When you’re researching your transition to mobile living, there’s a tendency to lock yourself into a relatively narrow set of options. It happened to my wife and I when we were picking out our first camper. When you’re going from a house to a camper, it’s easy to focus on the downsizing struggle. You go too big on your first full time rig because campers seem so small compared to a house.
What happens when you’re on the road a while is you get used to the smaller space and may discover, like we did, that half the stuff you brought along doesn’t really fit the lifestyle. Gone are many of your old household chores, like lawn care, and you’ll end up doing the common chores, like cooking, a different way.
How Much Will You Travel?
I’ve seen a lot of people in RV forums amped about the prospect of traveling around the country with their giant diesel pickup pulling a 12,000 pound 5th wheel. For a few that’s a good choice but, the majority of the time, you’re going to get tired of the maintenance costs on that huge truck and traveling with that giant fiver is going to wear after a while.
Whether the larger truck/trailer combo is a good choice or not depends on how comfortable you are with maintenance on big trucks and driving a big rig. If you’re new to RV travel, I’d really think carefully about that option. No matter how good you are with big loads, there’s still the problem of spontaneity. If you really want to travel and see things, then you’ll want to stop frequently and explore. That’s hard to do with a 35 foot fifth wheel behind a maxi-size diesel truck. It’s even hard to do with a 25 foot travel trailer behind a Tundra. My wife and I are not the spontaneous explorer types, so that’s fine for us. If you’re the type that wants to stop and see the world’s largest rubber band ball, then you’ll definitely want to choose a smaller, self-contained, camper.
The optimum size for traveling is one that fits in a standard size parking space. For us that’s not the optimum size for living for extended times on the road but those are the choices you have to make.
Why People Downsize
For my wife and I it was just the chore and the cost of moving that giant fifth wheel around. The couple in the video below had some of the same motivations, but also slightly different preferences that led them to the same conclusion.
Change of Focus
Depending where you live now, you may discover that, when you’re traveling, you spend way more time outdoors. The real travelers we’ve met spend the bulk of their day outside in lawn chairs under the awning. Either that or outdoors exploring, kayaking, scuba diving, rock climbing, biking, fishing…you get the idea. The only time they go back inside is if it’s raining or their ready to chill and watch TV a while before turning in. The only time they were inside is when they had no other option.
Always Bet On Convenience
If your rig is small enough, you’ll discover many ways to camp overnight for less money. You can’t camp at rest areas, but most times it’s okay if you grab a quick nap before moving on to your next destination. Truck stops, some grocery stores (not so much Walmart anymore), and some other businesses will look the other way and let nice people sleep over in their parking lots.
Consider a Gym Membership
Small rigs may find a gym membership not only pays off in a better physique, but it’s a good place to get a shower in a big bathroom on the road. Some will wink at overnight guests if you keep a low profile. Vandwellers do that routinely but it’s harder in a Class C or Class B and you don’t need to anyway. Stay at campgrounds. It’s cheap, they have showers, and no one is going to bother you in the middle of the night. County and state campgrounds are frequently an excellent value.
When Small Rigs Don’t Work
A small rig won’t work for us because we have pets. We can’t leave Spark Dog in a parking lot. We need to be somewhere with power and leave him in climate controlled camper. That means we need to park, then use our tow vehicle to get around town. So, for us a small travel trailer is the right choice. The other option would be getting a small rig that has an ultra-quiet propane generator and those are expensive.
Maybe you have pets or kids and really need that bigger rig. No problem. Then you have a reason to haul that big load and you’ll plan your travel accordingly. The main point here is don’t let downsize shock dictate your camper choice. Make the choice based on how much you want to travel and how many people and pets are coming along. Consider all your options carefully before choosing a mobile lifestyle and you’ll have a much better trip.