By Barry Zander
For those of you who have ever tripped coming out of your RV, this story is for you (and a warning for those who haven’t).
Sitting in a booth at some Midwestern Pizza Hut, my wife, Monique, and I were biding our time until our number was called, chatting about what we had seen that morning and what we might see before finding a place to settle for the night. Just idle chatter.
“Whatdaya think that man over there is thinking?” I asked, indicating the senior at the table across the room. He was by himself, seeming to stare at his plate without eating. Minutes went by without us noticing any change in expression and little movement. He just stared down at his pizza.
Knowing my penchant for striking up conversations with strangers, Monique suggested that I walk over to see what was on his mind. If he told me to get lost, I would. I slid into the bench seat across from him. He looked up, and I said something like, “How’s it going?” He began to cry…
I looked over at Monique, who got the message that she should walk over. She asked if there was something we could do. His reason for lament poured out of him.
“My wife tripped on the plastic step stool climbing out of the motorhome this morning. She fell hard, so I rushed her to the hospital. She broke her leg in two places, so now I’m waiting to hear from the doctors.”
What could we say? Nothing very helpful. We just sat with him until he recomposed himself. He said thanks.
I suggested then … and numerous times since … that using a snap-together plastic step stool is dangerous. It’s much safer to use a sturdy solid metal one as a secure step. A metal step stool can still be tripped over, of course, but with a slight nudge isn’t going to go flying like a plastic one might. If you only have a plastic one, I say donate it and invest in a heavier, sturdier one (like this one). You don’t want to end up like this man or his wife.
That’s the story. A few intense minutes from our journey, yet, one of the most profound memories from our days on the road. RV life is so precious!
We have a couple of the plastic folding steps, for use ONLY in the coach and only stepping up on to. My wife is very light (under 80 lbs) so I don’t worry too much about the step collapsing under her. I did use one out side the coach to make up for a long step down from the bottom step when we were on a slope. I stepped down on to it exiting the coach and continued on down to ground level as the plastic gave way under me. Fortunately I arrived still standing and suffered only the indignity of the collapse. I now have the pictured metal step for additional height when needed.
We have used the Folding Step Stool like the one in the photo inside and outside for 6 years with no problems. Feels sturdy. Never collapses.
You can trip on any stool.
I use a hard plastic soda crate to step down on. NOT wood but with egg crate plastic. Light, easy to clean.
CAUTION, as the plastic ages, your foot will go through it.
We have used an adjustable height aerobic step exercisor for years. It has a wide stable base, a 20 “wide & 12″ deep, non-skid surface. It adjusts from 6″ to about 11” @ full height.
Ours is about 25 years. It is a “Weider Ultimate Aerobic 5 Step”. I searched for that model on Amazon & google, & found very few of that model. However, there are others available that would work, usually cheaper than the steps at the rv outlets.
Wouldn’t use anything else.
We had the metal stool, and even that was sometimes unsteady when the RV had to be raised for leveling or the terrain unstable. We finally got another set of steps installed to provide an additional step. It will only go down as far as the ground anyway, so sometimes the bottom steps is sitting on the ground, but it is far sturdier than those stools. We also have seen the “add on” folding steps with the wide platform at the top and handrails. Would love to get those but they are a little pricier.
I use a step stool to get on to the next step because it is so high up for me. Found our trailer is too narrow to add a third step system. So we just use a step stool. Mine is plastic. I guess this is something to be aware of. Be careful of where you step.
I’ve run into lots of folks who have been injured in falls while exiting their RV. My practice to prevent this is to come to the door, then while holding on to grab handles or rails turn around backwards. Then descend out of the RV backwards while holding on, preferably with two hands. Anything that you would be carrying can be set on the floor before exiting then retrieved once on solid ground.
I do the same, having heard enough stories of broken wrists, arms, and ankles of people exiting the RV facing out. As far as I’m concerned, the RV steps are more like a folding ladder and I would not come down a ladder facing forward (especially with a hyper dog on a leash).
Train your dogs to always >follow< you out of the RV. They won't be charging the door to exit, nor yank you down the steps. You will see any uncontrolled neighbors dog before yours are already outside to be attacked. People are amazed my dogs don't try to escape when I'm entering either – because they know they aren't wearing leashes and i'm not "leading" them outside.
I use a step designed for step aerobics. It is wider than the coach step and even has some 3-inch square feet to raise it up a little if needed. It is 28 by 14. The metal step you show is not much better than the suicide step stool.
I tripped getting out of our Class C a few years ago — no extra stool needed, just the usual automatic steps on the rig were enough to send me tumbling. I’m still not sure what I did, but the steps are a bit narrow (and my feet aren’t THAT big!) and somehow I missed my footing. A terrible sprain kept me on ice for weeks and I wasn’t fully able to hike for nearly a year. Now I clutch the handhold as if I were 100 years old to ease myself up and down the three critical steps. It seemed so simple and stupid, with such a long recovery!
Good for you for sensing the gentleman at the other table needed some companionship. You helped him in a difficult moment by being there, and have helped so many more by sharing his story!
I have one of each. The plastic folding one I use strictly in my shower stall to sit on while shaving legs. The metal folding one is about the same height and used for reaching into the far side of upper cabinets.
Good for you guys to take the time to talk to that gentleman. The “senior fall” – what no one wants to see/have happen. Great advice on the step.
Fortunately, we have automatic retracting steps, so no step stool at the door. But we do have the “turtle” step (folding plastic step) inside for reaching things on the shelves, and sometimes to sit (like to light the oven pilot). I’m always careful to see that it’s locked in place. As a shorty, I need it to be able to get stuff that is not on the very front edge of the upper shelves, or the cupboard over & behind the kitchen sink. It folds very flat & out of the way.
I do the very same thing with mine!
We bought an aerobic step from Walmart, $40 good size very sturdy has 2 height adjustments. Works great.
Our Gulfstream Conquest has the steps built into the floor inside the MH so there’s nothing that moves and the last step outside is just normal height. Still, there’s a grab handle outside but I can’t forget to pull in the step as I sometimes did on our previous MH. Kindness to strangers, as always, is a good thing. We’ve been on the receiving end several times and greatly appreciated it.
We purchased the Haul-Master 18″ step stool from Harbor Freight. It has locking legs and sells for $30, unless you wait for the sale price of $20. Be careful and don’t pinch your fingers opening and closing – how do I know that? Stay safe.
I have one of the sturdy metal ones but also be careful in the mornings in cold weather. Ice forms on the surface and I’ve almost gone down a couple of times, slipping on the icy step.
We have four of the plastic step stools and NEVER use them to step on, only for seating when working on the coach or other projects around home or the camp sites. Two are the tall ones and two are the short ones. Love them as a temporary seat, not a step.
My husband made a step out of 2×4’s which has works well.Use mostly when we spend the winters in Florida.
I would suggest the step, (similar to the one you reference), that has adjustable height legs. Mine has this and works out great when there is uneven ground to land on. Also available at Amazon.
Sadly, an accident like is in the story is the start of the end of life for a senior.
We have that metal step stool at our entry steps. And yes, have tripped over it! But it doesn’t move easily and doesn’t tip over if we plant our feet in the middle. Good safety tip to change up if one is using a smaller, plastic step. And kudos to you for being in the right place at the right time and lending an ear to a stranger in need. Most would not take the time. Many would not see the need to take that first step. We all need someone to tell our story to, someone to listen without inserting their own agenda. Thank you for being such a caring person.