos of my clutter. While I’m not quite ready to offer a full portfolio yet, I’ll dip my toe in the water with this small offering:

As you can see, I still have my work cut out for me. In my defense, pretty much everything I own is in here, in 126 square feet. I’m still plugging away at it, and I’ll get there eventually (and post more photos, too).

Oh, and here’s what the outside looks like:

Yeah, even the outside is cluttered, but the stuff on top of the table and the boxes and pile near the rear wheels are stuff to be sold or donated, so it’s not quite as bad as it looks. Why’s the hood open? Mechanical trouble? Naw, it’s just open to discourage the packrats (the 4-legged kind) from nesting in there. They’ll make a mess and chew through hoses and wires, too.

What Do You Think?

Are “important” and “urgent” overused? Is 126 square feet too big? too small? just right? Want more clutter porn? Comments are always open.

Exploring RV Living – What’s In A Name?

(This post is part of a series. If you’re new to my blog or this is the first you’ve seen of this series, you might look at the introduction first.)

I live in an RV, but just what does that mean? “RV” is actually an abbreviation for Recreational Vehicle, although many of us who live in one full-time prefer to think it really stands for Residence or Residential Vehicle. Elsewhere in the world “recreational vehicle” refers to the ruggedized, often four-wheel drive vehicle that we call an SUV, or Sport Utility Vehicle, but here in North America, an RV  is a motor vehicle or trailer having at least the basic necessary amenities of a home. For licensing, registration, and insurance purposes, to qualify as an RV a unit must include, at minimum, sleeping, cooking, and toilet facilities. In most other parts of the world a similar unit would be called either a camper van, if motorized, or a caravan, if towed. It is self-contained and self-sufficient, enabling all on-board systems to be functional without external connections for periods of days, weeks, or even months.

Now that we’ve defined the umbrella term RV, let’s take a look at all the different types of RVs. We can start by separating the lot into two groups: drivable and towable.

Drivable Dwellings

Drivable RVs are called motorhomes. They have an engine, a steering wheel, and a driver’s seat. They are fully self-contained motor vehicles that are also fully functional residences. Or, as Homer Simpson says, “It’s not just a motorhome — it’s a car you can go to the bathroom in!” They have the advantage of being a single vehicle that does it all. The disadvantage is that most motorhomes are too cumbersome and fuel inefficient to use as daily drivers. Most motorhome dwellers either tow a small car behind the motorhome or carry a bicycle, scooter, or small motorcycle for everyday local transportation.

Class A motorhomes are the largest of the motorhomes, built on a truck or bus chassis. They resemble a bus in that they usually have a flat front and boxy shape to them. The driver’s seat is obviously located at the front of the cabin, but there is no separate cab.

Bus conversions are a subset of class A motorhomes. A transit or school bus is converted, either commercially or DIY, into a custom motorhome. Commercially manufactured bus conversions usually start with a new empty bus shell, while DIY conversions are often made from retired commercial or school buses. There is plenty of room for creativity and originality in DIY conversions – many are as much works of art as they are homes on wheels.

Class B motorhomes are built inside a modified standard full-size van, and are sometimes called camper vans. From the outside it might be difficult to tell a class B motorhome from a regular van – the exterior differences include a raised roof (so that one may comfortably stand erect inside) and various vents and connections belonging to appliances and subsystems but may go unnoticed to the untrained eye. One of the biggest advantages of the class B van is that it is small and nimble enough for regular driving, so it could easily be your only vehicle. It’s also pretty stealthy, working well for urban camping.

Class C motorhomes are built upon a “cutaway” van or truck chassis. They retain the truck chassis’ cab, complete with its doors, windows, dashboard, and driver’s seat and controls. From the outside they are easily recognized by the telltale “cab over” portion of the coach which overhangs the cab.

Draggable Domiciles

Towable RVs — trailers — have the advantage of being able to un-hitch and use the tow vehicle for local transportation without having to carry your whole house around as you would with a motorhome. Trailers also come in a variety of styles.

Travel trailers are perhaps the most common trailers. They are towed by a bumper- or frame-mounted ball type hitch. They are sometimes also called bumper-pull trailers. For all but the smallest and lightest travel trailers, you’ll need a full-size pickup truck or large SUV to tow it with.

Other bumper-pull trailers include popups, sometimes called tent trailers, which are low profile when closed for travel, but “pop up” into a soft sided tent-like structure for camping, as well as “teardrop” and other hard-sided micro trailers.  The advantage to these lightweight trailers is that they can be easily towed by almost any vehicle, including a compact car or mini pickup.

Fifth-wheel trailers connect to the tow vehicle using a fifth-wheel hitch and kingpin system, just like a semi-trailer on a big truck. The fifth-wheel hitch is installed in the bed of a pickup truck, though some owners of very large fifth-wheel trailers prefer to use a semi tractor instead of a pickup truck as a tow vehicle. The big advantage of a fifth wheel trailer is size and carrying capacity. If you want the most living space possible and less risk of overloading it, a fifth wheel would be a good choice. In addition to the extra towing capacity, a fifth wheel offers improved handling and maneuverability over a travel trailer’s bumper pull system.

Pickup Campers

There’s one more type of RV that’s worthy of mention but is neither motorized nor towable. The pickup camper is a complete dwelling unit that slides into the bed of a pickup truck. This combination offers some of the convenience of a tiny motorhome with some of the advantages of a trailer. At the campsite, the camper can be supported by jacks and the pickup truck can be driven out from under it, so it may be driven as needed without having to break camp.

That’s Not An RV!

The Mobile Home – while it is a house on wheels, it is usually mobile in name only. They are difficult to move, and therefore it is rarely done. Also, they are not fully self-contained – they need to be connected to water, waste, and electric infrastructure. House Trailer is another name for a mobile home.

Your Turn

Did I miss something? Have any questions? Comments are open!

Exploring RV Living – Introduction

Many of you probably already know, or have deduced, that I live full-time in my RV. A small motorhome, to be exact. Somewhere back in my early archives I wrote about some of the considerations that led me to this lifestyle choice, but I figured it was time to revisit the whole concept. I’d also like to explore how it has been working out, now that I’ve been doing it for several years, and share with the curious just what RV living on a full-time basis is like.

About The Headline

While looking at my blog stats, I’ve noticed that I often get search hits with variations of “RV living” in them, yet  “RV lifestyle” or “RV full-timing” almost never appear. While the latter terms are common among the RV community, “RV living” or “living in an RV” are what I guess most people call it. I hope my decision to go with a title that favors common usage over insider jargon helps folks interested in this lifestyle to find this series. I’ll be offering a combination of general information and specific details of my own personal home and lifestyle.

Did You Say Series?

I’ve decided to make this a series for a few reasons. There’s way too much to cover for a single blog post. It would end up being far too long while still skimping on details. By breaking it up into a series of posts I can give each subtopic the attention and space it deserves.

Each reader may not be equally interested in each facet of RV living. Some may be more interested in the technical details of the various subsystems, others in the details of travel and locational possibilities, and still others in the social and community aspects of the lifestyle.

There will even be topics of interest to folks who could care less about the RV lifestyle, but might want to learn about off-grid living, strategies for living in tiny spaces, and location independence, all of which are parts of RV living.

The series format will allow readers to pick and choose what interests them, while allowing me to sufficiently elaborate on each topic. It will help keep follow-up discussions in the comments section organized too.

Topics I Plan To Cover

  • What’s in a name? – RV, camper, motorhome, pop-up, caravan, fifth wheel, house trailer, travel trailer, mobile home, van and bus conversions; what do they all mean and what’s the difference?
  • Camping vs. living – The similarities and differences between RV camping and full-time RV living.
  • Home is where I park it – Campgrounds, RV parks, private property, boondocking, and more.
  • All the comforts of home – Lights, running water, flush toilet, and a complete kitchen, even in the middle of nowhere.
  • Staying connected – Wireless telephone, internet, and HF radio keep me in touch no matter where I am.
  • That’s entertainment – Accommodating music, video, and reading libraries on-the-go in tiny places. Other entertainment options, too.
  • Similarities and differences – How is it the same as living in a tiny house or apartment, and how is it different? Exploring the unique challenges and rewards.
  • Environmental considerations – Many people think of an RV as a big, gas-guzzling road-hog, but is it really that bad? It makes for a very eco-friendly dwelling when it isn’t rolling down the road.
  • Is it expensive? – You can spend a fortune if you want, yet it can be surprisingly affordable, especially if you are handy and creative. Ongoing expenses can be very minimal.
  • Is it for you? – It may not be for everybody, but if you have a sense of adventure and a taste for unconventional living, it might be for you. Why I chose to try it and why I’m still doing it.

You Can Help

I’m sure I’ve missed something. Those are only the things I’ve thought you might be interested in. Please jump in down in the comment section and let me know what interests you and what you want to read about. Nothing is carved in stone – this series can go where you want it to.

Also, would you prefer that I concentrate my writing efforts exclusively on this series, until I’ve exhausted the topic, or would you rather I do, say,  one “Exploring RV Living” post plus an unrelated second post each week? Your opinion is important to me.