Is the RV headed for the history books?

Are RVs viable in a time when their builders may go bankrupt, gas prices can skyrocket, and seniors lose their retirement funds?

The RV’s last roundup. Salon Magazine. By Mark Schone, with additional research by Ben Travers





  1. Ky Girl Avatar
    Ky Girl

    I’ve been seeing this coming for the past couple of years…

    As for us, our 26′ Dutchman 5th wheel was more-or-less permanently parked at our farm 4 years ago for use as a “hunting cabin.” I doubt it’ll ever see the open road again. It just got too expensive to pull, was too hard on our tow vehicles, and didn’t fit at a lot of the National Park campgrounds.

    So our family of 4 (2 adults & 2 teenagers) now travels like a big ol’ turtle with a slide-in truck camper. We’re crammed in there like sardines at night (and most of the time our oldest teenager gives up & sleeps in the cab of the truck) but it works. We’ve got a place to sleep and a place to cook our meals. The rest of the time we’re usually outside so who needs more?

    And best of all, we can park pretty much anywhere (and can turn around on a dime) AND we get 14-16 mpg (compared to the 8-9 mpg we got with the 5th wheel).

    Of course, at the end of 2 weeks we usually arent’ speaking to each other! LOL! But that’s pretty much normal with teenagers anyway….

  2. Linda Hunter Avatar

    Except for the people who get burned on service and the people who work at RV plants, I am happy to see this happen. RV parks have become a less than outdoor experience. On our way back from Baja in our 1978 Alaskan truck camper we stayed in an RV park with lots of these big boxes. . no one came outside of them.
    They all watched TV. It has become one more way that the American people distance themselves from the natural world.

  3. Mike Avatar

    One thing to consider is that many of the RV’s out there are actually retired people, and the RV is their full time home. They drive around the country and live in those things.

    While I may not agree with the RV’er who tows 4 ATV’s and a Hummer(yes, seen it a few times), many of them do enjoy the outdoors and donate to good causes. With outdoor numbers dropping I think we need more outdoor allies, and RV’s that camp in NP campgrounds are relatively harmless compared to mass ORV vehicles and anti-conservation groups like the Blue Ribbon Coalition and the NRA.

    And sure, I get annoyed sometimes camping next to people in RV’s who run hairdriers, loud TV’s, and who obsessivlely clean their RV’s all day while ignoring the beautiful park they are camped in. There are people like that. But there are also the people who have bikes attached to the RV’s who bike around the campground and park with their kids, or who head off to the lake for fishing, or who like to go on short hikes and sightseeing tours around the park.

    Bottom line for me is I have encountered more good RVers’s than bad ones. Usually they come from far away and are glad to be where they are. I wish I could say the same for my experiences with other groups.

  4. Layton Avatar

    “On our way back from Baja in our 1978 Alaskan truck camper we stayed in an RV park with lots of these big boxes. . no one came outside of them.
    They all watched TV”

    Just FWIW, myself and my wife are probably guilty of this — but why??

    First of all, we don’t like to stay at those campgrounds with all the “big boxes” even tho’ we have one. We would prefer to stay someplace where it’s green and what you see out the door or window is NOT another motor home or camper, and where there is grass and trees rather than dust and kids playing in the gravel. Gravel cuz’ all the grass has been worn off by those same kids.

    That said, my wife gets nervous about just pulling over to the side of the road and sleeping before continuing on to wherever it might be that we’re headed. While I’m in one of those “big box” places it is usually because I’m waiting for her to get ready so we can get OUT of the place. I might watch TV while I’m doing it.

    I like to talk to folks like Mike speaks of, but sometimes it’s difficult — I’m not going to go knock on their door to strike up a conversation.

    Usually our camping trips are done with the pickup camper or even a tent in someplace where we DO go outside to do something.

  5. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    I don’t like to camp next to RVs, or anyone for that matter.

    Nevertheless, my experience is that the people who use them are often pretty nice folks. The big problem for is just their size and running those generators.

    1. Maska Avatar

      Amen re: the generators!

  6. Linda Hunter Avatar

    I guess what I like best of all about the article was where it was mentioned that RV’s will probably change into lighter, more solar efficient, less gas using practical vehicles. I like that because the big box trend has made it so lots of those nice folks. . and I haven’t met any I disliked either can’t take those big boxes places where they can have a meaningful outdoor experience. Also, I noticed traveling the length of California that the RV parks have started to be really expensive. . one was $52.00 a night while just down the street a hotel was advertising rooms cheaper. I have nothing against RV’s at all, I just want the industry to go to a more outdoor oriented path.

  7. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Traveling around Arizona recently, I think RVs are becoming for some a dignified way of being homeless, and some will take advantage of the fact.

    I stayed in a large and moderately clean hotel room in a Laughlin, Nevada Casino for just $22.50 a night! The economic crisis is doing some strange things.

    1. Salle Avatar

      I have to agree with the “homeless” factor. It’s shelter of a sort and most, who only have a couple $K can probably get one easier these days with those who already have them unloading them for instant cash. A poor economy will bring that type of small-sized liquidation. Should have seen the line up of RV’s for sale last year when gas was in the outrageously high price range. Now that gas has gone down considerably, an RV beats tent city, and it’s easier to be mobile-especially if one happens to be homeless with family.

      1. paulWTAMU Avatar

        I work in a building that houses nonprofit agencies with a focus on homeless prevention, and I can tell you, a surprising number of people live in RVs and campers. It’s not a great living situation; most of these RVs are not in the greatest shape, they have lousy climate control…but they do beat a tent. They also usually have at least some cooking facilities, which comes in very handy for homeless folk. So yeah, I don’t see RV’s vanishing, but it wouldn’t break my heart if they were to drastically decline.

  8. Linda Hunter Avatar

    Ralph we found that staying at a Casino was the cheapest way to travel. . we were a bad investment for them as we passed on gambling but it was $14.00 a night and included full use of the sap. What a deal. And perhaps my TV watching RV park was full of full time residents . . there was no way to tell. But think of this. . if the RV manufacturing world collapses perhaps next time I shop for an RV I might be able to find a four wheel drive, light, fuel efficient vehicle that is small enough to fit on Baja roads and get to wild places but big enough to have an incinerator self contained waste system, water filers built in for water intake and filters for gray water so it is not hazardous to dump, a desalination unit for using salt water, GPS mapping, internet, climate controlled and instead of a pop out living room will have a pop-up wildlife viewing tower complete with night vision . . and anything else we can incorporate with modern technology to make it completely self-contained, agile and cheap to operate, and energy efficient.

  9. Linda Hunter Avatar

    ummmm . . I meant full use of the spa. . and we stayed in a RV site run by the Casino for that price.

  10. Layton Avatar


    You can find the RV that you specified — but it will cost you more than the RV facility where you park it!!!

  11. Virginia Avatar

    I must confess to owning a travel trailer that is heated and cooled by a solar panel. Our favorite trip with it is to stay in Yellowstone at Slough Creek or Pebble Creek where we can get up early and be in Lamar Valley at dawn instead of driving for two hours from Cody and getting their too late to see any of the wildlife. However, sometimes it is hard to see what all of us “campers” have done to those campgrounds as far as what Layton says about all of the grass gone and they sure pack us in there tightly. I have a hard time understanding why you would want to watch television or even listen to music in the Park – really – why are you there?

  12. BobCaesar Avatar

    What about the huge, overpowered, really expensive boats? I mean boats cost ten times as much as a “normal” camping trailer and fifty times as much to keep.

    American’s will NOT easily give up their RVs nor their boats!

  13. Salle Avatar

    Seems to me that only those who can afford to keep the boats (especially) and RV’s will have them. I have a friend who keeps a rather large boat on the lake in YNP and is not even close to having to give up any recreational vehicles, they won’t be doing that at any time soon either given they have a sound business that is, so far, unaffected by the financial crises. And all is paid for, so they will be keeping all they have worked for 20+ years to have.

    The folks that can at least get an RV, or already have one, to hang out in after losing housing are the lucky ones when it comes to being homeless.


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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