with Lorelle and Brent VanFossen

Which RV to Choose for Travel and Life on the Road

VanFossens in their truck and trailer on the Matanuska Glacier, Alaska.

I’m constantly asked which vehicle or trailer to choose when making a decision to take your camera and life on the road. My answer never varies. Here it is.

There are a lot of articles out there with one view or the other on what type of recreational vehicle you should choose for travel. I’ve found a lot of them very bias.

I take a more open approach. The key is to choose one that works for you. Seriously.
Removing the old fridge from our trailerIf you have all the money in the world, it doesn’t matter, you can choose anything you want as long as it fits where you want to go and what you want to do. If you are pinching pennies, this still applies. No matter how much money you have or are willing to spend, it boils down to the fact that the RV must take you where you want to go and help you do what you want to do.

First, the differences. A motor home has an engine and is open from the front to the back. A Class C is a motor home open from the front to the back with a van or truck cab “combined” into the RV. A camper is carried on the back of a truck and there is rarely an access point between the truck and the camper. A trailer has no engine and is pulled by any vehicle. A fifth wheel trailer has no engine and is towed by a truck. Below those you have a variety of vans and sleep-in-the-car configurations.

  • If you need to travel with a lot of stuff and you like luxuries, then motor home or big trailer.
  • If you want to travel lightly and feel the road closely, motorcycle or bicycle with a tent.
  • If you are physically fit, go with trailer (5th wheel or otherwise) or truck and camper.
  • If you aren’t physically fit, go with Class C or A motor home.
  • If you want to stay high in the mountains, backwoods, BLMs, rugged terrain, and off road, then tent, small trailer, class C, anything under 26 feet in total length is the only way to go.
  • If you are traveling to big parks, then anything goes but if you are in big campgrounds and trailer parks, they don’t like crap vehicles. Some won’t take trailers only motor homes.
  • If you are staying on the road for weekends, go cheap. If you only travel during summer, go cheap.
  • If you wish to plant yourself somewhere and explore from there, a motor home or Class C with a toad (tow vehicle) is essential.
  • If you are only going to go with friends and family for short trips during good weather and not long distance, go light, small, and easy on everyone.
  • If you travel with animals, buy with room for them in mind.
  • Can you sleep and walk in it? If you are tall, a bed across the width won’t work without a slide-out. If ceiling, door frames, and lights are low, tall people will need to stoop.
  • How much time will you spend inside as opposed to out? The more time you spend inside, the more luxurious, roomy, and comfortable it should be.
  • Traveling with small children? Remember they grow up fast. Plan for them.
  • How many bodies will travel with you? The more the merrier and the more the larger.
  • If you need to make frequent “pit stops,” buy a motor home or Class C for quick pull overs to use your own pit without leaving the vehicle.
  • If you are going to cross the continent a few times, choose a strong heavy axle RV made for hauling, pulling, or towing. Engine and tires will matter most.
  • If you are living in this full-time, makes sure it is durable, weatherproof, all season, and comfortable.
  • If you have a hobby or job you are taking with you, make sure there is room enough for you and the tasks, and the RV is secure enough to protect your investments.
  • How long are you going to actively use it? A year, two, eight, twenty? We got sixteen years plus out of our 2-year expected usage with a lot of time spent fixing it up and maintaining it, so look long not short and buy accordingly.

NEVER under-buy or underestimate the pulling capacity or weight bearing capabilities of whatever you are considering. Buy a tow vehicle that exceeds the need to pull the trailer. Buy a trailer or motor home to carry at least double your anticipated weight needs (you always add more than you should).

That’s all you need to know. Answer those questions and you will narrow down your choices quickly.


  • Mark
    Posted August 15, 2014 at 9:14 | Permalink

    I’m a fan of 5th wheels. I think they offer the most bang for the buck and the most versatility. They are safer and easier to tow than a traditional travel trailer and they are generally more spacious.

    That was interesting to see a photo of a refrigerator being pulled out of an RV. I’ve replaced mine with a residential style refrigerator. RV refrigerators are temperamental and dangerous. They are the #1 cause of RV fires.


    • Posted September 6, 2014 at 16:05 | Permalink

      I used to think that 5th wheels were the best of the choices, dragging your home on your back and springing free from it to travel in the towing vehicle, but the older I get, the more this is hard work. I’ll flip for a motor home and tow vehicle in a second now. I’m so past the 45+ minutes to setup and take down. I want to push a button and walk away.

      I don’t agree with residential style refrigerators in RVs. They are restrictive, limiting you to only electrical connections. If you wish to travel free of hookups, they won’t work.

      I think there are many things that will cause a fire in an RV beyond just fridges. I am paranoid about open flames, and won’t even let the pilot light run. All that said, RV fridges are a pain unless you buy well and keep them up.


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