youtubeI was not an RVer.  Nope, not even close.  I didn’t know anyone who was a full-time RVer, or even know that was a term.  I knew nothing about long-term RVing except that retired snowbirds left my home state of Michigan and headed south for the winter.  In the winter of 2010, my wife, Shari, put an impromptu bid on a beat-up, 1957 Sportcraft camper, and we soon had an instant project parked in our driveway. 

Was I ready to own an RV?  What did it even mean to become an RVer? 

We were in our early 40’s and very active outdoor people who loved to tent camp in the backcountry and do human powered adventures.  But you see…sometimes I see things in an either/or sort of way; I’m a man after all. But Shari argued that we could have it both ways.  Simply because we owned an RV, didn’t mean we couldn’t leave it behind and go backpacking, sea kayak camping, or bikepacking. We weren’t giving up that active life; we were using our adventure rig to get to faraway places we’d always dreamed of seeing.   AND, we could stay longer, without needing to rush back to jobs and home. 

When I realized that our RV could be a badass basecamp, packed with all of our outdoor gear, I got on board with Shari’s crazy plan!  Plus, we wouldn’t have to pack up a soggy wet tent or deflate a sleeping pad every morning while moving around the country. I began to see our RV as the best of both worlds.

These days there are a ton of adventure rigs out there appealing to a more active group of people, who want to use their rig as a way to really get out there.   Manufacturers such as Taxa, Airstream, Sol, Tab, and Cricket are often represented at the three shows sponsored by Northwest RVing.  These small and lightweight trailers offer a great balance for anyone wanting to get out there and still wanting some creature comforts.  


Our Favorite Gear for Getting Out There

If you love to get out there, but find the packing and unpacking of the family car overwhelming, a small trailer can hold everything and be ready to go whenever you are.  Our trailer serves as both home and storage for our favorite gear.  While we have 72 sq ft. of living space, 2/3 of this is storage – under the bed, beneath the dinette seats, cupboards, closet, and all the space in our pickup truck bed.  With sea kayaks stored above our vehicle and bikes hanging off the back of our trailer, we may look a little funny during some times of the year.  But no matter where we are, we are always ready to pull out our gear and have another adventure.
  
Backpacking – The Essential Camping Experience
Carrying everything you need while travelling on foot is becoming easier as modern equipment becomes lighter and more reliable.  Of course, what you “need” is a matter of personal taste; we invested a lot in a comfortable sleeping system and prefer to cook real food over dehydrated glop – so our packs might be a bit heavier.  While we’ve needed to upgrade some equipment, much of what we have has served us for over a decade. This is what we carry with us:

• Backpacks – Kelty & Klymat Motion
• Tent – Sierra Designs, 2-Person
• Sleeping Bag – Sierra Designs, 2- Person Outdoor Bed 
• Sleeping Pads – Big Agnes Q-Core Inflatable 
• Backcountry Pillows – Nemo Filo 
• Campchairs – Crazy Creek
• Backcountry Stove – MSR Whisperlite
• Backcountry Pot Set and Banks Fry-Bake cooking pan
• Water Filter – Sawyer Filter Mini
• Small Solar Panel and Powerbank – Renogy Portable Solar Solutions


Portable Solar Gear for Backcountry Travel

Bikepacking – Go Further, Carry More
Imagine bringing the same gear, but swapping out the backpacks for a bikecart and some paniers (saddlebags for your bike)…and you get the idea.  With the weight off of our shoulders and onto the bike frame, we can consider bringing along some extra luxuries like fresh veggies, stored in a soft cooler or even a container of wine. 

Sea Kayak Camping – If You Can Fit It, You Can Bring It - 
Traveling on the water, whether by canoe, raft, or kayak rarely means that you have to limit your gear by weight, unless you’ll be portaging long distances (carrying your boat and gear between bodies of water).  If it can fit in the boat, you can usually bring it. Our 17-foot sea kayaks have three mostly water tight compartments into which we can store enough gear, food, and even fresh water for an entire week.  Some specific additional gear we use for these adventures:

• Dry Bags – To keep clothing and sleeping gear dry in the hatch
• Life Jackets 
• UHF Radio & other lifesaving gear such as a tow rig, paddle float, etc.
• Paddles
• Chart Bag and Phone Dry Case

The great thing about all of this gear is that once you’ve made the initial investment (and much of our gear, including boats and bikes were purchased second-hand), using it doesn’t cost very much.  


Packing up the kayaks

Epic Human Powered Adventures We’ve Taken Away from Our Camper 

Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
“Look!” - I glanced up at the place to where Shari pointed, and the saw the small brown rump of a Black Bear cub disappear over the rise.  “Where’s Mamma?” I thought and we quickly burst into a round of signing at the top of our lungs. Seeing a bear cub at such close range was incredible, but we wanted them to know where we were.  Our backpacking trip through the Shenandoah mountains brought many surprises, like how descending a few hundred feet would literally bring us into spring with fiddle head ferns and daffodils popping up and leaves starting to bud.  Inevitably we would ascend back up to the primary ridge and those early markers of spring slowly disappeared. In addition to the Appalachian Trail, many side trails lead from the numerous parking areas along the Skyline Drive.  We linked together several trails, including parts of the AT to lead us back to the parking area where we’d left Hamlet for the week.  

Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota
 - Landing our sea kayaks on the granite ledge of a small island covered with spruce trees, it was hard to believe that we weren’t somewhere on the coast of Maine, and that this was a fresh water lake.  The paddle up campsites dotted around the numerous islands of Voyageurs offer some of the best solitary and picturesque camping we’ve ever experienced, and no tide charts to consider.  We hardly saw another soul during our weeklong paddle around the lakes and islands creating our international border with Canada.  Paddling back to the boat launch where we’d left our trailer was bitter sweet; it’s always nice to return to our basecamp, but sometimes we wish we could stay just a bit longer.



Lake Powell National Recreation Area, Utah - 
The Navajo Sandstone formations rise abruptly from the water as if they’d been forced upward by some giant force instead of eroded by the millennia.  This lake, formed by the waters of the Colorado River and held back by the Glen Canyon Dam, offers a unique paddling destination. Once you leave the massive boat-launch parking lots behind, and paddle into the side canyons off the main lake, you feel as if you’ve gone back in time.  You can quickly find yourself paddling into concave cul-de-sacs of stone rising hundreds of feet above, or winding back through narrow slots of rock and water. Campsites pitched on the slickrock above the waters of the lake offer amazing views of this place of contrasts. It is an arid region dominated by stone, and yet everywhere we look, water seems abundant.  Morning and evening illuminates the cliff faces of Lake Powell  in an otherworldly type of light that will have you wondering why you didn’t come here sooner. 

 

San Juan Islands, Washington - 
It seems that we can always find a friend with whom we can leave our little trailer parked – it helps that it doesn’t take much more space than a Prius.  Our 12-day San Juan Islands adventure, we left our camper with one friend on the mainland, and our truck with another on Lopez Island.   From there we could launch our paddle adventure into the heart of the archipelago. With paddle-in campsites available on most islands, and an abundance of marine mammals from seals, sea lions, and orcas frequenting the area, the opportunity to get close to nature is real.  Keeping track of the tidal currents, not to mention the Washington State Ferry schedule gave us enough reason to keep the smartphone handy, in addition to the UHF. With all the information available on weather, wind, and tide apps, it just makes sense.  Keeping your phone and other batteries charged up is easy enough with the help of a small portable solar panel and powerbank.



Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Tow-Path Trail, Ohio
 - May is one of the best months in Ohio, the weather is turning warm, the flowers are abundant and everything is green and growing.  My college holds its annual reunions during Memorial Day weekend, and we decided to make an adventure out of getting there, along a 200-mile bikepacking journey.  What started on the Cuyahoga Tow Path in downtown Cleveland, led us through the heart of Amish Country farmland, and into the “Little Switzerland” of the Midwest.  We linked several Rails-to-Trails bike paths together with just a few Ohio backroads frequented by horse and buggy on our way to my class gathering.   We were able to park our adventure rig with a friend who was coming to the reunion, so she just brought our truck down to us. 

North Cascades National Park, Washington
 - The North Cascades mountain range, rising from nearly sea level to over 10K feet, is a study in opposites, on one side abundance and on the other scarcity.  It’s one thing to know about this contrast in moisture, and another to experience it first-hand. One night while working at the North Cascades Institute we realized that a multi-sport, human-powered adventure starting from where we were standing could lead across the North Cascades mountains, from west to east over 150 miles using bikes, our feet, and kayaks.  Leaving our rig parked at a friend, we started out on our 18-day adventure. Along the way we experienced the wet western forests, a night on the shoulder of a glacier, the dry heat of the eastern range, some of the steepest terrain we’d ever hiked, crystal clear swimming holes, and 6 days paddling down one of the longest, glacially carved lakes on the west coast.   

While we haven’t had a single problem leaving our camper parked while we go explore for a significant period of time, here are some things to consider:

• Leave it with a friend in the area.  This may require you to make a new friend!  Check out the Boondockers Welcome group for some likely recommendations.
• Store any food that could attract rodents or ants in sealed bins inside your camper.  We’ve had good luck with lavender dryer sheets as a rodent odor deterrent. 
• Hide or take any valuables with you.   If you have a small safe, or secret hiding spots, this is the time to use it.
• Close all curtains and lock up everything.
• Store bikes, and other equipment that is normally stored outside of your RV, on the inside of your RV while you’re away.
• If parking at a Visitor Center, get permission, and leave an adventure plan with them including emergency contact information, your planned route, and a day you intend to return.  Don’t just leave a note on the dashboard so that the rangers (and potential thieves) know when you’ll return.
• Park in a well-lit spot in a high traffic area.
• Get fulltime RVer insurance, as it just gives you peace of mind.  We have a comprehensive policy (which covers the structure, liability, loss of use, contents, towing, etc.) with Foremost Insurance.

Getting away from our trailer and feeling like we’re really roughing it out in the wilderness is one of the many reasons we took up this lifestyle in the first place.  Returning to our little Hamlet feels like we’re returning home, wherever he may be parked at the moment. Learn more about our solar-powered adventures on our website and follow us on the road via social media at Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube!

 

Shari and Hutch
Author: Shari and HutchEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
In 2012, David Hutchison “Hutch” and Shari Galiardi left behind careers and a comfortable home in North Carolina to travel with the vintage camper trailer they lovingly restored, outfitted with solar, and named “Hamlet.” What they thought would be a year or two adventure around the continent transformed into a new lifestyle. 7.5 years later, with no end in sight, they share stories and insights from their mid-life adventure to large industry travel shows, intimate college campuses, open tiny houses in REI parking lots and a growing online audience. Traveling over 100,000 miles to 49 states, countless National Parks and other public lands, the couple pursues what it means to live the good life on their own terms and sustain it. The writing and photography duo currently pen the popular “Full-Time Campers” column in The Dyrt’s online magazine and contribute to Renogy’s solar blog as well as other publications.

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