We officially bought our very first travel trailer with limited experience in all things travel trailer-esque. And it has been a little rough. Here were some of our struggles thus far:
- Driving a trailer that weighs more than the truck we drove it with. A 21’ Cougar Travel Trailer vs. Toyota Tacoma with 4 cylinders… Guess who lost? Ha. Going uphill was bad (we were moving at a swift 25mph in a 75mph road- hello emergency lights) but downhill was downright terrifying! If you have never driven a trailer behind a truck, much less a trailer that was likely way too heavy for the aforementioned truck, you have never feared for your life going down a large hill.
- Imagine napping while your husband navigates. You get car sick so your sleeping habits while in moving vehicles is not altogether uncommon. Then all of a sudden you wake up to an intense swaying, as if you were on a boat being rocked side to side. You realize that you are, in fact, not in a boat but in a car, which makes reality that much worse. When you wake, you look in the rearview mirror to find the trailer wiggling around, trying to jump off the hinge or flip you over while insisting on its freedom. Panic. Shock. Swaying further and further, moving about the lanes as if there were no lines and it was all for us. Petrified us. Looking back now, we should have spoken with people about pulling a trailer downhill, especially a hill that had multiple signs cautioning semis about the grade of the road.
- Never fear, our sixth sense kicked in and Dave pressed on the brakes, straightening out the unruly trailer and settling my stomach that was just about to reject all of the food I’d eaten that day. We found that acceleration or deceleration kept the trailer’s movement at bay and led us to a much happier experience, albeit still slightly traumatizing. Besides that little, likely well-known, tid-bit of knowledge, always make sure to check your lights before embarking on a journey, gas up your vehicle before hitching the trailer, and make sure your truck or towing vehicle of choice is steady and sound without any mechanical issues.
- After staying with a wonderful friend for 4-5 days, we decided to forego purchasing land and instead met with a woman who wanted to rent her land. We veered away from purchasing land because of horror stories we had heard in the county and town we were moving into. Stories involving people being kicked off their land for small permitting issues or the county just saying that you could own land, own a trailer, but you could not camp on your own land (unless you have 10+ acres of course, but then you could only camp on that land for x amount of days at a time.
- Soap Box: PARDON? I can only camp on MY land for x amount of days. I’m so confused. Man.
- The insidious, tricky bastards that we could not check before buying the trailer (and honestly, we didn’t think about checking it because the seal on the edges of the trailer were new). The culprit of the leaks has been one or two screws in the sky lights. Luckily Dave is a handyman and got some 100% silicone to slap on those screws (on the roof) but the problem was monsoon season and the rain not wanting to stop. Thus far, we have remediated the main holes, but the shower has a leak somewhere that we need to locate. We are a little nervous that it will be a bigger project than we bargained for if it is behind the shower stall thing. We will see!
- So far we have spent:
$3800 – trailer price
$25 – silicone for leaks
$20 – wiring harness (to connect truck and trailer for lights)
Total = $3845
Warning: in case you do not know what a composting toilet is or what it entails, I want to give you fair notice that this post will mention, or dare I say, discuss excrement and where it goes at length in some areas. After doing much research and looking into composting toilets ranging from well over $1000 to very simple, homemade ones starting at $25 if you buy commercialized versions, we decided to stick to a cheap, homemade one for our uses.
Pros of Composting Toilets: They are relatively inexpensive and do not require a water hookup to function. They are also easy to move around, so you can take it with you next time you go to a store with those germ-infested toilets. If you do that, please tell me about your experience. And they are earth-friendly as they use no water and do not require some large treatment plant to process and chemical-ify your dooky (or your “boo” as some of my summer campers used to call it. Apparently “boo” can mean things ranging from current romantic partner to poop. Am I the only one who finds this interesting?).
Cons of Composting Toilets: They smell more than a normal toilet because you aren’t transporting your waste to another area… at least not initially. Rudimentary composting toilets, like the one we are using, also require some composting agent used to cover the excrement after your bowel movements. The bigger the word, the more sanitary something sounds.
Why did we choose a simple composting toilet over one such as the well-liked Nature’s Head Composting Toilet? Nature’ head seems like a great model, but it costs well over $900, money we do not have in our current situation when there is an equally good option for our purposes. The nice thing about the Nature’s Head is it has a crank that you use to literally compost and dehydrate your excrement in the pot with a different part to pee in. With our composting toilet, with consists of some plywood around a 5 gallon bucket with a toilet seat on top, you use the same hole for everything.
After reading many reviews, I’ve seen some people recommend using your composted poo for trees, as the plants benefit from all of the yummy nutrients and minerals you got rid of. However, make sure not to use it for anything you plan to eat later. IF you do want to do that, maybe compost your humanure (not my term, but I think it is clever) for around 8 mos – 1 year before using it. Other options to get rid of the waste include digging a really deep hole if you have the room or throwing it away in a trash bag. If you think about it, animal poop is thrown away in bags all the time, and it is better to do so because it will decompose much faster and not require all of the resources we need for our water-heavy toilet fascination.
What did we spend on our composting toilet?
Plywood – $23
Toilet seat – $25
5 gallon bucket – $2
Sawdust – free from ACE Hardware
Plumbing cap for pre-existing toilet in RV – $1.50
Metal cap for outside city water line – $14
TOTAL COST: $65.50
Since we decided on the composting toilet, and we are living in a 21’ trailer, we needed to replace the trailer toilet which meant taking it out to put the composting toilet in. This required removing the pre-existing toilet (not too difficult a task), capping the exposed plumbing line (because it might get messy otherwise), and then turning on the pump to make sure everything was working. Unfortunately our line for city water on the outside of the trailer had a plastic cap not designed for much pressure so the plastic cap burst off. Dave then proceeded to run out and get a metal, fancier cap for the fresh water tank.
Side note: Things you learn about living in an RV or trailer
Make sure your fresh water tank is filled up halfway or more when turning on the hot water tank or just in general, otherwise the pump will run consistently and worry you about a break in the line.