Antihero
Antihero GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
7/2/23 11:30 p.m.

So my wife and I like traveling and not necessarily the tourist hotspots. Sure we like Oahu but we also had fun in Springfield MO and Milwaukee. My wife's job can be done very easily remotely as can her craft fairs. My job is seasonal and frankly I can go whenever I want because I work for myself, my boss is an shiny happy person but the hours ain't bad. So that kinda led us talking about being digital nomads and how much we would want to do it.

 

The idea is to get something that's not massive though so when we do travel I don't have to haul around the SS TravelBarge everywhere, and I can park it at a hotel/air bnb/wherever when we don't wanna be in the trailer without lots of problems. After looking at stuff online these are the 4 that we like the most. Subject to change once we can get in them too.

 

Keystone 20RDWE

Geo Pro

Coleman Lantern 

Keystone 177rd

 

We aren't limited to those but that's the general size and configuration we've liked so far. The Coleman is very cheap although I'm not a fan of the 12v fridge, I'd rather it was propane and use as little power as possible for long rural trips. No kids so it's just us and our big dogs. One is 100lbs and the other will probably be at least 125ish. A smaller area is fine because even at home they are always just right there and that's fine.

 

That brings us to the next part of this : the truck. If we are doing this I'd probably want a new to newish truck with all the miles id be putting on it. I originally just figured I'd get a Ford/Chevy/GMC full sized double cab in whatever engine I liked and be on my way but after Specing them up, seeing how much I would be paying, coupled with the fact that none of the options we've liked so far goes over 3500lbs and I don't really want this to be a work truck/very little use for another full sized truck.....makes me look else where.

 

Sure I could do some seriously heavy dutifying of my 97 k1500 for this but it's over 200k miles and it could probably use a tranny rebuild if it's dragging a trailer all over the place. Plus, it's a work truck and it's an extra cab, not exactly ideal space for 2 big dogs to ride with us. 

 

So I started looking at rangers/Colorado's/canyons. They can easily tow what I want and a smaller more fuel efficient truck ain't bad for life outside of this idea. But I found out that a Maverick actually had more back seat room than a Ranger somehow.

 

Which leads us to the Maverick. A small very fuel efficient truck would fit perfectly into our life. It'll tow 4k in Ecoboost AWD  form and is pretty cheap the way I want it. Am I crazy to think that it's a good idea?

 

I wanna stay in the double cab shorter bed style so I have some "outside" space for dirty stuff, garbage, muddy dogs etc. It doesn't need to be a huge bed , just not inside. I had my mind set on a new Chevy with the small diesel but I'm really rethinking that now.

 

Am I crazy to think this?

 

 

 

dps214
dps214 SuperDork
7/3/23 12:46 a.m.

If you're going to be living in it for large chunks of time, you want a real bed and the biggest bathroom you can get with decent size water tanks. If you're going to be putting a lot of miles on it you want double axle. I don't know anything about specific brands but option #1 is the only one that fits those criteria.

I couldn't find detailed specs on the Coleman but the other three are all going to be over 4k loaded (option #1 is over 4k dry) so the maverick is out. Plus you're going to be waiting at least a year for one anyway. The ranger is only 10" longer and the Colorado is only a few inches longer than the ranger, the overall footprint isn't much different from the maverick but there's (potentially) much more useable bed space. 25' long trailer still seems like a bit much for a midsize truck, but maybe that's just me.

DeadSkunk  (Warren)
DeadSkunk (Warren) UltimaDork
7/3/23 7:51 a.m.

I have a long box GMC Canyon 4wd. I was comparing notes with John Brown when he stopped by in the spring. He has a full size GM truck, 2wd with the turbo four cylinder. He gets better mileage and can tow more. The Silverado short box is only 7" longer than my truck. I'd consider that for your proposed usage. As for trailer size, that's personal preference. My sister and her husband (and two cats) have regularly spent three and four months on the road in one of those 12 foot fiberglass campers, I think it was a Burro, and they're both big people. I couldn't do it, but they love it.

Rodan
Rodan UltraDork
7/3/23 8:06 a.m.

+1 to just about everything dps214 said.

Living in an RV is a lot different than spending a weekend in one.   We used to travel with a large truck camper, and after two weeks, we were ready to be out of it.  And that was with only one dog...  I know lots of people are doing the 'tiny house'/van life kind of thing, but that doesn't work for most people.  You'll want a real bed that doesn't take up living space:  if the couch is the bed, and one of you wants to go to sleep and the other wants to stay up, you've got an issue.  You also want a dry bath, with some reasonable room.  It gets old banging your elbows on the walls when taking a shower or using the toilet.

+1 on the propane fridge.  They're pretty efficient, way better than 12V for boondocking.  Make sure the fridge is large enough to hold a reasonable amount of whatever you normally live with in the fridge.  Speaking of boondocking, factor in the cost of a solar system.  It will make life a lot easier.  I didn't look at all the specs, but if you have an a/c, you need a generator or it's useless when you're not plugged in.  Again, a genset that runs on propane will be reasonably efficient.

IMHO, wheelbase is one of the most important things when towing a trailer.  Travel trailers are not like an open car trailer... lots more drag, and they're affected a lot more by wind.  Your truck needs to have wheelbase and mass to keep things from becoming unpleasant.  A larger truck will give you more storage as well, and storage is at a premium with RVs.  And any additional power will be welcome if you come west.  Also, you definitely want a tandem axle trailer for any trailer that is big enough to realistically live in.

 

wae
wae PowerDork
7/3/23 8:30 a.m.

I know it's on the bigger side, but you might consider one of the floorplans that has a rear bunkhouse with a real door on it for your purposes.  Not that you'd want it for sleeping, but if there are two of you living there and one or both of you will be doing remote work, being able to have a separate office to which you can close the door will probably enhance your domestic tranquility quite a bit.  There is absolutely no escape in an RV/travel trailer and you're never far enough away to not be impacting everyone else in there.  Anything you can do to put some physical separation in place will pay dividends.  Even if it's just a way to be able to walk away from work or hobby and be able to sit down at the table and eat without having to completely clean everything up to switch from "work mode" to "eating mode" and then back again.

alfadriver
alfadriver MegaDork
7/3/23 9:08 a.m.

So my one real recommendation- rent before you buy. Between outdoorsy and rvshare there are plenty examples and sizes out there where you can really see and understand what people are saying about the trailer. 
 

As for vehicle, unless you will end up with something in the sub 3000lb range, I would lean toward 5000 and up rating. While you can pull a 3200lb trailer with an Escape sized vehicle (we did it) it's not exactly comfortable. Our current 2500lb vintage trailer is easy to pull, but much bigger and I would jump to a Ranger. 
 

One note about the fridge- we have a 12v compressor fridge, and it's bigger than the absorption fridge that fits in the same spot. And it easily runs for a few days w/o charge of the 100ahr battery. Which is also to say a small solar panel will keep it going easily.  (Fwiw, we took out all propane during the rebuild, so that comes with some bias). 

Curtis73 (Forum Supporter)
Curtis73 (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
7/3/23 10:29 a.m.

So, I'm going to be super annoying.  Everyone hates my opinion on this, but as a lifetime RVer and having spent almost 1/4 of my life in an RV including 6 years full-time, I have opinions.

1) when shopping for an RV, never get anything that says Lite, feather, light, or any version of something that implies it was engineered to weigh less.  There are two reasons for this recommendation:  first, their interiors are cardboard and they're awful.  Second, TTs should never be chosen by weight, they should be chosen by length.  More on that later.

2) Around 2000-2002, the RV manufacturing world was like sorting a purse.  They all got dumped out on the table, some were discarded like the gum wrapper, some got picked up by another company, and others were liquidated, sold, or absorbed by other companies.  It was (and still is) terrible.  Manufacturers can't get labor, and when they do, the turnover is measured in days.  The companies who bought the RV brand name weren't necessarily RV manufacturers, and they are like monkeys berkeleying a football.  The last three RVs I bought were intentionally sourced from the 90s.  I had an 89 Fleetwood Wilderness, a 92 Holiday Rambler, and my current one is a 93 Keystone 5er.  They are built VERY well.  For a while I had a 2000 Wilderness that was the beginning of the end.  Walls buckled, the carpet looked awful after a couple months, there were plumbing leaks, and it was a nightmare.  Mom and Dad currently have a 2018 Keystone Lite that is comically terrible.  The pocket door for the bathroom fell off, the cabinet doors are particle board with a woodgrain sticker (not veneer... an actual vinyl sticker), and when one of the tires blew, we learned that the sofa above it was only separated from the wheel well with a sheet of luan.  The couch looked like it was hit with a shotgun, and it took three months of a complete teardown and slide removal for insurance to fix it... just because a tire blew.  When you buy an RV, you're buying the box.  If you have a quality box, the rest is just a bunch of universal appliances that are made by one of two companies.  My current 93 Keystone I got for $3500 with a non-op fridge.  $86 for a new circuit board and I have a bulletproof RV.  It lives outside, uncovered 24/7/365 in Canadian winters.  Do yourself a favor.  Visit an RV show on the last day.  After three days of people walking through campers and checking the cabinets, you'll find broken/sagging hinges, wear on walls where people touched them, and carpet that looks matted even though they likely have plastic sheets laid down.

3) In the sizes you're viewing, don't worry about weight.  Your 97 K1500 is more than enough truck for any 20' TT.  Even if it has the V6.  Worry about length.  You're towing a billboard.  Despite my urging, my friends bought the biggest TT they could that fit the tow rating of the LR Disco they had.  It was 26 feet of wind sail.  They bought all kinds of sway controls, helper springs, better shocks, the works, and it never solved anything.

I'm dead serious when I say - find the nicest, cleanest TT you can from the 90s.  Make sure everything works.  Even if every appliance fails, they are easy to replace.  I highly recommend older Holiday Ramblers.  They are made with aluminum studs and wall panels that are bonded, structural foam.  It's a layer of aluminum on the outside bonded to foam with luan bonded to the inside, all around aluminum studs.  Even if you do develop a leak, nothing about the structure can rot.  Appliances of the time were pretty bulletproof with the exception of one Dometic fridge model.  The only downside to owning an RV from that era is that you either have to put up with floral print upholstery that is either Mauve or Wintergreen.

alfadriver
alfadriver MegaDork
7/3/23 11:11 a.m.

WRT interior design....  that can all be recovered.  

APEowner
APEowner GRM+ Memberand UltraDork
7/3/23 11:14 a.m.

My wife and I have been kicking around the idea of RVing fulltime or significantly part time when we retire and we've been renting travel trailers through RVshare.com to get a feel for what that experience might be like and what we would want in a trailer. In no particular order here are some of our thoughts and experiences.

  • Our experience with RVshare has been excellent
  • The quality of the trailers we've rented has been horrible.  They've all been new or nearly new and lovingly cared for but it's obvious that they've been designed and built to minimize cost and weight and won't last for the long haul
  • Some trailers are designed with little or no thought as to how they are to tow.  I've towed over 100k miles with open and enclosed car haulers, both tag and gooseneck, with weights as high as 15k lbs and most of the travel trailers move around more than a car trailer of comparable or heavier weight.
  • If you're dry camping you're going to need to either change your water usage habits or have pretty large tanks
  • We don't think we're ready to live in such a small space full time yet and we may never be so we're just going to keep renting for the time being
  • If we do decide we want our own trailer I'm going to build something in an enclosed gooseneck so I can haul the race car as well
bearmtnmartin (Forum Supporter)
bearmtnmartin (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UltraDork
7/3/23 12:12 p.m.

An RV rather than a pickup and travel trailer is actually shorter and may a less stressful driving experience. But as Curtis said the build quality is horrifying regardless of what you buy. I have a friend who towed a new TT to Alaska and the undersized axle bent so badly on the way it had to be replaced mid trip. Older may be better, and certainly less expensive, but look hard for rot because I guess 8 out of 10 used RV's leak and the wood/pressboard/laminated cardboard is compromised. Also, my criteria is a queen bed that you can walk around, and leave set up or you are playing house twice a day, every day. It gets old fast.  

NY Nick
NY Nick GRM+ Memberand Dork
7/3/23 1:33 p.m.

Another vote for rent / borrow some campers. I have been camping for a few years and what I thought it was going to be versus what it is aren't perfectly aligned. I have had a good experience with my 2016 Keystone Bullet. I have read the horror stories, I have read the Curtis inputs too. He isn't wrong but for me and the use mine gets the build quality has been ok. I have had to fix a handful of things that if you weren't handy or observant would either cost a fortune or could have made a huge problem. (inop hot water heater from mud bees, broken panel on back of dinette (by us by putting too much laundry under the bench), suddenly leaking water line at the water pump which I found less than 5 minutes after it started, rotted out propane tank mount, broken vent cover. None of them a big deal, all fixed quickly by me but could have turned bad or made you think the unit is a POS)

The real take home for me has been what you think is the right size may not be. It may be harder or easier to tow than you think. Campers of the same size and configuration can be different enough to matter. i.e.: My friend has a camper that is almost identical to mine layout wise. His tows, much easier than mine (I tried it on my truck). I looked at it closer and his sits ~6" lower to the ground. Because of that (I think this is why) it tows with less sway. It also has less storage and tight ground clearance on uneven areas. 

Some of this you figure out at the RV lot when you go from camper to camper, some of it you figure out on your 15th trip when you are like hmm, why is it so hard to get my Blackstone out...

Curtis73 (Forum Supporter)
Curtis73 (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
7/3/23 2:15 p.m.
bearmtnmartin (Forum Supporter) said:

An RV rather than a pickup and travel trailer is actually shorter and may a less stressful driving experience. But as Curtis said the build quality is horrifying regardless of what you buy. I have a friend who towed a new TT to Alaska and the undersized axle bent so badly on the way it had to be replaced mid trip. Older may be better, and certainly less expensive, but look hard for rot because I guess 8 out of 10 used RV's leak and the wood/pressboard/laminated cardboard is compromised. Also, my criteria is a queen bed that you can walk around, and leave set up or you are playing house twice a day, every day. It gets old fast.  

I totally agree with motorhomes being a bit easier to drive.  I chose TTs because then I have a vehicle at my destination once I unhitch.  If you do a motorhome, you either have to tow a car or break down camp every time you want/need to go somewhere.  When I full-timed with the ex, I had a TT and put my motorcycle in the bed of the truck so we each had separate transport wherever we decided to live.

Curtis73 (Forum Supporter)
Curtis73 (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
7/3/23 2:25 p.m.

RVs these days are designed for modern RVers - they buy a new cardboard camper, use it for two years on Memorial day, 4th of July, and Labor day weekends, then something breaks or the kids hate not having wifi and the CUV that mom and dad thought could tow it either blows a transmission or it's just a bear to keep it out of a ditch.  Back in the day, RVs were made for people who actually had time to go camping.  You'll find a lot of 90s RVs with solid oak cabinet doors hanging on plywood cabinets, nice thick upholstery, quality carpet, and brass plumbing fixtures.  Modern RVs are a shadow of their old counterparts.

The 1973 Road Cruiser Land Yacht (not kidding, that was it's name) 5th wheel that I grew up camping in is still on the road with a new owner.  He had to replace the water heater, but it all still works.  The 1968 Dreamer slide-in camper that we also used is still in use as well.

Antihero
Antihero GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
7/3/23 2:43 p.m.

Thank you all for the responses, it helps me greatly. Instead of responding to each post and adding a dozen messages I'll try to condense all into this post.

 

Double axle is a good idea, I hadn't really considered it. I'm not really totally set on any of the ones listed, it's more of an idea given so I can explain what we are looking for. The Coleman from what I've found is roughly 3500 lbs wet at it's maximum. It's stunningly cheap and I would very much like to get into one , and a used one to see how they hold up. The Maverick is kinda "mission creep" more than anything.

 

Basically I don't really have a use for a full sized truck if it's not used for work and I refuse to get a new truck to use in concrete work. The Maverick is enticing because it gets close to 30mpg and will fit our lives really well. Eventually it'll replace her Golf as it's getting long in the tooth. I was pretty set on the Chevy diesel full sized because of the the MPG, but literally......its usage would be more as a car/daily when it wasn't towing and it's kind of ridiculous. Plus a monthly payment is about half on a Maverick and that is very very appealing. I don't expect this to happen soon so waiting a year for a Maverick isn't terrible.

 

The Canyon getting less MPG than the full sized is definitely good data to have, thank you. The full size would probably be better all around but at least new it's a much bigger payment. The less the monthly payment, the less we both need to work basically, and at the heart of this idea is being able to take it easier.

 

Having the bedroom with a door isnt a huge concern but it is valid. My wife and I are used to a small space and 24/7 and haven't had much issue. The "work" to "eat" switch though is very valid and I hadn't really considered it.

 

Renting isn't a bad idea at all, I'd have to use the work truck so only half the equation is looked at but thats fine. Basically I need to figure out what trailer to get first before considering the thing towing it anyway.

 

I live off grid too so solar and propane apply us a comfortable every day thing for me.

 

I very much value your opinion Curtis, thank you for the long post. The size/length was chosen first without any thoughts on weight, the ability to tow it with the Maverick is mission creep basically.  The k1500 is a vortec 305 and apparently is rated at a whole 5k lbs of towing. Older better made trailers is very interesting, originally my plan was a cool old box that I made my own so that's an interesting idea too. I'll definitely look into the ones you mentioned too. 

 

Water tank size is a concern but I'm also fine with unhooking the truck and hauling in more water as needed and a transfer tank for waste. When my house was built I didn't have a well yet so I designed a system and just hauled water in for awhile, Im very used to conserving water and power too

 

I considered the RV solution but I'm not sure I like having to take my home in for a radiator/whatever issue, I'd rather have the living separate from the towing I think.

 

I think I got it all? If not there will be another post lol

dps214
dps214 SuperDork
7/3/23 4:09 p.m.

The Coleman is 3500 max because that's all the axle is rated for. And unless you can pack incredibly lightly you're going to be running at max capacity at all times which isn't good for tire/bearing/axle durability.

 

I'm going to disagree with driving rvs being better then towing rvs. Even the nicest sub-seven figure rvs are still just plywood and fiberglass boxes. The only thing worse than towing that box behind you is sitting inside it as it's going down the road. And it's harder to go old for quality because then you have to deal with outdated mechanicals and (even more) awful fuel economy. I'd say at best it's a "pick your poison" situation.

 

As far as age, I do think there's some justification to going newer, and some brands did manage to maintain decent build quality over the years. But by most accounts everyone's quality went down the drain post covid, so you want to be looking at 2019 models at absolute newest.

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