Originally Posted by RooTang Clan
Jim, Dan is correct- we have a 2-way fridge, and while it is “solar ready” it was not installed by previous owners so we’ve been watching the classified for a decent generator.
We are mostly planning on state park / RV Park camping for now as a family, but the wife and I could possibly boondock just the two of us at some point.
Glad you have a two-way fridge. Nothing says the previous owner didn't "upgrade" to a 12 volt compressor fridge, because they are larger capacity in the same physical space. The two-way fridge will be a huge benefit when you start boondocking...the 12 volt compressor fridges eat batteries very quickly.
When you plan to start boondocking, consider adding solar. PA isn't ideal for solar, but you'd be surprised at how effective it can be. You're pre-wired, and you have plenty of roof space. I recommend this DIY kit...Renology is a great brand
, and it's easy to install. I won't outline installation now, but if you are interested, hit me up and I can tell you how. The kit contains the absolutely essential MPPT controller that's compatible with "Lithium" batteries (LiFePo4). More if you are interested. I have the Renology kit on my rig...picture below. (Yes, I have a Jayco now, but I had a Rockwood previously...also with solar.)
Harbor Freight makes an absolutely acceptable 2000 watt inverter generator
. Even Consumer Reports likes them. Champion is a good mid-priced brand. Honda and Yamaha are great...worth the money...but not necessary. If you realize that you might NEED the air conditioner when boondocking, consider this model
. The 2000 watt model is so popular that it has gone up in price from about $500 previously, but compared to the brand names, it's still inexpensive. IF YOU BUY USED, test it using a full-sized microwave oven. A good 2000 watt generator can handle the starting load of a full-sized microwave. If it can't, don't buy it.
In cool weather, those three tent ends will "leak" heat badly. You can add an insulating "blanket" cover
for the tent sections. Also, be sure to carry an extra tank of propane in case the furnace is burning through a lot of propane when it's cold.
Security, especially against bears, is nice, and having lighting around your rig is handy. On the advice of members of this forum, I added these solar, motion-activated lights to my rig
. I use outdoor-rated, high quality Velcro to attach them. I pop them on all 4 sides of the rig when parked and stash them in a cabinet for travel. We boondock exclusively, and bears have been around 3 times this year, and the lights "scare" them away. And, having lights operate automatically when moving about outside (say, walking the dogs) is very convenient. There's nothing special about these...any brand will do. Mine do very well and even the one under the awning charges enough during the day to work all night. They turn off automatically after about 15 seconds. Be kind to your neighbors, and don't place them where they'll shine into a neighbor's site.
Leveling is important for your fridge. If you don't already have bubble levels on your rig, I highly recommend these Hopkins levelers
. The beauty of the Hopkins is that the straight edge on the bottom allows you to apply them to the bottom of the frame (front) or a straight edge (trim) on the side without having to get the rig perfectly level before attaching. If one breaks, just remove the screws, add a replacement in the same place.
More on leveling. Again, your fridge MUST be fairly level to function correctly. YOU MUST NOT USE YOUR STABILIZER JACKS FOR LEVELING. They are too flimsy for that. They are meant only to keep the rig from bouncing around when you're set up and occupying it. Instead, you level side-to-side using any number of techniques. MY FAVORITE is an "Andereson" style curved leveling ramp. Anderson is the best, but with a dual axle rig, they can be too long to fit between the axles. I bought these, and I love them
. There's no guesswork about stacking plastic blocks or 2"x6" boards. Just drive on and keep going up until the bubble is dead center. I added two things to make them function much better. 2 pieces of 3/4" plywood that are 12" x 24" and a truck mudflap cut in half to make a non-slip surface for the curved levelers. Bonus is that the wood and mudflap give you almost an inch of extra lift. Others have different ideas on leveling, but I absolutely love these. Front-to-back leveling is accomplished with the tongue jack.
Chocking the wheels is essential. X-Chocks are outstanding
...especially on the lifted side of the rig after leveling. Good, regular wheel chocks are also important, but it can be difficult to effectively secure the lifted side of your rig after leveling. X-Chocks are an important addition to your safety.
When using the stabilizer jacks, this is an important routine for doing it safely. If you are on a side slope, with the downhill wheel lifted quite a bit, you can seriously upset the tongue jack's grip on the ground by starting at the front. ALWAYS start with the REAR stablilzer jack on the DOWNHILL side of the rig. Get it good and snug...perhaps lifting the rig about 1". Then do the rear uphill side. Only then, go to the front stab jacks and just snug them up firmly with NO LIFT (an inch at the rear is OK).
Stacks of plastic blocks allow you to adjust the footing of your stab jacks
. You do not want them fully extended, so the blocks take up the slack. I have about a dozen of these blocks...three bundles...and I put at least one at each corner, and stack them when a corner of the rig is pretty high off the ground.
The tongue jack's firm contact with the ground is vital when on sideslopes. Many will block with a 4"x4" or 6"x6" block and the bare pipe end of the tongue jack. That works, but you need a sizeable chunk of wood...perhaps 12" long...to ensure the block won't "roll" out from under the tongue jack. I much prefer a "drop leg"
and a "wheel dock"
for stable, adjustable, firm contact with the ground. Most wheel docks have a drain hole into which you can drive a heavy duty tent stake
to further improve its grip on the ground.
Wind is the enemy of your awning. You should ALWAYS retract the awning when it starts to "float" and "billow." But, as a safety precaution in marginal conditions or when the weather might change, you can use some light duty ratchet straps and tent stakes to anchor the extended awning. Note that you are NOT tightening these ... just gently snugging them to help support the awining if a surprise gust comes up. They can also be used as "tag lines
" family members can hold while you retract the awning when it's windy. What you want to avoid is having the wind billow this huge "sail" to the point that the awning frame gets bent backwards over the top of your roof.
Fire pits. A wood fire is nice. Smells good and is fun to tend. But there are a zillion reasons why they are a pain. Smoke chasing you around the fire pit, sparks landing on your clothes, wet weather, having to douse it when done...and so on. In Colorado, there are frequent fire bans....no campfires allowed...except propane fire pits. A Propane Fire Pit is awesome
. Instant on and off, no smoke or sparks, no feeding the fire and having it die down, very little chance of spreading fire in dry conditions, CHEAPER TO RUN than buying bundles of firewood, NO TRANSPORTATION OF INSECT PESTS in firewood, and so on. They are VERY safe. You can put your hand under the buning fire bowl...it's safe on a wood deck. You can run it under your "easy-up" canopy
...I've been using mine under the canopy for years. They are light weight and transport easily inside your rig (put it on a throw rug to keep it from sliding around). BUY A SMALLER DIAMETER VERSION FOR A MORE IMPRESSIVE FIRE. The larger the fire bowl the more spread out and lower the flames. Any brand will do. Make sure it has a stainless steel burner...for longevity. They typically burn at a rate of 58,000 BTU or so. A 20 pound tank of propane will last about 7 hours of fire wide open...more if you turn it down. NOTE that they pull propane so quickly that the outside of the tank will ice up. Also note that if you are running low on propane, give the tank a rest, and it will be able to deliver more after it warms up.
Learn about managing your black tank. That's an entire subject of its own. Search the forums on the subject. If you are in an RV park, DO NOT JUST LEAVE YOUR BLACK TANK DUMP OPEN. All the fluids will run out and leave a dry, nasty heap in the tank. Always allow the black tank to fill to nearly full, then dump in a whoosh, use the black tank rinse if you have one, then close the dump valve until the tank fills again. Do your homework on this, or you'll regret it. And don't believe the tank sensors. There are books written on the subject of their notorious inaccuracy. If you really want to know where things stand...with YOUR type of rig (this won't work in a 5th wheel)...turn off the fresh water supply (or pump), grab a flashlight, step on the flush pedal, and look. If you have a "pile", get a paint paddle for a 5 gallon pail of paint and stir the pot a bit. (I carry one in a trash bag for this purpose...along with a box of nitrile gloves I use for black tank work.) Use plenty of water flushing. If you must poop, add about two cups of water to the bowl first...which makes the medicine go down more easily...just like home.
There are many good brands of RV accessories out there, but Camco makes great products...for anything. I trust the brand.
You're new to towing. PRACTICE TRAILER-BRAKES-ONLY BRAKING for emergencies. If a gust of wind or passing semi puts you into a "death wobble" (fishtailing), apply the trailer brakes ONLY to pull the trailer back in line behind the tow vehicle (TV).
Learn to use your truck's transmission manually...especially on long downhill runs. SAVE YOUR BRAKES for emergencies and use engine braking in lower gears to keep your speed down going through the mountains. I also shift manually on the uphill so my truck doesn't upshift every time I lift-off for a corner. Manual shifting makes for an easier, smoother ride and is less taxing on your transmission. My 2006 RAM 1500 has an old fashioned 3 speed with a tacked on electric overdrive. I climb many mountains in 2nd gear, which is good for more than 60 MPH...I can go all day at 50 MPH in second gear. 1st gear is good for about 45 MPH...and I don't hesitate to stay in 1st at 35 on mountain passes....example
. There's nothing scarier than losing your brakes on a long downhill...and when you start your descent at 11,500 feet, it's a long way down.
PA won't have anything quite so daunting, but you may still face some challenging terrain. Remember, you're going to choose to go into the "back country" with significant elevation changes
, whatever that is, near you.
Fridge and hot water heater burner tube maintenance is a thing. Spiders and other critters like the burner tubes. Now and then you have to clean them out. It's very easy.
There are lots of videos on the subject, both the hot water heater and the fridge.
RVs fall apart from traveling on the road...especially rough roads. Get a little parts box and lay in a supply of various sized screws, nuts and bolts, Gorilla Glue
and LocTite. If you find a screw on the floor, test fit it in the hole it came from. If the hole isn't stripped out, add a bit of Gorilla Glue to the threads and replace it. If the hole is stripped out, upsize the screw, add Gorilla Glue and replace it. Gorilla Glue is a bit like expanding foam insulation. If some oozes out DO NOT wipe it. It will make a mess. Let it dry and then scrape it off with a knife or similar. Buy only stainless steel screws...good inside and out. Buy only "nylock" nuts so they don't fall off. Touch-up paint screw heads to match if desired.
Lastly...tires. RV tires age out before they wear out. I don't recall the year of your rig, but tires AGE OUT after 5 years from the MANUFACTURING DATE
. Your tires may have aged out and be too old to rely on. Furthermore, there are good tires and bad tires. Search the forums for "China Bombs" and read carefully. There are good brands, like Goodyear Endurance and several others, but there are many cheap, often dangerously substandard RV "special trailer" (ST) tires on the market. ST tires are designed to withstand the harsh side-to-side (lateral) forces imposed when twisting around corners and backing into parking spots...truck tires are not. So ST tires are specified for RV trailers.
Furthermore, some tires have a max speed rating of 60 or 65 MPH, while quality tires will more often be rated for 80 MPH+. Check your tires, don't cheap out on tires, and make sure they are inflated to the RV manufacturer spec...on the data plate on your rig. DO NOT inflate to the max pressure on the tire's sidewall - unless that's the pressure recommended by Forest River. And note that if Forest River is recommending 65 PSI and your tire sidewall says max pressure is 65 PSI, you might want to upgrade your tires to a higher load range...say E instead of D. That's a LOT to unpack, but it's critical to your safety and the enjoyment of your rig. While you might just get a flat, RV tires are known to "blow out," which can cause thousands of dollars of damage to the rig...and maybe cause an accident. Learn about RV tires. Keep your speed down. Heat is the enemy of RV tires, and speed increases heat buildup.
I could go on, but this is already a book. But you did ask.
Enjoy your new rig.