Earlier this year our family received not one, but two invitations to family reunions in northern Alberta. Renting a recreational vehicle suddenly seemed like a good way to make our adventure north more comfortable and convenient. Despite my reservations about renting an RV (I grew up camping under ripstop polyester and metal poles) I ended my status as a recreational vehicle virgin to give RV travel a chance. In the last two weeks we have traveled about 3000 km in our rented RV. We learned how to empty and fill various tanks, check gauges and transform our space from a dining area to a sleeping area efficiently. After two and a half weeks of adventuring RV-style I have mixed feelings about this form of travel, so I wanted to share some of the things that we enjoyed and disliked.
Stocked kitchen. Driving around with a stocked kitchen is very convenient. Enjoying a wholesome meal can happen almost anytime and anywhere and it saves both time and money.
Sleeping somewhere cozy and quiet. Sleeping in an RV is definitely more private, quiet and comfortable than sleeping in a tent. We were never kept awake by rowdy neighbours, midnight storms or strange nighttime noises.
An on-board toilet. Whether we were driving, parked at a campground or visiting a site, bathroom breaks were a breeze. This is a significant point when you have three young children.
A place to retreat. Bad weather, bugs and people can be easily avoided by retreating into the RV.
Storage. RVs have plenty of storage space.
Fun for children. My children thought that it was pretty spectacular to be driving around in a small house on wheels.
Expensive!!! Renting an RV is expensive, as expensive as sleeping in a nice hotel. The cost of rental is just for the unit and does not even include the cost of fuel. Renting an RV is not a way to save money!
Unsuitable child restrains. Most RVs are not designed for child restraints (i.e. car seats and booster seats) yet Transport Canada requires that all children should be fitted with proper restraints in vehicles. Even though there is some confusion around the need for child restraints in RVs, children should have properly fitted child restraints for safe travel.
Big, cumbersome and slow. Forget about speed and embrace the slow lane.
Finding level ground. RVs need to be parked on level ground and if the ground is not perfectly level then blocks need to be used to achieve levelness.
Limited mobility. While an RV is great for getting from campground to campground its large size means it isn’t great for driving around big cities. Also, once an RV is parked and set up at a campsite it is not easily moved. Bring bikes!
Not eco-friendly. RVs guzzle fuel like it’s nobody’s business and use electricity wherever they go. There are definitely environmental costs for all the conveniences offered by an RV.
Loss of nature connection. Being in a RV breaks that special connection with nature that happens when the only thing between you and nature is a thin sheet of material.
Recreational vehicles offer many conveniences but at a significant cost, both financially and environmentally. It is not my favourite way of travel but I conceded that there are times that renting an RV could be a good choice. Next time we go camping though, I will be bringing my tent.