Anyone considered a 5th wheel for living off the grid?

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#1 Tue, Jun 12, 2012 - 3:51am
Patriot Family
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Anyone considered a 5th wheel for living off the grid?

We are seriously considering the purchase of a 5th wheel and pre-positioning it at a rural site for living off the grid. I know they aren't great from a security standpoint, but my visits to inspect used models have really captured my interest. Some of the modern conveniences available in these trailers is nothing short of impressive.

I looked t a 38 foot model that had a bedroom for two, two sets of bunk beds, a spacious living room, a good sized kitchen, full bathroom, and plenty of storage and a small stackable washer/dryer. This model had slide outs that greatly expanded usable space.

We got the idea from friends of ours who bought a 5th wheel, placed it on their property, built a deck around 3 sides. They added a roofed over screen room with a grilling area, an attached wash shed for a washer/dryer and bathroom, etc. They lived in theirs for several years before moving into a house and then sold it off for almost as much as they bought it for (and these folks were financially successful). 

What's your take on doing something like this as an alternate living arrangement? We would look into adding solar and an efficient waste management system. Not sure of our total cost just yet.

Edited by: Patriot Family on Nov 8, 2014 - 5:06am
Tue, Jun 12, 2012 - 8:22am
treefrog
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5th wheel power?

interesting idea, but the major vulnerability is: petroleum.

what happens to a 5th wheel when there's a shortage of the fuel to pull it around, or even to run a generator to have power?

our supplies of petroleum are anything but secure. i haven't seen a solar powered vehicle that could pull a trailer of any kind, much less a 5th wheel.

treefrog land and cattle co.
Tue, Jun 12, 2012 - 10:12am (Reply to #2)
Patriot Family
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Well, we wouldn't plan on

Well, we wouldn't plan on moving it unless absolutely necessary. No fuel available means everyone will essentially need to move on foot. Rather, this would be an inexpensive alternative to building a brick and mortar structure onsite. The 5th wheel would act as a temporary shelter for as long as necessary.

My reference to solar power was limited to providing electrical power to run refrigerators, freezers (stored out on the deck or in a shed), lighting, etc. Typical setup for a small home. Would probably cost more than the 5th wheel but at least we wouldn't be dependent on electric hookups out to any nearby roads.

Seller of high quality, Thrive brand freeze dried storage foods: www.freezedriedpantry.com
Fri, Jun 15, 2012 - 11:07pm
Biscuit
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Our travel trailer is back-up

Our travel trailer is parked at our rural home. Due to work restraints, we haven't been able to use it in a couple of years. My wife suggested that we might want to sell it since we're not using it. I overruled her suggestion primarily for the event of a grid down situation.

The oven, refrigerator, heater, and water heater will all run on propane. In addition to having multiple spare propane tanks, we had a 1000 gallon home propane tank installed. That tank has a liquid line that I use to refill the camper/bbq size tanks.

While I don't expect my generator fuel to last for long, the propane would likely last for over a year if it's only running the camper. We also have a small (60W) solar system for recharging 12V camper batteries. It wouldn't power the refrigerator, but should power small 12V lights and intermittently power the camper's water pump. Storage of 60 gallons of potable water is a plus, too. And, we have a sanitary drop line on one of our septic systems.

While we have a good bit of camping gear, I know from my hurricane experiences the value of being able to cook in an oven, take a hot shower, and keep food cool. A travel trailer, properly prepared, can fill the bill.

So, we're keeping our 28 footer with a super slide.

Mon, Jun 18, 2012 - 8:41pm
SilverFocker
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LOL

2 years ago some people down the road from me did just that. this place had a rental trailer lot and when the mobile home was moved, a couple moved a 5 wheel in it's place. I have not talked to them, but I would say they are saving a pretty good sum of fiat by doing this.

Tue, Jun 19, 2012 - 3:30am
Patriot Family
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We are quickly realizing this

We are quickly realizing this is a valid option for us. The more we look at it, the more we like the ideal of a 5th wheel as an off-grid living option. Unfortunately, I have to commit quite a bit of money to a start up business. We are almost ready to go live, and we should know within 3-4 months if we can use some of our reserve funds towards a 5th wheel.

We are finding used models that are well equipped for as little as $6K here in the Southeastern USA. I'd have to do some remodeling work, but our main concern is available space for living quarters.

Admittedly, our other roadblock is that we have no feasible way to tow the thing around at the present time. We'd have to hire someone to bring it onsite. I've been looking at larger used trucks - a diesel has been on our list for quite some time. But again, prioirities. Gotta get our business up and running first.

Seller of high quality, Thrive brand freeze dried storage foods: www.freezedriedpantry.com
Fri, Jun 22, 2012 - 11:57pm (Reply to #6)
Biscuit
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Spend some time looking

When you are looking at reasonably priced used campers be sure to take your time and look it over very closely.

I can't tell you how many we looked at before we found one with just easily fixable problems. The most common problem we found was that routine roof maintenance had not been performed. Open the upper cabinet doors and look for water stains. Push the walls inside the cabinets to find soft spots. Push on exposed walls to find soft spots from water intrusion. These problems are very common and can be quite expensive to properly repair.

Open up the storage areas that are under beds and bench seats and step on the floor area inside the storage area. I almost went through a couple of those. Climb on top of the trailer and look at the roof. With rubber roofs look for cracks, gaps, and severe weathering. Small problems are easily and fairly inexpensively fixed. Big problems that require a whole new rubber roof are expensive.

Look under the camper. Is the area sealed to help prevent pipe freezing? Are needed floor repairs obvious? Does plumbing appear to be in good shape?

Run the appliances. You may have to bring a propane bottle with you. It takes a while to cool down a propane refrigerator, but if it doesn't work, they're dang expensive to replace. Try out the a/c, stove, furnace, and water heater, too. Sometimes problems can be fixed simply by cleaning out dirt dobber and wasp nests (from the outside of the camper). Sometimes it is much more complicated and expensive. 

Try the lights, inside and out, using shore power and camper batteries. Run stabilizer jacks up and down. They are fairly commonly damaged by forgetfulness or because they hang low and get caught on 'stuff'.

Many nice older campers have tires with a lot of tread left, but close examination may reveal that they are dry rotted. Extend the canopy if so equipped. A lot have issues. Are accessories included? You'll likely need hoses for sewage and for fresh water. How about extension cords, wheel chocks and leveling blocks?

Perhaps perusing one of the RV threads would help in putting together a checklist for checking out a prospective camper. Otherwise, they can become a money pit. I've got that T-shirt.