Photographers, are you dreaming about traveling the country in an RV for photography? Perhaps you already own an RV but are struggling to make your photography travels work in it. If you fit either one of these, my Perfect RV for Photography Checklist may be just what you need.
The Perfect RV for Photography Checklist was developed as a guide to assist photographers in selecting an RV/camper for photo travels. Please note, that this checklist only addresses features specific to photography travel and does not attempt to cover everything people should consider when shopping for an RV.
Camping While Photographing Arches and Canyonlands National Parks
Here is my RV when camping a short distance from Arches National Park and other great photo destinations.
Why Did I Create This Checklist?
I am a nature and travel photographer who has been RVing since 2003, both full-time and part-time. During that time I have owned both a 40-foot diesel motorhome and a 27-foot travel trailer as well as traveled with a close friend in his 40-foot 5th wheel for months at a time and recently in a van. Let me note that I have yet to travel in a Class C.
During my time on the road, I discovered features about my RVs that worked well and features that did not work well for photography travels. In hopes of helping other photographers choose the right RV/camper for photo travels, I compiled these features into the Perfect RV for Photography Checklist. After finishing this checklist be sure to also read the 9 Questions Photographers Should Ask Before Buying An RV.
Perfect RV For Photography Checklist
Overall, the ideal RV for photography travels should be able to access as many roads as possible in a variety of weather conditions with minimal setup and take-down time. It should also be able to handle reasonably hot and cold temperatures, have space to work, cook, store gear, and daily living requirements. Lastly, the RV should be able to be safely secured and easily maintained with the exception of occasional repairs.
If you are like me, you are on the road to spend time photographing locations and not maintaining an RV.
1. Maximum Mobility
The Perfect RV should be able to travel on interstates and highways, high mountain passes, around tight curves, and on roads with limited clearance in order to camp close to photography destinations.
Therefore the following is a list of my ideal RV criteria centered on road access:
Below I have included a couple of tables showing the approximate road and vehicle widths in the United States.
|Road Type||Average Width|
|US Interstate System||12 feet|
|Highways||11 feet a minimum but can be 12 feet|
|City Streets||10 feet is considered appropriate for urban areas but actual streets do vary from this standard|
|Rural Roads||Could not find a definitive answer but be aware these roads can be quite narrow with very limited shoulders and steep drop-offs|
|Standard Car||5-7 feet|
|Buses Fire Trucks, etc.||8 1/2 feet|
|Travel Trailers||8 feet|
|5th Wheels||8-8.5 feet|
|Class C||7.5-8 feet|
|Compact Trailers such as Casitas||6-7 feet|
|B+ Vans||From 7 to 8.3 feet|
It is generally considered unsafe to travel in any RV when winds reach 50 mph. Be aware that winds of 60 mph can cause all types of RVs to flip over. Additionally, high winds can also cause RVs to swerve into another lane suddenly.
Although no RV should travel in winds reaching 50 mph, the RVs length and other factors impact how safe it is to travel in lesser winds. Since this subject can become a bit technical, I will only briefly touch on these factors and leave it to you to research them further: weight specifications, weight distribution and sway bars, and wheelbase ratio.
As a general rule of thumb, paying attention to all the above factors when you choose an RV for photography should enable you to minimize the number of trip delays due to wind. Note- I am not talking about cross winds as that is an entirely different issue.
C. Ground Clearance
Even if you never plan to take an RV off-road, it is important to be aware that a number of roads have significant dips like the road pictured above. Be sure when shopping for an RV to measure the actual ground clearance of the RV and also to inquire if lift kits are available for the RV. For RVs with very low clearance and no available lift kits, I recommend avoiding those RVS.
On the other-side of this issue, higher RVs are more prone to flip over in wind so try and find the right balance between road clearance and safety.
2. The RV Can Fit in Most Campground Sites
Photography pursuits often take us to crowded national parks and similar destinations during peak seasons, making it very difficult to find campsites. To increase your chances of finding a site, consider that smaller is better.
Here are my tips for selecting an RV to fit in these popular campgrounds
3. The RV Should Be a True 4-Season Camper
Not all 4 season packages are equal. While many RVers chase 70-degree weather, photographers chase subjects and seasons and therefore find themselves in very cold and very hot climates to capture specific images.
So here are the top items every photographer should have on a True 4-Season RV.
For additional information about 4-Season Campers, I suggest checking out this article by Morton’s on the Move: 4 Season Camper. ( It has some very good information but I do disagree with their recommendation pertaining to slides. Most slides are not insulated)
4. The RV Should Need Only a Minimum Level of Maintenance and Repairs
All RVs require regular maintenance in order for things to work properly. However, the height of the RV, the number of slides in an RV, and a variety of other factors determine how long it will take to perform routine maintenance. Also the more bells and whistles an RV has, the more things there are to break.
Remember most of us will at times travel to remote locations and very small cities where RV services can be very limited to nonexistent. Do you possess the skills to fix your RV?
Story from the road – A number of years ago, I had a wiring issue with my trailer brakes in the small town of Page, Arizona. The town had only one RV technician and he was booked for the next two months. Added to that he charged about $150 for a service call and $100/hour for actual repair work. I had to learn how to repair the wiring myself or stay put for two months. Boy was I not a happy camper while repairing the wiring.
5. The RV Must Have Adequate Power
The Perfect RV for Photography should be as off-grid capable as possible with preferably a minimum of 400 watts of solar and at least 200 AMP hours of lithium batteries. With this number, you should be able to power lights, charge batteries, work on a laptop and use other small energy draw appliances most of the time. For those who plan to camp off-grid, especially if you plan to run a furnace I highly recommend increasing your power supply substantially. Creating a spreadsheet of all your power needs will help you know what type of costs to include in your RV budget for solar panels, batteries, and inverters.
6. The RV Should Have Space For A Dedicated Workspace
For any extended RV trips, photographers need a dedicated workspace from which to download cards, organize and process images, respond to clients and edit videos. If the RV does not have a space that fits the next two requirements, I highly suggest you take the RV off your list.
7. The RV Should Have Adequate Storage of Camera and Related Gear
The RV should have places such as a cabinet where camera gear can be kept together in an organized manner that is easily accessible. This includes batteries, cables, etc. Without a dedicated space, it is too easy to misplace items and waste time. Also, keep in mind that items stored in the back of an RV or higher up will experience more vibrations.
8. Safety and Security
The Perfect RV for Photography should be as safe as possible from two different threats:
Weather Related Threats– Unless you are especially lucky it is not a matter of if but when you will encounter severe weather. Within a four-year time span, I faced all three of the following events; two of them a number of times. Weather hazards can be particularly concerning for people who travel in a motorhome or Class C without a tow vehicle and therefore not able to quickly pack up and flee the danger. Please give careful thought to where you plan to photograph and the weather-related risks in that area as you choose your RV.
While on the subject of RV security I highly encourage all photographers to install security systems that provide phone notifications of any activity around the RV. Again, we are typically away from our RVs much longer than the normal RVer.
The Perfect RV for Photography should have a bedroom area that affords a good night’s sleep. Our days in the field are long and who wants to be so tired that they can’t stay awake to capture a beautiful sunset the next day.
The Perfect RV for photography should have facilities for cooking and food storage. These areas do not have to be as spacious as the kitchen pictured below, they can simply be a counter with a portable stove. Why? As photographers, we typically travel to rural and remote areas with limited access to restaurants and grocery stores. Also travels to popular tourist areas can result in much higher food costs.
Photographers may need extra storage for the following items which may be used in photography pursuits. Think about what you take with you and where you will be able to put these items in any RV you consider purchasing.
12. Pet Travel
Traveling with pets poses significant challenges that should be considered when purchasing an RV for all RVers. This is especially true for photographers since we tend to be out in the field from early morning to late evening. Therefore please think about the following:
Hopefully, the Perfect RV for Photography Checklist will help you figure out which RV is right for your specific travel needs. While you are going through this checklist be sure to also read: Top Questions Every Photographer Should Ask Before Buying An RV.
By the way, I have now sold my travel trailer and am in the process of finding my perfect RV. In the meantime, I am traveling in my van for extended photo trips. Once I decide on my Perfect RV for Photography I plan to be a full-time nomadic photographer again.
Please let me know if this checklist has been helpful to you as well as what type of RV you currently use for photography trips.