Weight…Before You Tow

http://banner

When towing a trailer, it’s important to have your trailer weight distributed correctly for optimum safety and handling. The truck or SUV must also be rated to pull that much weight.

Check the GVWR and Tow Capacity

You will need to know the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating), of the truck or SUV. This is the total weight of the vehicle when empty plus the weight of the cargo inside. Your user manual from the manufacturer can help you find this information. For example, if your vehicle weighs 6,300 pounds and it’s rated to carry 1300 pounds, the GVWR is 7600 pounds. Let’s look at that 1300 pounds that it’s rated for cargo. This is anything you put inside the truck, including the weight of the trailer tongue. If your trailer tongue is rated for a maximum of 400 pounds, then when you are towing, you shouldn’t have no more than 900 pounds of cargo (1300 – 400 = 900) . Don’t forget to include the weight of the driver and any passengers as part of that 900 pounds.

Now refer to your user manual for the vehicle again to look up the maximum tow capacity of your vehicle. This will tell you how much weight your vehicle is capable of towing. My truck is rated for towing up to 10,500 pounds. I have to consider the weight of my trailer when empty plus the weight of the cargo I put into it. The total cannot exceed 10,500 pounds. Additionally, if I have 500 pounds of cargo in my pick up bed, then that reduces how much I can tow to 10,000 pounds.

Tongue Weight

You will want to have the correct amount of weight on the tongue of the trailer. You will want to find out the total weight, or GTW (Gross Trailer Weight), of the trailer. This is the total weight of the trailer when empty plus the weight of the cargo inside. Your user manual from the manufacturer can help you find this information. For example, if your trailer weight is 6,000 pounds and it’s rated to carry 2500 pounds, the GTW is 8500 pounds. The rule of thumb is typically the tongue weight be 10% of the GTW, and using my example, your maximum tongue weight is 850 pounds. Again, always check with your user manual for these ratings. The other thing to keep in mind is anything you have loaded behind the rear axle of the tow vehicle contributes to the tongue weight.

One thing you can do is when you have it loaded, if it’s not too far, you can visit a weigh station and have the trailer weighed. This gives you an accurate weight of the trailer when fully loaded to know if you have too little or too much weight on the tongue. This will also ensure you have not over-loaded the trailer beyond it’s capacity. You don’t want to exceed the tongue weight rating of your trailer nor it’s load capacity.

You can purchase a tongue weight scale to help you find out how much weight you have on the tongue.

When loading the trailer, you want to put heavier items low and lighter items high, with heavier items distributed as evenly as possible. Think about which axle is carrying the most weight and put the lighter items there with the heavier items on the axle that has less weight. Doing this can control sway.

Getting Hitched

The hitch should also be rated for pulling the amount of weight you are towing. Having the correct hitch along with proper weight distribution will prevent sway and trailer bounce. When either of those things are not in control, it can cause you to have a horrendous accident that can not only total your vehicle or trailer, it could be fatal to you and your loved ones that are traveling with you.

You want to use a weight distribution hitch. Some people also call these equalizer hitches or anti-sway hitches. These hitches help ensure a smooth, level ride. They help to correct vehicle sag, improve steering and stopping and usually come with anti-sway bars to help control or correct trailer sway.

Purchase an equalizer hitch here:  Weight Distribution Hitch

You want to have a good set of safety chains that run from the trailer hitch to the receiver of the tow vehicle. You want these to be crisscrossed. In the event the trailer should come off the hitch these chains will save you and the trailer. Also attach the trailer brake cable to the receiver hitch of the tow vehicle.

Trailer Brake Controller

A trailer brake controller is mounted inside the tow vehicle and activates the trailer brakes when the tow vehicle brakes are applied. The braking power can be adjusted for the best suitability for the amount of weight you’re pulling.

Conclusion

To ensure safety and a pleasant experience when towing, take the time to know your vehicles GVWR, tow rating, the weight of your trailer both unloaded and loaded. Remember to load the trailer to distribute the weight properly as well as not having too much or too little on the tongue. This with the appropriate equipment like your weight distribution hitch and trailer brake controller will help with your performance. Below is a video that explains how weight effects towing.

how weight can effect towing

Is Full-Time RV Living More Eco-Friendly

I have to give my husband the credit for coming up with this topic. He posted some points on his Facebook page and I let him know that this is what I’m going to post to my blog next. Since RVers cannot take certain things for granted, especially those of us that boondock, it had him thinking if the lifestyle was more eco-friendly.

Water Usage

The average American household uses between 80 – 100 gallons of water per day. A lot of RVers are not staying at campgrounds with a city water hook-up. We choose to boon dock. Depending on the type and size of your RV, fresh water tanks range in size anywhere from 40 to a little over 100 gallons. Naturally, we cannot use up all our water in one day.

We’ll take fewer showers and when we do, it’s a navy shower. For those that don’t know what a navy shower is, you wet yourself down good from head to toe, shut off the water, lather up from head to toe, turn the water back on and rinse.

Dishes are done in a dishpan so the leftover dishwater can be used to flush the toilet. This saves on fresh water from the tank being used. Many do this when camping in remote areas and refilling the fresh water tank is not so handy.

When we boil the water in our kettle and don’t use all of it, we save it in a pitcher and reuse that left over boiled water for shaving or washing.

Our camper, for example, has an 80 gallon fresh water tank. We filled it on a Friday and since then we each took 1 shower along with the daily dish washing and cleaning up. On Wednesday, the gauge read that we were still 3/4 full.

Laundry is done weekly or bi-monthly, and many will wear all like colors to have fewer loads.

Saving at the Pump

With full-time RVing, you could be stationary for a couple of weeks to a few months or so at a time. With work-camping, our commutes are going to be nearby. A lot are camp hosting jobs where you are working at the campground you are staying at, therefore, there isn’t any daily drive to work. Any gas you’ll use is when you are running an errand or site seeing. Most of your gas mileage is when you are traveling to your new location.

We had filled our truck’s gas tank and it lasted a month before we had to refuel because we were in one place during that time. While a Class A diesel pusher may not have great gas mileage, many are towing a fuel economy vehicle that they will use when at their destination. This was less footprint than an airline uses flying to a resort.

For those that are not towing a car, they instead opt for bicycles, scooters, or dirt bikes to get around. Those with toy haulers may take the motorcycle or a UTV or ATV. There are some states that allow UTVs and ATVs to be registered for road use and are perfect for navigating through a town. They cannot be ridden on interstates or some highways as they are not safe beyond a certain speed.

Electricity

Since campers are a much smaller space than a house, we’ll require less lighting. I have a light on in the evening for about 2 hours before going to bed and about 1 hour in the morning. These are also energy efficient LED lights that the new models come with.

We are also not inclined to keep our appliances plugged in. Doing so does use up some power. Some will trip the breaker for certain things. Some campgrounds will charge you a monthly rate for electricity if you are staying long-term and shutting off electriccertain breakers can save on that final bill.

As far as heating and cooling goes, our smaller space means the air conditioner doesn’t have to work as hard. Campers tend to be where it’s warm year-round, so we are not using up propane and power to run the furnace for an entire season.

When boon docking, we are running off batteries and using solar. When we use our generators, it’s to run something for a short period.

Smaller space

With campers requiring less room to park, we take up less land mass than a house. When you have a smaller space, you’re less likely to spend money on non-essential things because you have no place to put them. In doing so, you are creating less waste. Our needs are simpler.

In Summary

Nothing can be wasted or taken for granted. Water and fuel are conserved and we are always aware of how much we use.

It would certainly appear that living full-time in an RV does leave less footprint.

 

Accessories for RV Boondocking – Need vs. Nice to Have

With so many products and gadgets available for RVs, it can become overwhelming to decide what accessories are really needed for the boondocking experience.  I’m going to list out some items that your should absolutely have handy versus what are nice to have and may not necessarily need it to enjoy boondocking.boondock

The Bare Necessities

  1. An Axe.  Not only for the obvious reason of collecting fire wood.   An axe can be handy if you run into an obstacle in the road.   I remember one day when my husband and I were in the Big Horn National Forest in Wyoming.  We drove into Park Reservoir and spent the day in that area.  When we were driving out on the same road we used to go in, we had to stop because during the course of the day, a tree had fallen across the road, blocking it off.  Having an axe will allow you to be prepared for this unexpected event.
  2. A good hand saw.  This is handy in conjuction with item number 1.
  3. A portable folding shovel.  You may use it mostly for cleaning out your fire pit or shoveling dirt into it to snuff out the fire.  Let’s say you parked somewhere for a week and the ground was fine when you got there, but then you get stuck on your way out.   One of these are useful to dig around the tires to get out.  Also if the weather turns and you find you need to divert water away from your RV, the shovel can be used for creating a trench.
  4. Solar panels.  Many newer RVs come with solar panels already installed on the roof or are solar ready.  If solar ready, then you can purchase portable solar panels to plug into the RV.  This will help you keep your house batteries charged.
  5. Invertor generator.  Note that you want an invertor generator as opposed to open frame generator.   The invertor generators run much quieter than the open frame.
  6. Fuel.  Bring along extra fuel for the generator.   gas can
  7. Have enough house batteries.  You want to have enough batteries to run your RV and that will maintain enough power.
  8. A grill.  You can be as inexpensive as buying a simple grate to cook over your campfire or purchase a grill.  There are many varieties of compact grills that don’t require propane has a heat source.  Some can operate with either wood or propane.  I prefer the grills that will use a multiple heat source because you can save on your propane.
  9. Portable propane heater.  If you need some heat, using this will keep your battery power from being used up to run the furnace.
  10. Wipes and dry shampoo.   You have to go easy on the water usage, but still have to be clean.  Having these items will allow you to freshen up without using water.
  11. Hand sanitizer.  Again, that whole saving water thing.
  12. A multi-tool and a good knife.  You never know when you’re going to need a quick pair of plyers or a knife.
  13. Rope.  You may need to hoist trash up the tree if you are in bear country.  If you find yourself needing to be pulled out, having some rope could help.

Of course, having full propane tanks and fresh water tank goes without saying.  Be mindful to conserve your water.

Some Luxuries

There are some things I’ll list here that some might deem necessary. However, if you’re off grid, you can survive without them.   It’s my opinion they are nice to have.  For some, I can understand the necessity if you require it to make your living.

  1. Cell phone signal booster.  This can ensure you either improve your signal or you simply get a signal.  Can be helpful should you have an emergency, which brings me to the next item.
  2. GPS SPOT personal tracker.  This uses a GPS and will enable emergency response teams to find you.  All you need to do is press the SOS button to summon help.  It also allow you to send messages to family and friends and they can track your whereabouts.  You can find more information on this at their website https://www.findmespot.com/en/
  3. Personal hotspot/mifi/mobile router.  Mobile routers tend to be more secure than tethering with your phone.
  4. Solar generator.  You can use these to run a small appliance or recharge your devices.  It can recharge using your solar panels or plug into a 12-volt outlet in your vehicle.
  5. Portable battery power pack.  If you don’t go with the solar generator, you can use one of these for your devices.

I hope you find these 2 lists helpful.   It really depends on what you plan to get out of your own boondocking experience.  Please feel free to share in the comments what you like have when boondocking.  Happy camping!

RV Beginner Tip: The Black and Gray Tanks

When I purchased my RV, I realized you cannot rely on the dealership to walk you through how to properly dump. It’s always a good idea to read your user manual if you are a first time RV owner. But the one thing I noticed that doesn’t get mentioned is what to avoid putting in these tanks. If you prevent certain things from being in your tank, then the things that are done to keep them fresh and in optimum working order will do their best. Most of this is common sense.

Into the Black…

The black tank should strictly be human bodily waste. The chemicals that are used for the tank are designed to produce enzymes that break down the waste for easy dumping. Putting anything else in the black tank will disrupt this and these enzymes cannot break it down which can lead to a clog. This means never flush food down the RV toilet. The food will not dissolve like the waste and you’ll have problems. Throw away food scraps or those leftovers that were in the fridge too long into the garbage.

Toilet paper should be an RV toilet paper, although there are a couple of national brands that do break down very well and will not be harmful to the tank. There are many reviews on the internet regarding best brands. Never flush tampons, sanitary napkins or diapers into the black tank. These items will not break apart and dissolve like toilet paper and will clog the system. Always throw those items in a garbage can.

The moist wipes that many campers and RVers like to have handy should never be flushed either. Although the packaging on them say they are flushable, they are not meant to be flushed into the black tank. These also need to be tossed into the wastebasket as they do not dissolve properly. Here is link for a video by The Fit RV where he conducted a test on this. You’ll see why flushing these into your tank is not a good idea.

Seeing to it that urine, feces and the proper toilet paper are the only contents in your black tank, along with the specific chemical treatment for it, will ensure that you shouldn’t have any problems. In short, if it’s not any of these things, don’t flush it.

Only clean the toilet with a designed for RV toilets. Many national brands of toilet bowl cleaners can be harmful to the seals on the RV toilet. If your toilet has a damaged seal, thcleanere smell from your black tank can come into the RV. You want to use a cleaner that is safe for the seals.

It’s a Gray Area…

The gray tank is all other drains in the RV except the toilet. Shower, bathroom and kitchen sinks are what goes into the gray tank. The shower and bathroom sinks aren’t going to be the focus here because it’s only soap and water that goes down these drains. The kitchen sink is another story and this will be the culprit that can make the gray tank stinky.

It’s a good practice to prevent as much food as possible from going down the RV drain. You can purchase pan scrapers to scrape out as much as you can into the trash can before washing the dish or pan. If there isn’t anything to scrape out, I like to take a paper towel and wipe it out before washing. I do the same with the cooking utensils.

Any grease goes into the trash. Never dump oil and grease down the drain. I wasn’t in practice when I had my home, so I won’t do this to my RV.

Before I was RVing, I liked to save the containers and lids for things like Cool Whip, sour cream and the like. I also would save an empty coffee can. Anything I didn’t want going down my drain, I would dump into the container, close the lid and put it in the trash. It’s a good practice to have for your RV.

Sometimes I don’t have a left over container handy and was forced to be creative. After cooking chicken for a casserole, I had the juice from the pan and I had to drain a can of peas. Luckily, I had used up my shredded cheese in the casserole. I had drained the peas into the pan that had the juice left from the chicken. Then I poured it into the empty can from the peas. I wiped out my pans with a paper towels and put the used paper towel in the can. I placed the can into the empty cheese bag that had a zip lock closure. I shut the bag and placed it in the trash.

Taking these extra measures help in keeping the gray tank from getting too smelly due to food particles decomposing. There are also products out there to treat the gray tank as well to help keep it fresh.

Following these tips, doing your research and talking to other RVers will help you to keep the tanks functioning the way they should.

Why I Chose to Full-Time RV Before Retirement Age

My husband and I had talked about trying the full-time RV lifestyle intermittently through the years. Then job burnout made me call the bluff. Job burnout has a way of making you weigh other options and to reconnect with your dreams. But we found other very good reasons for choosing the RV life.

Naturally Nomadic

Change can be a wonderful tool. Rather than recharge the battery, I like to think of it as putting in a new set of batteries. Some of us can only stay put for so long and then we become restless. I believe I am one of those people. I grew up in Massachusetts and since high school wanted to get out west. I love the mountains and the other landscape features of the west with its canyons, buttes and desert. It was in 1999 that my husband I made the move to Wyoming and we lived there for 20 years. I recall when we drove out to Wyoming I found I enjoyed going from one place to the next and not really knowing what to expect. There’s something exhilarating in that. I could have stayed on the road. There are so many sites to see and things to experience and I wanted to cram as much of it into my life as I could.

Cost of Living

While your quality of life increases, the cost of living can decrease. currency

It all depends on you and the choices you make. You don’t have to stay at campgrounds all the time. You won’t have a mortgage. While some will be making payments on their RV, it’s still less than apartment rent or a mortgage payment. Also, monthly fees at a campground are less than rent or mortgage. If you are choosing to always be at a campground with full hook-ups, and you’re making payments on the RV, you could easily be paying the same per month as rent or mortgage.

To off set the campground fees, you can boon dock. The western states have a ton of options for this in the National Forests, BLM (Bureau of Land Management) or lands belonging to Bureau of Reclamation. You can camp for free at these places. Normally the rule of thumb is for 14 days and if you choose to stay in the area all you need to do is move a minimum of 5 miles from where you were. BLM also has some of their own campgrounds and their fees are pretty inexpensive. It’s always a good idea to check with these local offices or their websites to get their specific rules for where you would like to camp.

No utility bills. Some campgrounds do charge you for the electricity, however, it still ends up being less than your conventional electric bill. Also, the cost to refill your propane tanks is far less than heating costs.

The RV life can be as expensive or inexpensive as you make it.

Life Has No Guarantees

We could have waiting until retirement age, but would we still be healthy enough? Life is a crap shoot and it’s easy to over-think what paths to take. My husband and I have seen people retire and within the first year of their retirement, they end up with health issues, or worse, they pass away. Some have that happen before they reach the retirement age.

Why wait?

Letting Go

This is the hardest part when embarking on this lifestyle. Selling your stuff and down-sizing to accommodate living in the RV. It’s stressful and very hard if you are sentimental. You won’t have the space for those dishes that belonged to great-grandma or other mementos. Find a relative that will truly appreciate those items and will give them a good home. Some people opt to put things in storage.

In the end, it becomes very liberating as you learn what you can live without. You realize your basic needs and come to terms that it’s all stuff. So. Much. Stuff. We allow ourselves to be swallowed up in consumerism. Whoever has the most toys wins. Why do we allow our worth to be measured this way?

Conclusion  camper

There is much more to gain than to lose with the RV life. It can open the doors to new sites to, sounds, food, history and culture. It can serve to improve your health physically, mentally and spiritually. Experiences that didn’t seem possible can now be within reach. I’d rather take the chances with these things than wish later on that I had. There isn’t a right way or wrong way. Just your way and what you want to get out of it.