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Old 11-14-2012, 06:02 PM   #1
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Newbie 5th wheel questions/concerns

Hi everyone,

Could you please answer a few questions for me about 5th wheels?

I am currently in college, finishing up my Zoology degree, and I am thinking of buying an RV when I graduate and living in it full-time.

Why an RV? Because I want to take seasonal jobs working as a Nature Interpreter at National Parks and Wildlife Refuges across the country. But I am tired of renting apartments. An RV seems like the perfect solution - a home of my own that doesn't have to stay in one place!

Why a 5th Wheel? I want to be able to have a commuter vehicle and leave my RV in one place for weeks at a time, but I may need to travel on unpaved roads for my job, so I'd rather have a truck than a small car. Also, I only want to have to maintain 1 engine, not 2.

Here are my concerns:

EXPERIENCE: I have never actually been RVing, driven anything bigger than a 1/2 ton truck (I don't own a truck right now, I'll buy one after I pick what size of 5th wheel I want), and I've never hitched up or pulled any kind of trailer before.

PHYSICAL ABITLITY: I am going to be doing this entirely on my own. I am single - no husband/kids/etc. I am also very short (5'1") and not very athletic. So I'm concerned about being able to maintain, park, and hitch/unhitch a 5th wheel all by myself.

SECURITY: I will need to leave my 5th wheel alone for 8+ hrs/day. But I am worried it might be broken into or stolen completely while I'm at work.

Feedback/advice/comments please??



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Old 11-14-2012, 06:14 PM   #2
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As far as hitching/driving/etc., that's just practice and is not hard.

I will say, it is not cheap to RV properly, so don't expect that. Put a house on wheels, expect issues. Need to always keep an eye on the outside for water tight seals. Other things may just pop up all of a sudden, so you just have to expect it sort of.

I wouldn't be concerned about being able to do all/most of everything yourself. Like I said, it's not hard. It's more mentally demanding to make sure you remember everything. Just always take time. I'm learning that if I think I should do something but am about to walk away and not then I better go do it and take the time.

I've seen multiple units where the entry door was damaged from attempted break ins, but never any successful.
Usually if it's higher up, getting in busted windows would be hard.
Now, the cargo bays take a dumb, almost universal key. That would be my only concern.
The trailer hitch can be locked up, so don't worry about it running off down the road.

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Old 11-14-2012, 06:29 PM   #3
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I think what you're planning is great, I wish I could do that. Where will you be staying? If you're staying in a campground, either public or private, you'll meet very polite people. I probably wouldn't worry about leaving my rig too much. You can buy a 5th wheel pin lock at any truck stop for about $25.00. It locks to your pin so no one can hook to your trailer. One of those canned air horns is cheap insurance against unwanted visitors.

Pulling and backing a 5th wheel is easier than a bumper pull trailer, but still takes practice. Hooking up your 5th wheel won't take much to master. Do it a few times and you'll be an Ace. See if your dealer (or seller if a private sale) will give you a few pointers, and then go to a parking lot and practice. Not rocket science. You'll have it in no time.

Remember this acronym- G.O.A.L. Get Out And Look. You'll actually save time (and money). Best of luck, and keep us posted on your progress.
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Old 11-14-2012, 06:36 PM   #4
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Hi Amy. Have you ever been in an RV for any length of time? We have had pop ups, travel trailers, class As, class C's and a couple of 5th wheel trailers. For long term living and not moving very much, we prefer the 5er.

A word about 5ers, there are weekend trailers and full time trailers. A full time unit is also a 4-season trailer. What part of the country do you plan to live? Winter living can be a challenge in an RV, but it can be done in a 4 season trailer.

A full time trailer requires more truck than an equal size weekend trailer. A full time trailer will be better insulated, heavier frames, heavier built cabinets, better storage and better furniture. A lot of the manufacturers will not warranty a full time use of their trailer

Manufacturers of true full time trailers are Nuwa (Hitchhiker), New Horizon, Carriage (Cameo), Teton, King of the Road, DRR (Mobil or Select Suites), Arctic Fox and Excel.

There a lot of really nice 3 to 4 year old high end full time trailers on the market. I feel you would be better off spending the money on a better used full time trailer than a mid to entry level weekend trailer.

Usually a Full time trailer (depending on size) will require a 1 ton dually or larger. A few manufacturers offer some smaller full time units which can be used with a SRW (single rear wheel) truck.

With your height, a 5er will be harder to hitch and unhitch due to reaching reaching into the bed to operate the hitch latch. But you can keep a small step ladder or stool in the bed of the truck to help with the hitch.

Number one thing is to never believe the RV sales person. They will tell you anything to sell an RV. When you reach a deal, get it ALL in writing. Anything promised needs to be in the sales contract and signed by an official of the dealership. If you are buying used, make the contract contingent on you getting an inspection from a 3rd party inspector that you hire. It will cost $200 to $300 to get an inspection. Before you pay for and take the unit, have the dealer demonstrate that all equipment and systems are operational when delivered.

Have fun,

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Old 11-14-2012, 06:42 PM   #5
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Well, your budget certainly is a factor. It won't take much of a 5th wheel to get you needing a 3/4 or 1 ton diesel truck. If you can only afford a 1/2 ton, and an old one at that, you may be better off getting a tag along. Whatever you get, I'm assuming you will be in cold weather areas at times look for a 4 season unit. Tank heaters and thermopane windows will make it easier to deal with extremely cold weather.

It's advisable to make an RV checklist and have it laminated. Even some of us old timers still use a check list to make sure we've got everything buttoned up and ready to travel.

With all the equipment you can get, your size and strength shouldn't be an issue. It will seem a bit much at first until you are used to doing all the things you need to do. But once you are used to things, it's not a big deal. I would advise you to get a good roadside assistance plan for changing tires and such - especially if you are getting older equipment - many use the Good Sam service and recommend it.

Good luck and keep us posted on what you decide to do.
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Old 11-15-2012, 04:55 PM   #6
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My DW is 5'1". We have a 5th wheel but I do all the outside stuff and she does the inside stuff. Anyway - she would recommend a class C gas motorhome towing a jeep wrangler. Says a 5th wheel and big truck would be too much for her to handle. You do need to reach into the bed of the truck to release the hitch as well as during hook-up you need to set the lock pin.

Also towing a 5th wheel is easy going down the highway but not easy when pulling into a gas station, walmart, side streets etc. A 5th wheel will track way inside of the truck path when making a turn. Ever see a semi make the wide turn at an intersection? You have to do the same thing when towing a 5th wheel. However backing is easier.

Humm - I would recommend a smaller 30 to 32 foot 5th wheel pulled by a 3/4 ton off road capable diesel truck. Artic Fox and NuWa are two well made 5th wheels with smaller 5th wheels. My thought is that a smaller 32 foot 4th wheel would be easier to get into and out of parking lots and gas stations. Easier than a 38 or 40 footer.

Good luck and let us know what you end up with ... cool plan.
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Old 11-17-2012, 05:27 AM   #7
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My wife is your height and she can handle the hooking and towing, she wanted to learn in case I got sick or injured while on the road. Just takes patience and practice but it isn't rocket science , you can do it!!
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Old 11-17-2012, 04:00 PM   #8
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I suggest a bumper pull. They offer smaller sizes, can get by with a smaller tow vehicle, imo they are simpler to hook/unhook and because of shorter length easier to back up.
For a single person, a 30' or longer seems unnecessary to me. 20-25 seems like a more manageable size.

I have towed both.
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Old 11-17-2012, 07:21 PM   #9
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Hello Amy!

Congratulations on finishing your degree and having the confidence to embark on your life's adventures on your terms. :-)

I did almost the same thing you're considering when I finished grad school (25 years ago). I was, and still am, 5'2" and never over 120 lbs. While not weak or frail, I wouldn't consider myself an Olympic athlete either. I've never had any problems towing, driving, hooking/unhooking, setting up a rig, and so forth.

In my case, I started out living in a van conversion -- lived in that for almost one year. A friend let me "rent" her side yard for $10 a month plus yard work. Had elec & water hook ups, and was in a nice, safe neighborhood. That saved me money, and gave me time to learn ins & outs of this type of lifestyle w/ minimal monetary investment.

I had a small pickup truck and couldn't really tow that w/ the van. So after about a year I swapped the van conversion for a used class A rig. Eventually -- like after 4 years -- I bought a house and the RV again became a recreational vehicle only. But for those first 4 years after grad school I rarely had any problems full-timing in a RV, and I managed to save quite a bit of money at the start of my career. (Shedding those student loans ASAP was great, too!)

If I could just offer a few tips in addition to what others already mentioned:
1) buy and drive whatever type, size, or year of RV you are comfortable using, espec at the outset. You probably won't need lots of bells & whistles, and it might even be less stressful starting out in an older, smaller rig that's easy(ier) to operate and maintain;
2) get familiar w/ basic maintenance so you can save add'l funds on oil changes, repairs, etc.; and
3) if you're going to be entirely on your own and/or in remote locations, buy a personal security device like pepper spray or stun gun AND learn how to use properly. Better safe than sorry.

Best wishes! :-)
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Old 11-17-2012, 08:00 PM   #10
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Security....We've been in campgrounds all around the U.S. and never had a problem. Once you are in a site get to know the neighbors and you'll do just fine.

Physical ability....You'll do fine but if you need help you will soon discover RVers are always more than willing to help others out. Get to know the neighbors.

Experience....Everybody on here was new to it at one time.

My only advice....Don't buy a half ton. Buy the biggest you can. I think you are making a wise move.
You will be able to go places and do things you wouldn't be able to do if you were tied down to an apartment.
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Old 11-18-2012, 03:01 PM   #11
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If reaching into or over the truck bed rails will be an issue you can always get a 1 ton truck with a flat bed instead of the standard bed. Farmers do that all the time to pull gooseneck trailers. No bed sides to get in your way or crunch if you happen to "high hitch" and lose the trailer. (BTW - not likely to happen if you pay attention)
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Old 11-18-2012, 07:56 PM   #12
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Old 11-18-2012, 08:36 PM   #13
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Go no longer than a 27 for excellent manuvering. The flat bed is a great suggestion. My first puller was a flat bed and I hate this pickup for all the reasons mentioned and i am 5' 8.

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