Equipping an RV – 50/50 Decisions

We have lived in our current RV for about a year, having bought it several months prior to moving in fulltime. This should be a good time to provide feedback about several hard decisions we had to make while equipping our new home. For more detailed explanations please click on Our Choices Page (a must read) where you will find links to prior blog posts and more.

Karen and I will be leaving our current location north of Kansas City on 7/26/20. As usual we have booked our camping areas for destination spots. We will also book our first stop on the route and leave times between the first and final stops open for flexibility. We will be at Fort Robinson State Park in western Nebraska on 8/16. We scheduled a month long stop at Broken Arrow Horse and RV Camp near Custer SD beginning 8/23. It’s so nice to be able to “live” in the Black Hills for a month.

At the end of this blog post I’ve included photos of our new Cocker Spaniel puppy Wyatt who is doing great. We are having a wonderful time training him to be an RV dog.  Slowing down travel because of the virus thing has presented an opportunity to spend time getting Wyatt used to his surroundings and allowing us to equip the RV with puppy stuff.

There were dozens of tough decision we made while equipping and purchasing our RV. I cut the list down to 10 for this blog post.  Hope it helps those making the same decisions. Of course our style of RV life may very from yours.

Refrigerator: Might as well start off with a topic I’m still not completely decided about. We went with a double door RV gas/electric. You will have to do your own research for this decision. So far a residential fridge would have worked for us. Our underlying idea when making all decisions was not to limit where we stay any more than necessary. Hence the 35′ trailer, small generator, very capable tow vehicle, RV gas/electric fridge and more.  We have lost power at four campgrounds which only required we run the generator to charge the batteries on one occasion. We have not camped without an electrical connection but plan to as yet another way of experiencing the journey. We turn off our propane when we travel which shuts down the fridge. I’ve left it running when traveling as well. The initial cool down of the fridge takes some time but is not an issue when it’s off a few hours. Personally, I would not own a residential fridge without four batteries, a generator or capable solar system. I’ve never had a residential fridge in an RV. Experience with a residential fridge in an RV might influence my feedback. I have several friends with one. We paid hundreds $$ for the RV gas/electric as an option when installed in the camper. Residential fridges are less expensive and require less framing and venting to place them in a camper. If RV gas/electric are not installed correctly to include framing the box around it for air flow then there will be problems. Ours is located in a hydraulic slide and there is no issue with the weight. We have an ice maker which I’d never want to do without. We had to disconnect the water line under the slide one time when in below freezing temperatures as a safety measure. The water line is braided metal and probably could have handled even lower temperatures. Others have figured out how to add a valve to drain the line which I might later do myself. We have replaced one plastic door handle as you have to learn how to open RV fridge gas/electric doors. The light fixture is out and a plastic hinge where the doors come together could use replacing. I’m convinced RV gas/electric fridges are harder to repair. I’m satisfied with our decision at this point but still wonder about the long-term as our type of travel evolves. It’s nice to click the fridge over to gas when we only have 30 amp electric service. Camping without electric service is not a concern.

Washer/Dryer: Would probably be a good idea to have Karen type this one out. I’ll do my best and change whatever she might not agree with after she reads the post. We decided not to have one installed but are glad to have the option with water and electric hook-ups in the closet. Also glad that if we ever installed a unit the door would face forward and not require we fish around in the master bedroom closet to gain access.  We figured out sources for $40 a month in quarters as we use campground facilities and sometimes travel to small town laundries (that don’t have security bars around the windows.) Like others said would happen, it seems Karen often does multiple loads at a time when a lot of machines are available, thereby knocking out the laundry once ever couple weeks. Sometimes she does smaller loads prior to taking off to the wilderness on a trip. We have lots of extra towels, perhaps clothing and bedding which I feel we would still have even if we could do laundry in the fifth wheel. Glad we don’t have the added weight of the unit. If I ever had a unit in the trailer then separate washer/dryer would be nice but at the least a combo unit would be vented to the outside for sure. Glad we don’t have to worry about having a sewer and water connection to do laundry. Glad we don’t have to listen to a tiny combo unit running and shaking. Glad we have two bars in the bathroom to hang clothes we don’t put in dryers anyway. As a side point, Karen still irons using an apartment sized board or at times, during longer campground stays, she uses ironing boards commonly left in the laundry room (Update – Karen wants a full size ironing board that will store behind our theater seating. Small things make this lifestyle more enjoyable) .  Personally, I wear shorts and shirts that don’t require ironing. We both still want our clothes to look clean and ironed just like we still live in a sticks and bricks house. This is our lifestyle and not a vacation. We want to feel “normal”. Karen dresses up more than I do and still likes to wear her shinny jewelry. I appreciate that!

Generator: Went with a 3500 watt gas portable inverter (quiet) unit that rides in the bed of the truck. Someday I’ll post how I finally figured out how to secure it in the truck where it does not move and exhaust out the back of the truck. Propane generators eat propane quickly and filling a gas can is way easier than hunting down propane. By the way, I use our extra 30 pounds propane tank that came with the trailer for our gas grill. Our 3500 watt unit provides a full 30 amps of power. If we had two of the smaller and lighter units then we could do the same. Ours weighs 75 pounds because I left off the option of remote starting or even push button starting which requires a battery that has to be maintained. We used the generator a lot when our trailer was in storage to power the RV and top off the batteries when needed. I even left off the generator prep option when we ordered our fifth wheel which freed up space in the storage area which we need as our 35′ trailer does not have the same basement space as a 40′ trailer. 100% satisfied with this decision even if so far we don’t use the generator much. The portability is nice as we can power stuff when away from home. Even used it to vacuum the truck once.

Batteries: All decisions regarding electric were made keeping in mind to start with the bare minimum and add on later once we figure out what we actually need. Decided to just have the dealership add a second 12 volt battery. The 50/50 decision was if to ditch the initial 12 volt battery and go with two or four 6 volt batteries. Wish we had the type of batteries that don’t require checking the water level. Glad we don’t have the space of four more batteries taken up. Maybe our next electric decision will be to purchase a folding portable solar panel which I’ve talked to others about. Again, we started small and will build upon our electrical needs as necessary. I also know if we change out a battery or both that it’s not good to mix older batteries with newer batteries. For our current style of travel two batteries has worked perfect.

Tire Monitoring: At this point in the learning curve I’ll have to agree most tire blowouts are caused by improper tire inflation which is another topic. Because it makes pulling the trailer less stressful I added tire monitoring. Our unit has an easy to read color display and monitors tire inflation and tire heat. Fun to watch the numbers change on warmer days or when I might purposely run the tires five pounds lighter in air. So far I trust the unit to check the tire pressure before I decide to get out the compressor. I check my tires before every move. And while I’m down there inspecting tires, I check the suspension before we leave and at every stop. Glad our tailor tires came with metal valve stems. I still think the nitrogen filed tires might be  B.S as I still have to add and lower air at times. I’m helping you big time by saying get a unit to start off with rather than taking a long time to decide which unit.  Does add yet another thing to the dashboard to be looked around. I take mine off the dash for longer stays but the portability is nice during move day when I can turn the unit on in the trailer to precheck the tires.

Electrical/Surge Protection: Took me months to decided on which unit. As fulltimers there will be more chances for electrical issues at a campground power pole compared to if we only used the trailer a few times a year. Because we use it all the time I decided to spend money on the best unit which is any that monitor low and high voltage. Especially on days when everyone is running their AC units. So we don’t leave the monitoring unit at a campground our rule is it goes in the box in trailer storage as soon as we disconnect. We don’t place it anywhere but in the box! I decided to purchase a 15′ cable to lock the unit to the trailer which adds yet another step for move day. At least all our locks are keyed alike or have a user set combination. I decided to get the optional wireless display that I placed in a cabinet inside the trailer. It’s handy to check when the power goes out and has a side benefit of displaying our power consumption which is informative. I was fine with delaying the decision until we figured it out. Months ago a nearby camper ended his trip when his wiring inside the camper was fried. I’m not sure if surge protection would have saved him or not as the surge was due to a lightening strike at a tree five feet from his class C camper.

Window Shades and Dual Pane or Not: Glad we have daytime shades in additional to the night shades. Makes a huge difference in hot weather. Provides added privacy when we want at least a little light coming through the windows. But dual window shades adds yet one more thing to adjust or fix.

Dual pane windows also make a difference and are worth the cost and weight to us. Last winter there was no frost on our windows inside the trailer. I think they make a difference in blocking some outside noise. The factory said most RV’s they built in our price point did not have them installed as an option which I was surprised by. We have plenty of cargo capacity for the added weight. Maybe other than cost/weight the biggest concern is if the rubber seal breaks between the panes then the windows will haze and need to be replaced or repaired.  Tiffin (Vanleigh brand) owns the windows company so I’m hoping if we have issues it’s a easier fix. Again, as we live fulltime in the trailer I felt comfortable with the decision to get dual pane. I’d not have them for a vacation unit or worry if resale would be better or not. Many of the would-be fulltime trailers we walked through at RV shows did not have dual pane windows which I’m thinking is the dealers attempt to keep the price down as many people do not consider the decision. It’s not the end of the world to skip dual pane windows. I’ve had both.

By the way, if you can get a second outside awning as an option then get one or have it installed later. Shading the entire side of a camper makes a massive difference in cooling inside during direct sunlight. Some trailers have very long single awnings that might be braced in the center when closed so they don’t bend the roller. We can also walk around 75% of our fifth wheel trailer in the rain and not get wet. Under the awnings, under the front overhang and under the bedroom slide with access to all the outside storage doors.  We prepare for storms by moving stuff under the fifth wheel overhang. If we are awake and at home where we can monitor the wind, it sure is nice to leave both awnings out to keep stuff dry.

Water Filtration: Still deciding on yet one more aspect or addition. So far we are fine with an external filter at the campground water connection. We also have a built-in single filter inside the trailer. Thinking about adding a filter for drinking water under the kitchen sink. Personally, so far I don’t see a need for a water softener or elaborate double filter outside but I’ve researched them.

Air Conditioners: Glad we have two 15,000 BTU units. In high humidity and heat they make a difference. I’d consider a third unit in a 40′ trailer. Some brands equip the front bedroom area with a 13,500 BTU unit. Our living room unit has a heat pump which we use down to 40′ degrees. We sometimes use the living room unit to cool the bedroom as our tailor AC system is ducted throughout the trailer (central air so to speak). That way it’s even quieter in the bedroom. We always use the front bedroom unit to help the rear living room unit, even partially closing the vents in the bedroom during hot days which forces more air into the living room. For full time living I don’t see how folks stay cool in lets say a 30 trailer with one AC.  The guy parked next to us says the single AC cannot keep up on hot days by noon.  Glad our trailer is 35′ with less space to heat and cool using the exact same furnace and ACs installed in a 40 and above trailer. On hot days with high humidity you should run the AC on high fan settings to avoid freezing up the unit with ice. If it does freeze up then turn off the cool setting and run the high fan which will thaw it quickly.  I had been using the auto fan setting until our rear unit iced up which you will know has happened because the air flow is dramatically reduced and there might not be any condensation dripping from the roof.

Storage Unit: Throwing this in among the topic because from the storage unit we move equipment stuff in and out of the trailer when we are near family back in Missouri. I view storage unit expenses just like insurance expenses. We have a 5×10 climate controlled storage unit and glad we made that decision. If for some reason we did not like full time RV travel the first year or so then we still have important stuff we did not dispose of in storage. I could have also seen us getting a larger storage unit with agreement we would downsize in a year or so. Our 5×10 is not full. We must have done some good planning as we are taking less than a small box back to storage and only retrieved a few items. Glad I can pick up my bike when in town and leave it behind or not. Glad we still had some dog stuff in storage for Wyatt.

Thanks for the toys Aunt Lisa. Wyatt loves his stuff.

The trip home from the breeder. Wyatt raised a hell of a fuss when he wanted to stop the truck for a pee break. Good sign? Or will route planning take on a new meaning?

Everything is new. Mom explains stuff to Wyatt. I laughed when he experienced rain the first time. He figures it out and is somewhat headstrong, wanting to do things his own way.

Thank you Aunt Mary for the puppy equipment. Wyatt figured out how to roll the portable play pen around so now we are using a wire fencing. He sleeps through the night in the pet carrier.

Wyatt does this all the time beginning at 9 weeks old. He tries to climb in the truck. Frankly, anywhere Karen might be heading or sitting he will do what it takes to get near her.

The puppy color matches our furniture 🙂

Wyatt is so smart and fearless!  Started using a leash the second day he came home. Loves to ride in the truck where thankfully he is also content to sleep for a couple hours at a time. Having pets on the road is a big decision. Getting a puppy is a way big decision. We will talk about it later. Thankfully he sleeps through the night in his kennel. The first two nights at home with Wyatt were sleepless nights.

Here are a couple videos if you enjoy them. I don’t bother with editing video so sorry they are less than professional.

 

 

 

 

11 thoughts on “Equipping an RV – 50/50 Decisions

  1. We have a pair of 100W portable solar panels which have served us quite well as we have done more off the grid camping than we had originally planned. We have found we don’t use very much electrical items when off-grid and we have been at altitude most of the summer, so heat has not been an issue. I switched out our lights to all LED, we will use our 2 MaxxAir fans as well as a portable box fan and our satellite radio, but that’s really about it. There have been some nights where we have set the furnace to about 60 and then crank it up for an extended run in the morning. On a sunny day, I have found the panels will fully charge our 2 Group 31 batteries (228 amp hours total – half that usable) by noon.
    However, since you have a generator, I wouldn’t purchase solar panels. I feel that one or the other would be sufficient.

    Peter

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    • Peter, thank you for the great information. I copied it to a file to save for later. Appreciate knowing to hold off on the solar panel. Someday we are going to give camping off grid a try. I was thinking when we get to an area to first find a local campground and then drive out and look for a spot. Then move the rig and later return to the campground to dump or whatever. Or maybe we will get lucky and find a friend somewhere, maybe Quartzite, who has a good spot and move there to start with.

      We have been looking for the perfect table top fan in addition to having the RV’s Maxxaire. Thinking a sturdy 12″ metal fan. Funny how some decisions take forever. It took us several months to finally find an outside rubber door mat that doubles as a mat for Karen to stand on when she washes dishes outside when we don’t have a sewer connection and are camped for more than 7 days. I don’t like to buy stuff twice and first try and find something we already own for double usage.

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  2. Hi Mark. Its been a while since we have contacted you but we always read your posts for good information and entertainment. Wyatt is going to be a great travelling companion for you guys. The videos of him are a hoot. Enjoy you trip through Nebraska and South Dakota. We have been in Oklahoma for the past four months helping Dominique’s mother get through cancer treatments but plan to get back on the road next week. Going out west to see our grand kids in Nevada. Dominique says hi and tell Karen high for us. See ya somewhere down the road. Kirk.

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  3. Some great insights. Even after 7 years, we don’t miss having a washer or dryer in the RV. For us a gas/electric fridge is a must, our next rig will have 3 ACs. We feel with the battery storage we have, our 2 Champion 2000’s, and our 120-watt solar panel, we have what we need for the boondocking we do. Enjoy your travels to SD.

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    • Thanks for stopping by. I had jumped over to your blog to make sure I did not miss a post to see what you are up to. Sounds like we are thinking alike on equipping a rig.

      We are in Seneca Kansas as I type, working our way west on US 36 which out here is known as the Pony Express Highway. Never been on a two lane road this long but has excellent shoulders so far, smooth road with little traffic. You can see miles in front of you.

      That Corp of Engineer Park in Illinois you guys like is near some friends of ours so I added it to my spread sheet as a possible stop.

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  4. We close on our house aug 14, 2020 and are mostly moved into the rig. On the residential fridge, we have it but I can see the need for a larger battery bank than the two puny batteries that came from the dealer. We have two A/Cs on our 40′ Montana (three would be overkill IMHO)… more than up to the task so far in 95 degree weather. We also have dual pane glass and slide covers and two awnings. We’re still in the middle of installing some mods but when finished we move on to the washer and dryer(a must have for us) install as that space is now filled with everything awaiting a home with our crafting/hobby desk mod project.
    We have an inline water filter for now and a water softener.. but we have specific need for one so it wasn’t an option for us. Water softener also helps with the mitigation of calcium build up in the plumbing that is caused by very hard CG water. Safe travels to you and yours.

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  5. We’re getting ready to install our washer and dryer! Super excited as we have been using the one at our park and it can get backed up with everyone using them.

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