Rocking and rolling in Arizona

January 22nd, 2010

Whew! The weather has been pretty nutty around here lately. We spent a couple of days in Quartzsite putting up fliers for freecampsites.net and got rained on every evening. One mid-day shower caught us while out on the scooter. Fun!

Quartzsite is just not our scene. Two days would have been more than enough even if the weather had been great.  It was pretty crazy to pull into the BLM area the first night and see rigs lined up awning to awning just like a commercial campground. We had to go about a quarter mile deep into the area before we found a spot where we could get a mere hundred feet from a couple of neighbors. The next morning, we found out why the area was so ‘sparsely’ populated as the kids in the converted school bus had breakfast and blasted the MTV version of the Grateful Dead over the world’s crappiest PA system. Ah, well… at least it wasn’t polka.

This morning, we got up ‘early’ to try and make it back to Slab City by dark. Apparently, I was still on California time and not really adhering to Jenn’s schedule. Still, we got out at a reasonable time and then sat in mid-morning traffic at Quartzsite while the rain started splattering. The wind had not stopped in at least 24 hours.

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Life in the back of a truck (part 4)

April 9th, 2009

This is part of an ongoing series on what it’s like to live in a truck camper fulltime. You may read other articles here:

  1. Part One – The fulltime lifestyle
  2. Part Two – Why a truck camper?
  3. Part Three – Weights & Dealing with them
  4. Part Four – Boondocking resource conservation

Gordon recently posed a question over at the Truck Camper Magazine blog that seemed like a great idea for the next part of our Life in the back of a truck series. He’s curious just how long his readers can boondock and what tricks they use to manage it. I got a bit long winded, but here’s my response.

The resources we have to work with are:

  • 46 gallons of fresh water
  • ~300 amp hours of battery in 2 Trojan T-1275 12V batteries
  • 60 pounds of propane in 2 30# tanks
  • A Honda eu2000i generator
  • ~4.5 gallons of gasoline plus whatever is in the scooter and generator (up to around 2 gallons if both are full)

Doesn’t sound like much, does it? Still, we manage to do fairly well when we find a place we want to stay for a while. It takes a little effort to conserve resources, but we manage to live quite comfortably for up to a two week stretch without running out of anything or breaking out a military desert survival handbook. Just how do we make these resources last and what sacrifices does it take, you ask? Well, read on to get a taste of the Hitek Homeless lifestyle!

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Life in the back of a truck (part 3)

March 14th, 2009

This is part of an ongoing series on what it’s like to live in a truck camper fulltime. You may read other articles here:

  1. Part One – The fulltime lifestyle
  2. Part Two – Why a truck camper?
  3. Part Three – Weights & Dealing with them
  4. Part Four – Boondocking resource conservation

We still haven’t got the shiny pictures from Carlsbad uploaded, so I’ll go back to an old standby and bore you all with life in the back of a truck… again!

It’s a truck, you can carry anything, right?

Unfortunately, this is not the case. Weight is a big concern for most fulltimers, but I think it is a much higher priority for truck campers. At first glance, you might think a class C would be heavier than a truck camper, and you’d probably be right… at least until you add the truck. They’re on similar sized chassis, so why would you worry about weight so much more in a truck camper? If you stop and think about the construction differences, I think you’ll get a pretty good idea of what causes the problem.

Class C’s are built on a bare chassis as a stand alone unit. A truck camper is separate from the truck and still needs to maintain structural integrity. Additionally, it’s sitting on a truck that hasn’t been gutted by the manufacturer to remove unneccessary (for camping) features. A truck camper and truck combo has a fair bit of redundant construction compared to a class A/B/C RV. The camper has to hold itself together both on and off the truck, which is more than you would ask of a standalone RV.

But, it’s still way smaller than the giant 5th wheels and trailers you see people towing, right? Sure, but there’s a big difference in the way the weight is carried. Trailers put the bulk of the weight on their own axles, which is why trucks can tow so much more than they can haul. Trucks have all sorts of weight ratings including GVWR, GCWR, GAWR, and tire load ranges.

Confused yet? Ok, let’s see if we can make some sense of these ratings and which ones will matter to you.

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Life in the back of a truck (part 2)

January 25th, 2009

This is part of an ongoing series on what it’s like to live in a truck camper fulltime. You may read other articles here:

  1. Part One – The fulltime lifestyle
  2. Part Two – Why a truck camper?
  3. Part Three – Weights & Dealing with them
  4. Part Four – Boondocking resource conservation

Why a truck camper when you could have something much larger?

True, a bus conversion or a 5th wheel would give quite a bit more space than a truck camper, but if you can deal with the smaller size, a truck camper has a lot going for it. For starters, you can take it places that just aren’t practical in most rigs that are suitable for fulltiming. Sure, a popup trailer or an especially small travel trailer might make it down a particular nasty stretch of dirt road, but even those are going to have issues if it turns out backing out is required. A smallish Class C is as manueverable as a truck camper, but they’re awfully hard to find in 4 wheel drive models with the kind of clearance you get from a full size truck.

Another bonus to truck campers is that you don’t really need to tow along a second vehicle for running around. Many Class A owners tow a dinghy vehicle for sightseeing in order to avoid moving their RV once its parked. While, we also haul around a scooter for short trips, we often just move the entire truck and camper if the trip requires it. Better yet, if we’re going to be somewhere more than a few days and know we’ll need to run around in the truck a lot, we can just drop the camper and have a separate vehicle to drive. It takes a bit more effort than dropping or loading a trailer, but the truck can easily be loaded or unloaded in around 30 minutes.

A final reason we really like the truck camper option is that the camper and drivetrain are not married as they are in Class A’s or C’s. If you decide you’d prefer a different floorplan or the truck experiences catastrophic failure, you can always change truck or camper with a minimum of hassle and keep the one you’re still happy with. For that matter, you can dump the camping lifestyle altogether and keep the truck. Not having the RV and truck married is what allows you to have a 4wd, diesel RV with good clearance at a reasonable price. It’s also an excellent choice for anyone that would like to pull a boat. Many states prohibit double towing, and I can’t imagine it being particularly fun even in those that allow it.

But, isn’t a truck camper way too small to live in fulltime?

I guess that depends on your lifestyle and what you want and need out of life. There are probably more people living in vans than truck campers by an order of magnitude. I can stand up fully, stretch out fully and have considerably more room to move around than any van I’ve ever seen except perhaps the shuttle buses, which I imagine would make a nice little rolling house with some work.

Personally, I find there is plenty of living space, but I’ve always liked living in smaller spaces. They prevent me from accumulating too much junk and I can usually find things I’ve mislaid without much trouble. Jenn and I as well as two cats have been living in the camper for 12 of the last 14 months and I feel much more comfortable to be back in our camper than I felt while we had the run of her parent’s place the past couple of months.

The one real constriction I feel about living in something the size of a truck camper is making a concious effort not to accumulate too much junk and finding a place to store the things we need. Anytime you consider picking up a new item, you have to think about just how often you’re going to use it, whether or not you can get along without it and where you’re going to store it. On top of that, you should consider whether it will be able to replace something you already have or if you already have something that can do the same thing. This problem actually helps me to save money by not buying things just because they’re shiny!

Life in the back of a truck (part 1)

November 20th, 2008

This is part of an ongoing series on what it’s like to live in a truck camper fulltime. You may read other articles here:

  1. Part One – The fulltime lifestyle
  2. Part Two – Why a truck camper?
  3. Part Three – Weights & Dealing with them
  4. Part Four – Boondocking resource conservation

So, you want to live in the back of a truck… First off, you should probably face the fact that you’re a bit of an odd duck. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s talk about some of the things that you’ll encounter along the way to making this grandiose fantasy a reality.

Where are you from?
You’re going to hear this question a lot as you travel around. It’s simply a polite thing to ask strangers that “aren’t from around here”. There are a few schools of thought as to how one should answer this question. You can tell people where you left “real life” from if you are in a hurry and don’t want to explain how you come to be living in that truck over yonder. If you’re dealing with a business or government agency, it’s usually simplest to give the address of your mail forwarding service or the address on your driver’s license.

The next two options are a pretty good way to strike up a conversation, so use them carefully as you may end up trying to explain yourself to a posse in the wrong town. You can simply tell the truth and explain that you’re traveling. This can lead to all sorts of interesting questions such as “are ya’ll circus folk/gypsies/carnies/hippies/destitute?”. I wouldn’t recommend telling the cashier at a local business this, but it goes over well at campgrounds. Events that bring a lot diverse folks together are also a good bet. You’ll have to explain yourself a lot more, but as you’re there to meet people anyway, it gives you an interesting topic to talk about. A lot of people are curious about the fulltime RV lifestyle and have lots of questions. The final answer to “where are you from?” is to say “I grew up in…”. This is a polite way of making smalltalk without committing yourself to answering a lot of personal questions from complete strangers.

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