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Picking out an RV

Updated: Jun 19, 2023


little boy sitting at a rv dinette.
Willl checking out the possible campers.

We started the process of of looking at campers about a month ago, and have finally settled on a floorplan. Come along with us as I share the process of picking out an RV for our family, and what that looked like as we narrowed it down from 20+ floorplans to the model we have chosen.


Our only initial requirement was that it needed to sleep 8, without converting couches or dinettes into beds in the living area. A few years back with 2 less kids we stayed in my in-law's camper for around 4 months between homes. It gave us some experience living small, that made us think we could make this move. There was one draw back though, it was a camper meant for just a couple. We had to convert dinette tables and the couch into a bed each night and reverse the process the next morning. This meant no one could sleep in, and at bed time everyone had to go to bed. It also meant that if someone was sick or not feeling good, they couldn't lay down while the rest of us went about our day. So, if we are going to be living in a camper we want to have designated sleeping space for everyone. With this as our only requirement, we had several campers make it through the first round of our camper search.


Types of RVs
Recreational Vehicles

Commonly known as RVs or Motorhomes, these campers have an engine and can be driven. They fall into three categories: class A, class B, and class C, with A and C being the most prevalent. There were two of each of these that made our initial list. The Thor Miramar 37.1 and the Thor Inception 38BX being two of the four.


Fifth Wheels

The largest towable campers, these models are the best of what camping has to offer. They are easier to tow than other models due to the hitch in the back of the truck bed rather than the bumper hitch, and also allow for heavier weights. There were several of these that made our initial list. The Montana High Country 335BH, being just one of many.


Travel Trailers

Also known as Bumper Pulls or Pull Behinds, these campers are smaller than the fifth wheels, but larger than the pop up campers. Significantly lighter, they don't require as heavy duty of a truck to pull them. In our research we even found some that a 12 passenger Nissan NV could pull. There were also several of these that made our initial list. The Wildwood Forest River 33TS was just one of many.


Toy Haulers

Finally, the last type of RV that made our initial cut off were toy haulers. They can be pull behinds or 5th wheels, but all the models large enough to sleep a family our size were 5th wheels. These campers have a garage section and a back wall that lowers down to be a ramp for loading various toys like ski dos, 4 wheelers, etc. When not in use as a ramp, they make a back porch area. The Grand Design Momentum 397THS was one from a list of four.


Narrowing Down Floorplans

Surprisingly we had a number of potential candidates, turns out more and more people are either living full time in RVs or are taking vacations with extended family and want more sleeping and living space. So since there were so many popular options, our next step was to visit a few dealerships and walk the floorplans. Pictures can tell you a great deal, but they don't compare to actually walking the model you are looking at.


Very quickly we determined that some of them allocated so much room to bunk space that they left no living space. Unless we want to all school in our beds, like Ruth, that wasn't going to work. Others had no kitchen prep space except the dinette. Gary pointed out that wouldn't work because he couldn't cook while we worked on school, he needs some actual counter space. Others had a master bed that you crawled into because it sat on the floor. Some plans we thought would work turned out to just not be as good of a set up for our family as we previously thought.


Features

After narrowing down floorplans we still had tons of options so it was time to discuss what sort of features we wanted in a camper. There are so many features on campers today, that they can be mini luxury homes; however, there are also many models that are more basic with a few additional add on features.


Recreational Vehicles

This was the point that we ruled out the recreational vehicles. We decided we really didn't want another motor to deal with. It didn't make sense to us to actually have the expense and extra upkeep of a rather large and expensive motor, that would leave us stranded if it went out.


Fridge

Our first make or break item that we agreed on was a residential size fridge. With a family our size we'd be shopping daily with a standard RV fridge. One of the areas that we anticipate needing to adjust to already will be not having a freezer full of meat and sides when meal planning, so we definitely want the biggest fridge/freezer combo we can get for fulltime rv life.


Washer and Drier Hook-Ups

This was the next deciding factor for us. We decided we if at all possible wanted washer/drier hook-ups and if we can find a used camper that already had them installed, even better. It only makes sense with our size family to swap to doing a load of laundry every day, and save the money that would otherwise need to be spent on a laundromat.


Enclosed Bunkroom

We also decided that we needed an actual door between the bunkroom and the rest of the camper, so that when we put the twins down they are down. We also wanted that to cut down on the noise of the rest of the kids talking as they settle in for bed for the night. Additionally that would allow us to be up and doing things either after bedtime or first thing in the morning without disturbing them when they are asleep.


Bathrooms

It wasn't on our list right away, and it wasn't a firm make or break item, but we ended up deciding that we wanted 1 and a half baths. It didn't make sense for all eight of us to share a single toilet especially in the morning or evening when people are getting showers too.


Super Sofa

This was the last preference I was looking for. With a larger than average family I didn't want a dinette but instead wanted a long couch set up. Many models offer it as an option, but it was going to be a little trickier to find used. In my mind we can always enjoy meals outside on the picnic table, and the super sofa options do have pop up tables that you can sit up, but full seating for family movie nights and time together was worth more to me than a dinette.


Outdoor Kitchen

Gary's final preference was to find a camper with an outdoor kitchen. Something with not just a sink and mini fridge, but with a griddle and a grill or at least propane hook-up. He does all of our cooking, and thinks it would be a help to prepare meals both on the stove top and with the grill or griddle outside, rather than trying to cook for 8 only using the narrow stove top and small oven inside.


The Final Contenders

After walking through the various floorplans and deciding on our list of must haves we had our short list of three campers - one toy haulers and two pull behinds. All the models we were looking at could be gotten in the soft budget we have set for ourselves (since the house hasn't yet sold, we don't have a hard figure at this time). Two of the three we were looking at would be best pulled by a 1 ton truck. So the final question we had to ask ourselves was which lay out worked best and was the added expense of a 5th wheel toy hauler worth that much more than the smaller travel trailers.

Momentum 410TH floorplan

Grand Design Momentum 410TH

This toy hauler hit all of our preferences for a camper, except one, and even had a king bed option. Toy haulers typically do not have outdoor kitchens and this one is no exception to that rule. This layout also has the bonus of separating the shower from the toilet in the master suite so that both can be used at the same time. There were a few draw backs however. One of the bunks opens to the living area rather than the garage. There is a second entrance to the garage, which would double as a bunkhouse, which isn't a preference for me with little mischievous heathens.


Open Range 338BH floorplan

Open Range 338BH

This travel trailer also hit all of our preferences for a camper, and even had a king bed option. It even comes standard with an automatic wench, which is a nice upgrade Gary's looked into. This layout does have a few draw backs the shower is a tiny radial shower, rather than a more normal shower, which also means no tub for washing the little boys. The older models also don't have washer and drier hook up, which could be a problem since we want to buy an older, used model.


Floorplan for a Venture RV Sporttrack 343VIB

Venture RV Sporttrack 343VIB

This travel trailer also hit all of our preferences for a camper, except for a half bath and a residential size fridge, thought it did have the larger RV fridge size. It even comes standard with an automatic wench, which is a nice upgrade Gary's looked into. This layout does have a few bonuses such as the shower being a standard size. There was also a bonus mini bunk in the master bedroom that we could use for the twins to sleep separately from the older kids. The biggest plus is that it can be pulled by a smaller truck and is the cheapest option of all.


Ultimately

We have chosen to go with the Open Range camper. It won't be the roomiest bunk room when all the kids pile in, but it will be just fine to sleep them all. The twins and Kate's bed is a full that transfers back into a little dinette which might prove handy for working on school work during the day. And as Britt is so excited about there will be a small tv in the bunkroom where they can hook up all their Nintendo games. The master bedroom still has walk space with a king bed, and washer drier hook ups, so long as we get one that is only a couple of years old. We can make do with the smaller shower, and use bath houses sometimes while at various parks if we want. The bulk of the interior space is in the living area, which gives us room to relax or work on school work while cooking, even on rainy days were we can't get out and about.


Picking out an RV for our family was an involved process, but now the trick is to keep our eyes peeled for one. There seem to be several of these on the market at any given time, as they have been a popular option for several years. There are a few technical upgrades that Gary is keeping his eyes peeled for such as soft start AC, lithium-ion deep cycle batteries, automatic stabilizing jacks with x-brace stabilizers, a Propride 3P hitch, independent suspension and disc brakes, along with a built in generator. We have seen several come along with many of these and even some other upgrades like a power pole surge protector, battery monitor, and propane regulator. We aren't ready to buy quite yet, but our next step will be to jump on the right one, with as many of the upgrades as we can find.

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