When we made the decision to move into a camper there was one little problem…We knew nothing about camping. Neither my husband or I had grown up camping (although he had done some tent camping as a kid) so we had nowhere to start besides from scratch.
One of the best ways to get started is by going to RV lots or Roadshows and checking out as many campers as you can. There are so many different layouts and after seeing literally hundreds of campers, we would start to realize quickly what we were looking for and what we knew was a deal breaker. So how to you know if you need a trailer, fifth wheel, or Motorhome?
Let me start out by saying we thought we knew what we needed. Although it is true you can make anything work, you likely won’t get it just right the first time. I refer to us as the Three Little Bears of camping. If you recall that childhood story Goldilocks eats the porridge, sits in the chairs, and rests in the beds until she finds one just right. The reason I refer ourselves to this character is because we have have owned all three types of campers within a year of transitioning to full time rving. I have broken down our experience in this article of how we finally found one that is JUST RIGHT! Well for now anyway:)
Travel Trailers are usually your most budget friendly option. They tend to be the lightest of the three which is nice because you don’t need a big expensive truck to pull them. Some SUV’s even have the towing capability to pull travel trailers. So if you currently have a vehicle with a little bit of towing power and a trailer ball hitch on the back there are may be a trailer for you.
Our first love was an Airstream. Oh how I wanted an Airstream. They are well built and been around for a long time in camper years anyway. They have large windows and give off an open airy feel and well they just have a cool factor if I’m being honest. We thought we had found our home until we started looking at the price tag. These silver bullets can be pricey if you want a modern model.
We looked at going vintage and remodeling one, which I thought would have been amazing to customize, but the deciding factor was the space. If it was the two of us without a young infant at the time this would have been our choice, but it was important to me for both our daughter and us as parents to have a special space of our own. I was giving up my home but I did’t think I could sleep on a pullout couch day in and day out like some of the options offered. I had to draw the line somewhere for me personally and your line may be very different from mine, but I have read tons of blogs of people who live in airstreams with multiple kids. This is a personal decision you have to make when giving up space is what is most important to you as a family.
In our search we came across a airstream “cousin” you could say. Well maybe just an airstream “friend”. It was similar in shape but they had taken a modern twist on it. This trailer was an Earthbound Telluride. This 28 foot camper was designed on the inside with the feel of a yacht. After some research, we found this beauty at a deal we couldn’t pass up and even if we were not convinced this was the trailer for us, we knew there was some money to be made if we were not happy with it.
We still haven’t shared the story of our Earthbound purchase (it’s still a bit traumatizing for us), but we hope to suck it up and bare it all in the near future. We never actually lived in this camper, because we bought this one while we were in the transition of preparing our home to sell and quickly realized after a few weekend camping trips, this was not what we wanted to call home. It was beautiful, but too small for the three of us. The bedroom so so close to the kitchen I felt like I was in bed all day and didn’t get good rest at night. It was dark with little window light and when our child was napping we had to leave the camper altogether to not wake her up.
A fifth wheel is a camper that sits over the truck bed and adapts to a gooseneck hitch. These usually are bit heavier, longer, taller, and therefore in return you receive more room and amenities. If you are like me, then you thought this is a no brainer why would I not go with this option? Well from a traveling standpoint these can be a little harder to maneuver for some people and that included us in that category. Also, you need a heavier duty truck to pull more weight the bigger you get and that can get expensive the more power you need. We feel in love with our fifth wheel! This condo on wheels was a Sandpiper by Forest River. Here’s the tour our 5th Wheel if you want to check it out
We are talking about a 43 foot monster of an RV that featured a rear bunk room that slept up to six (yes, I said six), a pull out air mattress couch, and a king size bed in the master. We could sleep up to ten people in our camper! I am not claiming that would be comfortable in 300 square feet, but I am just saying it’s possible.
This camper had everything I (I mean we) wanted. It had large ceilings, open floor concept, fireplace, 3 TV’s, outdoor kitchen, and large leather wrap around couch. The bathroom had a large camper shower with a seat which is like the biggest camping amenity to me personally.
Now after saying all that, you are probably thinking why was this one not right? This camper was perfect for us while we were parked. Traveling was a nightmare for us. It was heavy and difficult to move from place to place on the long distances we were going. On top of that we were not able to keep very much stored in our RV due to the weight limit the camper could hold and what we could pull.
So, after getting rid of almost everything we owned and then being told I needed to get rid of more due to the weight limit even though we were not even using all of the storage available well…. I was not a happy camper to say the least. On top of that we nicked a concrete pillar trying to pull in a gas station and then decided it was time to let her go. This camper was too BIG!
Motorhomes are the campers you see going down the road that look like tour busses. They have large windows in the front and most of the time you will see them pulling a vehicle behind the rig. These RVs have your truck motor and camper built together so no need to hook up and unhook from your truck everywhere you go which was an appealing option with all the traveling we were doing.
Also, they are usually more solid built for full time living with better insulation and seem more sturdy. One of the amenities that sold us on the motorhome option was the built in generator. This allows us to use power going down the road or while we boondock. Boondocking is free camping, generally out in the … well boondocks. On our first trip as full timers we showed up at the beach and the campground had no power. We were stuck not being able to access our home without power because you need it to pop out our camper. This opened our eyes to the importance of a generator if we were doing this long term.
These coaches can be gas or diesel and that decision depends on what your budget can handle but a diesel allows for more power climbing those mountains and more weight can be pulled or stored in the coach. The reason this camper was our last choice initially was for a couple reasons. The first one being price. The thing with campers is just like houses or vehicles you can spend as little or as much as you can afford.
If you have some time check out this website for kicks. It list the top 10 most luxiarry motorhomes in the world topping $3 million dollars!
Now back to reality. Our budget was nowhere near 3 million obviously, but we were willing to bite the bullet and pay more than we had for our trailer or fifth wheel. The other reason we were resisting this option was because lack of space. Generally these types of campers don’t allow for a second bedroom that we were wanting. We have a light sleeper on our hands so we wanted to find away to give our daughter s separate sleeping area and room to play. So, we had to get creative. We took a space that was dedicated to a large closet and inserted a bunk bed and a play area for our daughter. She loves it and surprisingly this has worked out well for us. Here’s a video tour of the motorhome we are currently living in:
For our family we are happy and comfortable with our current motorhome and having the generator on board to boondock, access to a bathroom or ability to prepare meals as we travel has been a lifesaver for us. We love this option for our family, but again that could change as our family may grow or new needs occur in the future.
No matter what option fits your family, my challenge to you is to create memories and spend time together as a family. For us, our journey was to downsize to have more time and freedom to spend together. We are having a blast living full time in our camper traveling this beautiful country and waking up in a new place with a new adventure each day. Whether you are looking for a trailer, 5th wheel, or a motorhome, never stop dreaming of what’s next for your family. What’s your journey?