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RV Show Time: Things to Consider When Choosing the Perfect Recreational Vehicle for Your Next (Northwoods) Adventure

That's right, it's RV show season. Well, it has been RV show season for the last couple months and I've had the privilege of checking out a few shows. I hope you have done the same, I mean, there's no harm in looking, right?

RV show
MKE RV Show Entrance

As a campground owner I've seen lots of smart and not so smart campers come through. To be fair, your RV choice is all about your personal preference and tolerance but I'll offer a few tips and considerations for your next purchase (or sale).

First thing, first, do you really need an RV or still want your current RV? RV's have really become a standard and modern fixture of "camping". They are quite a luxury in all aspects. Regardless of how new your camper is, to have a bed and roof at the "semi-ready" is really fancy, right? The idea of "real camping" is roughing it for a weekend, reconnecting with friends, family, pets, nature, or just solo it - to find your balance by focusing on what is really important. Do you need or want an RV for that, a simple tent will accomplish the same function just a bit differently. Really think about how often you will use it - if it's just once a year, maybe consider renting an RV or trying an RV Share. Or heck, rent a cabin or Glamping adventure for probably the same price of your site fee, gas and maintenance of an RV.

If you're going to get your first RV, one thing not everyone thinks about when purchasing an RV is where they will park it when it's not in use. How weather friendly is the RV? Will it survive a winter or a sun baked summer - all the time outside? Not all campgrounds offer covered sites or seasonal sites. We no longer offer seasonals for the reason that we receive some really big winters. For example, last year, we had 4 feet of snow and ice on the ground - could your RV handle that snow load? Would you have to find an indoor storage area or build a garage just for your RV? So my first tip is to make a plan to park and to protect your investment - somehow - before you buy.

RV Storage
RV storage sites

My second tip is to determine the right size for your needs. Now, now, define your "needs" rationally. Think about what kind of experience you and your family will want to have. Let's say, for example, you have 4 kids under 10 years of age, do they really need their own beds? Some of my favorite memories from my childhood was going to our family cabin and all my brothers and sister had to cram up in the loft, sleeping bags side by side, whispering and telling silly stories all night. Those are some of my fondest memories that wouldn't have occurred if we all went back to our separate spaces, isolated. Understand that, "Growing into your RV" is a myth. I recommend, buying your RV for your situation now and trade it in or sell it when your life changes. For example, when your kids get older and need separate bunks or leave for college and you need less space or more space when you actually start traveling with that other adult group. Most RV's have a short warranty and therefore are not built for the long run, plan for now. I definitely gave the 2024 show RVs a good look over, and I tell you, they don't build them like they used to.

Various Motorhome Options at the MKE RV Show

With that being said, they are building RVs bigger and smaller - to both extremes. Tip three is to consider where you are going. Where, is a huge part of RV choice. If you only go to large obnoxious, paved parking lot, corporate campgrounds, by all means get an RV to match. If you're looking for real camping experiences, mom and pop-type, wholesome places or public land camping don't go too big. Many or these campgrounds were built when camping was "camping". That means they cater to the small teardrops and pop-ups - just because that was the standard RV size when the campgrounds were built some 40 or 50 years ago. A large class A or huge 5th wheel will indeed have trouble getting into sites and probably will be encroaching on their neighbor's space. Think of your stress level here.

Third tip, consider your vehicle and get the right trailer. Ask questions and do your homework, know what your vehicle is capable of and just because your vehicle can, it doesn't mean you should. Be smart and safe.

Indy Car
This Indy Car was at the MKE RV Show, probably not the best vehicle to tow an RV but you would be the talk of the campground if you did.

Last tip, consider bells and whistles. If you're going to make a big purchase or little purchase, make sure you are getting what you want. Do you want an outdoor kitchen? Solar? Just need a simple bed? Or you have to have two bathrooms? Automatic cocktail making machine? An RV that turns into a helicopter? Whatever makes your home away from home worth hauling (or driving) hundreds of miles, setting up, leveling, unpacking, repacking, hooking up, unhooking, dumping and driving hundreds of miles home - make sure it's all worth it.

Talk about bells and whistles, this trailer had dual lofts, kitchen island and the list goes on. What an impressive looking "camper".

I attended these RV shows hoping to find the perfect one for me, but alas, after considering the above tips, I'm not really ready for an RV. I really considered the "where" and realized that an RV isn't conducive to the camping experience I want to have. I like backcountry exploring and adventure, which is usually foot travel only. As much as I dream of the luxury of the RV on the lakeside, the anxiety of hauling, finding sites and maintaining the equipment stresses me out. I guess RV life isn't for me (for now) and it isn't for everyone. However, I did enjoy seeing the new RVs of 2024 and I'd love to see your RV, hear your stories and maybe I'll join "Team RV" in the future but my "now" is a tent with my dogs by myside, off-the-grid, deep in no-man's land.

camping in the Andes
Andes Mountains, Chile

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