Full-Time RVing, 10 Tips to the Good Life

Full-Time RVing with a Class A Motorhome

Ahh, Full-Time RVing…the life of a freewheeling gypsy discovering new adventures at every turn. Yes, it is a good life. And here’s how to make it even better. But first a little history…

Before I started full-time RVing, I tried to get my hands on as much information as possible about RVs and RV living. I hadn’t even gone on an RV trip yet, so all this was completely new to me.

I took my first RV vacation in January of 2010….and I’m still on that trip today. It’s been an amazing 14+ years roaming the countryside! I’ve learned a lot about RVing in that time.

Sure, I made some mistakes. I made some good choices too. And both have helped me come up with this list of tips. I’ve also included some ideas about how to get the most out of the full-time RV lifestyle. So here they are…

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1. Choose the Smallest RV that’s Livable

Small RVs can be parked in more places, giving you the freedom to camp almost anywhere. I chose a 25 foot fifth wheel for my full-time RVing rig, and am happy with its size…but sometimes I dream about a truck camper. My fifth wheel is roomy enough for full-time living, yet small enough to fit into most campsites, even some found among our national forests.

Truck and 5th wheel travel trailer camped in national forest
Camping among ponderosa pines in northern Arizona while full-time RVing

I’ve taken the trailer down many rough and narrow national forest and BLM roads and it’s been surprisingly maneuverable…but I would hesitate to tow anything larger on many of those roads.

I often find beautiful boondocking campsites among our national forests that are either down roads too steep and rough for my trailer, or which have low branches or trees making them inaccessible for anything but a small truck camper or pop-up camper. National forest campgrounds often have size restrictions too, and many won’t accommodate vehicles longer than 20-25 feet.

Choosing a size is a compromise. Your decision will depend on how much time you spend indoors and how much stuff you plan on taking with you. If I spent virtually all my time outside, I wouldn’t hesitate about choosing a truck camper or 15 foot travel trailer for my full-time RVing rig.

2. Outfit the RV for Boondocking

Solar panel mounted on roof of RV and tilted
100 watt solar panel mounted on roof charges batteries when RV boondocking

Unless you know, without a doubt, that you’ll be staying in campgrounds with full hookups 24/7, get the RV ready for boondocking. It’s the best thing I did, short of buying the RV.

Having the freedom to camp anywhere, be it a Walmart parking lot, BLM campground, or remote wilderness campsite is worth every penny it took to make my fifth wheel boondocking friendly.

When I’m out on the road I don’t worry about where the nearest campground is. I’ve got a 200 amp hour battery bank matched with a 200 watt solar panel charging system that keeps me powered up virtually anywhere.

My fifth wheel has a large freshwater tank and large holding tanks which enable me to boondock for long periods without having to break camp. I also mounted a freshwater tank on my truck so I can bring along extra water, or haul water to the RV whenever I run low.

I can pull off the road at any moment, find a campsite, and be there for over a month…totally self contained and completely off the grid.

Perhaps your boondocking forays won’t be so lengthy, but you never know. You may be bit by the boondocking bug too, so it doesn’t hurt to prepare now. Knowing you can survive on your own is a great feeling and boondockers take great pride in their self sufficient rigs.

3. Find the Way with GPS

The last thing you want to do when driving your home down a busy highway is fumble with a map. With GPS, you don’t have to. A GPS unit (Global Positioning System) will give you precise visual and audio directions to any city, intersection, or address. It truly is a godsend when full-time RVing.

A GPS will also show national forest and BLM backroads, but accuracy here isn’t always 100%, so it’s best to bring a real map. The maps provided by national forest and BLM ranger stations are best.

My Garmin GPS showing the way
My Garmin GPS showing the way

There is a caveat with GPS. The route the device chooses isn’t always the best one. I always review the route it picks, before I follow it. The device may lead you down some backroads that would best be avoided with an RV.

Thankfully there are GPS models made specifically for truckers and RVers. These models create routes that are RV friendly by avoiding backroads, low clearance bridges, and narrow winding mountain roads.

4. Use It or Lose It

We humans have a tendency to overpack when taking a trip. Just look at those who backpack, shouldering ridiculously monstrous loads that weigh 60 lbs or more. They seem to be prepared for doomsday instead of a few days of camping.

The same can be said for RVers. If there is even a remote possibility that a certain item might come in handy we don’t think twice and pack it in the RV. I know this was the case when I started full-time RVing. Three years later I still had quite a few things I never used once. It was time to toss the extra baggage.

Lightening your load will ease the strain on your engine, drivetrain, and tires and increase your fuel economy. Lightening up will also reduce your stopping distance, helping you avoid accidents. You also avoid the danger of overloading the trailer or motorhome – a real problem when full-time RVing.

5. Stop and Smell the Roses

Mountain bike on primitive road through green forest meadow with pines in the distance
Exploring the Coconino National Forest of Arizona on mountain bike

Full-time RVing isn’t the life of a trucker. There’s no need to be on the road each and every day. I don’t know about you, but sitting behind the wheel of a large vehicle is not my idea of fun – and it’s hard to enjoy the scenery when you’re whizzing right past it! For me, the fun starts when the RV is parked and I’m on my two feet or riding my bicycle.

When I find a good place to camp I often stay for 2 to 4 weeks. I seek out places that have much to explore. Staying longer lets me find out what a place is really like.

While I’m there I try to see-it-all and cover as much ground as possible on my two feet, or by riding my mountain bike. I enjoy self propelled transportation and feel it’s the best way to see the sights, and see the wildlife. It allows me to get a close up view of the wonders of nature.

By taking it slow, I can see an area in depth. After all, I may never be here again and would regret it later if I missed something wonderful.

6. Bring the Gym with You

Whatever you do to stay in shape, there’s absolutely no reason to stop once you take up full-time RVing. I lifted weights prior to RVing full-time, and continued my weight training once I hit the road. I just brought the gym with me.

Weight bench and adjustable dumbbells set up outside in the Arizona desert
Working out in the great outdoors with my portable gym

I purchased a portable and foldable weight bench along with a set of adjustable dumbbells made by Bowflex. I’ve been using this exercise equipment as I travel the country, and I never miss a workout…unless I’m backpacking…haven’t quite figured out how to fit the weights in my backpack yet, and not sure that I’d want to!

You may have enough room to exercise inside your RV, but if not, take the workouts to the great outdoors. I do my weight training outside and it sure beats the view I had at the gym! Breathing the fresh air while working out in the open is a wonderful experience. I look forward to my workouts much more than I did when I had a gym membership.

With the wide variety of portable exercise equipment found today, it’s easy to stay fit on the road. And staying fit enables one to get the most out of an active full-time RVing lifestyle.

7. Filter It

As a full-time RVer, you’ll be getting your water from various campgrounds, service stations, parks, and rest stops. And it’s not all pure mountain spring water. Far from it.

A water filter will remove sediment that can fowl up your faucets, water heater, and toilet valves. A filter will also trap contaminants and improve the taste of water.

I use two water filters, one outside the RV and one inside. I connect the exterior water filter to the faucet before filling my freshwater tank. This keeps sediment and contaminants out of my water hose, water tank, and entire freshwater system. I have a second water filter under the kitchen sink in the cold water line. I use this double filtration for my drinking water.

Hydro Life HL-170 Under Counter RV Water Filter, held in palm of hand
Hydro Life HL-170 Under Counter RV Water Filter, which I installed in the cold water line below the kitchen sink

Ever since I started using these water filters my water has tasted as clean as spring water, with every cup, regardless of where I’ve filled my tank. I have no need to throw away money on bottled water.

For help choosing the best water filter, see my article on RV water filters.

8. Unplug Your Brain

Full-time RVing is a perfect opportunity to unplug your electronics, as well as your mind. Studies have shown that spending time in nature away from technology like TVs, cell phones, computers, iPads, etc. can boost creativity by 50%.

As a full-time RVer, getting away from modern technology and into nature is as easy as stepping out the door.

An even better way to shed the shackles of technology is to take up backpacking. I try to go on a 2-5 day backpacking trip once a month. I always come back feeling energized with a clear mind. If you do try backpacking, I highly recommend going light by reading Ray Jardine’s book, Beyond Backpacking.

Selfie with alpine lake and mountains with patches of snow
Backpacking in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California

9. Cook it Up

Sure, RV kitchens may be smaller than residential ones, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t fully functional. You may not be able to roost a 30 pound turkey in some ovens, but you can prepare pretty much anything else.

Chicken breasts covered in bbq sauce on a grill grate over a campfire
Grilling chicken over a campfire

I do more cooking since I started full-time RVing than I ever did beforehand. Preparing meals for 8 has been no problem in my 25 foot fifth wheel. I usually have just enough counter space to do the job.

10 pound turkeys, pulled pork, fried chicken, roasted potatoes, baked squash, stir fry, casseroles, breads, cakes, pies, granola, and much more – all with a four burner stove and small oven. I may be camping, but I’m certainly not living off peanut butter and jelly sandwiches!

I love cooking outdoors even more, as this means less cleaning up to do, and the food always tastes amazing. I usually grill over the coals of a campfire by arranging rocks around the fire to support a metal grill. Products like the Stromberg Carlson Stake & Grill make this even easier.

10. Expand Your Horizons

Have you always been interested in something, but never took a class about it? Now is the time. Full-time RVing grants you the freedom to travel to any college and take the course of your dreams. Even if it’s just a weekend class.

You can also attend educational nature hikes in national and state parks. Anza Borrego Desert State Park in Southern California has a full schedule of free lectures and nature hikes led by park rangers and volunteer naturalists. Other parks have similar programs.

How about taking a class on backpacking, kayaking, fly fishing, rock climbing, mountaineering, wilderness medicine, sailing, skiing, or snowboarding? Sound like a dream come true? The National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) offers all these classes and more. The wilderness becomes the classroom and learning is hands on. Courses are located throughout North America and the world. Outward Bound is another wilderness school offering similar courses throughout the United States. You can even find such classes at community colleges and universities, especially those that are located near wilderness areas.

And since your RVing, might as well take a class on that too. The Good Sam RV Rally takes place 2-3 times a year and offers many seminars on all things RV. You’ll find programs on towing, tires, RV modifications, safety, insurance, RV care, electrical systems, and of course, full-time RVing!

Whatever your hobby or interest, there’s sure to be a course on it somewhere. Sure, you could read a book about it, but getting real life education makes learning so much easier and more fun.

Happy Trails

Full-time RVing is a way of life like no other. Few lifestyles can compare to the freedom and adventure granted with a home on wheels.

And the best thing about it is that you can change the way you live anytime you please. You are in complete control of where your home will be, how long you stay, and what activities you pursue. It’s a way of living that’s highly adaptable, to any situation.

Where the adventure takes you, is up to you. Happy trails!

Truck and 5th wheel camped among the rounded boulders of the Alabama Hills
Camping in the famous Alabama Hills of California while full-time RVing

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