travel trailer tips?

Ideas, advice, tips, and tricks regarding shelter, shade, tents, and camping. Yes, this includes RV's too.

travel trailer tips?

Postby shroom » Mon Apr 21, 2014 5:32 am

I've read all the rv threads and there is a lot of great info. I plan on bringing a travel trailer when I get back to the playa next year. Are there any tips specifically for a travel trailer? I'm planning on using one that is 20ft or less and we will be coming across country with it.

Thank in advance!
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Re: travel trailer tips?

Postby Captain Goddammit » Mon Apr 21, 2014 6:52 am

The two biggest tips are tires and wheel bearings.
Tire tread doesn't mean much, it's more about sidewall condition. If the tires are old and have age cracks in the sidewalls they can blow out, I've had it happen on the BM trip.
And bring a spare.

Wheel bearings get overlooked and ignored. Before a cross country trip you should pull them out and re-grease them and either make sure they are in good shape or just put new ones in while you're at it. They're cheap and easy. They suck when they fail on the highway. I've had that happen on my buddy's trailer on the BM trip. And bring spares!

Having a breakdown on the way to burning man really sucks because you're losing playa time, AAA can't replace that!
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Re: travel trailer tips?

Postby shroom » Mon Apr 21, 2014 9:27 am

Thanks so much!

All advice appreciated. ;D
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Re: travel trailer tips?

Postby asr9754 » Mon Apr 21, 2014 9:43 am

Figjam swamp cooler! Used one on a 18' travel trailer and it made a world of difference.
I removed one of the side windows near the sleeping area, cut a piece of foam insulation board to fit the window frame, and cut a circular hole in the foam board to fit the airpipe from the bucket cooler. I also built a very simple table to elevate the swamp cooler to the height of the window and bungeed the whole thing to the trailer keep it from blowing over. Hung a spare sheet as a curtain around the bed to keep the cool air. Best playa project I've ever done. Just keep the roof vent open when the swamp cooler is running.

Also, we found the old incandescent light bulbs to be the biggest power draw in the trailer, consider swapping for LED bulbs or using alternative lighting to preserve your trailer's battery power. This year I will string up a solar Xmas light inside the trailer and not use the built in interior lights.
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Re: travel trailer tips?

Postby theCryptofishist » Mon Apr 21, 2014 9:44 am

Incandesents also are more efficient at creating heat than light...
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Re: travel trailer tips?

Postby shroom » Mon Apr 21, 2014 2:27 pm

asr9754 wrote:Figjam swamp cooler! Used one on a 18' travel trailer and it made a world of difference.
I removed one of the side windows near the sleeping area, cut a piece of foam insulation board to fit the window frame, and cut a circular hole in the foam board to fit the airpipe from the bucket cooler. I also built a very simple table to elevate the swamp cooler to the height of the window and bungeed the whole thing to the trailer keep it from blowing over. Hung a spare sheet as a curtain around the bed to keep the cool air. Best playa project I've ever done. Just keep the roof vent open when the swamp cooler is running.

Also, we found the old incandescent light bulbs to be the biggest power draw in the trailer, consider swapping for LED bulbs or using alternative lighting to preserve your trailer's battery power. This year I will string up a solar Xmas light inside the trailer and not use the built in interior lights.


I love the xmas light idea. Haven't even thought about a swamp cooler but I will be now!
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Re: travel trailer tips?

Postby Elliot » Mon Apr 21, 2014 4:02 pm

Pulling a trailer is serious business. You need an adequate truck to tow it with, you need to make sure the weight distribution is right, you need to make sure the trailer brakes work properly, you need to watch out for crosswinds, you need to drive slowly down hill, and whatnot else.
Having earned my living driving cross country, I have seen an alarming number of camping trailers in the ditches.
You might want to start by reading the RV handbook that most states' DMV gives out. And when you start driving the beast, keep in mind that the trailer is always trying to wreck you. With that respectful attitude, you will be much safer than the average bear who just stomps on the gas.
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Re: travel trailer tips?

Postby GreyCoyote » Mon Apr 21, 2014 6:23 pm

Elliot wrote:And when you start driving the beast, keep in mind that the trailer is always trying to wreck you.


This ^^^, for the win! :mrgreen: Trailers take everything bad about vehicle physics, and magnify it many times. They ARE trying to kill you.

Other ideas for towing in a perfect world (especially when towing a heavier trailer): Use a heavy, long-wheelbase tow vehicle with the hitch mounted right at (or slightly below) axle level. Make sure the tow vehicle has a bias proportioning valve on the rear-end (this takes braking away from the rear and applies extra to the front if the rear-end is pushed-up by trailer braking forces). If possible, use a double-axle trailer (more stable under braking, cornering and high winds) with good electric brakes teamed with a proportional brake controller in the tow vehicle that has a manual trigger paddle within easy arms reach. If you learn to use that controller properly, and you know when to manually apply trailer brakes and how much, you enhance your range of safe control fairly dramatically.

Also: make sure the entire tow vehicle and trailer sits level when loaded. If you have a nose-up/nose-down aspect to the trailer, adjust the hitch ball height to make it sit level. If you have a nose-high attitude on the tow vehicle, either reload the trailer to get some weight off the tongue, or invest in stiffer rear springs/air shocks. If towing with a light pickup, pull some weight out of the trailer and get it over the rear axle.

Finally, train yourself to think "brake -or- corner, but not both at once". This isn't an absolute rule because sometimes you will get caught off-guard, but generally this is a good, safe driving ethic. The heavier the trailer, the more this becomes important. If you try to do all of your serious braking in a straight line, you take away many opportunities for winding-up upside-down in a ditch.
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Re: travel trailer tips?

Postby Elliot » Mon Apr 21, 2014 7:01 pm

In 1976 I saved myself -- and wife and children -- from a certain massive fishtailing crash by applying full engine power and full trailer brake. I can still "see" the left rear hubcap passing us -- I reckon the wheel flexed "a tad". Lesson learned. Slower down hill.
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Re: travel trailer tips?

Postby Captain Goddammit » Mon Apr 21, 2014 9:12 pm

If you haven't already acquired the trailer, I'd strongly advise passing up any single axle trailer, killer deal or not. Dual axle trailers tow a hell of a lot straighter and nicer. Single axle trailers tend to wag and sway back and forth. That sucks.

What vehicle will you be towing with?
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Re: travel trailer tips?

Postby Tiahaar » Mon Apr 21, 2014 11:29 pm

2 of my favorite burner friends and their excellent tips in this thread, hiya Elliot an Captain GD! And ha yes trailers are ALWAYS testing the driver's skills...sometimes the driver loses...don't be that driver.

My little bit of advice for those that don't do a lot of regular trailer towing, and are going to pull one, is to watch your cornering. The trailer is going to likely go deeper into turns than the tow vehicle, so if you cut a corner close with the auto, the trailer may jump the curb/take out the sign/pedestrian, etc. at the corner. Thing big and especially give yourself extra following/stopping room in traffic.

Wish I had a pic, a couple years ago there was an accident near Nixon and the 447 traffic got diverted onto a dirt road to bypass the wreck. There was a pretty sharp turn on the dirt road with a drop off on the inside annnndd...a big truck-fifth-wheel trailer camper rig took it too deep and pulled the trailer right off the edge, nearly rolling it all over. There were some tense minutes passed while it sat there at a 45 degree angle. Took several other trucks and some luck to pull the rig back onto the road.
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Re: travel trailer tips?

Postby shroom » Tue Apr 22, 2014 6:34 am

Captain Goddammit wrote:If you haven't already acquired the trailer, I'd strongly advise passing up any single axle trailer, killer deal or not. Dual axle trailers tow a hell of a lot straighter and nicer. Single axle trailers tend to wag and sway back and forth. That sucks.

What vehicle will you be towing with?


I haven't gotten the trailer yet, still looking. My friend will be driving unless I get a heck of a lot of practice between now and then. He will probably be using a full size pickup.
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Re: travel trailer tips?

Postby Captain Goddammit » Tue Apr 22, 2014 8:18 am

When you say full size pickup, do you mean a half-ton or a 3/4 or one-ton?

Best thing to do is get a "weight distributing" hitch. If you're not familiar, google it. EZ Lift is probably the biggest name. They have "spring bars" about 2 or 3 feet long that attach to the trailer tongue frame and they force some weight down on the FRONT of the tow vehicle.
The other benefit is they make it virtually impossible for the trailer to accidentally come unhitched no matter how hard a bounce it takes.
They make a huge difference and you want one. All the experienced travel trailer pullers use them.
I use one and my tow vehicle is a big heavy 4 door one ton dually. One of my camp mates has about a 22' older two axle camp trailer and she uses one, towing with her dad's one-ton Ford. The smaller/shorter/lighter your tow vehicle is, the more you need one. They make it handle and drive a lot better.

Most trailer hitches have a weight rating and specify the use of a weight distributing hitch for the full rating and maybe half the rating without one.

They cost a few to several hundred bucks new but Craigslist is always full of then at good deals. You can use it on any vehicle that has a standard 2" square tube trailer hitch receiver.

That's the right way to pull a trailer!
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Re: travel trailer tips?

Postby asr9754 » Tue Apr 22, 2014 8:33 am

+1 for the weight distribution, e-brake controller, spring bars, sway control tips etc.... esp since you're driving cross country and will cover some steep and curvy terrain along the way.

https://www.etrailer.com/faq-weightdistribution.aspx

Get your trailer early and practice driving a lot before you go to Bman. Pay attention to the weight and load limits of your vehicles and equipment. Also plan on driving slower compared to normal traffic and taking more frequent breaks and not driving as far per day on your journey. Driving w/ a trailer involves constant low-level anxiety so you will likely need more stops to rest. If your friend is driving the whole way, the rest of you own him/her a big favor! Do what you can to keep this person relaxed, alert, awake, well-rested and sober.
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Re: travel trailer tips?

Postby Captain Goddammit » Tue Apr 22, 2014 8:35 am

About buying a camper trailer... I'm assuming we're talking reasonably cheap, not rich-guy brand new stuff...
I'd say the two biggest issues are the refrigerator and water damage.
The refrigerator is the most expensive to repair or replace appliance in the thing. Physically verify that it works or assume it doesn't. Don't believe the seller, especially if they say "it just needs a recharge". They don't have a charge of freon like home fridges or car A/Cs.
They have to be level to work. If it smells of ammonia, the cooling unit has failed and it'll be around $800 to fix it. If it doesn't work but doesn't smell like ammonia it's likely the circuit board. Less expensive but not free.
Rebuilt used RV fridges are like $800 - $1200 ish.

So make sure the goddamm fridge works!
Sometimes they form crystals and clump up inside... if it has sat a while and won't cool, open up the hatch behind the fridge. You'll see a set of metal tubes about an inch in diameter. Bang on them with a block of wood, kinda hard but not so much you beat it to pieces. Often that will free it up and it'll start cooling again.

Second thing is water damage. RVs are built like crap. They all leak and rot. (There's a reason people buy aluminum Airstreams and busses and such!). Check the walls inside all the cabinets especially upper ones. See if they are damp or soft - or if your finger pushes right through the panelling.

If it's just for Burning Man and will sit under a tarp the rest if the year, a rig with some water damage can work just fine - just make sure you bargain for that and the price is low. Really low.
Pretty much the only older campers that don't have water damage are ones that have been kept under cover their whole life.
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Re: travel trailer tips?

Postby The_Sheik » Tue Apr 22, 2014 5:58 pm

Best of both worlds, a bike AND a camper.

[media]

https://www.eta.co.uk/2013/05/17/the-cramper-van-a-tiny-pedal-powered-motorhome/
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Re: travel trailer tips?

Postby Elliot » Tue Apr 22, 2014 6:08 pm

Alas, I would be worried about that thing tipping over rather often.
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Re: travel trailer tips?

Postby Jackass » Tue Apr 22, 2014 6:14 pm

TexasRick wrote:Best of both worlds, a bike AND a camper.



That thing is cramped, here's the real deal





camper-bike.jpg
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Re: travel trailer tips?

Postby shroom » Tue Apr 22, 2014 7:17 pm

I wonder how long it'll take me to pedal from Georgia?
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Re: travel trailer tips?

Postby Captain Goddammit » Tue Apr 22, 2014 7:20 pm

Leave now!!
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Re: travel trailer tips?

Postby shroom » Tue Apr 22, 2014 7:43 pm

lol!
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Re: travel trailer tips?

Postby dragonpilot » Wed Apr 23, 2014 12:44 pm

I towed a 20' R-Pod weighing about 3,000 lbs to the playa last year. Round trip was about 1,500 miles in all kinds of conditions...steep grades, cross winds, 100 degree temps. My tow vehicle is a '97 Ford Explorer V-8/5.0L with tow package. I did not have a weight distribution hitch, but I was very mindful of tongue weight and proper loading. I DID use a Husky sway bar and it performed well in cross winds and 18-wheeler blow-bys...solid feel.

Don't load your rig to the max. You don't need to carry a full load of water in the FW tank for most of your trip. I topped off about 90 miles out. I don't have a generator nor a solar charger and ran the whole 8 days on one 12V deep cycle battery. I did not need to use the trailer's interior lights...headlamps and a battery-powered lantern gave me all the light I needed. The fridge used less than 1/4 of a 20 lb propane tank. I was fortunate to be with a group camp with a camp kitchen so most of my meals on playa were with camp-provided amenities...but I used my trailer's kitchen for 5 days down and 3 days home.

I avoided using the toilet except for late night #1s...no #2s...EVER!

I built a Figjam swamp cooler, but it didn't perform up to expectations. Figjam has given me some design tips for this year and I plan on visiting him at his invitation if I still have cooling problems!
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Re: travel trailer tips?

Postby dragonpilot » Wed Apr 23, 2014 7:26 pm

And I don't drive over 55 mph. Drag, aka wind resistance, is significantly less at 55 than at 65-70 mph which translates into better fuel economy...not to mention more stability.
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Re: travel trailer tips?

Postby Thecatman » Wed Apr 23, 2014 8:11 pm

Most truck drivers will say, "you're not driving the truck, you're driving the trailer".
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Re: travel trailer tips?

Postby motskyroonmatick » Thu Apr 24, 2014 9:45 pm

Thecatman wrote:Most truck drivers will say, "you're not driving the truck, you're driving the trailer".


I agree completely and thats what I tell the new guys at work.
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Re: travel trailer tips?

Postby The_Sheik » Fri Apr 25, 2014 10:00 pm

Make sure and give your RV a cool name (like mine) Image
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Re: travel trailer tips?

Postby shroom » Sat Apr 26, 2014 4:45 am

TexasRick wrote:Make sure and give your RV a cool name (like mine) Image



nice!
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Re: travel trailer tips?

Postby Rusted Iron » Wed Apr 30, 2014 9:43 pm

Be prepared to repair.

We recently sold our cab-over camper and bought a 19' trailer. Before we brought it home, we took it to a local RV repair shop and had them fix all the problems that we spotted and a few more that we didn't. Since we bought the trailer for a low price, we figured that it was worth it because RV shops are not cheap. This is on a trailer that the seller claimed only needed the running lights fixed.

When we were searching for a trailer, we learned that some of the used RV lots scour Craig's list and snap up the best looking cheapest trailers, clean them up then sell them for thousands more. I don't know if that happens nationwide. We ended up driving 4 hours away to get one that was a bit too far for the Bay Area lots to bother with.

Oh, also check the propane tanks for 10% valves. You can't fill the old ones that don't have them. You can check the floor or rot by walking over the whole surface, feeling for soft spots or spots that give. Check the roof vents for cracks and chips. They are common sources for leaks. Lastly, buy a carbon monoxide alarm since those types of leaks will kill you.
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Re: travel trailer tips?

Postby Sail Man » Thu May 01, 2014 8:40 pm

I bring a small tent to stow stuff outside of the camper. Mine is 19' long and it doesnt take very long before your tripping all over things. Especially when some stranger hands you a beverage at some shady camp bar :wink:
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Re: travel trailer tips?

Postby Rusted Iron » Tue Jun 24, 2014 9:05 pm

So I bought a small AC unit at a garage sale for $10 this weekend. It looks a bit beat up but it works well. There is no information on the wattage. I think it will cool the interior of the travel trailer but I doubt that it will get really chilly.

I am planning on putting it on an elevated platform outside the trailer, crafting a sleeve that will connect it to an open window with as little air space as I can manage left open. The trailer's electrically system was built without AC in mind so it will have to be powered off the honda generator and a long extension cord. Reflectix is going up over the windows.

If anyone can see any flaws in this simple plan, please let me know. I don't think we we use this system often but there are normally two or three times each year that the heat gets oppressive and I feel like I'm going to melt.

(I didn't go with an evaporative system because my husband absolutely hates any bit of humidity.)
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