Monique suggested we take an epic road trip during my paternity leave shortly after our second baby was born (“E”). First we considered going somewhere exotic for a few months, but we both realized that in our time since moving to Washington State, we’d not ventured particularly far from home and there was a whole big country to explore. Thus began the idea of taking a trailer around America.
To be honest, since we left London four years ago for the greener Seattle (literally rather than environmentally), I have to be honest that we may have become a little bit crunchy. First it was buying more ethical products, then it was buying items with less packaging, before moving onto trying to be lowest possible waste.
So it was important to us to find a way to travel that wasn’t massively damaging environmentally. Most trailers/RVs are enormous in the US and you need a giant diesel powered truck to pull them, and we have a Kia SUV which gets good mileage and can go offroad, so we needed to find something smaller for a start.
Safety First – Why we didn’t get a driveable RV
We spent a brief time looking at RVs (ie remote homes you can drive), but our first discovery is that it’s not considered safe to put a car seat in and RV. This is because other than the driver seats, the chairs in an RV are designed for comfort rather than being bolted to the vehicle frame. As they’re not bolted in, you can’t put a car seat safely in them, so a driveable RV was out of the question for us. So a trailer it is.
Rent or buy?
First we looked at renting, there are a lot of options to rent an RV trailer, from rental companies to people loaning out their trailers, but one of the big things to consider is cost. If you’re only going to be travelling for a week or two, renting represents great value without a big commitment. However, when you need a trailer for 6+ weeks, the cost becomes prohibitive. Typically you’re looking at around $1,000-1,500 per week so about $8k for a long journey like ours before tax and insurance.
If you’re going to lay out that much to rent a trailer, and you know you want to pursue it longer term, you may as well use the money as a down-payment to buy something you like, rather than falling in love with a rental, you then can’t afford at the end of the journey.
So we started looking to buy, partly because we found our dream trailer long before we planned the trip..
We also wanted something that could accommodate two adults and two growing kids (we make big babies) which is to say, we needed something with a little room to grow but not oversized.
Love at first sight
Two years ago, I was running along the cross-Kirkland corridor on my way to work. As I passed the Chainline brewing company in downtown Kirkland, I noticed a thing of beauty next door. A wooden trailer, low profile gleaming in the sun. So when we decided we’d consider buying a trailer, we wanted to see if they were as functional as they had looked cool.
So we looked into Homegrown Trailers, and discovered they were built in our adopted hometown. What’s more, the trailers were designed to be sustainable and self sufficient with solar power and energy efficient batteries, compostable toilet, wool packed walls to provide insulation, a solar shower and he whole trailer is made of renewable materials.
Now as fate would have it, when we went to look at trailers, they had one trailer that was “pre-loved” but only a year old. It had been owned by a family who had used it for a year, and their family had outgrown it so they’d upgraded to the larger model. Perfect sized for us, with a queen bed and two bunks, and we were buying second hand for a discount.
We took S & E in to see the trailer, and S instantly fell in love. Asking when we could take it home, and getting in quite a huff when we said we hadn’t bought it yet!
We got some extras put in, more batteries so we can go off grid a little longer and run off solar, buying a solar shower to have outside, a new induction hob for cooking inside, and a few other special features which will be sure to come out in future posts.
Most of all, the trailer unladen, only weighs 3,500lbs which is well within the Kia’s weight range so we can comfortably drive it across town without any major issues on fuel economy.
So we bought it, and now we’re taking it on an epic adventure, and we have no real experience doing this so it’s going to be a steep learning curve, but we’re pretty Jack Wolfskin that way…