Let’s talk about RV’s and Wildlife Photography

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dtibbals

Well-known member
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I have used a camper shell on a small Toyota pickup, a slide in camper on a 1-ton diesel pickup, and a Class C motorhome. All have compromises of one sort or another. The slide-in camper provided the most mobility and we could pull off anywhere and be fixing a meal in a matter of minutes. But climbing up into the sleeping area over the cab got to be too difficult for my wife. The plus side of a crew cab truck and the sleeping area in the cabover camper was that it provided places during the day to have clothing or photo gear that was immediately available.

With two dogs your best bet is a crew cab pickup pulling a hard sides popup travel trailer. The advantage of this setup is that the bed of the truck is available for the dogs while traveling. I put a heavy duty rubber bed mat in my truck which kept the dogs from sliding around. I put a fiberglass cap on the truck and then put black curtains on the windows so it would be shaded inside for the dogs and no worries about cooking them in back when parked in the sun. Travel trailers provide by far the most bang for the buck in terms of floor space and having a dry bath and plenty of holding tank capacity. Drop off the trailer on BLM dispersed camping areas or at state or federal parks and forests and then you have the pickup for transporting photo gear in the back of the crew cab and your dogs in the bed of the truck.

The problem with motorhomes is that they limit where you can go except for the small Class B type and these are fine for a place to eat and sleep but not for working or much else.
One can tow a vehicle behind a Class A or Class C motorhome but it means detaching the toad from the motorhome when making fuel stops and where you can park for groceries or to go inside a restaurant is quite limiting.
My dogs are princesses lol. They would be riding in the back seat lol but good tips and I like the idea of the smaller travel trailer.
 

splatbass

Well-known member
I've been on several RV photo trips, and it was a mixed bag. If you can get a campsite in a National Park it can be great. For example I stayed in Moraine Park Campground in RMNP in early October. Herds of rutting elk within a short walk from the campsite was great. But in some parks you are limited where you can go in an RV. On my next trip to RMNP we stayed in a campground outside the park and rented a car to drive around the park. That worked really well and allowed us to get to places you can't go in an RV. I got some good moose and elk pics because of that. For me a mix of RV and renting a car works best. But that gets expensive real fast. That said when we went to Glacier NP in late September we didn't RV. You can't go to most of the best places in an RV there. I got some great grizzly and black bear pics that I wouldn't have gotten in an RV because you can't go to Logan Pass in one.
 

Calson

Well-known member
My dogs have all loved to be in the rear of the pickup where they had views in all directions. I would have difficult getting them out of the bed when at a rest stop as they viewed the truck as their traveling dog house.

Inside a vehicle there are what are termed "pet bridges" that attach to the front and rear head rests and provide a flat surface for dogs in a crew cab or SUV. Good for smaller dogs that would not be tall enough to see over the bed rails of a pickup.

The fiberglass cap with sliding windows is key to protecting the dogs while in transit. They get a breeze without sticking their heads out the window and damaging their eyes and they are protected from the sun baking them. A SUV is like a greenhouse and can bake anything inside in a short amount of time. Open truck beds, even with a leash tie down are not safe places for dogs but most dog owners really don't care about their animals.
 

Hut2

🇺🇸
Supporting Member
She actually does pretty good with stairs as long as she knows about them. It’s pretty impressive once she knows where she’s at and where things are at she can navigate much better than I could with my eyes closed. I think a pic of my little one is worth a mention :) Shot with a D850 and Nikon 300f2.8

View attachment 30356

Than there is my Lab Diesel. View attachment 30357
So these two very spoiled and loved dogs is why I’m looking at paying absurd money to travel easier lol.
Nice little puppies😎👍
 

MangoYak

New 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).
Agree. We've tried it all kinds of ways. Nice thing about a hotel is: when you're done, it's housekeeping's problem. If you're gonna RV, rent. When you're done, it's also not your problem. Owning anything that you're not gonna use all the time is more costly than most folks realize. And don't ask me about my boat.
 

Steve Pumilia

New member
I own a class B RV -- Mercedes chassis 4x4. There are a lot of trade offs between travel trailers and the different classes of RV.
Mine is too small to full time in (although plenty of people do) but is is great for getting to spots.
 

Calson

Well-known member
The advantage of a tow vehicle and trailer is that when not using the trailer you have a pickup or SUV for other uses. When I had two sheepdogs the pickup with cap allowed me to hose it our after trips to the beach. A lot more convenient than a SUV or any RV.

People focus on tow load for trailers and frontal area is also important as most of the tow vehicles power is being used to overcome air drag. That is where the collapsible hard sided travel trailer are advantageous.

With any brand of trailer or motorhome it is worth checking RV forums to learn of owner problems in advance. RV's also depreciate very quickly so there are advantages to buying used ones even if you have to drive a few hundred miles to get it.

 

Hut2

🇺🇸
Supporting Member
The advantage of a tow vehicle and trailer is that when not using the trailer you have a pickup or SUV for other uses. When I had two sheepdogs the pickup with cap allowed me to hose it our after trips to the beach. A lot more convenient than a SUV or any RV.

People focus on tow load for trailers and frontal area is also important as most of the tow vehicles power is being used to overcome air drag. That is where the collapsible hard sided travel trailer are advantageous.

With any brand of trailer or motorhome it is worth checking RV forums to learn of owner problems in advance. RV's also depreciate very quickly so there are advantages to buying used ones even if you have to drive a few hundred miles to get it.

The market is out of whack. It would be crazy to buy used right now. imo
 

Neil Laubenthal

Well-known member
Supporting Member
We lived full time in the RV for 8 years and generally didn't even try to stay in the NP campgrounds. WiFi is spotty there, availability is hard, and 40 foot 5th wheel usable spots are few. We generally stayed close to the park in a commercial campground and did day trips from there…generally staying a week at a time in a location but not going out every day. When you're doing it full time…it's the way you live, not a vacation so going and doing a bit more slowly is a better plan. With 6 full days in a location if we were staying a week…one day generally got devoted to laundry or grocery shopping or minor rig maintenance tasks. Maybe 3 days of what we called Fun Stuff© which was why we were there in the first place and at least one day with nothing really planned…that way we could rest if we were tired or do something that we hadn't pre planned if we heard of a good spot to check out. We traveled 6 months out of the year and spent the late fall, winter, and early spring in North Fort Myers FL before heading out usually the week after Easter for another travel season.
 

Doug Herr

Well-known member
My weekend getaway vehicle is actually called Weekender. 2001 VW Eurovan Weekender: pop top bunk, lower bunk, refrigerator, table, space for camp stove, maneuverable on narrow Forest Service roads, seat belts for 7 in passenger mode, easy parking. Unfortunately newer models are not currently available in USA.
 

dtibbals

Well-known member
Supporting Member
Thread starter
We lived full time in the RV for 8 years and generally didn't even try to stay in the NP campgrounds. WiFi is spotty there, availability is hard, and 40 foot 5th wheel usable spots are few. We generally stayed close to the park in a commercial campground and did day trips from there…generally staying a week at a time in a location but not going out every day. When you're doing it full time…it's the way you live, not a vacation so going and doing a bit more slowly is a better plan. With 6 full days in a location if we were staying a week…one day generally got devoted to laundry or grocery shopping or minor rig maintenance tasks. Maybe 3 days of what we called Fun Stuff© which was why we were there in the first place and at least one day with nothing really planned…that way we could rest if we were tired or do something that we hadn't pre planned if we heard of a good spot to check out. We traveled 6 months out of the year and spent the late fall, winter, and early spring in North Fort Myers FL before heading out usually the week after Easter for another travel season.
That sounds pretty amazing. I think when my mom passed we will either move to Florida or I might stay in TX and buy a condo in FL for the winter months.
 

Maljo

Active member
My weekend getaway vehicle is actually called Weekender. 2001 VW Eurovan Weekender: pop top bunk, lower bunk, refrigerator, table, space for camp stove, maneuverable on narrow Forest Service roads, seat belts for 7 in passenger mode, easy parking. Unfortunately newer models are not currently available in USA.
That is exactly what I want!
 

dtibbals

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DFW to SJO, 4hrs direct flight. Just sayin...
That would be pretty amazing. Not sure I could do that while still working but I’d look into it. How expensive is properties in Costa Rica?
 

Neil Laubenthal

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Supporting Member
That sounds pretty amazing. I think when my mom passed we will either move to Florida or I might stay in TX and buy a condo in FL for the winter months.
Yep…we found the lifestyle pretty nice for the 8 years we did it. It takes some getting used to with the small space…350 square feet in our 40 foot 5th wheel and you have to be OK with essentially being around your spouse (if you have one) basically 24 hours a day. You also need to remember that the RV is the way you live and that you're not on vacation. We've all been there of course…on vacation you're in what we call "vacation mode" which means go go go to get everything done. Can't do that as a full timer because you'll burn out on the lifestyle pretty quickly…and since it's your lifestyle there's still things like laundry and groceries to do…as well as afternoon naps. Even in really desirable places…Yellowstone, Zion, Arches, Canyonlands, etc…you need to include do nothing days where the highlight of the day is walking out to the veranda under the awning and having a nap or reading a book on your iPad then waking up for Happy Hour and to toss a steak on the grill. Our first year we traveled 5 months and then had a 4 month winter stop in FL but by the third season we were doing 6 months and 6 months and that was just about right. Even doing it the slow full time RV life way…we were always ready to get back "home" to our park in Florida…we stayed in the same park same campsite for all 8 winters and had friends who had been wintering in the park for up to 15 or so years in a row so it was like getting home for us. But by Easter…we were ready to go again and had the summer travels all planned out and reservations made as much as possible…we didn't like the thought of getting someplace and then finding a place to park the rig…nope, bad idea for planners like us. In the 8 travel seasons…we had to do some re-planning in 3 of them because of various issues…broken foot for me, detached retina for Connie, and kidney stone for me…but after the enforced stops we caught up as much as possible with our original plans. The last year we did US 50 from coast to coast…mostly 2 land roads and a lot of small towns with things to see and we really loved doing it. After that year…Connie said she was done and to buy her a house…so we did and got off the road. Planned to do some international travel after we moved into the house in Feb 20…but you know what happened then so we're still waiting on doing any of that.
 

dtibbals

Well-known member
Supporting Member
Thread starter
Yep…we found the lifestyle pretty nice for the 8 years we did it. It takes some getting used to with the small space…350 square feet in our 40 foot 5th wheel and you have to be OK with essentially being around your spouse (if you have one) basically 24 hours a day. You also need to remember that the RV is the way you live and that you're not on vacation. We've all been there of course…on vacation you're in what we call "vacation mode" which means go go go to get everything done. Can't do that as a full timer because you'll burn out on the lifestyle pretty quickly…and since it's your lifestyle there's still things like laundry and groceries to do…as well as afternoon naps. Even in really desirable places…Yellowstone, Zion, Arches, Canyonlands, etc…you need to include do nothing days where the highlight of the day is walking out to the veranda under the awning and having a nap or reading a book on your iPad then waking up for Happy Hour and to toss a steak on the grill. Our first year we traveled 5 months and then had a 4 month winter stop in FL but by the third season we were doing 6 months and 6 months and that was just about right. Even doing it the slow full time RV life way…we were always ready to get back "home" to our park in Florida…we stayed in the same park same campsite for all 8 winters and had friends who had been wintering in the park for up to 15 or so years in a row so it was like getting home for us. But by Easter…we were ready to go again and had the summer travels all planned out and reservations made as much as possible…we didn't like the thought of getting someplace and then finding a place to park the rig…nope, bad idea for planners like us. In the 8 travel seasons…we had to do some re-planning in 3 of them because of various issues…broken foot for me, detached retina for Connie, and kidney stone for me…but after the enforced stops we caught up as much as possible with our original plans. The last year we did US 50 from coast to coast…mostly 2 land roads and a lot of small towns with things to see and we really loved doing it. After that year…Connie said she was done and to buy her a house…so we did and got off the road. Planned to do some international travel after we moved into the house in Feb 20…but you know what happened then so we're still waiting on doing any of that.
That's awesome! Well we are already around each other 24 hours a day as I work from home. Did you work when you full time? What was the trailer you had/have? What did you tow with?
 

RichF

Well-known member
Supporting Member
My dogs have all loved to be in the rear of the pickup where they had views in all directions. I would have difficult getting them out of the bed when at a rest stop as they viewed the truck as their traveling dog house.

Inside a vehicle there are what are termed "pet bridges" that attach to the front and rear head rests and provide a flat surface for dogs in a crew cab or SUV. Good for smaller dogs that would not be tall enough to see over the bed rails of a pickup.

The fiberglass cap with sliding windows is key to protecting the dogs while in transit. They get a breeze without sticking their heads out the window and damaging their eyes and they are protected from the sun baking them. A SUV is like a greenhouse and can bake anything inside in a short amount of time. Open truck beds, even with a leash tie down are not safe places for dogs but most dog owners really don't care about their animals.
Our golden like the rear foot well. In fact if we put in the back of our outbacks, she jumps over the seat and wants to be as close to us as she can.
 

Neil Laubenthal

Well-known member
Supporting Member
That's awesome! Well we are already around each other 24 hours a day as I work from home. Did you work when you full time? What was the trailer you had/have? What did you tow with?
We didn’t RV ever until after we retired at 57…my first suggestion was to backpack around the world for awhile and my bride said how about no. I then suggested the RV…we rented one for a month…and ordered the rig. Had a custom build New Horizons 40 foot 5ver that was 24,000 pounds loaded. Started with an F450 for a few years then upgraded to a RAM 5500lHD with a Classy Chassis hauler bed on it…and never worried about a grade agin. The 450 was fine but slig(try overloaded on rear axle…and with it grades were fine but you had to pay attention. With the RAM it has a real Jake brake on it and it just scoffed at grades up or down. We got off the road and moved into the house in Feb 20 and sold the rig and truck. It was an awesome lifestyle for 8 years…traveled 6 months and 6 months in Cort Myers in the winter…49 states and 10 Canadian provinces. Alaska, BC, Yokon, and Newfoundland were our best places to go but we found lots of great places elsewhere as well…except for northern Indiana…we spent 3 months there in summer 16 when my bride had a detached retina and there is nothing to do there.
 
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