When the temperatures dip below freezing, we make sure to run our propane heater so it can blow into our storage bay and keep our pipes and tanks warm. But we use electric heat as backup for when we run out of propane in the middle of the night (because sometimes we are irresponsible and forget about our propane tanks) and because it’s cheaper for us as a main source of heat when the temperatures are above freezing.
This obviously depends on whether they’ve already established a location-independent reliable source of income, or if they plan to seek such an opportunity after they have launched their journey. For the former situation, an emergency fund of $10,000 would give them a good cushion and peace of mind, though this is with the caveat that the couple is debt free, including owing their home-on-wheels and vehicles out right. If the couple is considering finding employment opportunities on the road, then in my opinion, their savings should include one year of expenses and an emergency fund.
Heated Water Hose – You can make your own with heat tape and pipe insulation and this works pretty well, although on occasion we have seen people in the bathrooms warming up their frozen hoses during extreme cold snaps. I’d recommend just purchasing a good heated water hose. Camco has one on the market but it looks kinda cheap, from the heated hoses I’ve seen in person I’d recommend the Pirit Heated Hose as the construction and the warranty seem top notch.
The point at which you decide to live debt-free is going to be different than the next person’s. I am 27 and post-foreclosure. Perhaps you are 17, 32, 54, or 68. Maybe you’ve always rented an apartment, or you own two houses outright. It doesn’t really matter when you start as long as you make that decision and begin taking steps to live it out. And you know what? You can do it. You can live debt-free.
Propane Heater – This device sips propane compared to the furnace installed on your RV, yet it keeps the inside even warmer. Best part is this heater doesn’t use electricity like a space heater but it heats just as well. The downsides: There is no anti-tip shutoff so it’s not good if you have pets. The install can be simple but should be completed by a professional. The propane is un-vented and therefore produces deadly Carbon Monoxide so you must keep a vent open at all times and constantly check your CO detector to make sure it is functioning properly. Also as discussed propane heat produces humidity. Our friends the RV Geeks use this propane furnace and swear by it in their Winter RVing post
Thus, we ended up back in our VW Bus, which is super easy to set up / tear down, can be driven anywhere, but you loose out on space. We also want to be in more natural areas, where the larger your rig, the more difficult it is to access or get any remaining spots. But that’s just us, and it sounds like you’ll be closer to towns and therefor possibly more likely to be in RV parks, so with all of that, best of luck in making a decision!
I first heard about your guys from Heath’s podcast. This was an awesome and inspiring post. We’re a family of three (plus a dog and cat) planning to do the same thing. It is so encouraging to hear from full-timing families that have made it work, while overcoming some of the stigmas and challenges that come with this decision. Thanks again for sharing your story.
You are going to need a set of solar panels. Forget a generator. I don’t know why almost every RV I ever come across is running a generator. I’m here to tell you that a gas-powered generator is almost completely unnecessary. A good set of solar panels placed properly on your roof (you want at least 60 watts, I’d like to have more one day) will give you enough power every day (even cloudy days) to charge your cellphones, power your lights all night, power the propane furnace for increments when the wood stove isn’t running, and watch movies.
This morning as I lay in bed awake but with my eyes closed, I listened to Thing 4 breathing near my cheek and felt the warmth of Brent’s body against my back. The night had been rough with Thing 3 waking up multiple times in tears and Thing 4 needing to be nursed for what seemed like a million times. But now with the soft grey light curling around the blinds, everyone but me was sleeping soundly. It was cozy. I didn’t want to wake up because that meant letting go of the comforting blanket of peace that surrounded us and embracing the everyday chaos of taking care of a toddler, baby, and two teens. Instead, I thought about how whole and safe I feel in our nest of a bed tucked away in the slide out of the RV. Eyes still closed, I reached out to tighten the curtain when my hand abruptly fell through the imagined wall.
And a tip. If you are trying to get chrome tape to stick to your fiberglass exterior in cold weather, say, to put up reflectix, try this:wipe where you want the tape to stick with a hot damp rag. It will dry quickly and the tape will stick to the warmer surface. I’ve done this in sub 20 degree weather! Make a square of it around window, then run your next square of tape over top if it when you put up the window covering. It will stick to that easily. Maybe precutting them and sticking them inside my coat helped to keep them warm too.
Maybe wintering out west or in southern Texas would allow us to save some money…but when we researched back in 2014 or 2015 an equivalent park in Mission Valley would only have saved us 100 bucks a month or so over what we’re paying here in Fort Myers. Fortunately…we’re well enough off so that budget isn’t our primary concern at this point…not because we’re brilliant investors but because we started saving 40 years ago…both always worked but lived on one salary and invested the rest…and because I invested my Navy retirement when it started in 1991 and my wife worked for a doctor’s professional organization with very good benefits. Mostly though…it was a case of living below what our salaries would have suggested and long term investing…compound interest is your friend.
If water freezes in your lines, you're in for a bad winter. Full time RVing requires you to prioritize your plumbing in a way that you might not otherwise consider. Your city water hookup may need to be insulated and wrapped in electrical heat tape. Fresh water tank will need to be filled and emptied every day so it doesn't have a chance to freeze overnight, you don't have to top it off though. If you want to reduce your work on your plumbing, you can find RV tank heaters which can keep everything from freezing up under your RV. For your black tank, you might want to consider swapping your traditional sewage hose out for a semi-permanent PVC fixture, as long as it's at an appropriate slope your waste will drain right down without a chance to collect and freeze up the works.
On the one hand, I think a trip like ours would probably work better with younger kids who didn’t have to worry about school or missing a social life. On the other, we have some friends who were doing it at the same time we were, with elementary school-aged kids. They pointed out that because you don’t have friends or family or babysitters on the road, you can never get a break from little ones. Our kids were lonely most of the time, and didn’t always like being stuck together 24/7. In the end, though, I think it did give them a lasting bond.
Anyway, what a great life you are living, I love it but want to be more stealth than you are so I can park anywhere. I just spent a few months off and on in Canmore Alberta and you could tell who the guys in the campers were and I met a few who had stealth down to a science. They were totally off the grid and didn’t leave their unit physically where they slept and the vehicles just looked like PMVs with a couple of quirky things on them like low stacks and vents. The cube will look just like a work truck with exterior tool box doors except for the furnace exhaust but many work trucks are heated so I will have an edge.
Legally you must carry chains to drive many mountain passes during snow storms (especially in California). If you don’t have chains on board and you get busted it’s a hefty fine. We’ve spent winters all over the states, and fortunately we’ve never had to put our chains on. Of course we watch the weather religiously before we plan to drive anywhere. If you’re flexible like we are and you know a storm is coming you have 2 options: 1. Bust out of there ASAP before the snow or 2. welcome the snow with open arms and extend your campground reservation a couple more days.
Our situation is fairly unique (I think) because I work away from my family for 2 weeks and then i’m back with them for two weeks. I work in northern Alberta ( we are Canadian) and for the 6 really cold month of winter we could be anywhere in the US or Canada. For the 6 not so cold months she wants to set up camp in northern Alberta. near where I work. Our family is very concerned for the safety of my wife and kids while I am gone away at work for two weeks. do you have any advice on this or know any other fulltime families that have a similar situation?
An RV is a luxury item that depreciates rapidly, so I advise young people to get as cheap and small a unit as possible. A used popup tent trailer is wonderful because it fits in the garage and doesn’t need much storage space. Any kind of light 11’ to 12’ trailer is a great way to start. Going used at first is preferable, but if they are well off, buying new is always much nicer. I recently wrote an article about learning the RVing lifestyle with a small RV: http://roadslesstraveled.us/learn-the-rving-lifestyle-with-a-cheap-small-rv/
I really appreciate the informative comments. My wife and I are tossing around the idea of selling our house and purchasing an RV. We’ll be able to afford to pay cash for a Class A motorhome or (for less fear of problems when sitting still long term) a top of the line camper trailer so payments are not part of our expenses. My greatest concern, as with most folks, is the monthly cost of staying in a campground. Can you enlighten me on what a “membership” might cost and which ones you would recommend…if indeed you do recommend joining a camping club. We’re not the type of people who would want to stay in a state or national park. Our income should allow us to stay where water, sewer and electricity is always supplied. We simply need to know if our daily expenses will outweigh what we now spend living at home…which is about $1,500 per month, including water, electric, cable, phone, groceries, three (paid for) cars and property tax. THANKS!!
Our interior is heated by an Aqua Hot which burns diesel fuel to provide heat. It works overtime and burns a bunch of diesel so time to insulate the bottom side of your vehicle. Since we are in these conditions on a temporary basis another trip to the home improvement store for more reflective insulation in an 18″ x 25′ roll x 4 plus some 1″ thick styrofoam backed with reflective material to cover the tires and some duct tape to hold it all together. Wrap your RV and cover your tires. Your wrapping doesn’t need to be perfect but the more air you can keep from circulating under your living space the happier you will be.
For me, there used to be an underlying pressure to choose the “best” curriculum similar to researching and picking the safest car or best vacuum. (<== OCD much?) I may have traded a few months of my life researching curriculum when we first started homeschooling 6 years ago. It seemed like, if I just read every. single. review. and every thread on every homeschooling message board on the entire internet I would find that perfect curriculum and my kids would be on their way to Harvard before their 13th birthdays.
Here is my question to you – you mention that you would prefer a 35 or even 30 footer in place of your 41 foot plus Holiday Rambler PDQ. What would you specifically be willing to give up from your current rig to get down to the 35 foot mark? Have you seen a 35 or shorter rig you would be happy to FT in? What would you you absolutely never give up? I am trying to figure out what a 35 footer would need to have to make full timing work
While at the dealership looking at the Cougar, we saw the Highland Ridge Open Range Light LT308BHS. I was impressed with all the space the moment we walked in. Although the master is in the front, there is still more room in the master than other travel trailers of the same layout because Highland Ridge adds 4 inches in width over the standard width of most travel trailers. When you are talking space in RVs a few inches can make a HUGE difference. Highland Ridge also comes with a 2 year warranty and is known for its quality build.
We haven’t eliminated our stress. In fact, I’d say our stress levels hover around the same as they did before we sold our house. We simply swapped one kind of stress for another. But we have four kids, so it would be unrealistic to think we could live a stress-free life, no matter where or how we lived. We deal with the same parenting struggles we did before, but we like to joke that the views are better this way.
Anyway, clearly Kent speaks from experience and the deep thought given to solving the problems he faced with the tech and budget available to him in an extreme environment. I’m impressed. Another point I want to commend Kent on is how he has the wits to know how important it is to present a clean and organized exterior with accouterments that suggest the owner actually contributes to the local economy…. Look forward to how he adapts to the desert next!
Not being “full-timers” ourselves, but are in a category called “extended stay travelers” (one to three month trips). Being rather young to retire last year in our early 50’s, health insurance is the big monkey on our back. Yes, we do have insurance thru my union, but since O-Care ( Obama ) monthly rated have gone up 250% in the last 5-6 years, and coverage gone in the toilet. I guess it is what it is.
I read this post with tears in my eyes. My husband and I live in a rv right now. I thought it was only a brief thing, but here we are, over a year later, still living in our rv, still saving money to buy property, and it looks like we will be living here for at least another year. My husband, bless him, has been optimistic about the whole thing and counts his blessings. I have become sour and bitter and cry away the nights. Thank you for reminding me that I need to live this one life that I have and that I need to be grateful for what I have. Thanks, I really needed this.
here is my question. When purchasing an rv, at what length of a loan should we be looking at? the longer the lone the higher the interest rate and the longer to pay down. which also brings up the question of, how long should i expect to keep a motor home before I start to have many repairs? How long do most rv’s keep their rv before they trade in for a new model? I dont want to be upside down when the time comes to trade.
Having a wood stove allows you to heat and cook without propane, oil, or electricity, which means you truly have an off-grid setup. A wood stove will keep you warm, the wood heat will dry the air out in the RV, which will help get rid of condensation from breathing and cooking. There are not many wood stoves out there that will work in an RV. I personally chose a Kimberly wood stove, because it only weighs 56 lbs and it’s extremely efficient. There are a few other companies out there (such as Marine wood stoves, which are a little cheaper, but you get what you pay for).
We are doing our research now too. Still in our early 50’s so we’re too young to retire and no savings but we are worried that “someday” may come too late in our lives to be able to do what we have always wanted to do and that is travel the country in an RV. So, we decided that we are just going to make it happen. We are super excited but scared too. Both of us have great jobs right now with excellent health insurance so our biggest concern is health insurance and how much that is going to cost us.
Some of the perks of getting older are the sweet discounts you can get! You’ve weathered through some of life’s toughest storms and seen a few of its biggest triumphs. We think you deserve a break, and so do some of our favorite campgrounds. Check whether your AAA or AARP cards are accepted at local campgrounds and put some change back in your pocket. You’ll never know if you don’t ask. What’s the worst that will happen?
One of the easiest ways to winterize an RV is to shrink-wrap the screen door. By covering the screen door with a thin layer of plastic, you can keep the big RV door open all day long, close the screen door, and let the sunshine fill your rig with light and warmth. It is really surprising that just a thin layer of plastic on the door is all it takes to keep the cold air out and let the warm air in (if you aren’t in sub-freezing temps!!).
13. If you have children, you will have to plan for their education. They will have to be homeschooled with the only difference being that their home is on wheels. There are a lot of different online curriculums and education resources to take advantage of and they vary in pricing from free and up. This will take a bit of research, but keep in mind, as well, that life on the road will afford a great many educational opportunities. You will be able to actually visit and teach from sites that many will only ever read about or see in videos or pictures.
When you give up your home owner’s policy, you give up a lot of nice blanket coverages that come with it, like liability coverage and the loss of personal belongings. Quite a few companies offer “Full-time RV insurance” that includes liability coverage similar to what would typically come with a home insurance policy. Coverage for personal belongings is a whole different story, however. See below.
The various RVs were scattered about a sheet of ice. It was treacherous walking. Our neighbors were predominately construction workers with pick up trucks in abundance. We all had problems getting in and out with those, and sometimes had to park at the office for fear of not getting back out from the sites the next day. So moving the RV was not an option.
Thanks for the blog. Do you have any suggested blogs on full time rving with kids? My wife and I have 4 kids and the thought of cutting the cord locally while I still have my sales job (I cover all of So Cal) so I can pretty much go wherever for the timing. Basically changing scenery weekly or monthly sounds fun. Just didn’t know if you had any details on doing it with 4 little ones. Thanks!
Jill, we are early retirees and have been fulltiming for three years. We average about $600 a month in RV site expenses. We prefer state and national parks with electric but do a little boondocking and often in the winter stay longer, taking advantage of monthly rates. Escapees parks are the best for long term stays. We could lower this amount with some effort but it is still less than the taxes were on our home in Austin. Our most expensive stay was $85/night in Jersey City, in view of the Statue of Liberty. Considering hotels in the area are $3-400, we were ok with this in exchange for a short subway or water taxi ride to NYC.
I have a detailed post on How to Prepare the Monaco Vesta for Winter if you’d like to read it over. Basically it’s the same as the Damon Avanti which I’ve addressed in the previous toggle except the RV Electric/Propane fridge in the Vesta has an Ice Maker. So in extreme temps I had to drain the ice line filter and turn off the water. In addition I used a small space heater in the vent area for extremely cold nights so the pipes wouldn’t burst.
After completing 2 weeks of travel, I have spent a total of $240 on diesel fuel. Having spent $0 on lodging, and having a supermarket available at almost every stop, I have lived as well as anyone else — either on the road or parked — for the sum total of less than $500 a month, excluding the cost of food. (Food is a fixed cost that you have no matter where you are.)
I admire your stamina and am jealous of your bravado and lifestyle. Just a note to tell you how to fix almost all of the things you mentioned as extra-difficult living in an RV in the winter in Alaska. I have seen RVs designed specifically for use in such conditions. The alterations are designed in from the beginning and built into it. The era your unit was built, they didn’t do these things and I’m sure buying one that is equipped this way costs WAY more than the one you bought, but I can also say I suspect you could sell yours to someone living a bit more southerly for a pretty good penny, though I also suspect you’re not particularly interested in making a change since what you have is actually working for you.
Again, we're not stuck to a vacation timeline. We are not on vacation, this is our life. So instead of pulling in for a week and cramming our days full of sightseeing, we balance our days with work and play. We choose what we would like to see, but don't feel compelled to "get our money's worth." We may stay a few days or a few weeks depending on what we want to explore in the area. During this time, we're carrying on a normal life similar to a resident by shopping at local stores, eating at local restaurants, and participating in daily life. I cannot say we are true citizens by any stretch, but it does give us a better sense of place than a vacation usually does.