Wecome To RVs and OHVs

This blog is all about RVs (recreational vehicles) and OHVs (Off Highway Vehicles), camping, and survival
and how they work together to provide wholesome family fun and great learning opportunities.
Many posts are intended to familiarize novice campers and RVers with RV systems and basic camping and survival
skills. But even experienced RVers and campers will enjoy the anecdotes and may even benefit from a new
perspective. Comments, questions, and suggestions are encouraged.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Winterizing -- Its That Time Again

Winterizing your RV. If you live in a cold climate you will need to either store your RV in a heated garage or winterize it before the cold weather sets in to prevent freeze damage. If you are lucky enough to live in the sunshine belt you can probably skip this post for now. If you choose, for whatever reason, not to winterize your RV, and you live in a cold climate, the consequences could be very expensive. Temperatures below about 24°F for several days WILL create conditions that can seriously damage RV water systems. Occasional nights below freezing but with warm day time temperatures may not require winterizing, but it always better to be safe than sorry. When I lived in southern California I seldom winterized my vehicles, even when I lived in Rosamond where we got winter night time temps down into the lower 20s. It warmed up enough during the day to prevent the kind of solid freezing that damages plumbing. It was nice being able to keep the RV ready to roll all year round. When we moved to Utah I had dreams of building a heated garage, but keeping a big, steel building warm in Utah winters isn't very practical so I've had to resort to winterization. In the process I've had my share of partial successes, resulting in some frozen components when I failed to properly winterize them. If the damage is in an exposed bit of plumbing, it is an inconvenience and usually a minor expense to repair. If it occurs inside walls or within the floor, it can be very time consuming and expensive to take care of. Even frozen pipes under the kitchen sink are a real nuisance to reach. Proper winterization will take time and require several gallons of RV antifreeze. It is not a good idea to skimp on either the process or the antifreeze.

The fresh water system is one of the most vulnerable parts of your RV when it comes to freezing. Water freezes at 32°F (0°C). When water turns to ice it expands. That's a good thing for lakes 'cause the ice floats. If it sank, it might never melt and the lake would eventually freeze solid! Not good for fish or fishermen! Expansion in confined spaces, like pipes and fixtures, can seriously damage those components. Many a homeowner and RV owner has suffered the consequences of freezing temperatures on water pipes. If freezing can rupture heavy galvanized pipe in homes (and it does!), just think what it can do to the comparatively flimsy plastic pipes, dump valves, and fixtures in your RV! Freezing of fresh water tanks and holding tanks is also of concern, though the size and flexibility of the tanks allows more leeway than thin pipes where the heat is quickly lost and whose structural integrity can be easily destroyed by the expanding ice. The dump valves and other entry and exit plumbing are quite susceptible to freeze damage if water is left in them. All water needs to be eliminated or replaced with RV antifreeze.

To winterize your fresh water system, first drain your fresh water tank then run the water pump and open each faucet until no water comes out. For added safety, use a 'blow out plug' in the city water inlet to use compressed air to blow any remaining water out of the system. Be sure to open all the faucets before applying the compressed air. Leave the drain open until it stops dripping to be sure all the water is out. You may need to elevate the RV on the side away from the drain to be sure it all comes out. Drain the hot water heater. To conserve antifreeze you may want to install a water heater bypass kit (if your RV isn't already equipped with one).  They aren't expensive (usually around $20) and fairly easy to install if you have access to the back of the water heater.  With antifreeze running about $4/gallon, they'll pay for themselves in saved antifreeze the first year. This allows cold water to pass directly from the feed to the hot water distribution without having to fill the water heater. It is also a good idea to blow out the lines and fixtures with compressed air if you can. You will need an adapter to screw into the city water connection to which you can attach your compressed air. Next fill the system with RV/Marine antifreeze. DO NOT use automotive antifreeze! It is toxic. RV antifreeze is usually pink. automotive antifreeze is green or yellow.   If you have access to the 12 volt water pump you may be able to connect a hose from the inlet to draw antifreeze from the jug and pump it through the system.  If not,  add a gallon or so of RV antifreeze to the fresh water tank.  If that isn't enough to allow your pump to deliver water to all the faucets you may have to continue adding antifreeze until it does pump through the system.  You can also buy manual pumps to pump antifreeze in through the city water connection.  Some winter windshield wiper fluids are also pink, so make sure you use ONLY designated RV/Marine antifreeze. Then disconnect the inlet side of the water pump and run a line into a jug of antifreeze. Turn the pump on and open one faucet or fixture at a time (don't forget the toilet) and let it run until the pink antifreeze comes out. Make sure you have at least 1/2 cup of antifreeze in each drain to prevent the P-traps from freezing. Your fresh water system should now be safe down to the protection level indicated for the antifreeze you used. If you can't get to the inlet side of the pump, dump about 5 gallons or so of RV antifreeze into the fresh water tank until you can pump it through the lines and faucets. Make sure the pink stuff comes out ALL the faucets, both hot and cold, and the toilet.  And, don't forget the outside shower if your RV is equipped with one.

Hot water heaters are also subject to freezing when left off (you don't want to waste propane heating water all winter!). Many RVs have a bypass system so you don't have to fill the whole water heater with antifreeze to protect the hot water lines. After turning the valves to bypass the water heater, drain the water heater completely. If your RV doesn't have a hot water heater bypass, one can usually be added fair inexpensively, especially if you can do it yourself. Then, when you pump antifreeze through lines, it will go through the hot water lines and faucets as well as the cold water lines so all the lines are protected without having to pump 6-10 gallons of antifreeze into the water heater. Installing a bypass system is pretty easy if you have ready access to the back of the water heater.  You may need custom components if clearances are tight.  Off-the-shelf bypass kits may have fittings and valves that may not fit if clearances are close.

Holding tanks are also susceptible to freeze problems. Most vulnerable are the dump valves, but the tanks themselves can also be ruptured if the contents freeze and expand. Completely drain the holding tanks and add a gallon of antifreeze to each one to protect the dump valves. Most of the drain lines will be dry, except for the P-traps. That is why you need a half cup or so of antifreeze in each drain, to fill the P-traps.  Chemicals and contaminates in sewage may lower the freeze point slightly in holding tanks, but unless the additives are antifreeze it probably won't protect them much below the normal freeze point of plain water (32°F) and plain water caught in P-traps would definitely be likely to freeze and damage the plumbing.

The water hoses you use to fill your fresh water tank and to rinse your sewer hoses both need to drained so they don't freeze and burst or take them out and store them in a heated area where the will be protected from freezing. Some RVers carry multiple fresh water hoses to ensure they can reach the faucets in even the most inconveniently configured camp sites. Some may also carry a standard garden hose for flushing the holding tanks.  Be sure you take care of all your hoses.

Anything with water in it will need to be drained or protected. I have a water type fire extinguish in my motorcycle trailer that I have to drain, plus I have to empty our "Camelbak" hydration packs. Check around your cabinets for where you might have squirreled away bottled water and soda and put it somewhere that it won't freeze.  Frozen soda cans burst and when the stuff melts it leaves a really sticky mess.  Ice maker lines should be disconnected and drained.

Propane systems usually don't require any special winterizing for storage, but if you plan to use your RV during winter months you'll want to fill it with a winter blend. Ordinary propane tends to gel in cold temperatures and then your stove, furnace, and refrigerator won't work. The winter mix includes butane which has a different vaporization point and helps keep the fuel ready to use at lower temperatures. I learned this the hard way. I had a Class B van conversion that I took with me when I moved to Chicago from southern California. I figured I could increase our driving comfort by lighting the furnace an hour or so before we were ready to drive the van. I was really disappointed when I could not get anything to light! It was about -20F outside and the propane was useless. When it warmed up in the spring, everything worked just fine. If there is excess moisture in your propane system, it could freeze and damage regulators and gas lines. There is no easy way to determine if there is excess moisture in the propane system. For peace of mind, have a propane technician check the system. They may add alcohol to help control moisture and reduce the chances of freezing.

Windshield washer fluid also needs to be changed. Summer formulas will freeze, most winter formulas are good down to at least -20°F. That should be good enough for must of us, unless you live in Alaska or plan to visit Antarctica!

Coach batteries must be kept fully charged or removed and stored inside to prevent them from freezing. An automatic battery charger or good converter with a multi-stage charger should maintain the charge for normal winter temperatures, but batteries should be stored in a non-freezing environment if you expect -- or encounter extreme cold. Check the electrolyte level. Low electrolyte will prevent the batteries from charging properly.

Automotive systems in your motorhome or tow vehicle also need to be winterized. If you've been keeping up with your routine maintenance your coolant should already be at the proper mixture to protect the engine from freezing. Check the protection level in your radiator using a hydrometer. Make sure you are protected well below the temperatures you expect to experience -- just in case you get an unexpected cold snap. It is a very good idea to change the oil before storing your vehicle for the winter.  Used oil often contains acids and contaminates that can damage metal parts while in storage.  Don't forget the oil in your generator.  And make sure the battery is fully charged. A low battery can freeze fairly easily, but a fully charged on will withstand much colder temperatures. A frozen battery may crack, spilling acid all over the place and causing serious and expensive damage. Removing the batteries on very cold nights is a nuisance, but not nearly as much of a nuisance as cleaning up spilled battery acid if they freeze and break!

Provisions you keep in your RV, including edibles, medicine, and sundries, may need to be removed and stored inside during freezing weather so they don't freeze and break their containers or destroy the contents -- or both! You won't like the results of either consequence! Broken containers can be very messy and frozen contents may present you with a nasty surprise when you go to use them next season. And don't forget the contents of your outside storage compartments. Some cleaning supplies you store there may need protection to avoid freezing too.

Protecting the exterior from winter weather is also important. If you don't have a covered or enclosed storage area for your RV, consider investing in a good RV cover. You'll see people using ordinary tarps and they provide some protection but they don't breath and the coarse surface can damage the finish on your RV. Tarps are OK if they are set up as shield around and over the vehicle but can damage the paint if they are placed in contact with the surface. Make sure your vehicle is clean before covering it. Any dirt or debris is likely to damage the surface as the cover moves. If your RV is stored outside, be sure to at least protect the tires. The rubber tends to dry out and crack when the tires sit for long periods of time, especially if they are exposed to sunlight and ozone. Vinyl tire coves are fairly inexpensive and easy to use. Ordinary contractor trash bags wrapped around the tires will protect them from the sun. Keeping the rain and snow of off your RV also prevents intrusion and accumulation of moisture that could then freeze and cause additional damage. If you have to leave your RV outside when it snows, brush off the accumulation before it gets deep enough to overload the roof or the vents on the roof. The best way to do this is to use a long-handled broom from a ladder alongside the RV. Walking around on a slippery RV roof, which is usually strewn with obstacles that could be hidden in the snow you could trip over, is a recipe for a nasty fall! That ground is a long way down and likely to be frozen. Definitely not someplace you want to land.

Using your RV in winter. Most people don't use their RVs during freezing weather, but they can make a good base camp for skiing, ice fishing, and snowmobiling if they are properly prepared. Just keeping your RV furnace set to keep YOU warm doesn't necessarily protect your water systems against freezing. You may need a heater or heat tape to protect holding tanks, dump valves, and exposed pipes. A 100-watt bulb inside an exterior compartment that contains exposed water system components may prevent them from freezing -- IF you have 120-volt power to run it all or most of the time. You will want to seal any potential drafts around doors, windows, and cabinets and use foam insulation panels in the windows to prevent heat loss. Make sure your furnace is in good condition and you have plenty of winterized fuel. The propane used in warm climates will gel or freeze in cold weather, so try to use up your summer supply before the cold weather hits and refill your tank with a winter mixture. If your furnace isn't large enough to meet the demands of your winter outings, explore adding a second furnace or a permanently installed or portable catalytic heater to add more warmth. If you plan to do a lot of winter camping, it will be worth the investment in a second furnace or a permanently mounted catalytic heater. If you only need it occasionally, you can probably get by using a "tent heater" for auxiliary heat. With any catalytic heater, make sure you have adequate ventilation. While they don't out out smoke or toxic fumes, they do consume oxygen and even seasoned campers have suffocated when they forgot to leave some windows open. Electrical heaters are an easy remedy if you have shore power or a generator and plenty of fuel, at least for daytime use. You don't want to run the generator at night so plan on other ways of keeping warm during "quiet hours". Personal comfort can often be increased at little cost by adjusting your wardrobe. Thermal underwear, warm socks, and sweaters are usually enough in an RV or even in a tent. For sleeping comfort you may need a sleeping bag with a lower temperature rating or need to add some extra blankets, quilts, or comforters. One trick I've found works really well is to open up an extra sleeping bag and use it to cover two people in their individual or shared bags. The shared bag provides additional insulation and retains heat from both bodies immediately around the sleeping bags instead of letting it escape into the surrounding air and trying to heat and entire tent or RV.

Setting up your RV for winter use. Some RVs come from the factory already set up for winter use. If yours didn't, there are some things you can do to make it more winter friendly, Factory setups usually include enclosed and heated holding tank compartments that may be difficult or impossible to do as a retrofit. You may have to resort to heat pads and tape to warm exposed tanks and plumbing. Exterior compartments are often lacking insulation and you may be able to remedy that with rigid styrofoam or foam/foil insulation installed to line the compartments and compartment doors. Insulation alone won't keep exterior compartments warm. You may need to add heat tape or just install a 60-100 watt incandescent light bulb in each compartment. You'll need shore or generator power to run the lights, but since incandescent bulbs are about 90% efficient as heaters and 10% efficient as lights, they'll usually do a pretty good job of keeping the damaging chill away. Generous and consistent use of foam/foil panels in your RV windows will greatly improve heat retention and interior comfort and reduce propane consumption. You may need snow tires or tire chains to fit your RV tires for safe winter travel. I like to use an old foam sleeping pad to lie on when installing tire chains. Not only is it more comfortable than lying on cold, wet pavement or gravel, it helps keep you up off the snow or wet ground.

When using park hookups in winter you will need to wrap your water hose AND the faucet with heat tape.  Leaving the hose attached will defeat the self-draining features of the frost-free faucets and both the hose and the plumbing may freeze -- and YOU will be liable to the campground for the cost of repairs.  Heated fresh water hoses are convenient to use but somewhat expensive and you'll still need heat tape to protect the exposed pipe and faucet it is connected to.

Attention tent campers! Just because you don't have an RV doesn't mean you're off the hook for winterization. Your campstoves and lanterns should be properly cleaned and stored. Make sure your tent is clean and dry. Loosen those tightly strapped sleeping bags so you don't destroy the loft.  Open them p and hang them freely if you can.  Go through your provisions and make sure anything that might freeze or leak is put somewhere safe. If you have portable hot water system, be sure to drain and winterize it. Check your ice chests to be sure they have been emptied out.  Empty your canteens or hydration packs.  Then take advantage of the "indoor months" to inventory, inspect, repair, replace, or upgrade your gear as needed.

Keep cozy all winter!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Read and Re-read.

Why would you want to re-read any of the posts on this blog? Well, for one thing, each time you read it what you get out of it will be affected by the sum of all your experience, and your experience changes constantly. On top of that, I frequently re-read all my posts and often edit them to clarify some points or provide additional information as my experience changes and I acquire new material or I come across relevant items from other sources. There are always new products or procedures coming along to improve our camping and RV options. And, NO, I don't get paid when people read my blog!

Read and re-read any RV and camping magazines you may receive. Read and re-read first aid manuals and survival guides. Read and re-read the owners manuals and maintenance schedules for your RVs, OHVs, and camping equipment. Sound boring? Maybe, but it is important to keep up to date and you're sure to find valuable new insight with each reading. And it will be a lot less boring and whole lot less stressful than sitting around waiting for repairs or assistance when something breaks down cause you didn't know how to take care of your equipment or what to do when something unpleasant happens.   Unfortunately, we don't get to use our camping equipment and recreational vehicles as often as we would like so it is all too easy to forget things we once knew about them.  Reviewing the relevant documentation periodically is one way of keeping it fresh.  There was an old saying when I was in school: "The more you learn, the more you know, the more you know, the more you forget, the more you forget, the less you know, so why study?" Nice try -- when want to avoid doing homework, but it never flew well with parents or teachers who insisted repetition improved learning.  Care to guess who was right?  Well, the more you read and re-read relevant materials, the more familiar they will be and the more you will retain. You can figure it will take at least 3-5 readings before you really understand any given article, let alone will remember it. Repetition does improve memory.  You don't have to remember all the answers but just knowing where to find relevant information about your equipment can save tons of maintenance and repair time.

What catches your attention will change from time to time, depending on your needs and point of view at any given time. You may gloss over survival and emergency preparedness topics until you or someone close to you is affected by a disaster situation. You may not find hints for hot or cold weather camping particularly useful until you find yourself out in hotter or colder weather than usual. I am hoping that by posting my experience and research on this blog I can help you prepare for situations ahead of time and, with any luck, avoid some of the pitfalls I and other campers I know have encountered. Unfortunately, a lot of us are a like a kid, who told not to touch a hot stove, doesn't really believe it until he experiences it for himself and gets burned.  Don't get burned!

Read and re-read is something I frequently practice, not only on my blog but with many of my research materials. Much to my wife's frustration, I hang onto a couple of years or more of back-issues of Motorhome, RV View, Highways, and Dirt Rider magazines, and frequently go back and re-read them. They are a gold mine of tech and travel tips. The reviews of new vehicles and products helps me keep up with new innovations and evolving trends, to say nothing of piquing my interest in possible upgrades. New product reviews are interesting and helpful. There are always new gadgets to look over and covet. The maintenance tips provide a continuing source of valuable insight into solutions for mechanical issues, fixing problems, and tips for acquiring and installing new equipment. Travel stories are always fun to read and may give you ideas for new adventures of  your own.  One of my favorite Motorhome Magazine features is called "Quick Tips", a series of simple user-supplied ideas that solve common problems and are easy and inexpensive to implement.  And even though I have read them all from cover to cover more than once, I often find new tidbits that surface as my experience or focus has changed since the last time I read them.

I urge you to especially consider articles that provide instruction for emergency preparedness. It isn't as much fun as riding our OHVs or personal watercraft so we tend not to pay as much attention. Hopefully disasters are rare, and because they usually are, we are often unprepared when they happen. You might get pretty good at changing and patching OHV tires if you ride rocky trails where you get frequent flats. Hopefully you won't have as many chances to practice your first aid or CPR skills! Some people shy away from preparations because they don't understand the potential risk or are scared or they don't know where to start. Some folks are superstitious, fearing that preparing for a disaster will in some way make it happen. As for me, I'd a whole lot rather prepare and prepare and never need it than not prepare and find myself in trouble. Fear and panic are the greatest threats in almost any disaster or survival situation. The best way to avoid fear and panic is preparation. It doesn't matter if you are preparing for a major natural disaster such as earthquakes, tornadoes, or floods or for the minor problems of a mechanical breakdown or being caught in bad weather on a camping trip, the key to enduring the difficulties and making the most of the situation is preparation. Preparing for emergencies may not be as much fun as preparing for a water-skiing or OHV trip, but it may be more important. I felt pretty much in control following the 1994 Northridge earthquake in California which knocked over block walls in my neighborhood and took out power for a few days and killed several people in the next valley.  My youngest son was about 10 at the time. Partly because his mother and I didn't panic, he felt secure. When an aftershock hit while he was playing street hockey with his friends he paused to ride it out, grinned and said "Cool!", and went back to his game. A fellow worker of mine had recently moved from New York and was totally unprepared and panicked by the 'quake. His 12 year old daughter spent the next two weeks hiding under the dining room table and reverted to wetting her pants. I'm certain her parents fear played a big part in her reaction. You may have to force yourself to make emergency preparations a priority, but one day it will pay off and you never know when that day might come. After the Northridge quake I donned my C.E.R.T. gear and went to check on friends and neighbors after having confirmed the status of my own family. Everywhere I went people came out desperately seeking information and help. Frankly I was surprised how ill prepared so many people were to deal with a quake and how hungry they were for information and assistance in earthquake prone southern California.

Never stop learning!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Slide outs

One of the most noticeable advances in RV design in recent years is the slide-out. We're not talking about doing Tokyo drift style maneuvers with your RV or what sometimes happens on slick roads, we're talking about structural modifications that expand the interior space when your RV is in the campground. Old-style RVs typically have an aisle about 2' wide down the middle with cabinets, counters, and furnishings on either side. Slide-outs move the cabinets or furnishings out, leaving more open floor space inside. Large motorhomes and trailers may have up to 4 slide-outs. Units with opposing slide outs in the main living area create a living space that seems down right palacious. Gone are the feelings of claustrophobia that once beset users of many older RVs. I saw one at an RV show with 5 slides outs that appeared to have more open space than my living room at home! Of course the price tag was more than my house too!

Think slide-outs are a modern innovation? The RV Hall of Fame includes a custom built "Telescope Apartment" on a 1915 Model T Ford that had multiple slide-out compartments, including the main telescoping section.  Modern use of slide outs in RVs didn't show up until the 1990s.

Slide-outs are wonderful additions but they do present some extra considerations when using your RV. First of all, you need to be aware that the slide-outs need space when you pull into a camping spot. Attempting to open a slide-out where it will encounter obstacles can cause distressing and expensive damage to your RV. If there is ANY chance the slide-out might strike an obstacle, don't open it. Move the obstacle or move your RV until you have adequate clearance to open the slide-out. Even small branches can interfere with proper operation, damage the mechanism, or puncture the skin. Even if you can successfully open the slide-out, if branches get caught as the unit is retracted again it can cause serious damage.  Be sure to check clearances overhead and at the bottom of the slide out.  Look for possible interference every time before you extend or retract the slide.

Slide-out safety. Besides making sure you have adequate clearance to open your slide-out, you may want to make sure you have plenty of room to walk around the open slide-out. Otherwise you may need to duck under it get past it and that is a good way to bump your head. Some folks use velcro to attach bright colored ribbons to the corners of the open slide-out to make it easier to avoid bumping into the corners. Another consideration is weight distribution and loading. The structure is designed to support the original purpose and adding more weight could seriously damage the mechanism. A slide out that with a sofa should easily handle the weight of normal use of the sofa, but adding an extra water tank or heavy equipment under the furniture is likely to seriously overload the structure and cause significant and expensive damage.  Some slides extend out over outside cabinets, making access to them difficult when the slide is extended.  In some cases the cabinets extend out with the slide.  When this is the case you will want to avoid overloading the cabinets so the extra weight doesn't stress or damage the slide mechanism.

Slide-out maintenance. Slide-outs usually require little maintenance, but what is required is important. That is to keep the mechanism free of dirt, debris, and obstacles and properly lubricated. Be sure to follow the manufacturer's recommendations for lubrication and use the right lubricants in the right places at the right intervals. Using the wrong lubricant or using too little or too much or at the wrong intervals will cause damage. Too little lubricant or waiting too long will risk excessive wear on the moving parts and could cause binding that may bend the mechanism or burn out the motor. Too much or too frequent oiling may accumulate dirt and dust which also accelerates wear -- and makes a mess. Make sure there are no loose items under furniture or cabinets in a slide out that could fall into the mechanism. You also want to keep the top of the slide-out clean when it is extended. Slide-out awnings are a good way to automatically protect the top of your slide-out. If you don't have them, inspect the roof before you retract your slide-out and brush away any debris that could get pulled in and damage the seals.

ALWAYS retract your slide-out before moving your RV.  Motorhomes usually have an interlock that prevents you from moving the unit with the slide extended, but since the tow vehicle is separate for trailers, its up to you to make sure all the slides are stowed before moving your extended towable home on wheels. Moving the unit with the slides extended can cause serious damage. You may risk the slide hitting an obstacle but even if the way is clear, the twisting of the coach going over any kind of uneven surface, like even going in or out of a driveway, or sometimes just the tilt from making a slow turn, can tweak the slide so it no longer fits or works properly. The leverage of an extended slide can exceed the design limits of the mechanism when the body is tweaked. Then you may have difficulty retracting and extending the slide or may have leaks and repairs are not cheap!

You may also want to retract your slide outs during high winds.  The extra surface area and extended leverage of the slide outs may cause excessive rocking and rolling of your unit and could tweak the slide outs so they can't be retracted and/or no longer fit properly.  If the slide is moving or flexing from the wind it may get tweaked enough to compromise the seals and allow dirt, wind, and precipitation inside.

Slide out awnings are included with most slide outs to reduce the chance of rain intrusion. Like most added conveniences, they may increase cost and come with their own maintenance requirements and limitations. On long slide outs the fabric may sag enough, even when properly tensioned, to allow water to pool during heavy rain. If the awning isn't properly tensioned, it may flap excessively in higher winds. As the awnings age, the fabric stretches and the springs weaken and may need to be adjusted or replaced for optimum performance. Some folks throw a rope over the awning and tie it down to reduce flapping. You might also install grommets along the outside edges and tie it town with rope or bungee cords. To deal with the water pooling problem, some innovative owners have created support frameworks out of PVC pipe. One pushed a beach ball under the awning to hold up the middle -- but he got tired of chasing the beach ball around the campground when strong breezes would dislodge it.

An innovative variation of a slide out, called a Veranda, was introduced in 2008 but hasn't really caught on. Most of the entire curb-side wall hinged down to create a suspended deck on the side of the RV. Residential style sliding glass doors provided access between the deck and the interior of the RV. As clever as this invention was, it would appear that people are more interested in having more interior space than a veranda. An awning and a good patio mat make a pretty good patio area without the extra weight, extra cost, or extra complicated machinery of the Veranda.

Are slide outs right for you? It is hard to imagine any time slide outs would not a be a welcome addition, but there are things to be considered. If you frequent campgrounds with small, tight spaces, you may not have room to open your slide out. While most slide out equipped RVs can be used with the slides retracted, interior space is often limited and some features may be inaccessible with the slide retracted. If vehicle weight is a major consideration, remember that slide outs add weight. So if you need to stay below a maximum weight, you may not find slide outs to be a good choice. Why might you need to restrict the weight of your RV? Well, you might visit campgrounds where there are weight restrictions on bridges or ferries you may encounter en route. If you already have a trailer you tow behind your motorhome, you may have to limit the weight of the motorhome so as not to exceed the Gross Combined Vehicle Weight Rating (GCVWR). Exceeding the GCVWR will have serious negative affects on handling, safety, mileage, performance, and longevity of your RV.

Slide outs CAN be added to some existing RVs, but generally it is cost prohibitive -- around $2000/foot. There may also be weight restrictions and serious structural considerations. Upgrading to a newer model with slide outs has other advantages as well, such as dual pane windows, improved insulation, and more energy efficient appliances with fewer hours of use.  Since slide outs are a relatively recent innovation, you won't find them in older, more affordable RVs.  In fact, the addition of slide outs is one factor that has made older units without them more affordable since many buyers often want slide outs.

Slide outs often have a "slide out topper" -- an awning that extends out over the slide out when it is extended, protecting the top from weather and the seals from UV damage.  Toppers can usually be added to slides that don't have them.

Early model units with slide outs might look like a bargain, but make sure the seals are in tact and the slides all work smoothly, without any binding or straining.   As slides age, the seals tend to break down and the mechanical parts get worn  or bent.  If they have had little use and have been properly cared for they may be just fine, but any lack of maintenance or any abuse could render them a disaster just waiting to happen.  Seals and other replacement parts for older units may be obsolete and difficult or expensive to find.As often occurs with any technology, improvements have been made since slide outs were first introduced so, in the long run, it may pay to get a later model.

The availability of slide outs has had an impact on the resale value of older RVs that don't have them. That means you may be able to get a bargain price on a quality older unit that doesn't have slide outs if are OK with the smaller living space in camp. Before you completely throw out the idea, keep in mind RVs without slide outs have been around a long time and have provided great service, comfort, and convenience.   You may be able to find an "open floor plan" that gives you some of the elbow room of slide outs without the extra cost.  You may feel less claustrophobic in a newer model with slide outs, not only because of the extra room but because your wallet will be thinner and take up less space.

Slide in to slide outs!