Archive for the ‘Trailers & RVs’ Category

Going to an RV Show

Back when the “Royal” family got re-started with RVing, we attended a TON of big RV shows. Why? Because RV shows gave us the chance to see many makes and models of RVs – at one time and at one place.

(Not familiar with types of RVs? Check out the article from 2 weeks ago!)

For that reason, I think that everybody who’s even remotely considering getting an RV should find a show near them and check it out! Plus, there’s an RV show every year, in every region of the country!

What do you want to look for at the show?
If you’re just beginning, take a look at ALL the types of RVs and imagine your family using them. If you know what type of RV you want, then look at all the different sizes and models. You need to actually THINK about what camping in them would be like.

For example, in our first hybrid, we knew that we didn’t want to climb over the table to get to a bed. It ruins the seat cushions of the table and who ever was sitting at the table would need to get up. We also knew, from experience, that an external shower was a must. We also wanted an internal bathroom with a shower, an oven for orange rolls, and a good freezer. Our unit came with a microwave that we took out for extra storage.

But, if he hadn’t spent all that time exploring our options we wouldn’t have known exactly what we were looking for.

RV salesmen, like all salesmen, will make you big deals at the show. But, it’s only a deal if you get a rig that fits your needs!

Oh, and be sure to check out the million dollar rigs — just to look at all the crazy things that are possible! A hot tub in a trailer, anybody?

4 Tips to Keeping Your RV Cleaner

You know I’m in love with my new-to-me tent trailer Skippy. Skippy is a 1998 Coleman Taos that had been used a grand total of three times before I bought it. Because of the low usage, the interior AND the exterior are in pristine condition.

And I want to keep it that way!

One of the things that I do is the second I open up the trailer, before I put ANYTHING on the beds, I put a sheet over the mattresses. On both beds — not just the one I sleep on! It’s nothing special, just a cheap flat sheet from a twin bed. But then, I know that the dust that blows in the open windows all day won’t get into the mattresses as quickly. And when I toss my dirty duffle bag and shoes onto the bed, the mattress won’t get torn, snagged, or damaged.

Sheet on bed

Once the sheet is on the bed and tucked in, I feel free to pile all my gear on top.

When I get home, all I have to do is throw the sheets in the wash and they’re ready to go for the next trip. And if they DO become worn beyond repair — Hey! They were like $3 a piece.

Then, get a bunch of little non-slip rugs to lay down inside. Basically, the goal is to put down wall-to-wall carpet in the trailer. But by using small no-slip rugs, it’s easy to take them outside and shake them out.

If at all possible, I don’t wear my shoes into the trailer. In stead, I keep a plastic tub (with a lid) just outside the trailer door. I slip off my shoes, tuck them in the tub, and then put the lid on. I know that no critters can get in there and if it rains (or the dew falls) my shoes will still be dry.

I was really lucky with Skippy because I don’t have to climb OVER the seats at the dinette to get to the back bed. But in the tent trailers my family has owned in the past, we haven’t always been that lucky. In that case, I’m always super careful to NEVER put my shoe on the dinette seat cushion. Either use your knee as a booster or take off your shoe.


I bring the table, but leave it folded flat and put it on the bed. You can see it under my duffle bag. Next to my dirty boots and green Crocs.

Readers Weigh In:

  • What tips do you have to keep your RV clean? (Or cleaner?)

Types of RVs

It seems like there are as many types of RVs on the road these days as types of vehicles. This is a quick run-down on types of RVS.

There are two basic types of rigs.

  1. Motorized RVs have the driving compartment within the vehicle. They are constructed on a motor vehicle chassis.
  2. Towable RVs rely on a separate vehicle with a driving compartment.

Motorized RVs
Class A motor home is often rectangular in appearance. The driver and passenger seats can swivel around and become living room furniture when the rig is parked. The amenities are self-contained bathroom, kitchen, dining area, living room, and bedroom.


Class A

Class A Motorhome

Class B is built on a van chassis with a raised roof. Class B’s are smaller, compact, and very easy to drive. They contain the same lifestyle amenities as a Class A, but usually on a smaller scale.

Class C is a truck chassis with an RV unit built on it. The sleeping area is over the driver/passenger unit. Again, the rig contains all the lifestyle amenities but often on a more limited scale than the Class A. The Class C is often used to tow a boat or motorcycle, and can tow a car.


Class C

Class C Motorhome

Towable RVs
The advantage of the towable RV is that when you arrive at your site, you can unhitch the tow vehicle and use it as your mode of local transportation. That’s the primary reason we have one!

Fifth wheel is a trailer that hitches in the bed of the truck, and cannot be towed with a car or van. Because the hitch is in the bed of the truck, you are limited on the amount of gear you can put in the truck. This is hard-sided RV.


Fifth Wheel

Fifth Wheel

Travel trailer, more familiar to most people, hitches to the back of the tow vehicle, which can be a truck, van, or even a heavy car, depending on the weight and size of the trailer.

Travel Trailer


When closed, a tent trailer looks like a box. When opened, the front and back open and occasionally the sides. It is towed easily by a car or van. This is not an option in bear country because of the canvas sides. Also, tent trailers do not offer much security of valuables when you’re not home.

Tent Trailer

Tent Trailer

Hi-Lo looks like a tent trailer when closed, but the top of the trailer actually raises up (motorized, usually) to expand the living space vertically. They are easy to tow and offer the security of a travel trailer.


Hi-Lo Trailer

Toy-Hauler is a hard-sided trailer that has a “garage” for the storage of off-road vehicles.

Hybrids include a hard sided trailer with tent fold outs. (This is what we had for a long time!) Or a tent trailer with a spot to haul an ATV on the front. I’ve even seen a hybrid that was a hard sided trailer with tent beds folding out AND an area on the front for the ATV.


Hybrid Trailer

StarCraft Hybrid Trailer

The slide-in camper is a camper shell that can be removed from the body of a flat bed pickup truck.

Slide In

Slide In

A-Frame trailers look like little a-frame houses. The best-known manufacturer is Chalet. These trailers fold into a compact box like a tent trailer but have 100% hard-sides. They’re small, easy to tow, and nearly impossible to find used since their owners LOVE them.

A-Frame Trailer

Chalet A-Frame


Readers Weigh In:

  • What type of RV do you have?
  • What do you love about it? What makes you crazy?


Buying An RV: 5 Tips

I wanted to introduce you to the newest member of the “Royal” Family:

Coleman Taos Tent Trailer

"Skippy" is covered in snow at the moment and I couldn't open him up to get a photo. A "portrait" is the best I could do.

My new (to me) Coleman tent trailer! (I think I’m going to call him Skippy.)

This is a 1998 Coleman Taos. That’s the smallest tent trailer that Coleman made. In the course of finding and then buying the trailer, I kept a mental list of tips to help keep you sane through the buying process.

This list is very different from the article I published a few months ago: Top 10 Tent Trailer Tips

1. Figure out how you want to use the RV

This is really important so don’t make the mistake of meeting with a salesman first! You’ll want to really think about what you’re looking for before you go to an RV dealership and have some well-meaning salesperson talk you into an RV that isn’t right for your family.

Some things to think about are:

  • Do I want to cook inside or outside?
  • How big of a stove do I want?
  • How many people will I need to sleep? (Keep kids, friends, and pets in mind!)
  • How big of a potable water tank do I want?
  • Do I want a shower?
  • Do I want a toilet? Could I get by with a removable canister toilet or does it need to be built in?
  • Oven? Fridge? Microwave? TV?

2. Decide how big of an RV that you want to handle

For me, little was better. I have a tiny truck and I’m not comfortable with the idea of pulling a big hard-side trailer. And when I was thinking of size, it wasn’t just the physical size of the trailer (although I did think about that) but it was also the towing capacity of my vehicle.

My folks missed this critical step when they bought their last RV! The Queen Mother found the PERFECT trailer, ESP Boss bought it for her, and then they realized that the truck couldn’t really pull the trailer! It was getting 6 miles to the gallon and the engine was laboring up even mild grades.

Since they’re in love with the trailer, they bought a new truck!

3. Visit an RV dealership or RV show

The bigger the better on this one! It’s not that you’re ready to buy, it’s that you’re ready to do some nitty gritty research. Go armed with the specs on your tow vehicle and your list of how you’ll use the RV.

Then, spend time getting the feel of the various sizes and models. Your vehicle might be able to PULL a monster trailer but do you want to CAMP in one? You might find a feature that you simply can’t live without.

One of the things I always look at is the arrangement of seating at the table versus getting into a bed. Especially in tent trailers, it’s common to have to step ONTO the bench at the dinette to climb into a bed. For me, I hate that since I don’t want to break down the bench’s padding with my foot and I don’t want to put my muddy boot where I’ll be sitting to eat later!

4. Decide the maximum amount you want to spend

Now that you’re armed with ideas, decide your budget. This one can be kind of tricky. You might have a number in mind and then start shopping and realize that you can’t get all the features you really want in your price range.

I ended up spending more than I originally wanted to, but the trailer turned out to be a SCREAMING deal so I was okay with it.

5. Start shopping!

Visit dealerships, used car lots, and bankruptcy trustee sales (that’s where I found mine.) Also keep an eye on your local newspaper’s classified ads, Craigslist, and eBay. Once you find a trailer you want, do some research to find out what it’s selling for.

I started by going to NADA Guides to take a look at the “blue book” offering for my trailer. Then I looked at the same MODEL of trailer (Coleman Taos) across a 4-year window (1994-1998). I used that to get an idea for the high and low asking prices for a comparable trailer.

It’s really important to keep in mind three things when you’re looking for comparable trailers:

  1. Size
  2. Year
  3. Condition

If you can’t find the perfect RV right away, don’t despair. Just keep looking. I also recommend talking to your friends and family about what you’re looking for; you never know when they might hear of the perfect RV for you.

The Story of “Skippy”

ESP Boss & I were heading to the store to buy more Christmas lights for the outside of his house when we passed a bankruptcy trustee sales lot that had a GREAT little tent trailer offered. We went back the following week and got to meet the trustee and take a look at the trailer. It was in GREAT condition.

The asking price was $2,000 which was more than I wanted to pay (Step 4). But, the trailer had all the features and amenities that I wanted (Step 1-3) so I put in an offer (Step 5). I offered him $700 which was above NADA but the trailer was in great condition. (And I REALLY wanted it!)

There was a counter offer so I had to raise my bid. At the date of the sale, I was the highest offer and the trailer was mine for $1,700. I think all parties were happy: I got a deal (comparable trailers had been selling from $2,200 to $2,500) and the trustee got $1,000 more than my original offer.

And I’ll be spending my Christmas money getting ready for my first spring camping trip!

Readers Weigh In:

  • Have you ever purchased an RV? How was the process?
  • Have you ever had to upgrade a vehicle to pull your new RV?
  • Or downgrade your RV to match the towing capacity of your vehicle?

When I announced on Facebook that I’d purchased a tent trailer I had a ton of friends comment about happy tent-trailer camping memories. Do you have any to share?

Top 10 Tent Trailer Tips

I was at a party last week when the subject of buying a new tent trailer came up. My friend had said she’d seen a nice-looking used tent trailer for sale and was considering buying it. The “Royal” Family camped in a tent trailer, otherwise known as a pop-up trailer for many years.

Tent Trailer

(Until The Queen Mother decided it was too much work and made ESP Boss buy her a different RV. But that’s another story!)

Throughout our years of owning a tent trailer, we actually went through three different models. Since we’re something of an old hat at buying tent trailers, I wanted to share with you my top 10 tips; all from personal experience!

The salesman or previous owner will make it seem like a piece of cake to set up and tear down your new trailer. And it is; for THEM. For you, it is a brand new process.

And, of course, it goes without saying that before you buy an RV of ANY type, you make sure that your vehicle can tow it safely AND that you have the needed hitches, receivers, brakes, and connections!

  1. Take notes. It’s better if you have one person taking the notes and the other person following the seller around
  2. Draw pictures or take pictures. It’s amazing how little things like not pushing a bed in from the right angle mean that the bed won’t slide in at all! (Our Coleman tent trailer had a very finicky door. If it wasn’t done exactly right, it wouldn’t latch into the ceiling!)
  3. Have the seller do a complete set up and tear down for you to watch. Make notes of any steps they have trouble with, especially if you’re getting a used model from a prior owner. It might indicate that the part is due to be replaced, doesn’t want to work when wet (or dirty, or dusty, or on Thursdays…), or that the current owner didn’t use the feature much and isn’t familiar with it.
  4. YOU do it. Yes, you will look a bit foolish since you don’t really know what you’re doing, but it’s a lot better to practice when you’ve got the “expert” there to help you out. Plus, you’ll get a feel, right away, for how much work it is to do. You might change your mind at this point and decide that a tent trailer isn’t for you! (The previous owners of our Coleman tent trailer bought a top-of-the-line model with ALL the extras, took it out once and decided that it was too much work! My folks got a great deal, but think of all the money they spent on an RV that didn’t fit their lifestyle.)
  5. Take it home and then practice it again.
  6. Use to schedule a test trip. You’re looking for a near-by campground that is easy to get to, has BIG level spaces, and is close to a major town so you can buy supplies, if you need them. This test run is just a test run — GO to a campground even if you prefer dispersed camping. Leveling the trailer on a nearly-level pad will make a big difference on your maiden voyage!
  7. Get to the campground when there is plenty of daylight left. There’s nothing worse than setting up an RV you’re not 100% familiar with in the dark!
  8. While you’re out, try out and test all the features of the tent trailer including the refrigerator, stove, toilet, inside and outside shower, lights, propane system, heating system, etc. If something doesn’t work, you need to get it fixed right away AND let the seller know about it! Going out with your new tent trailer is especially important if it is still under warranty.
  9. Make a folder with all the manuals in it and keep it in the trailer. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve had to reference the owner’s manual while on a trip. Luckily The Queen Mother is very good about keeping all that stuff handy.
  10. Be patient! Be patient with yourself, your spouse, your children and pets. Camping should be fun. Don’t expect everything on your maiden voyage to go well.

Our first trip with our first tent trailer: The “moon” feet didn’t reach the ground so we couldn’t level the trailer and had to drive into town for wooden blocks. The hot water heater wouldn’t stay lit (pilot light gizmo needed to be replaced!) And, it snowed! Thankfully, the heater DID work.

Readers Weigh In:

  • What do you do before buying an RV?
  • Have you ever taken your RV out thinking it was going to be simple and had a disaster instead?