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Old 03/21/11, 10:44 PM
Join Date: Mar 2011
Location: Central Ohio
Posts: 111
Camper/5th wheel living?

I am not sure if this is the right place to post this, but I figured I'd give it a shot and see what the group has to offer.

My biggest life goal is to live away from the city in the country, and the main reasoning behind that is that livestyle is desireable to me - less codes/restrictions. I am a Ham radio operator, and have been for over 10 years, and I want a place I can put up antennas that aren't closely restricted. I also have a large interest in alternative energy and efficiency. Being out in the country would allow me to experiment with different methods and not have to worry about the city saying "no, you can't do that".

I made the first leap in the direction of country living in that I positioned my career around it - I am a specialist in precision farming (GPS systems on farm equipment, mapping, etc).

The next big leap is to plant myself on a plot of land in the country, pun intended. If not a permanent residence at least a place to start.

That brings me to my topic -

A co-worker and I were traveling to a site where we are installing a GPS reference station. Some of the sites we go to are upwards of 45 minutes to an hour to get to. We got on the subject of country living and how hard it would be to live in a camper/5th wheel on a few acres of land. My co-worker knows of someone that does this, at least for part of the year. They live right along the state route we take to get to some of our locations.

My understanding of what these people do is they have a home in Florida for the colder months and live here in Ohio in their camper in the warmer months. Their camper is hooked up to utilities on a plot of land that is parceled off of family owned acreage - they have a pole that they plug in to with their electric and all. As to water and sewage I am not sure what they do, we pass by their property all the time and I've just seen the post from the road.

How hard would it be to buy a few acres of land, put in a septic system, and run other utilities in order to live out of a camper? Again, one of my interests is alternative energy and I have several ideas for that including wind and other forms of electricity generation, as well as geothermal cooling.

Has anyone done this? What tips can you share? How do you go about setting up for this?

I would eventually like to build a "green" house but I think it would be less expensive right now to get a 5th wheel or bumper pull camper - plus I can move it around. If I build a house its pretty well set in place, unless I go with the trailer idea or the Tumbleweed house idea.

I've spent a little bit of time this evening lurking over the site. There is a lot of information here and it seems like one of the better forums I have come across that is related to country living and alternative energy.

Thanks for taking the time to read through! I know I'm not the only nut out here.
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Old 03/21/11, 11:14 PM
7thswan's Avatar  
Join Date: Nov 2008
Location: michigan
Posts: 23,896
We have a very nice Jayco Designer Legacy 5th wheel. It has 3 slides and what is called a heated Basement. That means the water pipes are enclosed in the underneath storage parts with the heating duct work. So using it in cold weather ,you will also be running the heat,which keeps the pipes from freezing. One could easily live in this unit with the slides out. We had it set up and stayed there most of the time,we were going to build on some of our property. I built a dec and insulated around the bottom and covered it with lattce. Also built a "cookhouse" for my wood cook stove,and a picket fenced area for our 2 dogs. We were very comfortable in it. The porta potty people would come pump out the black water tank and dh would fill a big plastic tank in the back of the truck with water and use the "country fill"to fill the tanks inside the 5th. We had a LP pig brought in and heated/cooked and the fridge ran off the gas. In the summer,we had to have a generator running for the AC, even tho we were under trees. It would be so much easier if there was elec and septic, but it is doable. The #1 issue would be the county regulations on living on a piece of land in this way. -This is where the headache comes in.
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Old 03/22/11, 12:19 AM
MO_cows's Avatar
I calls em like I sees em
Join Date: Aug 2010
Location: W Mo
Posts: 12,085
You would get more square footage and "livability" with a used mobile home.
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Old 03/22/11, 06:54 AM
CJ's Avatar
CJ CJ is offline
Join Date: May 2002
Location: The Ozarks
Posts: 5,202
A lot depends on the RV. Ours is wonderfully livable, but it's a beast at 40 feet with 4 slide outs. We chose it because of how livable it was, knowing we'd have to spend a lot of time in it. 4 years full time, and of course now hubby lives in it whenever he's on a contract away from home, beats the heck out of a motel.

With a washer and dryer in it, heated basement and pipes, 12 gallon hot water tank, it's pretty functional. But I wouldn't wish to do it without electric, water and septic, of those most important would be water. Boondocking is just not my thing .

Should we ever decide to sell our place here and move out to our land and build, that's exactly what we will be doing, and one of the other reasons why we kept the RV, even though it sits most of the time unused now. We also like the thought of having a home on wheels, just in case. It's always kept stocked and ready to go, other than perishable foods.

I think this is a most doable idea. While a mobile home is cheaper and certainly more spacious, it doesn't give you the option of moving easily. If there were less crime in the world, I'd own two properties, one up north and one down south, build outdoor kitchens and baths, and split the year between the two and forget about a house.
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Old 03/22/11, 09:03 AM
Join Date: May 2002
Posts: 9,226
I lived in a 28' 5th wheel camper on the ranch in Montana for two years before relocating to KY. Had no problem ... electric was the only 'modern convenience' ... but then I grew up on a ranch without even electricity until I was 10 or 12 so it wasn't a big shock to me. I found it perfectly comfortable and liveable.
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Old 03/22/11, 11:10 AM
Registered User
Join Date: Sep 2003
Location: Whiskey Flats(Ft. Worth) , Tx
Posts: 9,101
...............Some of the newer trailers are built on Lippert frames which have been having problems with broken welds ! Do your research , prior too spending your $$$ ! The very best trailers , aren't necessarily , NEW! Older units , Travel Supreme , Nuwa , Teton , Hitchhiker , and several others I can't remember built very high quality units with fully enclosed underbellies and wired for 50 amp service ! All , of these units have a Gelcoat fiberglass exterior , and are....HEAVY ! The most expensive trailer is a Cheap trailer , that , constantly , needs working , ON ! , fordy
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Old 03/22/11, 11:32 PM
Join Date: Mar 2011
Location: Central Ohio
Posts: 111
Maybe these are some pretty newb questions but how well are modern campers insulated? With such thin walls I can't imagine theres much. Would that be much of a concern? How well are the sliders sealed up/insulated? They have to be able to move so they can't be too tight. It sounds like some that have the "basement" feature have enclosed plumbing. That would probably be worthy of investigating. Electric shouldn't be much of an issue. How about running out to a septic system?

I'm just scratching the tip of the iceberg here. Its all an idea at the moment, but thats how everything starts, right?

Weight won't be much of an issue, but I also don't want a monstrosity. If its heavy I'd rather have more space.

The camper/5th wheel idea seems more applicable here as they are built road worthy. "Trailers" or "mobile homes" may have wheels on them and can be moved, but they aren't intended to go down the road. On the reverse side, a camper/5th wheel isn't typically used as a residence under normal conditions. Lots to research.
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Old 03/22/11, 11:45 PM
minifarmer's Avatar  
Join Date: Mar 2008
Location: Texas
Posts: 163
I'm not experienced here, but my own interest in this very thing led me to a book: 5 Acres and Independence by Maurice Kains. It seems to have been written quite a while ago and the prices it lists are WAY off. but there is alot of advise on how to get it up and running. Like making a cistern, rechargable batteries on solar power (using high grade marine batteries) how to dig a conventional septic.

We are a family of 7, so we have too many kiddos to make such a big move, but I always dream of it. Best wishes to you and keep us posted to your progress!

“The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not.”
-- Thomas Jefferson
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Old 03/23/11, 12:54 AM
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Semper Fidelis
Join Date: Mar 2007
Location: Northwestern Coastal California
Posts: 4,609
Welcome to HT from a fellow ham - I'm "KK6ZY" and my 1st license was 'WD8KXG' back in Michigan many moons ago..

With your being in Ohio, the winter months would be the most difficult in a travel trailer with the cold temps.. While working in fisheries I stayed in many a travel trailer (18 feet to 35 feet in lenght) in remote areas, for long periods of time. It can be done, if one adapts to the smaller square footage. Plus it all depends on what your local ordinances are, as far as the water and septic requirements for a 'residence' on a parcel of land..

Yes living out of the city allows one to hang ham radio wire antennas everywhere, and there are no close neighbors to complain about RFI interference. While one is operating on HF during a contest, and running a Kilowatt or more of RF output. One of these days I am gonna build and get up into the air a 160 meter full wave loop or even a rhombic antenna.. I have plenty of 100+ feet tall redwood and doug fir trees here, for supports.
Smarter than the average bear, sitting here on my hilltop 80 acres in the fog above the ocean...

"Life is tough, but it is tougher when you are stupid." - John Wayne
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Old 03/23/11, 08:04 AM
Join Date: Mar 2011
Location: Central Ohio
Posts: 111
Originally Posted by radiofish View Post
Yes living out of the city allows one to hang ham radio wire antennas everywhere, and there are no close neighbors to complain about RFI interference. While one is operating on HF during a contest, and running a Kilowatt or more of RF output. One of these days I am gonna build and get up into the air a 160 meter full wave loop or even a rhombic antenna.. I have plenty of 100+ feet tall redwood and doug fir trees here, for supports.

OK on the antennas. Yeah, I'd start with wire antennas on HF. Thats the quickest, cheapest, easiest route. I have a random wire that gets me on 80-10 here, with the metal ducts as a counterpoise - works pretty well even though its only 15' off the ground (can't get it any higher - trees aren't that big here). I would like to set up a full size 1/4 wave vertical for 160. I don't know what I would end up with on the lower bands, probably a beam for 10-20m at least. A vertical would be a nice option too = different polarization option. Then if I ever get adventurous a beam for the lower bands = big tower. I have beams for 50, 144, 432mHz that I've used for weak signal VHF and contesting, but about the only times they get used any more are Field Day and if I get out for any of the VHF contests or other operating events (my trek to my familys place in Canada has always been a big one, but I don't know how much I'll be doing that going forward). Check my QRZ page for more.

As to the living space in the camper, yea. Thats a consideration. Its all still an idea, I'm mostly trying to figure out the logistics of everything else and how to go about doing it. As to the type of camper/5th wheel there is a lot to digest in that department aside from the "planting it" aspect.

Lots of good information so far.
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Old 03/23/11, 08:32 AM
Registered User
Join Date: Feb 2011
Posts: 14
We are currently living in our RV while building/setting up our little farm. The travel trailer we already had as I worked construction jobs and traveled a lot. We have lived in this thing the better part of 9 years, off and on.

It can get cold, depending on where you are. Some things we did:
Made our own vinyl skirting, which helps keep the tanks from freezing.
When set up semi permanent, as we are now, we use concrete blankets tied on the roof and sides, which helps with the insulation issues. Put the black side out and it helps catch heat.
Setup on cinder blocks, cuts down on the wobble.
Use 100 lb propane tanks, less time running after gas, you would need longer hoses, easy to do.
If you do set up on a piece of ground, you can put up an addition for more room. We did this a few times, on this trailer, added a wood stove, which cut down on propane use. We just left the trailer door open to the addition.

It is not great living, but adequate. With an addition, living room size, it is fairly enjoyable. The trailer becomes kitchen, bath, and bedroom, which you are not in much anyway.

My wife cans food, sews, and does everything you do in a house, just on a smaller scale.

It is a great way to get started, all the comforts of home on a small scale.

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Old 03/23/11, 09:50 AM
Join Date: May 2002
Posts: 9,226
Originally Posted by KC8QVO View Post
Maybe these are some pretty newb questions but how well are modern campers insulated? With such thin walls I can't imagine theres much. Would that be much of a concern? How well are the sliders sealed up/insulated?
There are some that have more insulation than others, but even with the better insulation, a travel trailer is not designed for full time living through a Montana winter.

I solved the problem by insulating with straw bales stacked as high as the bottom of the windows and also at least as high as I could reach between the windows. On the north side, I just stacked along the whole side except for one small 'single bale' sized window.

Didn't have sliders so that wasn't an issue.
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Old 03/23/11, 02:42 PM
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Join Date: Sep 2003
Location: Whiskey Flats(Ft. Worth) , Tx
Posts: 9,101
..............Here is another , very good , but.....less obvious reason for purchasing an older trailer ! I'm thinking 1992,3 up thru 2003 or so , At some point after 2000 the Chinese economy really took off and they started buying scrap metal , iron ore , and all basic raw materials with those Wal Mart dollars we were sending them by the boat load . Consequently , the domestic prices of ALL materials utilized in RV's went up fairly quickly , this forced ALL mfgers too source Cheaper , replacement materials such as copper for RV construction . So , I've personally confirmed that all mfgers have used cheaper or Less of the same , expensive items they need too build their units . The wiring in my 1999 Travel Supreme is all 12 ga. copper throughout and no skimping on any aspect as far as I can tell . Some potential RV purchasers just want a ....NEW trailer , regardless . , fordy
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Old 03/23/11, 09:42 PM
Join Date: Jul 2010
Location: WA
Posts: 1,788
We lived in our 36 foot Class A motorhome for 4 months in the winter in Washington DC. There was snow on the ground for about 3 weeks of that 4 months. The average temperatures were 45/35. We spent about $120 per month on propane heating it (and the 'frig/freezer). I kept it about 68 to 70 degrees as our boy was only 2 at the time.
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Old 03/23/11, 09:48 PM
Join Date: Oct 2004
Location: Western WA
Posts: 4,792
Couple things to consider with the 5th wheel style trailer.

The rise in ceiling height necessary to go over the truck bed can make the main living area feel much less claustrophobic than a low ceiling like in a bumper pull trailer that doesn't have any slides.

In particular, a full-sized 5th wheel with a slide on one or both sides has a real nice roomy (as roomy as you can get in a camper anyway) main living area.

Some potential drawbacks to the 5th wheel style is in most of the older models you will have to stoop over when entering/exiting the bedroom and of course when making the bed, as well as having to step up to get into the bedroom space.

You will likely also need to step up to get into the bathroom area that is immediately before the over-hang.

I mention these last two items because we learned them the hard way. Never gave them any thought and never figured they would be a problem. However, we have learned that my wife's knees don't take kindly to stairs any longer, and my back protests having to be stooped over like that.

You might want to consider a long bumper pull trailer that has a rear (or front) walk around queen bed. It's really really nice to be able and stand up when getting into or out of bed, and it's especially nice to be able to walk completely around the bed (like in a home). The thing I don't particularly care for on the bumper pulls is the ceiling height is low. However, a bumper pull with slides has a higher ceiling height that makes a big difference imho.

I've found the key to living in an rv is to have a good sized, covered, heated out-door space to escape to, so that you can get out of the confines of the trailer but still 'inside'.
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Old 03/24/11, 07:29 AM
Join Date: May 2004
Location: Zone 9b
Posts: 4,898
Years ago Popular Mechanic had an article re buying property in the country and building a garage for the RV. The building was long and narrow, had a bathroom with shower and a laundry room. It also had a garage door on the side that covered sliding glass doors which opened to a patio. It had septic, well, and electric and was insulated and had heat and A/C.

The RV could be stored while being protected from the elements and thieves. When in use, it had all the amenities of a small house, plus the patio offered additional space.

I would probably go one step further and have an outdoor kitchen with grill, a firepit, clothes line, hot tub, etc. as I prefer outdoor rooms to indoor rooms.
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Old 03/26/11, 10:50 PM
Join Date: May 2003
Location: MO Ozarks
Posts: 390
I worked at a private campground called Cloud 9 Ranch Club and there are many people who live in 5th wheels year-round there.
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