At first glance, backpacking and driving a recreational vehicle might not seem to have much in common. But once you start looking a little more closely, you’ll come to realize that these two modes of travel are actually very similar.
Both require winnowing down your belongings — or at least the belongings you rely on everyday — to the bare minimum. And both of them help intrepid adventurers to be spontaneous as they travel around to see the world. In a sense, embracing the lifestyle that goes along with owning an RV is like an extension of backpacking culture.
When you find that the necessities are no longer able to fit in a backpack, or you just want to travel without relying on bus and train schedules and stops, it might be time to consider purchasing an RV. Here is a brief rundown of the different types available, to help you decide which will be best for you.
Motorhome or Towable RV?
There are essentially two major categories of RVs. You can choose the type that gets towed behind another vehicle, then detaches once you reach your campground or other destination, or you can get the type which are a vehicle unto themselves.
Motorhomes are completely self-contained, and function as both method of transportation and accommodation. They’re somewhat easier to set up at a campground than the towable variety. And your passengers can move about freely in them while you are driving; they can sleep, prepare meals, play games, read books, watch TV, or do pretty much anything they’d do at home or in a hotel.
You’ve probably heard about retirees who sell their home, downsize their possessions, and take to the road full-time. Those folks are likely driving a motorhome; it truly can stand in for a “regular” house.
Towable RVs have their advantages, as well. Chief among those perks is the ability to detach the trailer from the truck or car that’s being used to tow it. Once the two components have been separated, you can take the vehicle for smaller excursions such as day trips, running errands, or going out to eat without having to worry about parking a large motorhome.
Travelers who are on a budget can also get more bang for their buck with towable RVs, since they are supplying the engine and other essential parts for driving separately.
Lastly, there is a wider range of options with towable trailers than with motorhomes, so it’s a bit easier to customize your experience and get only the features you need. With a motorhome, there’s more luxury built right in from the beginning, which raises the base cost.
Types of Motorhomes
Class A Motorhomes are the largest and most elaborate of this type, and therefore the most expensive. It’s not uncommon to find these RVs with full-sized shower and bath facilities, entertainment systems to rival that of a suburban ranch home, and even a washer and dryer.
Some have slide-out capabilities to expand the living space, and most have separate master bedrooms.
Disadvantages to Class A motorhomes are that they can be difficult to maneuver, when both driving and parking. Their size makes them impractical for short trips, and they are costly to maintain.
Class B Motorhomes are built on a standard van chassis. That means they’re easier to drive and park, can be taken on day trips, and less expensive than their Class A counterparts. However, the smaller size makes travel with more than two people a fairly cramped venture. It’s also not possible to equip them with full-sized appliances or many amenities.
Class C Motorhomes fall somewhere in the middle. With a length of up to 33 feet, they can accommodate a family or small group. There are adequate bathroom facilities, convertible furniture options so that you can enjoy tables and couches during the day, but beds at nighttime, and more storage space than Class B vehicles.
Towable RV Options
Travel Trailers can run the gamut between minimally furnished and fully kitted-out, depending on your needs and your budget. They may have their own water supply, kitchen, bathroom, and small appliances. However, the biggest advantage of a travel trailer is that it can be towed by any vehicle using a standard ball hitch.
Travel trailers are therefore a great option for families.
Fifth Wheel Trailers offer essentially the same features as travel trailers, with one notable exception. They are designed with a raised overhang that extends over, and connects to, the open or flat bed of a pickup truck.
This makes fifth wheel trailers simpler and easier to maneuver, although they can be more fiddly to manage once they’re detached from the truck. Additionally, it’s illegal for passengers to ride in a fifth wheel traveler. Some people find that it is a major drawback to be cramped inside the truck while on the road.
Folding Camping Trailers, sometimes called pop-up trailers, are designed to collapse into a fairly small external profile while traveling, then expand to provide sleeping and living quarters. The expandable section may be constructed from a composite material or sturdy tent canvas.
The limited space provided by these RVs means that you will likely need a vehicle with plenty of storage capacity to carry your equipment and supplies. They don’t usually provide bathroom or kitchen facilities, either. In some ways, these trailers are actually more like a glorified tent than a “home away from home.”
Living About the RV Lifestyle
No matter which type of recreational vehicle fits your lifestyle best, you may find that traveling this way has a bit of a learning curve. Driving a motorhome or maneuvering a towable trailer takes some getting used to, and it can sometimes be difficult to find parking for your big rig.
Getting a travel trailer extended warranty is always a smart idea, as recreational vehicles can be costly to repair should anything go wrong. There is RV etiquette to be mindful of, too. But you will also find that you love the freedom, flexibility, and comfort provided by one of these vehicles!