I decided to upgrade to a high top camper and took my time until one passed me on the road, absolutely beautiful with the same layout as your camper (but a little tighter in space), not what I was looking for, I wanted the bed across the back but the price was just too right to even argue. Next winter in that will tell the tale but it will be the same as yours, not total success no matter what I do to it and to modify anything will reduce the great profit I stand to make just selling it and continuing with my plan to develop a Cube Van I already own.
I went back and got to work. The biggest chore was attaching the heat tape to the pipe and insulating it. The big challenge there was straightening the PEX. It does straighten, but it straightens easier when it’s warm and it does require muscle. (Needless to say, I was sore the next day.) I cut off about 70 feet of the stuff and ran it across my driveway from the water source to my RV’s water connection area. Then, with the sun shining full on me the next morning, I brought out a clean damp rag (to clean away dust on the PEX as I worked), set up a chair, and got to work.
That’s one type of these “secrets” I’m talking about. You trade up space in a fixed location box and some amount of small outdoor space for the entirety of a nation. Your back yard doesn’t need mowed, it needs explored. Little bits of your mind explode until you truly begin to see the world in a light I find to be almost infinitely brighter than shone before.
Great info, We have been agonizing over what size rig to go with for over a year now. We have bounced back and forth between a 40′ Legacy and a 5th wheel but now after reading so many blogs as well as yours, to more than likely go with a Class C Itasca Navion which is 25’8″ and is built on the Sprinter chassis. Your blog really used us over the edge with your hindsight on smaller size. I always thought that a bigger rig would be better but now I am comfortable making that leap with a smaller rig. Thanks for the great info and Go Gators!!! Class of 85′
Inside, the RV is cool but not cold. Both radiators are on, although the one in the bedroom is set to low. I have an electric blanket on my bed so I’m never cold at night. The RV’s gas heater with its loud fan supplements the heat in the living room in the morning. I know I could keep it warmer if I’d just close the blinds, but I’d rather put on a sweater than miss out on the views outside my windows.
I found living in our Airstream (31′) in winter, in places in Ontario, Vancouver B C, Whitehorse Yukon, back in 1972 to 77; very comfortable. Airstreams have windows with double glazing, so that was a big help. Furnace worked fine. Hot water heater worked fine. Used more propane which was expected. When we were plugged in to AC power we had water (had a heat line) and sewer hook ups. I closed the bottom in with snow. We managed the humidity issues, and everything was fine. Traveled up the Alaska highway with snow and glare ice, the trailer towed perfectly with our rear wheel drive Chevy Suburban.
Did Verizon let Nikki upgrade her phone without changing her Internet feature? We’re also wondering what you use to tether your phone to the computer – other than buying Verizon’s $20 hotspot feature, I found an article that says iPhones can tether without this feature using the phone’s web browser and tether.com for $30 a year. Thanks so much for your advice!
Portable Solar Panel – We loved having a full solar system but that’s quite an investment and if you aren’t going to be doing a lot of boondocking then a portable solar panel is a better option. Portable solar panels allow you to keep your devices charged and a battery topped off for short stints off the grid. Of course, check with your RVer first before investing in such a gift.
Propane allows us to run the furnace, cook, and (if we choose) have hot water. We try to use it sparingly by cooking outdoors on the grill, wearing ample clothing during cold seasons, and use campground showers when possible (and inviting enough.) Filling our propane is easy enough as a number of RV resorts offer on-site fill or contract a company to fill your tanks on-site. You can also exchange tanks or fill them at truck stops like Flying J, Loves, and others. The average in most states is $22 for exchange and $18 for a refill of a 10lb. tank.
Within the first few weeks of owning it I blew a tire and had to replace all 6 ($1000). The next month, the catalytic converter needed to be replaced ($750), the original kitchen faucet snapped off and had to be replaced (I did it myself for $65, but it took all day because of a broken gasket in the water line I had a hard time finding at the hardware store), the house battery had to be replaced – twice! ($290) and I’ve had to replace a fuse for my radio and odometer several times (and now it’s shorting out to the point of danger, so it has to be fixed…. soon!)
Thank you so much for your clear and concise answers to winter R.V. use. You not only answered my questions but brought up a bunch of things I had not thought of. I am taking a 33′ allegro from the Oregon Coast to Longmont Colorado area the 1st of December. Not the best time of year but got into an experimental medical trial for a catastrophic nervous system failure condition I got from an IED serving in the military while in Iraq. It is my last hope so going to go for it. Until I find housing there I will be staying in the Allegro. I feel much more confident now that I have reviewed your sight. It made the wife a lot more comfortable as well. Once again thank you for the wonderful information
Let's start by keeping that cold weather outside and the warm air in. To do this, you need to increase insulation and reduce cold air infiltration. Your windows are a great place to start. Most RV windows are single-pane and many do not seal well. Some sort of storm window is needed, and there are a lot of possibilities: Some folks use foam core board to cover the windows from the inside. This works well, but it's pretty hard to see through! Other folks use sheets of Plexiglass or Lexan cut to fit the windows and held in place either with small brackets, velcro or tape. This helps seal the windows and you can see through it, but then you will be faced with storing the storm windows during the summer.
The truck needs regular oil changes, new filters, new tires, alignments, and regular maintenance as it gets older and we put more miles on it. It also occasionally breaks. For us this number is relatively low since Tom and I do so much of the maintenance and repairs ourselves. We estimate that we’ve saved thousands of dollars in labor and parts by doing it ourselves. In 2016 we did have a big breakdown that we had to take it to a shop to get fixed (we can lift transmissions by ourselves) that brought our costs way up. Better to estimate high in this category and be pleasantly surprised than the other way around.
3. How big does your rig need to be? Another major facet of the full time RV life is the size of your RV. You need to be truthful with yourself in considering how much room you want and need for the lifestyle you’re going to be undertaking. If you have little in the way of belongings and you don’t look to acquire very much in your travels, a smaller rig or pull behind might be right for you. It’s also a good choice if you know you’re going to be spending a lot of time in the more remote campsites where maneuverability will be an issue. On the other hand, if you are going to be making use of bigger sites, spending more time in one spot and don’t want to give up a great deal of your belongings, bigger will be better.
When asked what advice she’d give to anyone considering RVing full-time, she mentions the word balance. In the life of a full-time RVer, balance means a number of things. It means researching and planning, but it also means driving west with no other goal than to see the surf of the Pacific. It means camping in cities and drinking beer in crowded breweries, but it also means spending weeks alone in Montana, camping on the outskirts of Glacier National Park amongst the fields of beargrass and turquoise lakes. Mostly, it means embracing a life defined by travel, even if other real-world problems like finding a doctor and sticking to a budget do arise.
And we closed that chapter in our lives and moved on to the next one. Well, not that easily. I did cry every day for the first week. Luckily, my sister and her family had moved into the campground with us – and were staying right next door. That definitely made the transition easier. Gradually things got better, and I started to realize what we had been looking to do. Hours weren’t spent on cleaning any more. All of our stuff was manageable and there was more and more focused family time.
And don’t forget the discount cards and passes. There are plenty out there and your glovebox should be stuffed with these money-savers before you leave. Tops on that list for any RVer over the age of 62 is the Senior America The Beautiful Pass. For $80 the Senior Pass provides lifetime admission to every national park and 2,000 more recreational sites—and that includes up to three other adults in the vehicle.
Hellow . I live in Georgia and get SSI . I have been disabled ,basically my whole life . Tried to hold jobs but I had very many Panic Attacks and didn’t know what they were . Felt like dying . Anyway I get only 800.00 a month . I feel that I need to get to Colorado for my health . But I am not sure that 800 dollars may not make it . I live very cheap ,you can say . Try not to spend much because I don’t have much . I have to move from the weather here . Lived in Wyoming for two years . Colorado we just drove down and looked . I fell in love with it … Anyway I’m just trying to live as long as possible . Grandkids is one of the best reasons . Long winded ,sorry . Just wanted to know what I need to do . I live in a Camper that I can pull with my truck . Can pull it anywhere ,just looking for the best spot and the lowest rate . Thank you . If you can help I would be in your debt for a very long time !!
These days, it’s not at all unusual to see young singletons, couples, and families on the road, whether it’s for a summer getaway or a full-time lifestyle made possible by the ever-expanding capacity of remote work. (That’s right: Some people actually make their living while they travel. Don’t be jealous — read more about how you can do it, too, here!)
Jan Wesner Childs is a journalist and wife of a 26-year Army Special Forces veteran. She has lived, worked and traveled around the world and the U.S. She is currently a freelance writer based in Florida, where she writes about anything and everything, including local schools, the space and tourism industry, and military spouse and family issues. Her blog, “Beyond the Gilded Cage,” details her family’s RV adventure and gives the scoop on transitioning to life after the Army. She can be reached at email@example.com.
Truth be told, cooking is the most difficult part (to me) of living in a camper in the winter. If you don’t crack open a vent so the condensation can escape, your camper will quickly begin to accumulate ice and mold, although the wood stove helps bake most of that condensation out. Also, make sure to wash dishes the second you finish your meal, because it gets much more difficult once they freeze… and you don’t want to carry any more water into the camper than you have to.
2017 Update – TOTALLY. In 8 years on the road our expenses have actually been flat to slightly down every year despite increasing health care costs. We keep camping expenses low by volunteering in summer and boondocking (= free camping) in winter, and we manage gas costs by how we travel. The point is there is lots of flexibility on the financial side, and my viewpoint on this hasn’t changed. Earlier this year I finally updated our cost posts, so you can now read a detailed account of our RV costs (including tips for budgeting & saving) for the past 7 years HERE and HERE.
If you’re looking for physical jobs some Workamping positions do offer pay (check out Workampers.com), plus there are seasonal jobs such as Amazon and See’s Candy (both hire seasonally for Christmas), gate keeping (in Texas for oil companies), and the Dakota Beet Harvest (in late fall). We also know folks who work at fairs or sell their wares at markets.
If you want to regain your floor space perhaps you should add a project to your list … a ‘charging station’. Find a ‘power-strip’ which can be mounted on a wall, usually with 2 screws and find a little wall space. ;o) ha ha! Perhaps above shoulder height alongside your seating area. Mount the power-strip and then make some small shelves or use ‘cup hooks’ to ‘hang’ your electronic devices from. Coil up your cables and use Velcro ‘cable ties’ to secure them neatly out of the way.
They’ve been on the road a while w/ their 2 kids and have both workamped & home-schooled during that time. Really nice family and I have no doubt they can put you in touch w/ others on the road. They just ordered a new rig too. I also like the NuRver group on Facebook…lots of young folks on there and several families too. Also recommend this resource Fulltime Families -> all about folks who live fulltime w/ their families on the road.
Budgets and actual expenditures vary over time. Most fulltimers find that they spend a lot more in the first few months of travel than they do once they have been out for a while. It takes some time, and quite a few purchases, to make an RV a home, and most of those costs come at the beginning. These are things like patio mats, camping chairs and grills, tools your suddenly discover you need, area rugs, throw pillows, kitchen gadgets, campground directories, travel guide books, and all those funky gismos they sell at Camping World that are just so perfect for the RV lifestyle.
So the big swing number that I see in what you wrote is camping costs. We workamp/boondock at least 4 months of every year which brings down those costs to around $10-$12/night on average. That’s been our norm for the past 6 years. Last year was the sole exception traveling out East, but even then we only hit $24/night. We have no TV, we travel on average only 6,000 miles per year and we don’t eat out much simply because we love to cook (when we do it’s mostly for beer tasters and a cheap lunch).
I think it’s important for any couple to purchase an RV that fits comfortably in their monthly budget. You need to consider the monthly RV payment, insurance, fuel, maintenance, repairs, general upkeep, campground fees—and still have money left for other day-to-day expenses and discretionary spending. In most situations your first RV won’t be your last RV, so it is practical to find an affordable RV that won’t break the bank, as the old saying goes.
So, you’ve got to weigh your priorities on what is more important to you. Is the space/layout key to your happiness on the road? Then, absolutely go for the bigger rig and make it work! Is camping in remote areas & boondocking your top priority? Then, you’ve got to look smaller. The answer is highly individual. No wrong answer at all…just the best answer for YOU!
This is an excellent post, Nina. People ask us all the time what it costs to RV full time, and we’ve come up with just about the same answer as you —we figure $3500 for a comfortable and varied lifestyle that includes a mix of state and federal parks, some boon docking, occasional expensive RV resorts, and camp hosting. We travel a lot of miles every year driving from the Pacific Northwest to Florida and back, which I realize isn’t typical.
Hello and thanks for all the infos and inspiration you two gave us for taking some time of the regular 9 to 17 job in the near future. We are planning to buy a spacy Coach in 2016. Now we are travelling 4-6 times/per year with our 32 feet trailer and our two Labradors. We are a married (in Germany “partnered” ?) couple since 2002, Horst 38 yo, me 47. I found it really a “sign”, that my situation with blood cancer in 2002 and 2005 has so much in common with RVgeeks that took the same conclusions for their life and attitude how to spend their lifetime in a responsible way. Could talk very long about the thoughts Horst and I have…
During this 30 day window I lost 10 pounds (no time to stop and eat!) and slept about 4 hours a night… but we did it. We downsized to what we could fit into our RV and our cars. Yes, my husband’s car did turn into our garage for a few months. And we only ended up with about 4 storage bins which we kept in my parent’s basement. They were mostly filled with photos and other family memories.
Nina and Paul, I just found your blog today on Pinterest, and it is filled with very good information. I will be more or less full-timing it with a friend who currently lives in Okinawa, Japan. He has been living in Japan for 23+ years and plans on moving back to the states permanently. Whenever that happens he has asked me to come along on his life long dream of traveling to all the National Parks/Monuments etc. We don’t plan on moving much more than 100 miles or so per day and may stay in a place for a while if we like it and there is lots to see and experience in the area. I plan to keep watching your blog as it really speaks to what we want to do.
Vehicle fuel – If you have a towable, you will need to estimate fuel for “moving days.” This can vary greatly depending on how often and how far you move. Our first year we came up with a rough itinerary with total mileage and an average cost of fuel per mile. In addition, for both tow and towed vehicles, you will need to budget for fuel in the local area.
Actually we haven’t had any more below zero temperatures since that one time, so I can’t say for sure; however we haven’t had that same problem since. We generally leave it turned off unless the weather is supposed to be down in the teens, although I can’t even remember if we’ve had any more single digit weather. It is a bit tough to get the door to the tank storage area to close with the blanket on; if we had a blanket on both tanks I’m not sure if we would be able to close the door at all. Still, I definitely feel better knowing we have it.
We had been accustomed to a two car garage, and now got a new perspective on the task of shoveling the driveway. After one storm, the cars were just barely peaking through the drifted snow. We had to clear an area 40 feet long by 10 feet wide in order to pull the cars in and park them. Our efforts left us with a snow bank just about as long and wide, and about 8 feet high. The good news: our self-constructed snow bank served to block the wind. Well… sort of.
We traveled for years for my husbands work. My son spent his first six years traveling with us in an rv. Recently when we found out we are having another baby we decided to not do that anymore. He found another job and we stay home. Let me tell you it is a hard adjustment. We miss traveling more than anything. Life is so much more simple that way. You have less stuff. You don’t have the up keep of a Home and yard. You don’t run around busy every night to a bunch of obligations. Oh how we miss it. So much more time outside. Freedom. Seeing new places. This conventional life is much harder. We miss our rv. We have not sold it yet. The thing is we want our son to go to school and make long term friendships. He made a lot of friends on the road. But it’s different. Most of them he will never see again. Home schooling was fine I didn’t mind. We thought being home was what we wanted. Now all we want to do is go back on the road. Hahahaha. We miss it so much. Plus he made way more money. Not sure we can survive staying in one place like this. Doing for the kids! We saw so many amazing places. Coast to coast.
We’ve got the Optimus heat dish and yes it is kinda big. But we are in a cold wet environment so we put up with the large size because is works so well. It will not fit in a compartment. A guy I used to work with was an RV tech, who lived in his RV for two years up here in the Northwest, and he told me to get a light bulb (one with the grips on it) and put it in your compartments. I did that this winter (our first in the RV) and we withstood temps down to 15 degrees F. This friend also recommended heat tape on the fresh water line. That worked great too.
You can pay $1500 for a decent house that can fit a family of four or five. You live there, in one place, and spend oodles once a year on a vacation. Then you come home, pay that rent (and then some in utilities), and twenty years later might be doing the same thing. Meanwhile everyone has their space. Space to disappear into their video games and man caves and kitchens. You, as a family, live together but you’re separated as easily as a staircase can be climbed, a door can be closed.
My best friend and I just returned from a week away in her 24′ Winnebago. For two ‘very youthful’ middle-aged ladies on the road we couldn’t have had a better time! For the most part we played it by ear; she picked me up at the Atlanta Airport, we pointed the rig toward Savannah, Georgia (great state for RV travel and campsites) and kept going. Spent a few days in Savannah, headed over to Flagler Beach then up to St. Augustine. By far our favorite site of the entire trip was the last one in the Outer Banks. For whatever reason I wanted to go to Rodanthe so we found a very modest small campground for about $30/night right on the Sound side of Hatteras Island. WOW! The sunsets were breathtaking. Mike, the owner of the campground was amazing. Upon our return to PA I went over to the local RV dealer and picked out a 32′ SouthWind. Fell in love with it! Now I just have to figure out how to make money while on the road. Ironically, my primary business isn’t so transportable. Funny, my current business is processing homes, downsizing, relocation, re-directing unwanted personal property through auction and donation to charity, speaking, writing and consulting. It’s always tougher when it’s your stuff. I agree with not storing things – you’re not likely to need them again. I’m giving myself 2 years to clear all of my debt and transfer my income-generating efforts to fit a new, less complicated lifestyle.
We quickly learned that we didn’t like that he had to be at the table working all day while the kids and I were out exploring all of these amazing places! Plus, having to go back to Wisconsin was expensive and limiting how far we could travel. California is quite a drive from Wisconsin, especially if you want to go back and forth. The cost of him flying back alone would add up, not to mention I just did not want him leaving us for a week.
As for our tanks, they stayed plenty warm, having the warmth from the storage bay radiating through the floor on one side, and because our skirting kept them warm enough on the other side. For people who need extra protection against frozen tanks, tank heaters are an option. However, it’s important to make sure that pipes in addition to tanks are protected from freezing.
Seeing everything our country has to offer is one of the biggest benefits of living and traveling in an RV. However, you don’t have to see the entire country in the first six months. Constant travel – traveling to a new place every day or two – will get expensive quickly. It will also exhaust you to the point where you’re ready to throw away your keys and give it all up.
A suggestions to lower your costs. 1. Passport America 50% camping and/or America the Beautiful Pass. We average about $8-$10 a night camping at these parks, while camping in some of the most beautiful locations. As well as hitting many free camping locations. State parks can be obscenely cheap and nice. 2. Plenty of farmers markets on the east coast, you just have to look for them as many of them are in small towns outside the cities you have traveled to. 3. I forget the name right now, maybe one of the other Rvers can chime in, but there is an alternative to Verizon that uses Verizon infrastructure that gives you unlimited phone and internet. We don’t full time right now so it’s not a concern. 4. Stay longer which lowers your fuel and camping fees. 5. REWARD POINTS, pay with everything with a rewards credit card.
Wow, you are SOOO patient, answering all the repetitive questions (that you have already answered) like it’s the first time!! I’ve been reading for hours. We have a 24 ft diesel class c and we love it, we usually only stay out about 4 nights at a time. We like to stay off grid but are not as careful with water and the tanks as we could be. Plus, we have J.O.B.S.
Pellet Stove – This device will warm up an RV faster and more efficiently than any other heater we’ve seen. The good news is there is zero moisture produced from the heat, the built in fan uses a fraction of the electricity of a space heater and it’s a pretty eco friendly option for heating. The downsides: Install is a crazy mod to both the inside and outside of your RV. If the fan shuts down (i.e. when boondocking and you run out of battery power) you now have a smoke filled RV. Takes up a lot of space so is best for larger RV’s. You have to carry and store large, heavy wood pellets in your RV. Some models you are required to vacuum out the ashes which can be a pain make sure you look at the pellet stoves with a removable ash tray.
RV shows are great places to meet fellow RV’ers, the forums like irv2 are great for chatting and asking questions and membership groups like escapees are there to help people through the process. Then of course there are blogs like ours where we try to share helpful information and a general glimpse into the lifestyle. Blogs are a fantastic resource and if you spend some time watching videos and reading through you will learn a ton.
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.