Solo RVing: How To Get Started
Solo RVing is a great way to get out, enjoy traveling and meet new people. Getting into RVing can seem overwhelming with the vast number of options for both RVs and destinations and this can be especially true for the solo traveler. Here we’ll take a look at some of the things you’ll want to consider when getting started as a solo RVer.
Anytime you travel alone, safety should be at the top of your priorities. That’s especially true for RVing since there are so many things that can go wrong in places that are likely to be unfamiliar to you. For these reasons, it’s critical that you establish a safety plan before venturing out. Here are some things you’ll want to do.
Tell Someone Where You Are Going
Always put together an itinerary and share it with the people who you can count on to help out if trouble arises. That itinerary should include your planned routes, places you plan to stay or visit, and when you’ll be at those locations.
If you can, include phone #s or contact information for those locations. If your plans change have an easy way to update your friends so they are aware of the changes. Finally, check in frequently so people know how you’re doing.
Have A Plan An Emergency Plan
Next, you will want to establish an emergency plan. Planning ahead will save critical time when emergencies arise. Start with a dry-erase board in your RV somewhere where you can get to it easily. When you get somewhere you plan to stay, look up the local emergency numbers by writing them down on that board.
Accessing them will be much easier under the stress of an emergency than trying to find them from scratch on your phone or device (assuming you have access to it). Also, if you are in an unfamiliar area, look up where the local hospitals or urgent care facilities are located and how to get to them.
Finally, familiarize yourself with your surroundings. Know the quickest way out of the campground in an emergency. Also, if you are staying in a hosted campground, ask what emergency facilities they have. Many campgrounds have designated tornado or bad weather shelters on site. If they don’t, they can usually direct you to the nearest facility outside the campground.
Listen To Yourself
Your gut feelings when things go south are usually right and it’s better to be safe than sorry. Always trust your gut and listen to yourself.
Join A Solo RV Club
Solo RV clubs are a great way to connect with other solo travelers. There are official solo RV clubs around the world that hold events, provide assistance and solo RVing information and allow solo RVers to connect with one another.
There are also a number of informal solo RV groups on social media sites like Facebook. These are great resources for information related to solo RVing and provide a community resource to help you in your travels. Here are some links to some popular groups:
Choosing The Perfect Rig
There are so many choices available in the RV market today that it can seem like an overwhelming task to choose the best RV for you. Choosing the best rig for you will depend entirely on how and where you would like to travel. If your goal is to stay primarily in resort-style campgrounds in luxury and comfort then a higher-end Fifth wheel or motorhome may be your best option.
If you want to explore the backcountry while living off the grid then a 4×4 Class B, 4×4 Class C, or off-road travel trailer may be your best options. Let’s take a quick look at the different major classes of RV with some of their key features, benefit, and problems.
Motorhome – A, B, Or C
For the solo traveler, a motorhome is a great option. They come in three major classes – A, B, and C. The best option for you will depend on where you want to travel and what is most important to you as you do. Class A’s are large, expensive to operate, and not designed for off-road use. They are great for more upscale travel with nearly all of them offering great interiors with full dry bathrooms.
Class B’s are the smallest motorhomes. They are usually built on commercial van platforms. This makes them the most maneuverable, easiest to drive, and cheapest to operate. There are also many available with the 4-wheel drive so offroad exploring is an option. Due to space limitations, the interior can be small and you’ll likely be limited to a wet bathroom or no bathroom at all. Class C’s come in right between class A’s and B’s in almost every way.
Any van can be converted for use as an RV, and many people do the conversions themselves. Doing so can keep the costs down and it allows you to create a living space that is tailored specifically to your needs. It also helps when you have issues down the road since you’ll know how the space was constructed and how to make repairs.
If you want to go the pre-built route, there are several van builders out there that can build a van to your specs. There are also many that offer pre-built “standard” models. A step up from a basic van would be a Class B RV, which may also be worth looking into.
Travel trailers have a lot of advantages over other RVs for solo RVer. They are available in a broad range of sizes with features to match the needs of just about any RVer. They are simple to operate and maintain. They are also the least expensive RVs available. As towed vehicles, they can easily be left behind in a campground while you explore the surrounding areas or run errands in your tow vehicle.
Travel trailers feature a “bumper pull” style hitching system that attaches to a hitch receiver under the rear bumper of the tow vehicle. This means just about any vehicle with an appropriate tow rating can be used to tow them. That can include cars, trucks, vans, SUVs, crossovers, and even UTVs, ATVs, and motorcycles. The major downside of travel trailers is that they are prone to trailer sway while towing. Modern sway control hitches nearly eliminate this issue so make sure to use one and set it up properly.
5th wheels are trailers that have a gooseneck style hitching system that connects the trailer to a special hitch in the bed of the towing pick-up truck. The 5th wheel hitch configuration is the major advantage of 5th wheels over travel trailers. By moving the pivot point of the hitch directly over, or slightly in front of, the rear axle of the tow vehicle you nearly eliminate all trailer sway.
5th wheels are much easier and safer to tow than travel trailers. There are a couple of major downsides to the 5th wheels. First, the hitch configuration requires a pickup truck or flatbed for towing. Also, because a large portion of the trailer overhangs the tow vehicle the smallest 5th wheels will still be over 25 feet long.
Toy haulers come in just about any style of RV including Class As, Class Cs, travel trailers, and 5th wheels. The major difference between a toy hauler and a standard RV is the inclusion of internal garage space. Some of the interior living space is traded for an area to park your toys like motorcycles, ATVs, golf carts, UTVs, or even cars. Those garage spaces are usually at the rear of the RV and can be from around 9’ – 14’ feet of the interior space.
The only real negatives to a toy hauler are the loss of living space for the garage, the potential for fuel or oil odors, and the possible additional sway issues that heavy toys can add to a travel trailer-style toy hauler.
How Much Do You Want To Spend On Your RV?
When it comes to buying an RV do some research to determine what you really need and what you can expect to pay for specific types of RVs that meet those needs. There is no relationship between cost, size, or type of RV and the overall costs can be deceiving.
A 19’ class B can be more expensive than a 36’ Class A and a $40,000 travel trailer can cost you $100,000 once you add in a tow vehicle to pull it. Set a budget before you start shopping. You should never raise your budget to fit the RV, always try to find an RV that fits your budget.
RVs are known to depreciate rapidly so increasing your budget to chase a specific unit or feature will only result in a larger depreciation hit later on down the road. If you can’t find a unit in your price range that has the features you need, you are almost always better off altering your needs than raising your budget.
If you’re having a hard time finding a unit within the budget that meets your needs, and those needs are set in stone, you still have some options. Since you’ll own the RV, there’s nothing preventing you from modifying it to meet your needs after you buy it. Those mods may not be that expensive or complicated. There is also the used market.
Buying used can save you a lot of money but there are pitfalls to consider. Make sure you have a competent and trustworthy person inspect the RV you are considering. Be prepared to walk away, seemingly small issues can be a big deal so if you’re not knowledgeable enough to determine that then play it safe and walk away.
What Do You Have For Your Towing Vehicle?
If you plan to have a towable (travel trailer or 5th wheel) RV then you’ll need a tow vehicle. In this case, you’ll have two options. Either find a trailer that can be towed with a vehicle you have, or buy a tow vehicle to tow the trailer you’re buying. Either way, you’ll need to make sure that whatever vehicle you are towing with is capable of towing the trailer you’ll have.
Ideally, you’ll want your tow vehicle to exceed the necessary ratings by as much as possible so you can avoid having to really think about it or plan for it. The general rule of thumb is that the weight of your trailer should be no more than 75% of your tow vehicle’s towing capacity.
Deciding What You Need For Space
Space is an interesting topic for RVing. No matter how you slice it, you’ll be living in a space no larger than around 350 square feet. Compared to the home or apartment you may be used to, even the largest RV is tiny. The reality is that your RV will only provide space for minimal storage, a place to sleep, eat and shelter from the elements.
As a solo RVer, if a 12’ trailer meets those needs, a 30’ trailer won’t provide life-altering extra space. The key is to look at what’s really important to you and choose an RV size that meets those needs. For example, if you want a dry bath then you’ll be looking at larger RVs. If you want to be able to stand up in your RV then you’ll need one tall enough to do that.
Just remember that no matter what RV size you choose you will have to adjust your life to fit it. Also, remember that there are downsides to larger RVs. They weigh more, require larger tow vehicles, use more fuel to move, have lower maneuverability, and once you pass 30’ in length the number of national/state park campsites they’ll fit in drops off dramatically.
Create Check Lists
Rving is a very procedural activity. Whether you are preparing to leave on a trip, getting to camp, living day to day in camp, or breaking camp to move on, there is always something important to do. Forgetting to do some of these tasks can cause expensive damage to your RV or make some nasty messes you’ll wish you didn’t have to clean up.
In order to avoid those situations, it’s best to have some checklists for common activities. Common checklists you’ll want to make include setting up camp, breaking down camp, daily or weekly in camp maintenance, storage, and winterizing if you live in a cold climate.
Test Everything Out At Home
When you get your RV home for the first time you’ll want to go through and test everything out. This will allow you to confirm everything works in a place where you can easily deal with any issues you may find. It will also allow you to get acquainted with all the systems without the pressure of needing the RV as your living space. One thing to note while testing. RVs have very specific requirements which can cause issues when running them at home. Two of those issues are:
1.) Electrical requirements. Most RVs will have 30amp or 50amp electrical requirements. You should never use an adapter to connect your 30amp or 50amp RV to a 15amp or 20amp outlet in your home. Doing so is a severe fire risk since your RV can easily overdraw that circuit.
2.) Water Requirements. Never turn on your electric water heater unless you have confirmed the heater tank is full of water. If the electric heating element is powered on while dry it will burn out and need replacement.
This is also a good time to start making your checklists for set-up and breakdown of your rig. As you go through the different systems make notes and add them to your checklists.
If your RV is towable this is also the time to go through your hitch setup and make sure it’s set up properly. Proper hitch set-up can be the difference between an enjoyable trip to a campground and a miserable trip to the hospital so take your time, read the instructions and do it right. Barring major changes to your tow vehicle or trailer you should only have to do it once and this is the time to do it.
Do A Trial Run For A Couple Of Days
Testing at home is great and will allow you to develop your processes and checklists for using your RV, but there’s no substitute for getting out there and really doing it. The best way to do this is through a trial run. Pick a place close to home, ideally somewhere you can go that’s less than an hour’s drive that would include some surface roads, highways, and maybe even a dirt road If you plan to travel on dirt roads a lot.
This will allow you to experience travel with your RV in a variety of conditions. You don’t want to try and go 300 miles with a new travel trailer only to find in the first 5 minutes on the highway that it sways like a flag in a hurricane. When you go on this trip, bring a way to take notes.
It’s a great way to log problems you have as well as to make notes of tools or other items you’ll want to add for your next trip. There’s a good chance you’ll have a solid list of things to address before your first “real” trip so make sure your trial run is done at least a couple of weeks before you plan to go on that trip.
Where Should You Go For Your Maiden Voyage
Once you’ve shaken things down at the house and done your trial run you should be safe to go on a real trip. Don’t go crazy with a 3-month cross-country adventure or anything like that just yet. I would pick that one thing within a day or two’s drive that you’ve always wanted to do and spend a week or so doing it.
Try and keep things within civilization. Most RV problems occur within the first year of ownership so even though you’ve done the shakedown steps, failures will still be common for a little while. You don’t want to be in some remote location a hundred miles from help when you really need it.
Learn From Past Mistakes
RVing is a journey. You’ll make mistakes, we all do. Pay attention and learn from them. You may not even realize it’s a mistake for some time so if you’re feeling like something is wrong take some time to reflect. For the longest time, we would travel long days to get to our destinations quicker.
We’d always arrive tired, hungry, and on the cranky side. As it turns out, the journey really is part of the fun. We now limit our travels to under 300 miles a day and the whole experience is significantly better.