Wednesday, July 29, 2015

I need advice from travel trailer/5th wheel owners, please

Miss D. and I are considering longer-term options, including possible relocation and lengthy writing-related journeys.  As part of the process, I'm looking into travel trailers and 5th-wheel trailers.  However, both of us are complete novices in this field, so we've got a lot of research to do.  That's OK, because we're not looking to buy anything right away.  This will work out over a couple of years, I'm sure.

Unfortunately, the Internet is full of 'sponsored' information sites that are nothing more than an attempt to entice one to buy from a particular dealer or manufacturer.  Some sites even contradict each other.  It's hard to separate the wheat from the chaff.  We also want to find out which dealers are reputable and worth doing business with - again, there's an awful lot of them out there, and we've heard enough horror stories to last us a lifetime!

I'd be very grateful if those of my readers who own (or have used) travel trailers and 5th wheel trailers would please contribute advice in these areas:

  1. The best Web sites to turn to for accurate, reliable information;
  2. The best dealers (i.e. reliable, honest, worth doing business with), particularly if they operate over the Internet;
  3. User guides, forums, etc;
  4. Is it worth buying something used, or is it better to bite the price bullet and pay for a new unit?

My assessment so far (based on admittedly incomplete information) is that it's better to look for a smaller, lighter travel trailer (but not too small), so as not to need a huge towing vehicle.  A 5th wheel trailer would offer the ability to carry a significant amount of weight if we make a permanent move somewhere (in effect, it becomes a cargo trailer), but a regular travel trailer isn't quite so flexible.  I'm thinking something in the mid-20-foot range, pulled by a truck of decent but not excessive size and power, is what we want.  It will have to be 'winterized', because we'll probably drive it up north (including a trip to Alaska) in due course;  so we want a trailer that's well insulated, probably with double glass windows.  Good suspension and decent ground clearance are probably must-haves as well, given conditions on the Alcan Highway and Alaskan roads!

I don't know enough right now to ask more questions, but I'm sure some of my readers can set us straight anyway.  Please leave your advice in Comments, or e-mail me (my address is in my blog profile).

Thanks in advance.


EDITED TO ADD:  Thank you very much to everyone who's responded in Comments here or via e-mail.  You've given me a lot of food for thought.  Miss D. and I will work through it all over the next few months - we're in no hurry, as I said earlier. You've given us a very good start.


Borepatch said...

I'd be interested in what you learn

B said...

I don't know anything about travel trailers, but I do know trucks.

Your pulling vehicle should be a diesel. 2500 will probably be enough.

Buy used with less than 70K miles, Dodge or GM. (I own a Dodge).

Better mileage, better pulling power than a gas truck. No issues with altitude either. You can, if you buy a pump/filter unit, use WVO/WVO-diesel mixes (may not be legal, but hey....)in warmer climates.

These trucks are heavier built all around, and generally have the trans coolers/oil coolers you would need to add to a gas truck.

They last longer too.

Anonymous said...

#1 RV.Net Forums
#2 consider used, go to, Houston Tx Used RV super store. Many RV's can be bought slightly used in terms of actual use but stored more than used. As you look at them at PPL look for manufacture reviews.
#3 When going for a trailer decide on trailer first, size, weight etc and then match tow vehicle to Trailer. If you already own a tow vehicle you are limited to it's limits. There are some wonderfully big and nice 5th wheels out there that require much more than the normal 3/4 or 1 ton trucks to pull safely.
#4 Many types of RV's and all have pluses and minuses as you will find out in your research.

Just a few thoughts as I have had similar thoughts and done some research.

Good luck

Jim22 said...


Regardless of whether you wind up with a travel trailer or a fifth-wheel your towing requirements for a 24-26 foot unit are rater modest. The advice to buy a diesel did not work for me. Diesel tucks, especially used ones, can be quite noisy. It is difficult to carry on a conversation or to listen to music or news while driving highway speeds.

If you look at regular travel trailers be aware that they need to be loaded properly. If they are not they can begin to sway at speed. This happened to us on Interstate 10 between Tucson and Phoenix. The trailer flipped onto its side.

There are adjustable sway bars to reduce the possibility of this happening but they are not perfect. If you decide on a pull-trailer make sure you take potential sway into account.

Fifth-wheel trailers do not have this problem. They are also easier to maneuver. They tend to reduce fuel economy more, though, because of the increased wind resistance of the sleeping area that extends above the truck cab.

The advice to buy a 3/4 ton pickup minimum is correct, I believe.

One piece of advice that is rarely seen is to prevent overloading the trailer. It is very easy when you have been traveling for a while to do this. You need to know what the trailer is rated to carry and, especially its tires. Most truck stops and many state stops have weigh scales. Learn to check the weight of your trailer regularly. A blown tire will do a great deal of damage to your RV.

Join a group that offers towing and roadside assistance. We belong to AAA. Also join other RV groups. Family Motor Coaching Assn. is a good one and they have lots of resources that you can access and they have negotiated a discount for members on Michelin tires.

Just a few thoughts. Hope they help.

eriko said...

They have been fulltime for 8 years while running tech/writing businesses. Started in a teardrop, moved to a trailer and then a bus. Go articles about the operational details and even more important links over to trusted information sites. They make their money other ways and not through the site. It is just easier to post information than answer the same questions again and again.

Anonymous said...

Me again,
If I were to consider a tow behind trailer of 20-25 feet and want it for 4 seasons I would definately consider Bigfoot 2500 series trailers. Clam shell all fiberglass construction. Quality build and I have never read negatives on the company. Hardly ever see them for re-sale. Canadian company of good repute.

Like the tiny house movement you have to realy pare down what you carry and live with. Less is more.

For a very funny look at trailer life nothing better than the Lucille Ball classic "The Long, Long Trailer" 1953. Worth watching.

vzett said...

We've had a 23' Travel Trailer now for about 8 years and towed it over 15,000 miles east of the Rockies with the same gas truck (2004 Dodge 1500 Hemi Megacab 345HP). I figure our average tow weight is around 6200lbs. Our only regret is not being able to use it even more.

There are a number of RV 'Wholesalers' in Ohio/Indiana that buy huge numbers of identical RV's from local makers (almost all US RV's are made in Ohio and Indiana). Their prices are often so low that it's worth a cross-country trip to buy from them vs a local dealer. They won't necessarily have as much selection though - as they concentrate on bulk buys of the most popular models / brands.

5th Wheel vs Trailer:
If you decide to go 5th Wheel, plan on a 1 ton or higher capacity truck. While there are a few light-weight 5th Wheels that theoretically can work with a 3/4 ton truck you can't hardly load them and keep the hitch weight within range. A 25' travel trailer is no problem to maneuver in typical gas stations, campgrounds, etc. Once you get to 30' they can get a bit more trouble.

If you go with a trailer, get a good weight distribution hitch system for your truck and don't worry too much about sway. We've towed at speeds up to 75 mph in strong crosswinds and never had an issue. You do have to be sensible with loading your trailer, but it's not airplane weight and balance level sensitive. Adjustable air bags can be added to your truck suspension to help keep things level - they further smoothed out the ride for us.

Gas vs Diesel:
If you're going to be towing above 8,000lbs regularly for any distance, you probably should get a diesel. I've never felt at a loss for power towing up to 6500 lbs, including short 7% grades in the Appalachians, but I don't think I'd be happy with our truck towing a heavy trailer. Gas truck mileage is horrible - we get 7-8 mpg towing - so get the big gas tank option if you can (we didn't and chew through 26 gallons in short order - although we're less tempted to drive too long as a stretch). Diesel trucks will get 12-18 mpg towing based on a few friends that RV a lot. If you plan on lots of Western mountain travel, diesel gains in importance for powering up grades and engine braking down them.

Since we planned to stay east of the Rockies and under 8K, the cost savings for the initial truck purchase, gas vs diesel, and upkeep (diesel trucks can be very expensive to repair) weighed in favor of the gas truck. The newer 'clean' diesel motors have had a lot of issues depending on the model year so make sure to do your homework before picking up a used diesel truck.

Bruce said...

Grab a tent and go spend the weekend at a state park, get to know the campground hosts, and pick their brains. A couple that I go to church with spend their summers as campground hosts at two or three State parks. They live in their 5th wheel for up to 6 months a year.

Also check around for an RV/camping club - like every other hobby group, they love to share info and give advice.

As for new vs. used, like everything else, it depends on how well it was made, how well it was taken care of, and what shape it is in now. Newer ones will have amenities that older one won't. Newer ones are going to, generally, be lighter than older.

Joel Davis said...

I've owned both a regular RVs and a bus conversion. For us, the regular RV was okay because we only used it occasionally at the time. A regular RV is often just stapled and glued together to save on weight and cost, which is good if you only use the RV two or three times a year. If you plan to use it at least one or two weekends a month year round [or more :)], I would recommend doing some research on bus conversions. For less than the price of a new 5th wheel and a truck, you can get a suprisingly nice bus conversion. A bus is a stainless steel framed commercial grade machine designed for a million miles. You can tow your current vehicle and they're hard to overload. Fred Hobe at has forgotten more about bus conversions than the rest of us will ever know, and he's approchable for advice. You can learn a more about what to look for in buying a bus on [Fred's site],, or Do research. Some conversions are very well done and clever and affordable, but others are not well done or even comfortable to look at. I'm talking yuk. Look for the true craftsmen who converts a bus as a pre-retirement hobby because they plan to retire and travel, but then something happens and they or their kids sell the bus. The websites above, plus, eBay, and even craiglist are good for finding used bus conversions.

David Lang said...

Diesel trucks can be noisy and they can be quiet, it depends on what truck and what it was built for.

Modern Diesel trucks can be very comfortable and quiet while still getting good milage and power. Things have changed a LOT over the last decade or two. The aftermarket upgrades for Diesels can also be very valuable, they can increase power when you are climbing/towing while also increasing economy when you aren't ( has some good, reliable upgrades)

I've got a friend who's got a F-250 diesel truck that he has very nicely setup (his commute to work is ~70 miles each way, so comfort in important to him), and he tows a 30+ ft trailer with it

kulibali said...

ragman said...

I tow a 23' Airstream behind a 2012 F250 Diesel. The new diesels are quiet, clean and economical. I get around 15mpg at 65mph. The towing is effortless, 800ftlbs of torque is pretty awesome. We bought our entire rig new(thank you grandma) but on second thought, I don't think new is necessarily the best way to go. A low mileage(if you can find one) used truck with plenty of warranty left might be a better way to go. Don't expect to get a nice, low mileage diesel for nothin', however. They really hold their value. Good luck with whatever you decide on!

Bob said...

It's not enough to be able to pull your trailer. You have to be able to stop it, too. :) Be sure to buy enough truck.

Not sure if you're on Facebook, but there are several good Fulltime RV groups. FulltimeFamilies is an excellent one, and there's a website separate from Facebook, at Add "FOTR" or "fulltime RV" to your searches, and that should get you past the chaff. I've got a few posts on my blog from when we were fulltimers. See if those posts do you any good, and feel free to email with questions.

Anonymous said...

We bought from Got our camper trailer for about 60% of sticker price. Delivered it right to my front door. The guy who dropped it off helped me hook up and gave me a pin for the tongue (I forgot to buy it).

We went with Forest River manufacturer. Got the Rockwood Roo model. It's about 23 feet with the beds hanging outside the trailer (Think Pop Up camper beds attached to a normal camper trailer and folding up when traveling). We did that to maximize our live space inside the trailer. We've got 2 small kids and the more living space the better. You might want to try one of their other Rockwood models if you're going to Alaska. Even though the beds are heated, the canvas doesn't really hold the heat in very well.

I recommend Forest River/Rockwood highly. My trailer is amazingly well balanced so I don't have to worry about sway at all. Hauled it for well over 30K miles and it doesn't so much as shiver. I don't have anything special, just hook it up to a normal ball. When looking for trailers think about the balance when you go in. Is the bathroom and refrigerator on the same side? Then the trailer is more likely to sway. Just look around and see if there are more heavy items on one side then the other. The other thing about sway is your tow vehicle. The bigger your tow vehicle, the less chance you're trailer will sway. Trailers sway because they're heavier than the tow vehicle and start trying to "get in front of" the tow vehicle. I've got a F250 diesel. Between the truck weight and the well balanced trailer, I'm hauling a 6K pound trailer (fully loaded) with no problem at all.

Anonymous said...

Part 2:

Quoting Princess Bride, that word doesn't mean what you think it means. In RV terms "Winterizing" means filling the water lines with antifreeze so you can store your trailer for the winter. When talking to the dealers, etc. say you want to do "Winter Camping" If you say winterize, they'll tell you every trailer can be winterized.

I recommend ordering online for the price savings, but go in person to a local dealer to see the model you're thinking about. I also recommend buying new. If you buy a used trailer you inherit the problems someone else got tired of with no idea what they are. Besides, ordering on RV direct, you get a VERY good price for new that rivals what some dealers charge for used.

Think about all your needs. In hindsight, I wish a bought the model that had some storage space in front of the live area. (Think small hauling trailer welded to a camper trailer). I've got the space in my truck bed, but it'd be easier with it on the trailer.

If you don't want to buy a huge vehicle (1 ton or bigger AND diesel) with dual rear wheels, steer away from 5th wheels. If you're just looking for 20-25 feet, you'll be looking at travel trailers. 5th wheels tend more to the 35-40 feet range.

Purchase the complete idiots guide to RVing. It's a great place to start learning.

Be sure you get a brake controller installed in your tow vehicle. I once had a bad connection to the trailer and the trailer brakes were not working. It was not easy to slow down. My big truck could handle it, but I don't recommend it. (I fixed that at the first exit I came to)

Anonymous said...

Part 3:
Whatever you do, make sure the camper is level whenever the fridge is on. Running your fridge when the trailer is not level (Both L/R & F/B) will ruin the fridge. You can run the fridge while traveling because the motion caused by moving keeps things working right.

Buy a model that has a clean out for the sewer tank. This is a connection for a hose that sprays water in the sewer tank (i.e., black water tank). DON'T USE YOUR WATER HOSE! Buy a "gray" hose specifically for that function. I didn't get the clean out connection so have to do it from the sewer outlet with a backwash connector (FlushKing if you're interested). I wish I'd gotten a model with a simple hose hook up.

For Travel Trailers you want 5-10% of your trailer weight to be on the tongue. When you first get it, take it to a truck stop and get on the scales. Put the wheels and the tongue jack on different parts of the scale, unhook and move your truck off. That will give you an idea what your empty tongue weight is. It should be about 5-10% of the total empty weight. Go home and load your trailer. Reweigh. If it isn't about 5-10% move things around to get it right. It only took me one time to get a good rough idea where things needed to go, so I haven't done it since the first trip.

Next up, the hitch. I use an adjustable hitchball so that I only need one instead of multiple for each thing I haul. Highly recommended! However, if you're driving and you start bouncing front to back (Highway Hopping) you've got it at the wrong height. Pull over on a fairly flat spot and look at your trailer. Is it nose down or nose up? Unhook and readjust your ball to get the trailer close to level. You're bouncing because the trailer and truck are not level with each other. You want the trailer nice and flat behind the truck. Also, having the trailer nose down puts too much weight on the tongue which can pull your front tires off the ground and you can't steer when that happens.

Anonymous said...

Part 4:
Call RVDirect and ask if you can talk to one of their delivery drivers. They haul all the models to the customers and can tell you how a model handles with regard to sway, etc.

I'll end with think about what you'll have to do and whether you're going to want to do it over and over and over. When you're standing in the trailer and looking at features and thinking about not getting something, ask how many times you're going to actually want to do that. I wish I'd gotten an automatic awning. I'm tired of putting that thing out by hand. I'm glad I didn't get a collapsible trailer. A collapsible trailer is a full length trailer that collapses to half-height for traveling. It's got some mechanism that pushes the roof up. Sounds kind of neat, but then you realize that you have to "build" the top half of the bathroom walls every time you set up camp. Glad I realized that wasn't going to work for me, wish I'd realized it on other things.

I wrote a book...sorry. Give me your email, and I'll email you. Then you can shoot me an email and I'll try to answer any specific questions you have.


tweell said...

If you are planning to be in the cold, I would avoid any trailers with push-outs. The extra space is nice, but high winds can cause problems, and that gasket will never protect against cold as well as you'd like. Relatives in Washington swore by their Arctic Fox 22G. They did say it was easy to overload, but rockhounds will find a way to overload just about anything.

Diesel trucks are the preferred towing method, with their higher efficiency and torque, but gasoline trucks can still get it done at a lower investment (and higher running cost). Dodge has the best diesel engine, made by Cummins, they usually get better mileage and last longer. GMC features the best transmission, Allison trannys are extremely tough. Ford bodies are better and longer lasting. What matters most to you?

og said...

5th wheel and gooseneck trailers are easier to tow. The pivot point is close to the center of the rear axle making backing up a lot simpler and more intuitive. Inexpensive camera systems are also now available that make maneuvering less of a pain.

A gooseneck can also be had with a retractible ball making the bed of the truck still useful as a truck. 5th wheels are less versatile in that respect. Most of the people I know who haul big trailers have a small gas scooter like a Honda Ruckus, handy if you don't want to fire up the big truck to go get a dozen eggs or go get a haircut.

Another alternative to consider is a motorhome with a towable or dockable small car. A Class C motorhome and a small car may be less expensive than a truck and trailer, and the fuel efficiency might be a wash. best of luck!

Anonymous said...

In case you haven't figured it out from the above posts, owning an RV is a lot like owning a boat. And, of course, a boat is a hole in the water into which you throw money.

Well Seasoned Fool said...

+1 on og, especially a gooseneck ball opposed to a 5th wheel plate.

A wealth of information is at Mr Truck. The man knows his business.

AM said...

My senior year of college my wife and I lived in a travel trailer. Here is my "wisdom" on the subject.

Do not buy new. Do not buy more than ten years old.

A diesel truck is always a plus. I own a Dodge, but only because my wife liked it better than the Ford. The Chevy I had at the time with a 5.7 liter V8 was barely adequate for towing an empty 30 foot Dutchman.

The difference between a 20 footer and a 25 footer hardly matters for two people who get along. Smaller is generally better for mobility, but it also requires more organizational skills for comfortable living.

Pop outs are a luxury, but they are also one more thing to weatherize and maintain. They are also one more thing that can go wrong.

Propane is best for cooking and heating water. The size of your propane tanks should be determined by how fit you are in hauling the tanks to be filled or exchanged. I used bigger tanks because I was young and fit. It would be more work to rotate through four smaller tanks, but easier work that is easily scheduled with other shopping trips.

Canned food is cheaper than dehydrated or freeze dried food, but weighs more and is bulkier. Fresh food must be purchased frequently as refrigeration is limited.

When hooked up to sceptic service, wait until your tank is full before flushing so that the solids are washed away. If you leave the connection open solids will accumulate in the tank. Use the digestive enzymes from an RV supply store.

When hooked to water you'll have no problems with water pressure. A shower as part of the bathroom is a convenience, not a necessity. When not hooked to utilities, your fresh water tank and pump need to be operational. You'll only have enough pressure to really use one thing at a time, which might require a little adjustment to habits.

The electric system should have an inverter and battery backup. Solar panels are only needed if you want to be "off grid." A generator is good for charging batteries, or ensuring AC can run in the heat if you find yourself off grid in a hot area. But they are loud and just another thing to haul around. AC is a luxury, not a necessity.

Even a "weatherized" trailer will be cold in the winter, and the bigger the trailer the more there is to heat. I found it best to be hooked into the grid and run an electric oil heater instead of burning through propane for heat. I don't know what energy costs will be like at locations you may go.

And finally...

People in the RV and Trailer community/lifestyle are among some of the most friendly and helpful people I've ever had the pleasure of meeting. My wife and I agree that if we could go back and do it all again we would go smaller instead of larger, and work very hard to minimize our possessions to be simpler.

pigpen51 said...

there are some great blogs out there. one that comes to mind is full time rving. as far as a tow vehicle, diesel has higher torque, and longer life, true, but at much higher up front cost. depending on your needs, most people can buy two gasoline powered trucks for the price of on similar diesel truck, if you also figure in maint. cost.
solar is not a bad idea, if you like to go off grid occasionally, especially in some of the national forests out west. also to consider is how you will stay connected to the internet and cell phones. it is easy to do these days, but you have to make plans for it if you are going off the beaten path at all.
great that you are doing research now, and take what you like and throw the rest out. everyone, me included, will have their own opinion. just dive in and if you make a mistake, back up and go the other direction. have fun and good luck!

Anonymous said...

We own an itty bitty tent trailer (look up Appleby fold tent trailer) we tow behind an old f150 or an old toyota. It is our hunting and camping trailer. Would not be what you want because setup is labor intensive.

These are a couple links that have been helpful:

I hope the links are helpful.


Wandering Neurons said...

America's Largest RV Show Sept 16-20 2015 in Hershey PA:
Wife and I will be camping just down the road in our (used) Class A RV. Holler if you decide to go, we can meet you there.
I noticed someone mentioned PPL in Texas, I didn't get a warm fuzzy from them, didn't buy from them. But I'm one person.
Diesel pickups are more expensive than gas, will get better milage pulling, have more power. Get a recent used one, but not a Ford. Ford's 6.x liter engines have major injector problems which require removing the cab of the truck to remedy. That's why my ambulance unit and others aren't using Ford cabs for ambulances any more.
Trailers/fifth wheel? I'd go for a fifth-wheel, even though you need more truck to pull it. Much more cabin space for the length and easier to hook up and tow.
If you go for a trailer/fifth wheel, your prime mover (old USAF term), the pickup truck, will be your ride when you need to get away from the camper, keep that in mind. So make sure you're comfortable driving the truck into gas stations, grocery stores, narrow roads, etc.

Will said...

If you go the motorhome route, I would suggest that you avoid the FWD versions. The problem with them is a lack of traction, due to a lack of weight on the front end of the RV. My father complained about getting stuck on plain gravel roads with his. It would spin tires just on wet roads, moving out from a stop.
Trying to add weight to fix this situation is problematic, as you are now stressing the front end parts, the single tires, and braking and handling. The very short ones, near 20' long, are not as sensitive as they get when pushing 30'.

If you intend on using National Parks, I'm told that they have a 30' max regulation on motorhomes, so I assume the same on trailers.

One of the factors to be aware of when deciding on model, is the tankage size. Small holding tanks force you to dump more often. The same for a small clean water tank, since you get water at the dump site. A deciding factor is where the toilet is located determines the main dump (black water) tank size, since things underneath the body may constrict the space needed. For example, a motorhome I lived in was a rear bathroom version, with a 100gal black tank. The same model, with a rear bedroom, had a black tank of only 30gal, since the toilet was in the middle of the body length.

Roof condition is critical on used RV's of all types. Water leaks are a common problem, partly due to light construction, and body flex when moving. Stay away from wood frame construction, if it is still in use.

Will said...

The latest thing in RV's is 4wd motorhomes. They tend to be more expensive. Very popular in the rest of the world. Australia is very big on this. In a SHTF scenario, they would be very useful. Still, a dually rear wheel motorhome can handle most any dirt road, with enough body clearance. More than a trailer can, I suspect, although I have no personal experience or observations of that.

Very common to be built on a Mitsubishi cab-over chassis. They can be very short to very long frame, and can also be had in a crewcab version. The use a turbo diesel.

jon spencer said...

Might try renting different types of RV before you buy.

James said...

Wow, opening up a whole can of worms.

I've had a 23 ft. Toy hauler for about a 18 months now. Bought it used (lightly). And learned a few things so far. I had to trade in a 1/2 ton gas truck for a 3/4 ton diesel since I live in the rocky mountains.

1 - make sure the roof is in good shape. Very important!
2 - Lightly used can be a problem. Generators need to be exercised. Other systems can deteriorate with no use.
3 - get a diesel truck at least 3/4 ton. Even for a smaller trailer. I got one used for less than 25K and less than 70k miles. Was set up for a 5th wheel, air suspension,, etc.....
4 - A 5th wheel or gooseneck is easier to tow. Less strain on the vehicle and safer. Get a smaller 5th wheel so height does not factor. If bumper pull, get the best sway bar tow hitch possible and do the weight and load balance. ~10% of weight on tongue.
5 - make sure axles have zerk fittings and good tires.
6 - better to get a larger fresh water tank. Mechanical tongue jack and self leveling if you are moving even every couple of days.
7 - make sure you have a multifuel generator, several batteries in series and get solar as a back up.
8 - if budget allows go for a class C motor home. Less than a class A but you can get a diesel version.
9 - make sure the fridge can run on A/C, D/C, and propane and only run when completely level.
10 - know your weight limits and include water, gas, etc.... in your calculations. Make sure your vehicle can handle everything and you do not overload the trailer capacity as well as the vehicle.

I'm sure there is more. You can email me at getfreight Gmail and I could give a better run down but everyone above is on track too.

Inconsiderate Bastard said...

Odd stuff I've learned about (usually the hard way), in no particular order, Part 1:

1) Generators. Electrical requirements of whatever you get (RV, standard trailer, 5th wheel, etc.) should be near the top of the list. You will need electricity when parked, and not everyplace you park will have hookups. Consider wattage requirements and fuel. Build your own hookup cable to use when you do have hookups - make it one gauge heavier than the numbers say you need, and make it 2X longer than "everyone says you need." Check out hookups at various RV Parks/Campgrounds and make a set of adapters.
2) Fluid capacities. Water for drinking, washing, etc., waste tank capacity. Fuel capacity - generator fuel, cooking fuel, towing vehicle fuel. More is better. Less is worse. Don't forget the need to heat the living unit.
3) Alternatives. Propane for cooking and/or heating is good, you'll need a Plan B for when propane runs low or is unavailable. Don't forget charcoal works, too, a small quantity of charcoal (think 2.5 lb Ziplock bag) and a small collapsible grill can be
4) Transportation for when you're parked. Driving an RV to the store for milk is a pain, so is unhooking/hooking back up with a trailer.
5) Communications. CB is a given, adding ham capability is extra smart. Don't forget antennas, specifically good antennas that can travel easily. Good CB antennas are easy, ham antennas require more study. Check Sparks31 posts at wrsa.
6) Checklists. It's anal retentive and OCD, but written checklists will save your ass. Often.
7) Outdoor living space. Some RVs and trailers have awnings, good awnings are important. Examine them closely. Sometimes it rains, sometimes it snows, sometimes it's windy, sometimes all 3 at once. A decent medium size folding table is a requirement.
8) Ass-saving tools: shovel (suitable for digging out in snow or dirt), medium axe, decent hand saw, machete, heavy duty tow straps, good nylon tie-downs, bungee cords, rubber "truckers' straps", paracord (lots of it), 1/2" nylon rope, 3-ton Come-Along, wrenches, hammer, pliers, screwdrivers, cordless drill, etc., gun(s). RE: Guns - be fully aware of local laws and places you don't dare go if you have gun(s)-think NY, CA, IL, MA, etc. You mentioned Alaska - driving there means Canada and Canada isn't gun friendly. RE: gun types: everyone thinks "handguns" but rifles are important, too. And knives, good ones. You'll be surprised how often you'll be cutting some

Inconsiderate Bastard said...

And, part 2:

9) Packing - living in a trailer or RV is a lot like living aboard ship. Space is limited, so is weight, so plan, plan and plan some more.
10) Info. Location of RV parks, campgrounds, support services (propane and potable water refills, waste dumping, vehicle and trailer repairs, etc. is important. Do this in printed form because you won't always have an internet connection or maybe even the power to run a laptop. really important stuf needs to be "eight-in-one'd" and laminated (eight-in-ones are photocopied pages that are reduced to put qty 4 of 8.5X11 inch pages onto one face of an 8.5X11 inch page. Duplex these to put 8 reduced sheets onto one page. You'll probably need a magnifier to read it, but you'll have the info. FYI, Amazon sells 10-packs of credit card size magnifiers. Don't forget good maps. FedEx can be your friend - having the Ajax RV company overnight a part to you in care of a local business can be a trip saver, so keep track of where you are and where you'll be tomorrow.
11) Dark repellant. Flashlights, batteries for same, lanterns, both LED and combustible fuel(s). Brytlyt lanterns (very pricey but more then excellent) will burn anything from alchohol and gasoline to diesel. If you have remote power (generator or inverter) a small 10W LED wide area floodlight that can be attached to a bracket on the side of the RV/trailer AND moved around from there can be really damn useful. FYI, home centers and electrical supply houses sell bolt-on brackets designed for hanging 1/2" EMT (electrical metallic tubing). Drive a 3 ft spike halfway into the ground, slide a 10-12 ft piece of EMT over it, clamp the light to the EMT. Don't forget light duty extension cords (16 gauge works for that).
12) Spare parts. At least a couple quarts of towing vehicle oil, light bulbs, replacement bits for your lanterns and combustible fuel cook stove(s), talk to long term owners of your towing vehicle/trailer/RV and see what breaks/falls off, etc. Keep a stash of the simple stuff (and the tools to replace it with), emergency repair stuff (a light tarp, some 6-10 mil plastic sheet, duct tape, caulk, glue, etc.), a real NATO fuel can with spout (get two of each - not cheap but light when empty and almost nothing replaces them for usefulness, and nothing BUT a NATO can spout will fit a NATO can - pro tip: home centers (Lowe's) sell steel 1/2" nipples in plumbing (brass is OK, but do NOT use plastic-it cracks) and 5/8" ID/3/4" OD clear plastic tubing (it will fit in an unleaded filler neck) . Put a 15" extension on the spout because the basic spout may not be long enough to reach whatever filler you need to reach - use wire (preferably stainless aircraft safety wire, Miss D probably already has some in varying diameters) to secure the nipple to the spout and the clear tubing to the nipple - you do not want the tubing and nipple disappearing into the fuel tank while filling it, which it will do at 2AM in the rain.
13) Security. A locking tool box in the bed of the towing vehicle is good, usually also works in 5th wheel configurations. Locking gas can racks can be found for your NATO cans. If you're using a frame-mounted hitch, a cab-height cap can go on the truck, but have a way to remove it and safely set it someplace for those very few instances you need direct vertical access to the truck bed.
13) Community. There is no shortage of assholes in this world, but most of the people you'll encounter in RV parks and on the road are pretty good folks. Sometimes they can get your ass out of a sling, sometimes you can do the same for them.
14) Practice. Before you take a long trip get several short ones under your belt. Learn what works and what doesn't, what needs to be added, what needs to be left behind. Learn hooking up, unhooking, towing, backing, parking. Develop useful - and CONSISTENT - hand signals - sometimes one of you will have to guide the other into a tight spot.

Dad29 said...

Any reputable truck dealer will be VERY happy to help you out with weight/pulling limits on their trucks. GM prints a very handy chart for that purpose; Ford and Dodge likely do the same.

4WD trucks have slightly different loading/pulling numbers than do 2WD.

If you have a large trailer, DO consider a dually (1T truck). Makes a lot of difference in controlling trailer-sway AND weight-of-trailer. And yes, if you have a dual-axle trailer, it is imperative to have a trailer-brake control system which your trailer dealer will "set" for you.

Diesel--the modern ones--are not smelly nor noisy. But they are more expensive to purchase. The difference is that diesels have a ~300K++-mile lifetime; gassers go about 200K and get very tired, indeed.

FYI, truck "brand label" recommendations are usually like computer brand-label recc's; there are such things as bigots, ya'know. Except for the above advice to stay away from Ford 6.X diesels, which were a major embarrassment to Ford (they no longer make 'em.)

Unknown said...

Some other websites to check out. Escapees, (, and,, another forum. has a weekly newsletter, and several specialized newsletters and blogs dealing with RV travel.

Also, when looking at RVs, look at the manufacture dates of the tires. Most tires on RVs don't wear out, they rot out with age. If the tires are more than five years old, you might want to take that into consideration when negotiating the price. If they are approaching 10 years, you want them replaced. If over ten, you don't want to move the rig, at least not very fast, until you replace them.

We live full-time in our motorhome, have bought both new and used. For the heavy use we get, buying used this last time allowed us to get better quality with our budget. Living in it, the slide rooms are essential, as the space can get rather small when winter weather closes in.

Anonymous said...

I bought a used Ford F-250 Diesel 4x4 and a used 36 foot 5th wheel, both were only a couple years old and in good condition. Never had much trouble with either of them, the Ford would pull up the hills and mountains with no problems at all. Had a blow-out on a 5th wheel tire and once I cut a corner too tight and scratched the side of the 5th wheel.

The problems.

- 36 ft of 5th Wheel was too long, I stayed at a lot of National Parks, and state parks, but it was hard finding a slot big enough and it was a pain in the ass trying to back into the slots. So I always tried to reserve way ahead of time for big, pull through slots.

- If I was only going to be someplace for a night and wanted to go to the store, unhitching and re-hitching got to be a pain in the ass.

- But the biggest problem was lifestyle. I like to get up early and get on the road, my wife likes to stay in bed and get up at 8 or 9 and make breakfast and put on her make-up, etc., etc. and we'd be lucky to get on the road by 11:00 which put me driving through the most stressful time of day and arriving late in the day to our next destinations, which kind of sucked.

I sold the truck and the 5th wheel because of family issues and we weren't traveling any more.

Now I'm in the market again and we're looking for a 30 ft Class A and we'll tow a car or jeep. That way the wife can stay in bed while I get up early and drive and that way I won't be so stressed in the morning trying to hurry everyone; since we'll leave early, we'll arrive early and I can be more relaxed for the rest of the day; we'll be able to fit into more camping slots @ 30 ft; and we'll be able to easily un-hook and re-hook the car/jeep for sight-seeing and shopping. Also with a towable car, in an emergency (medical or SHTF), that gives us two methods of transport, just in case one vehicle is broken down.

So my advice is to look at your lifestyle and choose wisely, because it's a huge investment and a mistake can be costly. I owned the truck/5th wheel and travelled for about 2-3 months out of those 2 years and sold at about a $20,000 loss.

clark myers said...

I have no useful suggestions on websites good or bad. I suggest browsing the news stands and subscribing to everything the looks close to interesting - it's cheap enough research considering the stakes.

I think your analysis by size is off. The least I would want to tow any mileage and weight with is a 3/4 ton (diesel for the torque) and that size - but not specification; a one ton is no bigger - is big enough to tow anything I would be willing to tow. Dually is a nice insurance against blowing a tire - but unless overloaded and so overheated tires don't blow much these days - and checking air pressure daily is vital.

If towing is the only use consider an honest 5th wheel cab only - frex look seriously at something like the Isuzu N-series low cab forward - I am not making a specific suggestion of any particular brand or model but it doesn't take a physically large or clumsy truck to tow a big and heavy 5th wheel trailer.

I would backup and decide how much I would be living, and potentially entertaining, in the trailer. A neat 20 foot+ deluxe Airstream/Avion that sits most of the year and gets towed to the hypothetical lake 2 weeks a year or overnighted on (3 day?) weekends at different fishing spots will do just fine with a 1/2 ton short bed gas engine from any of the majors. Self contained enough to be comfortable - for a day or two - with most of the action outside and easy access to dump and fill. The opposite end might be a big 5th wheel with pop-outs on both sides and washer/dryer setup convenient to the kid's room(s). That's for folks who are living in the trailer much of the year but maybe parked at a job site or a destination with good hookups and not on the road every day. There's a lot to be said for a popup - no higher than the cab roof - pickup camper to take the road to Alaska and to more remote lakes and fishing or hunting spots - when the considerations include daily and in possession catch/bag limits for folks who are at home in the field smaller, lighter and lower is better. But that demands high motivation and is a distinct lifestyle choice.

There have been some fabulous deals on trailers of all sizes in the Overthrust belt as oil industry jobs have gone away and folks have moved on. For two older people - with aches and pains who need comfort to work productively - who will be relatively high mileage, rather than here to there and park it, I'd suggest all new (short of a deal too good to pass up) a longer 5th wheel with no pop outs (weather and winter and twisting on rough roads) and a garage/shop/snowmobile/Smart Car/motorcycle room in back -neither flat towing nor trailering a car for high mileage (again just going to the hookups at a resort destination and going home is a different matter) pulled by a Low Cab Forward.