Tips For Towing A Boat With An RV

There are both pros and cons to RVing with a boat. On the plus side, you can experience the water by your campground in a whole new way and get out fishing or simply cruising at sunset. You can also reach boat-in only campgrounds that are more private and secluded.

However, boat ownership is not all smooth sailing. These are some of the costs and challenges that you will also want to keep in mind.

boat
Towing a boat with a Class A. Photo via iRV2 member FreshAir
 1. What type of boat should you get?

There are boats of all types, sizes, and prices. The best option for you ultimately comes down to your preferences, intended use, and budget. Maybe you would prefer a simple pontoon boat for fishing on the lake or rather a more luxurious catamaran for you and some friends to take out on the sea.

You can shop for various types and brands of boats at local boat shows and get a great deal with their competitive low event prices. The shows also have boating accessories that you may want to pick up as well. Check out OfficialBoatShows.com for more information on the events coming up this year.

2. Your towing capabilities

What do you plan on towing and launching your new boat with? It’s easier to back down a tight boat ramp with a truck and boat trailer or smaller Class B or Class C RV than a big Class A motorhome. Some boat ramps are so narrow that a 40-foot coach would be impossible to launch your boat with.

If you usually bring a travel trailer or tow vehicle along, how will you tow them with your boat? Keep in mind that triple towing is not legal in every state and may put you over the legal combined length.

3. The cost of ownership: Boat insurance, fuel, etc…

There are many costs that come with the initial big expense of the boat itself; this includes the annual premium for insurance, high repair bills, fuel, and marina rates. There are also several boating accessories available, some of which are more essential than others.

How much your insurance rates will be mainly depends on the value and type of boat. It can make a big difference between insuring a smaller jet boat as compared to a large yacht. Typically, boat insurance rates range about $300-500 a year to fully insure, but some bigger more expensive vessels can cost much more.

4. Regular maintenance

You’ll already be spending a ton on your boat and it is worth your time and money to keep it in good condition. Like regular upkeep on your RV, it is not only important for cosmetic purposes but also to help prevent problems while you’re sailing.

You will want to regularly wash, wax, and polish your boat, fuel it up, change its oil, inspect your engine, electrical systems, and steering. This maintenance list from Sport Fishing Magazine will give you a good idea of the checklist you will want to follow.

5. Summer and winter storage

When your boat is not in use, where will you store it? Unlike cars and RVs where you can park almost anywhere, your boat will need a dock or slip for storage.

After the summer boating season ends, you will also want to properly winterize your boat and have a place to store it until next year. Some marinas have year-round slips available, but you may not want to leave your boat out on the water over the winter. You can also store your boat in a dry climate-controlled boat storage facility, but you will need to consider the cost of that as well.

6. Consider your other options: renting boats, inflatable watercrafts

There are many other ways to get out on the water without towing around an expensive boat. You can usually rent a boat for the afternoon from the local marina; this can be a very cost-effective way to enjoy boating without having to pay regularly on insurance, fuel, and repairs.

Inflatable boats and kayaks are another popular option as they hardly take up any space or weight when not in use. The Scout Inflatable Boat can inflate up to 12 feet long and 3.5 feet wide, making an ideal boat for fishing, and it can deflate small enough to fit in a car trunk.

7. Search online boating forums

You can ask questions, get tips from other boat owners, view classifieds and more on several free boating forums online. These websites include:

  • SailBlogs – With a free account, you can share your sailing adventures through your own blog and photo galleries.
  • CruisersForum – As a member, you can interact with others on the forums, view the classifieds for available boats or crew positions, get up-to-date information on navigation, and keep up with the latest innovations from boat builders.
  • TrawlerForum – This site has information and discussions specifically relating to Trawler Boats, including Commercial Trawlers, Converts, and Recreational Trawlers. You can get help with maintenance questions, browse their classifieds, or discuss a wide range of topics with other Trawler owners and enthusiasts.
  • RIBnet– Information and discussions on Rigid Inflatable Boats and Soft Inflatable Boats. You can view the photo galleries or the classifieds.
  • BoatMad – Any boater or person interested in boating can find useful tips on BoatMad. The online community has forum discussions, photo galleries, recommendations, and more.
  • Maxum Owners Club – An online community of enthusiasts of the Maxum brand. Members share information on the boats (which are no longer made) and boating life in general.
  • World Cruising Wiki – You can search this site for free, up-to-date information on cruising around the world.
Read more about RV Triple Towing Laws, Legalities, And Considerations



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Where Is The Best Place To Buy An RV? RV Dealer Tips

Buying a new car or truck has become much like buying a commodity, you purchase it at the lowest price possible (regardless of where the dealer is located) and expect the manufacturer Ford, Chevrolet, etc to stand behind their product via their nationwide networks of dealers when it needs warranty work wherever that may be, and they do.

This process works for several reasons. The manufacturer is just that—a manufacturer; they manufacture the vehicle, control production for the majority of the components the vehicle, train technicians how to diagnosis and repair the vehicle along with knowing how long it should take to diagnosis and repair each item in their vehicle, allow that amount of time for their dealers to repair it and pay their dealerships retail labor rate to make the repair. The reality is the service department of most car dealerships is more profitable than the sales department in today’s economy.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t work this way in the RV industry for several reasons.

RV dealer
Know what to look for in an RV dealer

RV manufacturers aren’t really manufacturers, just assemblers, taking somebody else’s product (door, furnace, sink, rubber roofing, axle, etc) and putting them together to make an RV, much like building a house. Most of the component items carry their own warranty of which the RV manufacturer has no control over.

Since RV manufacturers don’t manufacture their own components, it is difficult for a manufacturer to train service technicians on how to properly diagnosis and repair items.

And since they can’t control the overall quality of their units, it is hard to calculate what they should hold in reserve to cover the warranty costs per unit manufactured, so they try to control warranty costs by shorting the dealer in the time they allot for repairs, paying less than the dealer’s retail rate or making the dealer contact the manufacturer of the component for reimbursement. Needless to say, warranty work is not profitable for the average RV dealer.

To further aggravate the problem, the recent surge in RV sales has left RV dealers scrambling for RV technicians to keep up with the demand for service. While the RV industry has recognized the shortage of technicians and is spending millions hiring teachers, writing curriculum and launching a national training center that will be known as the RV Technical Institute, it will be some time before the shortage of trained and certified technicians fill the void.

Bottom line: Most RV dealers service departments are currently straining to keep up with the demand for service, with a limited number of trained personnel, while still trying to make a profit, so when the choice comes down to performing warranty work for the customer who bought somewhere else (out of town dealer or online and had it delivered) OR servicing somebody that purchased through their dealership, who do you think receives priority?

Being the guy that finds out he can’t get warranty work done by his local dealer is one adventure in RVing I don’t recommend!

See also: Here’s What To Look For In An RV Dealer



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Tips For New RVers, First RV Camping Trip Checklist

Did you take the plunge and buy your first RV at one of the RV shows this winter? Are you getting ready to hit the road and head out on your first camping trip? Listed below is a brief, yet important checklist to ensure a great and safe season without any problems.

RV checklist
Follow these key tips and start your first season without any issues.

1. Choose the right route

If your choice was a larger rig, be sure to plan your trip to avoid traveling roads that have overpasses too low for you to safely clear or twisty roads and streets that are too narrow to comfortably navigate.

Plan ahead and research the most favorable route to get to the campground without having to deal with these challenges along the way. It’s also a good idea to book a campground in advance as well. You can easily plan your travels and find campgrounds on RV Trip Wizard.

2. Level your RV upon arrival

Always take the time to level your RV upon arriving at your destination. This is essential to do, even after the longest of journeys.

Not only can it be very uncomfortable when you are trying to relax or sleep inside the RV, but it can cause your unit (especially the refrigerator) to not function properly. Level your RV when you arrive at camp so you don’t have to be concerned with any issues later on.

Remember To Pull The Wheel Chocks
Remember to pull the wheel chocks

3. Remove the wheel chocks before departing

You just enjoyed the weekend camping, and everything is all packed up, put away and ready for the drive home.

However, when you shift into drive, your rig doesn’t want to move. Resist the temptation to step on the gas a little harder as it is very likely your wheel chocks (which prevented your rig from rolling away during the weekend) are still in place.

If you are lucky, other campers weren’t watching and you can covertly go remove them. Putting chocks away is typically one of the last things you will do before heading out, and it happens more than you think.

4. Don’t drive away while still connected

If you have been hooked up to water, sewer, power, or all three while camped, it is obviously important to ensure you are disconnected before departing the campsite with the RV.

This could prove expensive to your RV or campsite utilities in the process of trying to drive away. Always double check that your RV is free and clear and ready to hit the road before you actually pull out of your campsite.

5. Don’t stay at home too often

If you make the commitment to buy an RV, then you should make the commitment to set time aside and use it as frequently as possible. Even if you can only escape for short trips, look for fun and interesting places to RV that aren’t too far from home.

In Western Washington, where I live, we are blessed with so many places to RV close to home. Ocean beaches, Puget Sound, the Cascades, and Eastern Washington are all within easy reach for a weekend RV getaway.

While making mistakes is just human nature, you can avoid them with a little forethought and effort, which can possibly save you from costly repairs or operating your RV in an unsafe manner. Damaging your RV during your first outing is one adventure in RVing nobody needs to experience.



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5 Tips For Visiting RV Shows And What To Expect

Previously we looked at 5 Important Things You Should Look For In An RV Show. In this entry, we will look at getting the most out of your day at an RV show.

Here are 5 tips to help you plan your visit.

1. Make a plan before you go

Visit the show’s website to see what activities and attractions are offered. Some things like seminars may only happen once a day. Are there certain brands or RV types that you are most interested in?

Most shows will have a map on their website and a listing of dealers and products allowing you to identify where these items are in advance of your visit. RV show

Print off the map and circle what products are where, where the seminars are located, and plot a route saving you time and energy when at the show.

2. If you are considering purchasing a towable RV (Travel Trailer, Fifth Wheel, Truck Camper) know in advance what your tow vehicle can safely tow/carry.

Remember to allow for personal items, propane, batteries, and water when calculating how heavy of an RV you may consider purchasing.

If you are looking at buying a motorized RV (Class A, B, C motorhome) and plan to tow a vehicle you already own as a dinghy, know in advance what the restrictions are (if any) of the vehicle you plan on towing.

Once you know, you can plan on searching out the items you will need to tow it at the show. Items like tow bars, tow dollies, braking systems, and other items will likely be featured at the show.

3. Avoid the crowds

If your schedule allows, visit on a weekday. Many shows offer discount admission on at least one of the weekdays.

RV show
Plan your route to navigate the sea of RVs

If you must go during the weekend, Sunday is typically less busy than Saturday. If you must go on a Saturday, attend later in the day once the early crowd starts to dissipate and the parking stalls start freeing up.

4. Have a plan for capturing information

You are going to be exposed to a large amount of products and information at the show. Know in advance how you will record what you saw and heard.

Many use their phones to take pictures of RVs they like along with the model number and specifications. Maybe you want to record the information by writing it down in a notebook.

RV show
Know where the seminars and other activities are located

The advantage of a notebook is you can form a matrix allowing you to compare price, weight, features and other items in an easy-to-read format.

Don’t forget to write down where you saw the item as you are likely to want to take a second look and it can get confusing to remember where you saw an item after looking at hundreds of other RVs in a large RV show.

Regardless of the method you use, don’t rely on your memory as it will be in overload mode.

5. Talk to the Manufacturer Reps

If there is a brand you are particularly drawn to, make sure to seek out the manufacturer representative for that product to ask about any specific questions or concerns you may have.

They typically have more product knowledge than the dealer’s salespeople who represent multiple product lines. Manufacturer reps are likely to know about new models coming out, interior color options, and what modifications can and can’t be made to a factory order unit to meet your needs.

I hope this helps you make the most of your visit to an RV show and leads to many adventures in RVing!

See also: 30 Winter RV Shows Coming Up Soon In 2019



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6 TIPS FOR FIRST TIME RVERS TO GUARANTEE A GREAT RV TRIP

We’re the Hambricks, a family of four with a two and four-year-old. While we’ve traveled a lot, we’d never had the pleasure of taking an RV trip. As excited as we were, we knew it would be different than any other trip we’ve been on and might call for more preparation. Here are some things we learned planning and during our trip that will be useful for other first time RVers.

 

You Don’t Have to Buy an RV to Get the RV Experience, Just Rent One!

Did you know you could have an RV experience without owning an RV? Renting an RV is really simple! We rented ours from Outdoorsy, it’s like an Airbnb for RVs. The process was easy and the owner we rented from told us everything we needed to know before we drove off. We recorded what he said and showed us so we could reference back in case we forgot something on the road.

 

 

The Different Types of RVs and How to Choose the Right RV for You

There are three different types of motorhomes: Class A, Class B, and Class C.

 

Class A Motorhomes are the biggest ones and resemble coach buses. In all honesty they probably aren’t the best option for first timers unless you’re used to driving tour buses or tractor-trailers.

 

Class B Motorhomes are camper vans. They are sprinter vans that have been converted into a living space. This means the bathrooms and walking space is extremely tight. Your shower and toilet will be in the same space and the max sleeping capacity is typically two people.

 

We rented a Class C Motorhome. It is a motorhome on the chasse of a truck or a van. They provide a good amount of space and come with multiple beds, dining table and full bathroom. Here’s the inside of the one we rented.

 

 

In addition to the motorhomes there are also multiple types of RVs that are towable units, meaning that you pull it with a truck or SUV.

 

Do You Need a Special License to Drive an RV?

In most states, RVs weighing under 26,000 pounds don’t require a special license. But Class A RVs are the only ones that could potentially weigh more than 26,000 pounds so if you plan on driving a Class B or C you should be fine. You can double check with the state’s DMV for updated information and these rules sometimes change.

 

Know the Height of Your RV

Why is knowing the height of your RV important? Depending on where you are driving you may have to go through tunnels or drive under bridges. Your hood scraping the ceiling and you getting stuck is not the time to learn your RV is taller than the height limit. While driving through Zion National Park there is a tunnel that RVs over a certain height can only go through during certain times of the day. If you need to drive through and miss the cut off time the roundabout way adds 2 hours on to your journey!

 

Making an RV Camp Reservation: Do You Really Need To and What Type of Spot Should You Reserve?

I am a big planner so naturally I wanted to make sure we had all our RV camp reservations secured before getting on the road. Was this really necessary? I think it depends on when and where you are going.

 

We traveled out West in late November when the weather starts to get very cold. While the weather meant there were fewer RVers and making a reservation wasn’t really necessary to get a spot it also meant not all RV camps were open. When calling some closer to Bryce Canyon I discovered they were closed for the season. Had I not called ahead to make a reservation we could have been left in a situation of having spotty cell phone service making it difficult to find another RV camp to stay at. The nearest one open one was 90 minutes away so I’m really happy we planned ahead.

 

When making your reservation some parks will give you the option of a pull-through or back in spot. Always go with the pull-through, they are much easier to get in and out of.

 

 

 

Some RV parks have different hook up options. When booking your RV campsite, you need to know if your RV is 30 or 50amp to make sure you book the correct spot. Some RVs do come with an adaptor to hook up to either, but many don’t so make sure ahead of time if you’ll need one or not.

 

 

Know Where You Can Replenish Your Propane Along Your Route

Depending on the RV you have your stove and central air including the heat may run on propane only. This means even if you are hooked up to electricity, without propane you will not be able to cook or stay warm in the winter. Filling up the propane in an RV can only be done by a professional and not all propane refill stations service RVs. It’s imperative you know where you can fill up along your route or you could be hungry or freezing!

 

 

Double Check Your Destination Has RV Parking

If you’re not pulling a travel trailer and have a motorhome like us parking can be a little tough in some locations. Make sure each of your destinations has parking for RVs. Even if they do, space might be limited so always give yourself extra time to find parking in case you have to go to a different RV parking lot.

 

These tips should help make your first RV trip one without many hiccups. One thing we learned was the RV community is very helpful. When in doubt just ask a fellow RVer and they will usually be happy to assist you. Enjoy your first RV trip and good luck with not wanting to immediately purchase one when you get back home!

 

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How To Turn Photos Into Jigsaw Puzzles, Tips For Making Custom Puzzles

Taking photos of places you travel is a great way to preserve memories of your RVing voyages. With the ease and accessibility of digital photography, there are more and more ways to share your favorite photos with others or make keepsakes of your cherished moments.

One unique way that has come into focus recently are companies that will allow you to use your own photograph to make jigsaw puzzles. Companies like Shutterfly, PuzzleYou, and even Walmart will take your digital photos and create beautiful puzzles with up to 2,000 pieces.

puzzles
Custom photo puzzles improve your concentration and give a lasting way to remember your adventures. (Photo by TC Wait)

It is even possible to make photo collage puzzles to showcase more than one photo at a time, or to include text in your puzzle. Creating a custom puzzle box will allow you to personalize your creation as a souvenir or a gift.

While children are playing video games, more and more adults are enjoying puzzles as a way to unwind and challenge their mental concentration. Working a puzzle strengthens the connections in our brain and improves the mental speed and thought processes.

Studies have shown jigsaw puzzles are especially good for improving short-term memory as well as problem-solving skills and eye-hand coordination. Doing puzzles with a group of people helps build better relationships and teamwork.

Another study from Australia shows that doing jigsaw puzzles helps you work through difficult issues by focusing your concentration to one task (the puzzle) and therefore your subconscious can better process the issue you are struggling with, helping to resolve complex issues. Puzzles may also help with sleep, dementia, and stress management—and no prescription is needed!

puzzles
A 500-piece custom photo puzzle from PuzzleYou. (Photo by TC Wait)

How to select a good photo for your jigsaw puzzle:

  1. Select a photo that is meaningful to you. A special place, a special person, a peaceful scene.
  2. Make sure you have a high-resolution digital photo. Often photos taken with a low-resolution phone camera won’t give you the high-quality end result puzzle you are looking for, so do some homework and figure out how to get the best photo you can from your camera. If you do post-processing adjustments, save it to a higher-quality file.
  3. Photos with lots of colors and different objects tend to make easier puzzles. Lots of area with only one color (ie sky or white sand) will make lots of puzzle pieces of that same color. Objects that your eye can orient as up or down help too.
  4. Select a puzzle size and number of pieces appropriate for who will be putting it together. Giving a child a 1000-piece puzzle might overwhelm them.
  5. Research the company that you are using to ensure you are getting a good quality puzzle. There are lots of companies you can find online that will make puzzles from your prints, so be sure you are working with one that offers a satisfaction guarantee, or that you know will give you a beautiful keepsake.
See also: 10 Creative Things To Do With Your Favorite Travel Photos



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RV Show Tips, What To Look For In An RV Motorhome Show

It seems like there is an RV show about every weekend this time of year. How do you know which one you should attend?

RV show

The following are five things you should look for when deciding what RV show to attend this season.

1. First off, is it really an RV show?

Some events billed as an “RV show” are really just a parking lot sale put on by a single RV dealership. While they may list lots of different brands in the advertising, be aware that not all the brands listed may be new RVs they are licensed to sell by the manufacturer.

Many times dealers may mislead the public by also listing the used brands of RVs they are selling at their “RV show”.  At one dealer “shows” you won’t find the large selection of new RVs that you would at a real RV show with multiple dealers.

Most of all, there is no competition between dealers assuring you are getting a fair price.

2. Is the show produced by a private promoter or an association comprised of local RV dealers?

Private promoters are in the RV show business primarily for the money. The money they collect from you at the gate and the money they collect from the dealers to exhibit.

If they aren’t making a profit producing RV shows they will either produce another event in the venue or move on to a different city where they can.

On the other hand, RV shows produced by a dealer-owned association are there to showcase the RV industry, lifestyle and all it has to offer with the goal of providing show attendees an educational and positive experience and if they are lucky, cover their show costs while doing so.

In other words, dealer-owned shows typically provide more bang for less money.

3. Size matters

Going to shows with the most dealers equates to more manufacturers, more brands, and a larger selection of each brand. Go to the show’s website and determine how many dealers will be exhibiting.

4. Manufacturer representatives

Just like you have to decide which RV show to attend, so do factory representatives. Once again, larger shows with more dealers are much more likely to attract factory representatives for the brands you are interested in.

Factory representatives are a great information resource as they typically know the models and manufacturing process much better than the dealership’s salespeople.

RV show

5. More than RVs

What else does the show offer besides hundreds of shiny new RVs? Look for shows that also feature educational seminars and exhibits as well as opportunities to learn more about RVs and places to explore.

Hopefully, these tips will help you find the right RV show leading you to many future adventures in RVing!

See also: 30 Winter RV Shows Coming Up Soon In 2019



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RV Door Lock Tips – Tips For Locking RV Screen Doors

The RV entry door lock shown below has probably been installed in hundreds of thousands of travel trailers, fifth wheels, and truck campers over the years. In this entry, I want to share two tips that could very well save you from aggravation during your travels.

RV door lock
Does your RV lock look like this?

1. How do you know if your door will unlock with a passkey?

For decades, the main latch/knob of RV entry door locks has been keyed with master keys, also known as passkeys.

Look for a small letter (C, D, E, etc) next to the keyhole. If you see a letter, this indicates which lettered passkey will unlock it. The reason for passkeys is the convenience for RV manufacturers, transport drivers, and RV dealers.

RV door

It is much easier for someone in the industry to carry around a few master keys than a key to every RV in their inventory. What this means to you is anyone with the corresponding lettered passkey can open the latched handle of your RV entry door (or knobbed handles on older RVs).

To counter this, most RVers (myself included) only use the deadbolt on the RV entry door. Deadbolts are uniquely keyed and, under normal circumstances, you control the only set of keys.

2. How do you fix the deadbolt if it wears out?

Those of you that follow this blog know that I travel a lot and go to a lot of different places, some which are a little off the beaten path, which equates to many miles on my RV. In fact, it is safe to say, my 2010 model travel trailer probably has 3 to 4 times the mileage of most RVs of similar age.

Therefore, when my deadbolt started acting up, I figured it was worn out and ordered a new lock assembly. Upon removing the lock from the trailer door, I discover the screws holding the rear plate of the lock had vibrated part-way out.

RV door lock
These screws back off

This allowed the rear plate of the lock to come loose, which in turn allowed the linkage that connects the deadbolt tumbler to the deadbolt to drop out of the cast holes that allow it to work.

Fixing the lock was just a matter of dropping the linkage back in the hole and screwing the rear plate back on tight, as the plate is the only thing that keeps the linkage from falling out of the hole.

RV door lock
Correctly reassembled

Putting a little Loctite on the screws assures this won’t happen again. Fortunately for me, the linkage fell off when the deadbolt was retracted.

Hopefully by sharing this information, I have informed some about the dangers of passkeys and the pending failure of your deadbolt as the miles add up. Take corrective action before you find yourself locked out of your RV.

Being locked out of your RV in the middle of nowhere is an adventure in RVing no one wants to experience.

See also: Keyless RV Door Locks: Are They Worth It?



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Tips For New RVers And Seasoned RVers

New Years is a time to reflect back upon the year that has passed and a time to anticipate what the coming year holds. I have been writing this blog for over ten years and as I reflect on the hundreds of thousands that have read my blog entries over those years, I really have no idea who my readers are.

Are you old, young, male, female, longtime RVers, just entering the lifestyle, live in the west, live in the east, maybe you live abroad, pet owner, some may just be looking for interesting places to travel? I suspect there is a mix of everyone I just listed.

resolutions
Boondocking in the sun. Photos via author

As I shared in my last post, I have been camping and enjoying the RV lifestyle my entire life. I can remember the days before RVs had gray tanks, you didn’t need a battery to operate your furnace or refrigerator, and most travel trailers were pulled by cars.

On the RV industry side of the equation, I have held every position in an RV dealership other than bookkeeping (my wife handled that end of things), so I understand how the industry (sales and service) works, its strengths and weaknesses.

In those ten years that I have been blogging, millions of new RVs have been purchased, some by those already enjoying the RV lifestyle and others just joining in the fun. While I don’t have statistics to confirm it, I bet there have been over a million first time RV owners during that time.

New Years
Author speaking at FMCA Convention

That said, I would love to help my readers (whoever you are—old, young, seasoned, or new to the RV lifestyle) reach your New Year’s RV resolutions by addressing items you are looking to tackle in the months to come.

Maybe it is camping more often, being a better dry camper, finding out-of-the-way places to explore, keeping certain parts of your RV maintained, what type of RV is best for me, etc.

Please use the comment box at the bottom of the page to give me a rough idea of who you are and what you would love to hear about in future blog posts.

While it is unlikely I can respond to everyone’s request, I will do my best to write entries that address the subjects I am qualified in and of interest to many. Hope to hear from you soon and may your New Year hold many adventures in RVing!

See also: 5 Free Resources For Your New Year’s Resolutions



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Safety Tips For Driving At Night

Nighttime travel, particularly along remote roads where obstacles and wildlife may be found, can be treacherous.  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that nighttime driving fatalities occur three times more frequently than that of daytime driving.

night
Night-time visibility is limited. (Photo by TC Wait)

During low light times, the human eye has a more difficult time with depth perception, color determination, and peripheral vision.

Additionally, as we age, our night vision deteriorates, increasing our risk.  Eye strain and fatigue can also lead to dangerous drowsy driving.  These tips can help improve overall safety for driving after dark.

 1.  Adjust your headlights.

Properly aligning your headlights will help keep your beams where they are most useful for night driving and not blinding others approaching you.

Headlight alignment can change over time from loosened light assembly, tire pressure, or where the load weight is being carried.  Some headlights have a bubble level in the headlamp assembly to check aim, but often you will have to do it yourself.

Check your owner’s manual for how to correctly adjust the aim of your high and low beams.  It may take a few tries, but getting this adjustment dialed in can make a huge difference.

2.  Clean your windshield—inside and out.

There is nothing worse than streaks on your windshield, and they can be even more noticeable at night when light bounces off of streaks and grime.

Oil from touching the inside of the glass can linger and smear, which can make for annoying glares.  An easy trick to polish glass is to use newspaper that removes residue and doesn’t leave lint behind.

3.  Avoid other light sources.

Try to keep non-headlight light sources to a minimum to keep your vision sharp and your concentration focused.

Dim the dashboard instrument panels, use the rear-view mirror dimmer switch, keep map lights and inside reading lights off, and avoid looking at the headlights of oncoming traffic.

It is very easy to stare at bright road signs or other headlights, but this can distract your focus and cause eye strain.

4.  Scan for wildlife.

Wildlife is active during the night hours, and can often be found on roads that provide easier travel routes than other forested trails.

night
Wildlife along the road are more active during nighttime hours (Photo by TC Wait)

Animal collisions can be devastating to the animal and drivers.  The cover of dark can protect animals from predators but also conceals them from human eye detection on the roads.

Be extra alert for animals during night hours, watch your speed, and scan ahead for retinal reflections of your headlights in the eyes of animals.  Often you will see retinal reflections before you can see the actual animal ahead.

5.  Add auxiliary lights.

Fog lights not only help you see the road during foggy weather but because they are mounted low to the ground, they spread wider than the low beams helping you see farther along the shoulder of the road.

night
LED lightbars can add night visibility for remote roads. (Photo by TC Wait)

HID (high-intensity discharge) lights or LED (light-emitting diode) lightbars can also add to your function of the high beams for those who do a lot of night driving in low-density traffic areas.

These lights should be used cautiously, as they can severely blind other drivers, and because your eyes adjust to the brightness, switching to your normal beams will then seem very dim.

Ideally, these lights should be wired in using a relay to draw power directly from the battery while the control wire comes from a switch, the existing high-beams, or both.

HID lights provide extra illumination at great distances in front of the vehicle, while LED lights provide excellent distributed light for illuminating sides of the road and road surface conditions.

Unlike fog lights, HID or LED lights are not good for use in fog or heavy snow, as too much light is reflected back to the driver.



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