TRANSITIONING TO AN RV
Switching from tent camping to an RV can feel overwhelming. But with a few tips, you’ll find it’s a fantastic upgrade to your camping experience. The first thing you should do is be very clear on what you want in an RV.
What size RV you get will depend on many factors. How much weight can your vehicle pull? Are you willing to upgrade your tow vehicle to get a larger RV? Would you prefer a motorized RV so that you don’t have to deal with a tow vehicle? How many people do you want it to sleep? Where are you planning to camp? State and national parks often limit the length of your RV, with guidelines anywhere from a 19-foot to a 35-foot maximum. But more than half of national parks will allow a 40-foot rig, so you can plan your purchase around your travel preferences.
Even though national parks usually have size limitations, nearby RV parks often don’t. Some of our favorite camping spots have been Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land outside a national park or a nearby state park. State parks are typically less strict on length limits, less expensive than national parks and getting a spot in them tends to be easier.
There are many different types of RVs to consider, with several general categories to choose from.
There are travel trailers (or bumper pulls) that are pulled from a ball hitch on the bumper of your tow vehicle. They can be pulled with a truck or sometimes an SUV, and come in lengths ranging anywhere from 10 to 40 feet.
You also have fifth wheel trailers that are pulled from a hitch mounted into the bed of a truck. These trailers are typically easier to haul than travel trailers. They have higher ceilings and feel more open in the living areas. One thing to consider about fifth wheel trailers is that they cannot be pulled by an SUV and have to be pulled by a truck with a fifth wheel hitch installed.
Then there are toy haulers, which most commonly come as either a fifth wheel or a travel trailer. These RVs are made to haul motorcycles, 4 wheelers, side-by-sides, etc. They have a large onboard garage space that can also be reconfigured into living space once you are at your destination and have removed the motorized toys. The garage space often converts to a patio, which can be handy for families with small kids, since you can keep them inside the RV while giving them fresh air and sunshine. Toy haulers are often among the larger RV types and may require a heavy duty truck to tow.
Lastly, there are motorized RVs, including Class A, Class B and Class C models. The upside to motorized RVs is they do not require a haul vehicle. You can access food, the bathroom and supplies while you’re traveling, and there’s more room for passenger comfort. Motorhomes can be more expensive than travel trailers, and they have more mechanical parts to service if something goes wrong. Also, if you need to go somewhere after setting up camp, you’ll either have to pack up and drive your RV, or plan to bring a separate vehicle for driving around town.
We chose a 37-foot Jayco travel trailer that we haul with a diesel SUV. We chose this setup because we have five kids and wanted a rear bunk room. Although a fifth wheel appealed to us, we wanted something we could tow with an SUV so we could all drive in one car.