Author: Joe Garcia
I’ve always been a fan of a good adventure novel. The plucky space crew who takes off in their spaceship that barely runs or the group of kids taking off into the sunset on their bicycles was more of an aspirational goal rather than a fun story for me.
Rebekah was well prepared for this lifestyle considering the fact that while we were dating in college, I was shopping for a van to live in. Thankfully, she talked me off that ledge, but I never let go of the dream of a great American road trip.
After 6 years and many hours spent perusing Instagram and Pinterest, we finally decided to take the plunge and get into full time RVing. We had to make a few minor adjustments along the way, such as Rebekah quitting her job to work remotely as a curriculum designer, and I made sure to take a job as a software developer at a company that was fully remote.
Once the minor issue of paying the bills on the road was taken care of, then all we had to do was the simple task of putting everything we needed to live and work in a trailer and carry it across the country. As you might guess, this was not as simple as Instagram may have had me believe, but after many lessons learned on the road, we managed to get a good system down.
In this blog post, I’d like to share with you all the things we have learned on the road from this past year, and hopefully, provide some tips and tricks for any readers who are interested in getting into RVing.
Location, location, location!
This part is where years of daydreaming really paid off since we already had a number of campgrounds and locations picked out that we wanted to visit, but it is not quite as simple as picking a place on the map and going there. There are a few critical things to consider while traveling, specifically, for those who want to work on the road.
The primary considerations are: accessibility and cell signal.
We’ve learned the hard way on our journeys that a campground that looks great even from Google maps, may actually just be a flat spot in a mountain range. Never forget to zoom out while scoping out a campground on Google maps! This information may save the life of your truck’s transmission.
One powerful tool that we use now to scope out potential campgrounds is a site called Campendium. It gives great ratings on accessibility, cellular connection, and has a community of RVers that leave reviews on things that are important to RVers.
Now before we pick our next spot, we’ll look up the reviews on Campendium, double check the road via FlatestRouteMapper, and for good measure, take a quick look via Google maps terrain view. With those few precautions, we’ve managed to avoid having to turn around at an RV park, and Rebekah’s only had to get out of the truck once to lighten the load so that we could get up a mountain.
To wrap up this discussion on location, I wanted to give an overview of the three most common places to stop: RV parks, state parks, and public camping areas.
If you want to just hit the road with limited experience and equipment, RV parks are the way to go. Think of a hotel that you bring your room to, generally speaking, everything is provided. Most good RV parks will have water, electricity, sewer, wifi, laundry facilities, and sometimes even a grocery store. While RV parks can be the most expensive option in regard to daily camping rates, some offer weekly and monthly rates that become very affordable.
The next option is state parks which often blend some amenities with a better access to nature. State parks will generally have a reason for existing such as a lake or natural feature that people want to visit. So while the creature comforts might not be as numerous, they make up for it with their scenery. Most state parks will still have water and electricity available, but access to other amenities will vary wildly. State parks generally have cheaper daily rates than RV parks. This would be another great option for someone new to RVing that still wants to squeeze a little bit of adventure and nature into their first trip.
The final option, otherwise known as the boss level, is public camping; otherwise known as dispersed camping. Here, nature is your host, coyotes are your annoying neighbors that make too much noise, and your dogs are the security guards asleep at the front gate. Amenities are what you bring with you. If you like to shower, be prepared for a good workout since water is 8 lbs. a gallon and the easiest way to get it to the campsite is with water totes. The upside to dispersed camping is two-fold. It’s free, and it provides the closest access to some of the most beautiful areas of this country. It’s hard to put a dollar amount on sipping coffee in the morning and opening up your door to a mountain side where your nearest neighbor might be a quarter mile away. As you might guess, this is the most difficult option to get into at first. While it is free, the equipment required to be able to live and work off grid is a big upfront expense.
Despite the effort, this is my favorite way to camp (Rebekah’s on the fence), although we do like to spoil ourselves and mix in some RV park camping. *Rebekah is a big fan of the RV parks 💁🏻♀️🍷
If you’re interested in taking on the challenge of dispersed camping, this next section will summarize some of the things we’ve learned on the road to be able to work and stay comfortable.
Water is life.
I don’t think I realized how much water we go through until I started having to carry it to the RV. I’ve become a radical environmentalist as a result of my water fetching duties and believe the solution to our global water problems is one RV for every man, woman, and child in America.
On average, two people showering, using the restroom, and washing dishes, use about 20 gallons of water per day.
We have a 40 gallon onboard fresh water tank, but so we don’t have to move our RV after we get it setup, we picked up four 7 gallon portable water totes. These are easy to refill at water stations that can be found in grocery stores and outside of gas stations.
This section would not be complete without discussing what happens to the water after it has been used.
Our RV is only able to hold 60 gallons of wastewater; so if you’ve kept count, we’ve got to take care of that after a couple days. The easy solution would be to pull our dump valves, but that is a crime and goes against my radical environmentalist morals. Seriously, don’t do this; it gets camping areas shut down, and it’s just a really uncool thing to do.
What we do instead is carry a 32 gallon portable waste tank on the back of our tow vehicle. It’s a dirty job, but someone’s gotta do it, and by someone, that’s me. It’s not all bad, many gas stations have dump stations, and we normally take care of this on the way home from the gym.
There’s no easy way to transition from wastewater. It’s my least favorite job. If you can get past this, you’ll make it on the road. Next section.
More power baby!
Keeping the lights on has two meanings while working on the road: the literal one and the one that involves maintaining enough power for work electronics. Our current power setup includes: 400 watts of solar, a 1.5 KWh lithium power bank, and a 3500 watt silent generator.
By selecting areas with good weather, we’re generally able to run off of solar and battery for half the day and all night. For our remaining power needs, we’ll run our generator to charge up our battery and run the A/C during the hottest hours of the day.
The equipment I mentioned earlier is one of the most expensive parts of getting into RVing outside of the initial RV purchase. You can get creative and source used solar panels or dumpster dive for old laptop batteries, but otherwise plan on spending at least $1500 for an entry level lithium and solar kit if you want to camp/work off grid.
To conclude my manifesto, I leave you with one more section on miscellaneous work and comfort related questions.
The extra stuff.
Since this next section includes a lot of commonly asked questions, I felt it would be best to structure it as a Q&A.
Q: How do you access the internet for work, especially in remote areas?
A: We double check cell coverage using Campendium and use Verizon cellular hotspots, along with a directional cell signal booster that I have mounted on a 12 foot pole.
Q: Do you guys ever get tired of being in such a small space together?
A: No, we love each other, and we specifically chose an RV that has two rooms with a door in the middle. Take that information as you will. Joking! We share space very well, but we were purposeful with the rig we chose.
Q: How do you stay cool in the desert?
A: Lots of fans, parking in the shade, and running the AC/generator during the peak heat.
Q: Is sleeping comfortable in the RV?
A: Yes, Rebekah bought a Tempurpedic mattress topper since the mattress that came with the RV was not super comfortable.
Q: How do you both work in the RV?
A: Our current rig is a 33 foot toy hauler, meaning we have one room in the back, and a room up front which holds the living quarters. Since there’s a door in the middle, this has worked well for us. We are able to both take meetings and not interfere with each other’s calls. In addition to this, since the area in the back of our RV is one big room, we’re able to put a desk and computer monitor in there.
So if you’re just looking to get out for the weekend, or if you’re ready to take the plunge by becoming one with nature on the open road, there are plenty of options for getting into RVing. My advice is to just go for it! Find some areas around you that you’ve always wanted to see and start planning that first trip. You won’t regret it; I know we haven’t!