Green Newbie needs advice concerning hauling camper

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Trigg

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I apologize for what may be a long, rambling post.  It has long been a dream of mine to travel the country in a huge RV, seeing the sights and taking along our pets, but the fact is that my husband simply hates travel.  I thought this might change when he retired, but no such luck. 
So, I thought I might just try traveling myself.  With a tiny budget, it won?t be easy.  I have a vehicle that I could use to haul a small camper.  I have remodeling skills, so I thought my money would go further if I found a vintage camper to remodel to my taste.  I guess having only a small, basic camper would mean I would not be able to boondock because I have to have electricity and water.
I have done a lot of driving, across different states, have driven a sizable rig/flatbed trailer, but I have never backed a trailer.  Trailers always seem to go in the opposite direction of where I try to put them.    How difficult is it to learn? 
 

SeilerBird

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I have remodeling skills, so I thought my money would go further if I found a vintage camper to remodel to my taste.
Nope, old RVs are nothing but money pits. They are all dirt cheap because they are basically worthless for camping in. The amount if money and time you must invest is a lot more than just buying a newer RV that doesn't need that much work. As a beginner you have no idea what an RV should be and what it should do. Therefore you are at the mercy of the sellers. And every one of them will tell you (with a straight face) "everything works". Which means all the defects are not so obvious that a beginner would never find them.

My suggestion is to rent an RV for a weekend or a week and take your hubby camping someplace really nice that is not too far away. Let him know that RVing is not about spending endless time traveling, it is about going someplace and spending time there and enjoying yourself. Usually the spouse who is the most resistant to RVing becomes the most enthusiastic RVer once they open their eyes.
 

John From Detroit

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THough RV's are "Nothing more than money pits"

Joke: What is a boat?  A hole in the water you try to fill with money
What is an RV.. Hole in the road......

But then a sticks and bricks house... Well.. Even bigger hole in the ground it turns out. 

Now wife and I went with a class A.  With the car attached it is a foreward only vehicle (Do not back up) but backing is not a whole lot different than a car (just bigger).

Backing a trailer.. The "Tip" is to put your hands near the 6:00 position on the steering wheel and to go left push left. to go right push right.

My method is a tad different. but I've been backing trailers. and into tight spices, since .  Dang near forever (about 12 years old) growing up on a dairy farm shoveling political promises.. or something like them.
 

Optimistic Paranoid

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Let me recommend some resources for you:

Small Trailers:  http://www.fiberglassrv.com/

Interstellar Orchard - Becky is a woman who travels solo in a small trailer and has been blogging about it for several years: https://interstellarorchard.com/

Here's a pretty good video on Becky:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ebbo800_Rg0

Lots of good posts at Cheap RV Living:  http://www.cheaprvliving.com

Also lots of YouTube videos by Bob Wells, who runs Cheap RV Living.

Finally, as far as learning to back up with a trailer, go to any big parking lot, mall or school after hours, and set up some traffic cones and just have-at it, you'll soon pick it up.
 

Trigg

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Thanks for all of the replies.  Great info.  I will check out the links.  I guess it's a matter of practicing until I can get it right. 
 

grashley

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One other thought if you rent an RV and hubby does not like the idea of camping ... is to get a class B camper.  This is a van with the area behind the front seats removed and RV stuff added.  It backs up like a van.  It has the basics for camping - bed, kitchen, bathroom, table, etc. in a compact package.
 

Arch Hoagland

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Every one of us had to learn how to back up with a trailer and it provided lots of entertainment for the observers.

I suggest once you get your trailer to go to a big empty shopping center with several of the Dollar store orange cones and practice practice practice.

Good luck on your travels, I think you'll do fine.

When you get to a campground and have questions ask the people that are camping there for their input, 99% of them will be more than willing to help you out.
 

cerd

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Is there a reason that you "need" electricity? When it's hot out, some shade and a nice breeze can do wonders. As for water, you can always use portable water jugs. If you're on a budget, perhaps a pop up camper would suit you. There isn't much in there to fail. If the stove doesn't work, you can pick up a camp stove for as low as $20.

You can find pop up campers all day for under $1000. To check for leaks, you can open it up and spray it down with a sprinkler for 20 mins. That will tell you if the roof is leaking or if there are holes in the canvas. If the canvas is bad, a new one is about $300-500.

If nothing else, it would be a good way to get a feel for it.

When we bought our camper, I insisted on something with rigid walls ONLY because I have 2 small kids and some campgrounds can get rowdy/noisy, which would repeatedly have woken them up. Since you guys are of retirement age, I would assume that you don't have to deal with that issue.
 

UTTransplant

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Larry N. said:
You also need those solid walls in bear country.
We camped for years in a.pop up in bear country. While there are a few campgrounds in grizzly country that don?t allow pop ups, the vast majority do. You can?t leave your food and smelly toiletries in a pop up in bear country, but that isn?t a deal breaker. Most pop up campers already store their food in totes so you just put the totes in the car or bear storage locker when you are not actively using them. We have had three up close and personal bear encounters, all with our kids. One was on a wilderness canoe trip as tenters (food stores above ground with ropes and pulleys); the second was in Glacier. Basin campground at Rocky Mountain National Park where a young black bear was checking out all the restrooms, with a ranger following along to make sure nothing got out of hand; and the third in a regular campground where a bear stole food from sloppy camper and caused a hullabaloo. The last bear was given a load of buckshot in the rear by an authorized DNR representative, and it sadly was probably going to have to be killed if it came into a campground again. ?A fed bear is a dead bear.? So I actually do speak from experience with camping in bear country with tents and pop ups. In no case were we in any danger.
 

cerd

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If you can safely tent camp in bear country, you can safely use a pop up. It just takes some knowledge about rustic camping, which is probably the best reason for joining Boy Scouts. (Older guys can join as troop leaders.)

Besides, the sheet metal is so thin on campers that a bear could tear right through the rigid walls, anyways. The sheet metal can be cut with a razor knife and the walls are just 1/4 inch plywood and 2x2 frames. With a solid kick, you can break the studs on many of them.
 

Optimistic Paranoid

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Guy was away from his trailer for a few days and returned to find a bear had decided to let itself in . . .
 

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SeilerBird

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I camped for years in a tent in bear country without issue. However one evening I was camping at the Norris Campground in Yellowstone and I was awoken at around 2am by some noises outside my tent. After a few anxious moments I heard the distinct sound of hooves on pavement. And then it stopped. The next morning I found a big pile of buffalo dung about ten feet behind my tent. I had a van the next year.
 

Trigg

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Aug 7, 2018
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The reason I need electricity is for a CPAP.  It is fairly common for us to have a heat index over 105 with humidity of 89% or so.  I would tend to drive towards cooler weather since I hate our heat.  Thanks for the advice.
 

winona

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Indiana
Trigg said:
I have done a lot of driving, across different states, have driven a sizable rig/flatbed trailer, but I have never backed a trailer.  Trailers always seem to go in the opposite direction of where I try to put them.    How difficult is it to learn?

You'll learn quicker than you think.  My horse trailer (bumper pull) has to fit in a corner of 2 outside barn walls (picture right angle corner) where the hitch can't be anywhere but on the concrete block or the hay wagons will take it out.  At the back of the horse trailer, I have about 6 inches of room from one barn side.  On the other side, I have enough room to open one door of the horse stalls before it hits the barn side.  It took me a while, and yes, probably fun to watch, but I can do it --- and I'm proud of being able to park it in such a narrow tight spot.

Practicing in a parking lot will help.  Set up cones or cans or boards or something to maneuver and back around.  A friend who drives semis said to put your hand at the bottom of your steering wheel and turn the way you want to back up.  Even though I can't see out the back window of my truck, I back that way and also use my side mirrors.
 

Optimistic Paranoid

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winona said:
Even though I can't see out the back window of my truck, I back that way and also use my side mirrors.

And of course, these days, you can also have a backup camera on your trailer so you can see EXACTLY where you are going.
 

RVdad

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Somewhere in the middle.
I say good on you for wanting to get outdoors!

There are plenty of campers out there that you can suit to your needs. If you are willing to put the effort in to educate yourself, and have the intestinal fortitude to ask for help when you need it, you should do just fine. Hard work and determination go a lot further than people realize these days. It seems there are a lot of jaded opinions out there that will tell you that you HAVE to do this, or HAVE to have that. But the truth is if you take the time to educate yourself and don't just jump in blindly without a care in the world, you will achieve great things. There's nothing wrong with an old camper, if you put the work into making it new again. The key is finding a good, solid canvas to work on. Sure it would be easier to just go buy new (that's what we did), but there's a lot to be said about a vintage camper. There is a reason the dealers are starting to make vintage model new campers.

I believe it was your welcome post that I posted on about my wife's Aunt (65ish years old), who hauls and camps in a vintage travel trailer, that she pulls with her small SUV (I think it is a Toyota type). She travels all over the country with her home base being in TX. She has brought it to IN numerous times for family functions, and is a member of a group that is all females who go have rallies together. That being said, she has taken the steps necessary to consult with a trusted dealer/service center to make sure that she is doing everything correctly and safely, and that everything is in working order on the camper. But as far as I know she does all routine maintenance on the camper herself.

There are more resources out there that are willing to help you on your journey than you might think. If I can find out the name of her group I will forward that along to you. They are based all over the country, and there even may be some in your neck of the woods.

Cheers!
 

Trigg

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Aug 7, 2018
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WINONA, That does sound like a tight spot.  Thanks for the advice!

RVDAD, thanks for all of the encouragement.  I'd love to meet your wife's aunt.  I'd love to decorate a small camper to my own taste.  Electrical and plumbing are not part of my skill set, though.  :)

Well, I am thrilled to say that my husband and I are going to look at a used RV tomorrow!  This is a step towards possible travel!  I don't know if I will be able to sleep tonight. 
 
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