This may be a bit of an unusual article to post on an RV site, but I think it’s important, never the less. With us owning a motor home, it has become important for us to know the size of the bus when we are traveling.

This is actually pretty important for a number of reason. First, which seems obvious, will the driver be comfortable driving the bus in traffic? Because I’ve got previous trucking experience from years back, this isn’t an issue for me. I’ve learnt to watch my mirrors when making turns and I’ve learnt the size of the bus in a number of lane size scenarios.

The next is just a touch more sneaky and can jump you at the most inopportune time. When we went to some of the shopping plazas in a local city, we discovered that many would show their height restrictions even before you turned into the lot. That makes things pretty easy. But we entered on lot that didn’t have height restrictions stipulated.

I turned into the parking lot and immediately noticed that I could enter two sets of lots. Now the one definitely had height restrictions in place, after turning in. So I turned into the auxiliary lot and drove into it and discovered that there was height restrictions there too! I knew that my bus needed a height of 4 meters and the lot was just under 3 meters. I decided that attempting it was a very bad thing!

I immediately stopped and put my four way blinkers on. Well, I didn’t make the people behind me happy but I knew that things would turn very bad if I attempted this lot. I had to have my darling wife jump out and start to wave people back. Now, they were not happy with the situation, but well, live sucks. If I cannot go forward, I have to reverse.

With about 10 minutes of maneuvering I was able to reverse the bus and get it out of the lot, though it was challenging. But I did learn a few things with this challenge.

First, most front lots in plazas and malls will be height restricted, even if they don’t stipulate it. I’ve learnt to just head to the rear parking and even then, some malls will not offer the secondary rear parking. If that’s the cause, they don’t want your shopping business!

Next, don’t let other drivers force you into a bad situation. I know what I can and cannot do with the bus and if I feel compromised, then I will stop and not proceed. Others will simply have to make way, so to speak.

Knowing how wide and how high your RV is will save you a ton of grief! Be sure to know these measurements in metric as well as the imperial system! Don’t get caught with your pants down with this simple to resolve issue when travelling across the border. Post it on your dash, so you always know where you can and more importantly cannot fit!

I’ve found that it is so easy to make excuses to hold you back when it comes to seeing a full time rv living lifestyle. I can say this to you because I had a bit of an eye opener on the weekend. Let me fill in the details first.

About a year or so back, I was diagnosed with a type of cancer called Follicular Lymphoma. I’ll be honest, I didn’t know that this existed ten minutes before the diagnosis. It’s a slow growing cancer that can live in the lymph nodes of the body. Well, immediately I started to mourn the fact that the idea of rv living just went out the window!

How can I conceive of having treatments on a regular basis for the rest of my life if I have to stay in my home province in Canada? There’s no way that I could go to the USA for 6 months at a time?

Well, I discovered that this was just another excuse. I was chatting with my neighbor and discovered that a few doors down from me, the wife was also diagnosed with the same thing! And here’s the kicker, she’s living part time in Australia with her husband there too!

What she decided was to not let something like cancer from holding her back from fulfilling her dreams. She decided it was worth it to her to come back when she had to seek treatments and she returns when she’s done. It must be a bit of a bumpy right, but like I said, it’s not holding her back.

So, I discovered on the cusp of full time rving, I’m playing chicken and not getting to my dreams. So what is holding you back from fulfilling your dreams to full time rv living? Maybe it’s time for a revaluation of your circumstances?

I know that discovering the knowledge of my neighbor has done just that for me! No more excuses!!!

 

When you are looking for a new RV, you have many choices to make. One of the primary choices that you do have to make is what style of RV do you buy? Should you purchase a 5th wheel, a travel trailer or a motor home? (For sake of simplicity, anything including tent trailers will fall into travel trailer – if it’s not a 5th wheel and attaches to a vehicle with a ball hitch.)

I know that I had to go through all the thoughts of which one would be best for my family, my circumstances and my budget. Let me offer you some of the ideas that came to my mind and things that came out after owning an RV.

Travel Trailers – The First Option

travel trailerThe first RV my wife and I owned was an old tent travel trailer. It was very old, didn’t have any options but it was a hoot! One of the biggest reasons to get into a very light weight travel trailer is to keep your costs low, but allow you to get going now. That’s probably the biggest advantage on the lower end of cost.

Now, you are not limited to a simple tent type travel trailer. You can pull a monster behind you that has all the comforts of home. But what you do need to decide and understand is that the bigger and heavier a travel trailer becomes, the more difficult it is to drive and the more vehicle you will need to pull it.

Again, the biggest advantage to a tent travel trailer is the fact that you can pull it with most home vehicles. Now watch, there is a limit to the weight a vehicle can pull and that is normally the strength of the engine and transmission of the vehicle and there is also a limit to how much a vehicle can support on the tongue and that is the rating and strength of the rear suspension of a vehicle.

On the higher end of travel trailers, if you have a truck that can support the weight and pull the load well, there are good points and bad too. The strongest reason to go with a travel trailer again is cost. Dollar for dollar, you really do get the biggest bang for the buck.

I’ve seen travel trailers that have everything for under $25,000 and the same 5th wheel is over $50,000. Why? Well, it has to do with drive ability. Travel trailers being longer and the load is controlled behind the rear wheels of the towing vehicle, it is harder to pull. Not impossible by any stretch of the imagination. But have you ever seen a person towing a trailer and the trailer is swaying?

This is what I’m talking about. You have to get experience and learn how to avoid this situation. And there will be times when you decide to pull over when the wind is against you, to avoid an accident. Travel trailers are great, but you must know and understand the risks that go with them.

5th Wheel Trailers

5th wheelThe 5th wheel trailer is definitely the middle child in this mix. In terms of cost and what you get, it’s right about dead center. This is one of the reasons that 5th wheels are so popular. Again though, there are things to consider.

If you wish to own a 5th wheel, you will need a truck that can appropriately pull it. This is no negotiation on this one. You must make sure that your truck is more then adequate to pull the load and support the weight. If your truck is on the edge of being able to, you’ll find yourself in more of a dangerous situation then trying to pull a travel trailer!

The big difference in pulling is that the load is centered on the rear axle of the towing vehicle. This makes a ton of difference when it comes to drive ability. Corners are easier, towing is easier and you are less affected by weather conditions like cross winds.

I’ve pulled both and the 5th wheel comes out the winner. In my opinion, if you have the appropriate vehicle to pull it with and the extra funds, I’d go 5th wheel.

Motor homes

motorhomeMotor homes are a great option for a number of reasons. They are usually the most expensive option as well. A motor home is an RV that is driven by its own power. So there is a lot more to a motor home. Again, you have a lot of choices to make with a motorhomes.

Do you go for an A class, B class or C class? Do you go with slides?

We personally went with an A class motor home. It was a used model that offered the advantages we needed. So why the a class? For us, we didn’t have a vehicle that could pull much more then a tent trailer. We did look at tent trailers and felt that it wasn’t much of a step up from a tent.

For us to purchase a travel trailer or 5th wheel, we were looking at a solid $15,000 to $25,000 to invest into a stronger vehicle for our needs.

And in the end, we liked the flexibility of being about to pull over and enjoy a cup of coffee easily, or allow the kids to sit around the table when driving down the road. It gave us room when we were going from point A to point B. In terms of cost for running, it’s probably the highest.

All in all though, for us it offered the greatest flexibility. For example, when we were travelling home last summer from Eastern Canada, we travelled through the States and it wasn’t an issue to stop and park for the night in the highway stop offs. Now it wasn’t a pleasant park, but it was a really cheap place to park our heads for the night.

So that’s why we went with a motor home. We did shop around a lot and when we found a unit that was well taken care of, we jumped on it. One more note too. If you are undecided between an A class and a C class unit, choose the A class. The A class are normally built on proper industrial truck frames where C class are built on normal consumer grade truck frames.

Good luck and I hope this helps you somewhat on your RV adventures!

 

We took our maden voyage with our bus last summer and there was one thing that really struck us and frustrated us. Finding dump stations!! If you’ve done any rv’ing, dump stations are where you dump your black and grey tanks when they are approaching full.

If you are on the move, this can really be an issue. To save funds, we spent several nights, while travelling in free places to stay. Hence, there were no apparant places to dump the tanks. Just about all rv camp grounds don’t want you to use their dump facilities unless you stay a night and I can understand that.

Needless to say, finding dump stations when you are trying to save a few bucks is VERY DIFFICULT. We were able to find them but not without some trials and tribulations. For example, when we were in Manitoba, we find a great station, but the dumping facility was really hard to use.I was struggling and then had someone come by and tell me that the station was moved – the sign that notified that it was closed and moved, was missing.

Then to find the proper station – well, I looked and just couldn’t find it. We eventually found another location to do the deed. When we arrived in Southern Ontario, it took us days to find a dump station. As a matter of fact, near where we were staying to visit my family, we couldn’t even find a camp ground offering a dump station. The closest one was about 90 minutes away in a provincial park!

Eventually after making dozens of phone calls, I was able to find out the local city offered dumping at their central station. Phew.

The other challenge was teaching my wonderful family to be frugile with water. Unless I played water cop, we would fill the grey tank in one day! This simply aggrevated the issue overall. My wife and I had to train our kids on how to shut off the shower while lavering up and only turn it on when needed.

I’ve found some dump station magazine, but to be honest, I’ve found most of them to be out of date or just wrong. If you know of a great source for dump stations that is up to date and with the pricing to use them, I and many readers where I know would be utterly grateful! Thanks and happy RVing!

RV-batteriesJust last week, I had written an article regarding my episode with my RV batteries and what has happened over the first winter of owning an RV. You can check out the article here: Winterizing Your RV Batteries

I wanted to add to that original article because as luck would have it, I was able to sit down and listen to a lecture given by someone in our local RV dealership. It was very informative and I really wanted to relay what was mentioned there for you to use as a reference in your RV.

The Gas That Drives The Engine – Amp-Hours

Whenever we think batteries and what they do for us, they really are just fuel tanks for electrical energy. So as we use our electrical appliances, it will take energy out of the batteries. When we run the RV’s engine, connect to shore power or use a solar panel, we put energy back into the batteries.

Now, we are very familiar with the idea of putting a liter of gas or for our American friends, a gallon of gas into the tank. With a battery, we use the word, amps-hours. You will find batteries rated best by what is known as amp-hours. It comes down to, how many amps you can use for how many hours.

If a battery is rated for 100 amp-hours or AHs, then that means we can take out 100 of those AH”s and the battery is depleted and needs to be charged.

Now, all of the electrical devices in your RV will use these AH’s to do what you want them too. For example, for every light bulb you light, it will use up 1 AH per hour. Or in other words, 1 AMP per Hour.

Now all the devices have ratings and below you will see roughly what those rates are per hour.

Appliance Rating In AH
Furnace Fan 4
Light 1
Propane Alarm .2
Radio 1
Refrigerator (Running On Propane) .4
Refrigerator (Running On Electrical) 3
TV 3
Water Pump 4
Drip Coffee Pot 67
Laptop Computer 12.5
Microwave Oven 167

So there’s a short list for you. Now, you notice that I don’t even mention air conditioning in that list. The point is  simple. You should NEVER run air conditioning on your 12V system unless you’ve beefed it up to support it. The power draw is very high and for extended periods of time.

Now looking at our list above, we can estimate what we will use on an average day with our RV if we are only using our batteries.

Now, let’s say I go camping when the nights are still a little chilly and the furnace comes on here and there.

For an average 24 hour period I may use:

  • furnace for about four hours – 4 x 4 = 16 AH
  • Lights – three lights for three hours = 9 AH
  • Propane Alarm runs 24 hours per day = 4.8 AH
  • Radio for about four hours per day = 4 AH
  • Refrigerator runs on propane 24 hours per day = 9.6 AH
  • Water pump probably about one hour per day = 4 AH
  • Laptop computer for about four hours per day = 50 AH

Now if you add all of that up, we are looking at a pretty clear need for 97.4 AH per day!! If I knock off the laptop, we are sitting around a reasonable 50 AH per day.

So, next let’s look at the fuel container in this mix, the battery.

We have two 6 volt batteries that together can supply 12 Volts at around 225 AH.

So if we do simple math, that 225 divided by 50, I can get about 4.5 days out of the batteries before I have to charge them somehow. If I run the laptop too, then we are into about 2 and 1/4 days before I’m in trouble.

How Did I Get In Trouble Over The Winter?

Now you may be asking yourself, why do my batteries bleed to nothing and then possibly freeze over the winter, if I”m not using anything? I wondered that too. But I was using something without even thinking about it. The propane detector. That propane detector/alarm using up about 4.8 AH per day will bleed my new shiny batteries down in about 47 days.

So within a month and a bit, my batteries were totally depleted. Because a battery is made up of acid and water in it, and it turns mainly to water when depleted, the batteries froze! Yes, I do feel like a bonehead.

Now, this helpful person did also tell me the truth. If you freeze your batteries and they bulge like they are pregnant, then you may as well thaw them out and get them replaced. At the very best, you’ve got 50% capacity left in them. And honestly, that’s a waste of time.

So, now you can figure out how much power you use and some exciting things like how can you keep your batteries charged for the long term. Ahhh, but you have to wait until I start talking about solar!