Camper Quest Part 1: Expanding Our Kayaking World with an RV

My wife and I have been kayakers for about 12 years. Over the years, as we paddled rivers, Great Lakes and oceans, I expanded my knowledge and love of kayaking and today I share it with others as an instructor and volunteer. These days Lake Michigan is literally in our back yard, making it possible to walk down to our beach and paddle anytime (as long as the bay is not frozen like it is today). We’ve also been tent campers for years, and I expect we will continue to kayak tent camp as often as possible.

But here’s the thing…

Like a lot of baby boomers nearing retirement, we hear the call of the open road and the appeal of sleeping in a bed that’s not in contact with the ground. I’m calling this project our “Camper Quest” — a deep dive into all things RV. Mary will tell you I’m kind of obsessed with it all. There’s so much I’ve already learned, so many choices we’ve already made, with some of the biggest choices still ahead of us.

Our goal is to buy an RV and explore North America. We want to enjoy life spontaneously on the road for days and weeks at a time with only a vague notion of where our next stop might be. Along the way we’ll visit family, friends and other natural wonders. We’ll dip our kayaks in rivers, lakes and oceans we haven’t yet paddled. That’s what our Camper Quest is all about; expanding our kayaking world via the RV lifestyle.

“What’s the big deal?” you may ask. All we have to do is figure out how to carry kayaks with us in an RV. Easy, right? Well, not exactly.

Choosing an RV sometimes seems overwhelming. For first-time RV owners, which is what we hope to become, the choice involves a whole range of benefits and potential pitfalls. When you add the need/desire to tote along two kayaks, you have an even more complex array of options and solutions to sort through.

For us, finding the right RV is especially tricky because of the length of our kayaks. They’re 17-1/2 feet long, which is nearly twice the length of most whitewater kayaks and many recreational kayaks. It’s not easy to strap these bad boys to a car, let alone an RV.

During the coming days and weeks I’ll blog about visits to RV shows and dealerships, share highlights and links to many of the resources I discover, and outline major and minor decisions we make along the way. I’ll also write about choices we “unmake” when we discover new information that sways our decisions.

Topics I’ll examine in upcoming blog posts include:

  • What are our requirements for an RV?
  • Camper trailer or motor home?
  • Rent vs. buy?
  • What type? What brand? What model?
  • Are roof racks or back-of-RV racks an option?
  • Other methods to carry kayaks
  • What about more easily transportable kayaks?

My goal in sharing our camper quest is to help others thinking about buying an RV; especially kayakers thinking about buying an RV. If you already own an RV, I want to hear from you. How do you RV? What have you learned? What works? What doesn’t work?

Stay tuned! The quest is only beginning.

With apologies to “Breaking Bad”, AMC Network Entertainment LLC

 

24 comments

  • Carol

    That sounds amazing! Good for you.

  • Vern Owen

    I’m also going to retire to an RV, in just 17 months, but being a boat owner as well as a kayaker I just planned to strap my kayak to the boat trailer with a mount I made just for that. Many places will barely give you vertical clearance for a RV, let alone with a kayak or two strapped to the roof as well as the difficulty of getting them up and down without damaging them or the RV.

    • admin

      I hear you, Vern. It seems you have things figured out. We are not power boat owners so we don’t have that option of strapping kayaks to a boat trailer.

      • vern owen

        If you are planning to tow a vehicle you can construct a rack over it.

        • admin

          True that, Vern. At the present time I am not planning to tow a vehicle. However, I know that what some RV’ers feel is the perfect rig will not be everyone’s preferred solution. That’s one of the things that makes a camper quest so interesting. I’ll explain more about our current line of thinking in upcoming blog posts.

  • Check out the Winnebago Travato. It is a class B and great for easy traveling and getting places the bigger ones can’t go. It comes with kayak racks. Myself, I load my yak right in the van, but I had to downsize. Another friend tows a lightweight kayak trailer. Good luck to you.

    • admin

      Carole, the Travato has been on my list of possibilities. In fact I have been inside a couple of them. What floor plan do you have?

  • We used to own a Swift Kontiki 6 berth here in Scotland. This design of camper has a solid roof which one person can easily stand on. Our Old Town Discovery canoe and Ice Flow sea kayak (both heavy beasts) were transported on the roof. Getting then up there was ok as long as one person climbed up on the roof and hauled with a rope while the better half took the end of the boat on the ground and held it away from the back end of the vehicle. Once we mastered the technique, both boats could be loaded in about 15 mins. I’m sure there are more modern solutions out there which are proofed against the in-firmness of late middle age! All the best in you research, don’t apologise for the reference to Breaking Bad – I had to do a double take, I think it’s great.

    • admin

      Thanks, Ali! I had to Google Swift Kontiki. I had not previously heard of that brand. It appears to be made in the UK so I’m not sure about availability for me in the U.S.

  • Mike Korenchuk

    Consider a Sylvansport Go. http://www.sylvansport.com. We have used one for two seasons and it suits us fine.

  • Elizabeth J Hawke

    You will be seriously held back if you do not tow a smaller vehicle behind your big-ass RV (which is a pain to take shopping, into the bush, into quaint towns with narrow streets and overhanging branches etc etc etc). If you tow a “ride”, you can put your boats on top of it and life is good. Consider renting an RV for a road trip before you buy anything to get the feel of how constraining a big rig really is.

    • admin

      Good advice, Elizabeth. We do plan to rent an RV. In fact we have a trip coming up in a rental RV that I will be blogging about soon.

  • Rental as a beta test is a great plan. I’m a career paddler living in Sleeping Bear area and have been pondering the same questions. We’ve narrowed down to a mid sized truck w/topper and rack system for boats towing a lightish 19ft lifted trailer set up for boondocking. Think base camp, then unhook for back-country forays. Thinking we must know each other…

    • admin

      Hi, Michael. We love Sleeping Bear. There are sure a lot of decisions to make, aren’t there? I’m not sure if we have met. If not, we’ll have to do so sometime.

  • Greetings – I own a 19 foot class B Roadtrek. I can carry my three kayaks inside – 10, 12 and 14 feet. I don’t usually take more than two – and if I know I won’t have anyone to play with, one. I slide them in the back door, and pad between hulls and furnishings. It means finding places to spend nights where I can remove the boats, which means some of the free places (think Walmart) are out. On the other hand, there are lots of places where for free or cheap I can park within 5 – 30 feet of put in, and paddle my little heart out! You can find last year’s adventures, and the beginning of this year, at kayak2016blog.wordpress.com – this replaces the trip logs I have historically sent about travels. Have a wonderful time! Beth

    • admin

      Beth, what model Roadtrek do own? That’s one of the brands I have been looking at. At 17-1/2 ft, our kayaks won’t fit inside any vehicle other than a school bus with the seats removed.

      • I have a 2000 190 Popular, about 90,000 miles on it, about half of that solo since my husband died. Your 17.5′ kayaks wouldn’t fit in it; the 14′ is tight. I also have friends with a new Pleasureway; they opted for an inflatable tandem. I thought it looked a little clunky, when we were out together, but they like it. But I didn’t take the camera that paddle, so don’t have photos of it.

        I love being a turtle; have fun with your rental. Beth

        • admin

          Yes, inflatable or folding kayaks are certainly viable options for RV’ers. I’ll post some of my thoughts and experiences along those lines in the coming days.

  • Pingback: Camper Quest Part 2: Rent Before You Buy – LIQUID ADVENTURING

  • I have a retired student who pulls a 5th wheel with a pick-up and has the sea kayak on the pick-up. He put a rack on the front of the pick-up (think trailer hitch on the front of the truck) to extend the boat forward. Contact me offline and I can put you in touch with him, if you want to see how its working for him.

    • admin

      I’ve seen rigs like that. I know there advantages to fifth wheels. However, at this point in time we are favoring a small motorhome such as a Class B or Class B+. Time will tell.

  • Pingback: Camper Quest Part 4: Hello, TRAK Kayaks – LIQUID ADVENTURING

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