Ben-Jen aka Benifer newbies

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Ben1jamin23

New member
Joined
Dec 3, 2023
Posts
2
Location
Michigan
We are about to start out on our RV living adventure. We bought a 30ft 5th wheel an a 3/4 truck having never driven either. We have been living in a apartment for years and we hate it. So right now there is so many decisions to make like what to keep what to throw away or donate. Is this a horrible idea living in michigan and being the winter?? We are very nervous. We are 49/50 yrs old and that hopefully means we have lived long enough to know Murphys law an plan for it thus reducing its impact. We are interested in knowing an meeting others living the rv life for information, ideas,support, and friendship. So hello all you fellow adventurers
 
Welcome to the forums! Lots of friendly and knowledgeable folks here!

Wintering in Michigan is possible but BOY it will be a challenge. Tell us a bit more about your situation. You bought yourself a 5th wheel and truck to pull it with… how much/often do you see yourselves moving vs how much staying parked? Kids? (If yes, ages). Pets?
Any chance of migrating north/south with the seasons? Do you have any experience at all with RVs?

Answers to these questions will help tailor answers to better focus on your needs.
 
We bought a brand new class c in early summer(June). We decided to camp/boondock in the front yard of our farm to learn how things work.

We’re glad we did.

Our new camper has been riddled with some serious problems that had the problem(s) arisen on the road we would have been seriously up the creek without a paddle. The last milestone “event” was that our blackwater tank fell off. We’re glad it didn’t happen driving down the highway(picture that in your head), it happened while parked in the front yard.

We’ve learned a lot.

We took 2 shakedown trips over the summer to local state parks and there weren’t any “events”. We plan to start our adventures January 1, heading south. We’ll be traveling with 4 cats, it was 5 but he’s too terrified of the camper, he’ll stay with the barn cats(we have 7+a new stray total), the other cats love it. At first we’ll return to the farm every few weeks until we see exactly how the cats will behave.

Cold weather boondocking: We’ve discovered the onboard furnace (the starter and fan) drains the battery bank, so we’re probably going to upgrade the battery bank.

Advice? Spend some time getting to know your rig before going too far from a home base. Be prepared (DIY) to repair, replace or upgrade stuff, especially if it’s a brand new rig.
 
Hi & welcome to RVForum (and RVing)!

As others have already said, Michigan winters in an RV would be a challenge for anybody, so a tough way to learn RV living. Many things to cope with all at once. Here's a sample:
  • Insulation is poor and every wall is an outside wall, exposed to weather. Heating is both difficult and expensive. Hope you have a 50A electric source so you can use space heaters. Otherwise you will need an add-on bulk propane tank for the furnace. You may need both the extra propane & space heater(s). Hope you like wearing sweaters!
  • Will you have a place to park the RV that offers year-around water & sewer. Many (most?) northern RV parks do not.
  • Frozen water and sewer lines are likely. Be prepared to spend time & effort to protect your water lines with extra heat & insulation. You can't leave the trailer hooked to city water (via hose) in freezing temperatures, so will have to fill the onboard tank on warmer days and operate from that.
  • If the trailer has slides, you will have to deal with ice & snow on the slide roof and slide toppers (if it has those). Even if you won't need to retract the slides before spring.
  • Unlike an apartment home, you will be responsible for vehicle access to your site.
  • Will mail be delivered to your site or will you have a PO box or other mailbox alternative? What will be your legal address for things like driver licenses, insurances, bank accounts, etc.
  • Presumably you have cell phones, but what about internet & tv service?
Each of these things is worthy of a separate discussion topic (thread). I suggest you tell us more about your planes and ask further questions via multiple, separate topics.
 
We are 49/50 yrs old and that hopefully means we have lived long enough to know Murphys law an plan for it thus reducing its impact.

Somany questions.. Are you still working? can you work from home? Are you planning to vacate MI? Are you planning to vacate MI before you get snowed in and freeze to death in your RV?

What did/do you hate about apartment living that's gonna be better in a 5W?

It may be too late for this advice but in the "liveaboard" boating world we would advise people contemplating living aboard to fence off an 8X30 section of their house preferably a kitchen and move themselves and their kids into this zone stock it with supplies and live there for 30-60 days only leaving the zone for the bathroom before deciding to run off to sea.

RV living is a little easier than that - you can go ashore any time (LOL) but it's similar.
 
The 5th wheel is new to us not brand new. It is a 2004 30ft Jayco Designer series. We had a $10,000 budget and resisted the urge to buy older fixer upper mansions on wheels till we came across this modest sized but near new condition Jayco. Yes its 20 yrs old and that makes her qualify for retirement in camper years but we were impressed with its condition. We are first time RVers so we hope we made a good choice. Next i looked for a truck to haul it with. It is 14.500 lbs so i was told to buy a 3/4 ton truck at lest. i wanted diesel but in our budget that was just out of the question unless i bought one with 350-400 plus thosand miles. So ended up finding a 2002 Chevy 2500 Silverado HD. The clincher was the fact in had been used to pull a 5th wheel and had the hitch and rails already installed in the truck bed an a brake controller in cab. it has a Reese hitch 15,000 rating. We plan to stay on federal land for a couple weeks while we find land and Jenn gets a transfer to a store north of here. Not a conspiracy theorist but i feel something may be coming up. I was raised in michigans upper penninsula and have always felt home in the woods. So the plans are go north find a couple acres and eventually build a home. Im a Journeyman Carpenter and Jenn works retail. Our kids {my 7 an Jens 4} are all grown and gone but we have 2 dogs. M is a ancient Weenerdog and Chico is a 2 yr old Chihuahua. Wrong time of year to greenhorn rv living but we have to be out of our apartment on the 15th so ready or not here we come. right now we are packing up and figuring out what to do with our stuff. our storage unit is about full and theres still so much to go. Jen is excited so despite my stress an anxiety im trying to not ruin it for her an be positive. Most comments so far say that in a couple weeks we will be popsickles on a stick so that is casting some gloom for me. Has anyone found a good way to run a wood stove like in a side shed an blow the hotair into the rv? I hand welded a woodstove for a old 1984 Ford350 Honey camper but it got smokey inside even tho i had in vented out a window.
 
The 5th wheel is new to us not brand new. It is a 2004 30ft Jayco Designer series. We had a $10,000 budget and resisted the urge to buy older fixer upper mansions on wheels till we came across this modest sized but near new condition Jayco. Yes its 20 yrs old and that makes her qualify for retirement in camper years but we were impressed with its condition. We are first time RVers so we hope we made a good choice. Next i looked for a truck to haul it with. It is 14.500 lbs so i was told to buy a 3/4 ton truck at lest. i wanted diesel but in our budget that was just out of the question unless i bought one with 350-400 plus thosand miles. So ended up finding a 2002 Chevy 2500 Silverado HD. The clincher was the fact in had been used to pull a 5th wheel and had the hitch and rails already installed in the truck bed an a brake controller in cab. it has a Reese hitch 15,000 rating. We plan to stay on federal land for a couple weeks while we find land and Jenn gets a transfer to a store north of here. Not a conspiracy theorist but i feel something may be coming up. I was raised in michigans upper penninsula and have always felt home in the woods. So the plans are go north find a couple acres and eventually build a home. Im a Journeyman Carpenter and Jenn works retail. Our kids {my 7 an Jens 4} are all grown and gone but we have 2 dogs. M is a ancient Weenerdog and Chico is a 2 yr old Chihuahua. Wrong time of year to greenhorn rv living but we have to be out of our apartment on the 15th so ready or not here we come. right now we are packing up and figuring out what to do with our stuff. our storage unit is about full and theres still so much to go. Jen is excited so despite my stress an anxiety im trying to not ruin it for her an be positive. Most comments so far say that in a couple weeks we will be popsickles on a stick so that is casting some gloom for me. Has anyone found a good way to run a wood stove like in a side shed an blow the hotair into the rv? I hand welded a woodstove for a old 1984 Ford350 Honey camper but it got smokey inside even tho i had in vented out a window.
I think you are still going to be pushing the envelope with that Chevy 2500. And I mean like probably already overweight because the best towing cap I can find for the 2002 Chevy 2500 is 12,000#. The towing weight of that 5th-wheel alone looks to be more than the maximum for the truck, and with the >2500# of weight on the pin/hitch you may very well be over your cargo capacity for that truck before you even load anything into it.

Does the sticker on the RV actually say that the GVWR is 14,500#?
 
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You're going to have a hell of a time living in this thing. You will be pouring a ton of propane into it and will have problems with condensation and keeping the plumbing from freezing. No mention of how you're going to manage draining waste tanks. Guessing there's no electric on 'federal land' so that's another layer of hardship. It's one thing to go through this for a couple weeks on a vacation or passing through a weather front, it's another to be faced with months of a daily grind just to manage utilities, much less comfort. This is beyond just adding some skirting or keeping a light bulb burning in a wet bay to get through a cold snap, you're working with temps in the teens in a hard shelled tent. I hope there's a significant back end to this plan to make this worth it. Can't believe this couldn't be solved through commuting or an extended stay hotel. Who knows, maybe you'll get lucky and circumstances won't be dire until you can work out of it, but I would definitely have a plan B.

Mark B.
Albuquerque, NM
 
My suggestion is for Jenn to seek a transfer south of freezing for this first year… And hope the truck and fiver can get you to, say, SC. Winter there and learn the basics of RV living… it’s not all that complex, but it’s not necessarily intuitive either. Dealing with winter first time out is going to make it REALLY exponentially harder. We want you to succeed and realize your dream…. But you’ve bitten off a mighty chunk of learning curve and we’re just trying to make that curve less sharp. (Even without the northern winter piece, your learning curve is plenty steep.)
<edit> Please keep us looped in. Regardless your decision, you’re no doubt going to have questions… this is a great source of RV information.
 
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Im a Journeyman Carpenter and Jenn works retail. Our kids {my 7 an Jens 4} are all grown and gone but we have 2 dogs. M is a ancient Weenerdog and Chico is a 2 yr old Chihuahua. Wrong time of year to greenhorn rv living but we have to be out of our apartment on the 15th so ready or not here we come. right now we are packing up and figuring out what to do with our stuff. our storage unit is about full and theres still so much to go

It's easy to point out all the challenges you have in the next few months but as you say you are committed. Mark pointed out to have a plan B. Even if that means abandoning the RV if winter gets too tough and doing a weekly rental or maybe shacking up with relatives until spring.

My immediate thought was to head south as Laura & Charles said but it appears that is gonna create significant employment problems.

OK - So from a practical standpoint there are a lot of threads here about preparing an RV for winter. I would invest time to read as many of them as possible. Someone said you are living in a hardside tent and that's about right.

1/ Yes there are woodburning stove options. Yes they can be dangerous from a noxious/deadly fumes standpoint but there are plenty of closed woodburning stoves designed for indoor use including on live-aboard boats (my background). You need to install it properly and vent it properly. Another option is electric but it sounds like you won't have the kind of electric needed to run whole house heat. A third option is propane, meaning an installed large capacity tank located nerar the sited RV.

2/ You will need to invest in a system of pipe and tank heating - unlike a house most of the RV plumbing is outside the "heated" zone, exposed to (in your case) close to zeroF temps. Again this is gonna require electrical power.

3/ You are going to need to skirt the whole RV and insulate the underbody from as much of the weather as possible. And as someone pointed out like any house all of this has to be done with condensation considerations in mind.

Rest assured 90% of the people here will try to be 100% helpful in assisting you to be able to make this work.
 
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We have a year around RV park down the road from our home in Western Colorado. Fairly common in Colorado and Wyoming. So it's doable. Temperatures in winter get down below 0F to minus 60F without windchill at our higher elevations RV parks, yet they're always busy (full). At least there's electrical, sewer, and water hookups. My suggestion would be to find a similar RV park in Michigan for the winter prior to boondocking.

This is a photo from our nearby RV park's website.

Screenshot_20231205_074336_Chrome.jpg
 
We are currently living off grid in a log cabin in SE Ohio. My husband was/is a master carpenter. I wrote about our experiences above. We’ve been kicking around some ideas, but hit dead ends since you’re in an RV - we’re newbcakes to RVing - but not to off grid living which is what you’re talking about. Look at wood boilers, it eliminates the fire aspect in the RV but adds to the potential condensation issues, which the guys here may be able to help with. You’d have to frankenstein something, and if you’re thinking you’re going to move around, add that into the design.

Here’s two resources that may help


 
Welcome to the forums and I hope you have great success in your new lifestyle.

When we first started camping, we started in the back of a pick-up truck bed with a shell and a 4 man pup tent. We slept in the back of the truck.

During that time, we learned a lot about camping and started acquiring camping gear, like Coleman cook stoves and lanterns. We learned how to pack tight, use totes to keep our camping stuff in, so we could just grab and go.

When we got our first pop-up, it took over a year to adjust our "camping life style" from tenting to "luxury!" Items we used for tent camping were all incorporated into the pop-up, even the tent that we used for extra space to put all our junk (and a port-a-potty).

When we got our first travel trailer we felt we'd arrived. But again, it took another good year of adjusting to it. Not everything from the pop-up days was a necessary camping article we needed any more. Things got put in, things got taken out.

The first, second, and third travel trailers went through the same rituals. Each one got bigger and you'd think everything from the old one would simply move into the new one. Not so. Each trailer took a good year to adjust to, slim down the amount of junk we were carrying and really learn how to use the new camper.

Our current fifth wheel was no exception. It took... well ... put it this way .... we've had it now 5 years and just this week I made a new "purge" of the kitchen cookware and dishes. For Christmas, my son and I are getting my wife a new Kitchen-aid mixer with several attachments for the fifth wheel. I need space to store it when traveling. So, stuff in, stuff out.

It seems, when we return home from our extended trips, I'm now always doing house purging, removing stuff and exchanging it for something better or different to to keep room so things are not cluttered.

I share all of this long history with you so you will NOT get discouraged and will NOT get overwhelmed attempting to outfit our new camper. If you have stuff in storage, plan on returning to that storage facility ever couple months and swapping items in-and-out of your new camper. You will find you really need stuff you forgot, and you've packed stuff you absolutely do not need, especially in an RV.

So, you do have an advantage, if you are close enough to access your storage. Just, be aware, it takes a good year, sometimes even longer, to adjust to simply "camping" in an RV, let alone living in one full time.

You can expect to be cramped, feel you need space, have no where to escape when tensions rise between you and your spouse, no place to hide secret birth day or Christmas gifts, and no privacy anywhere. (we all need a little privacy every now and then, just somewhere to be alone for a few minutes).

When RV living, you can always step outside and go for a nice walk and get your head screwed on straight again.

Keeping things picked-up, in order, and stowed away is a real challenge. RV's can feel claustrophobic REAL fast when things are not picked up. It takes (sometimes) years to get into a new rhythm that you don't have in a stick-n-brick home, and that is, putting EVERYTHING up as soon as you are done using it at THAT moment. Otherwise, stuff begins to pile up and then you feel claustrophobic and get cranky. Getting cranky with each other is no fun when there's no where to escape and cool down a little.

In other words, .... again .... it usually takes a year to adjust, adjust, and adjust your mind set, your life-style, your equipment, and even your eating habits. You don't have a year.... you have to do all of this starting on day 1.

Just be prepared for stress. I did not even mention the logistics of RV owenership. Those are the things everyone else is pointing out.

Good luck. You can do it ... JUST be prepared for some extreme life style mental changes (and challenges).
 
The 5th wheel is new to us not brand new. It is a 2004 30ft Jayco Designer series. We had a $10,000 budget and resisted the urge to buy older fixer upper mansions on wheels till we came across this modest sized but near new condition Jayco. Yes its 20 yrs old and that makes her qualify for retirement in camper years but we were impressed with its condition. We are first time RVers so we hope we made a good choice. Next i looked for a truck to haul it with. It is 14.500 lbs so i was told to buy a 3/4 ton truck at lest. i wanted diesel but in our budget that was just out of the question unless i bought one with 350-400 plus thosand miles. So ended up finding a 2002 Chevy 2500 Silverado HD. The clincher was the fact in had been used to pull a 5th wheel and had the hitch and rails already installed in the truck bed an a brake controller in cab. it has a Reese hitch 15,000 rating.
Here is the original sales brochure for the 2004 Jayco designer series

My only cautions before you start life on the road, have the wheel bearings REMOVED and cleaned and inspected and properly repacked. If the spring bolts have grease fittings, grease it. If not, then it has plastic bushings that are most certainly worn out. If the axles are EZ-lube and have a grease fitting on the end of the spindle, DO NOT use it until a complete cleaning and full repack with grease is done, and..... Well, I will never use an EZLube, too easy to blow the seal and get grease in the brakes.

Check the date codes on the tires and make sure they are relatively new (<3 to 4 years). If you replace them, buy the best, Goodyear Endurance, made in the USA. Have them balanced, and get a tire pressure monitor system. If this trailer has 16 inch wheels (brochure indicates it does) consider replacing the tires with Light Truck tires, provided you can get some with a high enough load rating. You never hear of anyone running LT tires complaining of tire failures.

With suspension, look at the springs, shackles, etc very closely. The brochure shows you have leaf spring suspension. Manufacturers tend to use cheap stuff where no one notices. First pic if of shackles from a 5th wheel that were taken at a highway rest stop on I-95.

Text from the guy on the Bigfoot forum who took the pic and made the post.
I just got home from Florida. On the way I stopped at one of the last rest areas in South Carolina. I parked next to a huge Jayco 5th wheel. The owner was crawling around it so I checked to see if I could help.

His Jayco is a 2 axle rig, so similar to our suspension. He had a kit coming the next day, so he had everything under control. The shackles were made from cheap 8th inch strapping. Our bigfoot shackles feel like at least quarter inch stock. His rig didn't have grease fittings either.

They were from Ontario and had only made 3 trips to Florida. So that is maybe 12,000 miles. Even though we complain we should be thankful our RV's aren't made like this.


27fpf-PXL_20230413_135736451.jpg


The equalizers are MoRyde and they are not noted for being durable either.
You want the 1/2 inch thick shackles used in the aftermarket kits. Pic below is old and new shackles for my 7500 lb Bigfoot trailer. New is a Dexter kit I bought from Etrailer.
suspension 02 new vs old leaf spring shackles.jpg

You want the fat shackles. The weight of your trailer is trying to rip these shackles apart. The Dexter and Lippert kits come with the longer bolts, new bushings, etc.

M-825K71-359-00.jpg


Beyond that, enjoy the trailer and traveling.
Charles
 
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People do live in cold areas in RVs. However, it takes lots of preparation. One thing that will make a huge difference is skirting. Since time is short, you can easily use straw or hay bales. Or, since you are handy, cut foam board to make a skirt. Put Reflectix on the windows and there are a lot of other things you can do to make winter doable. You could rent a 100 gallon propane tank. Below are some Youtube video links on how to properly winterize for winter weather. By the way, I live full time in my travel trailer, but it doesn't get down to single digits cold here in Virginia.

This video has lots of good tips:


 

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