Last Updated on November 18, 2021 by Christina
Written by: Paige Lackey
After spending 139 days on the road, traveling over 6,000 miles, hiking more than 40 trails, visiting 17 State Parks and staying at 76 different rustic state forest campgrounds, I’ve learned a thing or two about solo RV travel. Typically, I am a car camper and a backpacker, so traveling throughout Michigan in a class C RV from General RV was going to be an adventure in itself. Initially, I was pretty intimidated by the size of the RV, but quickly adjusted to driving, parking and backing up the rig into campsites. Not only was I traveling to experience the remote and beautiful places of Michigan, but I also was working full-time from the road. The RV functioned as my home, my mobile office, shelter from the elements and a vehicle to get from place-to-place. Here are some things I learned along the way:
No need to overpack your RV
Just because you have a lot of space within the RV does not mean that you need to fill every cabinet, drawer and closet. Bring what feels appropriate for the amount of time you’ll be traveling. If you forget something or wish you had brought something, there will surely be a place to purchase those items along the way.
RV advice to consider before you travel
Choosing the right RV for your travels depends largely on your needs and expectations. Take into consideration how far you’ll be traveling, how long you’ll be on the road, what type of campground will you be staying at, where you’re going and the type of road conditions you might be navigating. In my experience, less is more. Simply put, if you want to camp off the beaten path, a small camper might be your best option.
Get to the campground before dark
It’s challenging to navigate a new campground in the dark. It’s difficult to see the site numbers, locate the registration station, and find a place to park that is safe, level and can accommodate the size of your RV. Getting to your destination a couple hours before sunset allows you to set up your campsite much more easily.
RV essentials to get where you’re going
If your GPS says it’ll be thirty minutes, you should probably tack on at least an extra ten (or more). Part of traveling in an RV is the luxury of taking your time and not rushing from destination to destination. Allow extra time to enjoy the journey – it’s part of your RV travel experience. Pull off at the beautiful road-side parks. Have a picnic. Swim in the lake!
Your RV is taller than you think
It takes some time to get used to driving and navigating roads with an RV larger than your everyday car. You’re probably traveling taller and longer than you’re used to. I often underestimated the height of the RV when approaching low-hanging branches. If you can, it’s a good idea to put the RV in park and get out to evaluate just how low the branches of overhanging trees are before proceeding down the road.
The RV community is willing to help
Being a first time RVer, I knew next to nothing about the RV I was driving when I hit the road. Of course, I received a thorough orientation to the RV when I picked it up from the General RV Center location in Wixom, but per usual when receiving an overload of information only some of it stuck. The first time I needed to empty my grey and black water tanks, I was clueless and nervous! Thankfully, a gentleman at the sanitation station talked me through the process. It turned out to be a lot easier than I had anticipated but having an experienced RVer nearby to help me felt comforting. This happened many times throughout my journey, especially in the beginning as I was getting used to traveling in my new RV.
The most memorable experiences are never planned
My most memorable days on the road were the days I had no plans or expectations for. They weren’t even necessarily about the destination. My most memorable days were about the time on the road it took to get there, the weather that day, the company I was with, the music that was playing, the delicious food I ate and the beer I shared with a friend. In my mind, the best days are a culmination of many great small things that add up to be an unforgettable day. Don’t make too many plans. Allow for flexibility. Say “Yes” to adventures down the beaten path. Keep your mind open.
Having the right gear matters for first-time RVers
Having the right gear will make your RV travel easier and more enjoyable. Even rustic camping requires some essential items, and there were several I found myself reaching for over and over in my adventures.
- Car Phone Mount: Drive hands free with your phone mounted on the windshield. Pick your music and navigate with your GPS all while keeping your eyes on the road.
- Camp Slippers: Get a pair of comfy camp slippers you can wear inside the RV and while relaxing around camp. Most mornings the floor of the RV was cold, my Teva Embers saved my feet from freezing!
- Pourover Coffee Set: Nothing tastes better than a hot cup of coffee in the morning while camping. Fresh-ground beans makes it even better. The GSI Pourover Java Set ensured me fresh, delicious coffee every morning.
- Call of the Yooper Campfire Grill: Great for cooking burgers over the fire!
- Camp mat: Having a mat outside the RV door decreased the amount of dirt and sand my dog and I would track into the RV. Especially when it’s raining, a camp map is a must!
- Cast Iron Pan/Cast Iron Pie iron: A must for campfire cooking!
- Dish rack: A dish rack was great to keep in the sink so I didn’t have to immediately dry and put away dishes. The dishes stayed secure while I was driving and would air dry by the time I reached my next destination.
Project Rustic was a five-month long project to gather data about state forest campgrounds stemming from a partnership between General RV and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. Paige Lackey, an AmeriCorps member serving with the DNR, traveled in a class c motorhome called the Nexus Triumph, provided by General RV on a tour of 76 sites where she gathered GPS coordinates, photos, and more. Paige has chronicled her experiences in this blog, including what she’s learned and some of the highlights of her journey. You can read all about Paige’s journey across Michigan on the General RV Project Rustic blog page.