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My wife and I are roughly six months away from full timing. We have settled on a fifth wheel (DRV) as our next "home." Size appears to be important when looking at entry into national/state parks. We are considering a 36'/37' unit but understand that even that can be too large in some situations. For those of you who travel "the parks" frequently, what feed-back can you provide. Thxs, B&D.

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Buy what you fit in, you'll learn to make your unit fit. Or how to find spots to fit. We're 42', with a Kenworth in front, and don't worry about fitting. It has neant we commute sometimes, or don't get the scenic sunset in the living room window.

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We are 36' but have not stayed at any national parks and do not like state parks. We prefer to stay in private campgrounds ( many times it's cheaper ) Corp of Engineer parks where most of the time the sites are plenty big enough for out motorhome, utility trailer and jeep. We have also stayed in forestry parks, city and county parks. With the utility trailer we are 48' . We haven't tried any boondocking yet, but have even found information on sites big enough for us. Buy what you like as far as size and floorplan.

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I think almost every National Park has at least some sites that will accommodate a larger rig. But there can still be issues. If the campground is half full but the larger sites are gone, you are out of luck. A great many national forest and BLM campgrounds will not accommodate larger rigs. Most State campgrounds and virtually every commercial campground will accommodate large rigs.

 

In addition to size, you need to consider hookups. Lots of campgrounds have no hookups. Some do not allow generators or have very restrictive hours.

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You will fit into most parks you go to. I drag a 38 ft 5th wheel and I've never seen a park I could not get into. Some of them were tight but doable.

 

I don't know where you camp, but I can list them until my fingers are sore from typing. Go ahead and try one of my favorites, Cut Bank Campground in Glacier NP. You could not even pull that 38 footer or even a 28 footer through the campground. In fact if you drove to the campground you would have a tough time finding a place to turn around.

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We bought a 32 footer "to fit" we found a few spots where it fit that a bigger rig wouldn't fit. Also found that the other 300 plus days a year it was too small to meet our needs. Bought a bigger rig and ate a hefty loss on the smaller one. Never ended up having to miss anything because we wouldn't fit. Had to park a bit further away a couple times, but a few minutes of commuting a few days a year sure beat being cramped all year.

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First of all, welcome to the Escapee forums! It is great having you with us and we promise to do our best to help and support you.

 

While I do agree that the size of RV does impact the choices of place that one can stay with it, if you and your spouse are not comfortable in the space that you have, campsites will be a minor issue. Part of the question is the lifestyle that you wish to pursue. We chose to travel in a 36' motorhome with no slides and we did find a few places that we were not able to take it, but in nearly 12 years on the road, it only prevented us staying in a very few locations and in all of those we were able to find a substitute that did serve well withing a pretty short distance. We stayed in state parks in at least 30 different states and federal parks in more than that.

 

There are several factors involved in the times that sites are a problem, as it isn't always the length of site but may be crooked roads with trees or rocks in the turns that limit turning radius or tail swing, the width of the roads & maneuvering space for the RV to get turned into the site, and often overlooked is the skill set of the driver who is doing the parking. There is a lady in our community who drove trucks for years that can put their 38' fifth wheel into places that others cant get one much smaller into. I have also seen folks who can't back a VW into a truck parking spot. We have friends who traded their beloved fifth wheel for a class A because they never did master backing the trailer into even the easier sites. Be realistic about your own driving skills when you make plans.

Edited by Kirk

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Public parks were always our first choice and I'd say we used them approx. 90% of our 16 years of full-timing. Honestly, we have never found it difficult to fit into sites where we wanted to stay. No, you won't fit in all of them but neither will a 25' footer.

 

We have stayed many times in Yellowstone Nat'l Park in Mammoth, Madison and Bridge Bay campgrounds - without reservations. We've also stayed in Grand Teton Nat'l Park in Colter Bay and Gros Ventre campgrounds. We've stayed in Glacier, Rocky Mtn. Zion, Bryce, Grand Canyon and others.

 

We used national forest campgrounds an extremely amount of time along with state, county and city parks. We've been in every one of Arizona's state parks and the awesome county parks in the greater Phoenix area. We spent long periods of time in the all the western states in public parks. Many Western national forest campgrounds have been updated to include bigger sites, many times, paved and even with electric.

 

We've traveled the summer to Alaska and stayed in the Canada and Yukon Provincial parks along with national forest in Alaska and of course, Denali Nat'l Park. We also used state parks and city parks in Alaska.

 

We also enjoyed boondocking in national forests and BLM lands in gorgeous settings.

 

I will also say that the majority of our years were spent west of the Mississippi but we've also found many state parks and Corp of Engineer parks in the Midwest and Southeast/South. We chose not to travel to the Northeast just because we don't like crowds.

 

I really think those that say you can't have never tried.

 

It's very easy to do research beforehand. Once we decided to go to a particular campground we were never turned away because we couldn't get in or no available space for our big rig. I have kept a 16-year database of places we've stayed and I think if I published it, it would be a best seller. :) - but I'm not going to do that.

 

We would have never survived 16 years if we had to stay in RV parks all the time. That's not us.

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My advice, which is worth exactly what you pay: buy the unit you would like to live in. If your full time this is not a vcation, it is a life style. Yes it would be nice to fit in some of these national forests and small camping spots but not at the expense of living comfortably. Look at all sizes and layouts and see what best fits you. If that happens to be a 35-36 footer then get it but don't let size be your main criteria.

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On my first trip to boot camp the ladies who were there got a hold of my better half

and told her to go big if you were going to live in it. Good Luck

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You will have trouble getting your rig into many National parks. Also many older State parks are difficult to get into. Often times there may spaces you can fit into but the access roads may not be accessible. But you should have no trouble finding boondocking and commercial sites. By all means get a rig that fits you. Dennis

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I wonder how many of those ladies took any responsibility for driving, maintaining and caring for those big RVs.

 

Can't answer for the rest but my wife drove about half the time, washed the bottom half (I'm tall she is short) of both the fiver and truck and did most of the interior cleaning that she could reach. She has height issues (no short jokes!) so she never got on the roof.

 

Maintaining, she didn't do a lot but was always available to help fetch stuff (I have very bad knees and can't get up easily) as well as being there when a third or fourth hand was needed. She was reluctant to crawl under the fiver but she did a couple times when it was do it or hire someone, she never had a call to get under the truck.

 

Of course she did pretty much the same thing with our VW camper conversion, a couple smaller fivers and our 38 foot fiver and IH MDT so I don't think size is really an issue here.

 

A correction on the size impact... Actually looking at our log books she drove the VW less than any of the other rigs and the MDT/38 more.

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Outstanding. I wish my wife take over more of the driving...... Well, maybe not. She is a sort of jerky, stop or go driver.

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I wonder how many of those ladies took any responsibility for driving, maintaining and caring for those big RVs.

 

We both drove equal time. On our Alaska trip which was looooong, we took turns daily so the other could enjoy looking for critters. :) We both washed/waxed the rig. Maintaining a big rig is very similar to a smaller rig.

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Your choice of travels does make a major difference in finding places to park, but do not be deluded into thinking that the west has no parks that can't accommodate the largest of RVs. We found campgrounds in both Rocky Mountain NP and also Olympic NP which we could not even get too with our 36' motorhome, due to the short turns and tight corners. In both cases there were other places to stay, so it didn't mean that we could not visit the area, but it does and it will restrict your choices at times, and the larger the RV the more frequently this will happen, if you want to get into the back country and away from the main roads.

 

But there is much more to these United States than the parts which lie west of the Mississippi River and part of the reason we chose to live in an RV was to visit all of it that we were able. As you travel east, not only do roads become less generous, but so too do campgrounds. It really isn't a major issue in most of the south, but as you go to the north and east the size of the RV becomes much more challenging. Campgrounds with heavy timber usually do not have very wide roads and they tend to have difficult turns because the owners are very reluctant to cut trees that took hundreds of years to grow. We recently stayed in an RV park in Ypsilanti, MI that was beautiful and in heavy timber, but they could only accommodate the larger RVs in sites that were out in a meadow, and located in full sun. They didn't tell me what length they booked into the timbered sites, which were the majority of sites in the park, but walking around it was very apparent that they do not reserve sites in the timbered part of the bigger RVs. I also saw them move several people from the timber because the driving skill was not high enough for the owner to get his RV into the site between trees. Earlier this month we stayed in a NY campground located in the Adirondack Mountains which cautioned customers that if their RV was more than 35' long it might be difficult for them to park, again because of the trees. Our spot was beautiful, but we got it late in the day because our RV is small and it would not hold much over 30' of RV.

 

As you travel into New England in general, RV parks are not as well developed as in the west, whether public or private. They have a very short season and civilization came there far before it did to the western part of the country and as a result their roads are much more narrow and restrictive and public campgrounds as well as RV parks were not designed with modern RVs in mind. We found that even with our present small travel trailer we needed to make reservations as we traveled if we wanted to be sure to have a site through out most of that part of the country. Not only are sites smaller and in trees, but that part of the country tends to have most parks filled half or more with monthly RVs that do not move all summer so there are limited sites for the overnight travelers. It is an area that all should see but you will need to do more advance planning in order to do so and you will find it more difficult if your RV is larger. It's worth the trouble, but do plan ahead. We also found more places that restrict staying the night in a parking lot there. No question that it can be done with even the largest of RV combinations, but the skill level to do it is higher and the amount of patience and pre-planning is also higher.

 

All of that considered, it is still important to make sure that you can live happily in whatever size of RV that you select. In general, physically small people will be able to live comfortably in a smaller RV than those who are large in height and/or girth. Of course personalities play a part in this and also the general relationship as well. Friends of ours used to say that Pam & I tend to live in each others pockets, meaning that we don't spend a lot of time apart and never have. We are also physically to the smaller side and that probably is part of the reason we lived so happily in a 36' slide free motorhome for 12 years and we now travel for as much as 5 months in a 20' travel trailer, also slide free for as long as 5 continuous months. My point is that your comfort is of critical importance but the amount of space which is required is a very personal thing and you need to be very careful in balancing the size of RV against the places that you wish to take it. Both factors play an important part in making a choice that will be satisfactory for many years. There are people who can't live comfortably in even the very largest of RVs and others who can do so for many years in one of the tiny ones. Anyone who tells you that they can take the largest of RVs to any location that the smallest ones go is either mistaken or has never wished to go into some of the more difficult areas. You will never be able to go places with a modern RV that we used to take our little backpack tent, but we sure live in it with much more comfort!

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To me the biggest issue is deciding what you need and don't need and finding compromises and alternatives. With some effort and thought you should be able to get to a size that works for each individual or couple.

 

It seems to be a negative process and difficult to give up what we are used to. I am a photographer and at the end of a day's shooting I need to cull through heaps of images. Deleting the bad ones has always been difficult. Instead I found it easier to pick the good ones and then eliminate the rest. Then I do a second sort and pick the best of the best and dump the remainder.

 

I think a similar process can work with deciding what I need in my RV. For example, I can easily pick the need for a comfortable queen sized mattress. No way would I settle for a cheap spring mattress that is chopped off a half foot short. A comfortable queen sized bed is a keeper.

 

Especially living in a small space, I want to maintain a spotlessly clean camper. I thought I would have a hard time giving up a vacuum cleaner or trying to use some downsized dustbuster. On second pass, I realized that dealing with carpeting would not work. I am not about to take off my boots and shoes every time I come in the camper so in wet weather I can track in lots of mud and dirt. Instead of carpeting I use small rugs that I can shake out and throw in the Laundromat washing machines. The vinyl floor is easy to sweep out and I can wash the whole think in a couple of minutes. I carry vinyl floor wax so it always shines and helps repel dirt. Finding an alternative to the electric coffee pot was a similar process. I want a good drip brewed coffee and found the melitta system that works with just boiling water from the stove.

 

As I went down my initial keeper list, I found it easy to get smaller and lighter. Maybe listening to the experiences of others could be helpful but I think most of the decisions are individual. Sometimes others have found alternatives that work and that can be very helpful. The absolutely last place to make this sort of decision is at the RV dealers. Unfortunately that seems to be where most decisions are made. Once we buy an RV then it is too late to worry about size and the amount of stuff we need. At that point human nature means we try to justify our choices. Of course if we have over bought, the extra space will fill up to further justify our choice. Then there are others who have no concern about the size of their RV. They are going to pull into a big RV site with hookups and stay for a while.

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I really liked the last two posts by Jim and Kirk.

 

We started with a 30 foot Carriage 5th wheel. I loved living in it. Hated towing it. We ended up staying in way more commercial parks than I planned just due to size and weight. Finally, we ended up pretty much parking it in Arizona.

 

Right now we are in Alaska with a 17 foot Casita being towed by the 1-one diesel long bed. I put a cap on the long-bed and the "toys" are there with the kayaks on top and the bicycles on the front hitch. I can pass anything on the road and camp virtually anywhere I want.

 

We were concerned about "value" when purchasing the 5th wheel. In a larger rig, there is more "value" since you get much more for your money in living space. However, a small RV will give you much more utility in your traveling plans.

 

For us we suspect the perfect rig is a 21 foot Edge trailer, but with over a year waiting list the Casita was available after only a couple of months.

 

It is a tough choice. But if your serious about exploring Forest Service and Park Service lands I would go small. BLM is different since in many cases larger RV's are fairly easy to park and drive on desert roads. Also state Fish and Wildlife areas tend to be lower elevation and easier to navigate in a large rig.

 

There is no such thing as a perfect rig, but only one that meets most of your needs. The trick is to correctly identify YOUR needs.

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Remember to take into account other factors other than just length. You will find a lot of parks love their trees. So height can also be a real issue. And getting level can be a real issue in some older parks. And newer ones! Remember the longer you are the more level the site has to be.

As I tell everyone who will listen. Work out what you want to do and where you want to do it BEFORE you decide on the what RV you want.

 

regards

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Along those lines, if you start using your downsized things now you will soon learn which one do and don't work for you. A friend said she never wore jeans before why would she start now? If you make big pots of spaghetti now, will you be happy without that pot? We started hand washing our dishes after every meal and discovered we didn't need to own nearly so many of them. We also moved furniture closer together to learn about privacy needs and discovered that Dave using headphones meant he could play his music without bothering me. There are lots of things you can do at home to help decide how big a rig you really need.

 

Linda Sand

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As was mentioned above, if you are full-timing, buy the coach that you will be most comfortable in. If that is a towable, buy the truck that can safely handle that coach. If it is a motor home, buy the toad that it can safely tow. Unless your goal is to camp in only cramped campgrounds, don't worry about the size of your combination. We have a 40' MH with no slides. We've looked at some campgrounds that won't accommodate us, but there was always one nearby that could.

 

A bigger issue for many people seems to be getting fuel. We get fuel as the last thing before going into the campground, and often we'll unhook the Jeep then. We've currently got our MH for sale and will be getting an Airstream TT and pickup instead. The plan then is to go to the campground, get set up, and THEN take the truck to get fuel. That way I won't have to take the Airstream into the gas station. It doesn't need fuel, so why take it?

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A shout out of appreciation to all who "chimed in" with their particular flavor of advice. A special "thank you" to Kirk for your warm welcome. We look forward to, as of yet, untold sage discussions and tons of great experiences with our fellow ESCAPEES.

 

Just in passing, should anyone know of or become aware of an MDT (2001-2005 Freight Liner) and/or a 36'ish DRV (2011-2013) that might be coming up on the market around year end, please feel free to refer them to us. Email (billrisdon@gmail.com)

 

Best

Bill/Dianne Risdon

Warner Springs, CA

Edited by Don Risdon

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