Don't Overload Your RV

in Weight

Your RV's fat. There, I said it. Come on, who you kiddin'? Look at the way it leans to the side. I don't suppose you noticed that it's taking you greater distances to stop and longer to accelerate, did you? And just look at all that gear onboard - stuff falling out of every cabinet, exterior compartments full to capacity, even that never-used storage pod on the roof is full. Geez, what are you keeping in there anyway? All the symptoms add up. You need to put that RV on a diet.

Despite such visible warnings, the best way to tell if your rig is, well, heavy is to hop on a scale at your nearest weigh station. Drive long enough on the highway and you're sure to find one, or look in the Yellow Pages for the one nearest you. Once there, prepare yourself for some frank discussions about your RV's weight, for the scale tells no lies.

Are you exceeding what your motorhome can carry? Is your pickup safely able to transport that fifth wheel loaded to the heavens with who only knows what? Whether it's that cuddly little pop-up or a behemoth diesel pusher, overweight is overweight, and such a condition, just like for us folks, comes with consequences.

An overloaded RV is taxed beyond capacity, with the extra weight affecting everything from the brakes to the tires to the chassis. Basically, your asking your poor vehicle to do more than it should, which means greater (and faster) wear and tear, added mechanical costs, sluggish performance, so-so braking, and the like. Get in an accident with an overloaded RV and you might find yourself liable, not to mention voiding any future warranty and insurance claims. I guess what I'm saying here is that unlike your cousin Eddie, it's not cute to be overweight - at least not in an RV. It's time to drop some pounds, and here's how.

Everyone is prone to overpacking. After all, how can a reasonably-minded person be asked to leave home their Motown record collection and complete set of World Book encyclopedias? Add that to that big family of yours that you've been toting around lately, an excessive amount of gear for any contingency, and those irresistible souvenirs you picked up along the way, and the family RV can get hefty in no time. However, those who have been around the proverbial block (and truck scales) enough times should know all about this weight gain phenomena. It's the newbies that are most prone to overdoing it.

Everyone bringing items onboard should be asking themselves the same question: "Do I need it?" If that answer is a definite yes, then it makes the cut - for now. One of the perks of living in the 21st century is the opportunity to pick up just about anything you would need on the road, so resist the urge to "stock up." You're not braving a winter in your cabin, you're in a home on wheels. So, for those requiring groceries, some extra batteries, or additional sun screen, chances are there's a place nearby where you can get it. Bottom line - don't feel so pressured when packing, which can add to bringing along too much.

Food is one of the biggest overindulgences when it comes to packing. How many canned goods does it take to tax an RV? How about all those cases of soda, an unusual attachment to canned hams, and a week's worth of meals and snacks for every member of your crew? Sure, we don't want anyone to starve, but be reasonable. Create a menu for the trip and buy/bring only what you'll need. For longer trips, break down the groceries and meals into equal parts, so you can do a little shopping from the road to avoid an overloaded condition.

If there's a wok, food processor, and cappuccino maker tucked in those cabinets, chances are you're the type who has trouble saying no. I certainly don't want to deny you a favorite coffee drink, but an RV's galley and accompanying campfires lend themselves to more simplistic cooking. If you can't make dinner with that onboard stove, oven, or microwave, skip it. Extra cooking gadgets are just too cumbersome to warrant. Limit yourself to one or two nice skillets, a few reasonably size pots, cooking utensils, and enough plates, bowls, and glasses for everyone. Besides, we both know you hate stir fry.

To keep things fair, ever passenger gets one bag. They can fill it like they like, but that's the limit of what they can bring, just one, lonely bag. If your trip to the weigh station reveals that you're - gasp! - underweight, well, then you can definitely rethink the one-bag rule. But for now, them's the breaks. Help the younger set pack bags sensibly, and tell Tommy his dumbbells can't come.

Play around with ways to substitute lighter items for heavier ones. Do you need a 5-pound bag of flower or will a zip-lock with just enough for that cake recipe be enough? Are those jumbo bottles of ketchup, mustard, and Mayo really necessary or would individual servings, like those found at fast food places, do the trick? Opt for paper plates over the heavier place settings from home; plastic utensils (rewash for multiple uses) over silverware; rent bikes at the campground over toting along your own. Chose plastic over glass; aluminum over metal. Think lightweight and you'll soon be lightweight.

Watch those tanks! Anyone driving around with full tanks is crazy. Any idea what full fresh, black, and gray water tanks weighs? Not sure? Well, it breaks down like this:

Water = 8.4 pounds per gallon
Gasoline = 6 pounds per gallon
Diesel = 8 pounds per gallon
LP = 4 pounds per gallon

Now do a little math. A 100-gallon fresh water tank weighs in at more than 800 pounds. Oh great, now there's no room for your Aunt's Edna's spice loaf. Unless you're planning on boondocking, keep water levels low, and fill up only what's needed. Holding tanks with no-vacancy signs cramp the style of life onboard, so dump whenever possible.

Here's a philosophical point to consider. Just because you have the space to put things, doesn't mean you should use it. Most larger motorhomes feature cavernous exterior compartments, walls lined with cabinetry, and enough nooks and crannies to double your RV's weight if you put your mind to it. Fill up all those vacancies and you're bound to plump up your RV beyond its ratings. Furthermore, factor in such supplementals as those bikes in the carrying rack and that storage pod full of all those "non-essentials," you're asking for even more trouble. Remember, this is not a competition; no one will think less of you if you leave a few storage compartments empty.

Your RV's weight is serious business. Many of these vehicles are pretty heavy to begin with; you needn't make the problem worse with a willy-nilly approach to stocking it. Bring only what you need, weigh in occasionally to make sure you haven't gained any unwanted pounds, and you'll be on the fast track to a slenderhood.

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Article written by Brent Peterson for the March 2009 issue of the Camp Club USA E-newsletter.

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Don't Overload Your RV

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This article was published on 2010/03/31