RV camping is one of the most enjoyable ways to camp in my opinion, but it can be a bit tedious to try to choose the right RV length because each one differs from the other. I did some research on RVs to learn how to better choose what the ideal RV length is for fitting into campgrounds across the nation before making those reservations.
So, how do you choose the ideal RV length? The most ideal length for an RV in most campgrounds is 27 feet. When choosing the ideal RV length for fitting into campgrounds the most important thing to keep in mind is that campsites across the nation have different regulations for RV lengths.
With an RV the whole nation is yours to see and becomes your backyard. There is a lot to consider when choosing an RV, so continue reading to further deepen your understanding of RVs and how you can make the best choice for the most ideal camper in any RV Park.
Factors to Consider When Choosing Your RV
The Ideal RV Length
RVs are very large vehicles and when thinking of purchasing one it is important that length is taken into great consideration. They can reach anywhere from 20-40 feet long. The length of your RV will determine which parks and campground you can be allowed into.
There are also many roads across the nation, especially in state and national parks that prohibit certain lengths of RVs. For example on the Pacific Coast Highway, a 30 foot RV is the maximum length while a 24 foot is the max at Big Bend National Park.
Generally, if you own or are looking to purchase an RV that is 35 feet long or below you should be pretty safe to fit in and go to most campgrounds and parks across the nation. A family had said that they have never had a single problem with their RV that is 33 feet long. Anything above that can get a little risky. To be especially safe it is good to choose an RV that is about 27 feet long.
It is always a good idea to do some research on specific parks and campsites before getting there to make sure that you meet their rv length restrictions. You don’t want to make the mistake of showing up and not being permitted to stay!
Slide Outs, also commonly called pop outs or slides, are portions of an RV that slide out from the side when you’re parked. They really come in handy when searching for the right RV length. Slide outs increase the living space in an RV and thus allow it to be shorter in length.
It may sound silly, but many people swear by them saying that they make a huge difference in not needing to have an RV that is long. If you are worried about having an RV that is too long and having to do research on every park you go to choosing an RV with slide outs may just be your solution!
Slide outs are the best way to gain living space in the interior. This shortens the length of the RV making it better for driving and camping with. When choosing your RV, be sure to look at shorter RVs that come with slide outs. This will allow you to have a shorter RV without having to lose space on the inside.
Many wonder if the length of an RV affects the skill required to operate and drive it. Driving an RV is surprisingly easy to learn for any experienced driver. Once one has the opportunity to adapt to the length and other aspcets of an RV they can learn to drive it in no time!
Keep in mind too, that your tow vehicle needs to pull anything you buy if it is a travel trailer or fifth wheel. Check out, “How much can your vehicle tow?“
The Ideal RV Height
Height really doesn’t make a huge difference in the overall performance of an RV, but it is still something to consider. Low clearance areas are pretty rare, even more so in the western and southern parts of the United States. It will never be something that prohibits you from getting to your destination, but it could change your route a bit.
RV heights can range quite a bit, but on average RVs are about 10 feet tall. Some RVs can be close to 14 feet tall. These may be ones to avoid due to some clearances and garages are at about that same height. As mentioned previously it is something to be aware of but isn’t going to make that big of a difference in your travels.
The Ideal RV Weight
The average weight for an RV is around 5,200 pounds dry weight. This mean what is right off the lot without any of its tanks filled and has zero gear inside. Depending on your type of living, you should expect to add an extra 1,500 pounds.
You always want to check to see how much your SUV or truck is capable of first. Whatever your using to tow your RV, the lighter it is the easier you time you will have hauling the RV.
The Ideal RV Width
Having a camper or RV get rejected from a park due to width almost unheard of. The only real restrictions on camper/RV width would be how far your slides go, and that is specific to campgrounds. Even with the widest of trailers, you will most likely never have a problem.
The only time you would have a width constraint is when you have some sort of shade or awning extension on your RV and you are in a cramped spot. Even if you do not have space for your awning, you will usually still have space to let out your slides. Width really isn’t a concern.
RV Regulations in Nations Parks and Campgrounds
- RVs up to 12′ in length fit in every national park campground in the United States
- 98% of all national park service campgrounds allow RVs up to 19′ in length
- 93% of all national park campgrounds allow RVs up to 25′ in length
- 84% of all national park campgrounds allow RVs up to 29′ in length
- 81% of all national park campgrounds allow RVs up to 32′ in length
- 73% of all national park campgrounds allow RVs up to 35′ in length
- 60% of all national park campgrounds allow RVs up to 37′ in length
- 53% of all national park campgrounds allow RVs up to 40′ in length
Related Reading: What is the Best RV Size for National Park Campgrounds?
Many times when searching for an RV you have some sort of plans to go along with it. I know when I was looking into getting one originally I wanted to be able to go and do anything I wanted, and one of those things was going around the country to different national parks. I found that most National Parks allow an RV size of 35 feet or less.
This is with the total length, so if you are towing one, you need to include the truck size in there as well.
Don’t trust the sales person at the RV lot when you are going to buy. Often times they aren’t totally sure of the length and may give you a close to range. A huge thing I have noticed is they always say “bigger is always better.” Which isn’t always true, especially when you have national park visits in the plan.
You should either go off of the manual or handbook, or get out the tape and measure yourself, just to be safe.
Whether you know your camper will fit or not, always be sure to double check with the park in advance and make sure to reserve a spot. Heavily populated parks like Zion National Park have millions of visitors a year and it can get really busy really quickly.
For Zion’s, as long as you are under 40 feet you should be ok in some of their RV campgrounds, but a 19’ RV will fit in almost every campground.
There are some campgrounds that don’t allow RVs at all and are tent only.
If you are going to a National Park that doesn’t allow an RV your size, look for spots and campgrounds that may be just outside the park area itself. You usually won’t end up spending too much more time or money if this is your alternative.
If you are looking to hit certain national parks, but also want it for several other reasons, it would be best to check those parks specifically and make sure you won’t be missing out on anything. Most people have other things in mind when getting an RV besides just visiting national parks.
Types of RVs
To some, RV’s can all look the same, until you go shopping for one or been in one that you don’t like. There are a ton of different options out there and choosing the right one is important.
For motorhome RVs there are 3 different classes; class A,B, and C.
Class A (Cost around $80,000-$200,000)
Class A is by far the largest and most expensive (and usually the best in most cases.) If you are planning on spending a lot of time on the road and know it can and will take you to where you want to get to, this is probably the best thing out there.
Some of these get around to be 45 feet long though, and not everyone can handle or may just not want that big of an RV. They are great for those that want the luxurious life out on the road and can handle that type of beast.
For those that may not get around to it all that often or can’t/don’t want to pay for that.
Class B (Cost between $40,000-$80,000)
This is sometimes referred to as the camper van. It has all the necessities for most and is very comfortable to the average person. Campers enjoy access to a refrigerator, sink, hot water, showers, toilets, air conditioning and heating.
While still initially expensive to purchase, they are much more economical to operate. It is a lot easier to drive and is really simple when it comes to setting up camp. Someone might not like this as opposed to a class A because it is smaller and restricted on space a bit more.
Class C (Cost between $50,000-130,000)
These types of motorhomes are usually between 20-33 feet and is considered to be midsized. They are built like they are existing on top of an existing truck and are usually intended for families or a larger group of people.
It is a great RV that can still get everyone around and sleep/ camp comfortably. It is a lot less expensive than class A and cheaper to maintain as well. Obviously not as much space, but still a great RV.
Travel Trailers (Cost between $15,000-$30,000)
Travel trailers are great for those that already have a truck or something to tow it with, Which saves you, the buyer, a ton of money.
They come in a various of sizes and length and it really just depends on how many people you are going to be traveling with. They are a bit hard to handle and drive, but almost any RV you get into will be.
5th Wheel (Cost between $15,000-$50,000)
5th wheel trailers are really similar to a travel trailer, but it is a gooseneck to attach to whatever it is towing. Usually only larger trucks that are over 2 ton can handle or are even capable of this type of towing.
Goosenecks tend to give you a lot more safe of a connection and make it a little easier to maneuver. There is more space as well because of the overtop area.
Folding camp trailers (Cost between $5,000-$15,000)
These are some of the smallest, towable, RVs available. It makes the bare camping much more comfortable and can be used by an average camper that is looking to step it up a bit. They aren’t the biggest and can sometimes be hard to store thing in, but it is a great alternative to pitching up a tent.
They are much cheaper and can be towed by most things with a hitch as long as it is capable of hauling the weight.
Questions to Ask Yourself Before Buying an RV
- What are your goals for camping? Some people think of camping as going to a designated campground and parking their recreational vehicle there. Others want to take their little trailer off of the beaten path a little. If you fall into the first category, you can afford to get a little larger of a trailer, while people that prefer the latter should get something smaller.
- How many people are you bringing? This is probably the most important part. If there are only 2 of you and you don’t plan on having guests, you can get a small RV with all the bells and whistles and be comfortable. More people means more space. Some of the largest RV’s even have multiple bathrooms!
- How long will you be living in your RV? People tend to go crazy when they are stuck in a cramped space for extended periods of time. If you plan on taking long road trips in your RV, you will probably want something that feels “homey.” Small camper trailers don’t feel like home for most people. For those that plan on taking extended vacations in your home away from home, take a second every time you enter an RV you are thinking of buying and ask yourself: “Could I find alone time in here?” or “Could I see myself making this place home?
- Will you be towing anything with your RV? Not all RV’s are created equal. If you need the power to haul snowmobiles up the slopes of the rocky mountains, you are going to need an RV with a little more gumption. Often time this is the question that answers the unending debate between a gas or diesel RV. Diesel RV’s are going to have the horsepower you need to get your toys to where you want them.
- How much storage space do you need? This is the concern with most people using an RV. RV manufacturers try and make every nook and cranny some sort of storage space, so before buying an RV ask where they all are. Make a list of everything you will be bringing with you and be sure that you can easily fit it all with space leftover. Chances are you will bring more stuff than you initially planned.
- What are your needs to be comfortable? Some people just need a few simple things to feel comfortable, others require a real mattress and a full bathroom before comfort is even questioned. Everybody has different ideas of roughing it, and it’s important to figure out what yours is. Don’t let anyone tell you what is comfortable. Yes, you could fit a family of five inside a pop-up trailer, but do you want to? Probably not.
- What is the weather like? If you plan on going camping in the dead of winter, you will not be happy in a simple pop-up. You will want to invest in a much more insulated RV. Obviously, all RV’s are designed to handle almost all weather conditions, but some do better than others.
- Where will you be parking your RV? Some homeowners associations allow some small trailers to be parked on the street, but chances are you will need to find a garage or other spot to store your RV. See if you could reasonably fit a large RV in your garage, then this is not a factor. If you have limited space, however, then you should plan on getting something more reasonable in size.
- What if you need more sleeping space? If you can’t purchase the length you need due to a length limit of your favorite campground and need more sleeping space, you’re not out of luck. Look into RVs with bunks or Murphy beds. Remember, you can typically always convert the dinette into a sleeping are.
Our Top 3 RV Picks
- Freelander 31BH Ford 450 Motor Home Class C
- This is the classic RV experience. You have one vehicle that will be able to tow quite a bit. If I were to get an all in one RV then I would get this one. They aren’t too bad on the wallet and will fit just about anywhere.
- Airstream classic 30
- The Airstream is known to be one of the best investments in term of trailers. They are a little more pricey, but are said to be the only camper that you pass down to your children.
- Sundance 273RK Fifth Wheel
- This is a great fifth wheel. If you have spent time in these you know how beautiful they are. If you want to live comfortably and have a truck to pull it, this is a great choice.
There are plenty of great options of RVs out there for all types of people and families. When it comes down to it just be sure to choose whatever works best for you and your circumstance. With the information found in this article you’ll be able to make the best choice.