Whether or not you decide to make RV camping a full-time lifestyle choice, downsizing our belongings is a healthy way to get back in touch with what is truly important. We just completed a serious downsizing since we are moving. We will be spending at least half of the year in our camper.
Two years ago, we emptied two storage units that we had for years while we went sailing. We downsized our belongings to what would fit in our small apartment at Unalakleet. At first, it was challenging for three reasons:
Divide and Conquer: His, Mine & Ours
We started the process by going through our own personal belongings... my stuff and Honey’s stuff. If you have a significant other or children, you know how that is! We left “community” items for later.
In my "corner", I went through my clothing. I lost a lot of weight in the last year. I also knew that I would not need my office attire or my arctic clothing. So, this is what I did:
I saved my personal “treasures” for last. Here is how I decided to downsize:
We went through the community property together. These are items that we both use and have feeling for. We both have similar ideas about stuff, so it was a fairly painless process. I would hold up an item, and he would say keep or toss. He would do the same for me. Once in awhile eyebrows were raised, but usually, the justification or the emotional attachment was all that was needed to keep an item.
Storage Unit Decisions
Downsizing the second time was more difficult because we still have a lot of loose ends. We decided to keep some items while we sort out the lifestyle options. For example, we kept our nautical charts and a few boating items since we are seriously considering another boat.
Not everything will fit into our camper, We decided to store some items for one year while we are in transition. Notice the timeline… only one year!
I hope this gives you some ideas should you be thinking about going full time. Will this system work for you? Maybe, but everyone has different priorities and different situations. We opted for a small camper. As a result, we had to be ruthless. We are not sure if this is a permanent transition, so we made concessions for some items. We certainly did not want to store stuff, but with our uncertainty, it made sense. We agreed to store items for only one year.
Our choices in an RV directly reflect our history of ocean cruising on our 33' sailboat. We discovered that size is not necessarily on the top of our priority list. Every RV has a purpose, and that no one RV would match our visions as the perfect camper for us. Prioritizing and making compromises helped us to focus on what would best work for us. We focused on:
These are our top priorities:
Amenities that are important to us include:
Places we want to visit:
While we want tons of space. We had to sacrifice it for our dream camping experiences, especially boondocking in Alaska. Getting off the beaten path is difficult with large, low-hanging rigs. Maneuverability versus size was a huge trade-off. We opted for less size.
We were torn between a small class A or C, but we did not find any that were up to some of the roads that we plan to frequent. They also tend to be difficult for a short person to drive. When I sat in them, I could not adequately reach all of the controls and pedals. We looked into modification, but when I sat in a Ford truck, I loved how I could reach everything, and it made driving fun for the first time. There were a few models that fit the bill, but the bill was way too rich for our budget.
We did consider a Class B, but the size and available layouts were not to our liking. The beds were either twins or fold-out, and no dry showers or kitchen space... deal killers for us. We loved the mileage and the overhead clearance, but not enough to get serious about a purchase.
Safety and comfort on the road are very important to us, so we opted for a truck as our base unit. We liked that we could still change our minds about the need for a larger camper. We could swap for a travel trailer or 5th wheeler later. We settled on a slide-in camper with one slide-out. While we are not fans of slid-outs, it was the best option for the space that we wanted. We even found a camper that had a dry shower, an oven and more holding tank space than some of the larger RVs.
New or Used
When we were sailing, our biggest headache was the constant repairs on an older boat and maintaining it in off-shore ready condition. We knew that a new camper would not be a wise financial investment, but we decided that our headaches with repairs and immediate modifications were worth a lot more than the end value of the RV. We also planned on sticking with the truck for its useful lifespan. While we may have lost money driving a new rig off the showroom, we enjoyed not having to immediately spend a ton of money and time making it workable.
We purchased a new Arctic Fox 992 and a Ford F-350 with duallys to handle the heavy camper. We have had our rig for the last four years. It has been a perfect summer home for us. Starting this year, we will be taking longer road trips. We will see how our choice holds up with our new plans to spend time traveling throughout the year. We will also contemplate on making this our choice for full-timing. The beautiful thing is that we can always change our minds and get a rig (or a boat!) that best suits our needs. Most people we know wind up swapping RVs a couple of times before settling on the one that is perfect for them. We hope our decision making process helps you choose the RV that will be perfect for your situation.
Choosing the right RV takes some serious soul searching. We read everything we could get our hands on! This is what we discovered
A Camper for Every Occasion
There are more campers, layouts and styles that we imagined. The key decision before looking for the right camper/RV is this: What is our purpose? So we sat down and listed ideas about what we wanted to do, and how we wanted to travel. Here are some ideas for you to think about as well:
Regardless of how we used the RV, the style of RV could be priced anywhere from economical to astronomical. Narrowing down the type of rig was more important that worrying about the budget at this point in the RV decision making. Here are some basic RV styles to research:
This is a 2-Part blog entry. Think about these ideas, and then read how we narrowed down and purchased our rig.
So, there I was, welcoming this year's Iditarod mushers at Unalakleet. My predictable life as a district librarian came to a sudden stop. Budget cuts. Yup, they happen, even for Bering Strait School District. We all think about cutbacks in the abstract. I know people who were victims of the latest downsizing, but suddenly, it was my turn. My carefully crafted plans for the next four years had to be tossed away, like all those dog droppings on the trail, straight into the rubbish bin.
I may be new to rejection, but I am not new to readjusting my game plan. After our years of ocean sailing, my husband and I are well versed in altering a well-crafted course. We also know that new course changes often turns out to be better than the original. With that in mind, we sat down for a series of soul-searching family meetings.
While I was offered an opportunity to move to a distant village and return to the classroom, I was sorely disappointed in the fact that I would have to move everything we own, at my expense mind you, while other positions were available in my home village. Once the shock and anger dissipated, and acceptance took over, we devised a plan that would best take advantage of the situation.
Last year, I finished a master's degree in creative writing. Our situation is the perfect opportunity to capitalize on my skills. I could use my technology background and writing with our love for traveling. While everyone warns people not to quit their day jobs for a new business, we decided to dive headfirst into my writing career. I didn't quit my day job; my day job quit me! I have an opportunity to take a break from public education and try something else that I am also deeply passionate about.
So, as break-up looms around the corner, we are busy packing up our belongings and getting ready to move. We will start our Truck-camping adventures. That's right, instead of cruising full time by boat, we will cruise by camper.
Our original plans of purchasing another sailboat will be put on hold until our Alaska beachfront property in Wrangell sells. I will now be writing full-time while we travel and explore our great state of Alaska.
We will explore Alaska, visiting places we never had time to enjoy in the past. We will travel at our own pace just like we did when ocean cruising. Instead of our cruising sail blog, I will keep the Great Alaska Road Trip blog going so that others may also enjoy a taste of Alaska.
So, please join us on this adventure. Unlike other travel blogs, we are from Alaska and have some intriguing places in mind that are way off the usual tourist itinerary. You will also get a chance to see what an RV-lifestyle is like as we share our adventures with you. Feel free to post comments and questions. We have a "Get In Touch" page if you wish to have a private chat with us as we travel.
writes for Iris Blume Publishing. She is an Alaskan who has a love for traveling and writing. Join her as she rediscovers and shares her home state.
Where are we now?