If you’ve ever taken a vacation where you traveled in or stayed in a recreational vehicle, you know that it is typically a carefree, peaceful feeling. In fact, it can be almost liberating to leave most of your belongings and all of your worries behind and hit the open road. Everything is new, exciting, and waking each morning feels like the start of a grand adventure.
If you’ve experienced this type of vacation in a recreational vehicle, you might have even wondered if you can live and survive in a travel trailer on a full-time basis.
The truth is, although RVs were designed for short-term use, many people have turned to these as a semi-permanent or permanent living situation. There are many people who do live semi permanently or permanently in a travel trailer successfully.
But recreational vehicle living is not for everyone. One of the biggest obstacles to living and surviving in a travel trailer is the climate but there are other considerations as well which we will outline in later sections.
Why Would Anyone Want to Live and Survive in a Travel Trailer?
There are many reasons that someone may want to live and survive in a travel trailer including:
- The Adventure of Being Somewhere Different or New (Travel)
- Temporary Housing While Building a Traditional Home
- Housing While on an Extended Vacation
- Seasonal or Short-Term Housing for Recreational Activities (hunting, fishing, etc.)
- Freedom and Flexibility to Relocate More Easily When Desired
- Temporary Housing While Trying Out an Off-Grid Lifestyle
- Focus on Family Not Possessions
- Ability to Work Anywhere
- No More Monthly Rent or Utilities
One of the first factors to analyze before you decide if you can live and survive in a travel trailer is if you can transition from your current living space to a much more limited space.
A travel trailer is going to have very limited space for your belongings. You will need to either sell, give away, or store many of your home decor items, clothing, artwork, furniture, and general household goods. You just simply won’t have the space for all of your things in your travel trailer.
In order to be successful with travel trailer living, you will need to declutter and minimize your belongings down to only what can be stored in the travel trailer.
Storage in a travel trailer is limited which means that organization of your possessions and supplies will be a critical factor. The layout of your travel trailer and its features are also a critical consideration when it comes to the needs of your family.
It will also be important to keep your travel trailer as clean and organized as possible. Boots and shoes or other belongings that are left out will clutter up the trailer quickly and can also be a fall hazard if they are in the walkway. Explore creative ways to organize and store your belongings where they are accessible yet out of the way until you need them.
Legality of Parking
If you feel you will be able to cope with getting rid of many of your prized possessions, or at least storing them, the next thing to consider is the legality of parking for your travel trailer.
You can’t just park your travel trailer anywhere you want, even on private property, if zoning and other restrictions in the area prohibit it. There are several options for parking your travel trailer including:
- Your Own Driveway or Private Property
- Public Land
- Private Property or Driveway Belonging to Someone Else
- Other (i.e. Walmart)
- Trailer Park
Each type of parking space and the town, county, and state where it is located will have its own zoning and other restrictions which will apply. To ensure that you can live in a travel trailer, you need to be aware of any and all restrictions that may apply.
If the idea of buying a travel trailer and living out in the country on Uncle Ted’s peaceful farm seems like a good move for your family, make sure you check out any restrictions about recreational vehicles so you can live within the law.
The third area you need to carefully analyze to decide if you can live and survive in a travel trailer is the maintenance costs. The initial purchase price of your travel trailer is a factor, but you also need to consider the ongoing costs associated with living in a travel trailer. Costs can include but aren’t limited to:
- Initial Purchase
- Engine Maintenance Costs
- Generator Fuel
- Heating or Cooling
- Repair or Replacement of Parts
- Potential Storage Fees for Your Excess Belongings
Outdoor Living Spaces
To live and survive in a travel trailer many people need to plan for and take advantage of additional outdoor living spaces. If you are on a piece of private land in a permanent location, this could include a garden, an outdoor kitchen, or even a barn for livestock, and a workshop.
In a semi-permanent location, you may want to install a movable deck or an extended awning to provide shade and a BBQ grill or other outdoor cooking method in hot weather.
If you are planning to stay “on the road” or moving frequently and parking in campgrounds or on public land, then you may want to plan to take advantage of parks, swimming pools, running tracks, and other amenities in the nearby area.
One of the biggest issues to consider when deciding if you can live and survive in a travel trailer is how to keep from freezing in cold temperatures and keep from sweltering in hot temperatures.
You could map out a travel plan that will keep you in climates where temperatures are moderate if your budget and lifestyle allow for that mobility. But if you’re planning to stay in one place through different seasons you’ll want to plan for the following:
Staying Warm including not only heating your travel trailer but also planning for extra insulation of floors and windows. Thick rugs, trailer skirting, thermal curtains, bubble wrap and foam panels are all things that can be utilized for additional insulation to help keep your travel trailer warm in winter weather.
Keeping Things Cool when living in a travel trailer in warmer climates is something you will want to plan for in advance. Travel trailers are essentially metal boxes on wheels.
This means the heat of the sun can raise inside temperatures to sweltering in no time at all. The proper use of ventilation, fans, or air conditioning should be researched to ensure you can keep inside temperatures cool enough to be comfortable. This is especially critical if you will be attempting to live off-grid, aka without being connected to traditional electrical utilities.
Prevention of condensation and mold is something most people who decide to live and survive in a travel trailer all year must plan for. Travel trailers are essentially designed for short term stays during moderate weather. Using a dehumidifier, ensuring proper ventilation, and installing vent covers can help combat condensation and mold.
Long term protection from sun and elements is definitely something to consider if you will be parking your travel trailer in an area that gets a lot of direct sun, frequent rains, or heavy snowfalls.
Most people who decide to live in a travel trailer put up either a semi-permanent or even a permanent structure to protect the roof and other parts of the travel trailer from daily exposure to the weather. Erecting a structure around your travel trailer can also make heating and cooling easier as the structure provides some protection from the elements.
Keep pipes and water resources in working order by insulating your hot water tank using an insulated blanket or by emptying the tank and carrying in water for dishes and personal hygiene during really cold weather.
Just like in a traditional home, you’ll want to drain any hoses that aren’t being used and apply heat tape to pipes before weather gets cold. In a travel trailer, you also want to make sure your waste holding tank doesn’t freeze up. You can help prevent freezing by adding a bit of automobile antifreeze to your sink drain or toilet.
Natural Disaster Planning is an important part of living in a travel trailer because recreational vehicles are more vulnerable than a traditional home and can be susceptible to severe damage in extreme weather.
If a natural disaster occurs, you need to know in advance what the weaknesses of your travel trailer are and how to keep your family safe. It’s always a good idea to scope out where there are safe permanent structures near your location that you can get into in the event of a tornado, hurricane, or other extreme weather.
SHTF or Survival Considerations
The ability to live and survive in a travel trailer during “normal times” (and to bug out in one in case of SHTF) requires extensive planning and modifications. But if you plan to use your travel trailer to live in following a natural disaster or during a survival or SHTF situation, there are several more things to consider.
Using your travel trailer during a SHTF or survival scenario is possible. With proper planning, it can be a good option for those whose budget won’t allow for building a separate bug out retreat house on a foundation.
The best way to use a travel trailer for survival situations is to identify a retreat location or property where you will live in your travel trailer. Trying to stay continuously mobile in a travel trailer during a SHTF situation will be nearly impossible.
Moving through congested traffic with a travel trailer will be difficult and you could face increased risk if others see your travel trailer as a desirable asset.
Sanitation and Waste Disposal
The waste holding tank of a travel trailer is intended for short term use or for extended use with the ability to empty the tank at frequent intervals. When SHTF, emptying the waste holding tank might become problematic.
Consider investing in a composting toilet to replace your travel trailer toilet or at least to have on hand if it’s needed. In the event you are forced to empty your waste holding tank somewhere other than an location designed for raw sewage, be certain you are not near any fresh water sources and take other precautions to avoid contaminating nearby soil and groundwater.
In a survival or SHTF situation, you may not have access to campgrounds or private property with electric hookup to run your travel trailer. And even if this type of hookup is still available, you may want to get further out and away from crowds of people who will flock to campgrounds.
For this reason, if you want to ensure you can live and survive in a travel trailer, you need to consider your power needs and plan for an alternative power source. Many people rely on the use of a generator for power needs and work to gradually reduce their use of power to only what is absolutely necessity.
But others have begun to use solar panels with battery bank storage to meet their power needs for a long term stay in a travel trailer or RV. Solar panels mounted on the roof are adequate for travel trailers, especially if you make sure your trailer is equipped with energy efficient appliances or better yet, solar friendly appliances.
If you are in a semi-permanent or permanent location, you could mount multiple solar panels near your travel trailer to provide additional power.
Protecting your travel trailer and your belongings against thieves is definitely something to consider when things are operating normally. But during a SHTF situation, your travel trailer and the supplies you have or even what other people believe you have, can make you a target in the eyes of criminals and desperate people.
You need to be prepared to hide your trailer out of sight or otherwise camouflage your travel trailer, especially when you aren’t there to defend it.
Plan to beef up your self-defense whenever you travel in or out of a populated area also to make sure you aren’t mugged, robbed, or followed. On private property or in each new area, you’ll need to implement a plan for perimeter alerts and defense.
Still think you can live and survive in a travel trailer? If everything we’ve mentioned hasn’t deterred you, then you may be one of those people who can do it successfully.
Determine where and how you want to live and make sure you do your own research on each of these factors. Will you buying a travel trailer this year? Do you already live and survive in a travel trailer part-time or full-time? Let us know in the comments below.