Let’s talk about RV’s and Wildlife Photography

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DavidT

Well-known member
Supporting Member
Im headed to Florida Friday to shoot for 7 days and in the middle of the week we are going to stop by for a day or two at the Tampa RV show.

I’ve been doing more and more photography over the years but traveling and doing photography has been difficult. Having two dogs one of which who is 95% blind and requires medicine 4 times a day makes life a little more challenging.

I’m fortunate to have had a work from home job for the last 20 years and continue to have this luxury. My spouse is a homemaker and we have no kids.

This gives us flexibility to be more mobile than most with the exception of our dogs. We have even talked about selling our home and going full time RV life but I’m a long ways from willing to make that commitment. What I do find appealing is being able to take week long trips to say the coast of TX in the winter, few weeks in Yellowstone, maybe a month or so in FL during the winter and the ultimate dream would be spend most of a year slowly working our way from TX to Alaska doing photography along the way.

In todays world if I can have cell service and internet most of the time I can have a pretty cool work life balance. Add with unlimited vacation time I’ve got some flexibility to travel with my spouse and dogs and see and do some cool things while still earning a living.

I don’t know if we want small that can be towed by most large SUV or something larger needing an HD truck. Also considering a class A and tow a car.

One hiccup is longer trips I could see wanting more space but that comes with the inability to park inside Yellowstone for example and just a little more difficult to travel when compared to smaller more nimble rigs. A side note I know dogs can’t go inside Yellowstone and I’m guessing that might be the case for some national parks so that does change things a bit.

So with all that being said do any of you use RV’s? If so do you use it as an ability to do more photography? Do you use it just for vacation or are you working from it as well?

I look forward to any guidance you can provide.
 

Abinoone

Well-known member
Supporting Member
No, I don't have an RV but it's something I've been considering for years. The appeal of being able to travel safely, and to go anywhere, is strong. I'm in a somewhat different situation than you - single and retired, without any strong ties to my current location. The only thing holding me back is inertia. I've talked with many friends about it, and to a person they advise trying it before making a commitment. There are rentals out there and, although they can be expensive, are less so than plunking down serious money, only to find that it isn't for you. This is the route than I plan to take - rent an RV (actually a small tow trailer) for a few weeks, and travel to Yellowstone this summer. I suspect that I'm going to love it, but who knows?

Best of luck in your deliberations! I'll be very interested in following this thread.
 

lablover27

Well-known member
Supporting Member
I’ll be watching this as well. The wife wnd I have been having the same conversations! My kids are all grown up and married. We have 2 dogs. The only fly in the ointment is my wife has advanced MS. So, medical care close by would be a plus.
 

DavidT

Well-known member
Supporting Member
Thread starter
No, I don't have an RV but it's something I've been considering for years. The appeal of being able to travel safely, and to go anywhere, is strong. I'm in a somewhat different situation than you - single and retired, without any strong ties to my current location. The only thing holding me back is inertia. I've talked with many friends about it, and to a person they advise trying it before making a commitment. There are rentals out there and, although they can be expensive, are less so than plunking down serious money, only to find that it isn't for you. This is the route than I plan to take - rent an RV (actually a small tow trailer) for a few weeks, and travel to Yellowstone this summer. I suspect that I'm going to love it, but who knows?

Best of luck in your deliberations! I'll be very interested in following this thread.
Good advice. I have rented a 32’ travel trailer a few years for 2 weeks each year when I was participating in competitive trap shooting. I had a couple years I towed one the 6 hours to the world championships and a couple years I rented one but had it set up for me. The luxury of having a place to stay where you want to be and not traveling to a hotel was pretty amazing. We might do something like what you are talking about this year when visiting Yellowstone. I’ve considered flying and renting an RV class B closer to the park.
I look forward to more comments!
 

Steve

Admin
Staff member
Supporting Member
We use our RV (travel trailer) in the warmer months (I live in OH so it's tough in the winter). I've been camping / RV'ing for most of my life.

I would tend to agree that you probably shouldn't just dive in full time. It pays to spend time learning what you need. I'd also avoid the temptation of getting an enormous rig. They look great at the shows, but are a often difficult to get into state and national parks. The campgrounds in those were designed back one 25 foot was a huge RV. Also, big rigs are no fun in gas stations if you run on unleaded - and not much fun if you want to stop at a restaurant, although that's usually easier.

I'd also recommend going as light as possible. Too many people think they have to take everything along. Anymore, Rose and I get by one just a small amount of clothing and equipment. We have a 24 foot travel trailer that actually has quite a few closets empty and lots of left over storage underneath. You don't need as much as you think you do and the more stuff you take, the more stuff you have to mess with :) (In fact, we might go smaller in the next couple years - small campers are more fun to manage IMO). FWIW, we can stay out indefinably with this size - I think our record was 7 weeks, but we came home because we needed to get other things done, not because of the size. I'm pretty sure we could live in the thing full time if we really wanted to.

Staying light and as minimalist as possible also allows you to purchase a smaller, lighter RV that can be towed behind a SUV. We tow our 24 footer with a LandCruiser (V8, 8200 lb towing capacity - you want to keep the trailer, ideally, at less than 75% of the tow capacity when fully loaded). The advantage with the smaller SUV is that while it's not quite as nice on the highway as our pickup, it's WAY nicer once we get to wherever we're going. It's slightly smaller than a Tahoe / Yukon and allows us to squeeze into tight places when needed. Pickups are awesome for towing, but not so much for squeezing into tight spots :) BTW - we also use a Hensely Hitch system that eliminates any sway problems - good for shorter wheelbase vehicles.

As for the experience, it's great. No worrying about when housekeeping is going to come knocking, if you have enough towels, no dragging in luggage every time you stop, no worrying about if the room is clean, secure, etc etc. Plus, there's no "learning curve" for the bed. With hotels, every stop requires your body to adjust to the new bed and living space, with our camper, it's the same experience all the time - we sleep so much better. It's BY FAR my preferred way to travel.

Sorry for the long ramble, I could go on for hours LOL!
 

BirdDogDad

Well-known member
Supporting Member
This is a topic that could warrant thousands of words, but as an RV owner, dog owner (two Labs), and photographer, I'll pass on a few simple things I've learned.

1) Definitely rent before you buy.

2) Do not buy a new RV unless money is no object. If you think new cars depreciate rapidly, automobiles are gold mines compared the the rapid depreciation of a new trailer or motor home. RV sales have been at all-time highs the last couple of years, as Covid has caused people to take road trips instead of overseas vacations. There will soon be--if there is not already--a whole lot of barely-used RVs on the market, from buyers who could not afford to keep them or realized they were not using them.

3) We have owned a motor home and now own a travel trailer. A motor home can be really plush and comfortable. But towing a car to have more nimble transportation at your destination is a chore, (that is what we did when we had the motor home). It is also another expense. Not all cars can be safely towed, either. Our "RV" is now a 25-year-old 19-foot travel trailer. I tow it easily with a 4wd F150 pickup. This eliminates the need for another vehicle, especially since I use the pickup as regular transportation. If the old trailer gets a dent or a ding, I don't care.

4) Size matters. If we were going to work or live in our little 19-foot trailer for more than a few days, it would lead to divorce. Especially with two Labradors occupying the floor. You will regret buying an RV that is too small for your purposes and too small to be comfortable for extended trips. Very small RVs also have correspondingly smaller fresh water and waste tanks, which means constant filling and dumping.

5) Conversely, an RV that is too large comes with other issues. Most forest service campgrounds (where we live in the Rockies, anyway) have size limitations--some quite restrictive. If you intend to spend every night in a proper RV park, the size of your rig does not matter. If, however, you like to get off-road a bit to more secluded areas, which is our preference, anything much over 30 feet in length is going to be quite limiting. Our little trailer will fit anywhere. And I can unhook the 4wd pickup and go places that an ordinary car cannot.

6) National parks, Yellowstone included, do in fact allow dogs. But, the restrictions are many. Strictly on leash, and often not allowed on trails. We like to camp somewhere nearby but not necessarily within such parks, so we can at least find a spot for the dogs to run occasionally. We visit the park during the day, go "home" to a less restrictive environment at night.

7) To me, the ideal setup is a towed travel trailer in the 25 to 30 foot size range. This is large enough to provide some creature comforts, yet small enough to get into tight spots and most any campground. Travel trailers in this size range can generally be towed easily by a standard pickup or full-size SUV that can serve a number of other purposes. Anything much larger, you'll be struggling with a gasoline engine (especially at higher elevations) and be wishing you had a diesel, which will set you back another $60k or so.

8) Don't believe that there is a huge difference in quality between RV brands (unless, perhaps, you opt for an Airstream). A very good friend of mine sold RVs for a few years, and he told me that the appliances and materials used and basic construction are essentially the same for all manufacturers. He also said to be very careful of "lightweight" claims, as cutting weight sometimes means cutting corners.

9) Don't leave your photo equipment or any valuables in an RV. We used to rent space at a "secure" RV storage lot for our motorhome. It was broken into three times. A thief can pop open most RV doors in a few seconds.

10) Whatever you end up with, invest in a high-quality tarp to cover the roof when not in use (unless you have inside storage). The roof is the first thing to deteriorate in an RV (thus deserving careful inspection if you buy a used unit). I spent a large chunk of change learning this lesson, having a roof completely replaced. It is especially critical in sunny and high altitude areas (UV is really hard on the roof).

You will no doubt receive many other opinions and recommendations. The above is what I've learned, often the hard way. If the day comes when my wife and I spend extended time RVing, we would no doubt consider a larger unit. Some folks insist upon a 40+ foot condo on wheels, which is really comfortable, but too restrictive for us. And with gas approaching $5 a gallon, way too thirsty!

Good luck!
 

Nimi

Well-known member
Supporting Member
Im headed to Florida Friday to shoot for 7 days and in the middle of the week we are going to stop by for a day or two at the Tampa RV show.

I’ve been doing more and more photography over the years but traveling and doing photography has been difficult. Having two dogs one of which who is 95% blind and requires medicine 4 times a day makes life a little more challenging.

I’m fortunate to have had a work from home job for the last 20 years and continue to have this luxury. My spouse is a homemaker and we have no kids.

This gives us flexibility to be more mobile than most with the exception of our dogs. We have even talked about selling our home and going full time RV life but I’m a long ways from willing to make that commitment. What I do find appealing is being able to take week long trips to say the coast of TX in the winter, few weeks in Yellowstone, maybe a month or so in FL during the winter and the ultimate dream would be spend most of a year slowly working our way from TX to Alaska doing photography along the way.

In todays world if I can have cell service and internet most of the time I can have a pretty cool work life balance. Add with unlimited vacation time I’ve got some flexibility to travel with my spouse and dogs and see and do some cool things while still earning a living.

I don’t know if we want small that can be towed by most large SUV or something larger needing an HD truck. Also considering a class A and tow a car.

One hiccup is longer trips I could see wanting more space but that comes with the inability to park inside Yellowstone for example and just a little more difficult to travel when compared to smaller more nimble rigs. A side note I know dogs can’t go inside Yellowstone and I’m guessing that might be the case for some national parks so that does change things a bit.

So with all that being said do any of you use RV’s? If so do you use it as an ability to do more photography? Do you use it just for vacation or are you working from it as well?

I look forward to any guidance you can provide.

As you'll find out quickly, there is no inventory. So prepare to order and wait and pay list or premium over it. Demand has sky-rocketed due to air-travel restrictions, people are flush with disposable income, and supply-chains have been unkind.
 

jeffnles1

Well-known member
Supporting Member
This may go against the grain but my wife and I have considered this for some time. Here is where we netted out. A travel trailer and truck to haul it would end up being north of 100,000 USD by the time all was said and done. A Motorhome would be that much or more and we would need to haul an automobile to drive around in once we reached the destination. Saying an average night in a motel is $150, that would be over 650 hotel nights before we broke even without even considering the cost for campgrounds, hookups, maintenance on the trailer or motorhome etc.

We could spend a whole lot of time in motels before ever breaking even. Yes, with motorhomes we may be able to get closer to where we wanted to photograph but in reality, one still has to drive to a trail head and then hike.

Another drawback to the "van life" or "camper life" is how much togetherness can a happily married couple endure and remain happily married?

Leslie and I have been married for 40 years this year. She has her things to do, I have my things to do, and we have our things to do. One of the "our" things is nature and wildlife photography. She is my partner and I cherish every minute on the trail with her. As much as I love her (and I do with all my heart and mind) I'm not sure I would want to spend every waking and sleeping minute with her in a camper or motorhome. I would be afraid she would strangle me in my sleep after a couple months. At the risk of being overly crude, between flatus attacks, bowel movements, snoring (even with CPAP) and various other bodily sounds, I am not the most easy person to live with. I won't talk about her various sounds and smells because we all know wives have none of those issues (or so the ladies will try to convince us).

For these reasons we've decided to drive to our photo destinations, sleep on soft beds, eat in restaurants, and pack picnic lunches and breakfasts for the days afield. We spend 3-5 days per week year around in the field with our cameras. Many of those are within an hour drive from home but several times a year we go on a trip to photograph wildlife and nature. Nature photography is our passion and I'm a fortunate man to have a life partner who shares the same passion as I do.

Hope this helps. I don't want to be "Debbie downer" on this and if it's something you want to do, great, go for it and don't look back. I'm just trying to add a little different perspective.

Jeff (and Leslie).
 
Last edited:

DRwyoming

Moderator
Supporting Member
FWIW, I split the difference and run a Ford Transit van converted for camping use with a bed and kitchen and a Goal Zero solar power station. Have done many photo trips in this van and it's good in all kinds of situations including primitive camping along back roads and in places it would be hard to take a full sized RV. Did a six week trip up to Alaska in it a few summers ago and it's very comfortable, drives well and gets good mileage.
 

pnbarne

Active member
Supporting Member
Steve and BirdDogDad are spot on if you want flexibility and access to more campgrounds. Smaller is better. Many Federal campgrounds have not been updated since the fifties when most people tent camped. We have a Fox Mountain fifth wheel that is just short of 28’. It can go anywhere. It has enough tank capacity for us to boondock for a week. Usually, we plan on boondocking for several days, stay overnight at an RV park to drain/fill tanks, do laundry, etc. and then back to the free camping on public lands. Forgot to mention our two labradors. They fit just fine but it is pretty tight quarters.

We pull the trailer with a Ram, 3500 diesel. Overkill but we got a really, really good deal. Downside to diesel is more, and more expensive, maintenance. The truck is a joy to drive which overwhelms the rational part of me that says it not really necessary to tow the trailer.
 

Steve

Admin
Staff member
Supporting Member
Steve and BirdDogDad are spot on if you want flexibility and access to more campgrounds. Smaller is better. Many Federal campgrounds have not been updated since the fifties when most people tent camped. We have a Fox Mountain fifth wheel that is just short of 28’. It can go anywhere. It has enough tank capacity for us to boondock for a week. Usually, we plan on boondocking for several days, stay overnight at an RV park to drain/fill tanks, do laundry, etc. and then back to the free camping on public lands. Forgot to mention our two labradors. They fit just fine but it is pretty tight quarters.

We pull the trailer with a Ram, 3500 diesel. Overkill but we got a really, really good deal. Downside to diesel is more, and more expensive, maintenance. The truck is a joy to drive which overwhelms the rational part of me that says it not really necessary to tow the trailer.
We had a diesel we used for another purpose but I also used it to two our old 18 foot camper. It was a hoot! We passed passenger cars that were struggling to get up some of the steeper highways!
 

DavidT

Well-known member
Supporting Member
Thread starter
We use our RV (travel trailer) in the warmer months (I live in OH so it's tough in the winter). I've been camping / RV'ing for most of my life.

I would tend to agree that you probably shouldn't just dive in full time. It pays to spend time learning what you need. I'd also avoid the temptation of getting an enormous rig. They look great at the shows, but are a often difficult to get into state and national parks. The campgrounds in those were designed back one 25 foot was a huge RV. Also, big rigs are no fun in gas stations if you run on unleaded - and not much fun if you want to stop at a restaurant, although that's usually easier.

I'd also recommend going as light as possible. Too many people think they have to take everything along. Anymore, Rose and I get by one just a small amount of clothing and equipment. We have a 24 foot travel trailer that actually has quite a few closets empty and lots of left over storage underneath. You don't need as much as you think you do and the more stuff you take, the more stuff you have to mess with :) (In fact, we might go smaller in the next couple years - small campers are more fun to manage IMO). FWIW, we can stay out indefinably with this size - I think our record was 7 weeks, but we came home because we needed to get other things done, not because of the size. I'm pretty sure we could live in the thing full time if we really wanted to.

Staying light and as minimalist as possible also allows you to purchase a smaller, lighter RV that can be towed behind a SUV. We tow our 24 footer with a LandCruiser (V8, 8200 lb towing capacity - you want to keep the trailer, ideally, at less than 75% of the tow capacity when fully loaded). The advantage with the smaller SUV is that while it's not quite as nice on the highway as our pickup, it's WAY nicer once we get to wherever we're going. It's slightly smaller than a Tahoe / Yukon and allows us to squeeze into tight places when needed. Pickups are awesome for towing, but not so much for squeezing into tight spots :) BTW - we also use a Hensely Hitch system that eliminates any sway problems - good for shorter wheelbase vehicles.

As for the experience, it's great. No worrying about when housekeeping is going to come knocking, if you have enough towels, no dragging in luggage every time you stop, no worrying about if the room is clean, secure, etc etc. Plus, there's no "learning curve" for the bed. With hotels, every stop requires your body to adjust to the new bed and living space, with our camper, it's the same experience all the time - we sleep so much better. It's BY FAR my preferred way to travel.

Sorry for the long ramble, I could go on for hours LOL!
Thank you for the response! It’s one reason we are going to FL next weekend is to do a lot of looking. I’m leaning towards smaller. I’d love to buy a land cruiser but they are $100k plus now. I wouldn’t do anything RV wise till 2023 and Toyota is supposed to launch an all new Sequioa and Ford has for 2022 a new expedition Timberland that looks pretty cool.
I’ve owned HD Diesel trucks in the past and while they are great parking does suck. Do you happen to travel with pets?
Thank you for all the feedback!
 

Maljo

Well-known member
Interesting conversation. I was thinking of a small camper van. Camp most nights, hotel some nights. Wife is way on board with this idea.
 

DavidT

Well-known member
Supporting Member
Thread starter
This is a topic that could warrant thousands of words, but as an RV owner, dog owner (two Labs), and photographer, I'll pass on a few simple things I've learned.

1) Definitely rent before you buy.

2) Do not buy a new RV unless money is no object. If you think new cars depreciate rapidly, automobiles are gold mines compared the the rapid depreciation of a new trailer or motor home. RV sales have been at all-time highs the last couple of years, as Covid has caused people to take road trips instead of overseas vacations. There will soon be--if there is not already--a whole lot of barely-used RVs on the market, from buyers who could not afford to keep them or realized they were not using them.

3) We have owned a motor home and now own a travel trailer. A motor home can be really plush and comfortable. But towing a car to have more nimble transportation at your destination is a chore, (that is what we did when we had the motor home). It is also another expense. Not all cars can be safely towed, either. Our "RV" is now a 25-year-old 19-foot travel trailer. I tow it easily with a 4wd F150 pickup. This eliminates the need for another vehicle, especially since I use the pickup as regular transportation. If the old trailer gets a dent or a ding, I don't care.

4) Size matters. If we were going to work or live in our little 19-foot trailer for more than a few days, it would lead to divorce. Especially with two Labradors occupying the floor. You will regret buying an RV that is too small for your purposes and too small to be comfortable for extended trips. Very small RVs also have correspondingly smaller fresh water and waste tanks, which means constant filling and dumping.

5) Conversely, an RV that is too large comes with other issues. Most forest service campgrounds (where we live in the Rockies, anyway) have size limitations--some quite restrictive. If you intend to spend every night in a proper RV park, the size of your rig does not matter. If, however, you like to get off-road a bit to more secluded areas, which is our preference, anything much over 30 feet in length is going to be quite limiting. Our little trailer will fit anywhere. And I can unhook the 4wd pickup and go places that an ordinary car cannot.

6) National parks, Yellowstone included, do in fact allow dogs. But, the restrictions are many. Strictly on leash, and often not allowed on trails. We like to camp somewhere nearby but not necessarily within such parks, so we can at least find a spot for the dogs to run occasionally. We visit the park during the day, go "home" to a less restrictive environment at night.

7) To me, the ideal setup is a towed travel trailer in the 25 to 30 foot size range. This is large enough to provide some creature comforts, yet small enough to get into tight spots and most any campground. Travel trailers in this size range can generally be towed easily by a standard pickup or full-size SUV that can serve a number of other purposes. Anything much larger, you'll be struggling with a gasoline engine (especially at higher elevations) and be wishing you had a diesel, which will set you back another $60k or so.

8) Don't believe that there is a huge difference in quality between RV brands (unless, perhaps, you opt for an Airstream). A very good friend of mine sold RVs for a few years, and he told me that the appliances and materials used and basic construction are essentially the same for all manufacturers. He also said to be very careful of "lightweight" claims, as cutting weight sometimes means cutting corners.

9) Don't leave your photo equipment or any valuables in an RV. We used to rent space at a "secure" RV storage lot for our motorhome. It was broken into three times. A thief can pop open most RV doors in a few seconds.

10) Whatever you end up with, invest in a high-quality tarp to cover the roof when not in use (unless you have inside storage). The roof is the first thing to deteriorate in an RV (thus deserving careful inspection if you buy a used unit). I spent a large chunk of change learning this lesson, having a roof completely replaced. It is especially critical in sunny and high altitude areas (UV is really hard on the roof).

You will no doubt receive many other opinions and recommendations. The above is what I've learned, often the hard way. If the day comes when my wife and I spend extended time RVing, we would no doubt consider a larger unit. Some folks insist upon a 40+ foot condo on wheels, which is really comfortable, but too restrictive for us. And with gas approaching $5 a gallon, way too thirsty!

Good luck!
Very good points! My biggest concern with smaller is two dogs in the mix. One lab and one Boston. They take up extra space and like to sleep with us so a king bed is very desirable which limits choices.
 

DavidT

Well-known member
Supporting Member
Thread starter
This is a topic that could warrant thousands of words, but as an RV owner, dog owner (two Labs), and photographer, I'll pass on a few simple things I've learned.

1) Definitely rent before you buy.

2) Do not buy a new RV unless money is no object. If you think new cars depreciate rapidly, automobiles are gold mines compared the the rapid depreciation of a new trailer or motor home. RV sales have been at all-time highs the last couple of years, as Covid has caused people to take road trips instead of overseas vacations. There will soon be--if there is not already--a whole lot of barely-used RVs on the market, from buyers who could not afford to keep them or realized they were not using them.

3) We have owned a motor home and now own a travel trailer. A motor home can be really plush and comfortable. But towing a car to have more nimble transportation at your destination is a chore, (that is what we did when we had the motor home). It is also another expense. Not all cars can be safely towed, either. Our "RV" is now a 25-year-old 19-foot travel trailer. I tow it easily with a 4wd F150 pickup. This eliminates the need for another vehicle, especially since I use the pickup as regular transportation. If the old trailer gets a dent or a ding, I don't care.

4) Size matters. If we were going to work or live in our little 19-foot trailer for more than a few days, it would lead to divorce. Especially with two Labradors occupying the floor. You will regret buying an RV that is too small for your purposes and too small to be comfortable for extended trips. Very small RVs also have correspondingly smaller fresh water and waste tanks, which means constant filling and dumping.

5) Conversely, an RV that is too large comes with other issues. Most forest service campgrounds (where we live in the Rockies, anyway) have size limitations--some quite restrictive. If you intend to spend every night in a proper RV park, the size of your rig does not matter. If, however, you like to get off-road a bit to more secluded areas, which is our preference, anything much over 30 feet in length is going to be quite limiting. Our little trailer will fit anywhere. And I can unhook the 4wd pickup and go places that an ordinary car cannot.

6) National parks, Yellowstone included, do in fact allow dogs. But, the restrictions are many. Strictly on leash, and often not allowed on trails. We like to camp somewhere nearby but not necessarily within such parks, so we can at least find a spot for the dogs to run occasionally. We visit the park during the day, go "home" to a less restrictive environment at night.

7) To me, the ideal setup is a towed travel trailer in the 25 to 30 foot size range. This is large enough to provide some creature comforts, yet small enough to get into tight spots and most any campground. Travel trailers in this size range can generally be towed easily by a standard pickup or full-size SUV that can serve a number of other purposes. Anything much larger, you'll be struggling with a gasoline engine (especially at higher elevations) and be wishing you had a diesel, which will set you back another $60k or so.

8) Don't believe that there is a huge difference in quality between RV brands (unless, perhaps, you opt for an Airstream). A very good friend of mine sold RVs for a few years, and he told me that the appliances and materials used and basic construction are essentially the same for all manufacturers. He also said to be very careful of "lightweight" claims, as cutting weight sometimes means cutting corners.

9) Don't leave your photo equipment or any valuables in an RV. We used to rent space at a "secure" RV storage lot for our motorhome. It was broken into three times. A thief can pop open most RV doors in a few seconds.

10) Whatever you end up with, invest in a high-quality tarp to cover the roof when not in use (unless you have inside storage). The roof is the first thing to deteriorate in an RV (thus deserving careful inspection if you buy a used unit). I spent a large chunk of change learning this lesson, having a roof completely replaced. It is especially critical in sunny and high altitude areas (UV is really hard on the roof).

You will no doubt receive many other opinions and recommendations. The above is what I've learned, often the hard way. If the day comes when my wife and I spend extended time RVing, we would no doubt consider a larger unit. Some folks insist upon a 40+ foot condo on wheels, which is really comfortable, but too restrictive for us. And with gas approaching $5 a gallon, way too thirsty!

Good luck!
Good to know about dogs in Yellowstone. I would have swore I read they couldn’t but that’s a huge deal!!
 

DavidT

Well-known member
Supporting Member
Thread starter
This may go against the grain but my wife and I have considered this for some time. Here is where we netted out. A travel trailer and truck to haul it would end up being north of 100,000 USD by the time all was said and done. A Motorhome would be that much or more and we would need to haul an automobile to drive around in once we reached the destination. Saying an average night in a motel is $150, that would be over 650 hotel nights before we broke even without even considering the cost for campgrounds, hookups, maintenance on the trailer or motorhome etc.

We could spend a whole lot of time in motels before ever breaking even. Yes, with motorhomes we may be able to get closer to where we wanted to photograph but in reality, one still has to drive to a trail head and then hike.

Another drawback to the "van life" or "camper life" is how much togetherness can a happily married couple endure and remain happily married?

Leslie and I have been married for 40 years this year. She has her things to do, I have my things to do, and we have our things to do. One of the "our" things is nature and wildlife photography. She is my partner and I cherish every minute on the trail with her. As much as I love her (and I do with all my heart and mind) I'm not sure I would want to spend every waking and sleeping minute with her in a camper or motorhome. I would be afraid she would strangle me in my sleep after a couple months. At the risk of being overly crude, between flatus attacks, bowel movements, snoring (even with CPAP) and various other bodily sounds, I am not the most easy person to live with. I won't talk about her various sounds and smells because we all know wives have none of those issues (or so the ladies will try to convince us).

For these reasons we've decided to drive to our photo destinations, sleep on soft beds, eat in restaurants, and pack picnic lunches and breakfasts for the days afield. We spend 3-5 days per week year around in the field with our cameras. Many of those are within an hour drive from home but several times a year we go on a trip to photograph wildlife and nature. Nature photography is our passion and I'm a fortunate man to have a life partner who shares the same passion as I do.

Hope this helps. I don't want to be "Debbie downer" on this and if it's something you want to do, great, go for it and don't look back. I'm just trying to add a little different perspective.

Jeff (and Leslie).
Believe me I have thought about that and been pretty much doing that already but we haven’t been taking the dogs. With the dogs hotels are out, Airbnb I’ve looked at and very few choices that allow you to have dogs. Plus one of the dogs is almost blind just 5% vision in one eye only and needs glaucoma meds 4 times a day so being closer to them is important and once she knows her space it makes not running into things or being scared so much easier. So for her a known space is big and to me money no longer plays into my decision.
 

DavidT

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Steve and BirdDogDad are spot on if you want flexibility and access to more campgrounds. Smaller is better. Many Federal campgrounds have not been updated since the fifties when most people tent camped. We have a Fox Mountain fifth wheel that is just short of 28’. It can go anywhere. It has enough tank capacity for us to boondock for a week. Usually, we plan on boondocking for several days, stay overnight at an RV park to drain/fill tanks, do laundry, etc. and then back to the free camping on public lands. Forgot to mention our two labradors. They fit just fine but it is pretty tight quarters.

We pull the trailer with a Ram, 3500 diesel. Overkill but we got a really, really good deal. Downside to diesel is more, and more expensive, maintenance. The truck is a joy to drive which overwhelms the rational part of me that says it not really necessary to tow the trailer.
I’ve had HD Diesels and if I did go pickup I would bite the bullet and go diesel. Trucks are easily high 70’s now ugh
 

DavidT

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FWIW, I split the difference and run a Ford Transit van converted for camping use with a bed and kitchen and a Goal Zero solar power station. Have done many photo trips in this van and it's good in all kinds of situations including primitive camping along back roads and in places it would be hard to take a full sized RV. Did a six week trip up to Alaska in it a few summers ago and it's very comfortable, drives well and gets good mileage.
I’m exploring this idea as well. I figured for extended trips in say Florida we could just drive one of our cars behind or just rent one. With my work I can get a car for $32 a day fully insured for any vehicle I want so that’s a nice perk if we don’t want a to take one of our cars.
 
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DavidT

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As you'll find out quickly, there is no inventory. So prepare to order and wait and pay list or premium over it. Demand has sky-rocketed due to air-travel restrictions, people are flush with disposable income, and supply-chains have been unkind.
Yeah I’ve been toying with this for a few years but now seriously considering it but RV would be 2023 and if we know what we want and if I need a different vehicle I’ll purchase that either later this year or next. I do have some time on my side.
 

Tom Reynolds

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I think dogs swing the equation towards RVs. Otherwise, my 35mpg Avalon and hotel rooms gets me faster and cheaper. I did RV back in the day and never liked driving around with even a 22' travel trailer. Plus, I know how much towing a car with a bus is. Frankly, if more than a 2 day drive I like fly/rent/hotel.

So, I second, or 3rd or whatever to try before you buy.

Tom
 

DavidT

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I think dogs swing the equation towards RVs. Otherwise, my 35mpg Avalon and hotel rooms gets me faster and cheaper. I did RV back in the day and never liked driving around with even a 22' travel trailer. Plus, I know how much towing a car with a bus is. Frankly, if more than a 2 day drive I like fly/rent/hotel.

So, I second, or 3rd or whatever to try before you buy.

Tom
Yup they definitely change things up.
 

abc123brian

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I have been doing what you're talking about doing for a few months out of the year. I started traveling this way in 2019, so just before Covid changed everything. I really enjoy it and it’s been working out very well so far. I have two mobile phones, one on Verizon and one on AT&T to make sure I have coverage in most places. Fast internet coverage has been a little challenge, but I’ve been able to manage. I’m hoping Starlink gets their mobile setup ready soon as that would be a great option. When looking at RVs, focus on where your work area will be making sure it will be comfortable and quiet enough for you. There are many other things to consider, like overall size as others mentioned, the layout for relaxing after work or during inclement weather, size of holding tanks if you plan to boondocking, and if you need solar or onboard generator for power. And plan on buying a new mattress for whatever you buy. They don’t put anything decent in when Building it since people have such different preferences so the mattress sucks.

Regarding towing, as Steve mentioned, make sure you don’t go too close to your max towing capacity. 80% or less is the general rule I hear from most experts. Another important thing to consider is your payload capacity. This is normally the weak link in the capacity numbers. If unfamiliar, this is the weight of all passengers, all cargo, and tongue weight. So if you have a trailer with 1,100lb tongue weight, two dogs weighing 80lbs total, say you and your wife weigh together weigh 320lbs, and you have two e-bikes in the bed for a total of 120lbs, that’s a total of 1620lbs payload not counting anything under the seat, in the console, cooler with snacks. You can see payload will go fast. SUVs tend to have less than trucks.

I went with Grand Design RV as it gave me everything I was looking for. I tow it with an F150 but after traveling for a couple years, I found a diesel would be much better for fuel stops. It can be annoying going to regular pumps when you're close to 50 feet long total and a diesel can go through truck lanes.
 

KurtT

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We have been vacillating back in forth trailer (already own GMC 1500 set up for towing) vs motorhome. Have you ever owned a motorhome, if so how do you feel about trailering now? Inconvenient with access to parks or not a big issue? Mobility with a vehicle is a plus especially in places like Zion and Glacier which limit vehicle access size thru tunnels and going to sun road. Gas consumption nowadays is a big deal when you get 9mpg parked or driving in a motorhome.
Thanks for any thoughts if you or anybody else out there have had a motorhome and the differences vs trailer, if any, in your camping enjoyment.

Kurt
 

jeffnles1

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Believe me I have thought about that and been pretty much doing that already but we haven’t been taking the dogs. With the dogs hotels are out, Airbnb I’ve looked at and very few choices that allow you to have dogs. Plus one of the dogs is almost blind just 5% vision in one eye only and needs glaucoma meds 4 times a day so being closer to them is important and once she knows her space it makes not running into things or being scared so much easier. So for her a known space is big and to me money no longer plays into my decision.
understand completely! We had to have our pup of 14 years put down a couple years back. I understand where you're coming from.
 
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