Can an inanimate object teach you something? Yes it can. We learned a lot from our 17′ Casita. I wrote a version of this for the folks who purchased the Casita from us to try to “speed up” their learning. Now I am posting it here so I can look back on it for a refresher course.
First of all, we have been enamoured with tiny houses, spaces, and campers for about 2+ decades. We actually built a tiny house on our property in 2010. It is a great home office, extra bedroom, practice music studio…. I started really researching trailers and RVs about 6-10 years ago. At first I thought I wanted a van, or some other all-in-one RV, but then if you break down you are really stuck. Also, I like being able to detach and go sightseeing. I looked at aluminum (airstream), fiberglass, and “stick and glue” (most available trailer on the market) and really think fiberglass is the most durable for the price. I walked into and around many trailers / RVs / 5th wheels. I watched so many videos. I stalked social media. I settled on a fiberglass travel trailer since the aluminum was out of our price range and the stick and glue (not to mention the pop up campers) are no good in bear country. We purchased a Toyota Sequoia so that we could pull whatever we got. (So many people get a camper before getting the truck!) Then the 2008 FD Casita fell in our laps through friends of a friend.
We purchased the Casita in June 2019 from Joe and Jen in Massachusetts. They had owned the Casita for about 5 years and were the second owners. Like us, they loved the Casita but had outgrown it. This would be our first travel trailer (or camper of any kind) ever. We had never even pulled a boat or mini U-Haul before. Their price was firm and I gave them what they asked for (after seeing pictures via text and talking to Joe quite a bit). I started watching YouTube videos immediately. I think these folks have a lot of good tips.
The Casita pulls like a dream. It weighs less than 2000 pounds. My advice is DO NOT load down the camper much more than that; pack much of your clothing, chairs, folding table, firewood, charcoal for grilling, etc. in your vehicle so as to not weigh down the camper. In the camper you should keep things that can always stay in the camper: paper towels, utensils, plates, a few pyrex dishes, toilet paper, small appliances, … perhaps sheets and towels. More on that later. The only hard part is backing her up in a tight space. Hitching (and unhitching) is easy because we had the power tongue / jack. When possible, I have always paid extra for the “pull through” spaces just to ensure marital bliss. HAHA.
I have found the following apps on my iPhone very helpful:
KOA — there is an annual membership card you can purchase for maybe $25 and it gives you 10% off each night’s stay for the year. This card pays for itself in one trip!
Good SAM’s — same thing about the membership card.
RV Parky — this app allows you to filter for campgrounds versus Walmart parking lots, etc.
ParkAdvisor — rank orders all of the options in your search area. I love this feature!
Campendium — You can really drill down on this one and search for free camping, dump stations, etc.
AllTrails — Not needed for finding camping sites, but great for finding where oyu might want to hike / sightsee.
Often I do my research on my phone but do the reservations on my laptop. Of course I use a map app too to help with distances, etc. There are lots of great state parks (much cheaper) but not as many amenities (pool, deluxe patio, camp store) and rarely pull through sites. We have never stayed inside a National Park (not yet anyway).
When pulling the Casita down the road, you will probably never go for more than about 3 hours at a time without stopping for gas. It might be helpful to plot out your route so that you know of places to get gas. Sometimes out West you have to be careful — also you’ll have to be careful with how quickly the weather changes.
I would recommend planning several 2-3 night trips before embarking on a 10-20 day trip.
Inside the Camper:
Prepare the camper for bumping along a road. Make sure all items stowed are not fragile and if they are, wrap them in towels and secure them. Make sure all cabinet and door button closures are pushed in and locked. I usually pull on the top / side of the cabinets all the way around to ensure this. Close drains in sinks and the drain for the bathroom floor. For the bathroom floor the drain lever is in the closet. The one and only time I took a shower in the Casita (because there was a bear in our campground in Estes Park, CO, and I didn’t want to walk down to the bathhouse at night), I did not know to open the drain until my feet were in an inch of water. Once I opened it, I did not know to close it back up again. After we had driven about six hours from Estes Park Colorado to Moab Utah and began setting up camp, there was now about an inch of dirt on the floor of the bathroom! Long story short close everything before pulling away. Lock all windows, close all blinds, tuck in the blinds to the elastic straps at the bottom and tuck in the blind twirler so it doesn’t rattle around. Close and turn off all fans (in the bathroom and main cabin). Lock the door and keep the key in the same spot as always on your person. When you stop for gas, walk around the camper to make sure a window hasn’t slid open from a bumpy road.
The thermostat by the sink runs the propane heater (output under the stove top). We actually have never used this for camping but we never winterized our Casita so we turn this on if it gets very cold outside for several days in a row.
The AC in the ceiling runs the AC. AC runs off of shore power only. The fantastic fan is fantastic!
Eat outside as much as possible. Food crumbs inside that we can’t even see invite small critters like ants and mice into the trailer. Walk your trash to available dumpsters as often as possible — big food trash attracts bigger critters like bears and racoons.
Treat this camper like a boat. Wash it and wax it with the good stuff for fiberglass. Make sure the two propane tanks are secure. Don’t brake suddenly; we learned our lesson when the propane tanks came flying off. GAH! We like the blue filter on our water hose. It makes the coffee taste much better.
When hooking up to the utilities, it’s best to do electricity first. Don’t forget to turn on the breaker at the hook up! You can tell if the shore power is working if the microwave is on. Your cabin lights run off the battery but your microwave runs off shore power. Then hook up water, then sewer. You do the reverse when you are taking down camp. Remember to empty the black tank first then gray. There are lots of good videos on this. Don’t forget about leveling your camper and using those rear stabilizer jacks!
If you are not hooked up to water, you can run the water pump (switch under the sink) to flush the toilet, wash the dishes, etc.
The water heater is tankless and on demand. It runs off propane. The switch is under the bed on the right hand side facing out. Turn it on a little before you actually need it.
You need to travel with a deep 3/4 socket and drive to remove the spare tire…and Joe included a 1 1/16 socket but we’ve never used it because it is for draining the hot water heater when and if you need to winterize the Casita.
More details on packing/food:
- You are camping. LESS IS MORE. Bring plenty of underwear / socks, books/games, but who cares if you wear the same shirt/shorts/pants for several days in a row? Shoes: Two pairs max each. One pair of easy slip on shoes for around the campsite and one pair for hiking. That’s it. Be sure to have a jacket, hat, sunglasses.
- Use clear zip lock bags for everything from bathroom lotions and potions, to spices in the kitchen, to clothing. This way you can see everything.
- Pack heavy things in the truck (firewood, soft drinks, canned goods) and lighter things like toilet paper / paper towels in the camper. Don’t worry if you don’t have everything figured out on the first few trips. This will evolve.
- Speaking of toilets, the more you use the camp bathhouse, the better.
- In terms of food, it is a good to get some microwave sides like seasoned rices, pastas, etc. We always grill if possible so we bring burgers, dogs, chicken, stuff like that. Oftentimes we find ourselves wandering the isles of a Dollar General or Kroger 200 miles from home but 4 miles from the campsite. No big deal. We replenish as needed on long trips. We also get takeout when we want. We usually eat breakfast at camp, pack snacks and sandwiches for lunch and then cook dinner or eat carry out (depending on location).
- COFFEE — I would not bring a coffee maker. Try other methods like instant, pour over single filters, french press, etc. You can also buy shelf stable creamers if you need to instead of using refrigerated milk / cream. I heat water in a four-cup pyrex measuring cup and pour over coffee and also use that same method for quick breakfasts of oatmeal / grits. I keep the pyrex in the camper in a cupboard wrapped in a towel for safe transport. We discovered instant Starbucks coffee and it is decent for camping.
- FRIDGE — cheese … all varieties! This pairs well with crackers, can go on burgers, is great for sandwiches. Etc. We also load our fridge with beverages, fresh fruits and salad kits. Remember the fridge runs on three different kinds of power. SHORE power (when you are plugged in at home or at a campsite), BATTERY, and PROPANE. Not all campers have 3-way refrigerators like this.
- Appliances. Other than the microwave (which comes with the Casita), we bought an electric skillet. Good for making pancakes, and skillet dinners. I also wrap this in a towel for safe transport and keep this in the Casita since I don’t use it at home.
- Matches — I always have them or a lighter. Flashlights, lanterns, LED twinkle lights, Solar lights, all great ideas for the campsite. Don’t forget paper for starting the campfire.
- Cleaning supplies— If you plan to be gone for a while you should bring some laundry detergent. I suggest packing some pods in a Ziploc bag so they don’t take up too much space or weight. Lots of campsites have laundry facilities. That being said they are sometimes coin operated and the camp store is not open when you want to do laundry so bring a little sack of quarters too. You definitely need a small container of dish soap and also a small spray bottle to wipe down counters. Small broom in the closet and dustpan is a good idea.
NEVER leave the awning out when you are away from the campsite or go to bed. A quick unannounced wind can rip it right off.
Don’t be afraid to cancel a trip or change plans due to weather. No one wants to pull a camper for three hours to sit in the rain. Most reservations give you most if not all of your money back if you cancel about 48 hours or more before.
We got locked out once even though we had the key. Keep the lock lubricated. Best to use only the bottom of the two locks, in my opinion.
One time as we bumped along the road our sewer hose escaped from the back bumper. We had no idea until we reached our destination a few hundred miles later and tried to set up camp. Luckily we were staying at a place that sold us a sewer hose at the camp store! Come to find out our plumbing under the kitchen sink also came unhinged (literally), but not before I ran a lot of water to wash dishes and it all poured into the cabinet! It took a lot of towels to mop it up — bring some clean but grungy “dog towels” for sure. Luckily the under the sink plumbing was easily able to be hand-tightened.
Speaking of dishes — 4 bowls, 4 cups, 4 forks, 4 knives (2 of these serrated steak knives), 4 spoons… are plenty. Melamine is the way to go. I would also get 4 small (9” size max) plates they can fit easily in the sink for washing. Also, bring a few pyrex containers for cooking in the microwave, tongs, cutting board, spatula, a mixing bowl (small for pancakes / salads), foil for the grill and for leftovers, zip lock bags for storage, reuse plastic grocery bags for trash (we tend to walk a bag full of trash to the camp dumpster about 2-3 times per day instead of waiting until the end of our trip to dump a huge bag). We like our stainless steel Yeti tumblers for coffee in the morning and for hiding adult beverages which are not permitted at most state parks (LOL) in the evening.
One thing I would recommend is starting to make a list of things you think you want to bring. That will alleviate some stress that you will forget something. The flipside of that is if you get to the campsite and discover that you forgot something, either drive to the nearest dollar general and get it or just don’t worry about it and keep it on the list for the next time.
When hooking up to shore power, remember to flip the breaker box on. We messed up our first time camping! We thought that either the breaker box wasn’t working or that our camper was not working. But you have to flip the box on at the pole. We had gotten to our campsite so late that there was nobody there to help us get hooked up. And it was dark. Advice: get to your campsite in the daylight, especially the first few times. That same first camping night out I woke up in the middle of the night and heard water running so I thought it was raining. Come to find out the guy in the teardrop camper next to us had something that was disconnected and water was just pouring out from his camper. So we didn’t feel or look so stupid. Haha.
Where we have been with the Casita
Alabama (Auburn, Muscle Shoals, Mobile / Dauphin Island)
Florida (including the Keys, Everglades NP, and St Augustine)
Iowa (en route to Badlands, SD)
South Dakota —>Badlands NP, Mount Rushmore
Wyoming – Laramie
Estes Park Colorado (Rocky Mountain National Park)
Moab Utah (Arches NP)
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Oklahoma (home stretch)
National Parks can be crowded, so do some research to see if you need a reservation.
They call RVing an adventure so remember that’s what you’re having! An Adventure!
In June 2021 the keys changed hands so our Casita learning ended. But we are getting a slightly bigger travel trailer in the fall. Can’t wait to see what we learn from our 19′ Escape!