It’s no secret: RVers have a well-deserved reputation for being thrifty. Many say that’s why we take our homes on vacation; we’re too cheap to pay for hotel rooms! All kidding aside, I have to admit many RVers like me really do possess a flair for frugality. On rare occasions however, we surprise everyone, including ourselves, by opening our wallets to be a bit more comfortable. After doing so the inevitable question follows: “What took us so long?!” For example, here are three of the best RV upgrades we wish we did sooner:
Upgrade #1: Using Leveling Blocks
Some RVers set up camp with all the accoutrements. Not us. We started full-timing in a 24′ fifth wheel with zero room for unnecessary gizmos like twinkly awning lights and telescoping flag poles. We refused to carry items we thought didn’t add much value to the RVing experience, like sewer hose supports and plastic leveling blocks. Living without a sewer hose riser has never been a problem and even sloped campsites never bothered us too much in our smaller rig. But since upgrading to a longer and wider fifth wheel, uneven ground is more annoying than ever. Our rig lacks hydraulic levelers, so last Christmas our practical-minded gift to one another was a $35 set of leveling blocks. After using the blocks from California to Texas, we’re on the level and loving it! Gone are the days of cabinet doors smacking us in the face whenever we open them, or worrying about damaging our refrigerator when we’re unevenly parked. All we have to do is actually remember to use those blocks and everyone’s a happy camper.
Upgrade #2: Converting to Hydraulic Disc Brakes
Like many RVers, we’ve had our share of costly brake issues. From burning out brakes in the Rockies to getting ripped off by bad mechanics, trailer brakes have been the bane of our full-timing existence – and our bank account. Finally after eight years and 140,000 miles, we opted for an electric over hydraulic disc brake conversion on our new-to-us rig.
An electric over hydraulic braking system is far superior to traditional trailer disc brakes for many reasons beyond the scope of this article, but in short, electric over hydraulic brakes have better, smoother stopping power and require far less (and easier) maintenance. Unfortunately only the most high end towables offer them as an option because the conversion is about $3,000 including parts and labor. That’s not a small chunk of change to anyone, especially us, but after a particularly bad brake maintenance job by a Colorado shop, we bit the bullet and paid a pro to do the conversion. After traveling over 1200 miles with our new Titan brakes, we couldn’t be happier. Even as a passenger I can feel the difference in stopping power.
Upgrade #3: Building a Better Solar Electric Power System
Adequate solar electric power systems start with a careful energy audit of your power consumption. Better solar electric power systems end with your willingness to commit a little more money to the project. Our first system was woefully inadequate mainly because our small rig lacked battery storage space – but mostly because of our reluctance to spend more cash. For seven years the system barely met our needs as we limped along during cloudy days. When we finally upgraded to our 27′ fifth wheel, I eagerly surrendered a storage compartment for a bigger, better battery bank and inverter. Cutting the check wasn’t quite as easy but now we can enjoy camping luxuries like running the microwave and our vacuum – a must when you live with a German Shepherd shedder dog. We can also work online after dark, which doesn’t seem like a luxury to most people, but to us is is because now we can actually pay for upgrades.
After adding these creature comforts to our RVing lifestyle we’ve discovered that the only problem with doing the upgrades is that there’s no turning back. These two former backpacking, minimalist tent campers have turned into RVers for life.
About the Author:
Rene Agredano, a Coach-Net member since 2015, is a self-employed full-time RVer who enjoys writing, jewelry design and animal advocacy. Her adventures with a three-legged dog and husband Jim are chronicled at LiveWorkDream.com.