Author Topic: Travel/5th Wheel Trailers for extended duration camping/touring: Thoughts?  (Read 3547 times)

Syonyk

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And, yes, a facepunch is an acceptable option here.

There was a trailer event at the local expo center, and as we've been looking at the possibility of buying one longer term, I went this afternoon (had some time to kill), and my wife & daughter came with this evening on our way into town (trying to spend some restaurant gift cards from birthdays/Christmases/etc before kid #2 shows up this summer).  Not having really spent much time around large camper trailers before, it was quite educational.  However, you can spend comical amounts of money in a hurry.

Our target mission is doing longer duration cross country camping trips when the kids get a bit older, with enough space to be able to homeschool on the way (if we go that way - depends on how self-entertaining #2 is).  Yes, there's a thread, no, I don't care.  Or, even if kids are in public school, take parts of the summer or various breaks to go do some traveling.  We'd rather kids learn about things "there" than "in a book."  Likely, a lot of dry camping/boondocking, as opposed to full on campgrounds.

My wife's parents do this a lot as well.  They've got a Class A motorhome (snowbirds for January), and we go camping with them quite a bit out various places.  Right now, we tent camp and they take the motorhome, which works tolerably for naps with the kids (they can nap in the motor home instead of in the tent).  We'll probably do this for another few years, but if we start joining them down south for winter, we'd need something more substantial than a tent (high desert in the winter gets quite chilly at night).

We'd also likely be doing some "slower travel" across the country at times.  Spend a week to get from the mountain west into Illinois to visit family, stuff like that.  My wife & I both enjoy traveling around, and did a lot of that stuff before we had kids (toddlers mess with travel plans).

So: All that said.  There were some very nice units for sale (new) for around $30k.  They were in the 35' range, 8500lb-ish.  I'd like to stay under 10k lb loaded, simply because that's a good limit for my truck.  I'm debating between bumper tow (I've got a good 15klb rated receiver) and 5th wheel, but tending towards 5th wheel simply for the long distance towing aspects - I understand 5th wheel tows a lot better.

Yes, I have a truck that can tow a heavy 5th wheel, no, I'm not getting rid of it, yes, I use it as a truck somewhat regularly, no, I don't commute in it (I work from a shed I built into an office on my property).  Recent uses include getting an awful lot of lumber for shed shelving, and creeping around my property in 4Lo to haul an awful lot of basalt out of some areas I'm plowing up for firebreaks.  I've hauled a few tons of rock so far, and there's no end in sight.

Obviously, $30k for a new trailer is a bit on the pricey side, though you can spend radically more.  I'm also budgeting around ~$4k-$5k for a robust solar/battery/inverter system.  I've got no desire to be "that guy" running the generator, and I do off grid solar for my office, so I'm pretty familiar with it.  I'd probably go with a higher voltage system and just buck down to 12V for the LED lighting and such, since running a microwave/AC unit/etc is easier on a 24V or 48V system.

I've also considered buying a used 5th wheel and renovating it.  That would be more work, and I'm not sure about the total cost of the project, because I want something fairly well insulated for year round use (or, at least, high mountain use in the spring/fall, which means night temperatures of a good bit below freezing - this seriously limits our tent camping, because my wife has some reasonable objections to waking up with frost on the inside of our tent with kids).  The ones we were looking at are rated for 4 season use, have insulated undersides, etc.  The company actually has separate floorplans/structures for "western" vs "eastern" trailers, because out west the temperature extremes are stronger and apparently people tend to drag trailers all sorts of silly off road places moreso than out east.  That's our plan, for sure!

I have no particular interest in the hotel approach to travel, simply because a lot of the places we like to go don't have hotels (a hotel implies some population density, which we consider a good reason to be somewhere else).  Tent camping is our weekend option for now, but it's an awful lot of setup/teardown time if we're doing a few hundred miles a day of travel and/or homeschooling at places.  Plus it's less fun in the rain, which is something we'd be dealing with going out east.

So... I guess, I'm looking for advice on the concept, alternatives that people have made work, suggestions on new vs used/renovate, people who have successfully done the renovation, etc.  Thanks!

Rocketman

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Re: Travel/5th Wheel Trailers for extended duration camping/touring: Thoughts?
« Reply #1 on: February 02, 2018, 11:22:49 PM »
I get this... and I canít wait until we retire a bit early and set off in either a motor home or a 5th wheel. We just sold our 5th wheel - have had one for about 20 years.
Look at the slightly used ones - way better deal!

They can be very economical but you need to use them. Years ago we would spend about 15 nights a year in ours. The last few years we were spending 6 nights every 2 years.

We realized the unit we had would not meet our needs in retirement so we sold it and the truck.

Syonyk

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Re: Travel/5th Wheel Trailers for extended duration camping/touring: Thoughts?
« Reply #2 on: February 03, 2018, 09:04:42 AM »
I get this... and I canít wait until we retire a bit early and set off in either a motor home or a 5th wheel. We just sold our 5th wheel - have had one for about 20 years.
Look at the slightly used ones - way better deal!

Any advice on areas to watch out for?  Most of them have the slideouts, which look nice, though I'm a bit concerned about their weather resistance long term.

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They can be very economical but you need to use them. Years ago we would spend about 15 nights a year in ours. The last few years we were spending 6 nights every 2 years.

We'd likely be making good use of it.  The only limit would be where we could actually get it (some of the places we like to camp aren't the most trailer-friendly).

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We realized the unit we had would not meet our needs in retirement so we sold it and the truck.

What are you planning to replace it with, if anything?  It was interesting looking at the floor plans - there were the "Family" units with bunk beds and tons of sleeping space (some of them would sleep 10+ people), and then there were the "Retirement" units that were mostly one bed, with a bunch of nice chairs/couches/large TV/etc.

2Birds1Stone

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Re: Travel/5th Wheel Trailers for extended duration camping/touring: Thoughts?
« Reply #3 on: February 03, 2018, 10:25:00 AM »
Very interested in this as well.

I think it's a great idea, but I would echo the gently used suggestion. You could likely get 20-50% off of new prices by going slightly used.

Also, from all of the blogs, youtube channels, and podcasts I consume on this topic.....learn how to do preventative maintenance yourself, and figure out how often you will use the rig before committing.

For fulltiming, it's a no brainer. But if it's for vacations, you might spend $40k setting it up your way, get a few weeks a year out of it, and then end up selling at a loss after 5 years because you realize you want to vacation in a different way. That cost per use would be astronomical, and you might be better of renting.

Have you looking into renting? Or possibly even crowdsourcing one with some close friends/family? I have family that does this with a camper, as well as another family member who does so with a sailboat.

2-3 families share ownership/costs and with something that get's used a few weeks a year, it can make a lot of sense.

GuitarBrian

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Re: Travel/5th Wheel Trailers for extended duration camping/touring: Thoughts?
« Reply #4 on: February 03, 2018, 09:56:35 PM »
I've lived in RV's full time nearly my whole life. When I'm not on land, I live on a sailboat.

The first thing, and I can't say this strongly enough, I recommend a regular pull trailer. It is cheaper, but most importantly, you don't loose your pickup bed. You can put a topper on, and have a great storage area for all your toys. Or an ATV or motorcycle. Or put a popup/hardside camper on and get more/separate living area.

With a 5th wheel you are much taller, and loose your pickup bed.
With a motor home... you will end up towing a car/jeep/truck... since EVERYONE does. Then you have 2 motors to maintain, and your back to towing, except it's worse, you can't back up!

I've always had Airstreams. I have towed over 150,000 miles. Before that, my dad towed 250,000. I have never had a problem with towing, and for all my traveling, I had a camper on the back of the truck as well.

While I love our airstream, and I think the 34' is a great size and can't say enough good things... it isn't for everyone. It is big and expensive for the newer ones. I recommend the ones built until 1982-1993. Like http://www.airstreamclassifieds.com/ads/1988-airstream-limited-34-louisiana-6/ for 20k.

I also really like the Arctic Fox trailers. They are very solidly built and hold up very well. They make a smaller 25' without a slide, like this one, https://portland.craigslist.org/clc/rvd/d/2001-arctic-fox-25b-trailer/6465518038.html for $8500... I almost bought a very similar one last fall for 8k. It was a 2004. The arctic fox would work much better with solar panels as the roof is much roomier.

You can do what every you want for solar, but with an MPPT controller you can use 24 or 48v panels with a 12v system without a problem. In fact, that is what I am doing right now, 300 watt panel (no room for more on the boat) that sits at ~31v and charges the batteries at ~13v and 20a (the sun is crazy intense in the tropics).

I don't know how successful you'll be running AC off solar... You can try. I have found an hour or 2 is OK but even with lots of sun, you will probably need more output that you have space for. I would recommend the Sunpower e20 or e21 series panels as they have high output for their size. You can also go all 24v system and use lithium batteries in series of 7. Lots of info on the web. 24v lights and pumps etc are all available for marine use. I have started using more and more 120v lights since the inverter is on all the time anyway... and dimmable LED lights are easier to find.

While we were growing up, my brother and I had twin beds in the back and my parents slept on the roll out couch up front. When we got into our teens we bought a slide in camper and that because their bedroom. This had a big affect on the drivability, but we slowed down and never had a problem. We have met lots of people pulling a trailer and a popup camper for off road on the tow vehicle. What every works for you.

Don't spend money on something until you are going to use it. Storage and depreciation can get crazy.

Good luck!

Syonyk

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Re: Travel/5th Wheel Trailers for extended duration camping/touring: Thoughts?
« Reply #5 on: February 03, 2018, 10:22:15 PM »
I think it's a great idea, but I would echo the gently used suggestion. You could likely get 20-50% off of new prices by going slightly used.

I'm interested in used, as long as the savings are actually worth it.  Depending on the sales on new, it seems that you can go new, with really good rates (I can pay cash, if someone wants to give me money for free or close to it, I'll take it), for in the same range as used.  If it's a year or two old, sure, that's fine, but beyond that, there's an awful lot of someone else's problems you're buying and have to fix.

I have no problem diving in and fixing those, but it's something I've learned with various used cars.  Any used car you get will have an awful lot of problems, and I assume trailers are the same.

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Also, from all of the blogs, youtube channels, and podcasts I consume on this topic.....learn how to do preventative maintenance yourself, and figure out how often you will use the rig before committing.

Yeah, I do my own work on things.  No problems there.  My inlaws have a large Class A motorhome and my father-in-law does all his own work on that as well (including things like rewelding parts of the frame when something cracked), so I think I'm good on that front.

Use frequency is tough since we've got a newborn on the way, but we go out camping quite a few times a year already.

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Have you looking into renting? Or possibly even crowdsourcing one with some close friends/family? I have family that does this with a camper, as well as another family member who does so with a sailboat.

I don't know of any trailer rental places around here.  That's just not a thing that seems to exist.  As far as friends/family, immediate local family has the motorhome so we'd be going with them places, and other family has similar units, so we'd be joining them for a lot of stuff - not really suited to time sharing.

I've lived in RV's full time nearly my whole life. When I'm not on land, I live on a sailboat.

Excellent, I was hoping I'd find someone who lives in them on this forum!  Reply much appreciated!

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The first thing, and I can't say this strongly enough, I recommend a regular pull trailer. It is cheaper, but most importantly, you don't loose your pickup bed. You can put a topper on, and have a great storage area for all your toys. Or an ATV or motorcycle. Or put a popup/hardside camper on and get more/separate living area.

I've been waffling back and forth on this.  Some people swear a 5th wheel tows so much better that you'd be a moron to go with a trailer hitch unit (and that they're cheaper on tires because they tow better), others (like you) say the tradeoffs are worth it.  I've definitely though through the loss of bed space - I do have an 8' bed, so I could put a few things in there with the hitch attached, but I'd be losing the ability to put a lot in the bed.

My concern with the travel trailer style (apparently that's the term) is that it's a good bit longer combo than a 5th wheel, and we would like to do some seriously long distance travel - out to the east coast, and generally around the country.  I don't have enough experience with large trailers, for long distances, at highway speeds, to have a good feel for the differences between gooseneck/5th wheel and receiver mount.  My truck is heavy enough that I could safely tow either, but people who tow a lot seem to swear by 5th wheel.

I don't think we'd need more living space with 2+2, so that's not really a concern.  It's just the storage concept.

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With a motor home... you will end up towing a car/jeep/truck... since EVERYONE does. Then you have 2 motors to maintain, and your back to towing, except it's worse, you can't back up!

I'm less interested in the motor home concept unless I do something like a bus conversion, but I simply don't have the time for that in my life right now...

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I also really like the Arctic Fox trailers. They are very solidly built and hold up very well. They make a smaller 25' without a slide, like this one, https://portland.craigslist.org/clc/rvd/d/2001-arctic-fox-25b-trailer/6465518038.html for $8500... I almost bought a very similar one last fall for 8k. It was a 2004. The arctic fox would work much better with solar panels as the roof is much roomier.

Do they make a setup that has the bunk beds for sleeping kids?  The units I was looking at had a bunk bed in the back that seemed it would really help with long term travel with kids.

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You can do what every you want for solar, but with an MPPT controller you can use 24 or 48v panels with a 12v system without a problem. In fact, that is what I am doing right now, 300 watt panel (no room for more on the boat) that sits at ~31v and charges the batteries at ~13v and 20a (the sun is crazy intense in the tropics).

Yeah, I'd want to use house panels (the 60 cell ones are 24V panels by most metrics).  I'd want to put a bunch up there.

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I don't know how successful you'll be running AC off solar... You can try. I have found an hour or 2 is OK but even with lots of sun, you will probably need more output that you have space for. I would recommend the Sunpower e20 or e21 series panels as they have high output for their size. You can also go all 24v system and use lithium batteries in series of 7. Lots of info on the web. 24v lights and pumps etc are all available for marine use. I have started using more and more 120v lights since the inverter is on all the time anyway... and dimmable LED lights are easier to find.

My expectation is that I'll have a few panels on the roof, and then also some ground deployable panels that I stack in the trailer for extra capacity.  I'd more likely use an 8S LiFePO4 pack instead of 7S 3.7V, just because I'm a fan of the safety of the lithium iron.  I build lithium battery packs for part of my living, so it's certainly an area I'm familiar with.  Going from a 24V nominal battery to a 12V system is easy enough with a DC-DC buck converter.

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Don't spend money on something until you are going to use it. Storage and depreciation can get crazy.

Storage would be on our property, so no problem there.  Depreciation is going to happen with anything.  But, yes, I do plan to wait a few years to buy something.  I'm just in the information seeking phase right now.

GuitarBrian

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Re: Travel/5th Wheel Trailers for extended duration camping/touring: Thoughts?
« Reply #6 on: February 04, 2018, 09:34:55 AM »
I have never found length to be a problem driving down the road. Height is, to me, a much bigger issue, cross winds can get really scary. I've seen 2 5th wheels that hit bridges on the east coast as well... The Airstreams are low to the ground, only one step in for our triple axle. I have seen one with a large solar array installed, he got 6 or 8 panels on the roof by turning the panels perpendicular and attaching to the curved roof with aluminum tube.

I drove cross country many, times. We did a loop, AZ to FL to MA to WA to AZ... 15 times. Plus down Baja 14 times. My dad also took the Airstream to Guatemala twice.

We were a family of 4 as well. Eventually having separate living quarters really helped.

After living in one, and meeting many people out there... I would be very cautious of what brand RV I get. In all our years to traveling, we had no major issues with our Airstreams. The only other brand I've found to be as solidly built (and much better in cold/hot climates) is the Arctic Fox. Even the Northwood Nash, isn't as well built.

In 2008 when we bought our 1983, another family bought a brand new trailer (not sure on the brand) for twice as much as we paid. 12k vs 23k. We lived in ours full time, they used theirs less than 30 days a year. Today it is falling apart, the roof started leaking, the side wall had to be rebuilt. There are soft spots in the floor... So many brands are built to appeal to the "I want new, and cheap". And they end up being much more expensive with depreciation and repairs to fix shoddy cost cutting building methods.

A 35' pull trailer vs a 35' 5th wheel is the same length once you're parked and unhooked. So if RV park length is a concern, then you'd have to go smaller. For boondocking (we stayed in campgrounds about 2 nights a year) you have much less issues, unless the road gets treacherous... then only a very short or special built with high clearance will work.

As long as the structure and skin in solid. No leaks, not cracking... Then the systems are not too bad. ACs, stoves, water pumps, lights, refrigerator, heater... It just isn't that many things, and they are not crazy expensive (unlike marine parts, yikes).

-Brian

Fishindude

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Re: Travel/5th Wheel Trailers for extended duration camping/touring: Thoughts?
« Reply #7 on: February 04, 2018, 11:19:04 AM »
We usually go to the big boat, sport and travel show every year and I enjoy looking at all of the fancy new campers.  They are pretty neat and have all the comforts of home.   However, I would suggest you rent one for your first couple trips to see if you are really going to like it.   It's not all relaxing around the campfire.   There is a fair amount of effort and skill required each time you set up and tear down, you have to deal with filling and emptying the water and poop, utility hookups, etc., and camping at a nice RV campground with all the hook ups and facilities isn't cheap.

A big part of cross country travel to me is just driving around enjoying the scenery.   I don't get much pleasure dragging one of those big pull behind campers or driving a motorhome, they are like driving a barn in a windstorm and getting into gas pumps, parking, etc. all becomes much more difficult than with your automobile.

Been there, done that.   These days we just take my four door pickup with topper so we can haul plenty of gear and stay at rental cabins or motels.   You can buy a lot of motel rooms for the price of a decent camper, and you won't have near the hassles.

Dusty Dog Ranch

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Re: Travel/5th Wheel Trailers for extended duration camping/touring: Thoughts?
« Reply #8 on: February 04, 2018, 10:25:38 PM »
I know someone who has a converted school bus for sale if you'd like me to get more info for you.

Mtngrl

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Re: Travel/5th Wheel Trailers for extended duration camping/touring: Thoughts?
« Reply #9 on: February 05, 2018, 08:19:09 AM »
We bought our fifth-wheel used and found there was a lot to choose from on the used market, and at much better prices than new. A lot of people buy them and end up not using them as much as they thought they would. My poor neighbor sold one that had only been out a half-dozen times (her husband died suddenly) and was in excellent condition. Don't be afraid of an older model. We bought ours when it was already 10 years old and it's now 21 years old and still going strong.

We use ours a LOT, so feel we have more than gotten our money's-worth out of it. We take a month-long trip each summer and use it multiple times from May - October. We mostly boondock. And we like being out in the wilderness, away from everyone and near great hiking, so staying in cabins and other lodging wouldn't be the same. We also always take our two dogs with us -- something we might not be able to do if we weren't camping.

We chose the fifth wheel because my husband (who has pulled many types of trailers in his previous working life) said they were much easier to tow. We live in the mountains and much of our travel is in the mountains.

My advice would be to go with the smallest size you can feel comfortable with. Bigger trailer means more strain on the tow vehicle and worse gas mileage. Ours is old enough that it doesn't have slide-outs, but I wish it did, since that would give us a little more room. I don't know if they even make them nowadays without slide-outs.

Syonyk

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Re: Travel/5th Wheel Trailers for extended duration camping/touring: Thoughts?
« Reply #10 on: February 05, 2018, 09:05:57 AM »
There is a fair amount of effort and skill required each time you set up and tear down, you have to deal with filling and emptying the water and poop, utility hookups, etc., and camping at a nice RV campground with all the hook ups and facilities isn't cheap.

I'm quite aware of the setup/teardown issues, though "camping at a nice RV campground" is not the use case here, at all.  We might stop at one of those every week or two on a long trip to deal with the water fill/blackwater drain/etc.

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A big part of cross country travel to me is just driving around enjoying the scenery.   I don't get much pleasure dragging one of those big pull behind campers or driving a motorhome, they are like driving a barn in a windstorm and getting into gas pumps, parking, etc. all becomes much more difficult than with your automobile.

I suppose it's what you're used to.  I drove a bus professionally for a few years, I'm used to a long pickup, and regularly tow a 30' trailer, backing it into both it's parking spot and where we use it, so none of that really bothers me that much.

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Been there, done that.   These days we just take my four door pickup with topper so we can haul plenty of gear and stay at rental cabins or motels.   You can buy a lot of motel rooms for the price of a decent camper, and you won't have near the hassles.

Sure, but you don't have nearly the flexibility in terms of going out into the middle of nowhere and camping for a few days with people.  Our idea of a good trip involves not seeing people we didn't come with.

I know someone who has a converted school bus for sale if you'd like me to get more info for you.

I'm not really in the market right now, but may look into that in a few years.  I'm a bit hesitant to pick up a used someone-else's-conversion job, since I've dealt with plenty of things like that and it's never that enjoyable.  A used trailer, at least, is likely to have been sanely built in the first place.

We use ours a LOT, so feel we have more than gotten our money's-worth out of it. We take a month-long trip each summer and use it multiple times from May - October. We mostly boondock. And we like being out in the wilderness, away from everyone and near great hiking, so staying in cabins and other lodging wouldn't be the same. We also always take our two dogs with us -- something we might not be able to do if we weren't camping.

That's definitely the type of use we intend for ours.

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We chose the fifth wheel because my husband (who has pulled many types of trailers in his previous working life) said they were much easier to tow. We live in the mountains and much of our travel is in the mountains.

Being out west, there are a lot of mountains, and that's definitely something I'm considering.  The better weight distribution on the tow vehicle is nice as well for off road use.

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My advice would be to go with the smallest size you can feel comfortable with. Bigger trailer means more strain on the tow vehicle and worse gas mileage. Ours is old enough that it doesn't have slide-outs, but I wish it did, since that would give us a little more room. I don't know if they even make them nowadays without slide-outs.

I think you can get some travel trailers without slideouts, but I didn't see a single 5th wheel without them.  The ones we liked were in the ~8500lb empty range, so not spectacularly heavy for the range of 5th wheels.

SugarMountain

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Re: Travel/5th Wheel Trailers for extended duration camping/touring: Thoughts?
« Reply #11 on: February 05, 2018, 11:46:11 AM »
We're also considering a camper/5th wheel, so I'm somewhat PTF here.  We are in the process of buying a piece of mountain property and the main thing we need to sort out is whether we are buying something simply to park on the land or whether we'd actually go on the road with it.

We went to the RV/Trailer show a couple of weeks ago and I was amazed at how roomy some of them are.  I'm tall and headroom is a big consideration.  That said, we are almost certainly going to buy used if we buy something.  It seems to me that convertibles and RVs/campers are two things that you are much better off buying used because everyone buys them thinking they're going to use them a ton and then don't. (I've averaged about 3k miles on my convertible over 14 years.)

The other thought I've toyed with is heading to Phoenix in the spring.  I suspect that a lot of snowbirds buy a camper, move down there and then either due to health reasons or living preferences decide that the camper/snowbird life is not for them after a winter or two.

TheMCP

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Re: Travel/5th Wheel Trailers for extended duration camping/touring: Thoughts?
« Reply #12 on: February 05, 2018, 06:43:18 PM »
I have a large 5th wheel that I will be living in soon, our house sale is tentatively set to close next month, so I've relatively recently gone through this decision process myself.

It looks to me like you've gotten a lot of good advice here, and as far as I can tell you seem to be on the right track.  As you've surely discovered, the reason why there are so many different solutions to these problems is that peoples' needs can be very diverse when you break them down, and everything becomes a trade off.  It really becomes a question of what qualities are most important to you, and what ones you might be willing to give up. 

The new vs. used thing starts to take on a different tenor if you're looking for some specific features (for example we didn't need or want bunks, so instantly 60% of the units on every lot are off the list).  Perhaps not the popular thing to say on this particular website, but we bought new and I don't regret it at all... the endless variations available can make finding something truly suitable much trickier than it seems at first.  The way I see it, whether you spend 20k, 30k, 50k... it's all a lot of money to spend on something if it's going to annoy you when you use it.

I had a smaller (about 6500#) bumper pull trailer before our 5th wheel that I bought with the intention of figuring out if we hated camping or not.  I'd say the biggest difference is probably slow speed maneuverability... the 5th wheel is a lot easier to back around in campgrounds and get around corners with.  If I'm willing to scrub the tires, which is only really an issue on blacktop, I can pivot the trailer 90 degrees.  I have an 8' bed also, and I will be installing a toolbox at the front of the bed... you should still have some room up there.  Removing the 5th wheel hitch is easy if you need the whole bed for something else (it is heavy, but it goes in and comes out very very easily, I was surprised).

Since it sounds like you're familiar with your trucks capacity (most people go over their payload rating way before they hit their towing capacity), you probably know this already, but pay attention to the gross max weight (and corresponding carrying capacity) of the trailer and the ratings on the trailer axles.  If you're going to be using it for extended stays (and boondocking), then you're probably going to be carrying a fair amount of stuff plus a full tank of water.  I was amazed at how easily you can go over the rated weights on some trailers... it is definitely something you want to keep an eye on.

Good luck!

Capt j-rod

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Re: Travel/5th Wheel Trailers for extended duration camping/touring: Thoughts?
« Reply #13 on: February 05, 2018, 06:59:51 PM »
Do a VERY thorough inspection... Campers are very poorly built. A thin membrane and caulk is all that keep the leaks away. I have a 21' Camplite that we use a ton in the spring summer and fall. Camping has it's up and downs. We have a 6 and a 3 year old. The kids love it. They like coming back to the trailer rather than a strange hotel that may or may not have been cleaned. No bed bugs either. You get a big savings on food. We are able to go 9 days on about $1000 for a family of four, pay for the site, fuel and still tour anywhere. One thing to know is that there are a shit load of campers competing for a fixed number of sites. National and state parks are usually booked up 4-6 months in advance. A 5th wheel also adds a height restriction that a bumper doesn't have. Gas stations and low bridges can become an issue. Nothing a good operator can't overcome, but something to think of. Used is a good thing if you are comfortable with small repairs and maintenance. Good luck and take your time. There are a TON of used trailers to be had.

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Re: Travel/5th Wheel Trailers for extended duration camping/touring: Thoughts?
« Reply #14 on: February 05, 2018, 08:25:56 PM »
About 6 years ago, we bought a 3-year-old used Jayco (27BH) that we have towed with a Tundra (top towing package for that model, so, nice for a 1/2 ton truck) reasonably extensively on the east coast (the most into mountains we've gotten is WV).

We've had a great time.  Before buying the thing we went to (of all places) a Camping World where the dealer I connected with told me to buy something used, figure out what I did/didn't like about it, and sell it when we got tired of it, that otherwise we'd waste a lot of money (on depreciation) by buying used. 

For us that turned out to be great advice.  We used the thing for 6 years (as said), paid $9K for it (private seller), and eventually got tired of not having slides and, as our (one) kid got bigger found it too small without the slides (basically, you can't have someone standing in the kitchen and someone walking from the sofa to the bathroom at the same time, in that Jayco.  At least not if one of the someones is a medium-sized kid with the associated klutziness...).

We've just bought a slightly bigger model (2 slides, 30 feet, separate bunk room for the kids with its own table below one of the bunks), and bought new (done mostly to humor the DH).  Can't really comment on how much more we like it because we haven't camped in it yet, though we are excited to start doing so.

Anyway, long story short, I think the buy-used-and-see-how-you-use it advice was good and would recommend that approach, myself.

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Re: Travel/5th Wheel Trailers for extended duration camping/touring: Thoughts?
« Reply #15 on: February 05, 2018, 09:37:56 PM »
We're also considering a camper/5th wheel, so I'm somewhat PTF here.  We are in the process of buying a piece of mountain property and the main thing we need to sort out is whether we are buying something simply to park on the land or whether we'd actually go on the road with it.

If you're just buying one to park on the land, consider building a shelter over it.  You can get away with some cheap trailers if you go that route.  My grandmother-in-law (?) has an old trailer up at a campground property she owns, and it's got a sloped roof pole barn over it to help keep the weather (snow) off.

It looks to me like you've gotten a lot of good advice here, and as far as I can tell you seem to be on the right track.  As you've surely discovered, the reason why there are so many different solutions to these problems is that peoples' needs can be very diverse when you break them down, and everything becomes a trade off.  It really becomes a question of what qualities are most important to you, and what ones you might be willing to give up.

Certainly - and this was a big part of the reason we went to the expo.  I didn't know enough to be able to ask intelligent questions, and I feel like I have much more knowledge now to be able to start finding the right information.  I wasn't actually sure how a "toy hauler" worked - just that they existed as a thing, to somehow haul side-by-sides and the like.  We've concluded that the tradeoffs with them probably aren't worth it for our travel - we're unlikely to do anything with an RV that would need that sort of space, and it really hoses the layout.

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Perhaps not the popular thing to say on this particular website, but we bought new and I don't regret it at all... the endless variations available can make finding something truly suitable much trickier than it seems at first.  The way I see it, whether you spend 20k, 30k, 50k... it's all a lot of money to spend on something if it's going to annoy you when you use it.

For me, part of it is that for the power system I intend to put in, it's not going to be cheap - probably $3k+ of panels/battery/inverter.  I know how to do it, but it's not something I'll be removing from a trailer, and it's not something that would add nearly the cost of the system to it.

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I have an 8' bed also, and I will be installing a toolbox at the front of the bed... you should still have some room up there.  Removing the 5th wheel hitch is easy if you need the whole bed for something else (it is heavy, but it goes in and comes out very very easily, I was surprised).

I already have the 5th wheel rails and hitch - it came with the truck (with an awful lot of other things - it was not the cheapest truck on the market, but it was set up as a hauler when I bought it, with all the reliability mods).  I've considered a toolbox up there, but I use the full bed often enough that it would be more trouble than it's worth.  I normally have a topper on, and regularly use the full length for plywood/lumber/etc, or I've got the top off and am hauling two yards of compost/dirt/gravel/etc (I can fit two yards, barely, but had better tarp it).

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Since it sounds like you're familiar with your trucks capacity (most people go over their payload rating way before they hit their towing capacity), you probably know this already, but pay attention to the gross max weight (and corresponding carrying capacity) of the trailer and the ratings on the trailer axles.  If you're going to be using it for extended stays (and boondocking), then you're probably going to be carrying a fair amount of stuff plus a full tank of water.  I was amazed at how easily you can go over the rated weights on some trailers... it is definitely something you want to keep an eye on.

That's a good point - and something I'll have to do the math on.

Do a VERY thorough inspection... Campers are very poorly built. A thin membrane and caulk is all that keep the leaks away.

I am aware.  My parents had an old popup camper that leaked.  And therefore stunk.

On the plus side, our climate is dry.  On the minus side, we want to go out east, where there's more rain.  The new Keystone units, at least, have a single piece roof that should help a lot with that (no seams to leak up top).

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One thing to know is that there are a shit load of campers competing for a fixed number of sites. National and state parks are usually booked up 4-6 months in advance.

Not a big deal with where we like to camp. :)

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A 5th wheel also adds a height restriction that a bumper doesn't have. Gas stations and low bridges can become an issue. Nothing a good operator can't overcome, but something to think of. Used is a good thing if you are comfortable with small repairs and maintenance. Good luck and take your time. There are a TON of used trailers to be had.

Most of the ones I'm interested in are less than 12' high, so not high enough I expect them to be a problem.  The big triple axle beasts, yeah, they're huge.  But I don't think I want to tow one of those, and I sure don't want to pay for one of those.

I'm definitely comfortable with repairs and maintenance, though would prefer not to be spending all my time working on that.  I have a lot of property work I need to do as well.

We've had a great time.  Before buying the thing we went to (of all places) a Camping World where the dealer I connected with told me to buy something used, figure out what I did/didn't like about it, and sell it when we got tired of it, that otherwise we'd waste a lot of money (on depreciation) by buying used.

That's not a bad idea.  I think we've got enough camping time we have a clue as to what would be useful, but getting a cheap unit to play with for a while could be reasonable.

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Re: Travel/5th Wheel Trailers for extended duration camping/touring: Thoughts?
« Reply #16 on: February 06, 2018, 10:46:36 AM »
We're also considering a camper/5th wheel, so I'm somewhat PTF here.  We are in the process of buying a piece of mountain property and the main thing we need to sort out is whether we are buying something simply to park on the land or whether we'd actually go on the road with it.

If you're just buying one to park on the land, consider building a shelter over it.  You can get away with some cheap trailers if you go that route.  My grandmother-in-law (?) has an old trailer up at a campground property she owns, and it's got a sloped roof pole barn over it to help keep the weather (snow) off.


That's probably a good idea.  I need to see what I'm allowed to do on the land without getting into permits and all of that.  I would like to buy something in the $10k range and would need to see what building a barn or at least a roof over the top would end up costing.  I had been thinking that we'd at least get a storage shed up as well, maybe this could do double duty.

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Re: Travel/5th Wheel Trailers for extended duration camping/touring: Thoughts?
« Reply #17 on: February 06, 2018, 12:07:01 PM »
It is much cheaper to buy from a private party then a dealer. We bought a used motorhome with 33 k miles on it even though it was 14 years old. WE paid 14k.  I would not spend 30k on one.   Now it is 24 yo. We were it's 3rd owner.  Occasionally we run into an rv park that won't let anyone have a RV older then 10 or 15 years but that is not often.  WE have looked at dealers and even for used they mark them way up.

TheMCP

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Re: Travel/5th Wheel Trailers for extended duration camping/touring: Thoughts?
« Reply #18 on: February 06, 2018, 04:53:29 PM »

Certainly - and this was a big part of the reason we went to the expo.  I didn't know enough to be able to ask intelligent questions, and I feel like I have much more knowledge now to be able to start finding the right information.  I wasn't actually sure how a "toy hauler" worked - just that they existed as a thing, to somehow haul side-by-sides and the like.  We've concluded that the tradeoffs with them probably aren't worth it for our travel - we're unlikely to do anything with an RV that would need that sort of space, and it really hoses the layout.


I kinda doubt this is what you're looking for, but since it is exactly what I ended up buying when I came to the same conclusions as you about toy haulers (I have yet to see a full on toy hauler that I felt like I could spend more than a couple days in)...

Its a relatively new thing, but my trailer has a ramp door in the back with a small-ish garage.  This garage is actually under the bed... to say that the back is two stories is a little grandiose, but the garage provides enough room for two motorcycles, two mountain bikes, and some gear while still allowing the space above it to be used... saving the floorplan from destruction like you've seen.  It looks like this: https://cdn1.rvtrader.com/v1/media/5a59c85dc82ad77a2b2b3120.jpg?width=1024&height=768&quality=70

I know this specific unit isn't what you're looking for (it's huge), but it wouldn't surprise me if other companies started making different variations on this same idea (I wouldn't think there would be a reason why this plan couldn't be executed in a smaller package, but I haven't looked in a while).

Anyway since you mentioned toy haulers, and had the exact same objections to them as I did, I figured I'd mention it because I had no idea that such a thing existed.

Syonyk

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Re: Travel/5th Wheel Trailers for extended duration camping/touring: Thoughts?
« Reply #19 on: February 06, 2018, 05:14:05 PM »
I saw one of those units, and, yeah, it was completely huge.  The bed rose up to give you extra room.

It's interesting, but I think the interior space loss from that style is more than I'm willing to give up in a smaller trailer.  If I were OK with a 15klb dry monster, sure, that's pretty neat.

use2betrix

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Re: Travel/5th Wheel Trailers for extended duration camping/touring: Thoughts?
« Reply #20 on: February 06, 2018, 07:03:37 PM »
Whatís your actual tow vehicle and itís ratings? Hitch ratings are mostly irrelevant.

Syonyk

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Re: Travel/5th Wheel Trailers for extended duration camping/touring: Thoughts?
« Reply #21 on: February 06, 2018, 07:48:40 PM »
Whatís your actual tow vehicle and itís ratings? Hitch ratings are mostly irrelevant.

1997 Ford F350, 7.3 Powerstroke, automatic transmission, crew cab/long bed, 4WD, with a bunch of reliability mods for towing (intercooler, TransCommand, full set of A pillar gauges, upgraded transmission cooler, etc).

I've got a 15k lb rated 2" receiver I tow regularly with (somewhere in the 10k lb range - we don't exactly know how heavy the church trailer is and kind of don't want to), and a set of 5th wheel rails & 5th wheel for the bed, plus all the hookups for that stuff.

The tow rating is somewhere between 10500 and 14500, and I'm not sure exactly where it sits because the drivetrain isn't stock.  The previous owner put lower ratio differentials in (4.10s), which bump the tow rating up to 14500, but also 19.5" wheels and light truck tires, which are larger so the drive ratio ends up being about the same as stock for 10500.  Or 12500 for a 5th wheel because of weight distribution.  It's all over the place, and different references have different values, and I think part of it relates to the axles being slightly different with the 4.10s.  I'm not sure if the axles were swapped or just the ring/pinion were swapped (I suppose I should dig around for tags on the axle and see).

All that said, I'd like to be on the lower end of the range - so I'm aiming for about a 10500lb max trailer weight, loaded, which an 8500lb trailer, empty, will do.  It's the most conservative rating, and it is an older truck, so I'd rather not push the weight limits.  Regardless of the configuration I have, 10500 is the tow rating, and with the various upgrades, I shouldn't have any trouble at all with that.  Especially 5th wheel.

===========

And just before anyone goes off on how awful trucks are and didn't you read the article and such, I live on a few acres of hillside out in the country, I work from my property, and the truck isn't used as a commuter, and rarely as a single person vehicle - mostly that's when I'm heading in to grab the church trailer or into town to grab lumber or the driveway has enough snow that a car can't get out.  It's older, it's paid for, I do most of the work myself, and I regularly have it loaded up heavy.  Right now, I'm using it to haul rocks out of our hillside and I load a ton or so at a time into it, and make use of the 4WD and ground clearance to get around the hill.
« Last Edit: February 06, 2018, 07:51:15 PM by Syonyk »

Syonyk

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Re: Travel/5th Wheel Trailers for extended duration camping/touring: Thoughts?
« Reply #22 on: February 08, 2018, 10:07:49 PM »
Hm...

There's a 30' travel trailer laying around some extended family property if I wanted to work on it, find the roof leak, and redo a bit of the interior...

More work, less money.  *ponders*  I'll have to spend some time crawling around it & see what condition it's actually in.

Not a long term solution, but a short term solution.  I think it's only as old as I am, so fairly new for things I've worked on from that property!

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Re: Travel/5th Wheel Trailers for extended duration camping/touring: Thoughts?
« Reply #23 on: February 12, 2018, 08:29:44 AM »
We are full-time RVers in a 25 foot motorhome that is perfect for two adults. There is space to sleep 5 but would be cramped for trips longer than a week or so. The advantage to the small size is maneuverability to allow parking in small spots. We have solar and boondock much of the time and can go many places that a truck and trailer/5th wheel can't. We purchased our RV new as we wanted a specific size and model that was relatively new on the market so used ones weren't readily available. If we were looking for a trailer for part-time use with kids used would be a great option.

the_fixer

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Travel/5th Wheel Trailers for extended duration camping/touring: Thoughts?
« Reply #24 on: February 12, 2018, 03:27:11 PM »
Consider resale as well when you make your purchase. If you buy a good quality unit that has a following chances are you can use it for a few years (or more) and sell it for a small loss as long as you take care of it.

Like the airstream trailers the fiberglass trailers have a good following and last where stick built trailers need more care and take a huge hit when sold used.

Checkout
Escape trailers
Bigfoot

While not fiberglass the silver fox / Arctic fox are well built and would be my choice if a fiberglass trailer or airstream would not work.

If you do get a stick built I would buy one used they take a hell of a haircut if you go to sell them used as people are worried about leaks and the build quality.


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« Last Edit: February 12, 2018, 03:32:31 PM by the_fixer »

LovinPSDs

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Re: Travel/5th Wheel Trailers for extended duration camping/touring: Thoughts?
« Reply #25 on: February 15, 2018, 01:13:54 PM »
OP, I'm very interested in your solar/boondocking plans.   I recently read an interesting article about a guy who bought a crashed Nissan Leaf and got the 24Kw battery pack for dirt cheap.  Add on some big solar and second alternator kit to the truck and that would be one serious setup!  I'll see if I can find the article.

This has been an interesting article to read as we're just getting ready to start our second season of camping and LOVED last years.  I have two girls (3) and (1) so we're trying to figure out what is best for us as well.  Currently in a 30ft 5er bunkhouse (floor plan below).  After one season we've realized the second bathroom is a total waste of space, and I wish we had more couch/lounging space.  The "3" room setup is really nice with the kiddos going to be at different times so it works for us right now but can see making some changes  down the road as we've learned a TON since owning our first in regards to what we want.

For my own info, how do you find the great boondocking locations?  I'd really like to get off grid more.  We've enjoyed the luxuries of the Jellystones and KOAs while getting to know our trailer and the camping life a bit more, now I'm ready to start exploring a lot more.   Cool Thread!!

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MacGyverIt

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Re: Travel/5th Wheel Trailers for extended duration camping/touring: Thoughts?
« Reply #26 on: February 15, 2018, 04:45:20 PM »
So glad to see this post as I've been researching travel trailers as a full time residence. It's just me and the dog and I'm happy to get rid of what furniture I have and live larger in a small space. Originally I looked at tiny houses but 1) they're generally way more expensive for the same set of functions 2) prefer something designed to be moved (though I don't plan to move unless I'm chasing weather or a job) 3) I want little to no wood in the structure; almost across the board I've read that fiberglass bodied-homes are the way to go since leaks are one of the main ruiners of RV life.

In a perfect world I'd prolly go for one of these Oliver fiberglass trailers: https://olivertraveltrailers.com/travel-trailers/legacy-elite/ They're so well regarded it's tough to find them used and I like the off-grid options to include solar, a composting toilet, etc. although I'd probably incorporate more solar as time and funds allow. These trailers consists of four fiberglass shells, two inner shells and two outer shells so pretty weather tolerant.

Great site for fiberglass-specific RVs:  https://www.fiberglass-rv-4sale.com/rv-for-sale

Current list for towing trucks/SUVs and their capacity (current models but something to work from):
http://webcontent.goodsam.com/trailerlife.com/digital_editions/TrailerLifeTowGuide2018.pdf

This couple is building an off the grid home and living a super MMM life, this is a cool write up on portable solar panels: http://purelivingforlife.com/portable-solar-panels/
« Last Edit: February 15, 2018, 05:02:07 PM by MacGyverIt »

Syonyk

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Re: Travel/5th Wheel Trailers for extended duration camping/touring: Thoughts?
« Reply #27 on: February 15, 2018, 05:20:12 PM »
OP, I'm very interested in your solar/boondocking plans.   I recently read an interesting article about a guy who bought a crashed Nissan Leaf and got the 24Kw battery pack for dirt cheap.  Add on some big solar and second alternator kit to the truck and that would be one serious setup!  I'll see if I can find the article.

I've considered lithium and a second truck alternator, but I'll see.  That's a good bit of coin and an awful lot of work to shove a second alternator in.  I'll likely wire things so I can charge on the truck 12V system, as it's pretty efficient at idle (big engine, but burns something like 0.25-0.5 gph idling).

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For my own info, how do you find the great boondocking locations?  I'd really like to get off grid more.  We've enjoyed the luxuries of the Jellystones and KOAs while getting to know our trailer and the camping life a bit more, now I'm ready to start exploring a lot more.   Cool Thread!!

You find people who know the good spots and go with them. :)

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Re: Travel/5th Wheel Trailers for extended duration camping/touring: Thoughts?
« Reply #28 on: February 16, 2018, 06:54:16 PM »
We boondock at least  2/3 of the time. We love the Boondockers Welcome program as it is a great way to get to know like-minded folks along with saving $$. See the referrals page on the Off Our Rocker RV blog (link below) for more info.



For my own info, how do you find the great boondocking locations?  I'd really like to get off grid more.  We've enjoyed the luxuries of the Jellystones and KOAs while getting to know our trailer and the camping life a bit more, now I'm ready to start exploring a lot more. 



Syonyk

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Re: Travel/5th Wheel Trailers for extended duration camping/touring: Thoughts?
« Reply #29 on: February 17, 2018, 04:11:02 PM »
We boondock at least  2/3 of the time. We love the Boondockers Welcome program as it is a great way to get to know like-minded folks along with saving $$. See the referrals page on the Off Our Rocker RV blog (link below) for more info.

Um.

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Does travel blogging pay that much?  That appears to be an $80k motor coach.  I suppose if you live in it...

Mrs. Rocker

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Re: Travel/5th Wheel Trailers for extended duration camping/touring: Thoughts?
« Reply #30 on: February 18, 2018, 08:08:39 PM »
We are FIRE'd and travel blog to inspire others and to share resources.

We boondock at least  2/3 of the time. We love the Boondockers Welcome program as it is a great way to get to know like-minded folks along with saving $$. See the referrals page on the Off Our Rocker RV blog (link below) for more info.

Um.

2017 Thor Vegas 24.1
2016 Kia Soul

Does travel blogging pay that much?  That appears to be an $80k motor coach.  I suppose if you live in it...