If you will be doing any winter camping or winter RV living, proper insulation of your RV or camper is one of the most important factors to consider in order to not only keep your RV cozy inside but to protect your equipment against the harsh winter elements. There are several options available when it comes to insulating your RV against winter temperatures. Cost, ease of sourcing materials, bulky materials, and permanence of insulation are all common challenges that come along with insulating an RV for the winter. EZ Snap products are one solution to keeping the chill out that resolves many of these concerns.
Comparing Common Insulation Types for Your RV
First, look at some common insulation types and their benefits. Foam board insulation is perhaps the easiest material to source. You can find foam board insulation at most home improvement stores, often with several sizes and thicknesses to choose from. While installing foam board insulation is not a permanent installation, the materials are quite bulky and bring with it the challenge of what to do with the foam board at the end of the season when spring comes again and it’s time to remove the insulation.
Reflective insulation, while less bulky than foam board, is also a non-permanent solution. Reflective insulation can also be sourced at many home improvement stores and comes in rolls of various R-values. When removed in the spring, it again brings with it the challenge of what to do with the used insulation after it’s removed as it’s not simple to store for future re-use.
Spray foam insulation is a more permanently installed insulation that is applied to the underbelly of the RV to help insulate the pipe against the elements. It can be quite costly to insulate the underbelly fully with spray foam and is also difficult to remove in the future should the need arise.
Key Considerations for Choosing Insulation Materials
RV skirting does not require a high R-value to be effective in insulating your RV. The temperature differential between the inside and outside air beneath the RV is minimal due to the use of electric heaters, and the R-value savings would be insignificant. Furthermore, to achieve significant energy savings, RV skirting would need to be much thicker than it typically is. Stopping air movement is far more critical than R-value when it comes to RV skirting; a barrier to airflow alone is sufficient for most situations. In extreme winter climates, using rigid Styrofoam insulation board in conjunction with RV skirting is the most effective way to add insulation. Lastly, thermostatically controlled space heaters with built-in fans are the best heat source to use under RV skirting, as they only use energy when needed.
Insulating Your RV: Windows, Doors, and Floors
Window Insulation: Reducing Heat Loss with EZ Snap Window Shades
EZ Snap window shades are a valuable layer to your insulation equation as they help retain heat inside of the RV by adding a layer of insulation over your windows, protecting against the elements. Installation is simple with EZ Snap’s patented no-drill installation system. You can mount the fasteners to either the side panel, if it’s smooth and flat, or to the glass itself, cut the non-fray solar shading mesh to the size of each window, and install. (“EZ Snap”)
Door Insulation: Proper Sealing and Weatherstripping
Choosing the right weatherstripping material is another important factor to take into consideration. While some materials provide more insulation against cold temperatures, others are better suited to holding up against snow and ice or sub-zero temperatures. Thinking about the conditions where you live will help you choose the best material for your weatherstripping needs. Once you have selected your weather-stripping material, you’ll need to measure around your door to determine how much weather-stripping you will need. Next, you will cut the weatherstripping to size and allow a little excess to ensure that it will have a tight fit once installed. You can always trim it down later, if necessary. Finally, install the weatherstripping around the door, trim any necessary pieces that overlap, and test the door to ensure a proper seal with your new weatherstripping. (“How To Weatherstrip A Door the Right Way and Seal Gaps”)
Floor Insulation: Essential for RV Comfort and Plumbing Protection
Insulating your RV’s floors is an important step not only to help keep the chill out of your RV’s interior but also to help protect your RV’s plumbing system. Both freshwater and sewer pipes for your RV travel below the floor of your RV, so keeping those insulated also ensures that your plumbing system remains in tip-top shape throughout the cold winter months. To insulate your floors you could choose fiberglass, foam board, or spray foam insulation options. Each comes with varying costs, ease of installation, and the degree to which it provides insulation protection against the elements. While fiberglass insulation is the cheapest option, it’s the least suited for snow and wet weather which will require something like corrugated plastic to cover the fiberglass when you install it. Foamboard provides higher levels of installation but is the bulkiest and most costly of the three options. Spray foam insulation is more moderately priced but provides lesser protection against cold weather than foam board and is a more permanent solution. Choosing the best floor insulation for your needs is important and properly installing it will ensure the maximum protection for your RV. (“RV Insulation 101”)
Walls and Ceiling Insulation: Enhancing Comfort and Heat Retention
Enhancing Wall Insulation and Protecting RV Plumbing with Skirting
RVs come from the factory with varying levels of insulation. One option to increase the R-value of your RV’s wall insulation is to use spray foam insulation to supplement your RV’s existing insulation. Skirting your RV using a product like EZ Snap RV Skirting Kits provides a simple, easy-to-install solution that adds insulation to parts of your RV’s walls while also offering extra insulation to the underbelly and safeguarding vital plumbing lines. EZ Snap’s diamond-weave material is designed for extreme weather down to -40 degrees Fahrenheit and is lightweight, easy to cut to size, and resistant to mold and mildew—crucial factors considering it will be wrapped around your RV for several months each year.
Roof Insulation: Minimizing Heat Loss and Ensuring Warmth
Ceiling insulation might not be the first area of insulation that you consider when thinking about protecting your RV from cold temperatures, but since warm air rises, it’s where heat can easily be lost if not well-insulated. While keeping your roof cleared of snow and ice as much as possible is important, so is insulating your roof. One aspect to consider is any skylights or vents. These can be fitted with foam insulation pillows to reduce heat loss through the thin plastic windows which do not come insulated from the factory.
Optimizing Heating and Ventilation for Winter RV Comfort
Efficient Heating Systems
Keeping your RV’s propane or electric furnace in top condition is the first step to ensuring an efficient heating system. Making sure that all of your ductwork is clean, and vents clear to allow for maximum airflow to all areas of your RV will also help to keep your RV cozy inside. Some RVs come equipped with an electric fireplace heater or these can be added aftermarket to up the heat output in your RV. If your RV is larger or if you find that you need additional help heating your RV, ceramic space heaters used for short periods of time during the day can help raise the inside air temperature of your RV, keeping you warm and cozy inside. Never leave these unattended or running overnight.
Ventilation and Humidity Control
Proper ventilation is always important, but especially in the winter when you are sealing around your RV to insulate and keep the heat in and the cold out. Making sure that your RV’s propane is properly venting to the outside and not back into the RV is a critical safety consideration. Humidity is also a common battle during the winter months as condensation tends to settle on the walls, windows, and ceiling of the RV if left unchecked. Running a dehumidifier inside the RV throughout the winter will help to pull the humidity out of the air, preventing mold and mildew. These can quickly destroy your investment in your RV, so don’t skip on managing humidity, particularly if you are in a humid climate.
Evaluating your RV’s insulation needs and ensuring its proper insulation using the right products and equipment will ensure a cozy winter RV experience for you. Protecting your equipment by insulating your RV efficiently and properly will also extend the life of your RV, ensuring your enjoyment of your RV for years to come.
Recreational Vehicles, also called RVs, offer a leisurely, convenient, and comfortable method of travel. But like any motor vehicle, they also require regular maintenance to operate safely and to avoid costly and unforeseen pit-stops. By performing the simple and routine maintenance checks in this article, you will ensure that you and your family have a smooth, fun, and exciting journey to your destination! After all, road trips are a staple to domestic travel in the US and should be time spent seeing the natural beauty of the country while relaxing with friends and family. By the end of this article, you will be ready to take on your next big road trip with peace of mind behind the wheel as we will discuss comprehensive RV checklists and some recommendations on must-have equipment, such as RV skirts and other innovative products by companies such as EZ Snap.
When planning an RV trip, one of the most important things that must be done is a proper and thorough maintenance check. This is a comprehensive check of all your RV’s major and critical systems, like tires and electrical systems, which ensures that you have a functioning vehicle that will provide a smooth and safe journey. Neglecting pre-trip checklists and maintenance oftentimes leads to unexpected and costly repairs that offer nothing but stress and anxiety during your travels. In this section, we will be going over the most important components of a pre-trip maintenance checklist and what to do in the event something unexpected comes up, or you run into issues during your pre-trip inspection.
What to inspect before leaving for a trip in your RV
Tires- Be sure to thoroughly inspect each tire (including your spare!) for tread depth, tire pressure, and overall condition. Check your manufacturer’s recommendations to get the best tire pressure for your RV, and just do a simple visual inspection of the inside and outside walls of each tire. Do you see any bald spots, or even worse, wire showing through? If so, it’s as good a time as any to get those tires replaced to avoid any dangerous blowouts on the highway.
Brakes- Check the callipers, brake fluid level, and brake pads if you have them. This can all be done with a simple visual inspection, but if you’re having difficulty seeing the brake system, try turning your wheels to one side to get better access for your inspection. Your brake pedal should also feel firm when you press on it.
Lights- You will want to ensure that all of your lights are working properly before you hit the road as well so the drivers around you can see you and know when you are turning, changing lanes, or slowing down/stopping. It is easiest to have a helper with this one to tell you if your lights are working or not when you test them. One of you will get in the driver’s seat, turn the engine on, and shout which lights you’re currently testing-brake lights, front and rear turn signals, hazard lights, taillights, and headlights (high and low beams)…see why its easier to have a friend? Alternatively, you can set your phone up to record video in front of, and then behind your vehicle as you run through all the combinations of lights, check the video to make sure all is working!
Electrical- This can be a little trickier, especially if something is not working properly, but your first course of action is to simply start the engine…if it starts up without a problem, you’re looking pretty good, if not, it will likely be a trip to the shop unless you are mechanically inclined. Easy and important things to check though (whether it started on the first try or not), is to look for corrosion on your batteries (yes you likely have two in an RV, one to start the engine, and a “house” battery to run the RV when parked). It will look like pink or blue crystals built up on the battery terminals and is easily removed with a wire brush and baking soda/water mixture, be sure to wear properly fitting protective equipment like rubber gloves and safety glasses. You will also want to do a visual check on your alternator and any other electrical components including your fridge, heating system, A/C, 12v outlets, etc.
Mechanical- Do you know when your last oil change was? If not, consider getting another done before your trip. Did you know that engine oil not only breaks down with mileage but also with time? Old oil can be as bad for your engine as heavily used oil, as the components break down over time and the lubricating quality does not work after a certain number of months. The recommendation is to get an oil change every 3,000-5,000 miles or every 6 months. Does your engine make any kind of whining or screeching sound when you start it up? Probably a loose belt that needs to be replaced. How about when you turn your wheels, does it make a groaning noise? If so, you may be low on power steering fluid or have an issue with your power steering pump.
Plumbing- The job that one unfortunate soul gets stuck with-every single. time…It’s not a pretty job, but it needs to be done regularly to ensure a properly functioning toilet in your RV, if we wanted to be camping, we have brought a tent, right? You will want to check all of your tanks and “Summerize” tanks by rinsing out and flushing the winterizing RV treatment that you should be using every year. This includes your water tanks, black tanks, and gray tanks, which hopefully were properly cleaned and treated after your last trip, otherwise, you’re in for one heck of a cleaning job that nobody wants to do. You will want to check and test your lines, water heater, and water pump for overall functionality and any leaks by putting water in your system and testing out each component-turn the water heater on, test each sink with open cabinets to look for leaks, flush the toilet, then look under the RV to ensure there are no visible leaks. You’ll also want to test your drinking water hose for leaks before departure, they can be expensive on the road.
Propane- Check the dates on your propane tanks to ensure they are still within the legal, usable date. When that is verified, connect your propane tank to your RV, and test all of the propane appliances and lines by turning them on (stove, oven, 3-way fridge), and spraying soapy water over the main propane lines to look for leaks (presented as bubbles on the hose).
Exterior- Look for any chipping paint, loose parts, dry rot, etc. Do a thorough walkaround of your RV to visually inspect the all-too-often flimsy fenders and wheel wells to ensure everything is still connected and sturdy. While you’re at it, check the spare tire holder to ensure it is sturdy, and get under your RV one more time to check for any alarming rust or damage to your frame, slider motors, axles, etc. If something looks “off”, it is likely worth a closer inspection by you or a professional.
Interior- This is not just for creature comforts, but also safety. Make sure to inspect all of your emergency exits and that the hatches and hinges are all functional. Check the date and functionality of your fire extinguisher and all of your fire alarms and your VERY important carbon monoxide alarm. Other than that, make sure you have all your insulating window covers (regardless of season), extra blankets, pillows, towels, etc.
If you do happen to find an issue during your pre-trip inspection, it is very important to have the issue fixed before departure, which is also why it is important to do this checklist at least a week in advance, and once again the day before you leave. Be sure to give yourself plenty of time for last-minute discoveries that will put anyone’s safety in harm’s way.
Depending on the severity of the issue, you may have to bring your RV into a shop to see a professional to get you back on the road safely. It is very important to not attempt any repairs on your RV that you are not comfortable with or lack the experience to complete properly, such as a brake job. Consider purchasing roadside assistance insurance that includes a rental car and hotel in the policy before your trip as well.
Engine and Transmission
The engine and transmission are arguably the most important parts of your RV because, without them, it’s just a big hard-sided tent that you can’t move! The engine and transmission are what deliver the power and directional torque to move your RV, and need special attention and maintenance to work properly, especially as more miles are put on your RV. Once again, any neglect in maintaining the engine and transmission of your RV has a high likelihood of leading to costly and unexpected repairs on the road, so be sure to pay close attention before it’s too late.
Best practices for maintaining your RV engine>
Oil changes at regular and recommended intervals. As mentioned earlier, most manufacturers advise changing your oil every 3,000-5,000 miles or every 6 months. This is essential to keep the very hot and very fast-moving metal components of your engine properly lubricated. Ever seen old motor oil with shiny flakes in it? That is ground metal from engine components due to an improperly lubricated system…which is very bad.
Replacing oil and air filters at regular intervals. Every oil change typically means a new oil filter, and new air filters to ensure the flow of everything is at peak levels and there are no restrictions along the system This helps keep your fuel economy at its most efficient as well, which is an essential factor for many on long RV trips.
Check fluid levels regularly. Just because you haven’t hit those 5,000 miles or 6 months, doesn’t mean the oil in your engine is not breaking down. Especially on a road trip in your RV, be sure to check your oil levels every time you fill your gas tank. Also, while you’re at it, be sure to check all of your system fluids as necessary, such as your brake fluid levels, windshield wiper fluid, coolant, and power steering fluid.
Check belts and hoses for wear. As mentioned earlier, this is a pretty easy one to hear when you start your engine or turn your wheel. Most of the time, your belts let you know when they need some attention via a very high-pitched squeal, which is the sound of the belt slipping. If it’s constant when you turn the engine on, it’s likely your serpentine belt, if it is only when you turn your wheels, it is likely the power steering belt. Hoses can be a bit trickier as they are typically for compression (air) in your engine. If you’re having a loss of power or notice a hissing noise, break out that spray bottle of soapy water from earlier when we checked your propane system, and spray the compression hoses to look for leaks.
Check your batteries. We already went over this one, but it’s important enough to mention again in this article as it is a very common startup issue that can be easily remedied without much mechanical knowledge. Big thing is to check for corrosion, which will present itself as blue or pink crystals building up on the battery terminals. Oftentimes when this is the issue, all you have to do is remove the clamps from the terminals, and scrape or brush away the corrosion. Baking soda in water works wonders, but be sure to wear proper protection including rubber gloves and eye protection.
Best Practices for Maintaining your RV Transmission
Very similar to engine maintenance, transmission maintenance largely involves changing lubricating fluids and filters at regular, manufacturer-recommended intervals.
Change fluids at regular intervals as recommended by the manufacturer. Typically, transmission fluid is recommended to be changed every 30,000-50,000 miles.
Replace the transmission filter on your RV with every transmission fluid change. This helps to keep your transmission fluid clean and free of debris.
Check for leaks around your transmission and repair immediately if a leak is found, one way to passively keep an eye on this is to look at the ground under your RV to see if there are any fluids near the transmission.
Drive conservatively whenever possible, this reduces the strain on your transmission when shifting gears and will prolong the life of your factory RV transmission.
Exterior Maintenance of your RV
Exterior RV maintenance is more important than most people think before RV ownership. RV’s are typically built to have a greater focus on being lightweight than ultra-durable, and that requires a little more TLC than your normal motor vehicle. Being constantly exposed to the elements, road debris, salt in the winter, etc., they are prone to leaks, rust, and potentially rot (depending on where they are kept). Use the following checklist to ensure the longevity of your RV’s exterior.
Clean your RV regularly. Regular cleaning of your RV removes dirt, road grime, grease, oil, insects, and other debris that can cause damage to your RV over time. Similar to a car, you want to hose the exterior down before scrubbing with a soft, microfiber brush or towel to avoid scratching the paint during cleaning.
Check the roof for leaks after big storms, snowfall, and taking out of storage. Also, be sure to check all windows and the cabinets along the corners of the wall and ceiling- sometimes leaks like to hide in there and you won’t find them until you see visible water damage. Consider purchasing and applying RV roof sealant every 5-10 years. Be very careful walking around on the roof of your RV as well, especially if there isn’t a ladder attached from the factory as that typically means the roof is not designed to be regularly walked on. Just like walking around in an attic, be sure to look for the studs and only step on those studs, otherwise, you may send a leg through your roof!
Clean and dry the awning after every trip and before storing it for the off-season. Just like a tent, you never want to roll up and store a wet awning as it will grow mold and mildew that will deteriorate your awning and can cause potential health implications. Use a soft brush and a mild cleaner to clean your RV awning.
Check your tires (including your spare tire!). This one has come up a few times now… may be due to the high importance of having tires in good condition! Be sure to check your tires’ tread depth, sidewalls, air pressure, and visual condition periodically, and every time you depart on a trip. You’ll want to keep a keen eye out for any bulges or bald spots as well, which means that the tire needs to be replaced ASAP.
For a high-quality line of products designed to protect your RV and improve your overall quality of time while traveling, consider checking out EZ SNAP. EZ SNAP specializes in exterior RV products such as RV skirting, RV insulation, and RV sun protection. EZ SNAP is most famous for its RV skirting, which is used as a barrier around the bottom of your RV to prevent wind, rain, snow, and dust from entering the underside of your RV while parked and camping. Not only does EZ SNAP skirting help prevent unnecessary damage to the undercarriage of your RV, but it also provides the best layer of insulation that you can get for your RV. If you have ever camped or slept in a hammock without any insulation under your body, you know what we’re talking about. The wind that blows under the RV is a huge heat drain and will reduce the overall interior temperature of your RV by several degrees, at best, skirting eliminates this.
Maintaining your RV Interior
Maintaining the interior of your RV can be as important as maintaining the exterior of your RV due to safety and health implications. Maintaining the interior of your RV is what ensures you have the comfort and safety of home while on the road, and the following checklist will help achieve that goal.
Clean the interior regularly, including the floors during and after every trip to maintain a non-slip and clean entry to your home on wheels. It is very difficult to get into the heating system of an RV, and most often the heat registers are on the floor. You will want to ideally vacuum the floor of your RV every few days on the road and especially when you return so debris and dirt do not end up in your heating ducts, then blowing everywhere inside your RV when you need to turn the heat on, leading to a higher risk of respiratory illness or allergies. Also with the kitchen oftentimes in the most heavily trafficked area, there is a higher risk for grease splatters on the floor that can create a slipping hazard. You will also want to dust, wipe down surfaces, and remove any travel dust that may have entered during your trip.
Check appliances for functionality. Turn on all your systems before departure so you can ensure a safe and comfortable experience. Test the stove, refrigerator, freezer, heating, A/C, any slide-outs, water tanks, water systems such as sinks and showers, circuit breaker box (have spare circuits), and any other interior systems that are critical to your safety and comfort. You will also want to make sure that all appliances that run on either propane OR electricity are functional in all modes; for instance, make sure if you have a 3-way fridge that the house batteries, propane tanks, and shore power are all working properly before leaving for your trip.
Check for any water or fluid leaks, particularly in overhead cabinets that occupy the corner between the wall and ceiling, that’s a great place for water damage to hide. Looking under your sink and clearing out any pea traps is also a great idea before leaving on a trip to ensure your plumbing is not backed up in any way. Fill your water tank and turn on each sink and shower, one at a time to isolate any potential leaks. Having a helper to quickly look for leaks under cabinets is also very useful to quickly pinpoint leaks while minimizing water damage.
Test electrical systems, as previously mentioned, turn on all systems one at a time to isolate any issues and get them repaired immediately by a professional if problems are discovered.
While checking for leaks, if any water damage is found, also keep a keen eye out for mold damage that could create long-term health implications. This can look like anything from dried water stains to black spots with fruiting bodies of mold growing. If you can see mold, it is a problem that will need professional remediation and potential replacement of insulation, wall paneling, roofing, cabinetry, etc.
Check all emergency systems such as your smoke detectors, CO alarms, fire extinguishers, and med-kits. Restock anything that needs to be restocked and replace anything that needs to be replaced. There will be expiration dates on most of this equipment that you can refer to, or simply replace with fresh batteries before your trip.
Maintaining your RV Electrical and Plumbing Systems
Drain and flush the water systems after each trip and properly winterize your tanks every Autumn. This will help prevent any clogging due to hard water or mineral deposition and make it difficult for mold and mildew to colonize your tanks.
Use water softeners to minimize mineral deposition in your tanks and lines, further increasing the longevity of your factory systems.
Check all electrical connections such as fire alarms, radio, hitch connections, etc.
Use surge protectors when connecting to shore power or a generator to add one more level of electrical protection to your trip. They make special surge protectors for RVs that should always be used when plugging your RV into a power source.
Properly Storing your RV
Properly storing an RV is a very important part of RV ownership to mitigate damage from the environment, pests, and other factors that can cause wear and tear to your vehicle while it sits waiting for the next trip.
Some essential tips for storing your RV are:
Clean your RV every time you return from a trip.
Empty the water tanks and make sure they are dry before storing them for an extended period.
Winterize your RV by emptying the water tanks, and water heater, and using a specialized RV antifreeze that can be placed down each sink, shower, and toilet drain.
Cover your RV with a high-quality RV cover to prevent environmental damage from the weather, sun, pests, etc.
Disconnect batteries and keep them in a warm place until ready for use, and always connect to a battery tender to keep the charge and health of your batteries up.
Tips for long-term storage of your RV:
Use a climate-controlled RV storage center. These are the most expensive option, but also the most guaranteed option for keeping your RV properly stored when not in use.
Check your RV regularly by removing the cover, inspecting for water or rodent damage, and regularly repairing what needs to be repaired.
Use tire covers to keep your tires out of the sun and to minimize any dry rot and exposure to the elements.
Consider RV-specific storage products such as EZ-SNAP skirting, window covers, and tire covers. There are also specific anti-mold cleaners that are very useful and great to have.
As we have been discussing at length in this article, preparedness while traveling in your RV is critical to avoid costly accidents, and to ensure a smooth, safe, and fun trip for everyone. Some emergency supplies that should be kept in every RV include but are not limited to
Basic first aid kit to treat injuries and know how to use it in the event of an emergency. You should be able to treat minor injuries and illnesses while on the road or camping.
Emergency food and water supply need to be kept in a safe location and out of sight, such as under the main bed. This should not be kept anywhere that wildlife, other travelers, or cold temperatures can get to. Not much sense in having extra water if it’s frozen!
Flashlight/headlamps, and extra batteries in the event of a power outage in the evening.
Portable, hand-crank radio for weather and emergency reports
Tool kit with basic hand tools for minor repairs
Emergency warmth such as blankets, hats, gloves, hand warmers, and propane heaters such as a Mr. Buddy heater.
Even with all the planning in the world, accidents and emergencies can still happen. It is best to stay calm and know exactly what it is that you need to do in any given situation, and the only way to ensure that is through training and practice. In the event of an emergency on the road in your RV, be sure to
Stay calm. Easier said than done, but staying calm not only helps to make more logical decisions but also aids in keeping those around you calm, which fosters a much better environment to figure out what comes next.
Take an emergency preparedness course such as the Wilderness First Responder course offered by organizations such as NOLS Wilderness Medicine, which specializes in backcountry medical stabilization and emergency preparedness in a remote setting.
Follow safety protocols while driving. If you need to pull over or make an unexpected stop, pull over as slowly as you safely can, turn on your hazard lights (that you checked to make sure worked before leaving), and evaluate the next move from there.
Dial 911 to activate emergency services if you need emergency or medical assistance.
Have a plan for emergencies and discuss it with your group before you depart on your trip, such as a meeting place if separated, informing friends about your location, and sharing emergency contact information with everyone.
Additional Tips and Tricks for Maintaining your RV
Owning an RV is no simple task, and it comes with a lot of upkeep, maintenance, and preparation. However, if you follow the tips in this article and the following list of additional tips and tricks, you will be off to a fantastic start to a relaxing and rewarding travel experience.
Keep a regular maintenance schedule so you’re never guessing what is “due” or needs to be looked at more closely.
Check the roof regularly for leaks and damage, as this is one of the first places where damage will inevitably occur over time.
Use high-quality cleaning products that are specifically made for RVs, as they will be gentle enough to use on the paint, yet strong enough to remove dirt and road grime.
Check tire pressure and maintain it at the manufacturer’s recommendations. Also do visual inspections of tires regularly, looking for bulges or bald spots.
Find reliable RV specialists in your area to help diagnose and repair things outside of your ability. These are also great places to get advice as you build a relationship… don’t just go and ask for free advice.
Join RV clubs and forums. This is where you go for free and knowledgeable advice from experienced RV owners.
Use RV and tire covers to protect the exterior of your RV.
Always keep a basic toolkit and fire extinguisher on board for emergencies and minor repairs.
Q. What is the best way to maintain an RV’s exterior?
A. The best and easiest way to maintain your RV’s exterior is by cleaning it after every trip and storing it under an RV cover.
Q. How often should I perform an RV pre-trip inspection?
A. RV pre-trip inspections should be completed a few times before leaving on a trip. For example, check all the major systems that would require a trip to the shop at least 4-6 weeks before you leave. Other pre-check items can be done during the week of departure, such as checking tire pressure and your smoke and CO alarms.
Q. What supplies should I keep in my RV for emergencies?
A. As discussed earlier, you will want to keep extra food and water, blankets, flashlights, batteries, fire extinguishers, first aid kits, and an emergency plan that is shared with the group.
Q. How do I find a reliable RV maintenance professional in my area?
A. The easiest way is a simple web search for local RV dealers or shops. Also, ask any friends you have in the area who own an RV and read reviews online.
Discover Park Passes & Discounts for the Ultimate Road Trip Experience
The Rest of Your Life
Everyone works towards retirement; however, few actually plan for it.
Many plan financially for a time when daily work obligations end, but how many consider what to do with all of the time? “I’ll play golf,” “I’ll spend time with the grandchildren,” ” I’ll work in the garden,” does this sound familiar?
As longevity increases, thanks to modern medical advances, retirement is also extended. Retirees have spent most of their adult life paying for a house and may still have a mortgage or ongoing rental costs. Do you want to spend your “golden years” in a “golden cage”?
There is another option that is exciting and stimulating. Haven’t you always wanted to see the Grand Canyon?
A Recreational Vehicle (RV) is the answer. The term “recreational vehicle” can describe a fifth wheel (living space pulled behind a vehicle), a motorhome (living space with locomotion), a camper, or an all-inclusive “travel trailer.” It can also be a converted van for minimalists.
What an RV really is, however, is freedom. The freedom to explore and enjoy retirement.
Most seniors don’t realize that many discounts are available to minimize adventure costs. The federal government, individual states, cities, and private enterprises offer reduced prices for many places to camp, national and local parks, historical sights, museums, amusement venues, restaurants, and more for those of a certain age.
Before everyone owned a handheld computer (cell), it was difficult to access these benefits. Now, however, it is all at the explorer’s fingertips. So now is the time to unlock the best RV deals for seniors and discover park passes and other discounts for the ultimate road trip experience.
No one would argue that aging comes with some negative consequences. Consider the alternative. Many studies show that seniors who keep their minds and bodies active live longer and live happier. Exploring the wonders of America can do both.
The federal government encourages seniors to engage positively by offering an America Beautiful-the National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass, commonly called “The Senior Pass.” The pass provides free access and significant discounts at National Parks and other federal recreation areas. However, the passes are not free.
A lifetime Senior Pass costs $80. The government made it easier by extending yearly passes for $20. When a senior purchases four yearly passes, it automatically converts to a lifetime benefit. But be aware there are 16 free National Parks. However, there may be other costs, camping or parking fees, for example.
Passes can be purchased at any federal recreation site for a legal resident 62 years or older. They can also be purchased online at https://store.usgs.gov. In addition to the entrance, the pass provides discounts on some camping sites, swimming, and boat launches. Check the website of the park to find specifics.
City park passes for seniors are available in most communities. Each state has its own guidelines. For example, the senior pass in California allows a yearly $1 discount for day vehicle use and a $2 discount for family camping. Over time, these discounts add up. Again, check the city’s website to find the specifics. In general, the passes can be purchased at the park or online.
Are you or a traveling companion on active duty, retired military, veteran, or a Gold Star Family member? The federal government offers a free lifetime Military Pass to thank you for your service. The Interagency Military Pass provides free admission and basic facility fees at the following agency areas:
The free Military Pass does not cover camping fees, tours, or reservation fees. In addition, it will not help with concessions or group fees. Receive your free pass online at https://store.usgs.gov and select “MilitaryPass.”
One of the benefits of the RV lifestyle is the community. Multiple online sites and blogs specifically address senior discounts for the RV and other expenses along the way. One way to save money is by an RV Club. RV clubs make a financial deal with campgrounds for a discount. You save money, typically 25% per night, and the campground gets more business. Check out the Good Sam Club.
Save a buck on food, gas, and supplies. Keep a record of restaurants that offer senior discounts. If you have a Costco card, the gas prices are lower. Fill up there. You can also buy a gas discount card online, offered by several companies. AARP card? More discounts. As you start your voyage, talk to other RVers, find out how they save money with senior discounts and spend time searching online.
A good idea is to rent an RV for a trial run. You may find it isn’t for you before laying out a lot of money. Several companies offer senior discounts. Don’t jump at the first RV rental place; compare and ask each if they provide a “maturity” discount.
One way to approach a trip is to select a place you want to see. Then, research what else is of interest along the way. For example, on your way to the Grand Canyon, stop in Cawker City, Kansas, to see the world’s largest ball of twine.
–Nature– The diverse national parks and natural wonders of America span all 50 states (Hawaii may be hard to reach) and change with the seasons. There are unlimited places and things to experience.
-Coastal Adventures- Do you like the beach? Start in Maine in the spring and end up in Florida for the winter driving along the coast. Next year. Start in Port Townsend, Washington, and get to Mexico for warmer weather.
-History- If you are a history buff, map a trip that hits all the civil war battlegrounds or head to the Alamo.
-Big Cities- Start in the largest city closest to you and pick a direction. Visiting and comparing foods, lifestyles, and local activities will introduce you to many new experiences.
Don’t just show up, Do your due diligence. Research campground locations (did you know Walmart allows RVs overnight in their parking lot?). Find safe areas ahead of time and read what other RVers had to say about a destination. Being prepared is a safety measure.
Now you have committed to the vagabond lifestyle, get started. The first order of business is selecting an RV that meets your needs. The first and most important consideration is choosing a rig (slang for RV) that you can handle. It doesn’t matter what else the RV offers; if you can’t drive and park it, it doesn’t matter.
There are three categories of RVs:
Class A Motorhomes are strong, large, and heavy. These are similar to the high-end tour bus a band might use on the road.
Class B RVs are similar to an oversized van. They are tiny; however, they are the least expensive, provide the cheapest gas mileage, and are the easiest to drive and park.
Class C combines the other two classes. There is an overhead sleeping compartment and more living space. They may have slide-outs for additional inside space while parked. Another benefit is the ability to tow a car or motorcycle trailer behind.
Packing and Preparing
One thing you must accept is that less is more. While some things can be stored, it becomes a matter of priority. Bring your favorite coffee maker and pictures of the grandchildren. Leave unnecessary knick-knacks, wall art, superfluous dishware, and anything else you will not need and can do without. Remember that more items in a small space equals clutter.
Another concern for traveling seniors concerns well-being. Bring as much as possible if you are on medications, and consider having refills available through a national brand pharmacy for easy refills. As you plan your escapades, always research hospitals or clinics along the route in case of emergency.
If you have any physical limitations, find ways to accommodate potential difficulties. For example, if you have a class C rig and arthritis of the knees, climbing up to reach the sleeping area can be a problem. Buy a collapsible stool. Consider where your RV hooks up to water and electricity. Are you able to reach and strong enough to make secure couplings? You may need a large wrench and a flat roller, such as car mechanics use.
Additionally, it is important to consider the use of RV skirting for both winter and summer to protect your RV from harsh weather conditions and reduce energy costs. Make sure that your skirting is properly fitted to the contours of your RV to prevent air infiltration.
When on the road for extended periods, someone must know your itinerary. Call, text, or email that person on a routine basis. If anything untold should happen and you don’t make the expected contact, your contact can notify officials and have a good idea of where to find you.
Exploring the country is good for your health and well-being. There are different-sized RVs to fit all needs. With a little time planning and research, you can save a lot of money. It is exciting and gives you direction and purpose after a lifetime of working. You stay mentally stimulated and see and learn new things.
Or, you could sit in front of the TV with a beer and watch I Love Lucy reruns day after day. Get up and get moving; live life; it’s not over until it’s over. Most people today will spend 10 to 30 years as retired seniors. So, get busy and start logging the discounts that are due to you as a senior. And get on the road.
Ever since we got our eBikes, we have made it a mission to seek out great biking trails.
But not just any biking trail, we really love trails that are easily accessible – right from where we are staying in our van, bus or boat.
We do still frequently seek out cool trails and trailheads to break up a longer driving day.
But we really love being able to park at our campsite and explore on two wheels what is right around us.
Particularly since much of our RV travels in recent years have been in our van, our only source of transportation once we’re at camp is on foot or by bike. Switching the van back to driving mode is a bit of a hassle and is something we prefer not to do once we are level and settled.
But campgrounds with great biking are often a bit of a challenge to find.
How do we do it?
Today’s post and video shares our secrets, and some of our favorite finds so far.
The Types of Trails We Enjoy
We are particularly keen to find places with great paved or gravel bike trails, or “green” (beginner level) mountain bike trails that are more scenic than technical – and which are enjoyable to ride on our folding bikes without risking damaging our bikes or ourselves.
We really really love Rails-to-Trails routes – they tend to be mostly flat, and are often well separated from car traffic.
We also seek trails that are long enough to really get a good ride on – generally 10-50 miles in length. Ideally with some cool things to explore along the way too – whether access to a nifty downtown area, a swimming hole, a great lunch spot, or (of course!) ice cream!
Short small town bike trails that are often only five miles long (or less!) are not nearly long enough to get a good workout in.
We’re also not as interested in bike routes that are just bike lanes on the side of a busy road, or that are separated from traffic but are really just glorified sidewalks along roadways.
We vastly prefer dedicated trails that are well away from traffic.
We also prefer bike trails that aren’t overly multi-use – whether shared with lots of pedestrians or primarily for equestrian use. While sharing the trails is a great concept, navigating around lots of people on foot can become tedious – and horses often leave trails way too torn up for fun riding.
And when it comes to finding bike trails near a campground or RV Park – we’re looking for trails that easy to get to. No driving, or long rides on open roadways involved!
Finding the Perfect Campground Trail
Yeah, we’re not picky or anything.
And don’t even get us started on our campground preferences (privacy, scenic, great connectivity, etc.)
So it doesn’t come as any surprise that there’s not an easy way to find these gems of locations. At least, not that we’ve found.
Finding campground with great biking is a pretty manual process of combining multiple search methods to find that perfect intersection of ideal trail and great campground.
The tools we use include:
Google Maps – We turn on the ‘Bike Route’ feature to show us trails in areas we are considering heading to next. Scrolling around, we hunt for long and interesting looking trails – and then we’ll make note of any campgrounds or RV parks that might be nearby.
Trail Link – A site dedicated to trails, we’ll use this to seek out potential trails – and then look for mentions in reviews of possible campgrounds nearby.
Campground Review Sites – We love Campendium, but also use RV Park Wizard, to research campgrounds. Once we have some trails identified, we’ll search around to see what campgrounds might be nearby. We’ll keep an eye out for reviews that mention bike trails when doing general campground searches.
Even using all of these tools – sometimes we end up making a leap of faith, trusting that we’ll be able to find a way from a promising campground to a cool trail without needing to ride through heavy traffic or along high-speed roads first.
Some Favorite Campgrounds & Bike Trails
Here are some recent favorite campground with great biking we have discovered – in roughly reverse chronological order.
Alafia State Park – Florida
Traverse City, MI
St. Johnsville, NY – Erie Canal Biking
South Marcum ACOE – Rend Lake, MO
Iron Mountain Trail, Red Top Mountain SP – Acworth, GA
Alafia State Park
Fries New River RV Park – Fries, VA
Timber Creek Campground – Branch, MI
High Pines RV Park – Lane, PA
C&O Canal – Brunswick, MD
Liberty Harbor RV – Jersey City, NJ
Red Top Mountain State Park – Acworth, GA – A top rated campground north of Atlanta that has recently been completely redone. At the base of the campground is the connector trail to the beautiful 4 mile Iron Hill Trail. It is shorter than we’d like, but pretty enough to enjoy looping around twice.
South Marcum Campground– Benton, IL – This Army Corp of Engineer park is one of three surrounding Rend Lake, with an amazing ~20 mile bike trail connecting them all. South Marcum is at one end of the trail, if we had to do it over again – we’d likely choose the middle campground so we could divide up the trail better.
Timber Creek Campground – Branch, MI – Small US Forest Service campground available on a first-come-first-served basis, with the North Country National Scenic Trail running right through it. Bikes are allowed on this section of this epic hiking trail.
Traverse City State Park – Traverse City, MI – State park in this urban city across the road from Lake Michigan, with the TART Trail running right behind it giving access to explore the city and some wonderful local parks.
Harrison Park Campground – Owens Sound, Ontario – A popular city run park with tight RV spaces, with access to trails through town and along the Georgian Bay.
High Pines RV Park – Lantz Corner, PA – Private RV Park, with access across the road to a 7 mile in & out trail to Kinzua Bridge State Park, with an incredible skyway to explore.
Fries New River Trail RV Park– Fries, VA – Beautifully built private RV park, with access to the amazing New River Trail. It’s a trail all along the New River with dozens of miles of trail to explore.
Alafia State Park – Lithia,FL – Great campsites at this state park, with a connector trail to their mountain biking playground offering easy to difficult trails.
Crane Brewing – Raytown, MO – A Harvest Hosts location, this brewery in the Kansas City Metro area is a trailhead for the Historic Rock Island Trail – offering great access for a bike ride, followed by a cold beer!
Dam West Recreation Area – Lake Carlyle, IL – This cute little Army Corp of Engineers park along Lake Carlyle connects in with a network of easy biking trails along the dam, around the lake and into town.
Hawthorne City Park – Terra Haute, IN – Cute little city owned campground with lots to do onsite, and right along a network of trails running through the city to get you into town and exploring the university area.
River Trail Crossing – Butler, OH – Cute privately owned RV Park along the water, right along the B&O Bike Trail. Go left about 10 miles, and you’ll find gluten free pizza at one end, go right and you’ll find an ice cream shop.
Stow Silver Spring Campground – Stow, OH – City park that connects to a huge bike trail network – including to Cuyahoga Valley National Park. You can bike one way into Cleveland and take the tourist train with your bike back.
St. Johnsville Marina & Campground – St. Johnsville, NY – Right along the Erie Canal, this waterfront RV park and marina has easy access across the bridge to awesome biking along dedicated tow paths in both directions.
Liberty Harbour Marina & RV Park – Jersey City, NJ – Right across from the Statue of Liberty, this is basically a parking lot with a high price tag (but it’s so worth it!). Amazing bike trails on the Jersey side right from the park, and an easy ferry over to absolutely incredible bike exploration of NYC with dedicated paths.
Brunswick Family Campground – Brunswick, MD – Right on the C&O Trail, a bike route from Washington DC to Pittsburgh – this is a dedicated tow path with no vehicle traffic. From the campground the historic town of Harpers Ferry is an easy destination just about 10 miles away. The campground itself isn’t the greatest, and is super pricey considering what you get. But the biking is heavenly!
Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway – Central Florida – A collection of campgrounds with awesome bike access to trails that explore the greenway where the canceled cross-FL barge canal had been planned. Ross Praise, Shagri La and Santos are all state park campgrounds along the trail, with easy access to a range of mountain bike trails and an amazing 16-mile paved dedicated bike trail with the curvy flow of a mountain trail.
Ft. De Soto Park – St. Petersburg, FL – A lovely county park if you can snag a site with many private feeling water front sites. Also at the end of the biking trail network around the area, with trails within the park to the beach.
Clearwater RV Resort – Clearwater, FL – A great RV park in an urban setting, with fantastic easy access to the network of bike trails around the Tampa area.
Biking Around Sanford, FL
And then there’s Sanford, FL – which has been our home base since the start of the pandemic.
Besides all the awesome local dining, drinking and entertainment – an amazing bike trail around Lake Monroe keeps us coming back.
Biking to Gemini Springs with Marc & Julie of RVLove
Friends Sabine & Eckhart
Lake Monroe Trail
Gemini Springs Trail
Moonrise over Lake Monroe
If you want to explore around Sanford by bike, here’s some places to stay along the bike trail we love so much:
Downtown Sanford Marina – Sanford, FL – Walking distance to the historic downtown, this where we’ve been aboard Y-Not. The riverwalk trail passes right by our marina, and is part of the 27 mile loop around the lake. We use this regularly for biking, walking and running. (Note, due to the 2022 hurricanes, there is currently no dockage availability for transients).
Lake Monroe County Park – DeBary, FL – Just four miles down the waterfront trail from downtown Sanford, this park is technically one county over. It offer sweet little campsites and the bike trail passes right through it.
Blue Spring State Park – Deland, FL – A little further away, this state park has been our local get-away. It has direct access to a biking trail network that connects in with the same trials we access from Sanford.
So these are some of our favorites – what are yours?
We are always looking to find awesome new trails to explore – so share your favorites with us here!
Can you believe that in our 16 years of full timing we have never RV’d in Canada?
Yeah. We can’t either.
We have however visited Canada many times by cruise ship, train and car.
So this summer, we decided it was well past time we finally crossed over with an RV as well for a proper extended visit.
After days of preps making sure we had whittled down our reserves to meet the alcohol and food allowances for legal entry, we used the ArriveCAN app to upload our vaccination cards and all other needed details – and we got in line in Buffalo at the Peace Bridge to cross the border.
It was time to explore Ontario!
Here is the video version of this journey:
Stop 1: Boondockers Welcome – Cedarway Farm
After crossing the border (see our tips for a smooth crossing later in this post) we drove by Niagara Falls to see them from the Canadian side (awe-inspiring). And then we stopped for a quick lunch at – Tim Hortons (which seems to be a Canadian thing to do?).
Next, we were seeing countless road signs for wineries – so we had to stop. We randomly picked Foreign Affair (seemed appropriate) for a tasting visit, and bought a couple delicious reds.
And then, since we are doing new things anyway – we had booked our first ever Boondockers Welcome stay. We had been gifted a membership years ago by the original owners, but up until now had just never felt the need or call. We generally have more driveway surf invites than we can accept, and we were always unsure about the social expectations.
But since Boondocks Welcome is now integrated with Harvest Hosts, finding options to consider is much easier than ever before. One map shows all your options, and there is easy online booking at many locations. We found a Boondocks Welcome driveway that allows 2-night stays near Lake Ontario on a farm, with a note that owners are rarely around. Sounds like a perfect first experience for us.
It was a delightful stay, and we did get to meet the sweet owners. And we thoroughly enjoyed the tranquility of bike along the vineyards, and walks on the lakeshore.
It was a perfect stop to catch up before heading off to our next adventure .. which we knew was going to be abundant in activity, eh?
Stop 2: Newmarket, ON
Next stop on our Ontario tour was some suburban moochdocking in Newmarket – just north of Toronto.
Visiting our dear friends Margot & Michael was a major impetus for crossing the border. In the winter, they usually RV in Arizona – where we have met up many times before.
Margot is Canadian, and was back to renovate one of her rental properties. Which is her primary income source to fund her travels.
We were so thrilled they could take a few days to play tourist with us. Newmarket has an amazing bike trail system with access to a darling downtown. We also took a drive to Barrie to check out Kempenfest – a holiday weekend art festival along Lake Simcoe.
We also were able to meetup with Keith, the North American General Manager for Peplink (a popular cellular router we cover over at MIRC) for an amazing sushi lunch.
While we had intentions to catch a train to spend a day in Toronto too – we just never found the time.
Thanks for a lovely visit and tempting us north of the border! We had so much fun!
Stop 3: Bare Oaks Naturist Resort – Gwillimbury, ON
Since we recently had our first nude RV park experience, and Bare Oaks (caution, page has lots of naked people) was right near Newmarket, we decided we had to check it out as a quick next stop.
This resort was a bit different than Avalon in West Virginia – most notably in that’s it’s strongly a naturist resort, where being nude (and not just clothing optional) is expected except for protection from the elements. It’s also very family focused too.
It was a very lovely facility with an amazing swimming pond, pool and hot tub.
The transient RV spots however left a lot to be desired. The sites are packed close together, and when we arrived our chain smoking neighbors were hosting a large social gathering spilling right into our designated spot, and they made us feel like we were intruding on their party (which went all day and until well after midnight) by parking in the site we were assigned.
Since we were there for only an evening, we made the best of it – and instead of hanging out in the campground, we focused on swimming and exploring the beautifully landscaped grounds.
Stop 4: Mara Provincial Park
Next up – we tried our first Ontario Provincial Park. Mara Provincial Park (our review) was not far away – on the north side of Lake Simcoe, outside Orilla.
It was a lovely stay to decompress after several days of social with friends, and we really scored by grabbing a site with lots open spots around it. So our section was pretty quiet compared to the rest of the campground.
It turns out we had booked the only site for ‘Under 25 Foot’ trailers amongst a whole bunch of sites for under 18’ (we are 21’) – which weren’t in demand. Ontario categorizes sites assuming a trailer plus tow vehicle – and it turns out our van can actually fit just fine in most of the smaller RV sites. Realizing this opened up a whole bunch more availability as we plotted our stops ahead!
All and all – we really like the Ontario provincial park system. Their online booking is top notch (we noticed Michigan uses the same software), offering tons of info on each site (giving photos and information on privacy, quality, dimensions and slope). And all the staff we encountered has been super friendly and helpful.
Stop 5: Awenda Provincial Park
For our next stop on our Canadian tour, we were able to grab a spot for a night at Awenda Provincial (our review) This campground is gorgeous – with huge private sites, and lots of them!
From the campground it’s about a 3mi / 5km hike/bike to get to the swim beaches along the Georgian Bay – but so worth it for an amazing refreshing dip in the lake.
We wish we could have gotten a couple nights here – but cellular signal was pretty poor. And there were way too many trees for Starlink. So we played cards instead.
This stop also coincided with my birthday. We picked up some grilled gluten free burritos (yes, that’s a thing in Ontario that definitely needs to be everywhere) and a gluten free cake at the grocery store on the way.
It was a lovely way to celebrate my 49th year around the sun.
Stop 6: Harrison Park – Owen Sound, ON
Finding spots over summer weekends can be a challenge most anywhere that it’s not blasted hot. So we were thrilled when we could snag a site at Harrison Park (our review) – the city campground for Owen Sound, Ontario.
The campground was bustling with activity and full of families out enjoying the camping lifestyle, and the sites were a bit packed in.
But overall – a pleasant experience with easy online booking.
The park is great, we had a nice spot along a creek, and there are many hiking trails (to a waterfall!) and an easy bike ride to the cute downtown and the shoreline of the sound.
Stop 7: Harvest Hosts – Rural Rootz – Wairton, ON
As we make our way up the Bruce Peninsula – we spotted an intriguing Harvest Hosts in Wairton, Ontario. Rural Rootz Nature Reserve.
Run by former RVers Tom and Dee – this place is, quite simply, magical.
Tom got us parked in an amazing secluded spot (with 30A power – which we didn’t need) and then introduced us to the preserve’s many dragons and the labyrinth walk.
And then there are more ambitious hiking trails. And let me tell you – if this man hands you a hiking stick, take it! There were no easy trails, but we loved it. They were some of the most intensely beautiful hiking trails we have ever explored!
We ended the day shopping Dee’s art store and selected a butterfly piece perfect for the foot of the bed in the van (or it may end up at our lot in AZ one day). She then proceeded to tell us the story – it was made to inspire hope after 9/11. This piece has been there over 20 yrs waiting for us.
I wish we had snapped a pic with these two amazing human beings.
This was one of our most memorable Harvest Hosts stays.
Stop 8: Bruce Pensiula, Tobermory, Ferry Ride
From Rural Rootz, we left just after dawn to catch our 8am pre-booked parking time at one of the main attractions on the Bruce Peninsula, and part of the Bruce Peninsula National Park.
The Grotto. Everyone said we must go. It is such a popular spot that parking needs to be reserved far in advance. Forget about getting a last minute campsite.
While the hike to the Grotto was very lovely (about 3-4km round trip) – the grotto itself?
Hmm. It’s just a semi-submerged cave, in a cliff.
It’s pretty, especially for a fresh water lake. But not nearly as impressive as the hype, logistics and crowds would seem to indicate. Maybe we are jaded having traveled extensively along the Pacific and Maine coastlines, where sites like this are to be found at pretty much at every scenic overlook?
We spent the rest of the dreary rainy afternoon checking out Tobermory – which is pretty much like most any other coastal tourist town with ice cream & trinket shops (not our thing), scarce parking, and way too many people.
The highlight however was finding gluten free vegetarian poutine at a food truck .. and oh my goodness, it was yummy!
Overall, wish we had spent more time exploring less touristy parts of the Peninsula, taking the scenic routes and checking out some of the other small towns.
We were happy when it was time to board the Chi-Cheemaun Ferry across the Georgian Bay to the Manitoulin Islands. The scenic ferry ride was a lovely 2–ish hour trip that made us miss Y-Not. We can not wait to get her up here to cruise these waters (next summer?).
Unfortunately – as best we can tell, during the ferry crossing is where we picked up our stow-away. Our very mild case of COVID presented just 3 days after. Boarding the ferry was the one time we were around lots of people, even though we kept masked indoors and primarily rode on deck outside.
Stop 9: Providence Bay Tent & Trailer – Manitoulin Islands
The park and tiny town was at a lovely location right along the shores of the island, looking out across Lake Huron. There’s a long boardwalk along the sandy beach to an ice cream shop (Huron Island Time) that serves some amazing Jamaican food.
If it wasn’t for the locally made Haw Pop soda made from native hawberries – you might swear you were in the tropics. Well, until you dip your toes in the refreshing water.
The park itself is lovely, especially the seasonal sites – nicely spread out and wooded.
We however selected a spot in the overflow lot which has a wide open sky. The cellular signal here was sort of scarce, so we were able to rely on our Starlink satellite system to get us online to host a pre-scheduled webinar.
After our 2-night stay we headed north towards Little Current on the northern tip of the island to cross the single lane swing bridge back to the mainland. But not before stopping along the shores of Mindemoya Lake to see Treasure Island.
Why, you might ask?
Chris had discovered this is the world’s largest island inside a lake on an island that is inside a lake.
Yeah, try to wrap your brain around that!
Stop 10: Chutes Provincial Park
Our next stop, after finding amazing Indian food in the middle of nowhere, was Chutes Provincial (our review) – named for the logging chutes constructed to move timber around obstacles like this waterfall.
The park had huge beautiful campsites, and a lovely hike along the river and rapids that felt pretty darn strenuous – which should be been my first clue we were coming down with mild COVID symptoms. We pushed through and even filmed a total of 5 mobile internet videos that day.
The next morning both our throats were itchy – which we attributed to campfire smoke and talking so much on camera.
We enjoyed our stay here – another absolutely lovely provincial park with huge private feeling sites. We’re gonna get spoiled.
Stop 11: Bruce Mines Campground
Chris planned a stop at the Bruce Mines Campground (our review) – a small city park along the Trans-Canada highway. It was one of the few places to stop near the lake between Chutes and Salt Ste Marie – so we scheduled a quick overnight to break up what would have otherwise been an overly long driving day.
The campground was ok, but had a very weird check-in process that required walking quite a ways from the campground to the city marina to actually pay for our site.
And there was not much to do in Bruce Mines. We got in a bike ride out to the Kissing Rock and an old lighthouse.
I did feel the call towards a nap that afternoon, which I can now chalk up to COVID coming on.
Final Stop 12: Pancake Bay Provincial Park
Our final stop in Ontario was along Lake Superior at Pancake Bay Provincial (our review). We just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to enjoy this huge gorgeous lake.
It was so crystal clear, and the long sandy beach could have passed for a tropical shoreline.
We hiked, biked and swam here and really enjoyed the stay.
With our lingering scratchy throats and mild fatigue, we decided to test and we both came up positive for COVID. Staying isolated is pretty much how we have operated for most of the past couple years, so really – not much to adapt to, just thankful for very very mild symptoms.
We were able to keep pretty isolated on the trails (wearing masks where appropriate) and still get out exploring, being active and enjoying the area. We just took a slower pace and used more electric on the bikes to allow our bodies to fight it off.
This stop marked the end of our stay in Canada, and thus crossing back into the US at Sault St. Marie nicely coincided with what we were sure was at least Day 5 after our symptoms started, which met the CDC guidelines to be back in public with masks. And we already had a longer stay booked in Michigan where we could be hunkered down until we were back to testing negative.
And that ends 3 wonderful weeks of exploring Ontario! We can’t wait to go back!
When we shared about our Canada trip on Facebook, we got a lot of questions about the logistics, so here are some quick tips.
Border Crossing Into Canada
We did a lot of research in advance of our crossing to make sure we were prepared.
As of this summer. being COVID-vaccinated is required (which makes it all the more ironic that it was Canada where we caught it). We had to upload our vaccination cards (along with passport and general travel info) to their ArriveCAN app up to 3 days in advance of our crossing, and pre-select our border location and time.
We checked Canada’s website a couple weeks before crossing so we could see what the current regulations are, and make sure we consumed everything on board not allowed. Their regulations are far more permissive than we thought they would be, so it turned out we really only need to use up the last of our eggs for which we didn’t have their original container.
When we nervously got in line at the border, ironically, we got in line behind another Travato GL – and our border agent was quite amused to see twins crossing one after the other, especially when we told him we were not traveling with the folks in front of us.
Our crossing was super easy – we were asked the typical ‘where are you from’ and ‘where are you staying’ questions. But the agent didn’t even wait for our well rehearsed answers.
Instead – he had dozens of question about the Travato. When did they first start getting made? What year was ours? Do we like it? Does it have a full bath? How long does the battery last? He stuck his head in the door and said hi to Kiki (he didn’t even ask to see her rabies vaccination, which is the only form required for bringing pets in).
Turns out, or so he said – he’s shopping for a van – and he was really intrigued by the Travato design.
He gave us our passports back and wished us a lovely trip after noting we should check one of our rear tires as it looked a little low (it wasn’t).
Crossing Back into the USA
When we shared our easy crossing into Canada, several others confirmed theirs had gone just as smoothly too. But we had several people share horror stories about getting back into the US – deep inspections, grilling questions, and threats of fines for bringing across produce.
So we again were diligent leading up to our return crossing, making sure we used up all of our produce – fresh and frozen. We also had purchased a good amount of Canadian wines and beers at the LCBOs (which is a super fun shopping experience), but knew we could only bring two bottles back.
Our biggest concern was the alcohol as we had purchased just enough to enjoy before our crossing – but of course with COVID, we really shouldn’t drink. But, we did a bit anyway to get us down to the limits.
Our crossing at Sault Ste. Marie couldn’t have been more easy. No line, and our agent was super friendly. He asked where we are from (Florida) and what brought us to Canada (visiting friends and vacation for my birthday). He asked how he could get a job that would allow him to take multi-week vacations, and that was it.
Oh, before he handed our passports back, he did ask ‘Oh, do you have any produce to declare?’. ‘No sir, we ate it all’.
And with that, we were back in the USA.
Mobile Internet Tips
Mobile internet is of course our day job, and we’ve tracked for years options for Canada, Mexico, Bahamas and beyond. But it’s always fun to put our own tips into practice.
Before we left, we went through all of our plans (we have a lot, since we test this stuff) and moved all SIM cards that didn’t have international roaming into storage. We verified if we needed to enable any international settings on our plans and devices.
The plans we used:
AT&T Unlimited Plus hotspot plan that includes unlimited Canadian roaming (a sweet plan that retired back in 2018).
T-Mobile Mobile Internet 100GB plan, original, that somehow in the past few months had the Canada/Mexico roaming mysteriously increased from 5GB a month to 100GB. (Also a retired plan, the current mobile internet plans don’t include this perk.)
Verizon unlimited smartphone plan with .5 GB of roaming a day (which goes super quick with a little photo library syncing).
Starlink, which includes up to 2 months of roaming into countries on your home continent.
All and all, we kept well connected – mostly from our AT&T plan roaming on the Canadian carriers. For $40/mo (still $20 for consumers), that plan is a gem!
We hardly used Starlink – as many of our campsites were deep in forests and we did a lot of dry camping without power hook-ups (and it’s a power hog). Like most of this van trip this summer, Dishy has mostly been excess cargo. But, the few times we need it and it works reliably enough – it’s worth it.
While in Canada, we did film an International Connectivity Tips video and it’s now available over at MIRC in our International Resources page with much more in-depth content.
Spending in Canada Tips
Before we crossed the border, we also checked the international fees for all of our credit cards. We put aside those that have fees and prioritized those that don’t in our Apple wallet.
We had three cards that don’t have international fees – Amazon Chase, Capital One and Citibank Costco. Which made the trip super easy, especially with the US dollar still being strong – most things were 20-25% off of the sticker price for us.
Most everywhere we went easily took Apple Pay right from a tap of our watches. We only encountered one place that didn’t take credit cards, and they were happy to convert to American dollars for us and accept that.
So we ended up not getting Canadian cash, except we did end up with a looney and toned given to us as souvenirs by a friend – which came in handy for a downtown parking meter. If we were over more than a few weeks, we probably would have picked up some cash too.
Fuel is a touch more expensive – just keep in mind it’s priced in liters, not gallons. Before we crossed the border, it was costing us about $76-86 to fill the tank. Our fills in Canada (in US dollars) were about $85-96. Of course, gas prices were falling during our time there – so it’s not a direct comparison.
Real Time Update
We crossed back into the US on August 15th, and tested negative for COVID a few days later. We enjoyed some time wandering around new to us locations in Michigan (we skipped the UP, since we’ve done it multiple times).
We’re now actually in St. Louis for a couple weeks visiting with family.
After we wrap up our time here, we’ve decided to head back to Sanford to Y-Not by end of the month.
While we’re definitely bummed to miss seeing Zephyr and our lot in Benson, Arizona this year – it was going to be a lot of driving for just a few weeks in October there. We had already decided we wanted to be back in Florida for the holidays. So the miles and time just started to feel like a chore without much of a purpose. And that’s just not the point.
Besides.. we need to get Y-Not ready for some extended cruising starting next spring. We are setting intentions to set off on the Great Loop, for real, and likely be back up in Canada by boat next summer.
We have a lot of boat projects to attend to before that can happen, so more time to spread those out is better for our sanity.
We recently decided it was time for us to experience one for the first time in our travels.
While neither us would identify as a naturist – we actually enjoy wearing clothing too – we have always been comfortable being in clothing optional situations. And it’s never been a secret that we’re frequently au natural when at home (thus our long standing warning – don’t just stop by unannounced, we might not have clothes on!).
In the past – we’ve been to Burning Man style events & festivals where nudity is just another costume choice, to hot springs where soaking nude is expected or required, and we’ve even been to nude beaches.
We’ve enjoyed them all – without feeling body shame, judgement or intimidation.
But it had been far far too long since we’ve been someplace where we could step outside without getting dressed first, and we had never been to a dedicated RV resort where we could roam around in our birthday suits.
So when we saw Avalon Resort (caution, you might see naked people on this site) in Paw Paw, WV lined up with our recent van trip routing – we decided it was time to experience our first designated naturist RV park.
Besides… Hot tub and swimming pool!
Perks of Naked RVing
Beyond just the joy of being naked (if that’s your thing), there are some unexpected perks that come with staying in an RV park where clothing isn’t required.
Doing laundry at a naturist park is pretty cool. Generally not too much demand for the laundry center, and you can actually wash ALL of your dirty clothes instead of just those you’re not wearing. If you live in an RV with limited storage space, that could represent a decent percentage of your wardrobe.
You don’t dirty any clothes when you’re not wearing them – but you do go through the towels!
Not having to deal with swim suits, especially in the van they can be such a pain to dry. And it never fails, they’re not dry when we next want to swim so we’re wrestling into an icky cold wet slinky. Or if you decide you want to go for a swim or soak while out and about, you don’t have to return and change clothes. Just jump in and air dry on the walk home.
While we always try to position our RV so at least one window has privacy, we enjoy not worrying about that. Not having to close our shades when we’re just hanging out naked is pretty cool.
Not having to get dressed to go take a shower at the bathhouse saved so much time and effort! We loved the abundance of outdoor showers – it sure beats the typical steamy dirty indoor RV park shower.
What to Know about Naturist RV Parks
We’ve now been to one additional clothing optional park since our first visit, and we have been researching others to mix into our future travels. We’ve discovered that there’s a lot of variation in the parks themselves and what is allowed or expected.
Here’s just some examples:
There is usually both an overnight fee for the RV space, plus a daily membership/club fee – which means the total cost of going could vary quite a bit. There might be discounts offered by some parks for American Association for Nude Recreation (AANR) members. So far we’ve paid about $60-80/night total for a site with electric hook-ups and the RV park portions of these resorts we’ve visited have been… ho-hum.
Some parks are clothing optional – in that being naked is not required. If you want to wear clothing, such as when dumping the black tanks, dining or going for a jog – that’s totally ok. Other parks might be nudity in public areas required – with limited exceptions. These rules are in place to prevent clothed gawkers.
Most parks require you to sit on your own towel when in any public space, so come prepared for carrying one around.
Naturism separates sexuality from being naked, and most parks are strictly naturist. This means the entire park is just like any other park, just with naked people out and about. There’s absolutely nothing sexual about it, or even permissible (heck, we’ve heard about some that even restrict more than a quick peck on the lips with your partner in public). Anyone not abiding will be asked to leave. This makes for an extremely comfortable experience.
Some are open to families with kids, and some are adult only. Some might not allow solo men, or might charge more for them than a solo female or couple or family. Being adult-only however does not necessarily imply a sexual environment.
Some places are nudist parks that also cross into being a ‘lifestyle’ resorts. Lifestyle in this use case usually refers to the lifestyle of swinging (non-monogamy) – and these can be a sexually charged environment, and you might even get hit on. Some parks may have designated places for naturists and lifestyle folks to keep the styles apart, and there may be public places for adult oriented play activities (and we’re not talking bocce ball here). If that’s not your thing or comfort zone, just don’t go to those parks – or areas in a park.
Definitely read a park’s website before going, we’ve found most include very informative FAQs that set clear expectations, and the office staff is happy to answer questions.
Finding Naturist RV Parks
Finding RV parks dedicated to naturism isn’t always as easy as finding a normal RV camping spot. While our trip planning tool RV Trip Wizard seems to list some of them (it even has a search filter!), our favorite review site – Campendium – seems not to.
And once you find yourself at a club with an RV park, asking other naked RVers about parks they enjoy is a great way to strike up a conversation. And definitely, if you have favorites – leave them in the comments so we can maybe go check them out!
All and all, we loved the experience of frolicking around au natural in a safe environment. It’s nice to step outside of our normal daily comfort zone from time to time. There has been so much body diversity and no judgement felt.
We swim, we soak, we hike, we dine and we socialize in comfort without clothing. Honestly, my biggest hesitation is sun exposure to my pasty white skin, so thankfully wearing a robe or shawl is generally accepted if I must roam around in the peak daylight hours. And of course bugs can be an extra issue.
Kiki has been confused however. We’ve always told her that she had to wear her harness because we’re not at a nudist campground. And now when we are, and she still had to wear a harness to go outside.
We’ll likely continue to integrate in these sorts of stays in our travels when we feel so called.
While we’re still not identified as naturists, it’s definitely a comfortable environment for us. It’s just another state of dress.
I can hardly believe that is how long it’s been since I pulled out of the driveway of my comfortable beachside home in a super tiny T@b travel trailer with this guy I had met on a Prius forum.
We registered the domain name of Technomadia.com just days before we headed out, combining our individual blogs to start our story together.
So that means it’s also Technomadia’s 15th anniversary today.
Oh, the places we have gone, the adventures we have had, the obstacles we’ve overcome and the growth we’ve had as individuals and as a couple.
It’s incredible that our entire relationship has been in the pursuit of perpetual wanderlust together.
Going back in time and creating a retrospective series with a lesson learned for each year was a project I concocted on a whim. You can view the entire series below, including a rather lengthy video we just released of us recollecting the years together.
I’m not quite sure I was prepared for what I signed up for when I made my first post 15 days ago.
But I’m grateful I did, it’s been a challenging morning ritual.
What a trip down memory lane, and an adventure of its own to go through old photos, blog posts and memories.
Each night I thought about the year, the lesson learned, the photo I’d pick .. and then slept on it. What came out my fingers in the morning, was beyond my control at that point.
It’s been an emotional journey recollecting the ups and downs of these years, and harder to find the lessons in the more recent years that haven’t yet had enough time to reveal what they have to teach.
Some years have hit me harder to re-experience, and completely shuttered my day. Moments that were profound are sometimes summarized into a mere word.
The process has been powerful, and the reflections from you have touched me deeply. I didn’t want this to just be a travelogue, but something that might inspire too. Several have commented that the series could be the foundation of a future book.
So what do I surmise out of this cacophony of memories?
First, I am thankful that we were bloggers when we met, and just continued. Because our nomadic journey is documented word for word. We can’t hide from each up and down. We can’t reinvent our memories.
For better or worse, we recorded them. Authenticity at its finest.
We encourage anyone taking off on a new adventure to record it. Privately. Publicly. Whatever. The process is empowering. Our human minds can so distort things in the past, so many times I had confused or forgotten details as I tried to retell them.
And a blog doesn’t.
What’s the saying? ‘I blog to remember, I drink to forget’.
Next, despite the focus on challenges in these retrospectives, my overall take on the past 15 years is one of joy, experience, adventure, growth, love, abundance, creation and community.
The challenges were just opportunities for growth. Plot points. To reveal the lessons.
Reminders that I have come a long way. I have transcended who I was at the beginning of this, and become who I am today. And who I will become tomorrow.
But the biggest thing I come out of this reflection point, is the people.
Each morning for the past two weeks I have gone through thousand of photos taken each year. Sure there are countless pretty landscapes, campgrounds, sunsets, anchorages and photos of Kiki.
But what stands out the most is the faces who frequent our captures. The people who have been there through and through, and keep popping up year after year. People that we look forward to building new albums with.
The smiles, the laughter, the hugs, the shared meals, the moments, the vulnerabilities, the paths walked, the experiences, the places we have explored together.
The people who I might spend more time missing, then the time we’ve had together.
The nomadic life has put me on a path to encounter my people more so than any stationary life ever had. It’s taught us to recognize them quicker to embrace the limited time we might have together.
But yet, at the same time, it leaves me yearning for more consistency and intentionality.
So after 15 years on the road, what’s ahead for us?
I have no freaking clue.
This exercise has been extremely valuable in reminding me of what we’ve been through. The foundation we have built to define our own priorities in life.
Where we can transcend from.
We are well on our path to making sure what we have built in our professional life can thrive into the future and serve it’s purpose without us at the daily helm. Allowing us the space to explore our future.
As we both approach the age of 50, we’re deep in thought of how we want to layout the next chapter. A chapter that doesn’t need to be focused on career or income, a blessing we have well earned at this point.
But yet knowing we are both creators and catalysts for change, and likely have another epoch up our sleeves.
We’re just not sure what it is yet. Maybe our next retrospective in a few years will have revealed it?
What we know for sure after revisiting our past lessons, we are taking that darn overdue sabbatical before embracing any new major work-like projects.
We are also curious to learn if the title of ‘Technomadia’ will endure as we explore what is beyond the rainbow we can see off in the horizon we’re heading towards? Might there be a book end coming to this story, and a new one to begin?
The future is ours to write.
Technomadia 15 Years Retrospective Series
In the lead up to Cherie’s 15th Nomadiversary on May 10, 2022 – she shared a retrospective post for each year with a lesson about nomadic life and our own journey.
Here’s a video recap of the series (caution, it’s over 50m long!):
And here are the individual chapters of this series:
Retrospective: 2007 – Overcoming Obstacles
Retrospective: 2008 – Scarcity vs Abundance
Retrospective: 2009 – Community
Retrospective: 2010 – Don’t Get Trapped by Labels
Retrospective: 2011 – Embracing Serendipity
Retrospective: 2012 – The Important Things
Retrospective: 2013 – Joy Your Day
Retrospective: 2014 – It Takes a Village
Retrospective: 2015 – Retreat, Set Boundaries
Retrospective: 2016 – Living on NST
Retrospective: 2017 – Gratitude & Humility
Retrospective: 2018 – Correcting the Course
15 Years of Technomadia: 15 Lessons – A Cacophony of Memories
Retrospective: 2019 – Nomadic Balance
Retrospective: 2020 & 2021 – Setting a Foundation for the Future
As we approach our 16th year on the road, it seems we have built a nomadic fleet.
And we’ve received a lot of questions on how it’s working out to manage a boat, a van and a bus. The quick answer – far better than we ever imagined.
Before we left Zephyr behind in Arizona this winter and took off in Blooper to return to our Y-Not, we took a moment to film a bit about our fleet and how each fits into our journey at this point in our life.
When Chris and I were first dating back in 2006, we not only talked of me joining him in his RV adventures – but of future nomadic pursuits. Amongst them, boating – something we both had dreamed of before encountering each other.
We started our boat shopping in 2010, originally intent on sailing. But we soon figured out we likely weren’t well suited for a sailing cruising lifestyle at this time of our lives while still working full time.
We put the plan on the back burner until 2016 when we shifted focus to something that seemed more achievable while still in our careers – the Great Loop.
This leaned us towards a motor powered boat like a trawler or motor yacht, which led us to purchasing Y-Not in 2017. Y-Not was the original name give to our boat, because the first owner was name Tony (get it?).
We loved it, and decided to keep it… because Y-Not is a great answer for just about anything.
We knew we’d have to take the Loop slower than the traditional year to still work and stay sane – which would mean winterizing the boat as we reached northern climates. Thus the desire to keep Zephyr for splitting our time between cruising and RVing.
While the Great Loop hasn’t been completed yet after five years (maybe we will, maybe we won’t?), we have fallen in love with the cruising lifestyle in general.
We love having a mobile condo on the water to move between fantastic coastal towns to explore.
Something we could continue to easily park in marina lots, use as a daily driver, have a comfortable shuttle craft across country, keep RVing options open while boating and something that would be considered a car (not a second RV that we’d need to store) when back at our Co-Op in AZ.
After a lot of research the Travato G floorpan called us strongtly, and we purchased a used 2016 model in 2019 to try out the concept. It worked better than we ever thought. We named him Cooperinicus (Cooper) in homage to our Mini Cooper.
Having a fleet of nomadic vessels is overall just awesome and really fits our current lifestyle. We love the variety this affords us not only in location, but in what is currently our home.
At this point, we couldn’t chose just one. Or heck, just two.
But there are some downsides:
When we’re in one of our nomadic vessels, we do miss the others. But nothing wrong with a little heart yearning.
There’s maintenance on all three to keep them in tip top shape. That takes time, money and effort.
We have to keep active insurance policies on all three. None of our policies have a ‘storage’ rate option, especially since our RVs cover our full time coverage that replaces the benefits one might get from a traditional house or rental policy (contents, liability, etc.).
We selected traveling in our home so we didn’t have to move in and out of hotels or AirBnBs when moving about. We do have some moving effort when switching between each of our vessels. We do have each outfitted with their own dishes, bedding and accessories – so usually it’s just choosing which clothing is going with us, stocking the kitchen and moving the tech.
When not in use, we do have to find storage. The bus is easy, it stays at our park in Arizona. The van is usually easy, as it’s almost always with us or is staying just a short time in a lot or with friends. The boat can be a challenge as we need either a safe feeling marina with friends to keep an eye on her, or hauling out. And the costs of storage aren’t too much less than when we’re aboard.
We’ve gotten the comment multiple times that owning a motorhome, a van and a boat just isn’t feasible for most average people. Well first, striving to be ‘average’ has never been a goal. We’re quite happy being uniquely us.
But really, it’s much more accessible than many think. When you combine our purchase price of each of our vessels, it’s just about $270k. Not including the upgrades we’ve made to each, of course.
Now sure, that’s a lot of money. And all are supposed to be considered depreciating assets (not true in the craziness of the current RV and boating market, not that we bank on that).
But we also don’t own a traditional home or any other vehicles.
And when we find a city that speaks to our hearts, we always hop on Zillow to see what housing is going for. We’d honestly be hard pressed to find a modest home for less than that. And if we owned a home, we’d likely have to have a car. And we’d still have insatiable wanderlust and spend a lot on traveling or keeping an RV or boat anyway.
Instead, we have three awesome houses that can move and have almost always million dollar views.
If you’d prefer a photo walk-thru or want more information on the various projects we’ve done over the years, head on over to our dedicated Zephyr Vintage Bus page.
We are currently on our cross country trip back to Sanford, FL in the van. We just crossed through Texas this morning (whew, that state seems to get longer every time!) and we’re under a 1000 miles to go.
These trips remind us of how much we hate long driving days on the interstate as compared to slow meandering on back roads. And how much we appreciate our van that makes them a bit more tolerable.
We should be back to Y-Not by end of this week, and we’re so looking forward to nesting back into boat life for a bit.
After some research and posting to Instagram and Facebook, we discovered we were not alone.
Apparently there was a really bad batch of polyurethane ‘fake leather’ marketed under the name of Haloleather that was installed on lots of RV furniture (and similar issues even in residential furniture). And it was failing everywhere – including many high end coaches by Tiffin and Newmar. Many RV manufacturers were sending out replacement fabric to customers.
We reached out to Flexsteel, who explained that the company that made Haloleather, Fabric Services, had since gone out of business. So there was no recourse there.
They also felt they had no responsibility in the matter, as they don’t choose the fabrics – the customer ordering the furniture does and sends it to them (such as the RV manufacturer or distributor).
Flexsteel has since exited the RV furniture business.
We also contacted Bradd and Hall, who also explained the history of the issue, and sent us to this blog post they made about it, and why they recommend real ultraleather instead (not polyurethane based products).
And much to our surprise, Bradd himself offered to send us new coverings for the seats at their cost.
He even offered that if we were in Elkhart, they’d provide the labor to do the swap out (not that it was feasible for us to return to Indiana at this point). He sent us out several fabric samples, offering a credit towards what we selected for the value of our basic level fabric.
Given that we only paid $620 per seat and the new coverings were $375 a piece, and we were out of our 2-year warranty – we felt this was WAAAY above and beyond. He was clear they had done this for other customers, and this wasn’t because we were content creators.
Truly first class customer service, in our opinion – exceeding our high regards of dealing with Bradd and Hall from the beginning.
After looking at the samples over many days, and seeing which would look best with Kiki (most important factor in choosing upholstery is how it matches your cat, of course) – we selected a medium brown cloth fabric.
No more fake leather for us. And this would better coordinate with the fabric covered jack-knife sofa we installed in 2015.
The new covers arrived just as we were packing up to head back to Florida in early 2020. So on a shelf they sat in Arizona, awaiting our eventual return.
Which was of course delayed a year because of COVID.
How To Replace Seat Covers
I had done a quick google scan before deciding on this path to make sure this project was humanly possible. Thanks to several threads on IRV2 Forums, we felt at least confident we’d have resources to tap into.
We also found this more recent YouTube video from Rolling Ragu where they documented the process which was very helpful (so thus, we didn’t film the experience):
Given how busy we were when we arrived to Benson this time around, we thought about just trying to find someone to handle the job for us. But we figured aside from the cost (likely $300-500 per chair in labor) – the hassle of finding someone, getting worked into their schedule, transporting and waiting wouldn’t fit the couple months we had planned here.
All and all, once we had our parts purchased and had done our research – it took us about 3-4 hours per seat from start to finish. There wasn’t anything that was necessarily difficult, just a lot of time consuming steps.
The biggest tip we learned was take pictures as you disassemble, so you know what to put back together again!
Step 1: Parts We Needed
Seat Covers – Provided by Bradd and Hall, they came nicely folded with no instructions on just what to do with these things. There are 7 different pieces for each seat included (seat back, seat bottom, two arm pieces and three skirt pieces). While Flexsteel is no longer making them, they list a lead of former Flexsteel employee Lisa Bauer offering to have covers made – email@example.com. Ironically, Lisa is the Flexsteel contact who communicated with us initially. $375 per seat was the price back in 2019 for basic fabric.
Hog Rings & Pliers – These little rings hold all the fabric together underneath the chair. We had no idea what this tools was, so we just searched Amazon, and apparently bought the right thing: Hog Ring Pliers Kit. About $16 for the pliers and rings.
Fabric Glue – We purchased some spray fabric glue in the craft section of our local Walmart to help keep the seat bottom portion of the fabric attached to the foam. About $6.
Staple Gun – The fabric around the skirt is attached by staples to a cardboard ring. We borrowed a staple gun from our co-op’s workshop for this task, and left a $5 donation behind for the staples we used.
Prying Things – There are several things that required you pry them up – like the old staples, hog rings and screw coverings. And places where the fabric was attached with glue needing some extra help to separate. So a small pry bar, scraper and plier type thing is useful.
Screwdrivers – There were a variety of screws to remove.
Baggies – Or something to temporarily store all the screws and little things you’ll need to put your chairs back together again.
Bandaids – We each ended up with several scratches on our hands. The bandages help keep the blood off your new fabric.
Step 2: Removing the Old Covers
The covers sent aren’t slip covers that you just put over the existing seats.
These are the actual original style seat coverings that are made to snuggly fit over the cushioning. Just as if installed at the factory. You have to remove the existing fabric first. And this is honestly the hardest part.
You first need to remove the seats from your RV and put them somewhere you can work for a few hours – and possibly store overnight if you don’t complete. We were thankful that we had our casita at our lot in Benson to setup as a workshop for the project.
And then.. you start disassembling the seat.
First take off the arms, which is done by folding them completely to the back, pushing them into the chair and perhaps a bit of a ‘wiggle’. To remove the fabric from the arms, you’ll need to pry up the Flexsteel logo sticker to reveal the screw holes to remove that piece of plastic. And the controls on the arms take a bit of finesse to pry out and unattach.
Next remove the skirt, which is attached to a cardboard ‘ring’ with screws. Before carefully removing the staples to take the skirt off, we recommend tracing the edges of the fabric with a pencil, and mark where the three different pieces of skirt start and end. This will make it much easier to attach the new skirt. Have bandages ready for incidental cuts, and be careful not to destroy the cardboard ring – you’ll be reusing it.
Next take several pictures of the bottom of the seat, so you have reference of where all the hog rings are before you remove them. And where all the various fabric bottoms need to meet up in the end. The hog rings attach the fabric to the frame, keeping everything nice and tight. They should bend off with pliers.
And then, start removing the fabric from the seat back and bottom. On our model, the seat bottom fabric was glued to the foam, so a putty scraper was handy to get it going without removing too much of the foam.
Now, you’re left with just the foam attached to a frame.
Celebrate the milestone – you successfully removed the fabric without passing out from blood loss!
Step 3: Recovering
Now you basically reverse the process but with the new fabric (not the old – that would be silly). And by this time you’re far more familiar with upholstery than you were before.
Refer to pictures you took.
Fleexsteel fabric recovering
Fleexsteel fabric recovering
Fleexsteel fabric recovering
Fleexsteel fabric recovering
We didn’tFleexsteel fabric recovering know a thing about hog rings before this project!
Blood loss is inevitable in this project.
Fleexsteel fabric recovering
Take it slow pulling the back cover on, it’ll be tight. There’s an insert that tucks into the seat cushion itself near the top, get that done first then pull the fabric slowly down the frame. And it definitely helps if you didn’t totally destroy the thin piece of plastic over the foam to help slide fabric back on.
Get your seat cover in position, and then spray your glue onto the ‘indent’ portion of the foam and fabric. And then hold it down firmly for a minute or so.
Consult your pictures of the bottom of the seat to remind yourself of where all the hog rings and fabric ends need to go, and get the bandages ready – this is where you’re most likely to cut up your hands.
Staple the new skirt fabric to the cardboard ring, lining it up as closely to your marks as you can. Please avoid stapling your fingers in the process.
Pull the arm covers over the arms, it’s a tight fit and might remind you of putting on a… well.. nevermind. Replace the hardware you removed (ours did come with small holes already made) and reattach the arms to the chair (you might need to cut holes here).
Screw on the skirt ring.. and bam.. you have a newly recovered chair!
Re-install into your RV:
… and let the cat take a nap, because she’s been working hard to supervise this project:
All and all, it was very rewarding to have done this project ourselves – and we’re thankful for those who have gone before us and shared their tips.
We’re also sincerely thankful for Bradd and Hall for delivering over the top excellent customer service. We wouldn’t hesitate one moment to purchase RV furniture through them in the future. If you’re ever in Elkhart and ready for interior upgrades, definitely go see them.
In our years of traveling in our van for both short and extended trips (including the 3 months cross country trip we just competed), we’ve collected a bunch of accessories that make small living easier.
In this post, filmed along the gorgeous banks of Lake Venango in Kansas last month as we headed westward – we share the RV accessories that continue to make the cut in our small van space.
Some of this stuff is also applicable to any RV – and we use them also in our bus and boat.
It’s amazing how much stuff can fit in a van, and it not feel cluttered at all.
First, the video:
None of this gear is sponsored, we purchased it all ourselves. Only links to Amazon are affiliate links which earn us a little ka-ching if you purchase off of them (thank you!). The rest – are just normal ole non-affiliate links, and we have no association with any of the products or companies.
Below is an embed of our blogroll listing all of our gear in the van – taken from our Gear Center.
Much of this gear is highlighted in the video above, where you can learn more about how these items fit in our van travels. These links might change over time from the video as we update the gear we travel with. It’s also presented randomized, so if you click back later – it might not be in the same order.
VANLIFE Outfitters is the US distributors of these innovative inflatable bags for leveling a van. We purchased a set in the beginning of 2021 along with a battery inflator, and have ditched our leveling blocks. Pricey, but very convenient.
We bought our first set in 2018, and they lasted just over a year (being stored mostly inside our boat). They were replaced under warranty in mid-2020, but a year later already showing rust and wear when mostly stored inside the van.
You can also explore all of our RV and boat accessories – including kitchen gadgets, media, fitness & toys, technology, electrical systems and safety items on our Gear Page.
If you have RV accessories you love that you think might be a fit for our style – leave a comment and let us know (but please, no affiliate or promotional links if you’re involved with the product).
We’re always on the look-out for stuff that can enhance our mobile lifestyle.
We do plan to eventually do similar videos on the modifications to our van, our mobile internet setup and maybe our work setup. Let us know if you have other requests for content you’d like to see us create.
We picked up our 2021 Jeep Gladiator Sport S in Denver on May 31, 2021, after ordering directly from the factory. Our overland build process took 45 days, spanning four states and four shops. Though we documented the entire process on YouTube, nothing beats a comprehensive build sheet. If you’re curious about our living quarters, suspension, lighting, or other components, you’ve come to right place to see our complete Jeep Gladiator build sheet, designed for overlanding around the world.
People always want to know about money, so let’s get that topic out of the way. We have put a lot of our personal funds into this Jeep–our only home–and haven’t ever had a monetary sponsor.
Many of you have asked about the monetary value of our Jeep Gladiator overland build. Now that we’ve left the United States and are finished with the build, we’re ready to crunch that final number. Look for a follow-up article in the near future.
DISCLOSURE: THIS POST MAY CONTAIN AFFILIATE LINKS, MEANING WE GET A COMMISSION IF YOU DECIDE TO MAKE A PURCHASE THROUGH OUR LINKS, AT NO COST TO YOU. PLEASE READ OUR DISCLOSURE FOR MORE INFO.
Alright, time to get down to business with our Jeep Gladiator build sheet.
Let’s talk payload
The most important addition we made to the base Sport S was the Max Tow Package. Only with the Max Tow Package can the Sport S achieve the highest payload capacity of any automatic Jeep Gladiator: 1,565 pounds. If you opt for the manual transmission, then payload is 1,700 pounds.
Other than going manual, no other Gladiator trim comes close to matching our payload. The Gladiator Rubicon has 1,200 pounds of payload.
We had to keep our goal in mind. We are driving around the world, not aiming for optimal rock-crawl capability. As a family living in our Gladiator full-time, carrying everything we need to be self-reliant, there was no choice but the highest payload available.
Other factory additions
In addition to the Max Tow Package with 4.10 axles, we added the Popular Equipment Package and upgraded to the 8-speed 850RE automatic transmission. We also got the auxiliary switch group to run our air compressor and Rigid Industries* lights at the front of the Jeep.
The color of our Gladiator is called Granite Crystal Metallic.
Before our Jeep left the dealership, the service department added Mopar rails, which are required for the installation of our habitat (see below).
Our living space on the road
We live in an Alu-Cab* Canopy Camper, which was installed by Juniper Overland*, an Alu-Cab distributor in Denver, Colorado. After the tailgate is removed, the Canopy Camper seals over the bed of our truck. A full-size sleeping platform is accessible when the hard top of the Canopy Camper is deployed. Eric and I sleep in this bed.
Five National Luna LED lights (red/white), two dual USB/12V chargers, stalk lights, and solar pre-wire are included.
In addition, Juniper Overland completed the following installations:
Midge nets on the side windows of the Canopy Camper to keep bugs out
Rear door screen kit on the Canopy Camper
Two GP Factor* drop-down tables inside the back door
Alu-Cab 13-gallon water tank
Water pump to shower nozzle
Gravity-fed water spigot
Alu-Cab storage bags on the water tank
Alu-Cab Shower Cube (driver)
Alu-Cab Shadow Awning (passenger)
Shadow Awning gutter
Spare wheel tire bracket on the back of the Canopy Camper (carries up to 33-inch tire)
Exterior molle panel on the rear passenger side of the Canopy Camper
At Sonoran Expedition Collective* in Tucson, owner Brien Wankel designed two features to improve our organizational system.
The first feature is an aluminum hanging bar, fabricated by Sonoran Expedition Collective. It’s located inside the back door of the Canopy Camper at the top. I use this bar to hang my camp kitchen bags, which hold all of our utensils, cookware, and dishware.
The second feature is a hanging system inside the Canopy Camper made out of extruded aluminum and kayak pad eye tri-grip rivets. Using carabiners, we can hang bags full of lightweight items like bread and chips. Because there are rivets located all around our habitat, we can quickly move our bags to whatever part of the interior we want.
We implemented a “clean side/dirty side” layout for our Jeep Gladiator. Passenger is our “clean side,” with our awning, seating area, fridge, table, water spigot, and door entry with access to our pantry drawers.
Driver is our “dirty side,” with our trash bag, mounted MaxTrax, and Shower Cube which often holds our toilet. If we need to use our shower nozzle, that also happens on the dirty side.
Because of this layout, we needed to have the Canopy Camper door flipped. We’ve never seen this done on another vehicle, but Alu-Cab assured us it could work, and Juniper Overland came through for us. Normally, the door opens from left to right. But our door opens the opposite way, right to left, giving access from the passenger side.
When we started thinking about our build, we were planning on DIY cabinetry. During 2020, we made crude, but intentional, sketches on paper of drawers, a seating area, and a place for Caspian to sleep.
Early in 2021, we looked at Goose Gear‘s* storage for the Alu-Cab Canopy Camper. It was almost identical to what we’d envisioned. At that point, it made no sense to muddle through a DIY process, when the perfect solution was already on the market.
These are the storage units we sourced from Goose Gear:
Universal deck plate to cover the bed of the truck
Two double drawer modules
Two rear utility modules
Bulkhead panel, which you can adjust to create hidden storage
Three sleep deck panels, which fit on top of the double drawer and utility modules, creating a sleeping platform for Caspian
60 High Seat Delete, leaving only Caspian’s seat in the rear of the Gladiator cab
Solo Fridge Slide with cutting board, which holds our National Luna fridge from Equipt Expedition Outfitters*
This is a huge improvement on our first overland build: we have a built-in heater now! We chose the Webasto petrol heater, which is tapped directly into our fuel tank.
The register is located on the driver side of our Canopy Camper, in the rear corner. This allows heat to come out near Caspian’s bed and rise to our sleeping area.
We were originally planning on using the Webasto diesel heater, which can come with a high altitude kit. But, in the end, we decided to simplify our system. With the petrol heater, we don’t risk mixing up gasoline and diesel at fuel stations, in countries where we don’t speak the language! We also avoided having to figure out where to install a diesel fuel tank.
Power supply and electric system
We are really proud of our electrical system, which provides more power than we can use.
280 watts of solar power by Cascadia 4×4*: the 80-watt VSS System on the hood of the Gladiator provides power to our cranking battery and accessory battery which come standard with the Gladiator, while two 100-watt panels are mounted on the roof of the Canopy Camper, providing power to our lithium battery
Electrical plug for shore power, which runs to our lithium battery
We added a Long Range America* fuel tank to get 17 extra gallons of fuel onboard. The installation was done at Sonoran Expedition Collective, an official distributor for Long Range. Our stock tank holds 22 gallons, so we now have the ability to carry 39 gallons of fuel total.
Reasons we went with Long Range America:
We’d rather not carry auxiliary fuel containers on the outside of the Jeep where people can see them because fuel is a high-value commodity in many countries around the world. The Long Range America tank is tucked away underneath the Jeep.
We don’t have to add fuel weight if we don’t want to. We usually only carry the stock 22 gallons for payload reasons, but…
We can fill up the Long Range tank when we need the extra range, or want to purchase cheaper fuel before crossing a border into an area where fuel is more expensive.
We fill up the Long Range and stock fuel tank at the same time, the way anyone would pump fuel.
Using the Long Range tank is as simple as the push of a button, which is located right next to the driver. We pump fuel from the Long Range to our stock fuel tank while we’re driving.
We don’t lose clearance. While the tank is an inch or two lower than the frame, it isn’t lower than other components under the Gladiator. It’s a 1/4-inch lower than the stock fuel tank.
We don’t lose the spare tire space underneath the Gladiator.
We also love the placement of the Long Range tank on the Gladiator. It’s on the opposite side of the Jeep from the stock fuel tank, which means it balances out the geometry of the vehicle when full. Cool, huh?
Just Jeeps* has been our mechanic shop since before we knew what overlanding was. We were customers first, back when Austin, Texas, was our home base and we were building our Jeep Wrangler for off-roading.
We took our Gladiator to Just Jeeps in July 2021 to complete our overland build. They modified our suspension with the following components:
2-inch Mopar lift kit with standard Fox shocks (we’re waiting on Teraflex Falcon shocks, which are currently unavailable due to supply chain issues)
Just before we crossed into Mexico, we changed to Dobinson’s* dual rate rear coil springs, which are rated for 500 kilograms (1,100 pounds). We are carrying well under 1,100 pounds on our rear axle and this upgrade was the most noticeable change we made to our suspension at any point in the build. Thanks to Johnson Automotive in Austin that got us in at the last minute for this mod.
Almost done! These were the final modifications made to the interior of our build. The shop that installed each item is also noted.
67 Designs* JL Rail Mount / Gladiator Series 55 Rail Mount, camera mount, MagMount G3 device holder, and accessories
Rexing S1 dash cam with forward-facing and passenger-facing cameras (Sonoran Expedition Collective)
Blue Ridge Overland Gear* attic to hold our jackets and hats, which is actually made for the JL and requires brackets to work in a Gladiator (Sonoran)
“Table” cover for Webasto heater ducting, so it doesn’t get crushed (Sonoran)
Custom-fabricated molle panel for back corner of the Canopy Camper (the corner that doesn’t have the Goose Gear corner unit), to hang a fire extinguisher and first aid kit (Sonoran)
Viper alarm system (Far Beyond Tint in Corpus Christi, Texas)
GP Factor* molle panels, which mount inside the side wing doors of the Canopy Camper on inside the back door
Purpose-built to drive around the world
As you make your own plans, please remember the context of our build. If we were designing a vehicle strictly for North American travel, then it would be completely different from this Jeep Gladiator. We built a vehicle we could drive around the world.
So while it’s important to see what’s on our build sheet, did you notice what’s NOT on it? Did you notice we don’t have any propane, ultra low sulfur diesel, major modifications under the hood, or big tires? These were all intentional decisions for our specific goal of driving the world. With different goals, your build could be much different–and that’s okay.
Our Jeep Gladiator build sheet
This ended up being a much bigger project than a “build sheet,” but I think it’s important to explain why we made some of the modifications we did.
If you read this far, thank you. You might appreciate a full walk-around tour of our Jeep Gladiator, to see how the components ended up coming together. We promised this video over the summer, and we hope to have it available on our YouTube channel before the end of 2021.
I’m so grateful for how our Jeep Gladiator overland build came together. There were so many complicated systems and more than four shops ended up contributing to the build. We dealt with supply issues, shipping delays, and missing parts. It was a lot.
But it’s done, and we’re so pleased with the final result: our home on wheels!
We met the Gaia GPS Offroad team at Overland Expo West last month, and were grateful when they asked us to share our story on their podcast. We recorded four days before crossing the border, so the interview captures Eric and my state of mind at a unique moment in time–a moment that is past and will never return.
Podcast host Wade May did the best interview prep we’ve ever experienced. He dug deep into our article and video archives to design interesting questions that made us think. The result was one of our favorite interviews to date, one that went much deeper than the topics we’re normally asked about.
Listeners will learn:
How we decided to travel full-time by vehicle in 2014
The businesses that supported our travel and how we managed them from the road
After years of preparation, our family has started to drive around the world! We crossed into Mexico on October 9, and we’re now 450 miles south of the Texas border. Mexico City is 260 miles southeast of us.
Using miles feels forced now, since distance down here is measured in kilometers!
We’ve had safe and interesting travels since we crossed the border, with a healthy dose of challenges (the type that humor can easily see you through).
Our first YouTube video from Mexico went up today, allowing you to see what life is really like at the border and just south of it right now. You’ll see:
Our land border crossing at Eagle Pass, Texas, in our Jeep Gladiator
What happened when we drove through the “no declarations” lane
Our first moments in Mexico as we made our way through the town of Piedras Negras
The hoops we had to jump through to get legal with our personal visas and vehicle permit
The campgrounds we found for our first two nights in Mexico in the states of Nuevo Leon and San Luis Potosí, and the roads we drove to get to them
Why we chose a Jeep Gladiator to drive around the world, as we enter a colonial-era city and find a place to park
Enjoy the video!
Don’t miss a moment
Take advantage of all the ways you can follow our journey around the world:
Join the journey on Patreon, where we post personal behind-the-scenes updates and provide benefits like monthly expense reports to our patrons
Subscribe to our email newsletter to stay up to date on trip highlights and recent news (it only goes out every two weeks, so you won’t be overwhelmed)
Visit HourlessLife.com for our most recent articles (right now we’re working on a complete build list for our Jeep Gladiator)
We’re so grateful to our community members for their encouragement and virtual company. Mexico is magical and we’re thrilled to be here, but there’s still a time of transition for our family as we learn a new rhythm and adjust to a new culture.
Whatever your dream, we hope you’re inspired today to take a tangible step that moves you closer to it.
What is overlanding? How do you get started? Do you actually need all the gear on Instagram or that fancy 4×4 vehicle? And what about using the bathroom? How does that work?
As the overland community in the United States mushrooms and many people are asking about this “overland thing” for the first time, we decided to launch a video series to share the most important lessons and tips we’ve learned during nearly eight years of full-time vehicle travel.
Our complete Overlanding 101 video series is now on YouTube and we think it will benefit overlanders at all experience levels. For beginners, we set out to simplify overlanding concepts and get you on the road as soon as possible. But even advanced overlanders can pick up different, better ways of doing things (we certainly do all the time).
These eight videos are not a regurgitation of everything you’ve heard before. We lean into our personal experience, giving you a behind-the-scenes look at what it’s actually like to overland full-time (with a four-year-old). We try to have fun and not take ourselves too seriously.
Save Our Overlanding 101 Playlist on YouTube
1/ What Is Overlanding?
Our goal is not to exclude anyone from overlanding. But if we don’t define words, then they lose their meaning. And that would be a shame in this case because overlanding has a rich history and a legacy that continues through travel heroes around the world today.
In the first video of our Overlanding 101 series, we offer our definition of overlanding, as well as insight and practical tips for those just getting started.
Let us know in a comment whether you agree with our definition!
2/ What Do You Really Need to Start Overlanding?
This topic is so important to us. We hate to see people wasting money and time gathering up stuff, when they could be directing their resources to actually traveling. So in this video, we encourage you to ignore the hype and focus on the basic essentials you need to start overlanding.
3/ Trip Planning
Maybe you’re eager to take your first overlanding trip, but you’re overwhelmed by the planning process. We’ve been traveling full-time since 2014, which means we’re in a constant state of travel planning! In this video, we share trip planning processes and resources to make your life easier.
4/ Overlanding Camp Kitchen and Cooking
Not gonna lie, it’s way harder to prepare meals when you don’t have running water, hot water, an oven, or whatever fancy kitchen gear you’re used to having. It takes time to learn a new cooking flow.
In this video, we share our favorite camp kitchen gear and setup, as well as the most important tips we’ve learned about overland cooking. I even explain exactly how I wash dishes, which is something that was really hard for me at first.
5/ Overland Hygiene
This video covers questions we are asked all the time! We talk about all things hygiene, including how we toilet and shower. We also talk about the clean side/dirty side concept we use for our home on wheels.
6/ A Day in the Life of Full-time Overlanding
This is the most popular video in our series! For “Day in the Life,” we filmed from the time we woke up in the morning until the time we went to bed. The result is an authentic, transparent look at our life as full-time overlanders.
7/ Top 20 Everyday Overlanding Gear
Overlanding is not about stuff, but there are items we use every single day that definitely make overlanding more sustainable for our family. In this video, we play Show & Tell with our favorite 20 pieces of gear that get used daily.
8/ Overlanding With Kids
We couldn’t complete our series without talking about overlanding with kids. We want to empower other families to travel with their children, and this video contains what I’ve learned through being pregnant, giving birth, and raising a little person as a full-time traveler.
Children are not a reason or excuse to avoid overlanding. In fact, having them along makes the experiences much richer and more memorable.
We hope you enjoy our Overlanding 101 series, and leave comments with your questions or feedback. We are available to you as a resource.
Next up on YouTube, we will be sharing our travels in interior Mexico!
Our family has been getting ready to drive around the world since 2018, when we discovered the overlanding lifestyle.
After two trips to Mexico—a combined 4,000 miles through the mainland (2019) and Baja Peninsula (2020)—we were more sure than ever about our global goal. In just a few days, my husband Eric and I will cross the border with our four-year-old son, Caspian. This border crossing on October 9, 2021, will mark the long-awaited start of our drive around the world.
Unlike our previous trips, we won’t be coming back anytime soon. We have set aside the next 10 to 15 years of our lives to drive around the world as a family. We’re in this for the long haul, with no time constraints or firm agenda.
We’ve actually been traveling full-time since 2014–almost eight years on the road without any house or property. But our vehicle-based life up until now has been restricted to North America. Now we’re taking everything we’ve learned and applying it to our new chapter.
Our home on wheels is a 2021 Jeep Gladiator, fitted with the Alu-Cab Canopy Camper. Over the past three years, we determined this size platform is perfect for our style of overland travel.
While it may seem small for a family of three, we can easily supplement our travels with Airbnb or hotel stays. In fact, because this vehicle was within our means and didn’t require us to carry debt around the world, we have more flexibility than ever.
How to follow our global journey
We won’t always have reliable Internet. Though we’ve tried to mentally (and logistically) prepare for this, we know our connectivity will probably be even less than we imagine.
Nonetheless, we are committed to sharing our drive around the world with our online community! Here are four ways you can join the journey.
We quietly launched our Patreon account last week and are so grateful to the friends who have already joined on.
We are excited to offer special benefits to our patrons, like monthly expense reports and hand-written Christmas postcards from around the world. Gaia GPS is one of our sponsors, offering three-month premium memberships to select patron tiers.
Perhaps most significantly, Patreon is the first place we will visit when we have Internet. Our patrons will receive the best and most intimate access to us, as we experience this once-in-a-lifetime adventure as a family.
Join our journey on Patreon
Access behind-the-scenes content and unique benefits
YouTube will continue to be an active sharing platform for us. Our travel logs resume October 14 with our first video from Mexico! Expect to see a lot of our daily life and colorful discoveries, plus practical travel tips and overlanding guidance learned through our experience.
Our goal has always been to upload a YouTube video every Thursday. This shouldn’t be a problem over the next six months in Mexico, and we’ll do our best to post reliably as we enter Central America in 2022. Internet access will be our primary challenger, but we’ll continue to produce video offline and upload whenever we can, so at the end of the day you won’t miss a thing!
Hourless Life blog
We have been travel bloggers since 2014 when we started living on the road full-time. Though our writing regularity has waxed and waned through various seasons of life, our blog has always been an important outlet for sharing long-form content that doesn’t work as well on video.
Writing is my (Brittany’s) personal passion, so I hope to make time for HourlessLife.com articles on topics we’re asked about all the time, like our vehicle build and gear, working remotely, and Caspian’s education.
Hourless Life social media
We love our community on social media. We have active accounts on Instagram and Facebook, and also update Twitter and Pinterest for people who prefer those platforms.
Social media is usually more “real-time” than YouTube, at least by a few days. Again, this may change (almost definitely will change) as our Internet gets more spotty. Patreon will be your best bet for receiving regular, current updates about our travels. But we will never abandon our social media community!
Thank you to our gear sponsors and press friends
This journey is much bigger than the three of us. We are so grateful to the 27 companies that stand behind us as gear sponsors. We never imagined so many respected brands would become our partners. Please keep them in mind as you make purchasing choices to outfit your overlanding vehicle.
We’re also so grateful to the press outlets that have shared our story over the past few months. If you want more background about us, our plans, and how we got here, then we recommend you check out these podcast episodes, article features, and interviews.
We have more interviews scheduled for the near future, so check back later in October for updates.
Time to go
“Are you ready?”
“Are you nervous?”
We’ve received these questions repeatedly. I remind our inquisitive friends we’ve been getting ready to drive around the world for more than three years, since May 2018. Though a few logistics will be left unintended–they always are–we couldn’t be more ready to cross the border on October 9.
What a gift to live in 2021, with so much technology at our disposal, and be able to share our journey with you. Thank you for your support and company along the way.
Now strap on that seatbelt because you’re in for a wild ride!
Love. Explore. Study. Share
Eric + Brittany + Caspian | Hourless Life
Liked it? Take a second to support Brittany Highland on Patreon!
The Blue Ridge Parkway was designed for non-commercial traffic, and primarily for automobiles.
With its twisty roads, sharp turns, steep inclines, no shoulders and 26 tunnels (one with a maximum height of 13′ 1″) – it’s simply not designed or intended for larger vehicles.
RVs are completely welcomed however, but in our personal experience the Parkway is best done in smaller units.
We were completely comfortable in our 21′ van, and we’ve done parts of the Parkway in our former 17′ trailer pulled by a truck.
And on both trips, we saw many RVs in the 25-30′ range successfully having fun navigating the Parkway.
But much larger than that? You’re likely going to be white knuckling it, holding up traffic and just generally not having as fun of an experience.
If you’re super comfortable driving your rig, backing into tight campsites and mountain driving, you may do just fine if you plan your entry and exits well, and avoid the low clearance tunnels.
While we also have a 35′ vintage bus and are super comfortable driving it, we likely wouldn’t attempt the Parkway in it. Especially not towing a car behind as well. While the photos would be iconic, it just wouldn’t be a fun experience.
That said, we did see some 35-40′ Class-As and 5th Wheels attempting parts of the Parkway. But we would imagine many were staying in campgrounds off the Parkway, as the number of sites suitable for such RVs are very limited. We even saw a large 5th Wheel pulled by a large truck attempt one of the campgrounds, and end up finding an alternate stay after unsuccessfully trying to fit into the largest of the sites.
Tip 2: Official National Park Campgrounds
There are eight official National Park Campgrounds along the Parkway. We stayed at all but one of them on this trip.
All of the eight official campgrounds are $20/night and are dry camping with no hook-ups. All of the RV/Trailer loops have generator hours of 8a – 9p. Each campground however does offer a dump station, potable water and restrooms with flush toilets. Two of the campgrounds (Mount Pisgah and Julian Price) also offer showers.
The campgrounds are nicely spread out along the 469 miles of the Parkway making driving between just a couple hours at most, although some are closer together than others.
All of the campgrounds offer both reservable sites online at Recreation.gov and ample first come first serve sites you can snag when you arrive. Reservable sites that aren’t reserved are fair game as well upon arrive on a night-by-night basis (as the online reservation system cuts off reservations 48-hours in advance, so you can sometimes snag them for a couple nights.)
We highly recommend the first come first serve route.
First, this will give you ample opportunity to adjust your pace as you go. At each stop, there are generally a combination of hikes, tours, visitor’s centers, dinning and more. And sometimes it just feels good to listen to your body and take a day or two off of active exploring.
Peaks of Otter
But more importantly, the suitability of each campsite varies so much. Most of the sites are pretty small, designed for smaller RVs or a car/tent setup. Very few sites, even if long enough, are suitable for larger RVs. Some are even angled the wrong way for an RV to back into or have the ‘yard’ to the rear of the spot.
And these are older mountain campgrounds where the word ‘level’ is a subjective term. If you have a single axle trailer, you of course have more flexibility to make an unlevel site work – but otherwise, you’ll probably want to choose your site when you arrive.
And the privacy of cell signal of the sites is highly variable within a campground.
To find the right site for you, it’s best to just drive through the loops and select what works for you and your setup. These campgrounds are intentionally setup to be flexible for those without reservations.
At all of the campgrounds, you arrive to a small ranger or camp-host staffed check-in station. If you don’t have a reservation, you’re instructed to go find a site – either one marked as first come first serve, or reservable site without a tag. And then you return to register. It’s very flexible, and we encountered no issues snagging sites without reservations – especially by arriving early in the afternoon.
With short driving days between campgrounds, we generally planned to leave our campground late morning before check-out time (11am), drive an hour or two to the next, and then arriving early afternoon – which meant the campground was pretty open. During peak times, arriving later in the day you might encounter more issues.
Tip 3: Vans – RVs or Tent Sites?
We were really surprised at the variability of how our van was considered in each campground.
Even some campgrounds with signs pointing to the ‘Tent / Van’ loop – we would be directed to the RV / Trailer loop instead because a 21′ van was considered too large for the “van” loop. And in some campgrounds, we were proactively invited to select sites in the tent loop, as long as we promised not to use a generator.
The advantage of the tent loop (to us) is that no generators are allowed. We don’t have one in our Travato, and our lithium batteries charge up on each drive. In the RV/trailer loop we ran the risk of having a generator dependent neighbor, which can ruin the tranquility of our stay and our ability to get filming done.
So if that’s important to you too, and you have a smaller RV – definitely do ask if your RV is allowed in the no-generator tent loops.
Tip 4: Mobile Internet Connectivity
Keeping connected along the Blue Ridge Parkway is a challenge, you are traveling in mountainous terrain where cellular signal can easily be blocked – despite what coverage maps might say.
At most of the 200+ overlooks, you can usually find enough of a whiff of signal to check e-mail while you take in the scenery. And we kept generally online most of the time while driving with few extended breaks from signal.
But the campgrounds are usually lower in elevation and more tucked in than the overlooks, and staying connected can definitely be challenging. If you need to keep connected, having some redundant options to try definitely helps.
In general, we found AT&T to have the best overall signal and connection, but occasionally Verizon was the winner. T-Mobile/Sprint were only slightly useful in this area.
In some locations, our dual modem setup with ability to bond was extremely useful. Sometimes our external antenna was all we needed, and in one location we actually broke out our weBoost Drive Reach booster and got online with Verizon (Otter Creek). In others, just our phones picked up enough signal and we actually clocked nearly 300 Mbps without any enhancing gear on AT&T in Doughton Park. And in others, nothing we did helped (Linville Falls and Julian Price are pretty much guaranteed dead zones).
If you’re one of our premium members over at the Mobile Internet Resource Center (our day job), we turned the trip into a case study – documenting what we tried at each stop. Find it in our Testing In Progress Forum.
Tip 5: Driving
The Blue Ridge Parkway is made for driving, and each inch is scenic art. We recommend maximizing the experience by minimizing the stress.
The speed limit is 45 mph, but in many areas you simply won’t be able to go that fast as you’re navigating curves and inclines. Go at the speed that feels comfortable to you.
If you find vehicles are piling up behind you, it’s a lot less stressful for you and them if you find the next overlook to pull over and let them pass. We personally most enjoyed the drive by having no vehicles visible behind or in front of us.
There are over 200 overlooks, so there’s sure to be one really soon – use them. Most are easy on/off with ample parking. Get out, enjoy the view, stretch and enjoy. Some even have short hikes, which is a great way to take a break.
Also, you will find many bikers (the pedaling and motorized kind) enjoying the parkway. The pedaling kind of bikers are inspiring out there climbing those hills. Give them lots of space and exercise extreme patience, there are usually no shoulders for them to pull over for you to pass. You may find you simply have to go slow behind them until you can find enough of an open stretch with clear line of site to safely pass them. Don’t attempt to pass on a curve, as you just can’t see oncoming traffic.
Tip 6: Helping Fund the BRP
You’ll notice that there are no entrance fees to enjoy this national treasure, the only fees charged are for the campgrounds themselves.
As part of the terms of the land purchases for the Parkway, the government agreed to not charge tolls. Which means, there’s limited funding to upkeep this park. Amazingly, the roads are in great shape in most locations and some sections are periodically shut down for maintenance.
We were inspired by Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation, the official National Parks Service non-profit partner to improve and preserve the parkway – and made a donation.
We hope you enjoyed a taste of the Blue Ridge Parkway through our experience – and you’re inspired to include this adventure in your journey. If you’ve RVed the Blue Ridge Parkway, feel free to leave some tips of your own in the comments below to help others!
You’ve committed to living in a box on wheels with your children. Why not make things even more interesting and go completely off-grid, with limited electricity, water, and waste tank space?
When you put it that way, it seems crazy for any RVer to go dry camping with kids. But when you stow the cords and escape the sardine-sized concrete pad of your private campground, the world will open up to your family. Dry camping is a means to an end, and it’s a glorious one.
This article was originally published on the Winnebago Life blog in March 2020 when we were still full-time RVers!
DISCLOSURE: THIS POST MAY CONTAIN AFFILIATE LINKS, MEANING WE GET A COMMISSION IF YOU DECIDE TO MAKE A PURCHASE THROUGH OUR LINKS, AT NO COST TO YOU. PLEASE READ OUR DISCLOSURE FOR MORE INFO.
What Is Dry Camping?
The definition of dry camping is simple: camping in an RV with zero hookups. No electricity. No water. No sewer connection. Everything is stored or generated by your RV itself.
Now, there are different kinds of dry camping. I love to use the term “wild camping” to describe dry camping way out in nature–maybe in a national forest or on remote BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land. Then there’s “moochdocking,” sometimes called “driveway camping.” This is when you dry camp on a friend or family member’s property. (Though if they provide an electric cord or some other kind of connection, then it isn’t dry camping!)
Last, but not least, you’ve probably heard the term “boondocking.” For all intents and purposes, boondocking is the same thing as dry camping–it’s RV camping with no connections. At least, that’s my opinion!
Our Humorous History of Dry Camping
My husband Eric and I have been full-time RVing much longer than we’ve been traveling with our son, Caspian. Our dry camping history goes back to 2015 and the very first Xscapers event. This convergence at Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta was a week long, and we were terrified when we contemplated a whole week without hookups. At the time, we had only dry camped for one or maybe two nights at a time.
But we were reassured we’d have friends there who could help us through the hiccups. We didn’t want to miss out on the fun, so we went for it.
We didn’t have any solar or a good battery meter, so we probably ran our coach batteries too hard, but overall the experience was a success. Empowered, we attempted solo wild camping in Coconino National Forest outside Sedona, AZ. This was a big fail and we had to leave after one night, since our generator went out and we had no other source of power.
Fast-forward to 2018. We now have a small, 100-watt solar suitcase…and a one-year-old. We’ve learned some tricks and we know our tank capacity. We manage 22 consecutive days of dry camping in Moab, refilling and dumping only once after 16 days!!! This was a huge turning point for us, and we’ve been pushing our limits ever since.
Seeing our own growth over five years, I have no doubt you can learn to dry camp well, no matter how many kids you have or how old they are.
Top Tips for Dry Camping With Kids
Here are the top five tips I can share that will help make dry camping with your kids a positive experience.
1. A Little Solar Goes a Long Way
I don’t think there’s one mechanical bone in our bodies. We are definitely not the people to install our own RV solar system. But, as we got started dry camping, we found that a solar suitcase was a foolproof way to draw power from the sun. We connected the two clips to our battery terminals and we were good to go.
With our Winnebago View 24J, we purchased a used coach with the solar completely configured. The previous owners had maxed out the solar space on the roof at a whopping 420-watts.
And, of course, there’s never any shame in consulting a solar professional to install solar panels on your RV!
No matter how you add solar to your arsenal, you’ll find that even one small panel goes a long way towards keeping your family off-grid for longer.
2. Consider Which Devices Are Worth Charging
When power usage matters, you’ll find yourself evaluating which devices are worth charging–and why. Before you start dry camping, you should consider how much screen time you want your children to have on a daily basis.
If you choose to decrease screen time while dry camping, then you may want to lead your children through a detox beforehand while practicing replacement activities. Setting precedents is important for everyone. Whether adult or child, we want to know what to expect from a new experience. Have a conversation with your children about the activities that are available to them while dry camping and get them excited about the possibilities!
3. Paper Plates Are Sanity
So that covers electricity, but what about water needs? Besides laundry and showers, doing dishes tends to be the biggest consumer of water in an RV. Because of that, paper plates and bowls are big sanity-savers. While they won’t completely eliminate the need to do dishes, they’ll cut down on your water use for sure.
And while we’re on the topic of doing dishes, always be aware of where it’s legal for you to dump grey water. Typically, when you’re staying in an area where tent campers may be, like a national forest or state park, you can find a place to dump dishwater outside the RV. This reduces the amount of grey water going into your tank.
4. Think Outside the Box When It Comes to Hygiene
There’s no way around it. If you’re going to dry camp for extended periods of time, then you and your children will have to take fewer showers.
Fortunately, there are so many ways to enforce good hygiene, even if it’s not up to the strictest standards!
Here are a few suggestions for traditional shower alternatives:
Take sailor showers. With Caspian, I turn on the shower to wet him down, then turn off the water while I’m soaping him. Then I turn on the water one more time to rinse off the soap. This uses a small amount of water, but all the dirt washes off before bedtime.
If you’re really in a pinch, then wet wipes work wonders. We love Venture Wipes, which are 12” x 12”, but there are several brands that make large wipes for those who need them in lieu of taking a shower.
Use campground facilities. Of course, you can break up longer stints of dry camping with campground stays where you can take a long, hot shower. You eventually need to dump and fill with water anyway, so this is usually the best solution for everyone.
5. Focus on What You’re Gaining, Not What You’re Giving Up
If you’re new to RVing or dry camping, you may be wondering why anyone would put themselves through this hassle–especially if they’re traveling with young children. I can relate because it took us about four years of full-time RVing to abandon full hookups at private campgrounds.
Here’s the thing: if you restrict yourself to full hookups, then you’re closing your life off to the most tremendous travel experiences. When you’re willing to dry camp, then you’ll find yourself on a canyon rim in the Badlands, or on a cliff overlooking the Grand Tetons. And then you’ll ask why you waited so long to take the risk.
So, Why Dry Camp With Kids?
When your morning involves stepping out the front door with your toddler, onto a new trail through beautiful trees with wildlife all around you, the reason to dry camp with kids is perfectly obvious. It doesn’t matter if you have a little extra dirt under the fingernails. This is the fulfillment we seek when we decide to travel in an RV.
It isn’t always easy. But I hope you push through the challenges to discover the wonder of going off-grid in our amazing country. It’s worth it.
Our Jeep Gladiator overland build is done! After four cities, four shops, and seven weeks, we’re ready to live and travel in our Jeep full-time as a family, as we drive around the world for the next 10 to 15 years.
Every single day the Jeep was in the shop, Eric was there, too. He was working through supply chain delays, missing components, installation hiccups, AND filming the whole time. Because of his dedication, we have video of our entire build on YouTube.
These are the topics we cover in the series:
Alu-Cab Canopy Camper (habitat that sits on the back of the Gladiator)
Goose Gear interior storage solution
Other modifications to help with organization (this tiny thing is our family’s home!)
Auxiliary fuel tank
If you want to start at the beginning with a big picture overview of our plan for the build, then watch this video first:
You can continue down our Jeep Gladiator Overland Build playlist to see all the videos in this series.
Of course, no build is ever really done. I’m sure there will be changes we make in the future. But the important part is we could cross the border right now, and we’d have everything we need.
We haven’t done a complete walk-around tour yet, but it’s coming. Once we’ve been living in the rig for a while and have everything situated, we’ll do a video that shows not only the build, but also the gear we use for everyday living on the road.
What’s Next for Us?
So what’s next? We are entering our shakedown phase and doing some public speaking. We’ll leave my parents’ house in Texas around August 15, heading for Overland Expo Mountain West in Colorado. After about a month in Colorado, we’ll head down to Flagstaff for Overland Expo West. (Details on all our 2021 events here.)
Then it’ll be time to swing through south Texas one more time, say goodbye to Caspian’s grandparents, and cross the border into Mexico in early October. These next two months are going to fly by.
On YouTube, we’ll be launching our next series in August. We’re calling it Overlanding 101, but it won’t be a regurgitation of everything you’ve heard before. Though we will share our experience when it comes to the basics of overlanding, we’ll also cover topics we’re uniquely suited to talk about, like full-time overlanding, overlanding with kids, and working on the road.
Thank you to all of the companies that have made our build possible. Juniper Overland (Denver), Sonoran Expedition Collective (Tucson), Just Jeeps (Austin), and our secret expert friend in Albuquerque put in tireless work at a high level, bringing together a million details. Our gear sponsor support has been incredible, especially during a year when they are plagued by low product supply and transportation issues. We are so grateful.
It’s natural to assume having children will limit our explorations as adults. But with planning, persistence, and no small amount of patience, we can teach even very small children how to adventure alongside us. Since our son Caspian was born in late 2016, my husband and I have loved introducing him to hiking and seeing him thrive on the trail. Here are a few tips for successful hiking with young kids, while you’re out traveling the country.
The earlier you start hiking with your children, the sooner they’ll understand it’s part of family life–and something fun to do together. Before Caspian was born, we set the goal of having him hike a mile unaided for each year of life. So, when he was one, he hiked one mile. And when he was two, he hiked two miles. We started working on this goal as soon as he started walking, so hiking has been part of his life for longer than he remembers.
But even before Caspian was walking, he was on my back in a carrier during hikes. Our longest hike this way was seven miles and included a diaper change on the top of a mountain!
2/ Start Small
No matter how old your child is, you should strategically choose the length and difficulty of your hikes–just like you would with a gym workout. By starting small and building gradually, the growth will be natural rather than an unpleasant shock.
3/ Put Your Child’s Needs Before Your Goals
The day we set out on what would be Caspian’s first two-mile hike, we weren’t sure he was ready. Before we set foot on the trail, Eric and I told each other we were willing to turn back at any time if Caspian really started flagging.
This concept of putting our child’s needs first can be difficult and even frustrating when we have goals we’d love to meet for ourselves. But when we’re in it for the long haul (wanting to nurture a life-long love for outdoor adventure), sacrifice may be necessary to keep hiking fun for the little ones.
4/ Be Ready to Talk, Teach, and Sing A LOT
There’s no secret sauce. The number one way to make any hike go faster is to distract your child. As a parent, this often takes a tremendous amount of effort, but it’s worth it. Especially when Caspian was one and two, we were constantly singing songs, making up stories, and asking questions about our surroundings.
For example, we would pick an object we could see coming up, like a windmill or unusual tree stump, and ask Caspian to watch for it. Or we would have him create make-believe creatures by asking him questions.
The idea is to teach your young child how to pass the time, in hopes he will use the same strategies as he gets older (without prompting). Once Caspian was three, he often initiated the stories and songs. (Side note: this is also a great strategy for vehicle travel.)
5/ Snacks Are Everything
We use snacks to celebrate Caspian’s milestones, like the half-way mark or even half-mile increments as we approach the end of the trail. A half-mile goes surprisingly quickly when you have a box of raisins or a baby orange to look forward to!
6/ Take Your Junior Ranger Book
When you’re hiking at a national park or other National Park Service unit, don’t forget your Junior Ranger booklet. Many of them include tasks related to hiking trails or just getting out in nature.
Review the booklet in advance to decide which pages you’ll be working on during the hike. This is another way to pass the time, while working towards the goal of a Junior Ranger badge. By the time kids are three, they will often be ready for this program (though some units have more difficult booklets than others).
7/ Keep Hiking Fun
Caspian still believes school is fun, not work or a chore. This is 100 percent because of the way we approach his preschool book and talk about it as a family. The same is true of hiking. I don’t ever want my son to lose the sense of enjoyment that surrounds our time on the trail.
This philosophy means we choose a route that will be most interesting for him, even if we would pick something else for ourselves. Or we choose a shorter hike for the day, even if Caspian has hiked much farther before. Remember, this is a marathon, not a sprint!
8/ After the Hike: Hiking Log
As Caspian approached his third birthday, we started our first “hiking log” in a notebook. It’s a way for us to celebrate our family hikes and remember what we experienced together.
Right now, our log is very simple, but you can expand your own for older children, or customize to your child’s unique interests. So far, our log entries include:
Time of hike
Distance of hike
What animals did we see?
What animal signs did we see?
Did you (Caspian) like the hike?
What did you like?
Are you tired?
You can see I have fun with it and keep it toddler-oriented. I try to record Caspian’s responses verbatim, since that’s what we’ll love to read when he’s much older…and hiking even farther than me.
You Can Love Hiking With Kids!
It won’t be easy or fun every time. But by starting early and gradually and doing everything you can to create a positive learning environment, you can learn to love hiking with your young kids.
What an unexpected privilege to be featured on Overland Journal Podcast! Watch to the end for Caspian’s charming podcast debut.
You can watch the interview on YouTube above.
I’ve been listening to Overland Journal Podcast since Episode 1 in 2019. I’d been searching for high-quality podcasts about overlanding for more than a year. But there were very few at the time (our favorite was GHT Overland Podcast, which is now on hiatus).
So when Overland Journal Podcast launched, I was ecstatic. I went fangirl with an excited announcement on our blog. Little did I know we would be interviewed for Episode 52.
Through our conversation with Scott Brady, you’ll learn:
Our individual histories before traveling together and how they prepared us for overlanding around the world
How we got into overlanding after traveling full-time for four years
What we learned from overlanding in a Jeep Wrangler and what changed when we moved into a Jeep Gladiator
Why the Jeep Gladiator is the right global overlanding vehicle for us
What it was like to be pregnant and give birth as a full-time traveler and what changed when Caspian was born
How our son Caspian has been influenced by being a full-time traveler since birth
What it’s like to work with gear sponsors and why we do it
How I became a writer and why it’s a good fit for international travel
So many accomplished individuals have been interviewed for Overland Journal Podcast. Compared to them, our overland travel seems miniscule. But we do have a lot to share about full-time travel and international travel with a young child.
I want to empower parents to overland with their children, and I’m grateful to Scott for spending as much time talking about this topic as he did. Overlanding isn’t only for singles and couples. In fact, seeing the world through a child’s eyes is one of the most beautiful things you can experience in life.
Enjoy this episode on YouTube or the podcast platform of your choice. And if you have any questions for us, don’t hesitate to ask in a comment.
Lady Overlander Radio is a brand new podcast featuring female overlanders. This is an exciting resource as interest in the vehicle-based adventure lifestyle continues to grow each year.
The host of Lady Overlander Radio is Misti Tokarsky. She’s a full-time overlander, retired veteran of the United States Coast Guard, and mom of three. She brings a lot to every podcast conversation with her background in travel, leadership, service, and breaking ground for women.
Opening photo: Joe and Misti Tokarsky camp with Brittany and Eric Highland in Arizona
It was my privilege to be Misti’s podcast guest for Episode 1. Grab a cup of coffee or glass of wine, and listen in on this transparent conversation between friends.
How we started our nomadic lifestyle of full-time travel in 2014 and then discovered overlanding in 2018
The route and timing of our drive around the world
What scares me most when it comes to global travel
The importance of knowing your overland vehicle’s payload capacity and staying within it
Our experience with auxiliary fuel tanks, including in mainland Mexico, and why we chose the Long Range America tank
Our plan for Caspian’s education on the road and general philosophy about homeschooling, unschooling, roadschooling, and worldschooling (all the schooling!)
My personal education experience as a homeschooler through 12th grade
Any questions you’d like to ask me about overland travel as a woman, traveling with kids, or anything else? Leave a comment below.
We were originally planning to depart for Mexico and our global journey as soon as our Jeep Gladiator was finished this summer. But as the build plan came together, we were overwhelmed by how many companies offered their support as gear sponsors.
Our home on wheels has become much more than we imagined–an overwhelming team effort. Add to that the support of our community members, including many who have been with us since we started traveling full-time in 2014.
All in all, we decided we couldn’t leave the country without showcasing our Jeep, as a thank you to our gear sponsors, and seeing many of the friends we weren’t able to see in 2020.
We are excited to present at the following four RV and overlanding events in 2021. Three are in-person and one is digital.
We are considering at least one other event, so make sure you check back here for updates.
Remember to leave a comment if you’re attending any of these overlanding events, so we can look for you!
We’re excited to be back at Overland Expo in 2021, after all three events were canceled last year. This will be the first year for Mountain West in Colorado and we can’t wait to participate.
Our schedule hasn’t been confirmed, but here’s the tentative plan:
Our Jeep Gladiator will be in the DIY Showcase! Stop by any time to see it, or come for a scheduled 50-minute walk-around with us.
Presentation: “What We Wish We’d Known Before Overlanding Full-time.” We’ll share all the lessons we’ve learned the hard way, so you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Though this session will be most helpful to those considering full-time travel, we have much to share about building an overland vehicle from scratch, budgeting, working on the road, and other topics that apply to everyone.
We look forward to sitting on a roundtable. The topic could be building vs. buying a vehicle, budgeting, overlanding with kids, or traveling through Mexico. There are so many useful roundtables at Overland Expo!
We’ve never missed an RV Entrepreneur Summit since the inaugural event in 2017 (when Caspian was only two months old!). This will be our third time presenting, but our theme this year is radically different from past appearances. Instead of teaching about blogging or social media marketing, we’ll be sharing about our transition to overlanding and the global journey we’re about to undertake. Rumor is we’ll be offering a walk-around tour of our Jeep, as well.
If you are interested in working on the road as an RVer, then we can’t recommend this event highly enough. The industry leaders will be in attendance and you are likely to build lifelong friendships. We definitely have.
Full-Time Freedom Week
Online only | September 21-23, 2021 Tickets on sale soon
This event is a new one for us, but we remember when Full-Time Freedom Week was founded five years ago by our personal friends. This digital conference has grown into a powerhouse of information for anyone who wants the freedom of living on the road.
Unlike RV Entrepreneur Summit, which empowers attendees to work while traveling, Full-Time Freedom Week encompasses a broader range of topics related to general life while traveling. Topics range from how to purchase an RV to finding campgrounds and community.
In our session, we’ll be sharing about our transition from RVing to overlanding. We’ll talk about the reasons for the change, as well as how others can start overlanding if they want.
Of the three annual Overland Expos (Mountain West, West, and East), Overland Expo West is the big one! Three days packed with teaching sessions, inspirational presentations, happy hour, hands-on training, and time by the campfire. It’s completely overwhelming in the best possible way.
Right now, our tentative schedule for West is nearly identical to Mountain West. We’ll probably give the same presentation and sit on at least one roundtable.
However, there is one difference! At Overland Expo West, our Jeep Gladiator will be parked in the Goose Gear booth! We are so excited to show off the interior storage solution that makes our home on wheels functional for long-term use. Stop by and see us!
What about you? Are you planning to attend any overlanding events in 2021?
We’re excited to announce our new partnership with Overlander.com. If you aren’t familiar with this website, it’s an ecommerce platform curated by the experienced overland veterans at XOverland.
And if you aren’t familiar with XOverland, it’s a video series, originally on YouTube but now streaming on Amazon Prime, that has inspired so many people to pursue overlanding. Clay Croft and his team members have driven through Alaska and the Yukon, Central America, and South America–sharing all their overlanding experiences on film.
All that to say, Overlander.com isn’t just another ecommerce website for selling questionable gear that hasn’t been tested in the field. Check it out from the site’s homepage:
Since 2010, the Overlander.com team has dedicated their lives to living, understanding and teaching vehicle based adventure travel. We’ve built countless vehicles, traveled to dozens of countries and had some of the highest (and lowest) moments of our entire life….
At Overlander.com you’ll find quality products that we can stand behind and trust. Many of the items we carry we’ve personally used to get us from Canada to Ushuaia safely and without issue. And 100% of what we sell is quality, durable overlanding goods we stand behind.
We can personally vouch for a great number of the items you’ll find on Overlander.com because we use them ourselves every day as we overland full-time and live out of our Jeep Wrangler.
Far Superior to Shopping on Amazon
I don’t think I need to say much about what you’re supporting when you shop on Amazon. Instead, you can purchase superior products (or even the same product) through Overlander.com, supporting a U.S. family and team you can know, and trust.
Speaking of trust, Overlander.com offers some extraordinary guarantees you won’t find through Amazon:
60-Day Trail Tested Guarantee
We stand behind everything we sell. If you’re not happy with your purchase we’ll take it back, even if it’s been used in the field.
1-Year Lower Price Guarantee
Nothing is worse than watching the price drop after you make a big purchase. If you see it cheaper anywhere in the year after your purchase let us know and we’ll refund the difference.
You’re also provided with a toll-free phone number and email address you can use if you have questions or need support. Yes, real live people who stand behind what they sell. What a concept!
Our Partnership With Overlander.com
We first learned about Overlander.com when we got a big surprise: we were selected as their first Overlander of the Month! We were incredibly humbled, but also excited to learn about this resource for overlanders.
We’re now an affiliate partner of Overlander.com. Which means when you shop Overlander.com with our link, we receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.
In fact, you can save money! When you shop, don’t forget to use our discount code. Use the code 22HOURLESS at check-out to receive $22 off $199 or more (1 use per customer, some exclusions apply).
If you don’t see anything in our collection you want or need, that’s okay! Head to the top of the screen to Shop Departments or Shop by Vehicles, and you’ll have access to the full Overlander.com product slate.
As overlanding booms in popularity, we need trustworthy entities who aren’t out to exploit a fad. XOverland has been on the trail for more than a decade, making mistakes and dealing with failed gear so many of us don’t have to. Let’s learn from that experience.
And, although saying this isn’t to our pecuniary benefit, also remember overlanding isn’t about stuff! You don’t need a fancy vehicle or fancy gear to have the adventure of a lifetime. Don’t spend so much on your vehicle that you don’t have anything left to spend on your travels.
Day 14 of living out of our Jeep as full-time overlanders. We finally slowed down enough to spend two nights in the same place, without moving our vehicle (aka our home) anywhere.
I laid a picnic blanket on the rocky desert floor and called it Caspian’s Corner (my four-year-old loves alliteration). For the first time, I lugged out Caspian’s Box, a giant tupperware container of arts and crafts supplies, books, toys, and loose play items.
I showed Caspian something I’d been saving, a booklet of handwriting sheets. You know, the kind with lines you use when you’re learning how to write. It had the musty smell of the 1970s and my mother-in-law’s garage where I found it.
I just wanted him to see it and know what it was. I figured he’d decide when he was ready to use it.
But he was ready, right then. He asked to do letter writing, so I wrote each letter at the beginning of each line for him to copy.
And he did. He spent at least half an hour writing letters using the lines as guidance, and then he chose to write some numbers.
When he was finished with the handwriting book, he made a discovery. To his delight, he found out I had packed his dry erase board and markers in Caspian’s Box.
There was an exciting connection to make because the board also had lines that showed where to begin and finish letters. This time without anything from me to copy, he spent another 15 minutes or so writing his favorite letters (he skipped the ones he didn’t like as much, like G and J).
Self-directed learning needs a vacuum
You know how it often is. You have two weeks of vacation time, or one day at the national park where there’s so much to see. To make the most of your time, you plan ahead and try to stay on the schedule you set.
As Eric and I marveled at the extensive time our four-year-old spent writing letters out in the desert–COMPLETELY by his own choice–we made an important realization. Caspian’s self-directed learning could only take place when we were intentional about making room for it.
We had been traveling so often since we moved into our Jeep that free time had been rare. We were always doing something, going somewhere.
It wasn’t until we slowed down and had “nothing to do” that Caspian could choose what HE wanted to do. And what he wanted to do was practice writing.
Learning can look like all kinds of things
During 2020, I spent a lot of time researching, in order to define my philosophy of education. We plan to homeschool (roadschool, worldschool) Caspian, and I want a firm handle on the guiding lights that will influence everything we do to teach him.
In that process of research, I gave unschooling an in-depth look for the first time. Though I homeschooled through 12th grade before attending The University of Texas at Austin, I’d had preconceived notions about unschooling since I first heard about it a few years ago. I saw it in a negative light.
But the more I learned, the more I agreed with the central tenants of unschooling. My mom actually incorporated a lot of the unschooling philosophy into my growing-up, even though we didn’t use the term ‘unschooling.’
There’s no concise, universally accepted definition of unschooling. But I’d define it as self-directed learning from the life happening all around a child, with a careful respect for play and family relationships.
While I haven’t fully “converted” to unschooling, I have made a lot of changes to my thinking about education. If you want to learn more, I highly recommend the blog “Happiness Is Here.” I’ve read all of Sara’s posts about unschooling.
One thing I’ve embraced is that learning doesn’t have to mean curriculum at a desk with a pencil. In fact, it rarely looks like that.
So even though Caspian did want to sit and write the alphabet in the story above, learning often looks different for him. It looks like playing, helping around camp, having a conversation.
Making room for learning
Travel is a beautiful opportunity to broaden a child’s mind. We can immerse ourselves in history, meet new people, and consider new ideas. But I believe having a regimented itinerary that leaves no room for children’s input is not the most effective way to use travel for learning.
If you too have an intense desire to see your child learn and grow, then evaluate your pace of travel. How are you leaving room for self-directed learning?
Last week, our boat was broken into while in storage ‘on the hard’.
We’re currently nearly a 1000 miles away from the boat, traveling by van and staying with family in the St. Louis area.
As we were settling in for the evening to watch a cop show (ironically), we got a motion alert on our Blink cameras we left behind to monitor things.
We had actually been getting these, usually just a yard cat getting aboard and checking things out. So we decided to pick up our phone and say good night to the kitty.
Much to our surprise, we saw a skinny dude on our cockpit looking for a way into the boat.
Just about as soon as we saw him, he rips the camera off the wall and throws it to the ground.
Our first thought was… IS THIS REALLY HAPPENING?!?
Then it was CALL THE POLICE.
Soon after one of our inside cameras started reporting motion and we saw the intruder head first thing to the fridge, before he saw the camera and turned it around too. But our cameras are wireless with two-way audio.
Chris very sternly said ‘GET OFF OUR BOAT – The police have been called and are inbound’.
But in reality, we hadn’t yet figured out how to even contact the local police.
We knew that calling 911 from our cell phone would reach the dispatch local to us currently (that’s how 911 is programmed). So we thought it best to try to call the police department local to where our boat was.
I googled the town’s name and found the number. With shaky hands, I dialed it.. and got a recording that said ‘If it’s after midnight, please leave a message and we’ll get back to you after 7am – or if this is an emergency or crime in progress, call 911’.
It was currently 1am on the east coast, where the boat is.
We weren’t sure yet this was an emergency worth calling our local 911 for, but we knew that was an option.
We also called the boat yard, in case in they had any after hours emergency instructions – they did not.
In searching around, I learned that each local dispatch actually has a real 10-digit phone number that e911 is programmed to forward to. It actually has a name – PSAP (Public Safety Answering Point).
But that number isn’t always readily available to the public – sometimes it’s a closely guarded secret only available to top authorities.
In fact, the tip I kept encountering was to obtain that number if you feel you might ever have need to reach 911 from outside the area – such as for calling for help for a loved one, or cases like ours.
So I went to the next resource we have at our finger tips – a social media following.
I posted to our Facebook Page asking for help on how to reach 911 for a locality you’re not currently in. A lot of fellow late night folks chimed in – everything from ‘call the non-emergency number’ (umm.. already did?) to ‘Call your local 911, they can help’.
Meanwhile, Chris kept hunting for a direct dispatch number and thought he found one. He dialed it, and it turned out to be for a city of the same name in a different state. The dispatcher was super friendly and said this happens ALL the time. She had the direct county dispatch number at the ready – and gave it to us.
And that got us through, and a Sergeant from the police department nearby our boat was on the phone with us in minutes .. and they were onboard to find no one there and no visible damage.
It seems Chris’ firm warning to the intruder that the police were on the way worked – and he fled the scene.
In the course of the evening, we learned a few things:
If you’re leaving property behind or have loved ones in different cities than you – obtain the PSAP for the local dispatch center. Just in case. Call the non-emergency number for the local police or sheriff’s office during regular business hours and explain your situation – and maybe they’ll give you the number. Trying to find this information in the heat of the moment is extra stressful.
If you find yourself in such a situation and can’t locate the direct dispatch number, it seems the general consensus is that calling your local 911 is acceptable. They might be able to help get you in touch, as the national PSAP directory is available to all law enforcement agencies. But it can be hit or miss by dispatch center if they subscribe to the directory, or are willing to look it up.
Several emergency workers who chimed in on our thread indicated that if you think it’s an emergency, it’s an emergency – and you should call 911 or dispatch.
Having a remote monitoring system was definitely worth the small investment. We had just recently purchased a 3-pack of Blink cameras on Amazon Prime Day. We left them running connected to one of our cellular data plans during Hurricane Dorian, and when we decided to take an extended RV trip. They also can give us temperature alerts, which is great for monitoring Kiki’s comfort when we’re away. The two way communication was enough to get the intruder off the boat .. at least in this case.
Boats are notoriously easy to enter, even while locked up, without damaging anything.
After we had confirmation from the police and had a case number, we sent everything to our yard manager – including the footage recorded from our cameras.
He apparently read it even before arriving to work the next morning.
We were awoken first thing to another motion alert to see the manager on board checking things out and putting our cameras back in place. He gave us a video walk-thru of the boat – nothing is missing, and the intruder did no major damage (he did pull down an exterior light, probably thinking it was a camera).
A few moments later, the manager called us – with news the intruder had been apprehended.
He had distributed our footage to the entire yard crew, and one of them spotted the perpetrator still hiding out in the yard and the police were called back out.
He was apparently just looking for shelter – and we feel sad that any human soul should have to resort to breaking into property for that.
We’re thankful no damage was done, and no one’s personal safety was at risk. This could have been much worse.
And we hope our experience might help others be better prepared than we were to handle a similar situation.
If you have tips to share about reaching emergency services after hours, please do share in the comments. We however will be removing comments with suggestions on personal safety and weapons – we feel that’s a highly individual choice.
Here’s our video version of this – basically the same thing reported above:
Probably one of the most frequent questions we’ve gotten over the years is just how do we afford our lifestyle of constant million dollar views by RV and boat?
We’ve gotten this question pretty much from the time we hit the road back in 2006.
Assumptions range from we’re trust fund babies, early retirees and otherwise independently wealthy. We used to also get living minimally – but that doesn’t pass muster anymore now that we own a boat, a bus and a van.
So this week, we took to YouTube Live to address this topic head on.
Here’s our 55m live video archive if you wish to tune in:
(We do a YouTube Live about once a month.. if you’d like notifications, be sure to Subscribe to our Channel and set notifications by clicking the bell.)
So, there’s a formula to affording the lifestyle you desire, and it’s really pretty simple in theory:
We’re both incredibly fortunate and blessed to have started our adult lives from a solid foundation in huge thanks to our amazing parents.
We were both brought up with strong money management skills and instilled with the knowledge to not fall into consumer debt patterns.
When we met in 2006 in our early 30s, we were both at similar places in life – we had a solid career path and we were both cash positive with retirement savings already started. And we’ve continued that trend, to now 13 years later with the ability to retire early if we didn’t enjoy our ‘jobs’ so much.
So, let’s tackle both sides of this equation.
If you’ve not lived full time on the road, you may equate full time travel to full time vacation.
After all, that’s the style of travel most of us know. You save up all year for a big expense filled vacation week or two – complete with high lodging costs, transportation, dining out and activities.
When a lot of folks contemplate a life of full time travel, they mentally calculate what their last weeklong vacation cost, multiply that by 52, and immediately conclude that they will never be able to afford it.
That’s not what life on the road is like. At least, not every day.
Most of us full timers no longer have a ‘sticks and bricks’ to return to. Our housing costs are now replaced with travel costs. And the rest of our daily expenses stay similar – groceries, health care, insurance, hobbies, pet care, etc.
But the cool thing is, fixed monthly costs like mortgage and rent are now replaced with variable costs of campground or marina fees and fuel. And as nomads, we have control over how much we spend in those by varying up our pace of travel.
We’ve covered these topics in depth in these posts before:
We’re not retired early. We’re not trust fund babies.
And despite what some like to believe, this blog and YouTube are not major sources of income for us (in fact – the trickle of affiliate income, advertising on YouTube and contributions makes up less than 4% of our overall income.)
We consider what we do here to be FUN and a hobby – as such, our limited earning basically funds our sushi habit.
It makes up about 90% of our income these days, but it certainly didn’t start that way.
When Chris hit the road, he had just left behind his Silicon Valley high tech career to hit the road. He was starting to develop his own portfolio of consulting clients while living off his savings initially.
I was already working remotely from home as a software developer, a business my father (a long time entrepreneur) and I ran together.
So when we met in 2006, I just took my career on the road – but we needed mobile internet for me to continue working.
Well, time goes on and we merged our lives not just in romance and life, but business. We launched a few mobile apps, we took on some consulting projects .. and one day after my father’s passing in 2013, we wrote a book to field our second most frequently asked question on this book – how we stay connected.
Little did we know a year later that book would evolve to founding the Mobile Internet Resource Center.
And five years later, here we are – it being our full time job, plus we have a staff of 4 that helps us keep the content all up to date.
But don’t let our story intimidate you.
You don’t have to be high tech geeks to be successful on the road. In fact, nomads have been roaming our planet since humanity began, earning an income.
Technology just presents a new opportunity.
The trick is finding your unique intersection of passion, skillsets and experience to find YOUR income source.
And there are resources to help you with that:
Next week is the Make Money & RV virtual summit. It’s 5 days of over 40 presenters sharing their story about income on the road. It’s free to attend all next week, or you can buy a VIP Pass to get access to the archives. We’ll be presenting our story on Aug 6. You can claim your free pass with this link (which yes, is an affiliate link if you decide to get the paid pass.)
Our Income on the Road article, part of the No Excuses: Go Nomadic series goes over dozens of ways to earn an income on the road from remote work, traveling to work and self-employment.
Heath & Alyssa started the ‘The RV Entrepreneur‘ which consists of a free weekly podcast with inspiring interviews with others working on the road, and a fabulous annual RV conference.
Camille Attell of More than a Wheelin was a professional corporate trainer, and turned her skills into offering the Remote Work School where she helps aspiring RVers gear up for working remotely and getting income opportunities.
A moment doesn’t go by that we’re not reminded of how incredibly fortunate we are to live the life we do – with constant million dollar views for pennies on the dollar.
13-years of full time nomadic life… and no end in site.
To our own surprise, the van has been far more comfortable than we anticipated for extended travels. What we thought would be a comfortable shuttlecraft for a couple weeks at a time – has been pretty darn thrivable.
We’re now back in Austin and will soon be switching back to bus life.
Before we do that, we wanted to take a moment and share what van life for the past few months has been like – and the modifications we’ve made to make the ride more comfortable for daily living and working.
In this new video, we give you a tour of the mods we’ve made – from creating a pantry out of the wardrobe to creating an awesomely productive work space.
That was in no small part to some dry runs in the van, and doing some mods along the way.
This isn’t meant to be a full documentation of those modifications (there just aren’t enough hours in the day), and nor does this cover everything shown off in the video.
But here’s a quick list of the major projects (note, check the end of this post for links to products mentioned and stuff we’re using in the van.).
We turned the wardrobe next to the fridge into a pantry by taking out the hanging bar and installing shelving.
We went with the ClosetMaid system sold at most home improvement stores – the 16″ linen shelving (installed upside down) is the perfect depth to leave a bit of room for installing spice racks and bins on the cabinet door.
This has massively increased our storage space.
For our clothing, we just use the overhead cabinets above the bed – we typically only have foldable clothes anyways.
Monitor Arm & Office Space
The Travato comes with a 24″ Insignia TV on a very basic monitor arm that positions the screen in a quite awkward angle for viewing only from the front seats.
We wanted something that would allow us far more flexibility
While in Charleston this summer I replaced my iMac (a 21.5″ retina monitor with built in computer) with a Mac Mini and 24″ LG UltraFine 4K monitor for more flexibility to move between 3 homes.
But the problem became what to do about my workspace on the bus when we returned. I would need a monitor there too.
What we decided was to find a better and more flexible monitor arm for the Travato – which after trialing a couple different ones we settled on the $80 AmazonBasics Premium Arm.
We attached it behind the dinette seat – which allows the screen to be much better positioned for viewing from the front seats OR from the bed.. and used as a display for either my Mac Mini or a laptop.
And then we put my new monitor on the arm – which allows us to safely transport it from boat to bus, and utilize it while in the van.
The stand nicely stows under the dinette seat around the Truma Combi – so we can move the monitor to my workstation on the boat and bus.
We still have the original TV on the boat – and will reinstall it on the van for trips during our boating season.
It’s been a SWEET setup – and we fight over who gets the workspace in the van.
Mobile Internet Setup
We had been just using mobile hotspots from Verizon and AT&T with portable MIMO antennas as our mobile internet solution in the van. It’s a super simple approach that we guide a lot of folks towards.
Unfortunately, the 7 cable wiring is too thick to completely route – so the cable just runs across the ceiling into the tech cabinet behind the monitor (in newer versions of the Travato, they provide a nice conduit for such things.)
Since we test mobile internet gear for a living, we’re constantly swapping out options – nothing is a long term installation for us.
In fact, we just got in the brand new WiFiRanger Converge, which we’re putting into testing too.
Our premium MIA members are following along with our hands on experience with both approaches to mobile internet in an RV or boat (and they get some pretty sweet discounts on both.)
There’s a bunch of little mods too mentioned in the video – such as our Airvent Cab Inserts for better airflow while parked, our snazzy USB rechargeable tactical flashlight and magnetically securing the rear screen for cat-proofing.
We’ll also soon be installing the SumoSprings that just arrived to hopefully get a smoother ride.
And in the future we’ll want to swap out the AC for a much quieter one – that thing is way too fricken loud. Thankfully, we’re out of AC-season now.
And there may be a lithium upgrade in the future – either by swapping out the batteries, or giving into temptation to acquire a brand new lithium model Travato.
Back to the Bus!
We got Zephyr out of storage this past week, and she’s currently at a shop getting caught up on general routine maintenance and getting some new dancing shoes.
We anticipate that in the next day or two we’ll be back to sleeping in a bus!
As much as we’ve enjoyed van life – we are looking forward to stretching out and getting our old gal back on the road!
We’ll be convoying the van behind the bus on our way out to Arizona this winter.
Keep an eye on our YouTube channel – we may just do a rather spontaneous LIVE from the bus – and of course we’ll follow up with what was involved with getting an RV back on the road after a year and a half in storage.
Van Gear Stuff
Above we mention several products we’ve added to the van to make life on the road more comfortable. Here’s links to the items (some are affiliate links):
Flat-Jack Air Tire Levelers VANLIFE Outfitters has hooked us up with a set of these innovative inflatable bags for leveling a van (instead of using blocks). Arrived in Jan 2021, we’ll be testing these out!
We have been making miles in our van conversion and are currently on the outskirts of Austin, and about to go see Zephyr (our vintage bus conversion) for the first time in person since we left her in storage back in March 2018.
We’re excited about that – and are anticipating a crazy week ahead of getting her back to road worthy.
But we’re also excited about a bunch of upcoming stuff – both virtually and in person!
The RVers – Coming To Discovery Channel on November 17!
We got the news recently that Discovery Channel offered to move the premier of our upcoming TV show up a week!
So set your alarm for 8am Eastern on Sunday, November 17!
Through the end of the year, we’ll be keeping that time slot – and then apparently moving to Saturdays after the first of the year.
The show will also be coming to iTunes and Amazon on the 18th, and PBS after the first of year.
The show hasn’t even aired yet, and Discovery has already picked it up for a second season!
We’re so excited to be part of this, and it keeps hitting home that this is real (we even have iMDb entries!)
Meet the Cast – Monday (tomorrow) at 7pm Eastern
Our friends at RVillage are hosting a free YouTube live event with the cast of The RVers – so come hang out with us, Peter & John of The RV Geeks, Tom & Cait of Mortons on the Move and the producer, Anthony Nalli.
That’s like.. tomorrow evening!
RVillage will also be organizing ‘watch parties’ for the premier, so stay tuned for those!
It just so happens we were already signed up for The RV Entrepreneur Meet-up in Frederisckburg, TX organized by Heath & Alyssa that weekend – so we’ll be having our watch party there (assuming we can figure out how to get Discovery Channel!).
This is a virtual online summit focused on full time RVing, and this year we’ll be presenting on Thinking Outside the Box (on wheels), sharing how we identify as technomads who explore by more than just RV.
The summit is free to attend during the week of November 5-8 – so go pick up your free pass (you can optionally upgrade to an all-access pass to view it anytime). There’s 30+ great speakers lined up presenting on a variety of topics.
Assuming all goes well with getting Zephyr back on the road, we’re planning to head down to Galveston for some beach time and the behind the scenes in person Full Time Freedom Week event.
Back on the Road we Go!
So, back on the road we go to make the final push to be re-united with Zephyr. We sure hope she remembers us and is as excited as us!
Storing for a few months is different than storing for nearly 2 years. After the RVE Summit, we were both exhausted and terribly sick with ‘conference crud’ and allergies.
We weren’t in our best mind to pay attention to details.. or predict the future.
Ok, realistically – can any of us really predict the future??
We did well to do things like moderate cleaning, pack up our stuff, get our perishable foods gifted to fellow RVing friends, leave behind remote monitoring and fill up the fuel tank & add stabilizer.
But we didn’t forecast what could happen if we didn’t return in a few months.
And that was our mistake.
Power System – The Lithium Dies
After about a year – sometime in Spring 2019 – the storage facility experienced a prolonged (like.. days) power loss.
This led to our lithium battery’s EMS system shutting them down. And our installation wasn’t advanced enough to come back on line automatically. They need manual intervention.
My brother made a good effort to assist, but even with Chris’ remote assistance – we were unable to get our power system back online.
This meant our entire power system was off for nearly 6 months. And the batteries drained beyond repair.
We’ll be following up soon with an assessment of what happened and a re-cap of our 8.5 years with one of the first RV house system lithium battery installations.
And then, our coach standard issue lead acid starting batteries were nearly dead. They were set to trickle charge off the inverter.
Well, the inverter went offline during the house battery system shut down.
Thus, starting batteries were dead too.
They were older, and would need replacement soon anyway. So not a huge loss.
But, in a 10′ wide storage unit, that meant our bays couldn’t fully open. Which meant we had to finagle the battery exchange in very tight quarters to even start our bus. We did it however.
While we gifted on all our perishable food before storage, we figured that since we’d have power we’d keep a light load on the batteries by leaving the fridge running.
Our fridge is a Danfoss compressor style by Vitrofigo – running off 12v, 24v or 110 (no propane).
Because we anticipated a running fridge, we didn’t bother to clean it.
Wow, what a mistake.
We didn’t leave much behind but a few cans of beer – but egads, the fridge was covered in mildew/mold!
Thankfully, we learned a lot post-Irma – and it cleaned up in a jiffy with repeated treatments of white vinegar, hydrogen peroxide and bleach.
During our 2015 bus renovations, Dometic gifted us their 320 porcelain toilet to try out. It’s a residential style commode, and is quite spiffy. We’ve been rather spoiled by our throne (with a 75g black tank underneath it).
Well, we were overdue to change out the valve seal (we tried in 2016 – but Dometic instead sent us an entire toilet instead of just the seal kit.. ummm).. and the water had completely drained out of the bowl.
This lead to crystallization around the valve and ball springs.
Which meant, the toilet was solidly sealed shut upon return and would not flush.
Chris managed to chisel the gunk out and get the ball open – which meant we could use the toilet as a pit toilet.
Which we did for over a month (fun) until Dometic determined the springs were not ‘user serviceable’ and had a new toilet meet us in December.
And, we were able to find someone local willing to ‘user replace’ the spring valve and gift our older toilet to.
We received a lot of recommendations to next time fill the bowl with the pink RV antifreeze stuff – this will keep the seal lubricated. And to cover the bowl with plastic wrap to prevent evaporation. We’ll be doing both later this month when we prepare Zephyr for storage again.
We initially posted to Instagram & Facebook about it – and many responded that they too had issues.
And that led to talking with Flexsteel and learning that there was a bad batch of this cheap imitation leather in 2013-2015 – and our ‘Haloleather’ was effected.
But because the RV manufacturer’s selected the material, Flexsteel was claiming no responsibility. And the fabric manufacturer had long ago gone out of business.
But many coach manufacturers were handling the issue for customers with new covers.
So we next contacted Bradd & Hall, and they immediately told us they were offering effected customers freenew covers.
Or, upgrades to ‘Ultraleather’ for just the additional cost.
They sent us some fabric samples, and we honestly liked a standard fabric better.
They had a new set made and sent us – at no cost to us.
Now we just need to figure out how to take the old ones off and install them (future project!).. or get the bus back to Elkhart to take them up on their free install offer.
In our opinion, Bradd & Hall went above and beyond to address the issue (and we were super impressed with their RV furniture installation in 2014 that we paid full price for – they’re top notch), and Flexsteel too dismissive in their denial of responsibility.
All and all, we made a few mistakes. But nothing that dissuaded us from our fleet approach to nomadic living.
All manageable. Lessons learned, things we can improve.
We did have other routine maintenance to attend to upon getting Zephyr out of storage – like all new tires (they were now 8 years old), changing out the muffler that had cracked, general fluids & lubrication and water system sanitization.
And we are thankful that we had our van conversion to live in while all of this was being taken care of.
This having multiple mobile homes to split our time between is a bit to juggle.. and a huge asset.
The bus and van convoy was a smooth 800 mile drive that we did over 3-days, and it was much more enjoyable than either of us anticipated.
The bus drove like a champ after 1.5 years of storage and some maintenance catch-up, and I loved loved loved driving the van solo (the new Sumo Springs are AMAZING!).
We have a lot to catch you up on – getting the bus out of storage and a proper tour of our lot at the co-op (we’re still getting our little casita situated as a living room & office space). And maybe I’ll manage to get some past-due travelogues out too.
We’ll get to that when we can.
But now that we’re in a known location that is hard to disclose without totally going social media quiet, we wanted to send out a reminder about not making plans to drop by unannounced.
We know our long time readers and fans would never even think about dropping by unannounced – but the message bears repeating every so often, especially in the winter months when more of us are in close proximity and it might be tempting to just pop on over for a visit.
This doesn’t just go for us, but pretty much anyone you might be following on social media (we shared this earlier this week on Facebook and Instagram, and it was so well received – thank you!)
Yes – We’d LOVE to meet you if our paths cross – and if you see us out and about, do say hi!
But please please please don’t MAKE PLANS to drop by unannounced.
We’d much rather be given the opportunity to set aside time for our visit, and even have clothes on.
You can find our contact info on our Contact Us page (linked at the top of every page of this blog.)
Some folks who share on social media invite drop by visits. Some don’t.
Please do respect that we’re all different, and just because someone shares online does not mean their physical home door is always open (unless they’ve made that clear).
Some of us work full time and need focused time.
Some of us are broadcasting or recording.
Some of us don’t wear clothes at home.
Some of us have bad days and just need to hide from the world for a bit.
Some of us don’t get out of bed and instantly become showered & dressed.
Some of us enjoy our time at home just being together (if the boat is a rocking it’s usually just wake – but the bus/van???).
Some of us are introverted and homebodies, and appreciate our homes as our physical bubbles to recharge at so we can be our better selves when we step outside.
Again – we DO enjoy making new friends, but we’re human too.
Just please respect that we’d prefer to make time for you so we can enjoy your planned visit too.
And please don’t get upset with us if you do decide to knock on our door anyway and we don’t answer or we’re grumpy when we do – our laziness at not being out of bed yet (or being on a work call) does not mean we don’t appreciate you!
Our Arizona ‘Plans’
We’ll be spending at least the rest of the month here in Benson getting ourselves situated in our new community and a little exploring nearby.
If you do want to come check out the SKP Saguaro Co-Op – they do rent out lots on a daily/weekly/monthly basis. And first time visitors who are Escapees/Xscapers quality for a special $65 week rate to come check it out.
Do let us know if you’re stopping in – we’d love to do happy hour and show you what we love about this park.
Later – we have intentions to hit the (now sold out) Xscapers Annual Bash in mid-January, store the bus back in Benson and then start heading back east for the RVillage Rally in Florida in mid-February. And then it’s back to boat life.
It’s probably going to go by much faster than we’d prefer!
We did a live video tour of the lot over the holidays, which you can watch here:
We are truly humbled with what the Escapees has done with the little idea we brought them six years ago.
General Update – Back to Boat Life!
We are seriously behind on content creation – it’s been a crazy (but awesome) couple of months. So apologies for no updates lately. We are sharing regularly on Instagram and Facebook if you want to keep up in real time.
We’ve come a long way since Annual Bash – way back in the Arizona Desert!
Afterwards we retuned to Benson to get our bus into long term storage and started a two week van trip back to Florida for the RVillage Rally – which amazing as well!
It’s been kinda like a trip of visiting our ‘kids’ – RVillage and Xscapers.
After some time with friends and family, we returned to our boat Y-Not in Savannah last week – and after wrapping up some projects on land, she was launched into the water yesterday.
We still have some smaller projects to complete this week at the boat yard, but we are starting to set our eyes onto what our cruising plans this season might entail.
We, like many around the world, have COVID-19 on our minds.
Since we have to provision the boat anyway, we’re provisioning a little extra so we can hopefully just cruise & anchor with minimal need for being ashore while this plays out. RVers and cruisers are already well suited for a bit of social distancing and self-reliance.
And honestly after the past few months of non-stop awesome – we’re ready for some distraction free time to just be and focus on work. With 5G and low earth satellites ramping up – our work life of tracking mobile internet options is keeping super busy already.
And hopefully we’ll eventually get caught up on content here too.
One of the most frequent questions we’ve gotten since we traded in our MINI Cooper for a Class-B Winnebago Travato van conversion was – do we flat tow the van behind our motorhome?
And nope, the Dodge ProMaster chassis is not flat towable.
And our bus conversion really isn’t meant for towing much of anything – we weren’t comfortable with something too much heavier than the MINI due to the airplane like design of the GM 4106.
After getting the bus to its homebase in Arizona, we knew there would be limited miles that we’d need to move both the bus and our vehicle in the future. We would be southwest based during our bus-seasons.
So flat towing became less of a priority in selecting our next vehicle. We could easily convoy the two when we wanted both with us.
We’ve now done about 1500 miles of convoying the bus and van. Chris drives the bus, and me the van.
The first major trip from Austin to Benson this past fall was much quicker than we planned, but circumstances necessitated it so Chris could attend his grandma’s funeral.
850 miles in 3 days.
And then we had a round trip out to Quartzsite and Lake Havasu City (which will be more our typical winter convoys going forward) for the Xscapers events – 350 miles each way.
And it’s gone much better than we ever anticipated.
Here’s some of things we love about convoying:
Alone Time. We get some alone time which is great for folks who generally spend 24/7 together in a small space. It’s kinda fun to meet back up for a lunch date or overnight together after the day apart.
Musical Choice. We can listen to whatever we want to – podcasts, music or silence. And at whatever sound level we like.
Keeping Driving Skills Sharp. I love driving our boat, and do so more than half the time. But I actually dislike driving vehicles – so Chris usually defaults to most our miles. The van is pretty easy to drive and forcing myself to drive more is a good thing.
Social Media. It’s easier to get photos and videos of our vehicles in motion.
Tax Advantage. Because we have an established tax home base (bus or boat) – we can actually write off some of our van expenses when traveling to events and/or doing mobile internet testing. This is much more questionable when traveling in your tax home base. (Please consult with your tax advisor for further information.)
Here’s some of things we have to adapt to from our normal style:
Planning. We have to plan our routes in advance a bit more – we won’t have a navigator on board to do in-route re-routing. We use our phones and/or walk-talkies to communicate – but we find just planning frequent stops at most rest areas is great to check-in, sync our routing and stretch our legs.
Re-fueling. The bus and van have very different re-fueling needs. While the van has the best fuel economy of all our vessels at 15-18 MPG gas, it only has a 24 gallon tank. The bus gets about 7.5 MPG diesel but has 140 gallons on board. Which means the van needs much more frequent fuel stops. When traveling in places where gas stations can be 50-100 miles apart – this does require a bit of extra thinking.
Extra Fuel Cost. And of course there’s the extra fuel cost of moving two vehicles. The van’s superior fuel economy does help. Between gas being cheaper than diesel, and getting more than double the MPG, it’s not that much of a hit. But it is a hit – but at least we get to write off some of those van miles (see above).
Off-Duty. We’re used to the non-driver being able to work some while underway. When we’re both driving, we’re both not working. Thankfully, we have any amazing staff at the Mobile Internet Resource Center – and they’re awesome at keeping on top of things for us. And it’s really taught us to trust in them more – and has actually enabled us to take more time away from the keyboard in general so far this year (thanks team!).
Overall, having two RVs has been pretty darn awesome. Besides the convoying we’ve found some other advantages:
We travel with a guest house. It’s super cool to have friends and family able to visit us, and put them up in a completely self contained guest house. My mom actually got to have her very first night in an RV when she came to visit us!
Satellite Office. While we have a sweet dual desk setup in our bus conversion (which has been oh so nice to be back to!) – we also have a sweet setup in the van. Having separate office spaces has been super handy – especially when Chris needs to do signal testing, or I am doing video production.
Mobile Hotspot. We are currently testing out the Pepwave MAX Transit Duo router sent to us by MobileMustHave.com with several different antenna combinations (that’s our work life). It’s been super handy to keep the testing isolated and installed on the van. But keeping the van close to the bus as our ‘mobile hotspot’ with the best internet connection we currently have setup.
No Campground Concerns… yet. We were concerned if we’d have a problem technically parking two RVs on one campsite. But so far, as long as we’re clear the van is our daily driver and not being used as an RV – every campground we’ve stopped at has been completely cool. In fact, one reason we selected a van conversion as our second RV was because the bylaws at the SKP Saguaro Co-Op park specifically allow a Class-B used as a daily driver to be parked on our lot in addition to our primary RV.
But of course the biggest struggle is for Kiki.
She has to decide each day which house and human she is riding with.
And she honestly seems to love all three of our vessels.
She’s truly an awesome nomadic cat.
Real Time Update:
We have now stored our bus at our co-op park in Arizona until later this year, and have just arrived by van to the RVillage Rally in Live Oak, FL after a way too quick 2000 mile trip across country.
We’re looking forward to an amazing event, some time with family next week and then returning to our boat by the first of March!
Ever since we purchased our motor yacht to start exploring the Great Loop after over a decade of full time RVing – we’ve been asked the question “which costs more?” multiple times.
Now that we’ve had our boat for three years (3 years?!?!), we have enough numbers to do a proper comparison of the typical travel & operating costs.
And spoiler alert.. it should come as no surprise to anyone, the boat costs more.
But the more detailed analysis of the costs is very interesting to dig deeper into.
First, our video explaining things (19m):
We’re going to break this down in to four primary cost categories:
It’s important to note that trying to compare our boat life to our RV life is like comparing apples to some other fruit of your choice.
Or heck, apples to screwdrivers (wait, isn’t that a squished orange with vodka?).
They’re just so different – not just in the costs, but in how we approach each lifestyle.
The two vessels we’re comparing:
The RV we’re comparing is our 1961 GM 4106 vintage bus conversion that we acquired in 2011 for just $8000. Zephyr came to us already about 15 years behind on general maintenance, and had been sitting in a storage yard mostly abandoned before we found her.
She’s 35′ long, 8′ wide and 24k lbs. A single bedroom and bathroom, kitchen & office combined, and living room with couch & chair.
She’s far from being a typical modern day motorhome to maintain or operate.
Our boat is a 1999 Bayliner 4788 that we acquired for $152,000 in 2017. Y-Not had been maintained & loved by her prior owner.
She’s 47′ long (as per documentation, but really 52′), 15′ wide and 30k lbs. Two bedrooms, two baths (one with a bath TUB), four stories tall, dedicated kitchen, salon, pilothouse and flybridge.
Our boat is pretty ‘standard’ issue as far as motor yachts go – being one of the more mass produced models on the market.
We own both free and clear (just paid off the boat – woohoo!), so we have no payments on either. And while our boat cost more to acquire than our bus, there are boats and RVs of all price ranges out there.
Differing Travel Styles
From 2011 – 2017, we traveled full time in our bus typically covering about 6-8k miles a year. We would mix up our stays between boondocking on public land, moochdocking with friends, Harvest Hosts (save 15% with our affiliate link) and stays of several days in public parks (state, county, city, federal, etc).
About once or twice a year we’d take a monthly spot to get caught up on life, and mixed in some volunteer hosting.
Zephyr is now our home part of the year and will be spending her foreseeable future seasonally roaming around the desert southwest, with a basecamp at our Co-Op park in Arizona where we have a lifetime lease to a lot.
When traveling in our boat, we’ve found a delightful pace of cruising for a week or two spending most nights anchoring out, and then finding our next extended monthly stay at a marina in a cool new city to explore. Thus far, we’ve been covering about 500-1000 miles a year. We intend to cruise from spring to fall, and then return to RV life for winters.
We do also now have a van conversion that we added to the fleet a year ago that we use for short camping trips, as a daily driver, and for transport between our boat and bus seasons.
Those costs aren’t being compared here – but obviously, the van is the cheapest of all our options to operate.
Service Months: Explained
For the purposes of trying to compare the costs, I’m using service months as opposed to owned months in the monthly averages below.
At the time of this writing, we’ve owned Zephyr for 103 months – but have had her in service for 75. Service is basically months we’re traveling/living in the bus and the boat is in storage.
We’ve owned Y-Not for 39 months, however only 29 of those have been in service. Service is months we’re traveling/living aboard the boat and the bus is in storage.
I’ve taken our life to date totals for each category & vessel and divided by the service months. So the monthly costs below can be treated individually, they don’t stack on top of each other (ie. we’re not paying $248 + $164 every month in fuel – it’s one or the other each month).
Or as we prefer to call it – pouring rent into the tank. Fuel to us is part of our housing costs as nomads, not just a transportation cost.
Our bus, with a Detroit Diesel 8v71 2-stroke diesel engine has averaged about 7-8 mpg.
Our boat has dual Cummins 370HP 4-stroke diesel engines, and we tend to be averaging about 1.8 nautical mile per gallon.
Certainly not great fuel ‘economy’ for a vehicle, but actually not bad for moving a house around the country. And comparing just miles per gallon, the bus might be looking like a winner in this category.
But the other way to look at it as how many gallons per hour we burn. Traveling at 50-55 mph on average, our bus burns around 7 gallons per hour. Our boat averages around 6-7 knots of speed, and thus only burns around 3.5 gallons per hour.
And since we set our travel pace by how many hours we’re spending driving/cruising, not how many miles – it’s actually been cheaper to operate our boat (crazy, right?!?).
Score one for the boat!
This is simply because back in our bus full timing days our pace had us more in motion and covering more miles.
Going forward, we expect our bus fuel expenses to go way down as we keep our travels very regional and seasonal.
The boat will probably remain about the same – maybe a bit more if we ever hasten our pace along the Loop.
And the majority of our actual miles will be in our van as we move between the two – which gets about 16-17 mpg.
But overall, fuel makes up a small portion of our overall expenses. I think our wine costs are higher (and we don’t drink nearly 3.5 gallons an hour!).
Paying for somewhere to be. This is an expense category that can vary widely by your own style of travel.
For us, we approach boat and RV life differently.
Staying overnight in our RV in a public campground (state park, county park, Army Corp of Engineer) is quite affordable at $20-35 in many places.
But overnights at a dock in the boat can get quite crazy expensive at $1-4 per foot (which means we could be paying $50-250 per night).
We enjoy free stays in both vessel by boondocking or anchoring out – and tend to do several weeks of that a season in between our paid stays.
Our big difference between our two primary homes is those paid stays.
When RVing staying put for a month at a time is an exception, not a norm. We tend to do more stays measured in days not weeks.
Whereas with boating, we rarely do nightly or weekly stays and optimize for more affordable monthly stays.
And when comparing monthly marina stays to monthly RV park rates – they’re not all that different in terms of costs. We’ve had marina rates ranging from $600 – 1400 per month ($900 being fairly typical) for our 47′ boat.
And that’s for waterfront (duh) locations usually within walking distance of cool downtowns to explore, which is rare for an RV Park.
So, in this category – boat life has been more expensive (yet still mighty affordable) and pretty awesome for us.
Co-Op note: This isn’t factoring in the cost of our lifetime lease and on-going maintenances fees to our Co-Op RV park in Arizona, which we more consider part of our bus storage costs. We also will get most of that back when we sell our lease. Our electricity cost when staying in the park is factored into our average RVing costs.
Insurance costs are definitely higher on the boat, and your actual costs here will be highly individual to your unique factors.
We carry full coverage for both vehicles with higher deductibles and high liability limits, as well as uninsured coverage. Our RV policies include a full-timers rider that gives us personal liability and contents coverage too (similar to what a house policy would include).
Part of the premium difference is the value we have each insured for, the boat about 70% more than the bus with all of the upgrades we’ve done to both. But the biggest difference is just marine versus RV policies.
We’re not insurance experts and definitely don’t want to play them on the internet – so if you have questions about this topic we highly recommend contacting a broker you trust.
For full-time RVing policies, we love Gina at Epic Insurance. You can also find leads within RVing clubs like the Escapees.
For boating policies, look for recommendations within your boating memberships. We found ours via the MTOA and AGLCA.
Quick answer, the boat costs a boatload more to maintain. As expected.
And please note – these expenses only include the mechanicals – the things needed to keep our bus and boat moving. It doesn’t include house systems (like plumbing, ACs, awnings/canvas, electrical) and various systems upgrades.
So remember I mentioned that we bought our bus for a song, but with 15 years of neglected maintenance? That means we had a LOT of maintenance costs to gradually catch up on – including a full out of frame engine rebuild. All and all, we’ve spent about $50k since 2011 keeping our girl on the road.
I really don’t know what a more typical modern day motorhome might cost to maintain. And owning a vintage bus does not necessarily mean you’ll need a $25k engine rebuild either (but not a bad idea to have emergency reserves at the ready).
In our years with Zephyr, we’ve also gone through two sets of tires at about $3500-4000 each time around (replacing every 6-7 years). And we’ve had a lot general stuff replaced and maintained – air bags, brakes, air drier, bearings, king pin, valves, etc. etc.
But a typical annual engine maintenance of oil & filters & chassis lubrication typically runs $300-500 in a bus shop (easiest done over a pit). And we anticipate other major projects throughout the year to keep a 60-year old vintage vehicle safely on the road.
I wanted to wait to share maintenance numbers until we had gotten past some major service items we knew were coming due – like air coolers and turbos. Now that we’ve tackled these, we think our numbers should be fairly standard that others can budget around for maintaining a boat similar to ours.
General Engine Maintenance – Range of $500-3000/year
We have dual Cummins 370s, which are big engines. We’ve had three annual maintenance revolutions now (including oil, filters, impellers and zincs).
First cost us about $2000 in parts & labor (we hired in a local mechanic who also taught us).
Our second cost us about $500 in parts and we did the labor ourselves.
And the third we had done earlier this year as part of other boat yard projects to the tune of about $3000 in parts & labor. This also included belts and transmission fluids.
We’ll continue to balance out pro vs DIY into the future.
Major Engine Services
The prior owner had not serviced the after coolers in a while, so we knew that was pending when we purchased. We had them removed, cleaned, rebuilt, painted and re-installed for $3300 recently at our last boatyard stop.
And a while back we noticed that the seals around our turbos were dripping oil, so another $3300 to remove those, rebuild and re-install those last year.
The bottom of a boat is very important to operating your vessel, and stuff grows on it. Like an entire ecosystem. Overnight.
To keep on top of it you have to have your boat hauled and the bottom repainted every couple of years (depending on where you cruise). And you need to clean it in-between.
We’ve had two bottom jobs already to the tune of about $4500 each (including running gear).
And we spend between $100-200 every couple of months when in salt water to have a diver go under our boat and scrape stuff off (and replace anodes).
Ok – that wasn’t so bad.
And the winner is:
Yup – no surprise. Our style of boating costs more than our style of RVing.
And we were totally prepared for that in thanks to others sharing numbers like these when we were doing our research (and it’s been totally worth it!).
Hopefully sharing these numbers can give others a data point for consideration in their research when deciding if boating, motorhoming or both are within their grasp. But don’t focus too much on our exact numbers – every RV and boat is different. And every lifestyle is different too.
There’s of course other monthly living expenses on the road like connectivity, health insurance and general life stuff. And we also have storage costs for the vehicle we’re not using in any given season.
Head on over to our extensive monthly cost log that we’ve shared since 2009 if you want to dive deeper into the costs of a full time nomadic lifestyle.
As most of our readers might be aware, Technomadia is our personal blog where we share the travel side of our technomadic lifestyle – and many years ago we branched off our mobile internet & connectivity content to reside over at the Mobile Internet Resource Center instead of here.
Keeping on top of this Resource Center has been our full time careers (aka ‘day jobs’) since 2014.
At the Resource Center, we have helped thousands and thousands of fellow RVers and boaters learn about their options for staying connected, and we love keeping our community up to date on this constantly changing landscape.
We intentionally try not to mix business and pleasure too much on this blog, and we usually avoid talking about anything “mobile internet” related here. But for us, there is a fine line between work and play. Being self-employed and working in a field so closely tied to our personal lives – our work projects are inevitably going to spill over on occasion.
Today’s post is intentionally blurring the lines, and we have a couple of updates from our work life to share with you.
We are constantly testing new gear that comes out, so what we might be