There are countless joys and benefits to living on the road. And with that, there are growing pains and challenges that come with the learning curve and fun of living a life less structured. Here are a few of the main challenges that we noticed pretty early on into road life and some suggestions for how to be prepared:
Many campers generally only have 1 of everything. 1 bathroom, 1 bed, 1 water pump, etc…. When something breaks, repairs become more urgent. Plan for contingencies. Carry spares of low-cost common parts (for us, drawer tracks became a big one, as they frequently crack under pressure when we hit a literal bump in the road). It is also a good idea, if you can, to put aside a little savings for the inevitable hotel stay when larger repairs are needed, or when you have to immediately leave the premise for an urgent issue. Also, make sure you have some form of roadside assistance, whether it is thru an upgraded AAA policy, GoodSam or other. Being towed is no fun, and if you have to cover the whole bill, even less so.
We tend to move around frequently, so this doesn’t normally become an issue. However, when we stay somewhere for a week or longer, we do start to notice that our presence attracts attention from the “local residents”. Largely, small ants seems to be the biggest invader. However, we have encountered 1 cockroach, 1 rattle snake (waiting for us outside the camper), lots of fruit flies, mosquitos, and spiders, but luckily, no rodents, yet! Because we live in such a small space, having non-toxic pest control was very important to us. We have a bunch of non-toxic glue traps that we set inside cupboards and place in out of the way spots in the corner. But, ideally, we hope that the pests don’t make it inside to be captured, and for this, we discovered that baby powder is a great defense against pests like ants and other bugs as a non-toxic repellent. We simply sprinkle some around any point of the camper that may be touching the ground outside, such as the base of our jacks, and the point where our water hose and drainage hose touch the ground.
Leaks are a sad inevitability when you have a house that is constantly in motion and wearing at the joints & seams. The best combat for this is pro-activeness with seasonal maintenance to re-caulk areas that are aging or cracking. Even with careful preparation, leaks can and happen, especially in older campers. We once noticed a small waterfall coming in through our ceiling air conditioner unit, only to discover, that our external ceiling dome had cracked and flown off somewhere on the road. That was a quick fix and a fast Amazon order later. We have also had to deal with the peskier problem of trying to identify where a leak is coming in when there is no visible wear or tear anywhere, which resulted in the lengthy process of removing all the old caulk on our roof and re-seal all the joints. An endeavor I hope to only have to do once over few years, at most. One thing we learned for sure, is that when there is a leak, it will be a problem. Quick emergency fixes include using risers to unlevel your camper so that you use gravity to create a run-off to avoid pooling water on the roof. We keep a handy supply of dollar store shower curtain liners to use as compact and durable emergency tarps. Also, keep a ready supply of “Goo Gone” and your favorite RV sealant agent for when you have to do touch-ups and joint repairs.
Similar to leaks, water in all its forms is very damaging to campers, and condensation is no different. Condensation will become more or less a problem depending on the time of year and location of your travels. Sleeping with bedside windows cracked, even in colder weather, helps. We also lined the underneath of our mattress with a layer of “Hypervent Aire-Flow” to provide extra ventilation and we keep a small surplus stash of charcoal based moister absorbers that we place behind the head board of our bed, and in several cabinets throughout our camper.
Paper mail is not something I can say that I miss, and for that reason, we don’t do anything particularly special to combat this issue. If friends or family need to send us something, we can provide them with an address for a local post office or campground for where we will be in the future. But, when it comes to the needles piles of junk mail that get sent to a traditional address on any given day, please, forgot our names and save the trees. Having said that, there are ways for those who want to get their mail to do so. If you stay in places for longer durations, you can normally use your campground as a mailing location, or set-up a P.O. Box at the local post office. For a fee, there are many private companies out there that collect your mail, scan images of it for you to view online, and will even forward your mail to a designated campground or post office. We haven’t gone that route, because most of our pressing bills and notifications can be set for e-notifications to viewed online. For all the rest, we have simply established our mailing address with a family member. Thanks to a new, free service, provided by USPS, we are able to view what mail arrives at this “physical” address on a daily basis. This USPS service scans all letter sized objects and emails you each morning with a picture inventory of what letters will be arriving that day. We simply monitor that and alert our family when we spot something that needs to be opened and/or forwarded. All the rest gets bundled and waits for our next visit.