Which RV Is Right for You
Recreational vehicles should not be confused with the “Tiny Homes”. Tiny Homes are generally constructed to be parked in a permanent or semi-permanent location whereas RV are designed to readily move about. The comparisons between the two are beyond the scope of this book. Choosing an RV is as personal as choosing a pair of shoes. The size generally relates to how many it will sleep. An RV advertised to sleep 6 can be misleading. The bedroom area will have a queen bed, the couch folds out to sleep 2 and the kitchen table converts into a small sleeping for 2. With this configuration you literally reconfigure the living area for sleeping and again for daytime use.
A bunk bed floor plan is an option for families with children to minimize reconfiguration and keep the RV reasonably small. The point is to understand what is required to accommodate everyone. The more permanent sleeping arrangements equate to a larger and heavier RV, a higher price and larger tow vehicle. Slide out rooms increase the overall living area and are now offered in the smaller RVs.
If you consider a towable, the vehicle you presently own will affect the buying decision unless you plan to replace it. Having the right size tow vehicle is critical to the safety of everyone on the road. Look closely at the RVs on the highway and you will see many with the tow vehicle riding nose high and the trailer nose down and watch them sway when a tractor trailer goes by. That same undersized tow vehicle will be seen on a hill, in the slow lane, in a lower gear with the engine screaming and when they head downhill the brakes are smoking and the engine is over speeding. This situation is an accident looking for a place to happen. Towing details are covered in a separate section.
An RV used for weekends and vacation camping and relatively warmer weather will be equipped differently than an in an RV that’s occupied full time. Full time requires a different thought process and is covered in a separate area of this book.
There are three types of RVs on the general market;
Towables' hitch directly to the rear of the tow vehicle, include small sizes that can be pulled with a motorcycle up to and exceeding 40’ in length. Within this group are “Pop UP” and “Expandable trailers. They are light weight and can be sized to pull with most mid sized SUVs. The lower two to three feet of walls are solid usually made of fiberglass. The upper walls are made of vinyl or canvas or a combination of both. The soft walls including windows allow the roof to collapse providing a low towing profile. The expanding roof provided ample floor space and some models offer additional sleeping space in fold out sides. You can even get a floorplan that includes a “wet bathroom” Although they can be used in cool weather, they are not intended for winter use. A rooftop mounted air conditioner is an option for the warmer months. There are models with all hard sides that fold up intricately. Expendables offer additional space with trailer sides that are hinged to fold out with a portion of the walls made of canvas or plastic or a combination of the two. An expandable gives additional living area without adding significant weight. A “popup" is an inexpensive way to get started into RV camping to see if this vacation style is for you.
Another type of trailer in the towable group is the “toy hauler”. In addition to the living area, added onto the back is a garage to house you toys I.E. motor cycles. dirt bikes and other off-road vehicles. The rear wall of the trailer becomes a fold down ramp. The ramp is spring loaded for ease of use. Some models include fold down legs to support the ramp to be used as a patio deck. Accessories include fold-up or removable railing and screening to convert it into a screened in porch. A gas tank with a pump can added to fuel up the toys elimination the need to transport fuel in cans. The interiors are designed with party’s in mind with some resembling the inside of a bar. Whether mountain trails or desert dunes are on your itinerary, a toy hauler may deserve consideration.
Included in the towable group are “5th Wheel trailers”. Their distinctive design allows them to hitch to a pickup truck via a special receiver mounted directly over the rear axle. They are more stable when towing than a unit mounted at the rear of the tow vehicle. The 5th trailer hitch does not need “weight transfer bars” or additional sway control and thus is easier to hitch and unhitch. The hitch occupies a large portion of the pickup bed and for big hauling jobs must be removed, typically a two-man job.
Truck Campers or “Slide Ins”
The truck camper or “slide-in offers a camping solution if you already own a pickup and are ready to move up from tent camping or from sleeping outdoors on the ground. They are designed to fit into a pickup truck bed and thus are quite compact. Some models available with slide outs that can relieve that claustrophobic feeling. Floorplans include a choice of models with hard side and soft side popup.
Truck campers must be carefully matched to the truck for safety may require additional truck suspension modifications especially if you are considering towing a boat, a jet ski trailer or small car.
The dealer will help you match your camper and truck. If you choose to buy from a private party, do your research to ensure you don’t overload your truck. Loading and unloading accomplished with both electric and manual jacks attached or portable. The jacks can be used as stabilizers while camping.