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My “Must Haves” for Full Time Airstreaming

Richard Charpentier Airstream Blogs, Notes from Rich, Off Road Adventures, Travel, Trials on the Road Leave a Comment

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A hazy full moon over the Airstream

Often people ask me what do you need to full time in the Airstream?  Actually, the question applies to all RV’s, but hey I’m in an Airstream.  Recently I got an e-mail from a reader asking the same question once again.  I was going to start writing a reply to Brad, but decided that it could make a good post for all to read!

There’s really two parts to my answer regarding what you must have.  One part is all about the stuff that’s with you.  The second part has more to do with the type of person who full times.  I’ve learned all of this after full timing from March of 2006 – February of 2012, and then returning to the Airstream November of 2013 through today.

Let’s start with “the stuff.”  Remember, this is my personal list, and might not apply to everyone out there.

  1. A great tow vehicle that you can rely on.  When I first purchased the Airstream Spring of 2004 (hey, it’s 10 years old now) I got a Dodge Ram 1500 with a Hemi.  In the first 6 months of ownership I had to replace the brand new transmission, exhaust manifold, etc.  Towing the Airstream was terrifying with that truck as I found it unreliable.  The Titan has really made full timing easier on me.
  2. In this day and age, you need a reliable portable internet connection.  I know, I’ve made this #2?  You can see where my priorities lie.  For me, being a former network engineer, working on web related services for small businesses, this is a must!
  3. Swiss Army Type Gear.  Everything in my 25 foot Airstream serves multiple purposes.  The equipment I chose can’t be a one trick pony.  If something in my overheads or storage doesn’t meet multiple needs it usually gets tossed.
  4. A good compact tool kit.  In one of the Rubbermaid containers in the back of my Titan I have a small tool kit that contains ratchets, vice grips, jumper cables, etc.
  5. Lightweight portable step-ladder.  I bought a great one right after getting the Airstream.  It’s used putting the awning up and down, loading the top of the truck, washing truck windows, etc.  You wouldn’t believe how often the ladder gets used.
  6. A great portable computer.  In my case, 2 Macbook Pros (one very old, one newer).  They serve as my work laptops, but they do so much more.  With my Macbooks I watch movies, listen to music, play games (not as often as I’d like), communicate with friends and family, and so much more.  My computers are my digital hub.
  7. A super mattress would be fantastic.  Unfortunately with my 25 foot Airstream Safari I have a custom mattress that curves around the back wall.  I’ve never found a reasonable priced replacement, and the original mattress SUCKS!  Someday I’ll find a good mattress.  Or I’ll get a 27 foot front bedroom Airstream with a queen mattress and put my Select Comfort in the Airstream.  A good mattress will make you happy.  My mattress will make you sad.
  8. Keep the wardrobe small.  Seriously, if you’re into have 20 suits at the ready you’re going to struggle.  Keeping the attire simple and packable helps conserve a ton of space.  6 pairs of shoes aren’t in my vocabulary.
  9. Keep the dinnerware simple too.  Rattling down the road with a bunch of glassware above the sink would leave me with a lot of shattered glassware.  My dinnerware is simple.  A few plastic cups, a few glass tumblers (kept separate from each other with the plastic), and a love for paper plates will come in handy.  Seriously, a week of dry camping in the desert will teach you that doing a lot of dishes will bleed your water dry.
  10. Synthetic towels.  I have several quick dry towels in the Airstream.  The Aquious Towels to be exact.  They ROCK!
  11. Eagle Creek Packs.  This actually goes back to number 8.  Seriously, my wardrobe packs down to nothing.  Yes, I sometimes have wrinkles.  But anyone who meets me and focuses on a few wrinkles is way more type A than I am, and I’ll tell them so.
  12. Portable generator or solar.  Yeah, I want solar now.  But hey, 7 days in Borrego with my Honda 1000 and I used less than 2.5 gallons of gas.  Still….I want solar.
  13. Oh, a portable air-compressor.  Read my stuff about off roading in White pocket.  Understand that I always mess with the Airstream tires.  And when you’re all done, check out Quick Air.
  14. Finally, a portable grill.  When it’s hot out the last thing you want to do is cook inside.  So tossing down a Weber Q right outside will make you extremely happy.

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There’s more, I’m sure.  But as I’ve always said, when blogging I go with my stream of consciousness.  And this is what the stream has wrought.

Now, on to the non material stuff.  What else do I need to successfully (I use that word loosely) full time?  Ah, let’s see:

  1. An ability to work in extremely small spaces.  In the case of my Airstream if it was gutted I’d be operating in 200 square feet of space.  It isn’t gutted, so I have less floorspace than that.  Not much room.  If you can’t get organized in a 1200 square foot apartment you’re gonna freak in a small RV.
  2. A sense of humor.  Seriously, try dancing two people around 200 square feet of space.  You’d better have a sense of humor, and you’d better be ready to have your toes stepped on (regularly).
  3. Places to go.  Parking yourself in an RV full time means you HAVE TO GET OUT.  In my old house there was so much space.  Bedroom, upstairs living room, downstairs living room, computer room, loft, kitchen, dining area, etc.  In an RV, especially a smaller one, all of those rooms are 5 steps away.  You have to go out often so as not to get buggy!
  4. You need a little discipline working from the road.  As I noted earlier, my computers are not just for work, they’re for play.  Working on a client’s project I could easily accidentally start an episode of Star Gate SG1.  There goes the work day.
  5. An understanding of the difference between a trailer park and an RV park.  When my life changed so dramatically in 2005 & 2006, and I hit the road with the Airstream I felt a little defeated.  And sometimes I was embarrassed to say, “I live in a trailer.”  Homes are as much status symbols as they are places to dwell.  Over time I grew to realize that I’m doing something other people are terrified to do.  Living life differently.
  6. Good time management skills.  Okay, this has more to do with small business and less about full timing.  But you’ve got to manage your time when on the road.  Set hours of business, hours for fun, hours for visiting with the new folks who rolled in across from you.  I make schedules on my IPhone, and all my devices beep me when I’m on to the next task.
  7. For travel, for the love of all that is cool in the world, be outgoing.  You would not believe the people I meet.  And there is no way in hell I’d meet them if I was hiding in a park with my shades pulled and a satellite TV hookup running.  I can’t tell you how many full timers travel to an amazing area just to close their shades, hit their generator, and watch Matlock.  Seriously, get outside walk up to people and say HI!
  8. Be flexible.  Believe me, I am the ultimate type A planner nut you’ll ever meet.  My plans have plans.  My backup drives have backup drives.  I have offsite backup copies.  I’m still a network engineer at heart.  And the number one skill in full time travel is flexibility.  You will not always get where you’re going on your trip.  That’s cool, your home is with you.  It’s those moments where things don’t work out as you planned that you find the nicest places you’ve ever seen, or the coolest people you’ve ever met.  I found Prescott that way.  I made great friends in my travels by being flexible.  Still the type A in me wants plans to work, but it’s okay if they change.
  9. Have a camera.  You don’t have to be a pro.  But take those pictures.  From “Meet Joe Black,” one of my favorite dialogues from a movie, “ If we lucky, maybe, we got some nice pictures to take with us.”
  10. Explore where you are.  You don’t have to be at a National Park to find amazing places.  The Granite Dells aren’t a national park, monument, or anything else.  There’s a city park, houses, convenience stores, etc.  But let me tell you, the Dells are as epic as any “park” I’ve ever seen.  Every place you go has something incredible to see, you just have to look a little.  Oh, and talking to people always helps you find those places (going back to point 7).
  11. Finally….Wanderlust is a great thing to have.  I always want to see new places.  And with my Airstream in tow and a few good contracts in my future I can do it.  No contracts, no wander.

There’s more.  A lot more.  Seriously I could write an epic novel about all that goes into full timing, my experience when I started compared to where I am today, the places I’ve seen, the people I’ve met.  But honestly this is the longest post I’ve done in a while.  I’ve taken 4 phone calls, eaten some peanut butter pretzels, had a Mike’s Hard Lemonade, and I’m pretty tired of typing.  I want to watch an episode or two of Stargate SG1 Season 9.  It’s been a while.

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