The RV / Camper thread

I’m fighting off a bug to get a camper. I’ve reached the age where i’m not really excited to go tent camping anymore, and as i’m trying to get into recreational astronomy / astrophotography having a bit of a home base seems like a nice idea, and a mobile basecamp seems appealing in some ways

The camper market exploded of course during COVID. I went trailer camping with a family member’s Aliner off an undeveloped forest road near Los Alamos, NM a couple years ago during the height of COVID and it was wall to wall people. The Aliner was ok, but it got extremely hot during the day, and it seems like the white whale of RV camping is being able to run the A/C on battery while “boondocking”. One of many RV terms they’ve all-but standardized (“shore power” comes to mind).

The Aliner was kind of a rattle trap though (despite being brand new and having few things relatively speaking to rattle), and most RVs are basically rolling cabinetry, with dubious QC standards. But the price of low standards is low cost. There are more ‘exotic’ brands that often come in at double or even triple the cost of flat pack RVs for apparently far fewer amenities.

The RV camper world is super weird though and there have proliferated tons of ‘rolling mattress’ style mini campers that seem utterly ridiculous to me because they want to charge like $15-20,000 for a space you can’t even sit up in. At that point i might as well get a truck bend tent, imo. (although imo this space seems to be dying off a bit, being so obviously nonsensically lopsided price/functionality). It also seems like the cheaper / large campers, otoh, are designed for ‘full timers’; full of recliners, big TVs, cabinetry, ect.

Right now i’m considering a TAXA for lightweight camping, but jeez, $30-40k for a camper full of milk crate shelving. Sometimes it seems cool, sometimes it seems ridiculous.

The one i really want is a Safari Condo. Aside from seeming to me to be the perfectly designed RV from an aesthetic and functionality perspective, it’s made in Quebec and sales in the US are virtually non-existent, so support would be virtually impossible. I almost bought one four years ago; the price has increased 50% since then for the same camper.

Anyone have any good trailer stories? Are they like boats, but worse? (the best day owning a boat is buying it, the second best day is selling it)

I don’t really have any stories, but I’m starting to vaguely lean the direction of getting a camper. But I’m relatively poor, so my route is to find an old vintage camper that has seen better days (but still has a solid shell), gut the inside and rebuild. I have some experience having turned my old e250 van into a camper last year, and that was a fun project, so I’m thinking of taking the next step.

So I’m keeping an eye on FB marketplace and the local Craigslist, seeing if I can find a sub-$1000 deal on such a thing. They pop up on occasion.

Gf and I bought a 24’ 2002 Tioga (Class C) for $10.5k two years ago, sold it last month for $17k. Even given that we put a couple of thousand dollars of work into and the cost of gas, we got paid to own an RV for a couple of years. I don’t know that I’d buy into the market now; I think especially given gas prices, that RV costs can’t go much higher. We liked owning the RV, but I’m more of a tent camper anyway, and we recently moved so neither of us has space to store it. The city of San Diego has become pretty unfriendly to RVs parked on the street.

While we had it, I learned a surprising amount about RV house systems: electrical, water, propane, etc. Work we did:

  • replace the blower assembly on the furnace because it sounded like someone firing a machine gun whenever the heat kicked on in the middle of the night. This was by far the most difficult work I did on the RV. You have to disassemble the entire motor, starter and fan assembly in order to get the blower off, and our blower was rusted solid to the motor shaft. It took hours of sweaty effort at a campsite and a couple of lacerations to my hands to get that thing replaced, but the silence at night was worth it.
  • fix the fridge. It worked find on electric, but would not stay on when powered by propane, a real pain when trying to camp at sites without power. I replaced the thermostat, starting contactor, pilot assembly, main controller board, nothing worked. Finally replaced the burner, which is just a metal tube with holes to let the gas flow upward, and that solved the problem.
  • install a bathroom door. For some reason the previous owners had deemed this unnecessary. We disagreed.
  • we installed a wall between the sink and main bed so that washing dishes didn’t splash on our comforter. This made it a bit tight to get into the bed, but also let us install a shelf on that wall so we could watch TV.
  • full sealing job. Recaulked all window seals. Retaped all seams. Repainted the roof with sealant.
  • replaced the rear taillights, which had just weathered to complete unreliability. During one trip, we couldn’t get the brake lights to come on if the headlights were also on.
  • installed a backup camera. We used a wireless camera, powered from the headlight power on the hitch connector. Worked great and was invaluable for maneuvering in tight spaces.

The previous owners had replaced the carpet flooring with vinyl (a must IMO) and had also installed a solar system that would charge the house battery and an inverter so we could run 120V loads off the battery. This worked well enough that we could make a pot of coffee or toast bagels without turning on the generator. Couldn’t run the microwave or AC though.

I recommend checking out Harvest Hosts. It’s an $80ish annual subscription but lets you stay usually for free at breweries, farms, and wineries across the country. We used it a bunch. You typically get no hookups or facilities, but it’s great to sit, buy a bottle of wine, and enjoy some views in the evening.

I have friends who have looked into Harvest Hosts. I don’t know if they have used it yet.

We have a 26ft travel trailer. Before that a 24ft trailer that we owned for 20 years.

We mostly go to the coast. Currently we have 3 trips planned. It has become much harder to get reservations though, and while several new spots have been developed the private ones tend to be nice, but expensive. But cheaper and nicer than most hotels.