The RV Lifestyle – Beginner tips & know-how

Moby Who

“Moby Who?” Our 36′ National Dolphin on Memorial Day

Ours was learn-by-doing. This is not the best way to hit the road running, but we’re the impatient sort. We saw what we liked, signed the papers and took off for the life of happy wanderers.

We made mistakes: some natural, some stupid. We’ll share them as a means of helping you in adapting to this amazing lifestyle. One alibi though: for three years we had lived and cruised on a boat the same size as our RV. The similarities ended at the dock.

Right off the bat – Tip #1 – do you see that antenna on the roof? If you don’t have a check list of “prepare to go” items, and are forgetful, it is worth considering one of the domed antennae. This particular one had no chance against the canopy trees Georgetown ripped off!

That is just a nibbler. Throughout the Striped Pot RV-related articles, you’ll find links back here for news about hardware, software, safety gear, and how to turn your RV into “Home”. And – we’ll have a constantly expanding glossary to help you find your way.

Taking it from the start

A little humming in your head: “Hmmm, do I think it would be fun to try an RV?  There are some pretty good sales out there now.” Other half concurs: “Let’s just check out some.” Ha, ha! You’re hooked.

The best time to begin your search is at a dealer’s open house, but that’s just to “see what’s out there”. It’s busy, so no one sales person will pounce on you unless you express interest. This way, you can slink around, poke the sofa, twirl the chairs, test the latches on the overhead cabinets and even lie down on the bed.

Camper van in mountains blue sky

The Camper Van © Lunamarina |

There are many choices. As a full-timer for a couple of years, I’ll give you my opinions, but everyone has different needs and wants. Remember to think ahead. Buying is the easy part – trading when you realize you wanted a bigger one is hard.

The small Camper Van – compact, easy to drive. They run from used, inexpensive to new Mercedes Benz. Self-contained with bathroom facilities, kitchenette, TV, sofa-bed, propane or electrical hookups.  Limited water, holding tank, but is great for short trips. It may be too cozy for some. Let’s say it’s OK for small people and honeymooners. Try it for a weekend before you buy! And be prepared for the hefty price tag on the better brands.


Class C Motorhome

The Class C Camper – This is a good introductory RV because it’s familiar if you’ve ever driven a U-Haul. You sit up high, can see the engine’s hood in front of you, and have a door at your side. It is fine for space relative to length. The bed is in front, up over the drivers’ area. Another bed doubles as the sofa. There are variations. They usually have a two-bench dinette across from the galley. Some have a partition between the salon and the front area.

To quote Camping World: “Class C’s, sometimes referred to as a (sic) mini-motorhomes, provide the conveniences of a larger motorhome in a scaled-down version and at a lower price. The Class C is built on an automotive manufactured van frame with an attached cab section.”

Schematic of The Lexington Class B+ Credit: Forest River

The Class B Motorhome – These can be confusing. There is a Class B+ having extra room, heavy duty drawer slides, etc. It was the Forest River Lexington Class B+ that first convinced me, “I can handle this!” Amazingly, it was relatively short, 30′ but had three slides. It unfolded like a Chinese paper flower dropped in a glass of water.

This schematic shows how the galley and sofa bed slide out behind the driver’s seat. The dinette slides out on the opposite side. The galley becomes “L” shaped. Moving aft, you come to a large pantry and fridge/freezer. A folding door separates this section from the shower and toilet/sink compartment. Another folding door in entry to the queen sized bed,with good storage at the foot. The media center was above the driver’s compartment.


The Class A Motorhome – For those who plan to be full-timers, this is one of the better choices. Having the driving area an integral part of the floor plan adds that to the total usable space by turning the seats around. Most have full size refrigerator/freezers. Some have washer/dryers – a big plus.

Itasca Sunove Class A

Sunove Class A gas – Credit: Itasca Motorhomes

For the full-timer who needs storage space for year-round clothing and all their “home office paraphernalia”, this RV will provide it. Full timers have usually either sold or rented their homes, and not wanting to pay too much for storage, take enough for a year with them. A double edge: The good storage news, becomes the bad downsizing news.

This is the time to write down your “what ifs”. What if we take the dog? What if we need to carry a wheelchair? Once you’ve agreed on what size and type RV you want to consider seriously, now is the time to select which salesperson you feel you can trust and is in tune with you. If you get a feeling of urgency (“This sale ends tomorrow!”) back off.

If you are looking for the social side of RVing; attending roundups, or jamborees around the country look into joining one of the nation-wide or international groups such as the Good Sam, Escapees, or Family Motor Coach of America. Be aware some require a Class A Motor Coach for membership.

Forest River Class B+ Lexington

Class A gas  Itasca

Alternate choices on the rise


Sunnybrook Fifth Wheel by Titan Looking aft Credit: Titan

Fifth Wheel – What would I buy now that I know? A fifth wheel, but this carries a couple of qualifiers. One, you need a pickup truck to tow it and two, you must be comfortable with towing and backing this rig.

Why do I like it? Personally, the best reason is normal campground position for the longer stays. An example: Camp Venice, Florida – outside sites, backing into the woods or up to the Myakka River. If you back your A, B, or C camper in, your bedroom has the best outlook. This may be fine for people-watchers who want to sit up front and see what’s going on in the road, but for me? I want to be able to relax and see what Mother Nature has to show me. Also, all the pickup trucks and cars are parked in the front. The plus side? one of those pickups is yours…so you have wheels. Throw your bikes in the back and take off for a day of exploring.

The interior configuration of a fifth wheel is more flexible. How about a fireplace? It can get cold even in Florida in January and February. There is no motor, shafts or hoses to work around. Except for axles and wheels, the space is pretty clear.

And the latest to enter the race

The Toy Hauler – Talk about mixed breeds! This takes the cake. It serves as a conventional RV until you reach the rear axle. The tailgate becomes a ramp for your rolling stock. Some turn this compartment into a dorm for active kids…no tracking mud and “found things both live and dead” through the living room.

There are also Toy Hauler Trailers – A big box! Inside of it you might find two Harleys or  a couple of kayaks; a complete wood working bench; maybe a loom set up. If you are a square dancer, you might need this room for all your costumes. An artist? Open up the back for your plein air studio. Frankly, this would be the kiss of death for me because “Nature abhors a void” – I would fill it…with stuff, but what fun!

To be continued…you are here at the beginning; ask to subscribe and you’ll get the information as it’s posted.