How We Made A Private Dog Run While Boondocking

As you know, my preferred campsite is in the boondocks on public property. My wife and I enjoy the solitude, scenery, and convenience. The price is right, too.

Another advantage of camping in the boondocks is that your dog typically does not need to be leashed, as there are seldom leash laws in the boonies (dispersed camping in national monuments is one of the few exceptions). We recently discovered one more positive feature of boondocking with a dog.

boondocking
Photos by author, Dave Helgeson

We were traveling with our dog-owning friends and were looking for a spot to boondock along a road that bordered fenced National Forest land.

Spying a gate in the fence, we stopped to investigate. Sure enough, there was a campfire ring on the forest service land not far from the gate indicating that this was an “approved” dispersed camping location. (The dispersed camping rules for many forest service districts and BLM lands request that campers use a site that has been used before, as evidenced by an existing fire ring.)

So if there is an existing fire ring, you can pretty much be assured that boondocking is okay. Click here to see an example of dispersed camping guidelines. Keep in mind the example is for the Fishlake National Forest, but varies per forest, so always check the guidelines for the area you wish to visit.

boondocking

The unwritten rule for gates on public land in the west (especially where grazing rights are issued) is to leave gates how you found them. If open, leave them opened; if closed, close them behind you.

After opening the gate, pulling the trailers through and closing it behind us, we soon had our camp set up. We quickly realized we had our own private dog park, with the closed gate and fence prohibiting our friend’s dog from wandering back onto the nearby road. How sweet is that!

boondocking

Having a free fenced campsite for the dog—just another adventure in RVing!

See also: The Good and the Bad of Full-Time RVing with Pets



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10 Best Places For Sea Kayaking On The West Coast

Whether paddling the mild waters of Baja California, adventuring along the rugged coast of Oregon, or drifting through glacial straits in Alaska, sea kayaking is arguably the most impactful way to explore the ocean’s surface.

Camp at one of these locations along the West Coast of North America for a paradisal kayaking excursion.

1. La Jolla Sea Caves

Located near San Diego, California, the La Jolla Sea Caves consist of seven naturally formed cliff grottos—White Lady, Little Sister, Shopping Cart, Sea Surprise, Arch Cave, Sunny Jim, and Clam’s Cave.

As well as being a sanctuary for marine life and a snorkeling hot spot, the caves boast an out-of-the-ordinary history. Legend has it that they were once used by pirates to smuggle slaves and treasure, then used again in the 1920s to store illegal liquor stashes.

kayaking
Photo by cultivar413/Flickr

The Sunny Jim cave can be accessed by foot through a local gift shop. All other caves are only accessible by boat or kayak. Several kayaking tours are available, but if you plan to head out on your own, be sure to wear a lifejacket and helmet.

Rent a kayak (or bring your own) and launch from Avenida de la Playa. If the conditions are safe, you can paddle inside the caves and admire millions of years’ worth of erosion and natural beauty. It’s even possible to swim into the caves if the current isn’t too strong.

Drift through schools of harmless leopard sharks or snorkel along the rocky bluffs searching for lobsters. Camp at the Santa Fe Park RV Resort, which offers full hookups and is less than 15 minutes away from the caves.

2. Orcas Island

Orcas Island is the largest of the San Juan Islands, located in the Puget Sound between Washington and British Columbia.

kayaking
Photo by Dan Nevill/Flickr

The island sports a small town with restaurants and kayak rental companies, so you don’t have to rent from the mainland. Take a tour around the island or go solo. Paddle out to the more secluded Sucia Island and catch a glimpse of a bald eagle or a pod of porpoises. Whale sightings are common as well.

Two RV parks are located on Orcas Island—West Beach Resort and Moran State Park. Take an RV-friendly ferry from Anacortes to either of the two campgrounds, where you can access several launch points in a matter of minutes. You can also drive up Mount Constitution in Moran State Park to find an old stone tower with amazing views and a vintage Airstream that sells ice cream.

3. Telegraph Cove

Located off the Eastern Coast of Vancouver Island, Johnstone Strait is home to the largest pod of orcas in the world.

kayaking
Photo by Paul Hamilton/Flickr

Beginning in late June, the water is filled with over 200 killer whales who come to give birth and raise their young. The village of Telegraph Cove offers ideal access points to the Robson Bight Ecological Reserve, where these orca sightings are far from rare.

The town also features two museums—the Whale Interpretive Centre and the North Island Discovery Centre. Homes and restaurants comprise the rest of the village, all built on stilts over the water.

Camp at Alder Bay Resort, which is a little over 15 minutes away from Telegraph Cove, or Cedar Park Resort, which is about 30 minutes away. From the cove, you can take a tour or rent a kayak. Paddle out into the middle of the water to get up close and personal with an 8,000-pound orca.

4. Channel Islands

Located off the coast of Southern California, the Channel Islands are an archipelago stretching from the coast of Santa Barbara to Huntington Beach.

kayaking
Photo by Mike Baird/Flickr

From the Painted Sea Cave on Santa Cruz Island to the lighthouse on Anacapa Island, to the largest seal and sea lion rookery in the nation on San Miguel Island, the “Galapagos of North America” are teeming with wildlife and natural wonders.

Rentals and tours of the islands are available from the mainland. Catch a glimpse of the rare island fox or island scrub-jay, found only on the Channel Islands. Snorkel in the lush kelp beds of the Pacific.

Visit the Santa Rosa Island mammoth skeleton in the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History. Explore the beauty and diversity of Coastal California condensed into a few incredible islands.

Although it’s possible to kayak to the Channel Islands from the mainland, the journey is very rigorous and should only be attempted by very experienced kayakers. Instead, consider taking a 1-hour boat ride from Oxnard to Santa Cruz Island.

If you book a tour, transportation for kayaks is usually arranged. However, if you rent or bring a kayak, be prepared to arrange your own through a local business. The two closest RV parks are McGrath State Beach and Ventura Beach RV Resort, both of which are located in Oxnard, California.

5. Tomales Bay

Located north of San Francisco, close to Point Reyes National Seashore, Tomales Bay is a long, narrow inlet ideal for viewing wildlife.

kayaking
Photo by JD Lasica/Flickr

Paddle along the scenic shoreline and look for Tule Elk, bat rays, and leopard sharks. An array of wildlife appears on the shore during the day. However, one of the bay’s most impressive phenomena is only visible after dark.

When the sun sets, bioluminescent plankton known as dinoflagellates emit a soft green glow, causing the water to light up like the Aurora Borealis. Every time a paddle hits the water or a fish surfaces, the light flares. Night tours are available for witnessing this incredible feature, but be sure to make a reservation 4-6 weeks in advance.

Lawson’s Landing and Olema Campground are both relatively close to all four launch areas and kayak rental companies in Tomales Bay. Take a tour of the bay, explore the local tide pools, or paddle into nearby esteros for calmer waters. However, if you venture toward the mouth of the bay, be very cautious. High winds, strong currents, and the occasional shark can make this area challenging to navigate.

6. Magdalena Bay

Magdalena Bay, a stretch of deep water located near the southern tip of Baja California, is known for its spectacular whale watching. The mingling of the Alaskan cold current and warm currents from the equator create a distinct environment for marine life, as well as a prime fishing location.

kayaking
Photo by Ryan Harvey/Flickr

Gray whales, which give birth to calves throughout the warm waters of Mexico, are plentiful and friendly. In fact, it’s not uncommon for them to swim up to boats and allow people to pet them on the head. Black Sea Turtles and several species of migratory shorebirds are also unique to the area.

Whale-watching tours, kayaking tours, and kayak rentals are available at several launch points around the bay. The closest RV parks are Palapa 206 RV Park and Misiones RV Park. Drive about 45 minutes to the bay and prepare to come face-to-face with the gray giants of the Pacific Ocean.

7. Morro Bay

Morro Bay, a quiet sanctuary for sea mammals and migratory birds, is located on California’s Central Coast. Otters lounge in floating masses of kelp, invertebrates hide in the eelgrass beds, and herons nest in a nearby rookery.

kayaking
Photo by Harold Emsheimer

The bay’s crowning glory is Morro Rock, a 581-foot volcanic plug. The large geological formation serves as a nesting ground for endangered peregrine falcons. Two creeks feed into Morro Bay, forming an estuary where waterfowl gather in flocks. These calm waters are ideal for beginning kayakers.

Camp at nearby Cypress Morro Bay RV and MHP or Morro Dunes RV Park, and launch from the Kayak Shack. During high tide, you can also launch from the Cuesta Inlet in Los Osos and paddle through the estero. During low tide, stick to the front of the bay to avoid becoming stranded on one of the massive sandbars.

Explore the dunes or sign up for a sunset tour. Visit the Morro Bay Natural History Museum. Go kayaking at any time of day and enjoy the idyllic waters of Morro Bay.

8. Santa Catalina Island

Although it is technically one of the southern Channel Islands, Santa Catalina Island deserves its own category. Not only is it the only island inhabited by people, but it is also more accessible for water activities.

Surrounded by crystal clear water, Catalina is popular among divers and snorkelers. Glass-bottomed boats tour the shallows in search of fish, and pelicans dive into the waves.

kayaking
Photo by David Keegan/Unsplash

Paddle along the rocky shoreline into coves and onto secluded beaches. Two towns are present on the Island—Avalon and Two Harbors. Both are small but popular among tourists.

Although there are a few campsites on the island, none of them accommodate RVs. Camp on the mainland at Newport Dunes Waterfront RV Resort or Sunset Vista RV Park, then take a 1-hour ferry ride to the island. You can rent a kayak at any of the businesses in Avalon or Two Harbors.

You can also rent kayaks on the mainland, but if you plan on kayaking the 24 miles from the shore to Catalina, be prepared for a 9-hour trip each way.

9. Glacier Bay

One of the most remote (but also most breathtaking) locations for sea kayaking is Glacier Bay. An Alaskan inlet and national park, it features scenic views of the glassy water and the John Hopkins Glacier.

kayaking
Photo from Pixabay

Glide through icebergs and past shorelines where bears roam and bald eagles nest. Watch flocks of puffins hunting for fish in the icy depths as schools of salmon swim beneath you. The bay also features regular humpback whale sightings, so keep on the lookout.

There are no RV parks in Glacier Bay National Park, only walk-in campsites. However, you can park your RV at Spruce Meadow RV Park or Mendenhall Campground on the other side of the water, then take the ferry from Juneau to the bay.

Book a tour or rent a kayak and launch from Barlett Cove. The waters are calm, allowing for a leisurely kayaking pace and time to admire the view. Although Glacier Bay may not be the most convenient excursion, it can be the trip of a lifetime. What it lacks in accessibility, it makes up for in solitude and idyllic scenery.

10. Laguna Beach

Recognized as one of the most beautiful seaside destinations, Laguna Beach is a coastal city known for its secluded shores. The stretch of nearby ocean is ideal for sea kayaking.

kayaking
Photo by Shane Stagner/Unsplash

From the sea lions on seal rock to the sea cave at Thousand Steps Beach, the area is well worth exploring. Laguna Beach’s mild weather makes it the perfect destination for beginners.

Paddle to the gorgeous Emerald Bay and be on the lookout for dolphins. Don’t miss a visit to Pirate Tower, the hidden gem of Victoria Beach. Once the property of a naval captain who entertained local children with his swashbuckling stories, the cliffside fortress is now kept locked up. If you look closely at the base, however, you may be able to find remaining coins hidden between the stones.

The most accessible launch point for kayaking is the main beach, but it’s possible to launch from just about anywhere. Camp at Crystal Cove State Park, a popular destination for divers and snorkelers, and make your way along the scenic shoreline. Rentals and tours are also available from various companies.

You may also like: Inflatable Kayak Guide: What You Need To Know About These Portable Watercraft



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Lists For RV Travel And Road Trip Planning

My friend is looking at me, radiating excitement.  “We are going to spend three WEEKS on the road!  I hardly know where to begin packing!!”

This will be her first ever road trip in her life.  She will be traveling by camper van with her new beau and his two dogs to tour the West Coast.  The questions spill out: where to go, what to see, what to expect, what to pack, and enough what-if scenarios to fill a bathtub.  She is practically vibrating with a mixture of thrill and terror of her first road adventure.

She looks at me with wide eyes.  “I know it is still a few months off, but I am already trying to make a list of what to pack.  But he plans to just grab some clothes and go!”

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The Book of Lists, aka my trip planning brain (Photo by TC Wait)

And here lies the delicate balance between being prepared for an adventure, and being spontaneously go-with-the-flow.  Whether you are a list-keeper or a by-the-seat-of-your-pants free spirit traveler seems to depend partly on your personality and preference, but also based on what kind of trip you might be planning, and how often you travel.  For the purpose of curiosity, I conducted an informal poll on whether fellow RVers were “list keepers” or “pack-n-go” travelers.

Based on this not-at-all scientific query, results indicate a fairly even split.  It also seems that the more “practiced” travelers (full-time or frequent weekenders) drift toward the “pack-n-go” system, BUT also have incorporated established routines as a habit to make sure they are indeed travel-ready and safe.  Those who don’t travel frequently, or are branching out into uncharted waters (ie taking a first cross-country trip) tend to lean toward list-making.

Personally, I lean toward the list side.  OK, to be honest, I might actually define the list side.  I actually have an entire BOOK of LISTS.  And it is the third volume of Book of Lists that I keep….  I see the Book as my travel brain—it keeps all of the thoughts that rattle around in my brain before, during, and after our travels in one place so that the next trip goes a little smoother.

I have packing lists, repair lists, lists of veterinarians, lists with maps of routes through congested cities, list of tools we need to bring, lists of people’s contact information we meet along the way, lists of books we want to listen to while driving, you get the picture here….  Each trip builds on the previous travel experiences, and the Book serves as a convenient way to keep track of the successes and the challenges.

There is no right or wrong way to plan for your RV adventure.  No matter how you prepare to get out there, the bottom line is that you actually get out there!

To continue my non-scientific research, I would love to hear how you go about getting ready for your travels.  Do you list, or do you just go?



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Top 5 Best Fifth Wheels For Camping With Grandchildren

As your adventurous spirit wishes to go camping, the first rule of thumb to observe is the more, the merrier. Bringing your grandkids will definitely add the much needed lightened mood with the little champs running around. That’s all you need to care about since we’ve taken brought you the top 5 best fifth wheels for camping with grandchildren so you can bid endless research adieu!

What puts an RV on the list: Ironically, despite being on the expensive side of things, Fifth Wheels are dime a dozen. You’ll find quite a selection of them out there in all sizes and features. We’ve chosen the ones with the most number of bunkhouse floorplans for the grandkids, the best mix of critic and user reviews and, of course, the most recent models for getting the best possible fifth wheel features in the market right now!

The Top 5 Best Fifth Wheels For Camping With Grandchildren:

  1. Forest River Wildcat Fifth Wheel
  2. Coachmen Chaparral Fifth Wheel
  3. Heartland Sundance Fifth Wheel
  4. Keystone Hideout Fifth Wheel
  5. Jayco North Point Fifth Wheel

#1. Forest River Wildcat Fifth Wheel

Keeping It Simple!

View All Forest River Forest River Wildcat Fifth Wheel Floorplans!

No. of Floorplans Unloaded Weight Sleeps Length
23 7466-13170 lbs 4-10 31-42 feet

Why we recommend the Forest River Wildcat fifth wheel: Similar to our previous post about the best fifth wheels for full time living, the Wildcat also makes an appearance here. The Wildcat features 23 different floorplans with weight ranges from 7466 to 13170 lbs which already makes it quite versatile for a fifth wheel, not to mention the 42 feet maximum length for uber spaciousness! Check out the Wilcat 28SGX and the Wildcat 31BH, our personal favorites.

As far as features go, you will find the Wildcat to your liking. The Wildcat has a lot of luxurious and useful features ranging from its reclining theater seating to its multiple electrical outlets in the kitchen area. The exterior is also constructed well, having a 2-inch laminated aluminum construction specially designed front cap to keep the rig stable while turning. There are also a ton of options available to improve on its capabilities which we recommend checking out on the RV page by clicking on the link above!

Key Features:

  • 23 different floor plans available
  • Flush-mount solid surface sink covers
  • All windows in slide-out rooms open for cross ventilation
  • Residential tile pattern shower surround
  • Dual marine-grade outside stereo speakers
  • Large sofa with residential hide-a-bed sleeper

Virtual Tour:


 

#2. Coachmen Chaparral Fifth Wheel

Diverse Luxury!

View All Coachmen Chaparral Fifth Wheel Floorplans!

No. of Floorplans Unloaded Weight Sleeps Length
11 9575-12694 lbs 4-11 33-41 feet

Why we recommend Coachmen Chaparral fifth wheel: The Chaparral by coachmen is one of its top selling fifth wheels, and we don’t wonder why. The Chaparral still covers a respectable weight range despite sporting 11 floorplans. Of these, the Chaparral 360IBL and the Chaparral 391QSMB seems like good fifth wheels for camping with grandchildren since they do have bunkhouses. Of course, you’ll also find other floorplans suited for different use scenarios whether tailgating, full time living, or living in luxury!

While your grandkids will be enjoying the 50-55 inch TV (modern entertainment center), tailgaters will find their outside kitchens with TV brackets and exterior marine grade stereo speakers super handy. Those who expect nothing but a grandeur experience will also see the Chaparral as a good fit. Once you step inside you’ll notice it’s privacy tinted glass windows, residential vinyl flooring, and the solid hardwood fascia. Of course, there are many options for those who wish to expand on its capabilities as well!

Key Features:

  • 11 different floor plans available!
  • 3M® UV treated, weather resistant decals
  • Solid hardwood slide fascia
  • Dual USB charging ports in bedroom
  • Dual zone thermostat/controller
  • Oversized under bed storage

Virtual Tour:


 

#3. Heartland Sundance Fifth Wheel

One of the Cozier Fifth Wheels Out There!

View All Heartland Sundance Fifth Wheel Floorplans!

No. of Floorplans Unloaded Weight Sleeps Length
11 8307-12896 lbs 2-9 30-42 feet

Why we recommend the Heartland Sundance Fifth Wheel: Heartland’s Sundance is another name you’ve heard from us, and for a good reason. Like the Chaparral, it sports 11 floorplans, but with an even lower dry weight of 8307 lbs on the Sundance 269TS. Of course, since you’re aiming for fifth wheels for camping with grandchildren, something like the Sundance 297QB should be good for you as well!

Feature-wise, the Sundance doesn’t leave anything to be desired. Whether you choose the full-profile floorplans or the mid-profile floorplans, you get everything you can expect from a decent fifth wheel from the Solar and back-up camera prep to the 8 cubic feet refrigerator. You can also add an upgraded 15,000 BTU air conditioner as well as a residential refrigerator (mid-profile floorplans) if you wish. All in all, we’re very impressed with the Sundance!

Key Features:

  • 11 different floor plans available
  • Painted fiberglass front cap
  • 8 cubic feet stainless steel sefrigerator
  • LED interior lighting
  • Tri-fold sofa bed
  • Back-up camera prep

Video Overview:

 

#4. Keystone Hideout Fifth Wheel

Spacious Camping Personified!

View All Keystone Hideout Fifth Wheel Floorplans!

No. of Floorplans Unloaded Weight Sleeps Length
10 7745-9635 lbs 6-10 30-36 feet

Why we recommend the Keystone Hideout fifth wheel: We’re usually acquired to looking at the Hideout as a great travel trailer, but as it turns out its fifth wheel version has a lot of bells and whistles as well! Keystone’s attention with the fifth wheel version of the Hideout seems to be focusing towards making it lightweight (for a fifth wheel) which can be seen with the floorplans Hideout 262RES and Hideout 281DBS with dry weights of 7875 and 8031 pounds respectively.

The Hideout fifth wheel also has many other features to talk of ranging from the enormous storage areas and the built-in 30,000 BTU furnace on the inside to the power awning and exterior TV hookup on the outside. The Hideout features expansions to upgrade the inbuilt features like a 15,000 BTU air conditioner over the 13,500 BTU one or add new ones such as an exterior shower and a tri-fold sleeper sofa.

Key Features:

  • 10 different floor plans
  • Tru-fit five point slide out construction
  • Cold mountain package
  • Oversized pass thru storage
  • Full walk on roof
  • Black radius window frames

Virtual Tour:


 

#5. Jayco North Point North Point

Truly Heavy Duty!

View All Jayco North Point Fifth Wheel Floorplans!

No. of Floorplans Unloaded Weight Sleeps Length
9 12405-14200 lbs 4-9 38-43 feet

Why we recommend Jayco North Point fifth wheel: The North Point is another one of Jayco’s top-rated fifth wheels, not only due to its super durable construction but the amount of spaciousness that comes with it. The shortest floorplan is the 38-feet long North Point 315RLTS with a sleeping capacity of 4, which is quite roomy to say the least. Of course, you also have the North Point 377RLBH if you’re looking for bunkhouse floorplans.

Inside its highly durable chassis and exterior is the high output 40,000 BTU furnace, 21 cubic feet (you read that right) refrigerator, trifold hide-a-bed sofas, USB charging centers and free standing table with dinette chairs. This makes it obvious that its construction isn’t its only strength, and these features certainly aren’t the last. You also get a ton of options to upgrade this fifth wheel’s capabilities such as compliance with Canadian RV standards, 15,000 BTU central air conditioner, extra awnings and many more!

Key Features:

  • 9 different floor plans available
  • Wide-stance front landing gear
  • Stor-Galore pass-through basement storage
  • Dual exterior marine-grade speakers
  • Minimum 40,000-BTU furnace
  • Outside grill prep

Virtual Tour:


Check out these similar RV reviews!

Top 5 Best Fifth Wheels For Full-Time Living

Top 5 Best Fifth Wheel RV Brands

– – – – –

The next time you’re on the lookout for fifth wheels for camping with grandchildren, review this guide to help you choose what to purchase, or even prove as a good starting point if you’ve found a good deal on an older model of these fifth wheels!

BEFORE you head to a dealer to see these trailers, download your FREE RV Buyers Worksheet for help keeping track of:

  • The feature must-haves that are important to you and your family
  • Which brands or manufacturers you like
  • Budgeting tools including a payment calculator resource
  • Multiple well spaced pages with room for lots of your notes
  • BONUS Resources: Trade-in values, tow vehicle ratings, and finance options

Share with us your favorite fifth wheels for camping with grandchildren in the comments below!



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What To Look For When Buying A Used RV Motorhome Or Trailer

Buying a used RV can be a nerve-racking experience, but it can also be a way to avoid breaking the bank on a brand-new model. If you know what to look for in your potential purchase, you might just score the deal of a lifetime.

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The more you find out about the RV’s history, the less likely you’ll be to buy a piece of junk. Photo by Greg Gjerdingen/Flickr

Shopping for a used RV

Before you decide to start looking for an RV, figure out what type of motorhome or trailer will best suit your lifestyle. If possible, rent or borrow an RV and take it on a weekend excursion to see what you’re comfortable with. Can you drive a 40-foot rig? Do you enjoy camping in smaller vehicles, or do you need more space?

What floor plan is most convenient for you? When you have what you’re looking for in mind, establish a budget for yourself. Remind yourself of your budget while shopping for RVs and don’t exceed it. This will prevent you from overspending. You can also request quotes from your insurance company to determine what your insurance will cover.

There are plenty of RV listings online, from websites like eBay and craigslist to RVT and Camping World. You can also find classifieds on RV forums like Airstream Classifieds and iRV2. Shop around locally and pay attention to current prices and market values.

Do some research to educate yourself; you’ll feel much more prepared to bargain. Remember that low prices and gas mileage are not always a good sign. Why does the owner want to get rid of the vehicle so quickly? Why didn’t they drive it often? Are there issues with handling? RVchecks offers $25 history reports for some vehicles. The more you find out about the RV’s history, the less likely you’ll be to buy a piece of junk.

RV
Oftentimes you will pay a much lower price when buying from a private source. Photo by dave_7/Flickr

Buying from a private owner versus a dealership

When shopping for a used vehicle, you have two choices. You can visit a pre-owned RV dealership, or you can buy from a private owner. Private purchases through craigslist or another site are better in many ways since they put the seller and the buyer at the same level of experience.

There is more freedom to negotiate, as the seller is usually eager to get rid of the large RV taking up their yard. For even more bargaining leverage, you can offer to pay in cash and take the vehicle immediately. Oftentimes you will pay a much lower price when buying from a private source.

Alternatively, you can visit a dealer, who will most likely mark up the price for pre-owned RVs. However, if it is your first time purchasing an RV, you might feel more comfortable buying from an RV dealer without having to conduct a full inspection.

Visually inspecting the RV

If you decide to buy from a private source, always ask to take a look at the vehicle. Never purchase a used RV without thoroughly inspecting it!

One of the biggest reasons to avoid buying an RV is if it has water damage. Walk through the rig, checking for mold, bubbling, and rot in all corners. Check for soft spots on the walls and around bathroom fixtures. If you see brown spots on the floor or ceiling, rust on the exterior screws, or dips in the roof, you should probably steer clear.

RV
Walk through the rig, checking for mold, bubbling, and rot in all corners. Photo via clint623 on iRV2 Forums

Don’t be afraid to peer into cupboards and closets with a flashlight and stand in the shower to check its size. Jump on the floor and push on the walls to test structural integrity.

It’s also important to climb onto the roof and examine the seals. If the caulking appears crumbly or blackened, there’s a good chance that the roof will leak. While you’re up there, check the ladder for loose screws. Remove all vent covers and take a look at the seams underneath. If possible, use a garden hose to spray the roof and windows, then check for leaks inside.

Ask the owner to pop the hood so that you can check the RV’s oil. If there is engine damage, the oil will smell burnt. Check the power cord and battery bank, and make sure the battery is running at 12.6-12.8 volts. If the date on the battery is older than 7 years, it needs to be replaced. Examine the tires as well; the last two digits on the inscription will tell you the year they were manufactured. If the tires were made more than 5 years ago, they need to be replaced.

Testing RV functions

Before purchasing, ask the owner to let you take the rig on a test drive. If they won’t let you test it, don’t buy it! Drive at top speeds on the freeway and practice maneuvering in an empty parking lot. You may also want to have the owner drive part of the time and experience the ride from the passenger’s seat. Check for odd noises or jolts while driving, and make sure that all systems are operational.

RV
Check for odd noises or jolts while driving. Photo by Oscar Nilsson

After the test drive, make sure to run all other functions and look for issues. Check that all locks and latches are secure, and turn on light fixtures. Run all electrical systems, including air conditioning and heater.

Check awnings for proper function and make sure that no tears are present. If the RV has slide outs, make sure that they are fully operational and without damage. Inspect tanks and water heater for any leaks and check the plumbing as well. Check the water pump and turn on all faucets. Turn on the oven and stove and sniff around for any propane leaks.

If you find a few minor problems during your inspection, don’t panic. You may still get a good deal, though you will have to pay a little extra to fix the issues. Estimate repair costs and add them to the seller’s price to determine whether the purchase is worthwhile. You may even be able to point out problems that the seller had missed and use them to your bargaining advantage.

Questions to ask

One last step you should be sure to follow is to ask questions. Before starting your interrogation, make sure the person who is showing you the RV actually is the owner, not some friend or relative who happened to be available.

The owner’s mother is not likely to know much about the RV and most likely won’t be able to answer your questions. You should also make sure that the RV’s vehicle identification number (VIN) matches the registration and paperwork with the owner’s name. If the owner can’t provide you with the vehicle’s registration, steer clear.

used RV
You may be able to point out problems that the seller missed and use them to your bargaining advantage. Photo by Rawpixel/Unsplash

Asking about the RV’s history can provide you with valuable information about the quality of the vehicle. How many people have owned the RV? If it has been through several owners and is still in good condition, chances are that it will last longer.

Have animals lived in the RV? This is a very important question to ask if you are allergic. Has anyone smoked in the RV? Did its past owners take good care of it and regularly check the safety features? Has the RV spent a lot of time in areas with extreme weather? Ask about warranties, past repairs, and the reason that the owner is selling it.

If you follow these steps when buying a used RV, you’ll find that it’s possible to own a high-quality rig without spending a fortune. If you remember what to look for and what to avoid, your next purchase will be a walk in the park…the RV park.

Read this article from Do It Yourself RV on why you should never buy an RV brand new.



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Best Places To Visit In Astoria, Oregon For RV Campers

Astoria, Oregon has long been associated with the historical Lewis and Clark Expedition of 1804-06. After leaving Camp Dubois near St. Louis on May 14, 1804, the Corps of Discovery (as the mission was called) arrived at the Pacific Ocean in early November 1805, camping at Fort Clatsop in Astoria.

Astoria
The Astoria-Megler Bridge connects Astoria, Oregon to Washington State, spanning over the Columbia River. Photo via Ron Reiring/Wikipedia

Today, just a few miles from Fort Clatsop, visitors camp at Lewis & Clark Golf & RV Park. This is a convenient home base before embarking on your own discovery of the area. Offering 35 sites, Lewis & Clark Golf & RV Park also features full hookups, including 30/50 amp electrical, water, sewer, restrooms, showers, laundry facilities, and a pet area. Fully-furnished cottages are also available.

Oregon
Astoria Column

The nine-hole golf course is a great place to practice your short game. Opened in 2005, the par 36 Lewis & Clark Public Golf Course measures 2,738 yards from the longest tees. The course features two sets of tees for different skill levels. Though the fairways are decent, seven of the greens are artificial, so keep that in mind. Overall, it’s a great little course to get some practice on your irons while getting some exercise.

You can also get some exercise by exploring local attractions like the Astoria Column. Modeled after Trajan’s Column in Rome, the 125-foot tall concrete column overlooks the Columbia River, offering scenic panoramic views. While the city of Astoria is home to approximately 10,000 people, it’s estimated that 400,000 visit the Astoria Column each year.

For those interested in history, you can spend days exploring the numerous Lewis and Clark National and State Historical Parks scattered throughout Astoria and parts of southwest Washington State.

There are also several interesting museums in Astoria, including the Oregon Film Museum, Heritage Museum, Hanthorn Cannery Museum, and Flavel House Museum. The star of the show is the Columbia River Maritime Museum, which opened in 1962. This impressive museum contains the largest collection of Pacific Northwest maritime artifacts in the country.

There’s a lot more to see and do around Astoria, Oregon. Drive over the Astoria-Megler Bridge to Washington State for scenic views of the Columbia River and check out Fort Stevens State Park on the coast to see a century-old abandoned shipwreck.

For more information on the area, visit TravelAstoria.com. You can also read more about Lewis & Clark Golf & RV Park on RV Park Reviews.



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Free Dry Camping Near Big Timber, Montana At Otter Creek FAS

Needing a convenient and free spot to camp for the night while traveling through Montana via I-90, I looked over the list of Fishing Access Sites (FAS) and found Otter Creek FAS near Big Timber not too far off the freeway.

The site is along the banks of the Yellowstone River, just off a paved road, and best of all, overnight dry camping (there are no hookups available) is free!

Montana
Otter Creek. Photos by Dave Helgeson

As we approached on the road above the site, I saw a number of RVs already camped there and as it was close to dinner time, I hoped there was one more site available for us.

As we circled through the area passing by the already occupied sites while searching for open sites, I found it odd that there was a total absence of people in or around the RVs or anywhere for that matter. Despite the heat, there was nobody sitting outside in their lounge chairs under their awnings, in fact, their awnings weren’t even deployed.

Montana

Closer inspection revealed the RV windows were closed and the fact there were no generators humming to run the air conditioners, lead me to believe the RV owners weren’t in their RVs either.

Next, I noticed there were no tow vehicles parked in front of the travel trailers and fifth wheels. One RV had a couple of tents set up in front, of which one had been blown down by the wind. It began to feel like one of those sci-fi movies where the main characters drive into a town only to find the residents had mysteriously disappeared!

About that time, I spied an open level shady grassy space on the banks of the river, hunger and fatigue quickly overcame the fear of man-eating creatures lurking in the river, and I quickly pulled in.

camping

Since the site was level, we proceeded to cook dinner prior to unhitching the trailer and putting the jacks down. Just as we were finishing dinner, the next strange occurrence began to unfold when we spotted another RV coming down the hill into the fishing access site, slowly passing by our space either looking at our rig or seeing if they could squeeze into the remaining space in front of us, then proceeding to the other end of the access site where there were other areas to camp.

In short order, they were passing by our space again, this time stopping, at which time a lady got out of the vehicle and came towards our entry door (maybe she was checking to see if there were really people inside, unlike the other RVs). I stepped to the door to ask if I could help and she asked if we were staying. I let her know that we planned to stay the night and leave sometime the next day after visiting friends, that I just hadn’t had the chance to unhook and put the jacks down.

This is where it got real strange. She replied, “We are staying longer,” implying they were more entitled to the space than my wife and I staying only one night.

Now I could tell you how I responded, but I am more interested as to how the readers of this blog would have responded to this statement and its implications. Please share.

Also, to answer the question as to why there was nobody occupying the other RVs parked in the camping area? It wasn’t the plague, aliens or river creatures; it was the 50th Annual Montana Boat Float the coming weekend which brings hundreds of people, water craft and RVs riverside to participate.

Camping by yourself in a nearly “full” campground and then being asked to give up your space, just another strange adventure in RVing!



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How To Be A More Environmentally Friendly Camper

You’ve probably heard the saying “pack it in, pack it out,” meaning you should leave nothing at your campsite that wasn’t there before. But as long as you pick up all of your trash, the environment will be fine, right?

Wrong. The truth is that there are many other ways to cause unintentional damage. If you’re not careful, camping can be extremely detrimental to the ecosystem.

environment
Photo by Michael Larosa/Unsplash

Taking, damaging, or rearranging natural objects

If you’ve ever been to the beach or gone on a hike, you know how easy it is for an interesting rock, shell, or flower to catch your eye. You’ve probably taken a natural souvenir home from your trip at least once (I know I have).

While it may be tempting, removing any natural element can upset the delicate ecological balance that exists in even the tiniest of habitats. That rock you brought home may have sheltered a variety of different organisms. The shell was a potential home for a hermit crab. The flower you picked played an important role in the process of pollination.

This isn’t to say that you can never again bring home a flower or seashell (although it is illegal to take rocks from any U.S. national park), but keep in mind that every change you make to your surroundings impacts the environment as a whole.

Another common yet destructive practice is trail marking. Some hikers find their way through the desert by rearranging the rocks to build cairns or by scratching their initials into the stone. Not only does this ruin the natural view for other hikers, but it can also destroy animal homes and catalyze the process of erosion.

Blazing or carving into trees is possibly the most disastrous habit of all, since it exposes the tree to diseases that could eventually kill it. No one wants to be responsible for the fall of a 500-year-old sequoia.

Introducing invasive species

Sometimes you can even bring a bit of nature home with you and not realize it. Invasive species spread from place to place by hitching a ride on cars, RVs, shoes, clothing, and pets.

environment
Photo by Mel/Unsplash

Some species are incredibly damaging to the ecosystem and can choke out natural wildlife. Become more aware of invasive plants and animals and take a look at this invasive species list.

Before your trip, remember to wash any seeds, spores, or insects off of your vehicles and clothing. Do the same before returning home.

Creating chemical pollution

Do you plan to set up camp next to a leisurely brook, whip out the dish soap, and start scrubbing your plates in the stream? If so, you might want to take a second and reconsider.

environment
Photo by Andrew Wulf/Unsplash

Soap, shampoo, toothpaste, and other cleaning products often contain chemicals that can do a lot of damage to the environment. If absolutely necessary, use a small amount of biodegradable soap.

Camp at least 200 feet away from a natural water source—any closer, and cleaners can leach into the water, poisoning animals that live in it or drink from it.

Even bug spray and sunscreen can be environmentally harmful. Chemicals from sprays can pollute the air, while lotions can wash off into the water and kill marine life. Try to use non-chemical bug sprays and sunscreens, and allow them to dry before going swimming.

Creating mechanical pollution

While toys like dirt bikes and ATVs can be fun, they can also damage the air and landscape if overused. Ride only in designated areas so as not to cause extra erosion, and minimize the time you spend on your vehicle.

environment
Photo by Koen Van Ginkel/Unsplash

Try other, more eco-friendly activities, like riding bicycles or going for a hike. If you have a generator in your RV, use it to charge your battery rather than running it constantly. Not only do they consume fuel, but generators also pollute the air with carbon dioxide and unnecessary noise.

Disposing of trash improperly

Everyone knows that littering harms the environment, but even disposing of trash can be harmful if done the wrong way. When putting garbage into a trash bag, sort out the recyclables from the non-recyclables. Those who recycle at home on a regular basis often don’t take the time to put glass and plastic in a separate bag while camping.

environment
Photo by Vova Drozdey/Unsplash

Don’t bury your toilet paper—yes, it is biodegradable, but it still takes several months to decompose. Animals sometimes dig it up and spread it around the woods, which would be very unpleasant for future campers. Be sure to collect all your trash; even something as simple as a plastic 6-pack holder will take 5 centuries to decompose and can easily strangle small animals.

Food scraps and leftovers also qualify as trash. Don’t “leave it for the birds” as you might have been told. Pick up all large scraps and put them in a trash bag. Dispose of your trash in a campground dumpster or bring it inside your RV, unless you want some furry visitors in the middle of the night. Never feed the local wildlife; not only can it make them aggressive toward humans, but it can also make them very sick.

Building campfires

Nothing says “camping” like a campfire—but nothing says “environmental damage” like a hazardous campfire. Anywhere a fire is built, the natural process of decomposition is interrupted and the soil loses its quality.

Sparks can fly into nearby dry grass and underground roots can smolder, increasing the risk of wildfires. Only build a fire if you have to—campfires consume precious wood, create smoke that pollutes the air, and leave ashes on the ground. Try using a camping stove to cook meals instead of tossing them over the flames.

environment
Photo by Almos Bechtold/Unsplash

Wood and dry leaves are safe to burn, but never try to burn trash like plastic bottles, styrofoam dishes, or aluminum cans. Chemicals from synthetic materials can leave behind toxic residues when burned, as well as release harmful gasses into the air. Pieces of paper or cardboard can also fly out of the flames and start wildfires. If you do plan to build a fire, use existing fire rings and proper fuel.

This earth is the only one we’ve got, so don’t ruin it on your vacation. Let’s work together to protect the wild places so that future generations can enjoy camping as well. Be mindful of the environment and camp responsibly.



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CAMPFIRE SURF AND SURF | Go RVing

Adventure is my middle name…

Getting out into nature and enjoying cooking in the great outdoors is how I want to live. One of the best ways to do that is by RVing! I am so excited to announce that I am teaming up with Go RVing to show how easy it is to cook delicious meals around a campfire while you are exploring nature. Whether you are in a different state or at a nearby campground, RVing doesn’t have to limit the flavor of the food that you eat. Everything I will cook will be simple, easy and delicious. So to kick it all off, I have decided to cook some Campfire Surf & Surf.

The old Surf & Turf is a classic grilling recipe. But for all you seafood lovers out there, why not substitute the heartiness of the steak with a thick piece of salmon? Top that off with some skewered shrimp and veggies. Now you are talkin’ my language!

In my Campfire Surf & Surf recipe, you will first grill up a massive chunk of wild caught salmon over the fire. Seasoned with parsley, garlic, cayenne powder and more to make sure you have a savory and tangy fish. The same seasoning will go on the shrimp as well! This will balance the flavor of the food with the same seasoning on two very different seafoods. The tenderness of the salmon really complements the robust flavor of the shrimp to make sure you get that variety that you are looking for in a combo dish like this. Lastly, you will add some charred veggies cooked on a skillet/plancha over the fire. These veggies round out the whole meal with their salty and charred flavor.

My favorite part about this dish is how easy it is to cook. All the ingredients you can find on the road at any local grocery store! Plus, they do not take up a lot of space in your RV while still giving you delicious food. Stay tuned for more recipes to come while I cook over fire in an RV!

Recipe:

COOKING DETAILS

Yields: 2-4 Servings

Cook: 30 minutes

Prep: 15 minutes

Equipment Needed: Fire pit, wooden skewers, cast iron skillet/plancha, tongs, wood, and fire starters.

CAMPFIRE SURF & SURF

  • 1 whole salmon (un-filleted)
  • 1 lb. of shrimp (no shell & de-veined)
  • 2 zucchini (diced)
  • 2 yellow squash (diced)
  • 1/2 white onion (cut into halfmoons)
  • 1 tbsp of dried parsley
  • 1 tbsp of minced garlic
  • 2 tsp of cayenne powder
  • Sea salt & black pepper (to taste)
  • Olive oil

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Using a fire starter, build your fire and let burn until it coals (about 15-20 minutes).
  • While the fire is burning, skewer the shrimp & lather both the shrimp and salmon with olive oil on all sides. Season both shrimp & salmon with dried parsley, minced garlic, cayenne powder, sea salt & black pepper.

  • Once fire is hot, season skillet/plancha with olive oil and start cooking zucchini, yellow squash and onions. Let cook until nicely charred & soft (about 10 minutes).

  • While veggies are cooking, place salmon on grill skin side down. Let cook for 8 minutes per side. Cook until internal temp reads 145F. PS: You can also smoke the salmon if you prefer!

  • Lastly, place skewered shrimp on grill and let cook.

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10 Reasons RV Living is for You! – Find Your Freedom

RV Living is gaining major attention these days. In fact, RV sales are at an all time high in the USA. But, the question remains: Is RV Living for you?

We think so!

Maybe we’re a little biased (or a lot biased), either way today we’ll give you 10 reasons to explore the possibility of full time RV living.

In case you want a second opinion, here’s a video of 10 RVers sharing why they chose RV life!

 

Once you hit the road, you may be sad to depart your beloved family and friends. Take this chance to rekindle old relationships with loved ones across the US.

We started new traditions of spending holidays with cousins who live across the country. It has been such a blessing to spend more time with family members that we once saw only every couple years.

We’ve also reconnected with old friends throughout our travels.

Well, duh! Isn’t this what fuels everyone’s desire to take up RVing.

This country is insanely beautiful and unique. During our “sticks & bricks” life we’d have to cram in as much travel as we could into a two week window – now we get to really experience the country at our own pace.

We stick by the old saying, “the west is best!” But, it’s all worth exploring.

I guess the hip folks call this “getting woke,” but we like to think of it as living in the moment.

If RV life does nothing else, it forces us to stay on our toes. Being in ever-changing environments and meeting new people around every corner… it trains us to be aware of the present moment.

It’s also made us aware that people are good! We’ve had more strangers approach us with a helping hand than a harmful one.

Making friends on the road is easier than we ever imagined. And, the quality of friendships is wonderful.

These friendships are based on a mutual love for adventure & exploration…not based on our cubical proximity.

We recommend joining the Xscapers RV Club to find likeminded travelers.

 

Yes – it’s possible to save money on monthly expenses once you hit the road. For many months our total expenses were less than $2000.

This will obviously depend on your lifestyle, but if you do some research and learn about boondocking, you can travel the country virtually rent free!

We boondock about 50% of the time – here’s a monthly expense report showing how much it can lower your bills!

When your home has wheels you can take it anywhere the road leads! We’re not much into festivals, or so we thought. We imagined half naked bodies, hopped up on drugs and dancing to rave music when we imagined festivals (nothing against it, just too intense for us).

We quickly found that festivals come in all shapes and sizes. We explored a vegan food fest in Denver and a blues fest (featuring Bonnie Raitt, Taj Mahal & Steve Winwood) in Telluride.

We now LOVE LOCAL FESTIVALS!

You only live once. I’m not sure I believe this, but it’s a smart philosophy to live by! Like the infomercial say:

Why Wait? Act now!

Your geography will improve once you hit the road. Your knowledge of American history with grow. You may even become an expert of random roadside attractions.

Beyond having a newfound knowledge of trivia – you’ll have conversation-starters you never thought were possible.

I love learning were strangers are from now because there’s a strong probability that I’ve had my own experience from a nearby location. These points of connection lead to wonderful conversations!

Like it or not, you’re gonna learn how to preform a lot of basic mechanical work. Sure you can call a guy, but that gets expensive. RVs are notoriously…let me think of a nice way to put it….made cheaply!

Tools you once feared will soon become your trusted friends.

You’ll probably be able to diagnose a faulty starter, a broken alternator or even a leaky coolant system. And, best of all, you’ll take pride in these new found skills!

The last reason RV living is for you….you’re crazy! Your family doesn’t understand this “half-baked” idea, your friends think you’re off the rocker, and lord knows what the pastor thinks!

All these things aside – if the desire is deep within you – it should be explored!

We’re all a little crazy out here on the road and you’ll fit right in with this tribe.

If you’re looking for additional resources on RV life, we recommend reading the Top 10 Newbie Lessons for RV Living.

Also, watch this video about the Top 10 Unexpected Expenses for RV Life!



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