When I decided to pursue photography full time, owning an RV seemed like the logical move. My head was filled with visions of driving an RV from one beautiful photo destination to another.
However, my vision of RV life for photography travels and the reality of the life turned out to be quite different. Why? Well because I purchased the wrong RV for my intended purpose mostly because of its floor plan and its size. You see I never asked myself the following 9 questions photographers should answer before buying an RV. Note these questions only relate to RV usage for photography and do not address other RV issues such as towing capacity, etc. My purpose here is to keep this site focused on all aspects of photography.
To see how my RV Life has turned out so far be sure to read RV Life as a Nomadic Photographer: Pros and Cons.
Before we even get to the 9 questions photographs should answer before buying an RV, ask yourself this; are you RVing for photography or RVing for the lifestyle and photography? Trust me the answer matters when selecting an RV. So now that you have answered that question, let’s proceed to 9 more questions.
A Perfect RV For Photography: 9 Questions to Ask
Now let’s take a deeper look at each of these questions.
Length of time at each photo location– Are you someone who enjoys spending time at photo destinations and really working an area or are you someone who enjoys capturing a place quickly and then moving on to the next photo spot? I encourage you to really take the time to answer this question since the type of RV you purchase can greatly impact how often you move locations.
Setting up and taking down a campsite – Do you travel alone or with others? If so, are they able to help you on moving days? As a single person, I found getting an RV ready for travel, both inside and outside could take 30-60 minutes. Having an extra set of hands certainly cuts the time down. By the way, slides are great for room, but they definitely add time on moving days.
When do you want to travel for photography -This is another very important question you should answer before you step foot on an RV lot. For instance, if you wish to travel to very cold or hot climates, do not look at any RVs that do not have true 4-season capabilities for starters. The wrong RV will not only cause you to be very hot in the summer months but it may also impact your ability to camp in certain locations during spring, fall, and winter months due to frozen pipes.
I was in the Tetons for the fall colors and elk rut, when a sudden cold front sent temperatures into the low single digits. I ended up driving all the way to Lake Powell, Arizona to escape it and lost an opportunity to photograph fall color. Oh, and I had a so-called 4 season trailer.
Full Time or Part Time RVing? – If you are planning to full time, be sure to only look at RVs with solid surface countertops, well-built cabinets that can withstand the constant earthquake of road travel, hose, and other connections that are made from materials other than plastic, etc. I promise you, these things will matter greatly if you are living in the RV full time.
Other Things Full Time vs Part Time RVing Impact:
Where do you want to Camp? -Again, another important question.
How many creature comforts are you willing to give up to be more mobile? Here you need to think about dry camping as well as things such as the number of slides in an RV. For instance, if you choose to dry camp there will be no hoses to disconnect on moving days but you also have to ration water use. Also, the type of RV you own will impact mobility. Having owned both a 40-foot motorhome and a 27-foot travel trailer and now camping in a van, the van is without a doubt the most mobile. However, I traded many creature comforts for mobility.
What is your RV budget? Do not just look at the cost of the RV. Be sure to include all related costs. For instance, if you plan to travel in a travel trailer, be sure to include things such as the cost of good weight distribution and sway bars in your numbers. For all RVs include the cost of adequate solar power, WIFI boosters, and many accessories you may not have thought of in your budget. These things are necessary but can quickly add up.
How much maintenance do you want to do on your RV? Do not underestimate the time and effort it takes to perform basic maintenance and repairs. For maintenance I am talking about lubing slides, keeping rubber seals well coated, flushing fresh water tanks, etc. Again the longer it takes, the less time you will have at any location for photography. I may dedicate a separate post to this question in the future since it’s impact on my photography time was so significant.
How much space do you require for sleeping, storage, cooking, and living? If you travel alone, you can likely trade a big U-shaped dinette for kitchen or office space. Yes, I keep going back to office space since as photographers, we spend hours on a computer. However, if you travel with someone, a dinette may become more important. Take time to think about day-to-day living and where you spend your time. Now that I am in a van with very limited space,I have a clamshell tent I set up for working and living space.
The answer to each of these questions varies greatly for each photographer depending on too many factors to list here. Just be aware that we all have to make tradeoffs between comforts such as kitchen and living space versus the freedom to travel between photo destinations easily. Although I have not found a perfect RV for photography, I believe one is on the horizon.
To Recap-The RV A Photographer Buys Can Greatly Impact:
Why You Should Answer These Questions Before RV Shopping
Aimed with this additional information, shopping for an RV will become much easier. Now you are able to narrow down your RV shopping by only visiting RV dealers with the RV’s that meet your needs. This will also reduce the risk of emotional purchases of RVs that look great but will not be the right fit for you.
Answers to these 9 questions are just the start of your RV shopping but should help you create a list of RVs to consider that will meet your needs as a traveling photographer. To help with that, take a look at the Perfect RV for Photography Checklist.
Thanks for joining me on RV Travels and I look forward to hearing your thoughts on my list of questions.