(This post is intended to be educational for those looking for any type of RV, so keep reading.)
To reference yesterday’s post, we are not only looking for a horse (truck) but also researching carts (RV). And as elusive as finding the right truck has been, it’s nowhere near as difficult as looking for or learning about fifth wheels.
We know what we like, but it seems to be anything but existent. We would consider a fifth wheel that is between 35 and 40 feet long, with a decent cargo carrying capacity, work space for Papa ‘Skiy, sleeping and playing space for the boys, and functionality with the slides in. There’s a bonus if we can find all of this with an additional half bath!
We’re not limiting our research to bunkhouse models. We’re also looking at loft models, den models, and toy haulers.
More than anything, we need strength. We’ve seen too many “perfect” floor plans and lengths, only to discover they only support between 1,200 and 2,500 pounds. Some have been even less, and fewer fall in the sweet spot of between 2,500 and 4,000 pounds.
What’s the big deal? A lot!
Cargo carrying capacity (also known as net carrying capacity, gross carrying capacity, carrying capacity, NCC, or CCC) is the maximum allowable weight that your rig can safely support. This number does not include water, and each gallon of water weighs approximately 8.3 pounds. The tank size of each rig varies greatly, anywhere between 50 and 120 pounds (some more, some less). Once you do the math, if you plan to carry water in your potable tank, that’s even less cargo that you are able to load.
If you are a family like us, with kids who have toys and books and are homeschooled, you need to consider weight for toys, books, school supplies, their wardrobe, and the possibility they will want to have rock or shell collections.
If you plan to work out of your rig, you need to think about computer equipment, monitors, books and paperwork, and customized working conditions, seeing how most family-friendly rigs do not already have private work space built-in.
If you plan to eat, then food, beverages, dishes, silverware, coffee pot, kettle, toaster, dish soap, and ice all take up extra weight.
Don’t forget Fido, Miss Kitty, or Tweety as well as their supplies, if you’re one of the many RVers with pets.
Miscellaneous items to think about are the adult wardrobe, all jackets, shoes, umbrellas, washing machine or dryer (if you have hookups and plan to have one or the other or both), more books, movies, small appliances, space heater, decorations, games, skates, scooters, bikes on the bumper, outdoor toys and balls, patio furniture, vacuum cleaner or broom, various cleaning supplies, blankets, towels, toiletries…
The list goes on and varies, but you get the idea. Every little thing adds weight, and when you’re living in a small space every ounce matters.
Fine. So just get a longer rig that can carry more weight. We have set a length limit for a very good reason.
We’re not fans of private campgrounds and places like KOA. We’ve stayed at them and they’re great, but when we camp we want woods and privacy and aren’t really looking for a clubhouse or schedule of events.
Our preferences are county, state, and national parks. They’re less expensive, the sites are larger and usually a lot more private, and Mother Nature is abundant.
However, for these places to maintain their natural beauty and to minimize damage, most have length restrictions.
We’ve been spoiled by our current rig. She’s only 30 feet long with no slides, so there’s never been a park that we wanted to say at but have been turned away from.
Some public parks and campgrounds allow only tents, do not have hookups (permit dry camping only), or restrict RVs to no longer than 26 feet, 28 feet, 30 feet, and so on. Most public parks and campgrounds have rig length restrictions of up to 40 feet. Even fewer have restrictions longer than 40 feet.
Case in point, we have close friends that have a 41-42 feet-long fifth wheel toy hauler. There are several public campgrounds they would love to get in to, but that extra 1-2 feet in length makes it so they can’t stay. And it’s a bummer.
We did a lot of research, paying close attention to parks we’ve already been to and love, to find out what the majority maximum length permitted happens to be. That magic number is 40 feet.
But there appear to be a lot of fifth wheels within the length limit with ample room. Be that as it may, most of these aren’t at all functional with the slides in.
And…? Well, there are a lot of negatives involved with a non-functional slides-in rig.
Again, we’ve been spoiled. Our current rig has no slides. What you see is what you get. Nothing expands or slides out. So whether it’s an emergency bathroom break alongside a road, a lunch break in a parking lot or rest stop, or boondocking overnight to catch some sleep before continuing the next day, you need to be able to access three important areas of your rig even if the slides are all in: a bathroom, the refrigerator, and sleeping quarters.
Let’s address them in the order listed.
Who hasn’t been traveling anyplace and suddenly the tea you’ve been drinking and the sandwich you ate a few hours ago give you the urge to go…NOW? We’ve all been there at one time or another. If you have a pull-behind rig (or even a driveable one) you want to be able to pull over and use the facilities, and you don’t always have a fast-food joint, gas station, or truck stop nearby.
But when you pull over and the slide is pushed up against the entrance of the hallway that leads to the bathroom or blocks the swinging door to relief, then you’ll find yourself ducking behind a tree or between bushes. In that case, have a roll of toilet paper and hand sanitizer handy in the cab of your truck.
Now you’re back on the road and you’ve been driving for a couple more hours, so you’re hungry. It’s more than an hour to the next exit that has anyplace with anything even remotely edible. But wait — you have a stocked kitchen rolling right along with you! You’ll just pull off and prepare a nice meal on the island in the kitchen.
Only you can’t get to the fridge or open the fridge or pantry door due to said island. Let’s hope you packed a handy cooler since you can’t use your fridge until you’ve reached your destination. Why did you want an island again? It takes up floor space and blocks access to the food and stove. Hmm… Maybe you should have opted for a rolling island.
After you’ve finally figured out what to eat, you continue driving but realize there’s absolutely no way you’ll get to the campground today. It’s approaching midnight and your eyelids are getting heavy. So you call the upcoming Walmart, confirm you’re permitted to boondock overnight, and pull into the lot.
You open the door of the rig, ready to drop into bed…but you can’t reach the bedroom! And because of that island in the kitchen, you also can’t open up the jackknife sofa or reach the dinette that converts into a bed.
No problem. Just open the slide a little so you can get into the bedroom.
Well, there is a problem with that.
There’s an unwritten list of rules (ethics, if you will) when you boondock in a parking lot, rest area, or truck stop. The first is to get permission. Always call ahead, regardless of what anything online says, what you’ve been told, or the fact you’ve boondocked there before.
Next, don’t make it look like you’re camping. No awnings, grills, chairs…or slides out. It’s not a campground, after all, and the store, restaurant, casino, church, or whatever does not have to allow you to stay overnight. You’re on their good side because you asked first, but putting out a slide or anything else may very well warrant a knock on the door from security or law enforcement. On top of that, you increase the chance of the place you stayed at overnight suddenly barring RVs from boondocking because one too many rigs made their parking lot look like a campground. It’s happened before and continues to.
Another reason to not let out your slides is truckers. You are permitted to stop overnight at the same locations truckers do, and many times you’ll find yourself parked right next to a big rig. If you put out a slide — even a little bit — chances are the trucker won’t see it open. He/she is watching side mirrors, your headlights, and the pavement lines to back or pull in to a spot; that rig will accidentally take out your slide. And it won’t be his/her fault.
Bottom line: If you’re not at a campground, leave your freaking slide in!
These are our reasons for why we’re so particular about any rig we research or intend to purchase. Although they won’t resonate with everyone, chances are this post made valid points and brought to light things you wouldn’t have considered otherwise because 95% of the rigs out there look strong enough (there’s a reason to always study that yellow or white placard in the door jamb and on the front driver’s-side corner of the rig) and have the slides all out for display at dealerships and shows.
Like us, think about how you plan to use your rig and under what circumstances you may camp. Do your homework and don’t count on the salesman to be open or honest with you. They’re there to make money, and they’ll all-too-happily take yours.
This will be your rolling home or home away from home. Be as particular and picky about it as you would any sticks-and-bricks home.
Salesman like nothing more than an uneducated consumer. Don’t be prey.