When you decide to live life on the road as an extended or full time RV dweller, your rig and how you configure it are key to your long term success. Choosing between the infinite combinations of trucks and trailers, and motorhomes and dinghies can overwhelm newbies and seasoned RVers alike.
When Nicole and I decided 100% that we were going to make this journey to Alaska for the summer of 2017, we had absolutely no idea or practical experience with this lifestyle. The decisions we have made are based on research, intuition, consideration of our unique circumstances, and of course BUDGET! Would we love to roll up to our new home away from home in a 42 foot diesel “Class A” motorcoach with a 2017 Smart Car in tow? Yeah, maybe, but we know our limitations and we are practical people that live within our means. So let me share with you how we ended up selecting our setup.
Prior to us even considering this journey. We owned three vehicles.
A 2009 Honda Fit
A 2011 Kia Sportage
And a 1985 Chevy C10 half ton pickup.
Our original idea was to keep everything, buy a class c motorhome and tow the Sportage as a dinghy.
After endless searches for the perfect Class C we were only finding high mileage, overpriced units that were way past their prime. I really couldn’t see us getting a loan for something 15+ years old that might not make the trip.
Plan B was then hatched! We would buy a travel trailer and use my 30+ year old Chevy Truck to tow it 5000 miles from Florida to Alaska. At this point I was stoked! I loved the romantic idea of making this journey in an American classic, built like a rock, Chevrolet!
The search was now on for the perfect light weight travel trailer that would be big enough for 2 humans, 2 dogs, and a boat load of stuff. It also had to be solid, safe, secure, and towable by an old truck. I’m very glad we started the hunt in early November because it took nearly 2 months of pounding the pavement, avoiding craigslist scammers, and shady RV salesman to finally find our perfect trailer! I will expand on what to look out for when buying a used trailer in an upcoming post.
In the beginning of December we purchased a 2008 Aerolite 24rbsl travel trailer for $7700 bucks! We picked this trailer because its dry weight (the weight without and added fluids or cargo) was only about 4,500 pounds. It was also manageable at a total length of 26 feet. We paid for our new rig and towed off into the sunset…that was until our old truck decided that it was going to ping and knock all the way back to our house. If you didn’t know, pinging and knocking are really bad engine sounds that could indicate an upcoming engine failure.
I immediately took my truck to my mechanic friend and it turns out my problem was a simply a timing adjustment that needed made. I dodged a bullet. Or did I? That small problem cast a worry some amount of doubt on our plans. Were we crazy? Would we make it? Is taking a 30+ year old truck to Alaska practical?
After a couple weeks of sea-sawing about what to do, We decided to err on the side of caution and buy a new more suitable tow vehicle, a Ford E350 van. The van will allow us to load the dogs in and out the side door as opposed to riding in the back of the truck with a camper top. This van idea became even more practical when we realized just how cavernous they are when you take a few seats out! We can supplement the trailer storage with dry safe storage in the back of the van. While not originally in the budget this wasn’t an easy decision but in the end we know its the right one. We actually might end up saving money in the long run because we will sell the Honda Fit and the Chevy and cut down on our insurance.
In summation, there are a million different ways to solve one problem. You have to use your imagination, logic, and available resources to lead you to the correct answer. Don’t be afraid to make a mistake or ask for help and be patient. We are taking a huge leap and who knows how it will turn out. I just know that we will learn a lot and laugh along the way! Hopefully you can learn from our experiences and enjoy our company as we travel off our beaten paths.