What You Need to Be a Minimalist Full-time RVer
Living in any RV requires a commitment to a more minimalistic lifestyle whether you’re in a 45-foot diesel pusher or a small truck camper or camper van.
There are a couple of reasons a trailer or camper might not be the best choice for full-time living, but it’s worth noting that NO recreational vehicle is built and sold for the purpose of becoming a full-time residence. If you talk to the manufacturers and dealers, they all affirm that RVs are built for periodic leisure use only. Living in an RV full-time puts much more pressure on every system in the rig. The electrical, plumbing, heating, insulation, tanks, and structural framework will all be stressed when in use all day every day.
This continuous use and additional pressure is what makes living in a camper vs a motorhome more problematic. Let’s face it, campers are built to fit into the budgets of a larger share of the market, meaning they are more affordable, but to fit into that lower price range they need to be built fast and cheap. That translates to lower quality components and construction protocols that focus more on quantity than quality.
- Campers are small, easy to maneuver and park, but lack storage space. Photo by P. Dent
Cons of living in a camper full-time
Another limitation of living full-time in a camper compared to living full time in a larger motorhome is the size of many of the components in the camper. The propane tanks (if they even exist) are usually small portable tanks. These tanks need to be refilled often. The refrigerator and freezer may be quite small. Your freshwater tank, black, and gray holding tanks also have limited capacity.
Many campers do not have a generator. Living full time in those campers requires a connection to shore power for electricity. Or, the camper needs solar panels and a battery system. A portable generator is also helpful.
Be prepared for all kinds of weather
Let’s face it, when you live in an RV you need to take a few more things with you than for camping on a weekend trip or a short vacation. You might need all weather gear. Chains for the truck or trailer, extra coats, blankets, and boots can be necessary too.
You could be camping in the snow or on the edge of a hurricane. It’s not like you can just drive back to your house to wait out the storm. You need to be able to endure whatever nature throws at you.
- Not all days are sunny when you live in a camper. Full-timers need to be prepared for everything. Photo by P. Dent
Sure, you’re living in a house on wheels. You should be able to drive away from approaching bad weather. But this is not always possible. For example, a Polar Vortex dropped below freezing temperatures from one coast to the other. It resulted in virtually the whole country suffering in below freezing ice and snowstorms. This storm knocked out power to millions. Thousands of full-time RVers got caught in this dangerous weather.
As full-time RVers, sometimes the only option is to batten down the hatches and endure the inclement weather. But this may be a life-threatening experience in a camper. Without enough extra clothes or blankets, no propane heat option, and the power is out where you’re camping, things get dicey. Larger storage capacity in your full-time recreational vehicle can save your life.
Limited RV storage space
Beyond having enough storage space for seasonal clothes and bedding, you also may want to take your recreational accessories with you like your bikes, kayaks, fishing gear, photo equipment, and backpacks. All that extra gear that you would normally store at your home now needs to be packed and stored in (or on) your RV.
And the storage issue is not limited to outdoor equipment or weather-related supplies. What about extra food? When you live in a camper, you’re not packing food for just a weekend getaway. You’re packing all the food and cooking utensils for everyday meal preparation and there are times when you may be a hundred miles or more from the nearest store.
With a very small refrigerator and freezer, you’ll need to rely on dry goods or canned foods. But all of it takes up space. Many campers are short on good storage space. Are you willing to park your rig near an urban center? If so, you can eat out more often or purchase smaller quantities more frequently. But you can’t always be that close to a grocery store.
Over the past 20 years of RVing, we have camped in dozens of places that just didn’t have any nearby restaurants or groceries. We ate what we had with us and that was all. If you’re in a small truck camper, camper van, or pop-up trailer, you may not have enough storage to sustain a comfortable full-time lifestyle.
- Even with a wet bath, campers may need an exterior shower arrangement. Photo by P. Dent
Pros of living in a camper full-time
There are a few pros to choosing a camper for full-time living. The biggest advantage is that campers are more nimble than large motorhomes and fifth wheels. They can go anywhere a car can go. Campers fit into any campground or RV park They are easy to park in a parking lot of any store while restocking the rig.
If you have a truck camper, you can even remove it from the truck. It’s easy to use the truck without breaking down your camp to fetch supplies. There’s no need to tow a second vehicle unless you want to tow a trailer or boat. We encountered a full-time RVer that lives in a camper van. They also tow an enclosed trailer. She manages all her storage issues by loading the trailer with extra gear and supplies.
The other pro of choosing a camper for your full-time adventure is that most of them cost less than a motorhome or fifth wheel. Having said that, I have to acknowledge that some of the camper vans can be as expensive as many Class A and C motorhomes.
Some campers that are in the larger hard-sided trailer category can also be nearly as expensive as smaller Class C motorhomes. We are currently camped next to a hard-sided trailer that is only a few feet shorter than our 38-foot motorhome and the couple who lives in that trailer seem to be well supplied and content with their rig.
Will a small camper meet your personal full-time RV goals?
That depends on you! It depends on your attitude, and your willingness to leave unnecessary material possessions behind. Can you embrace a minimalist viewpoint? Are you comfortable in confined spaces? It depends on your willingness to embrace an outdoor lifestyle. Ultimately, can you be content with your choices?
Drivin & Vibin shares some great tips from their experience in living in small camper full-time in the video below:
Continue reading: The Dirty Truth Of Full-Time RVing
Peggy Dent is an author, writer, and full-time RVer, traveling around the US and Canada. She’s traveled more than 130,000 miles in a motorhome, over the past 20 years, and is currently writing for the RV industry. You can contact her through her website at www.APenInYourHand.com