By Mike Sherman
A debate on RV size is almost a waste of time. It’s a question that’s been debated for years. Everyone has an opinion. Go BIG? Go small?
Have you ever wondered when you’re parked next to a huge RV that you may never see the occupants unless they have a dog to walk? For many, that large RV is all they’ve got. There’s no stick home sitting on 5 acres waiting for their return. Everything they own is in that rig. Everything! Some full-timers don’t even rent a mini-storage locker – they got rid of everything except what’s in their RV.
These RVers are probably older, and have no desire to take walks around the RV park or hike nearby trails. They prefer RV parks with amenities, having experienced plenty of primitive state and federal campgrounds in the years gone by.
Occasionally you might spot them coming outside to dump their holding tanks. You say “Hi.” They smile and wave back, then retreat into their private domain. They may stay in one place for months at a time, but sooner or later they will muster up the energy to move on, often to an RV park they visit annually like clockwork.
THEY ENJOY THE AMENITIES made possible with a big rig – a fireplace, big screen TVs, built-in vacuums. Some rigs have a bath-and-a-half, and there’s ample closet space for a year-round or seasonal wardrobe. They enjoy eating meals at their dining table and later relaxing in heated, vibrating recliners. Two people can live very comfortably year-round in such a rig. If too much togetherness creates stress, the bedroom offers a quiet, private sanctuary to escape and recover.
My wife and I went BIG after owning smaller RVs. We had 27-foot Class A and 32-foot Class A motorhomes before deciding to go BIG when we both finally retired and were ready to liquidate and hit the road full time.
After a lifetime of dry camping in tents and smaller RVs in the boonies with maybe a pit toilet, no showers and eating canned beans … you know, roughing it – “real camping” … we decided we wanted all the creature comforts. I grew tired of manually leveling the rig. I grew tired of cranking the awning in and out.
We wanted a near-normal-sized bathroom, a soft king-size bed and automatic everything. We had no plans to drive down dirt roads for miles looking for privacy. Yes, we are soft, lazy and weak, but we are still rolling on down the highway!
We ended up in a 42-foot 5th wheel with awesome, fully equipped recliners, 3 big screen TVs, 2 fireplaces, automatic levelers and 2 electric awnings. I do little cranking these days. Mostly I just push buttons. Perfect, just the way we wanted it. The RV has a wet bar (4 bar stools) that even has a foot rail (no spittoon) with a TV overhead. Oh, it has a wine cooler, too.
When we eat our meals at the dining table on our super-soft, thick chairs, one of us can easily see the TV over the bar, and the other the TV over the fireplace. We can pause a program via remote control while we serve up seconds, then resume our comfortable dining experience. The dining chairs are quite thick and very comfortable. You can sit in them for hours, unlike fine restaurant seating where the idea is to get customers in, then get them out without delay.
There’s a fireplace at the foot of our custom king-size bed – custom because we replaced the mattress with one as soft as our dining room chairs. If the evening gets chilly, we can warm the bedroom using electricity instead of propane, and avoid heating the entire rig.
We still enjoy meeting people, so we walk the dog and talk with neighbors. We’ve had dinner parties with total strangers, shared funny videos, and enjoyed sitting around our propane fire pit. I do a pretty good BBQ chicken dinner, and we offer up advice to the rookies we meet when they ask. We support campground owners and vote for legislation meant to improve the RV industry. I would like to think that we are still contributing, even though we certainly enjoy spending a lot of time inside our controlled environment, watching “Wheel of Fortune”.
We visit areas where our family and friends live as we travel. They enjoy having dinner in our little abode. It gives them an excuse to enjoy a cozy, comfortable experience. I would like to think we are making the most of our retirement.
It sure sounds like that to us, Mike and Diana. Thanks for sharing! —RVtravel.com
We have a 44′ DP which fits our lives perfectly. To each his own. Our sticks and bricks is in Vegas which puts us on the road running from the heat every summer and part time in the winter months. We are currently in Maui for 3 weeks to attend a niece’s wedding and if we could have driven here we would have. Now, 6 days into the trip, we miss our pillows, our coffee maker, our medicine cabinet, our closet, our chairs, our full fridge and yes, our own toilets.
Traveling to far off destinations is great but shipping and then driving a 44 DP in Italy won’t happen either.
Sounds fun and the author has got it down pat and enjoying the best of the RV full-timers lifestyle! Good for you guys!
Fantastic.! Enjoy your life. You didn’t mention the manufactures name.
I can relate somewhat because we still own a stick-n-bricks but our son lives there and keeps up the property maintenance. We own a 45 ft diesel pusher and love visiting family spread out across the US. At one time I had a sister in Massachusetts and another one in California (San Diego) so I literally meant from the northeast US to the southwest. We also had a daughter in North Dakota and a cousin in New Mexico. We’ve seen a lot of the lower 48 states in the comfort of our DP.
We started in a tent. Now our 45 foot Bus is the only home we own. Our story mirrors the author.
Thanks for sharing your personal perspective Mike. The highlights of your story are adding your history, and how as you matured (like fine wine) your needs changed. You ended up fulfilling your needs and wants. Its great you share with this article and the ones who are fortunate enough to camp near you and draw on your experience! Hope you and yours make many more great memories!
To me. It’s Living the Good Life!!
We too started small…very small in fact. Tent for 2, in the bush, wildlife scavenging…. We then moved to a basic tent trailer, then up to a 33ft travel trailer. I loved this rig, but hubby decided to big to pull. I NEEDED to travel, so I again scaled back…down to a 17ft and had issues from the get go. So much so, that the dealer had to send a flatbed from Illinois to Quebec Canada! After a year of this, I traded that beast in for a 27ft comfy cosy all bells and whistles Jayco… took delivery in August 2019, and then Covid hit… MANY concerns, (some never resolved), but I love my home away from home. Moral of this story? Listen to your better half, in this case, moi! 😉
Kind regards from snowy Quebec, Canada!
I think with the proliferation of social media, people feel they have to constantly compare themselves to others. Who cares about the size of some random stranger’s rig you might see in a campground? What does it matter to you what they do with their time? Live and let live 😁
Sounds like a natural progression. Adventure when we are young and comfort when we get older. That’s my story anyway. There has also been big improvements in technology. AC introduced in the late 60s. No basements before the 80s, no slide-outs before the 90s. TVs were in a big box. What was unheard of years ago soon became luxuries and are now standard. Makes sense to spend more time in modern RVs. Not too many would opt for that lifestyle doing it in a smaller non-air conditioned box, no slide outs with limited storage.
Sounds great! Enjoy your retirement, Mike!
We have two sets of friends we met through RVing. One pair travels full-time in a 43′ (bath-and-half, etc.,) DP. The other pair full-times in a 36′ DP. We had the same DP as the first couple and found it fit our needs well for 6 years, especially for the 9 months that we, too, full-timed. Last summer (July 2022) we traded for a 36′ DP that matches what the other couple full-times in. We travel about 20-25 percent of the time and find the smaller one works well for that. However, we could never full-time in something with so little room for guests.
I was a day tripper to a “Trailer Trash Run” last October 2022 (Vintage Trailer Show) at a lakeside state park campground with 450 campsites all FULL! After touring the vintage trailers on display I drove around the campground to check it out. What an eye opening experience that was!
BIG CAMPER AFTER BIG CAMPER lined up everywhere with ALL THE CRAP & TOYS one could imagine surrounding each trailer. Jet Ski’s, Boats, Trailers, Side by Sides, 4 Wheelers, Cooking Tents, Big Screen TV’s, Lot’s of Lawn Chairs, Firewood, 2-3 Vehicles for each Campsite, Beer Kegs, Satellite Dish, Awnings and More!
This state campground only allows 7 day continuous rentals for each individual. That means at least once a week you are moving and that means moving that BIG CAMPER including ALL THE CRAP & TOYS these folks brought with them.
ALL I could think about was this must be a FULLTIME JOB moving all this CRAP for a weekend of fun!
Is this what RV park camping has become?
That’s up to them ! We went from a tent straight to a brand new 35′ 5th wheel! All the comforts we need! How one camps, or glamps or RV’s is their choice I guess! Personally I wouldn’t want a class A or C. This is our first and last RV. I will never “upgrade” it or trade it in. Perfect for us!
My wife and I currently have a 20+ year old pop-up camper with one full and one queen bed, no bathroom facilities – at least it has a fridge and a furnace. With me paying child support to my ex for the next 3-1/2 years (until my now 14-1/2 year old daughter graduates from high school), that’s all we can afford. By that time, we’ll both be 55 years old and not wanting to crank the blasted thing up and down, and not wanting to walk to the shower house in the middle of the night to use the can. I also HATE backing trailers. We’re looking at buying a 25 foot or so Class C when the time comes – preferably an older one in good shape, because in our state motor vehicle license plate fees are based on the original, new-off-the-lot cost of the vehicle. I’d rather pay for plates on a motorhome that cost $50k brand-new than one that cost $150k!
I’m with you Mike. I love the auto-level on my 40 ft Bighorn. Not so much that I couldn’t get down to crank the levelling jacks….just couldn’t get back up. And with the power wind on my 50 amp cord, no fighting with that snake anymore. I still love the smell of tent canvas but it’s not been out of the shed in 20 years.
Yep, after decades of tents, pop-ups, hybrids, small bumper pulls, weekly vacation rentals – all for that couple days to week long camping – we up-sized to an auto-leveling 5th wheel and “real” truck to tow it. After my retiring, we downsized the S&B home with an RVport in the country relocating to a tax friendly state. It’s now 4-5 month in FL, 2 months at home, 3 months in the NE or north country or traveling west, 2 months back at home, then repeat. Oh, and there’s the must-have dishwasher and chest freezer along with the mid-bunk box room pantry/storage. So, 8 months living in the 5th wheel and 4 months in the S&B’s. We like our centrally located S&B home and when we are too old & tired to haul the 5th wheel around we’ll downsize to a comfortable B+ or small Class C – with auto-leveling.
And, we still bike, hike, and kayak. We take several (1/4 mile) walks around the RV parks with our two 14 year old rescue dogs.
It sounds like you discovered the best way to RV for you. (My situation is very similar.) I hope others can be respectful and tolerant that not everyone uses RVs or even campsites the same way. Each person has different desires and financial resources – as long as they don’t negatively impact other campers (like loud music heard many campsites away) or animals (like leaving a barking dog for hours), I don’t care how they choose to RV or camp.
We had big, 40’ fifth wheel with dually diesel truck. Lived in it 6 months in Florida during winter and have a small farm in Ohio to come back too. After Covid we sold big rig and truck. Got a small 25’ trailer for camping at state parks when we can get a reservation during summer/fall. We’ve camped & traveled all our lives from in tents to big 5th wheels but it’s getting to be more hassle to fight the crowds, high prices, and rude people to enjoy some quiet time in nature.
We have done the same thing. 34PA Tiffin Open Road..All the luxury of home but goes where we go…We are full timers…Roughing it smoothly.
We often camp with our friends. They have smaller trailers and sometimes boast about how easy their trailers are to set up, tow, less expensive etc.. But let the weather get less than perfect and everyone is in our 35 foot travel trailer. Why? It is more comfortable. Smaller is fine, been there, done that too. A little bigger is good too.
I thought RV meant recreational vehicle, not living vehicle. However, it matters not to me who lives in what or travels in which. No debate needed. I really don’t pay attention to what others are doing. If they want never to come out, I’m glad they are being quiet. But I can stop and shoot the breeze if people are not busy. For myself and dog, I prefer very small for camping trips, not living trips. I have my creature comforts at home with no neighbors for nearly a mile. I go back home to get away from it all. Camping is just to get me and the dog to see different scenery once in a while, keeping it simple, and to photograph and walk trails. Cooking outside is half the fun. My trailer does not cause extra gas usage to pull it, and I rarely use electricity, and I dont hold up traffic. I am set up in three minutes. I am an older person, and keeping it simple is my preference. If you like big, go big.
You madam have a very unusual trailer. Even when I was camping in a 12’ popup it affected my gas mileage, it only weighed 365 lbs. and wasn’t as tall on the road as the trunk lid on the car
It is a teardrop trailer. Not so unusual, but I think it depends quite a bit on what a person is pulling with. I hear others with small cars saying they use gas. Every time I’ve considered a big trailer, I think no, I have a very good combination as is. It may use a little on mountains, but makes up for it going back down.