As our 2-year nomadversary approaches, we have been thinking about all of the lessons we have learned during our time full-time RV living; and boy have we learned some lessons!!! If you have also transitioned from a sticks and bricks home to living in an RV full-time, I am sure you will relate…
We have been very vulnerable in sharing our lives with our tiny humans in a tiny space in hopes of inspiring you to collect more experiences during your time here on Earth, so here we are again being a total open book with our top lessons learned from full-time RV living!
Lesson # 1: It’s Still Life
Just like living in a brick and sticks home, things will happen. We have learned how to just smile and laugh when unexpected things occur. When we took our RV out for a test run a few weeks before hitting the road full-time, our neighbor (who was also full-timing) told us, “Things will happen, learn how to just go with it!” This was his biggest tip to us. I swear the universe wanted to prep us early because that weekend before going back to our sticks and bricks, one of our landing legs did not want to go up!
We have learned that kids leave faucets running, rainstorms cause chaos, and sometimes things just stop working, After every “terrible” unannounced situation life has thrown at us, we have been able to laugh about it and learn a lesson from it as well.
Lesson # 2: Slow Down
We learned this very quickly after crossing the country from Florida to California in less than a week (just writing that makes me exhausted) after only being on the road for 2 months!
After talking to many RVers, they have also learned this lesson the hard way because they have experienced getting burned out. I understand that it is so exciting at first that it’s easy to try to do it all, but trust us, (we learned the hard way) not only is it exhausting, but you do not get to enjoy yourself as much.
When we learned the art of slowing down, we began to remember our experiences more clearly vs feeling like we had run a marathon and every memory was starting to mesh together. It also allowed us to really explore the area we were visiting including the non-tourist attractions.
We also learned the art of not driving 10+ hours in a day, the maximum we ever do now is 4 hours and the least we have done has been 25 minutes. Growing up in NYC, I didn’t realize how much I had been programmed to live my life in a hurry for absolutely no reason and I almost feel guilty that I had kind of rubbed off on my better half without either of us realizing it. So, I am very grateful for learning this lesson thanks to this lifestyle because our kids are learning the art of slowing down as well (#priceless).
Lesson #3: Collect Experiences
Coming from an 1,800+ sq. ft sticks and bricks home where I had been conditioned to fill every nook and cranny just because I had the room I quickly realized this was not possible in our lovely house on wheels. Not only is there not a ton of space, but there are also weight limits in the RV I had to keep in mind.
We have been determined to make every day memorable vs filling ourselves up with junk we truly don’t need. Our slogan “Collect Experiences, Not Junk” came to me on a random night as I looked through our recent adventures at the time and realized how joyous my heart was just from thinking back on all of these experiences.
If it had not been for this lifestyle, I am not sure we would have seen and done as much as we have. It is one thing seeing videos and reading about it and it’s a whole other story living the experience yourself. We have definitely collected more experiences in the last 23 months than most people do in 10 years thanks to RVing.
You can imagine what it’s like to go kayaking in uncharted waters, fish across the country, climb up a 1,300 foot mountain in the rugged Upper Peninsula of Michigan, sit in an actual NASA room, walk through a cave that used to be a copper mine, hike through the Poconos to find a huge hidden waterfall that can only be seen by climbing up the mountain, go swimming in a spring fed pool in the middle of the Rocky Mountains…. but your imagination is nothing like collecting that experience. Doing this with our children beside us has been life changing because we know in our hearts we are helping them realize the power of collecting experiences simply through living.
Lesson # 4: Research RVs
This lesson right here could have saved us a bit of a headache in the beginning. We were one of those couples that dove in head first with zero knowledge about RVs! We ended up picking a fifth wheel (we didn’t even know what that meant) and learned very quickly that the weight was a little too much for our truck at the time. We had already made the purchase, so we ended up having to purchase a truck that handled the weight and that also fit all of us because our truck at the time was only a 3-seater.
I even recommend renting the type of RV you are looking for on a site like Outdoorsy because then you can really get a feel for the type of layout and you will meet the owners of the RV and get to ask them questions too! Quite frankly, if someone had told me this when we first looked at RVs, I would have totally done it! Learn from us: do more research on type, length weight, diesel or gas, etc.
Lesson # 5: Meet Others on the Same Path
In the beginning, it was a pretty lonely journey. Our friends and family did not really get our lifestyle and they did not understand the landing legs, sewer fun times and all the “funny” lessons we were learning. We began to connect with more fellow RVers online (thank you Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter) and we quickly found so many “crazy” folks like us!
We have slowly began meeting each other in real life and collecting experiences with these folks too! It has made the journey that much more memorable to know that there are folks just like us out there escaping the chains of what we were told our entire lives was “normal.” We love our friends and family, and of course, keep them up to date, but until you live in an RV full-time, you won’t truly understand all the lessons this lifestyle throws at you.
Thank you so much for reading about our lessons learned! We are on a mission to inspire you through our actions to collect experiences of your own instead of junk while living a more intentional life. We would love to hear your thoughts below and any lessons you have learned from living in an RV full-time.
Narrowing Down Your RV Type: 5 Questions That Will Help You Find the Perfect RV
If you are in the market for a new RV, we’ve got some pretty great news for you: there are more options out there than ever before. From lightweight travel trailers to motorized RVs with powerful diesel engines, there is something for every shopping budget.
There’s also something for every camping style. If you want to hold on to the rugged outdoors experience, there are RVs specifically designed for off grid adventures. More interested in feeling like your RV is a luxury vacation home? No problem! Plenty of new RVs come with stainless steel appliances, reclining living room furnishings and residential design features.
But here’s the bad news: you probably have to pick just one RV to buy, and that can be pretty overwhelming.
We are here to help you through the process. Over the course of years of podcasting, blogging, and presenting at RV events, we have talked with thousands of RV shoppers. We’ve listened to the lessons that they have learned, and learned a few of our own along the way as well.
Want to find that perfect RV? Well, the first thing you have to do is narrow down the RV type (or class) that will work best for your needs. Here are five questions you should ask that will help you decide which RV type should be on your short list.
Note: If you’re still trying to learn what all the different RV types are, check out Go RVing Compare RVs tab. You can also check out our post, Which RV is Right For Me?
What’s your price range?
Okay, in a perfect world there would be no budgets, right? Unfortunately, money matters and we all have a general idea of how much we can afford to spend on an RV purchase.
There is something out there at every single price point, from $7,000 folding camping trailers to $30,000 travel trailers to $200,000 motorhomes. Once you have settled on a comfortable shopping budget, it will be much easier to narrow down your options and focus on the rigs that are in the running for your first purchase.
What is your current tow vehicle situation?
Now, this is important! If you currently have a truck or SUV that can tow an RV, you are in good shape to buy a folding camping trailer, travel trailer, or fifth wheel. Make sure you check what your vehicle can tow before buying the RV though. Don’t take someone’s word for it—use the VIN number to get an accurate number. There can be a wide variety of towing capacities for the same automobile model because of optional packages.
However, if you don’t already have a tow vehicle, carefully consider a motorized RV purchase. The price of a tow vehicle plus towable RV can easily be equal to a Class C price. There’s no reason to give up that great commuter car if you don’t really want to!
Who will be traveling in the RV?
We’ve seen something common at dealerships and RV shows. Some folks shop thinking about anyone and everyone who may at some point join them on their travels. It’s a good idea to focus on shopping for the people (and pets) that will be in the RV mostof the time. If you’re thinking about towable RVs, would everyone in the family have a comfortable seat in the tow vehicle? If looking at motorized RVs, make sure there are seatbelts for all travelers and think about where you would place necessary car seats.
Are you a road tripper, destination traveler, or seasonal camper?
We tend to be road trippers, heading out for weeks at a time and visiting lots of different locations. This means we like an RV that is pretty easy to hitch and unhitch. We also don’t want to worry too much about height restrictions when traveling around our native northeast region.
Some folks, however, love to take their RVs to just one amazing spot and set up camp for a week long vacation. For them, a spacious fifth wheel might fit the bill. Traveling in more urban places? Check out Class Bs. Want to cover a lot of distance in comfort and style? Class Cs or As are often perfect cross country options.
Do you prefer private or public campgrounds?
If you are new to RVing, this may be a tricky question to answer, but here is a quick tutorial. In general, public campgrounds tend to be more rustic and natural. But they also tend to be older and less modernized. So if you know you want to stay in state and national parks, make sure you don’t purchase an RV that is too big for the majority of the campsites. The rule of thumb is to stay under 30 feet if you want to camp mostly in public campgrounds.
On the other hand, private campgrounds often offer pull thru campsites that can accommodate rigs up to 40 feet long. So if you know you prefer modern amenities and full hook ups, go ahead and get that larger fifth wheel or Class A.
When you imagine that RV dream, what does it look like? Are you escaping from the city and heading for off the grid adventures? Maybe you’re driving all over this beautiful country, exploring urban destinations and national parks. No matter what your RV dream is, there’s a rig that will be perfect for it.
So go start shopping, and then we’ll see you at the campground!
The thought of attending an RV rally is something that just doesn’t excite our family. We have attended a few NAARVA rallies, and even an FMCA rally two years ago. Check out the links to those blogs here. Neither of those rallies were particularly family-friendly. Honestly, we just didn’t see the value in attending these types of rallies in the future, but when the invite to the 97th FMCA’s International Convention and RV Expo arrived in my email box, I must admit I was interested. Over the past few years, there has been so much buzz in the RV industry, and unless you were hiding in a cave, it would be impossible to have not heard about the recent explosion of sales and interest in RVing. With the average age of RV ownership dropping into the mid-forties and nearly a million RVs being sold in the past 24 months, we were very eager to experience these changes firsthand.
Not to mention that FMCA themselves had recently undergone a massive change. FMCA, after a membership-wide vote, would now be allowingtowable RV owners to join. For the first time, towable owners can actually join and be full-time members enjoying all the great benefits that the FMCA offers.
Heading to Perry, GA….
As life happens, there was a family conflict and we had a choice to make, either I attend the rally alone or we don’t go at all. I was too curious not to attend and knowing that a friend of mine was coming down in his rig from D.C., I figured I would have some company. I set out with our dog, Ebony, for the drive down to Perry, Georgia. I have to admit I was nervous heading south, and it wasn’t because I was driving by myself.
I was nervous because for the first time in my five years of RVing, I would be boondocking for multiple days. I know many of you are probably laughing at that statement. What do you mean by boondocking for an extended period for the first time? Yes, 99.9% of our RVing in our first five years has been at campgrounds. Yes, we have had, enjoyed, and been spoiled by full hook-ups.
Hopefully, boondocking would be just one of the many new experiences I would enjoy at this rally. If you haven’t been to the Georgia state fairgrounds, it’s a massive place and perfect for a rally of this size. I read some preshow posts that reported over 2,000 rigs would be camping at the show.
As I arrived, I was greeted and escorted by golf cart to my camping area.
I was assigned Lot I 42ndStreet. I was impressed already by the street names and signs at an RV rally. After setting up quickly, I assessed the area around me. There were plenty of open spaces for the dog to walk and plenty of rigs were around me. I chose to camp out in the 24-hour generator access, as my knowledge of boondocking was limited.
There’s an App of That Too…
After I settled in, it was time to explore the campground. After texting my friend and learning he was still a few hours away, I grabbed Ebony and we walked around.
Not far from where we set-up, we came across a group of NAARVA members, called the Fun Seekers. I could tell from their set-up they were veterans of rallies like this. I then proceeded to the main area and checked in, got the rally schedule, and picked up a map of the campground. I also found out that FMCA was using a cellular app for the first time. I downloaded the app to see if it would be effective or just a dud.
I will admit I was very surprised how useful the app was during my stay. This was another big step forward for FMCA.
Meeting Some of Those Mysterious Millennials…
Off in the near distance, I noticed a Type B parked by itself and wondered why they were there by themselves. I made a mental note to see if I could meander over and do some investigation. My chance came the next evening while walking Ebony. I noticed there were two dogs outside the Type B, and of course, Ebony was attracted to the idea of going to meet some new dogs so I allowed her to lead me close to the rig. One thing I have learned from my years of RVing is RVers typically are very friendly people. As we got closer, the dogs started barking, and so did Ebony. To my surprise, two young ladies popped out from the rear of the RV to say hello. I don’t know why I was surprised, but I have to admit I was. Maybe it was the stereotype of two women camping all by themselves.
However surprised I was, we struck up an incredibly fun conversation. The Livingston sisters happened to be first time attendees at the FMCA rally. They came there to learn about the RV they have owned for a few years. They had a full-schedule of seminars they planned on attending. We visited for over an hour. It was fun to learn about their experiences traveling in a Type B. Two women and two big dogs; they are braver than I am.
We exchanged information to keep in touch. I hope to see them again on the road soon.
Vendors, seminars and so much more….
One of the best things about attending a large FMCA convention is there is always plenty to see, do, and have done (to your rig).
I was having my tow bar serviced. During the service, they noticed a major safety problem. They were kind enough to send me into the vendor hall where I was able to purchase a new tow bar (at a show discount). They even sent a tech right out to my rig to install it that afternoon!
There was a list of over 100 different seminars to attend. Topics ranged from full-timing, RV maintenance and RV solar systems (which I attended) just to name a few.
The vendor hall was filled with hundreds of vendors selling all the items you knew and did not know you needed to enhance your RV experience. Of course, I walked away with a few new items that I absolutely needed to make our RVing easier. I dare you to try not to buy something…
There was also a good-sized RV vendor section featuring hundreds of the newest RVs if you wanted to upgrade your current rig. There were some big-time dealerships like NIRVC and Camping World. I spent a lot of time checking out the RV my wife has been trying to convince we need in our lives. She fell in love with it at the Florida RV Super Show this year and it would be the second RV for our family.
The Hymer Active 2.0 loft addition just might be the perfect 2ndRV for our family. Now, if only I could just pick those winning lottery numbers, I can place the order.
As Ebony and I drove away from the Georgia fairgrounds, one thing struck me clearly, the needle has definitely moved over the past two years. Seeing towable RVs camped side-by-side with the motorhomes was refreshing.
While the bulk of the attendees I interacted with were of the retired age, I did notice a significant increase in both minorities and younger RVers. What was my biggest takeaway you ask? Make a FMCA convention a meetup with friends. You can couple new learning in seminars with getting work/upgrades on your RV, all while hanging out and having fun with friends. The experience is furthered when you are surrounded by thousands of other people who love RVing.
I will definitely be attending another large FMCA convention. Next time, I will make sure to invite plenty of friends to camp with us!
One of the greatest experiences you can have in your RV is boondocking. Boondocking, dispersed camping, wild camping, off the grid or dry camping are all terms to describe camping in your RV without hooking up to any utilities or connections. Boondocking is a form of camping by which you carry all your own water, capturing your own wastewater and generating your own power. Often times dry camping can be free on public lands (where permitted) or could be on state park campgrounds where you can access for a small fee. As amazing as dispersed camping could be, the challenge of cooking creative, healthy, delicious meals is one of the hardest aspects of “off the grid” life; and for us to keep things allergy free adds an extra level of challenges.
Almost everything we create when boondocking is geared towards minimizing water usage, cleanup, and cooking time. Some essential items to make cooking easier and faster are having a large supply of paper plates, zip top bags, a supply of plastic silverware, propane grill, pressure cooker if you have a generator or even an older one that doesn’t need power, and some well thought out pre-planning.
Smart planning for an overnight (or two) boondocking trip is not only necessary but quite simple. The night before we know we will be unplugged, we do as much prepping as we can. For example, our one pot Chicken Fajita Pasta dish requires sliced veggies, chicken and pasta. One day before, we prep all the sliced items and put them into Zip top bags with seasoning. We slice the peppers/ onions and put them in a bag with half of the seasoning, then dice the tomatoes and place in another bag, followed by cubed raw chicken in yet another bag with the other half of seasoning. Then on a cooking day, we use the propane oven to assemble and cook in one pot. This could also be a pressure cooker recipe running off a generator for a half hour or an old school pressure cooker not requiring power.
For our Chipotle Butternut Squash and Ground Beef recipe, we peel and cube the squash and place into a zip top storage bag for later use. From there the recipe is all ready for quick and easy assembly in one pot over propane or pressure cooker running off a generator.
An easy breakfast boondocking solution for us, (obviously excluding our youngest because she is allergic to eggs) is to hard boil some eggs ahead of time. We hard boil a half dozen or so, peel them and place them in a zip top bag for a quick grab and eat breakfast paired with some muffins that we make ahead of time. Some other easy morning solutions we typically bring with us are pre-made pancakes which we heat up in the microwave (off the generator), and the old standby is cereal in a bowl (paper) with some dairy-free soy milk. (Note: a lot of the soy, almond, and hemp milks come in an unrefrigerated box carton which is great for storage and travel, although we prefer to have it cold when we eat it.)
Lunch seems the easiest to make and bring with us because it usually revolves around things we can eat with our hands. (Less utensils!) Of course, making sandwiches is SUPER easy and an obvious first choice. We don’t eat a ton of wheat as a family so we often only have one sandwich day during the week. A couple of the healthiest options we enjoy while “unplugged” are our Cilantro Chicken Avocado Dip and Our Famous Hummus Party. (Just a fun name to make hummus seem more exciting lol). We do have a hummus recipe we can share with you if you reach out to us at Our1Chance.com, but honestly it is so much easier to buy premade and is normally dairy free.
The homemade bread on this sandwich is free of wheat.
For our Cilantro Chicken Avocado Dip, we precook the chicken on the grill before boondocking and refrigerate until we need it.
On meal day, we chop up the cilantro, squeeze the lime and avocado and make it from scratch. The dippers could be corn chips, potato chips, celery or carrot sticks, pepper strips etc.
11 tips for a Well-Equipped RV Kitchen (plus one bonus tip you don’t want to miss)
A magnetic wall board is beyond handy to store spices, hang utensils and anything else within easy reach. Pour your favorite everyday oils, vinegars, etc. into small glass bottles to keep on the counter for easy access (a wooden storage box will keep them in place while towing — a little strip of non-slip liner under the box is necessary). These items can be found at your local home goods store.
2. Never fear broken drinkware again with gorgeous stainless steel drinkware. Mason jars as drinkware are also very sturdy and can multitask as storage containers for leftovers in the fridge.
3. You can bring ceramic plates, bowls, etc. – just be sure to protect them by cutting out circles from sheets of felt and nesting in between.
4. A variety of containers in drawers and cabinets help keep smaller items at bay. I use containers from my home that have mysteriously lost their lids – instead of tossing I recycle them in the trailer kitchen for just this purpose.
5. Collapsible anything – like this salad strainer that takes up minimal space. It is also multipurpose which is perfect for the RVing lifestyle (drain pasta, wash berries, use the bowl to serve pasta, etc.)
6. Sharp knives are essential but you don’t want them rattling around in the drawer while under tow, keep them (and your fingers) safe by placing in a wooden knife block and storing in a drawer, lying flat.
7. For deep cabinets, a set of pull out drawers and stick up lights add to the functionality (see before and after photo above).
8. I like to keep tomatoes, avocados, onions, lemons out on my counter. I think they look beautiful along with being essential ingredients. Keep yours stored on a two-tier server.
9. A high-power blender is the best kitchen accessory for the RV. You can make soups, smoothies, and sauces in a pinch with super easy cleanup.
10. Folding shelves placed in cabinets make a great place to store kitchen towels while providing for additional storage underneath. A bamboo dish drainer that sits atop the sink is indispensable in creating more counter space while allowing dishes used in between washings to dry.
11. The one very real struggle I had with my RV kitchen was the dishwashing situation. I tried everything from collapsible dish drainers to countertop drying. This for me, has worked the best and I hope it may help you too if you’ve struggled like I have.
Bonus tip: Mastering the Art of RV Dishwashing
One of our favorite things about RVing has to be the time spent unplugged with our kids. Our daily life consists of being highly connected online, so when we have the opportunity to bring simplicity back into our fast-paced lifestyle, we jump all over it.
We have compiled a short list of some of the most recent tech-free activities we have done with our girls. If any of these stand out to you as an option for your family, perfect; if you have any other great projects to add, let us know in the comments!
1) The Pet Rock 2.0
While at a new campground in Arizona, the girls collected a bucket full of rocks they wanted to “sell” to neighboring campers. We quickly put the brakes on their entrepreneurial idea because it didn’t seem to have a great moral agenda. Instead, we suggested turning their favorite rocks into modern versions of pet rocks (circa Gary Dahl 1975). Armed with a few colors of paint I purchased at the local hardware store we set out to make some pets.
For brushes, the girls gathered pencil-sized sticks from around the campground. With knives, we whittled the ends to a modest point and made our own quills. Each rock had its own personality and the girls did an incredible job working on the faces to match. When all was said and done they painted about 25-30 hilarious rocks.
(Funny side note: They set up a roadside stand next to our camper for an hour and sold no rocks. We headed out for a hike and came back to find a used Styrofoam cup placed in one of the girl’s chairs and most of the rocks were missing. At first glance, we were devastated that someone ransacked their “shop” and left trash in its place. Upon closer inspection we saw the cup was filled with dollars and some people took it upon themselves to buy all the rocks and leave almost $20 in the cup.)
2) Paper Airplane Competitions
There is never a shortage of paper in our RV. Making something great out of paper always ends up being a default project.
When we were in Cape Cod this summer, the girls and their friends had the most amazing day playing with vintage balsa wood gliders.
They had competitions to see who could fly theirs the furthest, do the coolest tricks and keep from crashing. Today we make our own gliders, jets and trick flyers out of paper and try to do the same thing.
Finding unique airplanes to make/fold might require you to use the internet to come up with the concept first, then you can unplug and enjoy the process.
See which style plane flies the longest, does the best tricks and more!
3) Scavenger Hunt
Create a campground scavenger hunt for you to do with your kids. You can download our easy template here.
Since we are photographers, and our girls have their own cameras, we do visual/photo scavenger hunts. I know this is using some “technology,” but it fits our way of thinking creatively, so we roll with it.
The ideal scenario to keep it unplugged is to just bag up the items and bring them back to camp.
Of course, you could come up with any type of search you want beyond campgrounds or just look at Pinterest for ideas.
4) Bird Feeder
During our time spent in Florida, we had an abundance of oranges in the RV at one point. Not wanting to waste them, we thought back to once seeing something about turning them into bird feeders. Of course, you have to head to the store for some bird feed and maybe a dowel or stick, but the effort yields nice smelling surprises for your mornings in the RV.
The first step is to cut the orange in half and eat the insides!
Then measure the sticks and cut them so that they hang outside the oranges enough for birds to perch onto.
Cut them into two equal pieces and pierce them crossed through the orange.
Then tie strings to the dowels at the closest point to the orange.
Fill with seeds and hang!
5) Squirt Gun Carnival
This one isn’t a whole carnival, rather a camping version of the old standby, squirt-gun-into-the-clowns-mouth carnival game. (Come on, you know that is a favorite) With a little string, a squirt gun, and a couple of plastic cups, you can make your own target race.
Poke one hole in the bottom of the cup at the edge.
Feed the string through the hole and tie on a tree or something substantial.
Squirt water into the cup to make it move.
For a variation with some more cups, you could always create a squirt gun target pyramid!
6) Bonus Activity…… Hike!
Cliché? No way. Hiking is such a fantastic experience with your kids. Let them climb, explore, and learn.
Teaching them about different plants, animals, and land formations helps them stay engaged in the hike and tricks them into walking further than you think they might be capable of. We were amazed at our trip to Big Bend National Park when the girls eagerly hiked a 10.5 mile round trip path up Emory Peak (Elevation 7832ft). Never in a million years would we have thought that our little princesses would be interested, but with some previous experience, they knew it would be cool. Perhaps the potential for black bear sightings and mountain lions helped a little as well. You can read about that hike on our blog at http://our1chance.com/course-girls-can-hike-10-5-miles-7832-ft-emory-peak-big-bend-national-park/
When I was growing up Friday night was pizza night! When raising my own family, I followed that tradition, so it’s no surprise that when I arrive at the campground on a Friday night, I want pizza! Two years ago, I made it my mission to perfect cast iron pizza at the campground. I watched videos, tried different methods, and studied the masters of campground cuisine. There was a lot of trial and error; some edible, some not. Here’s what I learned.
There are a few components needed for campfire pizza to be a success. The first is a really well seasoned cast iron pan. My favorite pizza pan is the Lodge 12” pan with the lid. After each use I clean it with a non-soapy cloth, oil it and place it on the flame on top of the stove for a few minutes. With proper care cast iron pots just get better and better and should last for generations.
Another necessity is a charcoal chimney to get your briquettes started and evenly heated. I always use real charcoal briquettes that are not pretreated with lighting fluid. I actually have several chimneys because when cooking for a crowd the heat source will probably need replenishing. I start the chimneys about ten minutes apart.
Although I could use the firepit at the campsite I have found better results using a small Weber kettle which contains the heat in a small area and is almost the same size as my pan. I use several at a time when cooking for a crowd.
You will also need a good set of fire resistant gloves, a metal spatula and a small skillet if you want to cook any veggies or toppings that you are going to use to top your pizza.
I always like to have a campfire going at the same time because I will use it to cook the toppings and to heat up the lid of the cast iron pan. If your firepit has an adjustable cook top, set it to a lower setting once you have a good coal bed going with the fire.
I line up 2 or 3 charcoal chimneys and light them about ten minutes apart. Once the coals are mostly white but still showing some black edges I transfer them to the bottom rack on my little Weber kettle grill. There is only one setting on that grill for the top rack and I have discovered that it is the perfect distance between the cast iron pan and the coals. It cooks without burning. I set the empty cast iron pan on the grill grate to start heating it up. It is important that you put the dough in a hot pan. Shake a drop of water on the cast iron pan to check it for heat. If it dances, you are ready to go.
I take the dough out of the refrigerator an hour ahead of time depending on the outdoor temperature. For a fall cookout that is usually enough time to let it come to room temperature and make it easy to work with. The store bought dough available near me is actually enough for two pizzas in the 12” pan. I cut the dough in half and form the circle on a cutting board and then carefully drop it into the hot pan. You have a few seconds to move it around before it “sets” on the steel. After about two minutes I flip it to the other side with the metal spatula and then start adding the sauce and toppings. This is not a meal you walk away from while it is cooking. Stand by because it cooks quickly. You can leave the pan open face for a softly melted cheese topping or you can use a second grill or the campfire to heat the lid of the fry pan. When you place the heated lid on the pan the heat will brown and bubble the cheese on top of the pizza. It usually takes less than five minutes to cook the second side.
In order to cook the most pizzas on the first set of hot coals I get the second half of the dough ball ready to go while the first pizza cooks. I use the metal spatula to pull the cooked pizza off the pan and onto a big round cutting board that I always bring on camping trips. While it’s cooling a minute I watch and then flip the second pizza dough and add the toppings.
I use a finely shredded mozzarella because it melts faster.
When the coals are not hot enough anymore I add the next batch right on top of the old batch.
I precook all the meats and veggie toppings before they go on the pizza.
If you use fresh mozzarella, slice it as thin as you can.
You may want to add a small drop of olive oil onto the pan between pies.
It’s best to start heating the cast iron pan on the fire grate before moving it to the grill. It takes a while to heat.
The fun part about pizza at the campground is all the possible flavor combinations. I will often ask friends I am camping with to bring their favorite toppings and I provide the dough and sauces. We have fun experimenting and tasting new creations.
Some of my Favorite Pizza Combinations
Pesto, shaved fresh parmesan and heirloom tomatoes.
Alfredo sauce, slivered garlic slices, artichokes, shredded chicken and cheese.
Red sauce, prosciutto, bacon and sausage.
Spinach, goat cheese and Kalamata olives.
Lastly, you can make a dessert pizza by cooking the dough on both sides and then adding Nutella and strawberries; Nutella, chopped nuts and powdered sugar or Nutella, crumbled graham crackers and mini marshmallows. Put the lid on top of the marshmallows to toast them for a few minutes and you have a S’mores pizza, the perfect ending to a pizza making camp meal.
What you will need for the Girl Camper Method:
Large cast iron frying pan
Charcoal (never use the kind presoaked in lighter fluid)
I can still remember the excitement I felt riding in the back of our gold station wagon (with a 455-cubic engine!) that pulled my family’s 1970 Starcraft travel trailer. It was an older RV but my siblings and I didn’t care. We were off for a weekend of adventure that meant time to roam the woods, explore caves, and roast marshmallows around a campfire. My childhood was filled with road trips and weekends at campgrounds that remain some of my fondest memories. The love of the road is a gene I inherited from my parents.
Like the one belonging to my parents, our own first RV, a 1996 Jayco folding camping trailer, was over a decade old. We had a small budget but big plans to give our kids oodles of childhood memories. Although that RV was 13 years old when we bought it, it gave us years of fun as we camped on the shores of the Pacific Ocean or under a canopy of Redwoods. It required very little aside from general maintenance and was in exceptional shape for its age.
When we decided to become full time RVers in 2011, we bought a five-year-old fifth wheel. We purchased it from the original owners who had been meticulous about maintenance. We put over 50 thousand miles on that RV with very few problems proving a used RV with a little care can provide miles upon miles of wonderful memories.
Since our little Jayco, we’ve owned three more RVs including a vintage Avion that was as sturdy as a tank but the wrong floorplan for our family and an older Airstream that we are currently customizing. These RVs had one thing in common: regular maintenance. Whether new or used, regular maintenance is the key to keeping your RV on the road for many years to come.
We aren’t the only ones with stories of older well-loved RVs. I talked to other people who bought new and kept the same RV for many years or who decided to buy an older RV. If you are considering purchasing an older rig or wondering how long your new rig might last, read on for these encouraging stories showcasing the staying power of older RVs.
Todd and Tammy Smith purchased a new 2001 Terry travel trailer to live in while they built a house. At the time they had 7 children and lived in it for about 8 months. Since then it’s been used heavily, for camping, summers visiting family and twice they used it for extended trips traveling across the US. One trip lasted for 7 months and another for 6 months. Tammy says, “It has held up remarkably well. We make sure it’s winterized each season, lube the slide, seals, and gaskets. We have remodeled it several times, most recently painting the interior walls, cabinets, and trim. We have resealed the roof twice. It’s important to inspect the roof regularly, and if looking at an older rig, check for soft spots. We have also repaired a minor tear in the awning. Water is the biggest enemy of an RV. Making sure it’s tight with no leaks will keep it in good shape.”
The Weed Family has been a full time RVing family for 18 years. Living in Beverly Hills, CA, they hit the road, so they could spend more time as a family since Kevin, the dad, was spending so much time away for work. They have visited 45 states and their oldest son has driven across the entire United States at least a dozen times! Tara says this about their first RV, “We lived and traveled in our old RV, which we bought new, for over 14 years. Yes, it had issues but was a solidly built rig.” They are grateful for the memories they made in their first RV and sometimes still miss it. Moving out into their new rig was bittersweet indeed.
After considering a 5th wheel the Chan family decided on a 1985 34’ Airstream. While their RV has its quirks, overall, it’s been a good rig for their family. Maintenance so far has been replacing the tires and lubing anything that moves, as well as a few fan replacements. Bigger things they plan to do are strip and reseal all the exterior seams and lube the window gaskets. Their advice for people in the market for a used RV, “If you are going to consider an older rig, definitely spend the money to get it professionally inspected. While we love our rig, there are some things that we found later on which might have made us continue looking for another one. Even though we had a good checklist and were pretty thorough, there are some things we see now that were symptomatic of other potential issues. We could have negotiated for a lower price and at least went in with eyes wide open.”
The Siemens family chose a 2007 Newmar Allstar 3950 because they loved the layout. They decided to buy used for a few reasons. One, the floorplan was perfect for their family and it was only available in 2007. In addition, they wanted to be able to customize without feeling bad for taking out brand new furniture and painting new cabinets. They say, “We renovated the entire inside complete with new furniture. We have done regular oil changes and the ONLY maintenance we have had to do is replace a wheel bearing!! I always encourage people to buy older rigs for the reasons listed above and to take the time to renovate it to make it your own! Our RV is unique and is a perfect home for us!!”
It started with a single picture that popped up in a search for vintage trailers. Scott and Corrinne Gilbertson were not looking for a motorhome, but a bit of research revealed that the sleek, blue and white 60s-looking RV was a Dodge Travco. Travcos were once king of the RVs, Johnny Cash toured in one and John Wayne used one on several sets. Today while there are still quite a few on the road, they aren’t very common. The Gilbertsons continued to watch Craigslist somewhat obsessively until, about six months later, they found one that was what they were looking for, at a price they liked. They brought it home and got to work. It took about eighteen months to get it road ready. They’ve had it now for almost three years and lived in it full time for the last nine months. Scott says, “There have been challenges, and it definitely has quirks, but we love it. And, as a kind of bonus, we’ve met scores of people in our travels who came over to just talk to us about our RV.”
Dustin bought a used 1995 Cobra 26’ 5th wheel by Sierra. There were a few problems but Dustin is handy and has dealt with almost everything, plus adding improvements that are not always found in older RVs like LED lighting. His advice about owning an older RV, “All in all, this little, old RV works great for me. I do wish it had a slide out, but the price was right. As of right now, it’s just me in it. The water heater will (mostly likely) need maintenance right away when you buy it. Plan on replacing the anode rod immediately. These are pretty easy to replace and give you a good opportunity to inspect the tank. The anode rod is designed to take all the corrosion and to fail, keeping your water heater safe and in good working order. Also, plan on replacing the smoke detector as they usually have a 10-year expiration date. This is a good time to upgrade to a smoke and CO detector. It is advisable to install a propane detector on the floor at this time. Not all older units have them.”
Whether new or used or in between, with regular maintenance and care you can expect many years of enjoyment and miles of memories in your RV. What about you? Do you have an older RV with staying power that you love? We’d love to hear your story!
It’s early morning and you’re tucked into your warm and comfy RV bed when you begin to hear it . . . *Plink……Plink…………….Plink* — it’s the sound of Mother Nature’s gift of rain showers dancing on the roof of your beloved RV. Be it a brief passing of rain, or a torrential downpour– you can either embrace the rain, gear up and head on out – or you could cozy up inside your RV and enjoy some rainy day activities that seem to be even more comforting when it’s pouring rain.
Simple and Fun Jewelry Work
I always make it a point to bring along my little plastic compartment box full of beads and little jewelry making treasures I have found during our road trip adventures. Stopping off in little towns along the way you are sure to find a rock and gem store where you can pick up some of the most unique pieces to incorporate into a simply strung beaded bracelet or necklace. In my kit that I keep on board I have a variety of beads, feathers, crimping beads, a pair of needle nose pliers (for the crimping beads) and a spool of elastic bead cord – easily found at craft stores or online. This kit can grow quickly so I make sure to leave some extra compartments empty in order to accommodate beads and supplies I’ll find in the future. The process of stringing beads and creating as you go is truly meditative, especially with the sound of raindrops outside.
Another activity that I think is so enjoyable to do when it’s pouring rain, is discovering a new recipe. I’m always challenging myself with my little RV oven and I feel so very accomplished when a batch of cookies turn out perfectly. During the fall I like to get a head start on my holiday baking and begin my “test kitchen” of sorts by testing out different cookie recipes I’ll be preparing for the holidays. I take notes and tweak the cookie recipes as I go so when the holidays roll around, there’s no second guessing. The recipes are ready to go and have been tried and tested. Plus the boys don’t seem to mind this “test kitchen” time (win-win).
Another hot cup of tea and some great books to read are tops on my list. My favorite books to read are those that educate me and help me plan for future road trips.
Take for example the Delorme Atlas & Gazetteer Detailed Topographic Maps for one – this Washington State book is HUGE but it gives me the *big* picture as I can easily read the roads and routes which helps me plan future road trips I’d love to take. There is just something about holding a big ole’ map in your hand vs. scrolling online. I’m also very fond of my Pacific Northwest Camping Book by Tom Stienstra – full of RV park recommendations that are indispensable to anyone looking for the perfect campground. It tells you the good and the bad of the campgrounds and so much more. I couldn’t be without it.
Getting to Know Your Camera
If you’re an experienced photographer or just beginning to learn, you probably have the instruction book that came along with your camera, somewhere. For the longest while I tossed that little instruction book back deep into my camera bag and never gave it another thought until one rainy day I decided to have a closer look at it. I was amazed at everything I learned about my trusty camera – so many tips, tricks and calibration techniques. I often sit down with my camera during a relaxing rainy day in the Airstream and take some time to go through my book chapter-by-chapter, with my camera on the ready next to me so I can test out the new techniques that I’ve learned from the book. You’d be surprised how immersed one can get in that little instruction book so please don’t toss it aside like I once did. There’s a lot to be learned!
Either way, rain or shine – all of the above activities I have mentioned can be thoroughly enjoyed in your RV. But for some reason, these activities accompanied by the sound of raindrops falling on the roof make for an exceptionally cozy experience!
If you have a favorite rainy day activity you’d like to share, I’d sure love to hear from you in the comments below.