There’s Camping, and then there’s Camping. Now in print, the words look the same, but believe me, in a practical manner, they are vastly different. My husband grew up camping first in a Sears Umbrella tent, then in a 1960 Nimrod Pop-up. (In case you have any questions about what that was like – it had 2 beds and 2 wheels). That’s all.
My family experience with camping was very different. It was a Volkswagen Van, specially fitted by one of my dad’s masterfully crafted wooden boxes mounted on top, and chock full of every provision Mom could squeeze in that space. When it was time to rest, Dad would just pull out a cot and take a nap.
My husband and I started our married life camping in that Sears Umbrella tent, graduating to the 1960 Nimrod Pop-up, and then to KOA primitive Kamping Kabins.
In 2009 we upgraded from the pop-up to a 26-foot travel trailer – and became full-timers. It was an adventure to learn how to live in such small spaces, and we made all the typical newbie mistakes. All in all, with the assistance of the campers at the resort where we lived, we figured things out as we went along. Did I mention the day when all the resort was talking about the camper on Lot 151…the one with water running out the side of all the walls and the icicles dripping from all our clothing that we had to hang on the swing? As I said, newbie mistakes. But then that would be a different post.
Thinking we had full-timers out of our system, we sold the unit and moved back to Kentucky. When we realized we really missed the lifestyle of the camper, we bought a small pop-up, camped in our tents, and stayed in KOA Kabins, but it wasn’t the same.
With the purchase of our new 30-foot travel trailer, the joy of creating a home away from home began all over again.
Novice to camping? Not at all. Novice to camping full-time– now that has been a journey.
10 Things to Know about Full-Time Camping
You Can’t Keep it all!
We arrived at our camper on “moving day” with just about everything we had ever owned. I stuffed my belongings into and on every cabinet, closet, and surface in the camper. Finally, in frustration, we rented a storage unit for the leftover stuff. We had wise neighbors who helped us to discover what was really important to our lives, and then we sold or donated all the rest. It was very freeing, and we’ve never missed it.
Find creative storage options
Storage is something that you must address in a creative manner: Look at every closet, drawer, and shelf. Decide if there is space for two shelves where there is currently just one. I discovered that ¾” foam board from Lowes is a wonderful medium for creating extra space.
1 4X8 sheet will accomplish wonders for your storage dilemmas. Measure the space to be altered. Make a template using old manila file folders, cutting, taping, and adjusting until it fits just right. Transfer pattern to the foam, cut with a box cutter. Paint all the pieces and then assemble it in the space using hot glue to adhere the pieces.
I was able to double my bathroom closet space without adding much additional weight to my camper. Under my kitchen cabinets, I was able to create stand-up spaces for trays and pans. Be resourceful and let your imagination show you additional storage possibilities.
I also discovered that Sterlite bins, drawers, and storage solutions are lightweight and come in a myriad of shapes and sizes.
Use Command Strips to hold any and everything on your camper walls. This will enable you to hang virtually anything you want without nail damage or possibly exterior damage to your walls.
Discover how to Winterize
It’s more than just water pipes
- Ask Many Questions.
- Watch YouTube presentations.
- Visit camper service departments and get advice
- Talk to other full-timers or veterans of the camper experience
There is much information about how to winterize your unit, and most of it is very clear and helpful.
The biggest thing to remember is that ALL water must be emptied from the unit, hoses disconnected and stored dry, and ALL drains, and hoses within the unit must contain RV antifreeze. (This is different than automobile antifreeze). There is much information available as to how to do this, but if in doubt, a reputable camper dealership will walk you through it and sell you the antifreeze.
I heartily recommend the addition of a Campco RV Pump Converter Winterizer Kit. The kit is inexpensive, and after asking many questions and watching several YouTube videos, I felt confident that I could install and operate the tools. Come spring, I’ll be glad we installed the kit since it is just a turn of the valve from here forward.
Think about your supplies
Pay Attention to the items you have stored in your unit all season: Will the liquids freeze or leak if temperatures outside drop? Check all your cleaning supplies, toiletries, batteries in remotes, clocks, and air fresheners. Remove them for the winter. I removed all these and placed them in a large tote clearly marked, “return to camper in spring.” This way I do not have to regather everything when we summerize the camper. If you have a Smart TV, there is a line of thinking that freezing temperatures will cause damage. Just to be on the safe side, we removed it for the winter.
Keep out the Critters
Think about insects and field mice that are looking for a safe haven from the cold: Your camper, though a bit too cold for you during the winter might be just the perfect environment for little critters to take refuge. I have looked at several camper hacks and have put them into place for this season. Bars of Irish Spring soap cut in half in all outside storage compartments, several boxes of Bounce dryer sheets all over the camper – in the linens, in the cabinets, closets, drawers – virtually everywhere, will deter mice. Supposedly the mice don’t like the smell. I’ll let you know what I discover about this.
I also decided to remove all food items from the pantry, made an inventory list of everything I took out so come spring, I can easily restock. I even removed all my canned goods. I don’t want to discover an oozing sticky can of peaches that has made a mess all winter.
Keep an Inventory List
Do an Inventory of the lot where your unit is parked: I keep a large tub under my camper during the season where I store items such as weed killer, bird food, hummingbird nectar, and outdoor items. For the winter, I bring these home to the garage. There’s no sense enticing mice whose sense of smell is incredible. I also keep several wind chimes and bird feeders on my shepherds’ hooks outside. These I will remove before the first freeze and store indoors unless I am occupying the camper. Do you have any plants that can survive the winter if stored inside? This is a good time to examine your landscape and make these decisions.
Don’t forget the Refrigerator
Empty the refrigerator, turn it off, and leave doors open: In the event that the power goes off during a winter storm, I’d hate for my propane to kick on, run out, and everything in the refrigerator go bad. I just go ahead and empty it, clean it thoroughly, and dry the inside. Again, an inventory will be helpful when you open the unit in the spring.
Post Cautionary and Reminder Notes in your unit: If you plan to dry camp during the winter months, it might be a good idea to place some sort of note or obstacle over all your sinks, shower, and toilets. It’s such a habit to go to the sink and empty a glass of water or drink down the drain. I keep a large gallon jug in my camper to pour leftover liquid from my bottled containers. This jug can then be emptied into the bathhouse.
Think about your Personal Care Needs
Wet wipes are a great replacement for washcloths when dry camping in your winterized unit. Just make sure to have a garbage can liner to gather your trash when you leave.
Create a Visual File for Reference
Let’s face it. We all learn something new, and then 6 months later, some of the details have slipped from memory. I snap a picture and place it in a file on my computer. Along with my pictures, I also keep web addresses and YouTube links that have been specifically helpful in my journey of becoming a knowledgeable full-timer.
Though we’ve moved into a permanent home for this season of our lives – the open road continues to beckon us to continued adventures. Who knows, maybe around the next bend in the road we’ll be back on the road again.
Are you a full-timer? I’d love to hear from you about some of your favorite hacks!