Campers And RVers

 Posted by at 12:17 am  Nick's Blog
Jan 132011

In the last few weeks, I’ve gotten quite a few e-mails from RV campers who think that they are RVers. I hate to burst their bubbles, but at the same time, I don’t want to be responsible for them thinking otherwise, or making costly mistakes.

There is a difference between campers and RVers. I define RV campers as people who have an RV of some kind, anything from a pop up tent trailer to a motorhome, who spend a few weekends a year in a campground or state park, and maybe take a week or two vacation with their RV.

RVers, on the other hand, are those of us who either live in our RVs fulltime, or else spend several weeks or even months at a time traveling and living in our homes on wheels. Because to us, that’s what our RVs are, homes on wheels. Some of us travel around a lot, while others may go to a favorite RV park and stay for an extended period of time. Hopefully, we did a lot of homework before entering the RV lifestyle, and did some advance preparation before hitting the road.

There is nothing at all wrong with being a camper, but when campers start thinking that they are RVers, and want to enter the RV lifestyle with their existing camper mentality, they can set themselves up for some real disappointments. I hate to see that happen, because with some serious homework and research, they could have a much better and more enjoyable experience.

Probably the first mistake I see far too many campers make is to think that their weekend travel trailer is suitable for the RV lifestyle. It’s one thing to spend a weekend at the lake in your small travel trailer, but when you start living in it for weeks or months at a time, its shortcomings can quickly become glaring problems. I have even had a few people who expected to fulltime in popup tent campers with kids!

While there are some excellent travel trailers on the market, and while we do know some RVers who live in them, the vast majority you see in campgrounds and state parks are inadequate for extended use. They just don’t hold up to day in and day out use over the long run. They’re built to be weekend rigs, and just don’t have what it takes for long term living.

Just this week, I got an e-mail from a couple with four sons, ages 3 to 11, and two Golden Lab dogs, who have a 20 foot travel trailer and a crew cab pickup truck, and want to fulltime in it. They admitted that “it gets a little crowded, but we’ve spent a lot of fun weekends in it, and now we want to show our boys the country.”  I hated to tell them that if their trailer got “a little crowded” in a weekend, they might be ready to strangle each other after a month on the road in it. Assuming that the trailer would hold up to a month’s steady use by two adults, four boys, and two dogs.

Quite a few of the campers I have talked to don’t seem to understand that there really are grocery stores in every town in America. More than one has asked me for advice on how much food to pack, and how to prepare meals ahead of time, before they leave home. One actually asked me what we do when we run out of toilet paper. I was tempted to say I use an old copy of the Gypsy Journal, and then make a mad dash for WalMart! 🙂

Another mistake campers make is to think that the RV lifestyle is a permanent campout. The first time my cousin Berni Frees and her husband met us at an FMCA rally, they were amazed. As Berni put it, “I thought everybody would be sitting around the campfire singing Kumbaya and toasting marshmallows!” She was amazed that most of us live the same way in our RVs that other people live in their houses. For every RVer you’ll find sitting out around a campfire, there will be 100 sitting inside their home on wheels, watching television and wishing those campers knew how to build a fire that didn’t smoke the place up so bad.

One couple I exchanged e-mails with recently are spending their first winter as snowbirds. They have booked the entire winter in state forest campgrounds, and were surprised at how expensive it was going to be.  Most RVers I know seldom go to a state campground, because we find that RV parks and commercial campgrounds are more suited to our lifestyle, and usually less expensive on a weekly or monthly basis. Besides, there are fewer smoky campfires, and nobody keeps you awake all night singing Kumbaya!      

There is nothing wrong with RV campers, and many do transition successfully to the fulltime RV lifestyle, or enjoy doing the snowbird thing. But the ones who go into it all starry eyed, and don’t take the time to do their research ahead of time are setting themselves up for a fall. 

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Nick Russell

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  19 Responses to “Campers And RVers”

  1. Nick,

    It all comes down to doing your homework. As to running out to toilet paper? On word:

  2. Nick,

    It all comes down to doing your homework As to running out of toilet paper? One word:

  3. Nick

    Now lets be honest here, these types of folks do give us many hours of good laughs. In addition, as we are all aware many people out there have the I D 10 T syndrome.

  4. Nick,

    Go back and finish your blog. Where is your “Thought for the day” I cannot start my day without your “Thought for the day”

    I’d like 2 “thoughts” tomorrow please.

  5. I always get a kick out of the differences between campers and rvers. Plus here is another angle- how non-camper/rvers view us. Especially some family and friends. Often when we are in the area of these friends/relatives they often try to get us to stay in their houses and are nearly flabbergasted when we decline. They say something like “Why would you want to stay in your camper when you could stay in our house?” I chuckle and tell them we are more comfortable in our rv than we would be in their home. Then after a tour of our “camper” I have heard more than once, “Wow, you could live in here!” Duh, yeah…

  6. On the other hand Nick, too many people feel that the only way you can full time is if you buy a 40ft DP with 4 slides and that bigger is always better. We have come across a lot of RVers that say they can’t afford the payments and still travel where they want and see all the things that they want to, their eyes were bigger then their budget.

    Just like with Sticks & Bricks you have to find something that fits your budget and make do.

    Our pensions didn’t allow us to get a big rig, I wish they did but they don’t, so for the last ten years we’ve been very happy wandering around full time in a 25ft, single slide class C without living check to check.

    I agree with Terry M, when people don’t understand why we don’t want to spend the night in their house. I always tell them that if they don’t mind me getting up and walking to the bathroom naked, then into the kitchen to get the coffee going before I go back and get dressed, which means when I open the dresser draw I better find MY socks and underwear, then we’ll be happy to spend the night.

  7. My definition of the difference between campers and RVers is similar but slightly different. I believe that campers are those who have campfires whenever allowed and oftentimes will cook over the fire. Also they will use a Coleman stove and cook outside rather than use their kitchen. Many will also cook the bacon and eggs that they always cook on weekends rather than eat the food that they would normally eat during the week. RVers on the other hand live life like they would in a home. No stinky, smoky clothes for them, etc.

  8. Yet again, Nick, you nailed it. I can’t be held responsible for my actions if one more friend asks me “don’t you want to sleep in a real bed?”

  9. Oh my. In over seven years of full time living in our motorhome, we did a lot of touring, occasionally spending a few days in government parks. Only one week in those seven plus years did we have a campfire every night. We managed to meet some very nice people, but campfires are a lot of work and, yes, smoky clothing! Now we live in our park trailer (not “park model”) much of the time, and travel in our motorhome. It feels different, but still no campfires every night.

  10. When my husband and I were contemplating marriage and retirement back in January of 2003, we twirled the idea of traveling the country in an RV. Luckily one of our friends suggested Life on Wheels as a beginning. All in all, we attended 4 conferences…an invaluable education…and the opportunity to meet folks who were living the lifestyle. We finally chose a fifth wheel that we could afford and pay for. When we retired and sold our home in June 2007, we felt comfortable with our decisions and were ready to hit the road. We owned our 35′ 5W for 2 years prior so had ironed out the kinks as well as joined a few RV groups who were immensely helpful in answering our “newbie” questions. Attending rallies has continuously added information which we have found helpful. We have met many wonderful people on the road and, yes, we have noticed a huge difference in the mindset between fulltimers and snowbirds here in Arizona.

  11. Your comments are dead on! We are rver wannabees in the class of 2020. 9 1/2 more years before we can retire and hit the road. But we’ve been researching for a long time and will continue to prepare for our retirement. We have a 40′ Cedar Creek 5th wheel and as much as I love my husband, I cannot imagine fulltiming in anything smaller. I’m not a snob – I just know him and myself and we both know that we need physical space away from each other at times. That’s part of that research you talk about. Yes, right now, we’re still only “rv campers”, but when we do hit the road, it willl be with our eyes wide open. And we’ll know where the Wal-Marts are so we don’t run out of toilet paper, lol!

  12. We are converted campers turned into 1/2 fulltimers(6 mos. a year). I would say we are a little more than snow birds because we are gone from Oct. 1st to May 1st, ,where a lot of snow birds are only gone 3 or 4 months at the most. Our house will be sold soon, hopefully. At that time we will be full timers for sure. I think that talking to others on the road, Nick’s blog, and going to the Gypsy Journal rallies has helped us the most. It is true that you look at the experience differently when you are in the rv for long periods of time.But, if you are able to accept change and look for the adventure in it, you’ll be fine. I think it’s all about being flexible and having a good out look.

  13. After years of being campers starting with a tent and a backpacker’s stove we are now RVers. We only have campfires once a year when we gather with a group of other RVers who sit around the fire and share stories with us. We cook our meals inside but may bring them outside to a potluck for eating. Both methods have been right for us at different times in our lives.

  14. If we had to live in RV parks every night I think I’d hang up the keys. As fulltimers for almost 4 years, we look forward to staying in state parks, coe campgrounds, and boondocking. For us, a more natural environment sure beats the antiseptic parking lot style RV parks.

    Sure, we stay in RV parks at times… even for extended periods like the three months we’ll be in Rockport this winter. But one of the best things about RVing is that we have options. And often I’ll be the one sitting out at the campfire while the other hundred are inside watching TV.

  15. Well, Nick. . . I guess its just you and me; that is we big boys in our Motor Coachs! See. . . MINES bigger than yours! Nick, I believe that its truly the differences in our life-style that makes our choice so grand. There are times we enjoy camping at the lake and enjoying “somemores” around the fire-ring. Other times we “rest” at Wal Mart, and still other nights we enjoy a Passport America park. We also enjoy sojourning at RV spots with all the amenities on our way to our winter “home” here at Jojoba Hills SKP Co-Op here in Aguanga, CA. Thats right, we’re “campers”, RVers, and just plain old folks who enjoy being, and being with good neighbors. Surely, Nick. . . you’d never be judgemental. . . after all, we’ve been neighbors and you’ve never put up a fence between our motorhomes yet. As always, oRV

  16. I am an rv camper and hang my head in shame….I did upgrade from a F*******d (too embarased to even say it) to a Safari Trek and am educating myself daily.

  17. As I wrote in the blog post, there is nothing wrong with being a camper. The problem is, and the point of my post, too many campers decide that they enjoy their weekend outings so much that they want to do it fulltime, and go into the RV lifestyle without doing their homework and adequately preparing for it. When that happens, they almost always end up unhappy, and for some, it turns them off RVing together.

  18. I wish we had read this post 2 years ago Nick. We were campers who did exactly what you described, and it was an absolutely terrible experience. So bad that we got in a huge fight and Susan got in a plane and flew back to Minnesota, and I towed the trailer back home and sold it. Now my wife swears she will never set foot in any kind of RV again. So all I can do is read all of the great RV blogs out there and live vicariously through all of you.

  19. Absolutely true. Campers go camping, RVers are living in their rig. There is a difference in attitude and style. And you do need a more sturdy RV to hold up to the rigors of part time (months) or full time (always) living.

    We live in our rig about 8 months of the year. We are NOT camping. And we too don’t like to smell like the campfire. We do barbecue outside and sometimes eat outside. But we are not cramming fun into the weekend or vacation and then running back to work. Campers who want to be RVers will find out there is definitely a difference between the two. Sometimes they can’t make the crossover. That’s why it’s important to do your homework before you spend all that money to go RVing.

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