Trailer Livin’

What happens in a trailer, stays in a trailer. At least, this applies to mouse piss, water damage, and stink bugs for some reason, but unfortunately not to heat, sound, or structural integrity. While living in a trailer is a veritable buttload of fun and affords the dwellers a special type of freedom, there are some tricks (hacks, IF YOU WILL?!) to be mastered.

First of all, there isn’t enough room to fart anywhere but on top of your roommate/lover/boy-guy, so the trick is to aim for the face. Secondly, when buying a trailer, remember that it is a terrible investment and probably already has so much water damage that even the Kraken would be bummed out.

Who cares what that guy thinks anyway? The point is to go on the road. Sacrificing logic and certain conveniences is part of the game. My goal here is to help illuminate some of the unique challenges that road-goers face, not help you make sound investments or stop you from farting into a zoob tube.

Free Rent: Staying in an RV Park is almost never necessary. Hook-ups are just an expensive luxury. Truck stops, Wal-mart parking lots, Rest Areas in certain states, and BLM or National Forest land are all free alternatives. It is much easier to rationalize the cost of buying an RV when you aren’t paying rent anymore. There is a word RVers use to describe living in an RV without hook-ups, but it cannot be uttered here, for it is blasphemous to imply that living any other way isn’t a garish waste of money and adventure.

Filling fresh water with 5 gallon jugs is easier and more polite than towing somewhere to pour 100 gallons in.

Filling fresh water with 5 gallon jugs is easier and more polite than towing somewhere to pour 100 gallons in.

Water Colors: All of the above rambling is not to say that RV Parks don’t have their place. When it is time to deal with water and waste-water, they can, at times, be the cheapest and most convenient option for filling and dumping. Usually they charge a few dollars to dump, and will let you fill your fresh tank at the same time. Fresh water, gray water, and black water are the three types of water that exist in the trailer-dweller’s world. Fresh water is, of course, potable, and can be found easily if one knows where to look. There are public pumps outside of many gas stations, BLM field offices, and dedicated dump stations. Gray water is shower and kitchen run-off. Black water is the toilet tank, natch. If let sit, gray water can smell like you would expect black water to, so we generally try to keep the gray open and let it run straight out of the trailer. This is frowned upon in certain areas, but it isn’t any different than tent campers doing their dishes outside. Secret dumping at night is an option, or hiding the hose out of sight and draining the water into a bush, dug out hole, or anywhere inconspicuous works.

First two nights in Bishop.

First two nights in Bishop.

Mice: Our trailer sat on a farm in rural Oregon for 8 years. Mice found the inside to be a warm, safe place, and the insulation around our oven to be perfect nest-building material. One day, I came home from work to find Eli furiously vacuuming out the cabinets. He had spent the day cleaning mouse skeletons out from under the fridge, and chipping an enormous brick of baked mouse shit off the top of the electrical panel. Despite the hours of scrubbing and layers of 409, The Rampage will always attract mouse invaders, but we have finally found the solution to keeping them out. Placing a metal multiple catch trap (such as this) on the ground nearest their entry point. Once caught, they can be killed during pellet gun target practice, or by drowning in a 5 gallon bucket. Oh, or you could let them go if you’re some kind of hippie. Sprayfoaming all entry points would be the best solution… provided you can find them all.

Do I Need a Trust Fund?: What kind of a question is that? Of course you do. No, reasonably priced RVs, trailers, truck bed campers, vans, etc. are everywhere, and living on the road can be one of the most inexpensive lifestyles. Our monthly budget between the two of us is $1000. We hardly ever pay rent or utilities. Fuel is the main cost, and that can be mitigated by travelling slowly. Booze and food are also significant, but there is work to be found on the road whether through odd jobs, virtual work, entrepreneurial endeavors, camp-hosting (not recommended) etc. We have funded our last two years through Amazon’s Camperforce program.

Cooking/Heating: Ventilation is important while cooking because the humidity inside of a small living space can shoot up in a matter of minutes, causing weird smells and mold to develop. Carbon monoxide it turns out is actually delicious, but in case it isn’t to your taste, take solace in knowing that most trailers and RVs are so crappily constructed that ventilation is essentially built in. This is great for cooking, but frustrating when it comes to climate control. Honestly, there isn’t an easy solution to this. We put plastic over all the windows in the winter, and some people skirt their entire RV, but both of these are time consuming and require purchases. Moving according to the weather might be less frustrating, but propane isn’t too expensive and even when it is freezing outside it takes us a week to go through 7 gallons. A very warm (and lovable) solution is to get a Buddy! BONUS lesson: Doing the dishes with warm water is a totally reasonable comfort to expect, and it turns out heating 6 gallons of water to 140 degrees Fahrenheit with propane only costs about 15 cents!

Not Getting Sick of Each Other in Such a Small Space: Be very choosy when picking someone to live with! I’ll share a totally hypothetical test. If you can watch them: Spill beer on themselves while sitting down, realize it’s pooling in their butt crack, get up, strip naked and end up drooling on the floor while trying to wipe beer out of their butt with a paper towel… and find the whole thing endearing, then you’ll be fine.

Water Leaks: Possibly the most common and most frustrating thing to go wrong inside of a trailer where you are already desperately trying to keep the moisture level down. Two weeks after we moved into the Rampage, Eli goes to turn the water on, but instead rips the faucet handle off like some kind of ogre and starts an indoor fountain. He isn’t even a real ogre, the plastic sink was just a piece of shit. Leaks have sprung from water pipes rubbing against the frame of the trailer (if you build a trailer, remember this), from our water filter exploding (twice), and from fittings growing loose. Buy the Pex crimping tool, and always investigate puddles or wet spots before they ruin everything, because they will.

The Danger of Vacation Mode: It is easy to feel like you are on vacation while living on the road and to make frivolous decisions accordingly. Eating fast food every moving day, and going out to eat with friends who actually are on short-term climbing trips are a couple of the most common pitfalls to avoid. Another one (that might be more or less intuitive depending on who you are) is not keeping in touch with your friends and family. It can feel like you will just see them in a couple months anyway, but you won’t. You will be wandering around the desert, literally living under a rock, and eventually you will start losing sleep because you’ve become afraid that it’s been too long to call and you’ll have to lie about how you don’t just eat lizards with your hands and Venus isn’t the devil’s neighborhood watch flashlight and bouldering isn’t just a poisonous red herring stringing you along while you grow older, creakier, and more useless by the day. Phew, good thing none of that is true.

3 thoughts on “Trailer Livin’

  1. Oh cuz, you have such a great sense of wit. I laughed out loud a few times reading this. I know you’re not eating lizards with your hands unless they’re properly toasted.

  2. Ariel, I really enjoy reading your blog posts. I wish I could do smart and witty like you do. Thanks for writing!

    And, I miss climbing with you guys.


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