Monday, October 27, 2008

Reader Request- Survival In An RV

From a reader:

Hey Mayberry I see that you mentioned your pop-up again and I remember something about a "Project Mayberry", was woundering if you might do a post on your thoughts about surviving out of a camper (because we all cant affored a retreat) when the SHTF. Thanks MCK

I got this comment on another post, and I've been ponderin' on it for a bit. I think I've come up with some good stuff now, after perusing my huge cache of info on the subject. I was collecting this for "Project Mayberry", which was my plan to move my family into an RV, and eventually to some bug out land somewhere. I fear it's too late for me to do this now, but I'm still working toward it. Anyhoo, here it goes, Survival in an RV.....

First off, let me say that I've never lived in an RV for more than a few weeks. I did, in essence, live out of my slide in "truck camper" when I was stationed at NTC Great Lakes while I was in the Navy though..... I had a room in the barracks, but you couldn't cook in there, and let's face it, galley food sucks! And 2 room mates can get annoying..... So I kept a stash of goodies and cookware in my camper. It was also really nice for getting a little "alone time", which is nearly non-existent in the Navy. So anyhoo, I'm working off of that experience, my camping experiences, my Mom and Dad's journeys in their 5th wheel, my "Lil Sis" and brother-in-law's short stint living in their travel trailer, and the info I've gathered on the 'net.

While I personally consider the RV to be the perfect SHTF shelter, there are definitely some adjustments to be made if you're gonna live in one full time. It's not impossible, and they can be quite comfortable if you take into consideration what it is..... Hey, tens of thousands of "old farts" are livin' in 'em. Even some families. By choice!

First off is the obvious "shortcoming": space. If yer used to livin' even in a "modest" home, or apartment, you'll find that space is extremely limited in comparison. Even the "big rigs" are 400 square feet or less, so that will take some gettin' used to, and some creativity. I enjoy "making things work", so it's no big deal to me, but to some folks it's a major sticking point. But if you really dig into RVs, there's a lot of really clever storage solutions, and they don't usually waste much space at all. You can pack a surprising amount of "stuff" into those things (and quickly exceed their weight capacity!). Weight is no big deal if the thing is gonna be stationary, but keep it in mind if you'll be going down the road. On most RVs, there is some "wasted" space that can be easily re-configgered to suit your needs. Imagination is the only limit....

That being said, you will be forced to pare down your belongings to the "essentials". That ain't a bad thing in my opinion, most folks have way too much crap anyhow. Life becomes much easier when you get rid of your junk. All of my "stuff", with the exception of my boat, would fit in the bed of a small pickup (and I could trim that down even more!). For me, a travel trailer in the 20 foot range would house everything I need, and be plenty of room. Hey, I lived in a 6'6"x3'x3' "rack" and a 3'x2'x1' locker on board the USS Stout for 2 years, so anything beyond that is pure gravy..... Anyhoo, I think for a couple, a 25 footer would do nicely, and a family of 3 or more really needs 32 feet or more, and all the slide outs you can get! Slide outs make a tremendous difference in the feeling of space, to the point of making the RV feel much bigger inside than it looks from the outside.

Climate makes a big difference in what kind of RV to get. Cheaper RVs are not made for cold weather..... There are "all climate" RVs, and they are more costly, but worth it if you're gonna be in a cold place. You can help yourself out a bunch in colder climates by skirting your RV to cut the wind out from under it, and if you insulate the skirting, so much the better. Use foam insulation, not fiberglass, as fiberglass provides a home for critters, and you don't want that!

As far as motorhomes, trailers, and 5th wheels go, that's a matter of personal choice and pocket book. "Bumper pull" trailers are the most economical, but tend to be lacking in storage, fit and finish, and cold weather capability. There are some really nice "bumper pulls" out there, mind you, just be careful when choosing one. 5th wheels are the grand daddy of the RVs. They give the most space, the most storage, the most carrying capacity, and the greatest variety in the RV world. You can get a 40+ footer, triple axle, 5 slide out, corian counter topped, oak cabinetted behemoth, down to an 18 foot el cheapo lil' guy.... Motorhomes are varied as well, and a lot more expensive than trailers. You lose some space to the "cockpit". But there are advantages to them, and right now you can find lots of older ones around pretty cheap....

On motorhomes, one could put together a really nice bug out rig for very little cash.... Older "class C" motorhomes (the ones with "van" front ends on 'em, with a bunk area over the cab) can be found all over for under $4K. Couple to it a small enclosed cargo trailer for your food and other supplies, and maybe even a small motorcycle or scooter, and yer set!

Now where to park the thing..... There's always the "junk land" option (which I think is the best option....). Junk land can be had very cheap, I've seen $200 an acre or less in some places.... Or maybe a friend or relative's patch of land somewhere. You could boondock on some national forest land or something, but I'd be extremely careful in doing that..... Better would be to hook up with a private landowner who might let you squat in exchange for some work, security, or whatever. Better still would be to form up a survival group, pool your resources, and buy a decent patch of land. Your own private "survival RV park".....

Now, for the actual living part.... Cooking is very straight forward, most RVs have at least a 2 burner propane stove, up to 4 burners and an oven. Most also have a 'fridge, and they're usually 2, or even 3 way; 120 volts AC, 12 volts DC, or propane. I'd prefer 12 volt DC, as this can be fed via solar panel, and or wind generator charged batteries. Propane may not be available or affordable, and it's unlikely that you'll have 120 volt power available for any length of time in a bug out/ survival situation..... Your RV will most likely have 12 volt lighting and other accessories as well, so it makes sense to go solar/wind power since the RV makes it relatively easy for you. The RV will have a bathroom, and (except for older models, or "park models") grey/black water holding tanks, as well as a fresh water tank. When the grey/black water tanks fill, they obviously must be dumped, and this is where the advantage of having your own land comes in.... "Outlaw" septic systems are very easy and very cheap to construct, and once installed, they "disappear" beneath the ground.... You could also install a cistern for storing rain water, or water you haul in.

For day to day life, RVs are great. Most of your time post SHTF will be spent outdoors gathering food, etc., so the easier you have it at home, the better. RVs, being small, don't take much, or long to clean. They don't take much to heat either, and they have lots of screened windows and vents for warm weather. They can be very comfortable, and they beat the hell out of tents or poly tarps! With a small wood stove, an RV would be downright cozy on a frigid night... Everything can be neatly stored away, and yet be close at hand. You can lock the doors and windows when you're away. They may not be the most secure things, but they're far more secure than a tent! I could go on and on, but I think y'all got the picture.... So I'll close this out with a list of some really good links for RV living and resources. Stay tuned......

http://www.familiesontheroad.com/fotr.html

http://www.rv-dreams.com/full-timing.html

http://www.extremefamily.com/

http://www.newsweek.com/id/110733

http://debtfreeintherv.blogspot.com/

http://gscandrett.wordpress.com/2007/05/09/you-live-in-a-fifth-wheel-by-linda/

13 comments:

flea said...

Me an my wife can live quite nicely out of our camper (popup) as long as we had some way to refill the propane eventually as well as access to water.(I could purfiy or boil if need be)

Add a few kids and all bets are off...someone may get hurt ;)

Seriously though, the popup gives you some protection from the elements and bugs (as well as other critters). If you had to you could live it in...beats a tent for sure in the comfort department.

hilljack33 said...

I spent a few years living in RV's. Just about 10 months ago to be precise. Space is maybe issue one. Next is sanitation, in cold weather you normally don't have water (it is possible) and proper sewage capabilities. Which can make it hard. Having to walk to a campground head or outhouse isn't any fun. There are ways around it, such as portable toilets. But that's about the worst of it. RV's can get very cold, but if you can handle cold weather, not that much of a problem. You have a smaller space to heat. They get hotter than hell in the sun and that's worse then the cold in my opinion. Personally living in an RV suit's this old fart just fine...

Wildflower said...

I'm negotiating to buy an RV now, just for a fall back...not sure if it's the right one, but I am going to get one soon.

My dream RV can run on vegetable oil. This one has a space for a small wood stove, and that's good.

Lil Sis said...

If you are in the Southern sunshine like we were for the 4 months we lived in our 31' bumper pull, parking in some shade is VITAL!! Our kids were what made it most difficult. One was 5 and the baby was 4 months when we started out. I think it would have been easier with slightly older kiddos!

And if I'm the relative with land you were speaking of...it's gonna get crowded quick!

Mayberry said...

Hey Sis.... Yup, your place would crowd up quick. I've got alternative arrangements, if the need arises....

Kim said...

Have we forgotten your other half, and the kids? Trailers, RVs, etc can get quite cozy. Our bumper trailer (26') w/a good sized slide is a major concern with 4 cats and a med sized dog for us. I can't even imagine throwin' kids in the mix. Hey, it's cool for a little while (emerg. sitch.). Long term, you better know what you're getting yourself into. Those cats aren't gonna put up with it any longer than your wife or your kids. Don't kill the messenger...

theotherryan said...

They have the advantage that they can be moved. Also the cheapest decent (not tent) shelter out there. I wrote some on RV living. If that interests you hop into my blog and look for the rv living label.

BobS said...

http://www.sanlee.com/jeep/S250camper/default.htm Main description

http://www.sanlee.com/s250/s250album/index.html Nore detail

Just an example of a cost concious approach that fulfilled this guy's needs. $2000.00 complete.

Best regards,

Bob

Anonymous said...

Please check out Smart Energy Systems for Solar Pool Heating in Austin Texas.

http://smartenergyusa.net

steelbonnetcheraicel said...

someone mentioned there are RV brands made for colder weather. would appreciate knowing which ones? thanks

Jun said...

Some of my family live out of RVs, so reading this made me curious. I don't think that I would be able to. But this was sure an interesting read. Thanks for sharing! http://www.sawyersbussales.com

LP said...

I know this is an old post, but I'm just wondering if it really was "too late" for you to relocate. What happened with your plans?

Craig Cavanaugh said...

LP, it was too late. The plan was to sell our house for a profit, buy a trailer, then save up for land. The wife refused to sell, the housing market collapsed, and that was the end. We don't make enough to buy anything, the equity in the house was all we had. That is gone...