In the last few weeks, I’ve gotten quite a few e-mails from RV campers who think that they are RVers. I hate to burst their bubbles, but at the same time, I don’t want to be responsible for them thinking otherwise, or making costly mistakes.
There is a difference between campers and RVers. I define RV campers as people who have an RV of some kind, anything from a pop up tent trailer to a motorhome, who spend a few weekends a year in a campground or state park, and maybe take a week or two vacation with their RV.
RVers, on the other hand, are those of us who either live in our RVs fulltime, or else spend several weeks or even months at a time traveling and living in our homes on wheels. Because to us, that’s what our RVs are, homes on wheels. Some of us travel around a lot, while others may go to a favorite RV park and stay for an extended period of time. Hopefully, we did a lot of homework before entering the RV lifestyle, and did some advance preparation before hitting the road.
There is nothing at all wrong with being a camper, but when campers start thinking that they are RVers, and want to enter the RV lifestyle with their existing camper mentality, they can set themselves up for some real disappointments. I hate to see that happen, because with some serious homework and research, they could have a much better and more enjoyable experience.
Probably the first mistake I see far too many campers make is to think that their weekend travel trailer is suitable for the RV lifestyle. It’s one thing to spend a weekend at the lake in your small travel trailer, but when you start living in it for weeks or months at a time, its shortcomings can quickly become glaring problems. I have even had a few people who expected to fulltime in popup tent campers with kids!
While there are some excellent travel trailers on the market, and while we do know some RVers who live in them, the vast majority you see in campgrounds and state parks are inadequate for extended use. They just don’t hold up to day in and day out use over the long run. They’re built to be weekend rigs, and just don’t have what it takes for long term living.
Just this week, I got an e-mail from a couple with four sons, ages 3 to 11, and two Golden Lab dogs, who have a 20 foot travel trailer and a crew cab pickup truck, and want to fulltime in it. They admitted that “it gets a little crowded, but we’ve spent a lot of fun weekends in it, and now we want to show our boys the country.” I hated to tell them that if their trailer got “a little crowded” in a weekend, they might be ready to strangle each other after a month on the road in it. Assuming that the trailer would hold up to a month’s steady use by two adults, four boys, and two dogs.
Quite a few of the campers I have talked to don’t seem to understand that there really are grocery stores in every town in America. More than one has asked me for advice on how much food to pack, and how to prepare meals ahead of time, before they leave home. One actually asked me what we do when we run out of toilet paper. I was tempted to say I use an old copy of the Gypsy Journal, and then make a mad dash for WalMart! 🙂
Another mistake campers make is to think that the RV lifestyle is a permanent campout. The first time my cousin Berni Frees and her husband met us at an FMCA rally, they were amazed. As Berni put it, “I thought everybody would be sitting around the campfire singing Kumbaya and toasting marshmallows!” She was amazed that most of us live the same way in our RVs that other people live in their houses. For every RVer you’ll find sitting out around a campfire, there will be 100 sitting inside their home on wheels, watching television and wishing those campers knew how to build a fire that didn’t smoke the place up so bad.
One couple I exchanged e-mails with recently are spending their first winter as snowbirds. They have booked the entire winter in state forest campgrounds, and were surprised at how expensive it was going to be. Most RVers I know seldom go to a state campground, because we find that RV parks and commercial campgrounds are more suited to our lifestyle, and usually less expensive on a weekly or monthly basis. Besides, there are fewer smoky campfires, and nobody keeps you awake all night singing Kumbaya!
There is nothing wrong with RV campers, and many do transition successfully to the fulltime RV lifestyle, or enjoy doing the snowbird thing. But the ones who go into it all starry eyed, and don’t take the time to do their research ahead of time are setting themselves up for a fall.