Facing Facts: Our Old Camper Is Near The End Of The Road

I’ve written a few posts over the year about our camper.  From our first post announcing we were considering the idea to our posts about subsequent misadventures, we’ve chronicled our journey well.  The bottom line, though, is that our old camper isn’t doing well.

Our Camper Is Old

We have a 2004 Jayco hybrid.  This is it’s 15th camping season.  We’ve only had it for seven of those seasons, but it’s showing it’s age.

Many campers can survive much longer.  Ours hasn’t done so well. The primary reason is the type of camper it is.  We have a lightweight hybrid.  At the time of our purchase, we had a mid-size SUV that could only tow a few thousand pounds.  This limited us on what we could get.  We didn’t want a pop-up, so this was about the biggest we could get with a traditional trailer.

It was great, but unfortunately, there are tradeoffs.  A couple of years back, I had a conversation with our repair shop, and he said that these types of units have a shorter lifespan than traditional units.  They use lighter and thinner wood.  The frame is made of less accomodating materials.  The shell is fiberglass, which eventually delaminates.  Simply put, they typically don’t last as long.

He pointed out that ours was in great shape….for a unit as old as it was.  He could tell that we took care of it and kept it up well.  But he was honest and said that it would continue to have problems.  And it has.

Current Problems

Soft spots on the floor

We had a rubber seal fail in a storage compartment over the winter a few years back.  This allowed water draining off the roof to enter and created a couple of soft spots.  They haven’t gotten any worse over time, but soft spots are an automatic no for many buyers.  It’s never been worth it to fix it, as we would have had to take apart the cabinets, the walls, the water tanks, and other key areas to fix.

Sagging ceiling

The roof support system is made of wood beams.  Because of their lighter weight, they eventually settle.  This happens especially in the middle with the weight of the A/C unit.  As such, water puddles around the A/C unit. When we’re storing it, we just tilt it to have the water run off.  But, when we’re camping, the water around the A/C actually starts prohibiting the condensation from draining, so it starts dripping back in.

Small leaks here and there

I caulk pretty regularly around the sides and joints.  Still, the lightweight design means that things regularly expand and contract.  Plus, the outside is made of fiberglass panels, which start to separate.  So, while there’s never a major leak to cause new soft spots, there have been a few water stains here and there.

Fridge half works

The refrigerator typically works on electricity or propane.  Ours quit working on propane.  Even our repair shop couldn’t figure it out.  This is usually fine as it’s insulated enough to keep things cold during travel.  However, we had a 24-hour power outage on one of our trips this summer.  Our fridge had to be emptied.

Leaky water heater

The drain plug on our water heater drips.  It’s just a small drip, maybe a drip every few seconds, but it’s just annoying enough to be a problem, as the pump turns on every so often.  I’ve tried new drain plugs and even some teflon tape around the plugs, but still to no avail.

Canvas fatigue

The awning and beds are both made of materials that seem susceptible to pinholes or stretching.  These aren’t usually big time repairs, but the problems won’t stop happening.

Other Issues

Outside of the problems, our camper has other issues for us.

Lack of bunk beds

Our kids are of the age where we would like them to have their own sleeping space.

Small tanks

One of the ways they made the camper small was to reduce the size of the water and waste tanks.  We camp for up to eight nights at a time.  With the size of the tanks, I’m adding water every day and we’re unable to put more than a gallon or two into the tank per day.  That’s really not a lot.

Very little storage

We have very little storage outside the camper.  I’m cramming anything that goes outdoors into two 2′ x 6′ x 1.5′ compartments.  Inside, there’s very little space for clothing and food.  It’s either one or the other.

Setup and pack up time

Our beds fold down, just like in a pop-up.  This adds time for us when we setup, in folding down and making the bed.  It’s also extra time to pack up and leave.  This isn’t a dealbreaker.  But, we go camping a lot.  We probably do six or seven trips per year.  That time adds up.  I know, first world problems, right?

 

Our Camper Today

The bottom line is that our old camper is undersized for how we use it.  We camp over twenty nights per year over many trips.  As my wife pointed out, it’s probably best designed for weekend trips.  With those, the tanks wouldn’t be a problem. Folding the beds in and out wouldn’t be as frequent.  The issues with the fridge and water would be more minor annoyances.

What’s Next

We will probably start looking into the idea of a new camper soon.  We’ve talked about it for a while.  We knew the day would come.  I think we’re just seeing that the issues aren’t going to go away.  We know more will come, not less.

When we bought the camper, I wasn’t sure about it at all.  I didn’t grow up camping.  My wife did.  Everything was new to me.  I didn’t know how to take care of it.  I really wasn’t sure if I’d truly like it.  To be honest, I had a lot of reservations.  The good news, though, is that I do like it.  I’ve gotten a lot more comfortable about towing and taking care of a home away from home.

So, we’ll probably start looking to see if anything stands out at us.  We want something newer.  It would have to be something bigger.  We don’t want anything lavish.  It just has to suit our needs.

The budget for it would be a combination of several things.

Selling our old camper

The current camper would hopefully work for someone.  We would likely get very little compared to what we purchased it for.  This is a bummer, but I’m pretty OK with it.  Why? Because of how much we’ve actually used it.  If I were to add up the number of days and nights we’ve used it since we bought it, we’ve gotten some great use out of it.

Savings

We have been putting money toward a new camper for awhile.  It’s been slow as we are a single income family, and we are also saving toward other items.  We’ll need a new deck.  Our furnace, A/C unit, and water heater are all of the age of caution.  We put most of our savings toward retirement.

Loan

We may take out a small loan to pay for the balance.  We’re trying to keep things on the affordable side.  I don’t want to take out more than a few thousand dollars for a loan.  It’s never my ambition to take on a new loan, but I know the payment would be small.  Plus we have  a student loan payment ending in a year or so that we could shift the payment to largely cover a loan payment.  It wouldn’t put a financial strain on our budget.

All in all, our camper has provided us with a lot.  Many great memories.  Shelter during some heavy storms.  Lots of great places to stake our ground.  We get to vacation more at a fraction of the cost compared to more frequent hotel or rental vacations.  So, while nothing is in stone, we’re opening up ourselves to the idea that a new (to us) camper may be in the works.  Just more memories to be made, I hope!

Readers, what have you owned that eventually ‘got old’?  At what point did you decide it was time to move on?  Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.  Thanks for reading.

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2 thoughts on “Facing Facts: Our Old Camper Is Near The End Of The Road

  1. It’ll be interesting to see what you ultimately decide to do.

    SDXB and I one time took it into our heads to buy an RV — a camper on a Dodge truck chassis. It had its advantages — and during one personal crisis that visited him, it was awfully nice to just climb in the thing and drive away from our troubles.

    Ultimately, though, we decided that we preferred car camping.

    Several reasons:

    * A camper is difficult to get into the back-country where we like to hang out. The RV, for example, would torque alarmingly when we drove throw an arroyo or dry riverbed…and since we were a LONG way out in the middle of nowhere, “alarming” was not good.

    * Maintenance was an expensive PITA.

    * Fuel bills: expensive

    * AAA failed to inform us that the bill they were charging for road rescue did not cover a recreational vehicle! We found this out when we were stuck by the side of a freeway in 112-degree heat.

    * The bunk over the truck’s cab used to scare the bedoodles out of me. Though I tried my best to keep quiet about it, it worried me that the stove and the fridge ran on propane, and if a fire got started while we were in the sack, there was NO way we were going to get out of there alive.

    * We didn’t use it year-round, yet the state required us to keep it insured year-round.

    * Storing it in the backyard… Didn’t bother me, but for some reason he didn’t like that much.

    Getting rid of it was a REAL challenge. Be prepared to take a while to find a buyer.
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    • Interesting thoughts.

      –We do our camping in state parks so there’s not a whole lot of going out in the back woods or anything like that. I will also keep it off dirt roads as well to avoid it bouncing around and loosening up even more than is probably already loose.

      –Maintenance is pretty expensive though we budget for it. It’s just like any other big thing that you own. It requires attention and money.

      –We actually have the upgraded AAA plan so that we could get the RV towed if need be.

      –Your fear about fire is something that we definitely have to address if/when we move up to something bigger. Our bed ends fold down right now so we can just kick the canvas covers aside if anything ever happened. While we don’t do a fifth wheel or truck camper, and while I know that they have push out windows that are supposed to be escapes, it’s definitely enclosed and something we’d have to get used to.

      –We store ours at a lot about five miles down the road.

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