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Carey Kish

Carey Kish of Mount Desert Island has been adventuring in the woods and mountains of Maine for, well, a long time. If there’s a trail—be it on dirt, rock, snow, water or pavement—he will find it, explore it, and write about it. Carey is a two-time Appalachian Trail thru-hiker, Registered Maine Guide, author of AMC’s Best Day Hikes Along the Maine Coast, editor of the AMC Maine Mountain Guide (10th ed.), and has written a hiking & camping column for the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram since 2003. Follow his outdoor travels and musings here, and on Facebook/CareyKish. Let Carey know what you think at MaineOutdoors@aol.com.

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Posted: May 7, 2018

Camping: Hitting the trail in a trailer is delightful

Written by: Carey Kish

A growing number of Americans are downsizing into tiny houses, dwellings of 400 square feet or fewer, opting for a simpler, more affordable and environmentally friendly lifestyle.

At the same time there’s been a resurgence of another type of small domicile, a mobile version that makes its home on the road and in campgrounds from Maine to California – the recreational vehicle.

There are all shapes and sizes of RVs with amenities to match, from motor homes, caravans, fifth-wheels and truck campers, to travel-trailers, pop-ups and teardrops. Retro versions of popular old campers are big, too. If you think it’s still just gray-haired, retired moms and pops doing it, try again, as travelers of all ages with families and pets are now seeking the freedom of the open road.

This hiker-turned-road warrior has been among the RV throngs out there since late January, when my wife and I steered our loaded truck southwest to pick up a new camper at the factory in Texas. Since then we’ve been happily cruising along with our pull-behind travel-trailer, a “tiny house on wheels” with 91 square feet of living space. Built by Casita (Spanish for “little house”), our model is the Spirit Deluxe 17, a molded fiberglass unit that’s 14 feet long with a 3-foot hitch.

By the time we return home to Maine in mid-May we’ll have logged 12,000 miles across 20 states, visited 11 national parks, forests, monuments and recreation areas, and enjoyed 16 state, county and municipal parks. It’s been a wonderful journey, made all the more enjoyable with our comfy little camper (we don’t miss the tent). And a lot more camping fun awaits this summer at Maine’s many fine state parks and private campgrounds.

Mind you, I’m no salesman for the Casita brand. It’s simply what we selected after considerable research, tire kicking and talking to many seasoned campers. The big rigs weren’t our style and neither were the ultra-small ones. We wanted something modestly sized that was maneuverable, with enough room but not too much, and it had to be affordable. For us, the Casita fit the bill nicely. You, however, with your own particular wants, desires and budget, may choose differently among the dizzying array of RVs available.

Inside the camper, there’s a double bed that converts to a dining nook (we leave the bed made) and a dinette with two bench seats. The galley features a two-burner gas stove and sink, and an extra-large refrigerator (easily holds a week’s groceries). There’s also a gas furnace. Closets, cabinets and drawers hold 50 cubic feet of storage. Overhead there’s an AC/heater unit and a fan. The all-important head has a toilet, sink and shower. All lights are LED.

Outside, we opted for a sun awning, electric jack and sway bar. Two propane tanks are mounted on the hitch tongue, and the sewer hose is stowed in the rear bumper. There are connections for city water and electric, and ports for the marine battery, water tank, electric water heater and storage for chocks, hitch base and such.

We’ve spent one-third of the time camping off the grid or “boondocking,” and have been glad to have a 90-watt solar panel, and later an 1,800-watt generator to keep the rig powered up. The rest of the time when we’re plugged in, well, life is pretty easy.

Living in a confined space has certainly been an adjustment. The learning curve with the camper has been interesting, especially when it initially came to backing into a site, hitching up and emptying the waste tanks. We’ve made our share of equipment mistakes but haven’t seriously broken anything. Yet. Thank goodness for the kindness of strangers and helpful RV dealers along the way.

This is a big, beautiful country, and we’ve hiked, biked and kayaked to our heart’s content in some really beautiful places and met lots of fun people. I truly understand the appeal of the active, small RV experience, and I highly recommend it to you. I can see why some people do this full time.

Lest any of my readers think I’ve gone soft with this fancy camping talk, next year I’m embarking on a 2,650-mile thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada, which should suitably ratchet down the personal comfort level. Meantime, if you’d like some advice and encouragement on small camper travel and living, I will enthusiastically oblige.

 

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