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Could you ‘full-time’ in a 17-foot travel trailer?

It’s a perennial question: “Would I be better off with a smaller RV?” Like boat people, RVers tend to progress through a somewhat predictable series of ever-larger RVs until they have reached the pinnacle of RV ownership: the coach that’s too big for them. I have done this with boats and RVs and then survived the downsizing experience. You can, too. Should you?

I reached the pinnacle in a 40-foot Foretravel, which suddenly became much too big for me due to life changes. Needing to get it right the first time, I did a prodigious amount of research on downsizing. (Read more about my experience downsizing here.)

At first, the temptation was to downsize a little, not a lot. An epic downsize seemed like perhaps too radical a step. But then logic caught up with the dizzying array of choices in the RV world. I realized that to downsize genuinely, one must fully downsize—create the ideal RV in the smallest form factor possible. In short, I chose a Casita travel trailer. It is 17 feet long. It has about 63 sq. ft. of interior living space. When I brought it home, I immediately realized what a colossal blunder I had made.

Or had I?

Mega land yacht vs. tiny home

The Foretravel was a mega land yacht, with doubtless more storage cabinet space than the Casita has total. Learning to live in a tiny trailer would take some creativity and the commitment to live a simpler without the “stuff” that I carried (and, by the way, mostly didn’t use) in the big coach. Here’s a sample of what I had to learn quickly:

  • If you haven’t used a kitchen appliance or gadget in a month, don’t bring it aboard.
  • You can RV full-time with fewer than 40 bath towels.
  • Trading a 30,000-pound coach for a 3,000-pound travel trailer means just what the math says: Get rid of 90 percent of your stuff.
  • You now have roughly a dozen tiny storage cabinets, where you may have had 20-30 or more large residential-style ones before. So carefully, carefully plan and load each one with things you need and will use.
  • Unlike your land yacht, where you could easily handle things just casually tossed here and there, in your right-sized tiny house there must be a place for everything and everything in its place. Example: In the big coach, if I left a pan on the galley range, there was nothing near it to need access to, so it was no problem. Tiny house—a utensil left on the stovetop or prep table is in the way of accessing a cupboard, the sink, or having a place to set your coffee cup. Example: In a minimal-space living situation, if you do not put the tire pressure gauge, your socks, the Scotch, or your orthodontic bite plate exactly in its designated place where it belongs, you won’t find it for a week—if ever.
  • Clean, do dishes, tidy up, and address maintenance issues immediately. Letting your house get cluttered or broken will frustrate and demoralize you. A clean, well-kept little house is a happy house.


You can’t dance in the shower

  • You cannot dance in the shower of your tiny abode. There’s a reason the shower head is on a flexible hose. And if you’re boondocking on the 30 gallons of fresh water in your mini home tank, showers will be much shorter. And different. You will appreciate the luxury of your bygone 100-gallon water tank and your 100-gallon gray- and black-water holding tanks. But they’re gone now, and you will adapt. You will be fine.
  • You will have no difficulty finding something to do with the thousands and thousands of dollars (“coach bucks”) you used to spend fixing and maintaining the complex systems of a huge motor coach. In a smaller, more straightforward format, the number of mechanical maintenance and repair tasks you can and probably should do yourself will be significantly increased and appreciated.
  • I think it was learning to master the shower without overfilling the holding tank that I began to feel I was making it as a little-house full-timer. Then after about a month, when everything worked, I knew where everything was, and I lacked nothing of necessity, it was time to score downsizing as a success. I can honestly say that I would never return to a life of excess RV.

Pick a small, simple RV with capable systems and enjoy it to the fullest. You will not regret it. You’ve got this.

##FT2.36;##RVT1066

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Suru
1 month ago

We had downsized from a 30 foot 5th wheel that we lived in full-time to a 20 ft travel trailer after we moved into our sticks and bricks house. The 20 ft trailer was fine for 2 people for 5-7 days. On longer trips it became very small. We now have a 24 foot trailer with a separate bedroom and big bathroom that works great for us for weeks at a time. I think a 17 foot trailer would probably be fine for one person, but for two it might be a bit cramped. Props to you for being able to live a small space and make it work.

Admin
RV Staff(@rvstaff)
1 month ago
Reply to  Suru

And with his fairly large and adorable dog, Bebe. (I’ve seen pictures.) Randall says Bebe likes to be close to him. Two happy campers! Have a great day, Suru! 😀 -Diane

Leslie P
1 month ago

We full time in a Truck Camper, without a tow behind, after downsizing from a 40’ fifth wheel. Best thing we ever did. It’s more like we evolved to it. The downsizing was easy. We were ready for it.

captain gort
1 month ago

Our first TT was a 25′ Flagstaff 25KS. Towed it 24000 miles all over the USA, everywhere.
TV was a Toyota Sequoia, Hensley hitch. 18 long trips, one was 5 months. We were comfy in it. Towed well. Sometimes anxiety when we pulled into tight gas stations. And it maxxed the Sequoia’s allowable numbers. Then we bought a sweet little Winnebago 1708 Micro Minnie. 17′ long. Had everything, well made. Towed easily and agile with a Highlander V6 but it strained on long steep grades. The Minnie proved too small for us, So- we traded it in after just 2 trips and 2500 miles of use for a Rockwood MiniLite 2109s. 21′ long, 8′ wide and seems just right. Tows easily with Sequoia and Blue Ox hitch. Easy to maneuver, little anxiety….agile. Full access with slide in. A perfect couples TRAVEL trailer (not residential trailer). Built to MOVE, not sit. 18 trips and 20,000 miles in…and we still love it. Yes, it is tempting to upsize. The marketeers love it. But it often becomes just too much.

Susan Smith
1 month ago

I think that is very commendable y’all can live in a 17’ full time, but my hubby and I wouldn’t be able to do that in something quite that small. We started out with a used 20’ Leisure Travel in 2016, then traded that one in 2017 for a used 30’ Gulfstream Yellowstone Cruiser, and finally traded that one in 2018 for a used 26’ R-Vision Trail Lite. We have lived in the 26’ R-Vision full-time since December 2020 and have made the adjustment. The 20’ was “too small” the 30’ was “too big”, but the 26’ is “just right”, and her name is Goldilocks. 🙂

bull
1 month ago

IF you put your mind to it you can do whatever you want!

Living small is just like any other choice in life. You either make the decision to do it or you don’t.

Most FAT, 50 and Up Americans can’t make that decision to live small much less FIT into a small space.

Just another example of a far to effluent society on the downhill slide!

Last edited 1 month ago by bull
Ron T.
1 month ago
Reply to  bull

Believe you mean “affluent.” “Effluent,” for example, is that stuff that comes out of our tanks giving another meaning to “downhill slide.”

captain gort
1 month ago
Reply to  bull

Ha! “Effluent” is actually a better description than “affluent” for so much of what I see out there

Cheryl V Clark
1 month ago

We don’t full-time in our 17’ Casita but otherwise share your experience and minimalistic approach to travel. We have a 2018 17’ Casita Liberty Deluxe that we love. It’s less stressful traveling now and we’re able to camp where big rigs won’t fit. We’re very impressed with the Casita quality. The shower is challenging, though. I switched out the shower curtain for a regular shower curtain and used Command hooks on the ceiling. While showering, we hook the curtain around to form a better protected barrier. Absolutely no dancing—but it works. Enjoy!

Jerryc
1 month ago

We have a friend that had fulltimed in a Casita since 2003. He’s still going strong in his 19th year.

Kelly Brennan
1 month ago

I have lived in my 16′ Casita for four months now. It has everything I need and it is very comfy. The only upgrade I would want is a 17′ Casita, the extra table weigh would be awesome. There is plenty of space for myself and my Puli!

Ken
1 month ago
Reply to  Randall Brink

Had two trailers with outdoor showers, they both froze and cracked. Make sure you have an interior shutoff and drain for your outdoor shower.

Barbara
1 month ago

We started out with a 23 ft TT for years. Upgraded to a 30 TT for10 years and traveled from Washington state to Alaska to Mazatlan, Mexico and as Far East as Mississippi.. we finally set the 30 ft up under covered parking on property for our get away home. We bought a 19 leprechaun motorhome, we moved nothing from our TT to the motorhome..rule was only 2 of anything, towels, cooking pans, bowls, plates, coffee cups, glasses..etc..a hot pot or crockpot works for meals that can be cooked for a couple of days.Paper plates in case of pot lucks..we have a 26 ft tollycraft boat that taught us we don’t need all the extra “things” so it was easy for us. Remember when your are traveling there always a Walmart in the next town if you need something special..unburdened is a wonderful experience..we are not full timers and do have a small home that we have downsized by giving the kids and grandkids family heirlooms now…embrace the freedom..

Larry Lee
1 month ago

I knew I would never be able to convince my DW that we could live full-time in our 24′ TT soooooo, 40′ Class A with 3 slides. Solar power AND generator, lithium batteries (810 AHr), Jeep Grand Cherokee toad and stacked W/D and off we have gone now for 46,000 miles and enjoying every day together.
Please do enjoy your smaller units. I envy your ability to obtain their advantages. Meanwhile, my advantage is that I get to full-time whereas otherwise I would not.

Michael Galvin
1 month ago
Reply to  Larry Lee

And can’t get to villages, state parks, boondocks, and byways we have gone in our 26-foot Class C.

Duane
1 month ago
Reply to  Michael Galvin

Which he understands. His point was, if he wanted to full-time, he had to get the larger MH, so his wife would go along. He knows he is giving up lots of advantages of their old 24′ TT. No need to rub it in.

Andy Frobig
1 month ago

I guess I’m a minimalist by nature; I wanted a small RV from the start. I got a 19 foot Falcon Class B and it was perfect for me. I’ve never been a neat or organized person, but somehow I adapted to all the things this article very accurately describes. I put a ’72 Yamaha 200cc on a hitch rack out back and zigzagged from NYC to LA, and when I had to come off the road, it nearly broke my heart.

Paul
1 month ago

Wow what a timely article. We just downsized but have not taken possession yet. Spent today going thru our RV packing up what we really don’t need. I read this to my wife and we both smiled and agreed. We got this!
Thanks Randall

Jim
1 month ago

Wow, I thought I was the only person that could do it. Hahaha. I am a solo full-timer in an 18.5 ft nuCamp T@B 400 teardrop. Everything I own fits in a standard size parking spot, and it’s wonderful. RIP my 5th wheel and 21 foot diesel pickup truck.

Cindy
1 month ago

I lived several months solo in my 16 ft Casita and had a wonderful time camping in some pretty remote dispersed areas, National Parks, and older State Parks. In a couple of years, I decided that I wanted “bigger and better”. A 25ft Airstream was the next trailer. After several years I was rethinking that purchase. I had too much stuff, too much room, and was restricted in some of the places that I had loved to camp at due to the size of the Airstream. So I am currently in a Lance 1475 with a slide. It is perfect for me and my dog, a 20lb Cairn Terrier. I love the easy way it pulls, parks, saves fuel, and lets me get back to some of the smaller places that I love.

Admin
RV Staff(@rvstaff)
1 month ago
Reply to  Cindy

Hi, Cindy. I’m chuckling because I really don’t think you intended for your comment to say your dog is a 20 lb. Cairn Terrorist. 😆 Good ol’ autocorrect! Assuming you meant “Terrier,” I’ve corrected it. (If you intended it to be Terrorist, I’ll change it back.) Have a good night. 😀 –Diane

Cindy
1 month ago
Reply to  RV Staff

Yeah, autocorrect won’t help my dog. You have to know the dog… He is a Terrier, but he is a real Terrorist!!! Love the Newsletter! Thanks for having so much info for us.

Admin
RV Staff(@rvstaff)
1 month ago
Reply to  Cindy

So do you want me to change it back to Terrorist, Cindy? Or maybe a Cairn Terrorist/Terrier? 😆 He sounds like a lovable handful. 😀 –Diane

Jeffery H.
1 month ago

We are full-time and could never survive in a 17′, which is why we have a 19′.

Admin
RV Staff(@rvstaff)
1 month ago
Reply to  Jeffery H.

Whew! Thank goodness for those extra two feet, eh, Jeffery? 😆 Have a good night. 😀 –Diane

Oscar Thomson
1 month ago

I lived in a 24ft Fleetwood with 2 Macaws with 2 24x36x40 cages for 8 years. We were happy. It was the hunting trailer before I was divorced

Linda
1 month ago

Our friends had a Casita – we called it the killer RV because my husband would be dead if we had to full time in it😄

Fred
1 month ago

After 12 years (200K miles) of fulltiming, I was getting a little tired of towing the 34 ft 5th wheel around. So, we took a similar, but a little different tack. A year ago, we ordered a triple slide truck camper (Host Yukon) & just took delivery a few weeks ago. We Parked our 5th wheel on the Gulf Coast in Southern Alabama, as a home base. Now we will continue to travel, & maybe make one more trip to Alaska, in a much more compact unit. The triple slides give us much more room than a typical truck camper, with 198 sq ft, opened up. We can boondock extensively with 760 watts of solar & 720 AH of lithium battery, plus huge water & waste tanks. Downsizing our gear was a challenge. With the wet weight maxing out our truck’s gvwr. So, we had to get creative about making many items serve multiple purposes & getting the lightest version possible. But we’re now looking forward to a few years of a whole new adventure.

Last edited 1 month ago by Fred
Linda
1 month ago

After tenting most of my camping life, I started – and have stayed with – my 13′ Scotty. There really isn’t anything I can’t live without. Coming home after my 5-month sojourn it was obvious how much “stuff” I had I really did not need. As the saying goes, “if there is a vacuum of empty space, it will fill up”.

wanderer
1 month ago
Reply to  Linda

So if you are “Coming home after my 5-month sojourn”, you are not full-timing.

Carl
1 month ago

I’ve been full-timing in my 19 ft Escape fiberglass trailer for almost 4 years. Your observations are right on point! I tell folks I have everything I need and nothing I don’t. Small works for me!

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