Dec 042018
How to Plan and Budget An RV Road Trip (For Backpackers)

Just because you’re backpacking, doesn’t mean you can’t have a home base with electricity and running water!

In today’s guide, I’m going to show you how to plan and budget an RV road trip (even if you don’t own an RV!). Let’s dive in.

Why Should You Stay In An RV?

If you’re into backpacking, why should you stay in an RV? It’s a legitimate question—after all, this site is all about backpacking, not RVing.

Well, imagine this…

You’re staying in the woods (boondocking) near Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park in California.

You go for a day-trip to hike the Ewoldsen Trail. By the end of the day, you’re sweaty and tired. But instead of pitching a tent and calling it a day, you return to a nice, cool AC’d RV with running water.

The best part? You don’t need to buy an RV to do it. There are loads of rental companies you can rent an RV from, and it only costs an average of $80-$150 per night. Some smaller trailers are even as low as $40 per night!

Plus, you can up and move to hit multiple trails during your outing. Heck, you can even take your camper down route 66.

Setting a Budget

Depending on the RV you get, whether you stay at a campground or boondock (camping without water or electric hookups on public property), and how far you’re going, costs vary widely.

But here are some things to keep in mind.

RV Rental Costs

If you’re renting an RV for your getaway, you’ll need to budget anywhere from $40 per night to $250+ depending on the rig you decide to stay in.

To give you an idea, here are some average RV rental prices across the US:

  • Class A: Class A RVs are those big, driveable motorhomes with the flat windshield. Not to be confused with a Class C, which has the sleeping area above the cab. Class A’s are the most expensive RVs, averaging $200+ per night.
  • Class C: Class C RVs are the ones with the sleeping area over the cab. Depending on the length and amenities you’re getting, these average anywhere from $100-$200+ per night.
  • Class B: Class B motorhomes are the smallest driveable motorhomes aside from campervans. They’re basically bigger campervans. These also range from $100-$200+ per night because they’re typically built with higher-quality materials than Class A’s and C’s. (Don’t ask me why A, B, and C don’t go in order of size. It seems silly to me, too.)
  • Trailers: Unlike drivable motorhomes, trailers don’t have an engine and therefore must be towed. Trailers range from tiny teardrop trailers to mid-sized travel trailers, massive fifth wheels, pop-up campers and more. There’s a lot of variety and thus can cost anywhere from $40 per night to $250+. A tiny trailer with a bathroom and room for two usually averages around $100-$150 per night. Just make sure you are 100% positive your vehicle can tow the gross weight of a fully loaded trailer! If not, you can often get the owner to tow it and set it up/take it down anywhere you’d like (for an extra fee, of course). This usually costs an extra one-time $50-$100.

The cheapest option is to get a small travel trailer or a teardrop trailer. Some of the really small ones can even be towed by a car.

Again, though, make sure you research how much your vehicle can tow (gross weight, not dry weight). Gross weight is the weight of the trailer including fuel, passengers, freight, etc..

Other fees to consider include:

  • Setup fees (if you’re having the camper delivered to your campsite)
  • Gas
  • Additional mileage charges (if there’s a mileage limit)
  • Cleaning fees

Not all rentals will have these fees, but keep them in mind while budgeting.

Campground Fees

If you’re staying at a campground, there will be campground fees as well.

Like RVs, campgrounds vary widely in their price.

You’ve got high-end luxury RV resorts with indoor and outdoor heated pools, gyms, and lots of other amenities; then you’ve got the lower-end places that might not even offer electric or water hookups.

It’s just like hotels—you can find all sorts of different places to stay.

On average, however, I’ve found campground fees range from $40-$100 per night, more during peak season.

If you decide to go boondocking (AKA dry camping), on the other hand, you can stay in some incredible places—for free.

Boondocking just means staying on public property (forests, mountains, deserts, beaches, you name it!) instead of at a campground.

Of course, this means you won’t have access to water or electric hookups. But you can still store fresh water in your RVs fresh water tank, and most rigs come with a generator and batteries for electricity.

Some people even go all-out and set up solar panels on their roof so they can stay in the woods for weeks at a time without coming back to civilization.


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