Water Conservation Tips From RVers

So here’s a big shout out for life on the road and the freedom of domestic travel. But it does take some effort to life comfortably and with ease. You have to plan your route so you can fuel up or clean out the bathroom tanks from time to time. You have to have a clean kitchen area and compact bedding. A visit to a laundromat is a must. It isn’t an inconvenience so all around are services and rest areas for RVs. How did they become so popular with young people?

When you travel a lot, you find that you try to conserve water in the freshwater tank as much as possible. You need to be mindful of your usage and try to cut down on every trip. This is one of the biggest mistakes made by beginners who must learn the hard way. It saves energy and money while helping the environment. There is absolutely no reason to ignore water conservation, especially with helpful guides like this one: https://tanklesscenter.net/saving-water/. This is our big tip in today’s blog.

Sure, you can stop and get water to replenish the tank, but if you are known for poor planning, you may have to travel a bit far, even if you are in need of a shower at the very moment. I know of people who have gone hiking or biking, only to return to an RV with an empty tank. You have to stand yourself for ten or twenty miles while you search for available water. I always take a shower in the morning so I know the tank is ready to accommodate my needs. You can get preoccupied with sightseeing during the day and forget to replenish the tank.

Always take enough bottled water for an emergency as drinking liquid is a perennial need while on the road, especially if you spend time outside. It is costly but is there when you have need. Another tip is to take a short shower more frequently than a super long one every few days. Clean dishes or brush your teeth quickly. You will learn the secret of efficiency in no time with experience. Finally, the longer the trip, the more you need to itemize your supplies and ensure that your RV is properly maintained and equipped. The life of an RVer is wonderful but it takes some awareness of basic issues, and water usage is on the top of the list.

RV Upgrades

Taking your RV and making it feel like home is a fun task, but it is also a labor of love. We’re doing a little at a time. It helps with the wallet and it also allows us to think about the things we really need before we spend the money. Little tweaks can be easy and relatively cheap. Upgrading appliances or cabinetry are much more expensive but can improve resale value, make your RV look nicer, be more durable and stylish, and make your life easier. Here, we’ll give you some ideas on what we’ve done and suggestions on stuff to think about as well. It’s your home away from home, so you should think about customizing it to fit your needs.

For example, especially if you buy a used model RV or it is getting on in age, re-cushion the seats or benches.  Use a different pattern, more comfortable padding, more durable fabric, or whatever is going to make sitting more fun and cozy. Tinting the windows or changing the shades/blinds can also keep the cabin more comfortable while making it look fresh and new.

The lighting might not be desirable. You can change bulbs to reduce or strengthen the wattage. You can even change them to LEDs to use a little less energy. If you need stronger lighting, you can always add battery-powered lighting that you can either mount or adhere to the location you want better illumination. If you’d like softer lighting somewhere, you can try string lights. Some are battery-operated, some can be solar charged.

Also, consider what a coat of paint can do. You can change the color of the walls or the stain on the cabinets, making your RV look completely different. A faster, less drastic change can be as simple as putting contact paper on shelves or repositionable wallpaper in the bedroom.

If you watch a lot of tv or find yourself stuck inside the cabin of your RV often, make entertainment adjustments. Surround sound, a satellite dish, or signal boosters are all options that will make things more fun when you’re cooped up. You’d be surprised at how much faster the miles fly when you have something great to listen to on a satellite radio!

The showerheads in RVs can also be, well, a joke. It’s not that hard to replace on your own and you will be surprised at what a difference it can make. Many new models are low-flow, meaning they use less water than a traditional showerhead without suffering from lower performance. A nice shower at the end of a long day camping, hiking, or driving, will feel like heaven!

Thinking of going to remote places that might not have full hookups? You might want to think about a solar kit. There are basic single panel models that you can use to charge up a phone or two, right up to bigger scale models that can charge batteries or provide enough power to keep your juice running for how long you’ll need.

We say put in the effort to make your RV a place you’ll want to be. It’s your home away from home. It has taken us a while to get ours to what it looks like now and we’re still not done, but slow and steady improvement will get us where we want to be! Let us know what your favorite upgrades are in the comments!

Buying an RV

Maybe you’ve been reading this blog for a while or maybe you stumbled on this while during some research on buying one. But either way, it’s exciting to buy a home on wheels. It opens up so many possibilities, not to mention all the fun and adventure! When you start looking around at RVs, you will notice there are a lot of options! It is like buying a car, which most of us think is fun in theory but actually sort of dread, and it’s also like buying a house, which is pretty stressful.

There are many things to consider, but the most important is how much you can afford to spend. Your head will spin at how fast you’ll get brought into the top of the line models with every bell and whistle at an RV dealer. People forget that it isn’t just the RV you’ll be paying for. You need insurance as well as camping and RV gear. Every trip will cost you money in gas, supplies, and site reservations. All those things also take a bite out of your finances, so factor that in. If you tell a dealer how much you’re willing to spend, you’ll likely be steered toward models in your price range (if not, leave that dealership as soon as possible). Buying used, or buying an RV that you can tow yourself, will lower the price tag.

If you’re towing the RV, look in your manual or on your car to find out what its towing capacity is. Then make sure the RV you buy weighs significantly less than that (remember, the RV won’t be empty when you tow it). The bargain you got when buying something you can tow will disappear quickly when you have to replace your vehicle too.

Another thing to consider is how many people will be joining you on your road trip. If you’ve got a big family, you will need lots of sleeping areas. Work that stuff out beforehand. Is the bathroom a deal breaker for you or will you always be at RV parks fairly close by with full bathroom amenities? Do you want a big dining table? If you’re going to camp in the middle of nowhere, maybe, but if you’re going to always be at well-appointed campsites, they usually have picnic tables. Just think about the logistics and come up with realistic solutions to your accommodations.

Once you’ve got those practical ideas down, it’s time to think about the fun stuff. What do you want to be doing? If you want to do a lot of sporting activities or you’re a bit of a fashionista, check out the available storage space and make sure it works for you. If you plan on cooking most of your meals in the RV, is there enough room for food prep and a fridge/pantry big enough to hold it all? If you can’t live without TV, make sure it either has one or you can fit one in. Where will you be going and when? If you will be heading to warmer climes, make sure the air conditioner can handle it. Same with the heat. If the model you are looking at can’t handle the stuff you want to do, that model is not right for you.

Lastly, spend some real time in there. Get a feel for what it would be like to spend a significant amount of your life inside it. If it feels cramped or too spartan for you, you might want to consider something else. If, however, it feels like home, then get yourself that RV!

Know Before You Go: KOA Sites

If you want a place to park your RV, there are options available. Places like Walmart often have spots available, which is convenient for restocking purposes. But box store parking lots are not destinations; it is not why you chose (or are thinking of) an RV.

The two main places we recommend as being the best to check out are the National/State Parks (they’ve got all the best scenery and are reasonably priced) and KOA sites. Parks run by the government are pretty straightforward, so we’re going to focus on KOA sites in this post.

The first reason we recommend Kampgrounds of America is because there are lots of them: over 500 locations (they’re in Canada too). These campgrounds are near all kinds of attractions: big cities, national and state parks, big area attractions, and beaches too. In other words, there is probably one close by anywhere you would want to be, and sometimes it is easier to get a reservation or comes with fewer restrictions than State or National Parks.

Anybody who has ever gotten behind the wheel of an RV knows that they take some time to get the hang of, especially parking. Well, KOA tries to help us out there: they pride themselves on having spots that you can pull thru or back into, and everything is level. That makes a potentially stressful job much easier.

Some locations have patio areas with picnic tables or hammocks, making your site feel homier and gives you the opportunity to bring the party outdoors. Need power or sewer hookups? No problem! KOA has both 30- and 50- amp connections. There are also laundry and shower facilities, so you can clean yourself and your clothes somewhere other than your RV. Many places have fantastic amenities like cable TV stations, wifi, walking trails, and are pet-friendly too. With all the comforts of home, why would you ever want to leave?

Another benefit to going to a KOA site is that the staff knows what they’re doing. They can help a novice get themselves into a camping spot, they know the best mechanics and body shops if you need that, and they can help get you all hooked up. They know more than just RVs, though. They’re experts on the area and can help you find a place to eat, local attractions, and different things to keep you and your crew busy. They are like concierges at expensive hotels!

KOAs are also great places to be with groups of people, even if your friends or family don’t have RVs – there are also tent camping and cabins available. So go ahead and plan that family reunion. Everybody can stay in the accommodations they want and you’ll all be close enough to each other that nobody misses anything. It’ll be cheaper than renting hotel room blocks and there will be more to do as well!

One last reason we like KOAs: you don’t have to be traveling somewhere far away or exotic to have a great trip. There’s likely a site closer to you than you realize. If you’ve got a long weekend or a couple of days off from work, you can get a head start on your vacation with only a short drive.

So check them out the next time you’re planning a trip. Let us know how it goes.

Read This Before You Go

Before we head out on an RV trip, we run through a checklist beforehand. Here’s what we do, and you can feel free to take this or adapt it to suit your own needs.

  1. Top off everything. That means making sure your tires have the proper air pressure, and all fluid levels are at the right amount – simple things like the gas tank, wiper fluid, oil levels, but also things like transmission fluid. Test the battery. If you are unsure, bring it to a trusted mechanic and they can do the checks for you. Now is the time to do preventive maintenance so that you don’t have unexpected (and expensive) issues along the way.
  2. Make sure everything works! Check the bulbs for the head, tail, and signal lights. Look over your appliances, plumbing, and ventilation systems. Run the heat and the air conditioner. Inspect the fire extinguishers. If you have a generator or solar kit, make sure that works the way it should as well.
  3. Give it a good cleaning. Sure, wash the outside, but clean the inside too. Clean the appliances, again inside and out. Check all filters and change them if necessary. If you start out clean, it will be easier to keep it that way.
  4. Make packing lists. Include everything you think you’ll need and then a little more. Make sure you have any prescriptions you take with to cover your whole trip. Pack an auto repair kit with the things you’ll need: tire patches, reflectors or flares in case you have to pull over in an emergency, jumper cables, a tire gauge, and whatever else will help you stay moving. Don’t forget the cords! Pack an extra charger for your phone, computer, camera, and whatever else you’ll need to charge along the way. If you are bringing your pets, make sure you have toys, leashes, food, bedding, and anything else they might need. And make a spare set of keys! Check your list as you pack to make sure you’ve got it all.
  5. Do the administration part of the trip to verify all the details. Confirm your reservations. Make sure your license, registration, and insurance are up to date and won’t expire along the way. Cancel or forward your mail and phone calls. Notify your neighbors that you’re leaving and when you plan to return – give somebody your contact info in case your house gets robbed or burns down while you’re gone. Make sure you have copies of any pertinent records (health, prescription, even veterinary) that you may need so you have them available in case of an emergency.
  6. Get ready! Load your gear. Check your lists again and make sure you have everything you want to have. It is a good habit, even if you were not hooked up, to check and make sure that everything is disconnected – the water and sewer hoses, tv antenna or satellite dish, and the electrical cord – and stowed properly. Retract the stairs and awnings if you have those. Secure the windows and the lock outside doors. Do a last check of everything and then:
  7. GO HAVE FUN!

We’ve done this list so many times that it feels automatic, but we have it written down to run through every time. It makes Allie feel better, for one. For another, we’re able to add things as we have more trips under our belts (there is a reason Allie felt the need to add the bit about spare keys, and I will never live that down). So that’s what gets us out the door and on the road!

Take Your RV Solar

Your RV gives you a lot of freedom. You go where you want to go, see what you want to see, and don’t have to worry about booking hotel rooms or finding accommodations for your pets. You take your home along with you on every adventure. But those adventures need power. Sometimes you want a few creature comforts. And sometimes you just want to watch a ballgame.

If you’re using your RV, there are great options for places for you to stop and camp out. Your options can open up even more when you make your own power! Sure, you can run a loud, smelly generator – they’re reliable and effective. But you can also choose a more environmentally friendly option, one that homeowners the world over are turning to more and more: solar panels!

Now, this might sound complicated, but we promise it is not. Many companies sell solar panel kits that contain everything you need. There are big price differences between models and brands, but the majority of them will have the same basic items: a solar panel (or several, depending on how much power you want to generate), an inverter – which takes the DC current that your solar panel makes to AC current, the kind that powers everything in your RV that doesn’t run on batteries – cables/wiring, mounting hardware, and a charge controller for your battery. Depending on the type and storage capacity of your batteries, you might be able to run power through a few cloudy days!

Some panels will require mounting to your vehicle – this way, you’ll never forget them and they can be charging up even as your driving to your next adventure. However, putting things on your vehicle means you have to drill holes in your RV to mount them. Be sure to do it well so that you don’t accidentally make the roof leak. It might also cause more wind resistance. They do make flexible panels that can be glued to your roof if you have a smooth surface to stick it to. That’ll help with the wind resistance thing, but they are more expensive. And since they aren’t glass, they can be gouged or scratched easily by low hanging branches.

Some panels can be attached to a wooden frame or have the ability to lay/stand on their own. These are great when you want to park in the shade. The panels can be placed just about anywhere sunny while you stay cool somewhere else! They also don’t create drag on your vehicle, and they won’t cause leaks because you aren’t mounting them to your roof. However, they’re going to take up room somewhere. If space is at a premium in your RV, keep that in mind.

There is another type of solar system called a trickle charge system. These are designed mostly for people who don’t use their RV frequently. Batteries like the one in your car or RV will lose power if you don’t turn the key and run your engine for long periods. Usually, this kit contains a small solar panel, some mounting equipment, and wires with alligator clips. You attach it to your RV’s engine battery and it’ll slowly add a charge to counteract the natural loss of power your battery will experience.

What do you think? Have you gone solar with your RV or do you want to? Let us know in the comments!