Our family lives full time in our camping trailer and have found out there would be many advantages to keeping one in any situation. I am not talking the big 5th wheel or the ones with a motor, just a plain travel trailer [with a traditional vehicle hitch].
Our trailer is 27 feet long and weighs in at 9,500 lbs empty and almost 11,000 lbs full. It is a bunkhouse model and can sleep up to 11 people. It has a 40 gallon fresh water tank, 40 gallon black water tank (waste) and a 40 gallon gray water tank (drain off water from tub and sinks). It has 12 volt battery backup which power lights and the water pump when power is unavailable. The stove and hot water heater run on propane, with the fridge working on both.
Storage can be short, but there is some – under the bottom bunk, the full size bed in the bedroom, under the seats in the kitchen, 2 closets (very small) and cabinets in the living area and bedroom.
Our heater will heat up enough hot water for an eight minute shower and the tub is the size of a 10 gallon bucket. When we are parked in an RV park with power included in the lot fees, we heat our trailer with electric heaters. This saves us money on propane. If we just cook and shower using the propane, then we will go through two 35 pound tanks in just under one year.
We have been buying or having a friend collect empty older propane tanks and then we have been trading them in at Wal-Mart for under $18.00 each. Small solar panels were purchased from Harbor Freight Tools for under $40.00 each, they will [slowly] recharge a 12 volt battery. We will be purchasing more panels as we go so that our entire trailer could be run off them.
We have inline water filters and portable ones, we have potable aqua tablets and shock. Our water tank can be filled by hose or in a pinch by bucket and funnel. After Gustav most of the water here was very bad (boil water order for all of our parish, even for bathing in some areas). When some of our neighbors had no hot water for their special needs family member they came to us and we hauled hot water for them (we were they only ones in an RV to come right back within 72 hours of the passage of Hurricane Gustav). We also have an external shower.
We do have a propane burner for outside, most people here use those for crawfish. We have one very cheap charcoal grill and a good supply of charcoal. We can make our own if need be.
After Hurricane Gustav we were without power for two weeks and used our interior 12 volt DC lights for night time only and for about 20 minutes at a time. Our battery gauge didn’t indicate any voltage drop.
When we do our shows and are in practice we can be ready to move out within 1 hour and we are still working to par that time down even further. What this means for us is that here we could drive out quickly with our home or even put it on a platform on numerous pontoons making our trailer into a riverboat. We live near a very rural area and large uninhabited waterways, where you can go out all day and not see of hear anyone at all.
Our retreat will have a home and a large barn that will house our RV, keeping prying eyes away from it and also giving us a place to go to if heating ever becomes an issue. When the SHTF we can camouflage the RV in another location for a further retreat position, still have shelter and a way to keep everyone fed.
Our trailer is a 1995 and we bought it for under 5,000. You can get them very cheap further north during the off season and move them fairly cheap now that gas has come down a lot. We went smaller because of the towing needs. No matter what you still need to haul it, even if it’s to your retreat.
Granted, it would be more difficult, but not impossible, to utilize in colder climates. Good windbreaks and insulation in the under compartments helps tremendously. Plastic on the windows with the exception of the vents also helps.
In some states that get a lot of hurricanes also are places a lot of people actually live in trailers year round. What sometimes happens when they are lived all the time is they get stripped out to the bare walls and customized. They are cheaper and easier to reinforce that way. A 40 foot trailer stripped out can run you about $1,500 to $2,000 dollars. Most people here take out the kitchen area which I wouldn’t do. They also remove the fresh water tank and if anything I would make the fresh water tank larger than 40 gallons, leaving in the electric pump. With full solar capability you can leave the power system intact and go from there.
In our closets we added small shelves that will hold two weeks of clothing for each of us, four all together. The fridge and freezer will hold 1 gallon of milk, a weeks worth of leftovers, four dozen eggs, one 2-quart juice pitcher (from Camping World, made for trailer size fridges), condiments and the freezer will hold more than one week’s worth of meat. The cabinets will hold three weeks of canned goods, spices and what we need for baking for six months. Under the little counter extension we have flour, sugar and rice (large storage containers from Wall-Mart), those last us about three months. We also have food stored under one bed and under both seats in the kitchen. By the garbage can we keep a one month supply of dog food for our 90 pound German Shepherd cross.
To keep our space requirements smaller, we went small flat screen television, a cheap and tiny DVD player and low profile PC tower. Movies are not kept in single cases, they are kept in DVD folders with zippers. Our children are limited to what toys they can have and it must all fit in toy hammocks or collapsible toy boxes at the end of their beds. Our guns are easy to stow in the trailer and are always within reach. On hand we also keep quite a bit of ammo and buy more weekly. We do maintain an inexpensive storage unit elsewhere, and we keep the bulk of our SHTF supplies there for under $80 a month.
There are a lot of extras you can buy for your RV, including wheeled containers to drain black and gray water into for disposal. Pots and pans made for smaller areas, heavier dishes that will last through everything including travel. RV size washers and dryers or the all in ones, which are no bigger than an RV stove. Shower organizers can be installed easily to increase your bathroom storage.
One of the biggest things to like about an older trailer is that no one even looks twice at it, people who don’t own one have no clue how self sufficient you can be in one. It’s not new enough or dressed up enough to get a second look from a trouble makers and family never wants to come stay, none of them can figure out why you would want to trade down and live in something so small. It also makes it easier if you have others that will join you when the SHTF and you are running out of places to put people.