One of my favourite memories as a kid was when my parents rented a RV and took us kids "camping" at Elk Island Park. We looked at buffalo, we swam, we got covered in leeches, we had our leeches removed, we had hot dogs and roasted marshmallows around the fire. And then at the end, instead of sleeping on the ground, like chumps, we all got to sleep in beds! INSIDE!
The RV was so magical that even when we came home, my brother and I begged to be allowed to sleep in it on the last night before it had to go back to the rental place. And then the next morning we begged to be allowed to eat our breakfast at the little table. We planned our next trip over bran muffins and juice boxes, in the RV, sitting in our driveway. The possibilities seemed endless.
RVs have come a long way since the '80's and there are a myriad of options to choose from, from simple tent trailers to behemoth buses with fireplaces and bathtubs. Here are some basic questions to consider when you're thinking about renting a summer adventure vehicle.
Drive-able, Tow-able or Truck Camper?
There are three main types of RVs - trailers, truck campers and motorized RVs. Truck campers are portable units which you can affix to the bed of your pick-up truck. Trailers - from folding tent trailers to conventional travel trailers - can be towed with a regular car or SUV; the larger "fifth-wheel" trailers are designed to be towed with a pick-up truck. With the trailers, one advantage is that once you reach your destination, you can set up your trailer, then unhook your vehicle and drive around for shorter trips. Of course, with a motorized RV, you can always tow your vehicle behind the RV and do the same thing!
If you're planning on towing a trailer, make sure you know the maximum weight your vehicle can tow (you can find out from your owner's manual) before you fall in love with a trailer that's too heavy.
Are you used to driving large vehicles?
This is probably the most important question to ask yourself. RVing is only fun when you don't repeatedly end up in a ditch, get stuck under a low bridge or have to handle a tricky exit from a parking lot. The largest class of motorized RV, Class A vehicles, are about the size of a Greyhound bus. If that seems like too much to handle, consider choosing a smaller vehicle you're more confident you can drive; either a Class B, which is basically a wide-bodied van or a Class C, the mini-motorhome you see in the picture above. RVs up to a certain size don't generally require a special license - check out the licensing body in your province for information.
How many people are coming with you? And how much do you like them?
Sometimes a trailer or motorized RV that says it "sleeps six" means "six people on top of each other like sardines" or "two adults, four tiny children". Figuring out how much personal space you and your travel companions absolutely need in the RV can help you determine what RV fits you best. In the end, size may not matter as much as floorplan. You might not need a Class A bus - just a Class C with a floorplan that suits your needs.
Are you mostly driving and stopping or mostly staying put?
If you're taking a trip where you're driving and stopping frequently along the way, it's smart to choose a more utilitarian vehicle that you feel comfortable driving and fuelling up a lot. If, on the other hand, you're driving to a destination where you plan to spend the majority of your holiday, you might want to try out a more luxurious ride, the kind with slide-out expansions and awnings and a built-in grill.
Are you stopping at campgrounds (with electrical and water hook-ups) or in the untamed wilderness?
If you're staying places where it will be easy to refill your water tanks/power up your vehicle, then you probably don't need to worry too much about the size of the water tanks in your RV. If you're driving out to the wilderness for an extended stay, however, it pays to be water conscious. Look into vehicles that offer larger tanks/better water efficiency. Keep in mind that the longer your trip, the more grey water and black water you'll be accumulating, which has to be emptied at special RV dump facilities (although if you're renting, many rental places will simply charge a dump fee and take care of it for you).
What kind of experience to you want to have?
Or, in other words, how at one with nature do you want to be? Do you basically want to camp without the hassle of setting up a tent or do you want the dishwasher and 40 inch TV with built-in beer fridge? Even the smallest RV options come with various levels of luxury.
In the end, best advice is generally "take the least amount of RV you need". If you don't have a ton of RV experience, keeping it simple is definitely the way to go. For more information on types of RVs, check out GoRVing.
Are you an RV addict? Have any tips to share with newbies? Leave them in the comments!
- Rose R.