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Some Problems With Living In A Travel Trailer

By Edited Apr 30, 2016 3 4

A Nice Looking "Pull Behind" Coleman Trailer

Coleman Travel Trailer
Credit: http://grandparentsplus2.wordpress.com/2012/04/05/the-coleman-travel-trailer-model-ct260/

I've Lived In A Travel Trailer Four Years Now

I live in a travel trailer.  I've lived in this exact same travel trailer since November of 2009.  I had no plans to live in a travel trailer, and I had no way to purchase such a thing myself, but things fell in place to where I live in a small recreational trailer home, the kind you pull behind a truck or other vehicle with a decent sized v8 engine behind it, or in my case, you just live in the thing, and it doesn't much ever move.  I mean, it better not move, this thing moving would signal a great disturbance in the force, and that's a fact, Jack!

Now don't ever get me wrong here.  I love my little travel trailer home.  I've related how I came to live in a Dutchman Sport travel trailer in other places, and there is no need for me to show you the interior of my home.  I mean, come on, guys and gals, I'm a 39 year old single man; and so it is cluttered and less than antiseptic inside of here, you're not seeing the inside of my home until you pay a visit, and then, it'll be best should you be in love with me, or, well, intoxicated.  The picture up above is a nice illustration of what kind of home I have and have had for a while now.  It's just the picture up above shows a rather new one, and mine just isn't.  Mine is fully functional, except that one major thing...which stopped functioning last night during an electrical storm, we'll get to that.

What I'm saying here is that I am what you would call economically impoverished.  This is by design.  I'm an absolute nonconformist in every possible way you could imagine.  I consider the US federal government the enemy of, well, all of us; it's only that some of us don't realize how all this is just yet.  That has nothing to do with anything, except that I'm not seeking full time employment, I don't have a bank account, I don't pay utility bills in my name, and I'm absolutely off grid in every way outside of this thing we all know and love, that thing Al Gore, or "ManBearPig" definitely did NOT create, the internet.

Settle down, bro!  We all know you're a libertarian anarchist or something, and you don't have a phone either, so chill, and tell us about travel trailers!

Right.  Good thinking, and thanks.  These movable tiny homes on wheels come in two major varieties, 1. the 5th wheel, and 2. the pull behind.  With the 5th wheel trailers, you need a pickup, and usually one with a LARGE engine, preferably a diesel, as 5th wheel homes on wheels are generally bigger than the pull behind variety, but that is only a generalization.

A 5th Wheel Style Travel Trailer

5th wheel
Credit: http://www.richardsonsrv.com/Jayco/DesignerFW/tabid/551/Default.aspx

Benefits Of Living In A Travel Trailer

Oh I have some complaints about living in my recreational trailer, which in my instance, isn't recreational at all, it is my home; but first let me tell you about some real benefits to living in a travel trailer.

1. You've got to really figure out what your priorities are!

I'm a very jaded guy.  I think anyone who even knows who Kim Kardashian is dating is an idiot, and very likely has an IQ so low it could be counted on your hands.  Me, I wouldn't know who that person was except I see the name so often, and I don't know a picture of her when I see her.  I don't watch television, and I rarely suffer fools...so you could say I vote myself out of the eugenics sterilization or extermination list.  Guess what, I'm still a nobody, but I at least know what is worth valuing in life, and it ain't anything on a television.

I've no clue what the latest fashions are, and I wouldn't care regardless of how much money I have.  I don't know who most of these idiots I hear mentioned on radio chatter are, and I don't want to know either.  I have more stuff than I can fit inside my 26 foot long home, but what I care about the most...most of it is always in here.  You learn a lot about yourself when you have limited space, and learning about the self is damned important in life.

2. Joining The Tiny House Movement Means You Care About The Environment!

No, I didn't plan to join the tiny house movement, and no, I'm not ever certain this small 26 pull behind home on wheels I have actually qualifies as something part of "the tiny house movement[1]."  Guess what?  It can't be argued this home of mine isn't tiny, so I win.

 Why join the tiny house movement if you can afford to live large?

Good question, but the answer is easy.  Whether you join the tiny home movement by accident like me, or join intentionally like a more righteous person would, you're doing YOURSELF a favor, and you're helping preserve the environment.  Listen, this isn't a joke, life in a travel trailer isn't energy efficient.  This things are poorly insulated by and large, but they are small enough that you'd almost certainly wind up burning less energy than if you lived in an apartment somewhere.  So the question really comes down to whether or not you are serious about environmentalism.  Don't think the market isn't catching on to the desires of the people for more energy efficient travel trailers, the producers have been told, and are responding in kind[2].

3. Living in a travel trailer allows you to relocate with ease!

This is beyond obvious, and doesn't need explaining.  The only thing to keep in mind here is that relocating a trailer, even a small one like mine, requires that someone own a pickup truck with a powerful engine.  Of course it is possible you could know someone so eager to move you somewhere else they'd do it for you with their truck.  Hopefully, you'll at least know about that before it happens.

Travel Trailer bedroom
Credit: my hubpages thing

Problems With Living In A Travel Trailer

First and foremost, I want the reader here to realize these recreational trailer homes weren't built with the idea in mind that someone would be living inside of the thing full time.  Oh of course some trailers are built better than other ones, no question about that.  I think by and large Airstream brand trailers[3] are recognized as being built several levels of quality above virtually all other makes and models; but there are probably some competitors on the level with Airstream.  Generalizations are often wrong, but we use them in language because they are generally correct.  Generally speaking, if you live full time in a travel trailer, you are likely to experience some of the issues that I have experienced, and so I shall list the problems I've had for you now below.

1. the mattress is really cheap:

The photo up above is of a Dutchman Sport travel trailer's single bed.  The Dutchman Sport is what I live in, and it is an ideal trailer for either a single person, or a very tightly knit couple.  No, that is not MY bed, but it is exactly like it.  In four years of living in my Dutchman Sport I've worn my mattress to tatters.  My mattress is absolutely trashed, and absolutely needs to be replaced.  I've worn holes through it, there are springs sticking through it on BOTH sides, as I've already worn both sides of it out.  No, I do not sleep with springs sticking into my guts.  I've taken cheap rubber floor mats, and covered the places where springs are sticking through the mattress, and from there, I've covered the entire thing with a thick blanket for an easy repair.

2. The air conditioner is going to fail:

I'm going to talk on this one for a minute.  I'm a professional hvac mechanic; but I'm also a guy who strives to be as off grid as is possible, so I do not work full time repairing air conditioning stuff as I once did.  Oh I put in some full weeks of work here or there, but not often.  This trailer of mine was about ten years old when I got it.  Before I started living inside of it, it had only been used by some men for going hunting....in other words, it had been used for the sort of thing it was designed and built for.  I'm the guy who is misusing the thing by living in it full time.

It isn't so much that the air conditioners that are nearly all by one or two companies on these travel trailer homes are inadequate, it is that the insulation in the trailer is almost non existent; and so when you live in a place like Texas, as I do, the units have to run constantly during the Summers, and ALL air conditioners are bound to fail at some point or another.

So what's the problem, I'm an hvac guy, right?  Right, but there are big problems.  An air conditioner on top of a travel trailer isn't anything like a residential air conditioner.  Oh they work exactly the same way, but the parts for travel trailer air conditioners aren't so readily available.  It's not a matter of me fixing them, that can be done; it's a matter of getting the parts, and figuring whether or not the cost of those parts is worth it.  When my first a/c bit the dust, I got a used one from a totalled out trailer.  Just two nights ago the new used one died in a thunderstorm.  A power surge destroyed the fan motor.  At present, I'm looking into getting another motor.  In the meantime, I'm employing something way undersized for the job it's trying to do, and I'm sitting here in some real heat.

The KUL brand portable room air conditioner pictured above is a good little air conditioner.  I don't want anyone to take me wrong about the thing.  The problem is, it isn't a good substitute for a rooftop package unit that removes an additional 5,000 btu's of heat.  Currently and in a pinch, I've got the KUL thing, or as I call it "R2D2" in my trailer.  I've got another fan motor for my dead one, and I'll have my rooftop package unit, a Dometic Penguin, going again soon.  In the meantime, it is damn hot in my trailer.  I live in Kaufman, Texas; and here, one needs a perfectly functional unit running 24/7 in the Summer to keep a travel trailer comfortable.  If I had the money, then I'd absolutely have already ordered myself a brand new Dometic a/c Penguin II for my trailer.  It is a fine unit.  An electrical storm took out my fan motor; sometimes bad things just happen to even good people, and not exactly the best person out there.

3. These trailer's are hardly insulated at all:

I've already brought this subject up above.  I needs mentioning again and again.  I live in Texas, and so the problem is the heat, and not the lack of it.  I've never ran the central heat inside my trailer.  In Winters, I've only ever needed to run a little plug in electric heater, and I'm kept as cozy as I wish to be.  I'm a very thin man too, and so I need more heating than others might.  The thing about the insulation is overly obvious, to me, at least.  There is no attic, so there is no insulation up there; and the walls are what, two inches thick at best?

Here is the thing, if you live in a trailer on wheels full time, you're probably going to want to do something about the windows.  You can't do anything about the insulation in the very thing walls, not unless you're some major sort of craftsman who has plenty of time, energy, and another place to live while working on the trailer.  You can, however, insulate the windows of your tiny home, and I have.  Home Depot will sell metal tape and styrofoam insulation, other than that, all you need is a tape measure and a knife to cut the stuff with, then just go right at it, and feel the improvement.

 4. Most travel trailer light fixtures are really cheaply built:

Again, and I can't say this enough, these little rv homes weren't built with the idea in mind that you'd be living in them all year every year, but it is a doable thing, it's just that some continued investment in the home will have to be continually made.  I've not replaced any of my light fixtures, but I've at least one that definitely needs replacing.  They're just cheaply built, it isn't something one would be bothered by if they only used their trailer for a vacation or something.  Eventually, I'll be replacing some light fixtures in here, and I've got a list of upgrades here in the references[4].  It's not just the light fixtures that are bothersome.  The light bulbs available for the standard light fixtures in an RV are typically pretty cheap too, and they do go out pretty frequently.  Just trust me on this, they don't last as long as the old Tom Edison ones of days gone by, but at least they aren't mercury filled EPA poison ones supported by Al Gore...I mean, ManBearPig.

5. You'll have to be very careful about the cabinets getting wet!

I'm told Airstream trailers have solid mahogany cabinets.  That kinda makes me sad because I think mahogany should be used to make acoustic guitars, and such.  I've learned that what I think in this world is often not the way the rest of the world thinks, but then again, just maybe the people who build non-Airstream travel trailers agree with me.  The cabinets in mine are built of some sort of particle board, it's like cardboard on super steroids.  You want to be sure this stuff doesn't get wet, as it will swell, and then start to disintegrate, or at least forever after be misshapen.  Listen, as I've said, I'm in Texas.  It DOES freeze here during the Winters, and one Winter while living in this trailer, it was below freezing for nearly ten days.  You do not want to have mistakenly left one of your faucets on in such a situation.  No, you won't know you left the faucet on, as if it is frozen outside, you won't know the faucet is on for the lack of water coming out of it.  Just be certain you keep your faucets on OFF when the world outside is frozen, as when the outside world thaws, the faucet will suddenly be full force with the water.  If you've left your faucet on, and the sink's stopper engaged, then you will flood your trailer, and all your cabinet bottoms will swell a bit.  Please do not ask me how I happen to know such things.


6. The door lock is going to have to be replaced.

I'm in a one door trailer, and my door lock is in its 3rd format.  These things cost about $45, and I've no real idea why they just break down, but I've actually had the thing lock me inside for a moment.  Oh yes, I panicked just a little.  Finally I got the thing open.  Less disturbing for me, but maybe not for some others, is when you can't lock the door from the inside or the outside, and I've had both of those situations happen as well.  Listen, I'm just lucky here, my parent's home is on the same property, and so I'm maybe more fortunate in that way than some others who may decide to take the plunge into travel trailer living.  In any case, I'm on my third door lock; give me another year and a half, and I'll possibly be on the 4th one.


Listen, I want any readers here to know that the problem list above is NOT a complaint list.  I love my little travel trailer home.  Oh sure, I look at bigger ones than mine with the slide outs and the larger bathrooms with lust and longing, no questions about that.  I only want to provide these problems so that one like me can be prepared for them, or to do pre-emptive things to combat such problems.  I've no real complaints.  Thanks for reading!



Jul 18, 2013 6:45pm
Nice read Todd!!!!

Don't get me started on air conditioning. I just returned a mobile one today. Boy, was that a junk? I replaced it with a window unit, and now it feels good in the house. I don't live in a trailer, but when it is hot, I don't think there is too much difference. I rent for now, and the owner did not bother to install air conditioning. Michigan does not need air for a long time during the year, however when it needs is, it is worth while the expense...
Jul 19, 2013 7:40am

I'm late getting up and moving today, but I do have a fan motor that I should be installing right now, but will get to.

Oh I bet it was 90 degrees inside here during the hot part of the day yesterday. All any air conditioner can do is give you 20 degrees less than the temperature of the air going into the thing, or the temperature in the room or house.

These travel trailer rooftop units are very similar to window units. Of course they just blow air downward instead of outward...except the condenser side is still blowing air outward, of course.

These things only have one fan motor, a double shafted one. Those can be a bit more tricky to change out than a single shafted motor.

My replacement motor is used, and was just given to us....thing is, its high speed is a faster speed than the burned out one, so I'm going to have to decide whether or not I can use the high speed, or if using it messes with the pressures in the refrigerant coils too much for it to be used. Either way, the medium speed and the low speed will work fine in here. :)
Sep 12, 2013 12:12am
We love our caravan and have gone around Australia twice now (5 years apart). But we do have an old house as a base(real old). But..

I love it in the van and it doesn't matter which type of caravan you buy they all have their problems.

Caravan versas Mobile home.- we are selling our caravan(any buyers) because we are not getting any younger and I think a Hino bus or mobile home would give us more security. Simply because if there is a problem we just get behind the wheel and take off.
If in a caravan I have heard of idiots(my opinion) park their car beside caravan door so we cannot get out and then they rifle through tug and steal everything and take off.

I know you still need a small vehicle to get around but think it would be better.
Heating is the problem we have as we only use solar power and refuse to take a generator. (Thinking of using a deisel heater). A few weeks ago we parked and it was minus 8 degrees and even the dogs water on the floor was frozen and also water in tanks. Lucky we always have a few bottles of water extra.
Love travelling. Change of scenery makes it worth it and no problems with neighbors as we can just move on. great article.
Sep 12, 2013 11:26am
Thanks very much for the comment, eileen!

It sure sounds like you travel in some cold places! Since I'm stationary with my trailer, I don't use the clean water storage tank at all, I've got a water hose coming over from my parent's house. I'm in North Texas, and it generally doesn't get too cold here, but one Winter it stayed below freezing for ten straight days, so I had to even wash my dishes next door. Of course I carried jugs of water over to here for coffee and such. I'd sure like to get into powering my tiny home with as much solar as is possible. Burning fossil fuels is such bad old technology, no doubt about it.
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  1. "What Is The Tiny House Movement?." The Tiny Life. 17/07/2013 <Web >
  2. "What Does a "GREEN RV" Really Mean?." Go Ever Green. 17/07/2013 <Web >
  3. "Airstream.com." home Page. 18/07/2013 <Web >
  4. "light fixtures." RV Upgrades. 18/07/2013 <Web >

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