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Preparing to Escape


EscapeeWannabe

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Two years from today my wife and I should be fulltiming in our Silverado 3500 Truck and Excel 31IKE Winslow. We currently have a home about 60 miles South of Livingston Texas and am planning to start making our fulltiming purchases this fall. I have been researching this over the last few years (HitchItch.com). We have had a popup camper for the last 20 years and really have enjoyed it. We have never had a large trailer and that is of some concern.

 

I am not 100% committed to a fifth wheel or truck. Any info on this would be great. I would like to boondock and get into national forest campgrounds so I think size is a consideration.

 

If I go with a truck I need to decide if I should go dually. One RVer stated that he would downsize the Trailer and not purchase a dually. "90% of the time you are driving unhitched and a dually is not fun to cruise around in". But then I would be cutting it close to weight limits. So any ideas?

 

I am in Texas and I have read that I made need a class A non-commercial license if the trailer is 10,000 pounds or greater. I saw that the Escapees offer driving lessons. If I purchase the truck I cannot pull the trailer legally. Can I rent a trailer to practice with or get a learners or something? I don't know.

 

So this year my escape preparations are:

 

Attend RV Bootcamp in Livingston.

Purchase a truck unless a Class A or Diesel pusher makes more sense.

Get a Class A non-commercial license if Necessary and take a driving course.

 

Thanks for any info.

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Size depends on your wants & wish's. If you want to camp at National Parks, best to keep trailer length as

close to 30 ft as possible, but if not then what ever fits your needs. We sold off our 30 ft TT & diesel truck

before we moved to Colorado and are now in the market for a MH in the 34-36 ft range and I have a 2011

Dodge Dakota 4x4 truck as a toad.

 

We have decided that if what ever we end up buying will not fit into a National Park camp space then we will

use private campgrounds or I belong to the ELKS and a majority of their lodges have some sort of RV parking

and then we would just day visit in the National Parks in the toad.

 

I'm sure others will chime in with useful info to help you.

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First, welcome to the Escapee's RV Club and also to the public forums. We will do our very best to help and support you as you move to your new adventure. We are happy that you have chosen to be a part of our group!

 

I think that you are heading in the right direction by attending "Boot Camp" at Escapees first, before you buy an RV. If you have not done so, be sure to register for the next session of Boot Camp early as it usually fill up. If possible you may also want to attend the next Escapade in Tucson next March as that is the annual rally for club members and is always informative and fun. I would also invite you to spend some time browsing the websites and blogs of those who post here which can usually be found in the signature lines and have a great deal of useful information in the. I would also suggest that you visit the library or Amazon and get yourself at least one book on full-time RV living as that will help you a great deal in know what you need to do and what the options are.

 

Welcome to the group!

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Really need to think hard on how much boon-docking your interested in.

 

If you want to exist on BLM Lands for periods of up to 14 days with zero support, there is great consideration to your RVs capabilities.

 

Do you want to shower daily, cook your own meals, etc this uses a lot of water. 100 gallons can last up to about that time with great conservation.

 

If you'll be in hot areas, air conditioning is a large electrical load and consumes fuel.

 

Lots to think about!

 

JohnnyB

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Thanks for the info. Looks like Livingston will need to be the boot camp. I have my 92 year old Dad living with us and travel is difficult.

 

As with boondocking water is a major constraint. We like to cook and shower. I would love to go back to Granite Falls in Wyoming in the summer. Hot springs would replace the shower. You have potable water and I am considering a solar setup. I would like to stay away from the heat. Summers in the mountains and winters in Texas.

 

We will need to learn to conserve to get those 14 days boondocking. I need to figure out the truck situation. I will start shopping soon. Is a Dually the way to go?

 

Thanks

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After reading the comment about 90% of the time you are not towing so you don't need a dually........not our experience.

In the 157K total miles and 8 years full time 41% of our miles were towing. If you decide on the fifth wheel I'd suggest a 1 ton dually unless you get a REAL small fifth wheel. We started with our first dually (crew cab long box) in 2007 and have no problems driving it, we do tend to park further out in parking lots. The dually gives you more pin weight safety margin and flexibility if you should get a larger fifth wheel. Greg

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............................ I need to figure out the truck situation. I will start shopping soon. Is a Dually the way to go?

It is a much more complicated decision than just dual or single wheel trucks. It is important for you to lean about and understand the weight ratings and limits for both trucks and for the RVs that you may wish to tow. If you are not familiar with them let me invite you start your education on the subject with this page on our website. That should be enough to help you get started and there are some very experienced trailer & fifth wheel owners on these forums who will be happy to assist you.

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We were in a similar situation as far as picking a truck and fiver combination and I got some really bad advice. Once I figured out it was bad, but after I had the truck I made a few expensive bad decisions before I did what I should have done and got enough truck to pull my fiver.

 

I think of myself as cautious and a very careful shopper, I did a lot of reading on the truck I was looking at and got all the factory information. I'm not a truck expert by any stretch of the imagination but I thought I could do well enough to get something that would work for us. The truck's specifications clearly shower an adequate axle weight rating, truck cargo weight rating, tow rating and combined weight rating. I had a custom fiver built to come in well under the truck's ratings when fully loaded and with a full 100 gallon tank of water for boondocking. Put the fiver on the truck and ran it across the scales to get my weight tickets to use for registration and got a nasty surprise, almost all the cushion I had planned for wasn't there, the truck weighed a lot more than I thought it did.

 

Going back and re-reading the specs again didn't help but a friend had an article on just how Ford did their weights and if I had seen that there is no way I'd have bought the truck I did. Turns out that 7/8ths of the full tank of fuel wasn't in the Ford numbers, I was supposed to weigh no more than 150 pounds and the wife was supposed to walk alongside carrying anything else I'd thought to have in the truck. Recalculating using real numbers for a full fuel tank, my real weight, the wife's weight, the stuff in the glove box and my fiver hitch put me way over the factory numbers. I managed to squeak by, rear axle had 200 pounds excess capacity and I was a few hundred under the combined rating.

 

Oh well, there went my plans to add batteries and solar to that fiver, just no weight capacity left but no biggie, the truck was rated for what I was carrying and pulling so all was right with the world even if I couldn't add any new stuff. Then we got it out on the highway, suddenly things weren't so good, it accelerated like molasses and if you recall the old Peter, Paul and Mary skit about the old guy's transmission you will know what shifting was like. Well we had the truck, we had the fiver and there was nothing for us to do but to try to live with it. Off to Flagstaff, AZ for a weekend camping. Found out the Ford Powerstroke is really weak on hill braking, smoked the front brakes but finally got us slowed down to where I could shift into 1st gear and creep down the hills. Scary to be going 15 MPH with stuff passing you at 70 plus but If I came out of 1st on the 6% hills it ran away.

 

Made it home, took the truck to Ford for new pads and rotors, ordered an exhaust brake and waved good bye to a bunch of money. The new brakes were fine and the exhaust brake solved the hill problem, we could go down a 6% hill in second without having to use the service brake often.

 

Took a trip where we were driving after dark and discovered that aside from the rear axle bottoming out on bumps, something we learned to avoid by slowing way down our headlights were pointed way up in the air and about every car we passed flashed at us. Not too bad, only a few hundred for some Ryde-Rite air lift bags and I put them on myself saving the install costs. That solved the bottoming and light issue a lot cheaper than it cost to solve the brake problem.

 

Off we went on a long trip and we ran into several problems with the engine's power level. First it would shut-down from overheating if we tried to drive into a headwind or up a long shallow grade. Second the truck was very slow, merging onto an interstate highway was scary and trying to pull onto a fast road that didn't have merge lanes was worse. Well I'd already bought the truck and dumped in a pile of money so back I went and got a pile of Bank's Power gear, again I installed it myself to save that cost. The Banks folks offered me a lot of options and we had a good conversation about what I had and what I wanted. The selection of parts they sold me did what they promised and the truck then had enough power to not go into shutdown and it merged with a lot less sweat and white knuckle time. They also sold me a transmission controller that really helped the shifting.

 

The Banks folks pointed out I had not read all of the Ford specs, it turned out my fiver was 8' 6" by 12' 6" or 107 square feet of frontal area. The Ford numbers, that are there if you dig enough, said that they tested with 60 square feet of frontal area. That explained the inability to pull my much larger fiver into a headwind or up a small grade as I was using all the available power just to hold my speed on flat ground in calm conditions. Adding wind or hill was just too much.

 

Now that is a long story but the moral is short and sweet, figure out what your truck is really rated at, what it actually weighs and if there are any hidden gotchas in the tow ratings. What I've recommended since my learning experience is that you are in the ballpark on combined weight if you go with 80% of the factory number. The 80% is good enough for shopping, you can get a quick idea if the truck you are looking at is going to survive a more detailed look but don't buy anything until you have tracked down every number and squeezed out every weasel word.

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I have read this from Stan before but after reading it just this way I think we should have all new folks with little or no experience read it just as written and then start asking questions. Something like this: Howdy new people, we are sure happy to have you with us. We know you will have a lot of questions so to make it easier on yourself and us helping please read this post from Stan first thing. After that we will be happy to assist. I am being a "little" facetious but not much.

 

It still gives me the shivers reading it.

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Two years from today my wife and I should be fulltiming in our Silverado 3500 Truck and Excel 31IKE Winslow.

 

If I go with a truck I need to decide if I should go dually. One RVer stated that he would downsize the Trailer and not purchase a dually. "90% of the time you are driving unhitched and a dually is not fun to cruise around in". But then I would be cutting it close to weight limits.

 

That Excel 31IKE Winslow has a GVWR of 17,500#...way too much for a single rear-wheel truck. At the very minimum, you're going to need a 1-ton dually, preferably diesel (get the towing specifications for the Big 3 and find out the difference between two identical trucks, the only difference being one has a gas engine and one has a diesel engine...I think you'll find that the diesel has far more capacity).

 

We've always had duallies and we haven't found them to be a problem driving around when not pulling. As far as getting a SRW truck and being "close to the weight limits," re-read Stanley's post!

 

If it were me just starting out, knowing what I know now, we would have gone with an HDT to begin with. That way, we could have gotten as big and as heavy a fifth wheel as we wanted without worrying about whether the truck could handle it.

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After reading Stan's post and the other contributors I think the Dually is the way to go.

 

Linda is correct in that the Excel has a GVWR of 17500 lbs. The Siverado Diesel SRW 4WD maxes out at 16,900 lbs. I would have to give up 600 lbs CCC leaving 4,000 pounds but pushing the limits. With the Dually I would have 22,500 lbs of fifth wheel towing capability. Gives me a nice wide safety margin (80% * 22,500 = 18,000 lbs). I would also think that it would give me more traction in possible soft soil situations when I am boondocking. Less of a chance of getting stuck.

 

I think that decides the Dually situation.

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I think that decides the Dually situation.

Remember that weight ratings are the critical part. There are trucks out there that have very little difference in cargo capacity between the dual wheel and single wheel configurations but the added wheels widen the stance of the truck and thus make it much more stable when on the road, particularly with a crosswind. But a single wheel truck that is 1 ton (3500/350) does that truck in a 3/4 ton(2500/250) which has duel wheels. Where you get serious towing capacities is when you move into the medium duty (450/550 series) trucks or even more so with the heavy duty trucks. But it is important to realize that dual wheels do not make the truck's tow rating sufficient.

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As Stan & Kirk have both pointed out -- the "rated towing capacity" of most trucks has almost nothing to do with what you can actually tow (unless you happen to be pulling the manufacturers fictitious load). I figure we have close to 2,000 pounds of our payload capacity consumed with passengers, tools, hitch, full tank, etc. Your 5er pin weight is often 20 - 25% of of the trailer weight. Carefully check your maximum payload and your Rear Gross Axle Weight Rating --- it is really easy to be over before you know it.

 

You can download and modify the Excel spreadsheet I used from our blog site: http://yourpcgeek.com/blog/z-truck-capacities-solar-plans-etc/

 

Going to a Dually certainly sounds right for your setup! Welcome aboard and safe travels!

 

Mark

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Another thing to consider. A new dually is going to cost you a lot of money...in the range of $60K to $80K. Think about getting a HDT which will pull anything you can buy.....safely and with ease. You can buy an HDT with a deck and a smart car on a deck for less than what a new dually will cost and beleive me you will have fewer problems and less white knuckle experiences. Visit the HDT section and ask questions. My 2 centavos worth.

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Thanks. Actually looking at the numbers as your website states I really don't have that much excess capacity with respect to the GVWR. Call it 5,000 pounds. 20% * 17,500 = 3,500 pounds for the hitch weight. Thats 1500 pounds for everything else. Two People, a dog, Generator, Fifth wheel hitch, Fuel, misc. Leaves very little left. What was I thinking when I considered a SRW.

 

Looks like you guy are from Western New York. I moved to Houston about 35 years ago from Orchard Park. I still have family in Hamburg. I am looking at staying our first yeat fulltiming in the area. I see you were in Oregon, this past summer my wife, 92 year old Dad, and I took a trip there. Stayed in Hood River, Yachats, and Eugene. I would love to spend a summer in the Oregon/Washington area. If it gets too warm drive to the coast or the cascades.

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One comment about your choice of 5'th wheels: You will have no view out the rear because the entertainment center is covering the entire wall. If you will be doing quite a bit of boondocking, you will usually be parking in places with great views. You won't always be sitting outside. Some 5'er have a large picture window in the rear. Sitting inside on cold mornings, rainy days, lots of bugs, etc. and being able to enjoy the view is wonderful.

 

Just something you may not have thought of, not criticizing your choice of RV.

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I like the length of the 5'er you listed. At 33', pinbox to bumper length, you will be able to get into 95% of the NF, NP, etc campgrounds. Not necessarily 95% of campsites, but you will be able to maneuver in the CG to find the campsite you will fit in.

 

Now if you hook up a HDT with a smartcar or jeep on the back you are not going to get in all those CG's. Besides if your run around vehicle is a smart car you will not be able to drive the gravel/dirt roads where you boondock.

 

No simple answer. From what little research I have seen, the last few model years of Ford, Chevy & Ram dually p/u's are rated to tow the 17,500 pounds. I'm sure not as easily, or safely as the HDT, but at lease you can drive the 4x4 dually on a lot of the roads where you will be boondocking.

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If you live near Livingstone go ask about RV Boot Camp.

I can't say enough good things about it. We are a little ahead of you in the trek to full timing and some friends told us about Boot Camp. What an astounding experience and they will answer all you questions. Then they'll introduce you to a hundred other things you didn't know about and give you the answers to those as well!!

Best investment we have made in many years and set us on the right track for our full timing adventure.

BnB

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Al florida has a point about the smart car going into places. But I can say that having owned a 1 ton long box crewcab dually 4x4 ....there is no way I would take it off roading. Been there and tried it.....it doesn't work.

 

Personally if I went the HDT way , I would try to get either a Jeep or a Tracker 4x4 on the truck bed.

 

I've done the fifth wheel thing....I much prefer my motorhome pulling a 4x4 pickup with a RZR on the back. Now if you want to talk about offroading nothing beats that set up.

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Escapee/Wannabe, in the end we all have to decide what is best for us.

 

The advice from HDT people about the comfort, great towing capability, safety, etc of these big trucks is good and probably accurate. However, I sure don't see these trucks in the NF, NP, BLM, campgounds, etc. Of course that may be because, I am guessing, most of the HDT folks are towing the 37'-44' 5'ers. Every once in a while I see a HDT towing a "small" 35' 5'er, but not often.

 

From the Ford website: http://www.ford.com/trucks/superduty/specifications/towing/, the F350 dually with the diesel and 4.3 rear axle is rated to tow around 23,000 pounds. The F250 is rated for 15,900 about 200 pounds more than the F350 SRW. So your Excel is well within the rated tow capacity of the F350 (or Ram, or Chevy).

 

Back to the safety of towing a 17,500 5'er with a dually p/u. No, it isn't as safe as a HDT, but if you take your time, don't want to travel at 65-75mph on freeways, be slow and careful going down hill on steep mountain roads, you should be fine.

 

About driving the gravel & dirt roads in the F350 Dually. Well, it will be bouncy and a pretty harsh ride on the bumps. Also it doesn't maneuver that well, especially if you get the crew cab. Also the wide rear dually tires makes for a problems on narrow roads.

 

We traveled for a while in a Chevy 1 ton SRW truck pulling a 33.5' Hitchiker and didn't find the back road driving all that bad. But that was a SRW, not a dually.

 

Have you looked at the 32' to 34' gas motorhomes and match that with something like a small 4x4 Chevy Colorado p/u, or a jeep? That combination will let you get into most all boondocking spots and the truck/jeep will let you explore the back country roads.

 

In our early days of extensive RV traveling, full timing, I strongly resisted the MH idea. The thought of 2 engines/vehicles to maintain, insure, etc was not something I thought I wanted. However once we went to the MH and toad we really like the setup. We boondock or dry camp probably 75% of the time while we are traveling. We also move every 2-5 days. Much of the time no more than 30-50 miles to move to another scenic location. The ease of setup breakdown of the MH is better than the 5'er. There is a hassle of hooking up and disconnecting the toad but that goes pretty quickly once you get used to it.

 

Anyways in the end, you have to make your own decisions. The above is food for thought.

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In our first three years of full timing, our motor home has traveled 19K miles and our toad 48K (not counting towed miles) as we have explored 44 states and the majority of the national parks. With these travel patterns, having a car that does 30mpg has been they way to go for us. I would give your travel patterns a lot of thought and buy the rig that works with them as well as one you feel you will be comfortable with.

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In our first three years of full timing, our motor home has traveled 19K miles and our toad 48K (not counting towed miles)

In our 11+ years fulltime we put less than 80 thousand miles on the motorhome (gas chassis owned for 14 years) and in that time we towed 3 different vehicles that were driven a total of very close to 200 thousand miles and additionally towed about 70 thousand miles total.

 

It is very important to remember that there is no right or wrong way to live your life in an RV. The only limit to what you can do, where you can go, or how you can live in one is your own imagination. I suggest that you spend some time looking over the various websites and blogs of participants in these forums just to get your ideas flowing about what you may want to do and how you will live. It would be a major mistake to try to live as anyone here advices but use what each of us has to tell as a means to inspire your own ideas. You will know when you find the right lifestyle for you when you discover that you wake up each morning excited about the coming day's adventures and experiences.

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