Elitism aside, can we really live in a Type B RV for weeks at a time?

 Elitism aside, can we really live in a Type B RV for weeks at a time?

There are no more motorhome classes. No more Class A,B and C. Now we are to call them Type A, B and C.

Referring to them by class, I’m told by those Ive been meeting in the industry,  implies an elitism that just isn’t accurate anymore.Besides, its offensive.

OK. Got it. Now just tell that to those snooty campgrounds that only accept rigs over 30 feet.

As I’m learning the RV culture and lingo, I’m getting ready for the first really long trip we’ll soon take in our 22-foot long gently used Roadtrek 2006 RS-Adventurous – a Type B motorhome. I’ll be chronicling it here and for the Family Motor Coach Association as par of my Open Mike series on their website, as well as in Family Motor Coaching magazine. We’re heading west from Michigan to Yellowstone National Park, back to the Midwest and then on to New England before leisurely following the snowbird routes south to Florida and the Southwest come winter.

But my question is… is a Type B… well… big enough for such extended travel?

The Recreational Vehicle Industry Association deftly tiptoes around the size distinctions of motorhomes, simply noting that “Type A motorhomes are generally the largest; Type B motorhomes or van campers are the smallest and Type C motorhomes generally fall in between.”

Search around a little more, though, and you’ll find more info that indicate Type As usually range in weight from 15,000 to 30,000 pounds and stretch from 30 to 40 feet in length. Type Bs are often referred to as van conversions, weigh 6,000 to 11,000 pounds and are 17 to 24 feet in length. Type Cs are scaled down versions of an A, weigh 11,000 to 15,000 pounds and go 22 or so feet to 31 feet in length

Type Bs are typically on a Cheverolet, Ford or the Sprinter van body, modified and converted into a motorhome.

When it comes to Type B motorhome manufacturers, there’s the Big Six. And its dominated by Canadian companies.

Four are in Canada –Roadtrek, in Kitchener, ON; Pleasure Way, in Saskatchtoon, SK; Leisure Travel Vans in Winkler, Manitoba, Canada and Great West Vans in Saint Andrews, Manitoba, Canada.

Two are in the U.S. – Winnebago, marketing its Type B under the Era brand in Forest City, IA, and Airstream, whose manufacturing plant is in Jackson Center, OH

The big thing Type Bs have in common with the Type A and Type C is steep prices. Most Type Bs sell at prices that could also buy a Type A or Type C. Prices start at around $80,000 for a bare bones model to up to $135,000 and more for one fully equipped.

The reason is pretty obvious when you see the way they are built. The best explanation I’ve found comes from an FAQ I found on the Pleasure Way website that notes that its units (and most Type Bs)  are built on:

“…the Ford , Chevrolet and Mercedes chassis’s. The existing body of the completed chassis is then stripped, prepped and modified to create our van motorhomes. In the manufacturing process, the side walls of the van are curved to allow for greater interior space. As a result of this curvature, each interior piece of the van motorhome must be hand-crafted and custom-installed to ensure a quality fit and a rattle-free drive. This process is substantially more time-consuming and costly than building Class A and C motorhomes, which are usually built with square interiors and standard-size components. In addition, Class A and C motorhomes are built on cut-away chassis, which means that when the Class A and C motorhome manufacturers purchase the chassis, it only consists of the front cab and the chassis frame. Therefore, the cut-away chassis purchased by Class A and C motorhome manufacturers is less expensive than purchasing a completed vehicle.”

So, with little price difference between the three types of motorhomes,  choosing one comes down to one basic question. How will you be using your motorhome?

The B is geared for the very highly mobile RVer. Type A motorhomes are lumbering giants, and packing up and moving a lot is a bit more cumbersome. Most Type As also need a “toad,” or a towed vehicle, another car that you can use to sightsee and get groceries. You don’t want to whip in a Wendys, say, in a Type B or C to pick up a Frosty. Type Bs fit easily in most parking spaces.

My 2006 Roadtrek Adventurous gets 21-23 miles per gallon (diesel), depending on whether I’m fully loaded and running the air full blast as I have had to do all summer with the heat the nation has been experiencing. A’s are lucky to get 9 miles a gallon. C’s are not that much better.

On the other hand, living in a B can be challenging, to say the least. There is not a lot of room. Two people will bump into each other. Guaranteed. Add a dog and it gets even more confrontational.

As I begin my on-the-road RV adventures, something we’re hoping to do for years, I’m starting out in a B. I’m hearing predictions from others that we will  grow tired of the lack of space. One reader has even offered me a bet.

“A free dinner at restaurant of your choice in Indianapolis (where we’ll be attending the 2012 FMCA convention in late August) if you haven’t had it with your Roadtrek and long for something bigger by then,” wagered Randy L, who emailed me recently.

Randy’s trying to rattle me, in a good natured way. But the longest I’ve lived in our Roadtrek so far has been four nights in a row. As we look at our first long trip, setting off the week after next, we’re looking at weeks on the road.

We plan to do lots of bike riding, hiking, photography and more. So the mobility of our Roadtrek will be a plus, getting us to places where an A or C couldn’t. Besides,  if we tire of the confinement, we can also motel it occasionally. I hope not, but that’s what I’ve told Jennifer.

But just what can we expect, being in a Type B for such an extended trip?

Do you think Randy is right? Or will I get a free dinner in Indy?

I’d love your advice. Use comments below. And follow my posts here. l’ll share it all.

Getaway day is August 10.

Mike Wendland

Mike is a veteran journalist who, with his wife, Jennifer, travels North America in a small motorhome, blogging about the people, places, joys and adventure of RV life on the road. He enjoys camping (obviously), hiking, biking, fitness, photography, kayaking, video editing, and all things dealing with technology and the outdoors. See and subscribe to his RV Lifestyle Channel on YouTube, where he has hundreds of RV and travel related videos. His PC MIke TV reports, on personal technology are distributed weekly to all 215 NBC-TV stations.

18 Comments

  • I do very well in my 22′ foot Airstream Safari for weeks at a time when I am alone, but even a few days sharing my little camper with anyone else can feel crowded. If you and your wife understand each other well and you have ample opportunity to be outside, the camper doesn’t feel so small. I think you are smart to realize the benefits of camping in a smaller RV. Stay focused on that, and not your lack of space, and you will have a wonderful trip!

  • Mike – I will always prefer a Class…er, Type B because I want a vehicle that enhances my relationship with being in the out of doors (I can slide my kayak in the back & attach my bike to the rear hitch rack.) I’m not the type to want to hole up in a big bus in most traditinal campgrounds! For 12 years I took my first “B,” a ’95 Intervec Falcon, to the northern coast of Maine where I had a direct oceanfront site with water & electric. This was at the much loved Ocean Wood Campground (really more of a nature conservancy), which is now closed, in Birch Harbor, Maine, run by the lovely Brunton family. I choose the third week in October which meant that for much of the time I had the whole place to myself with my little mini schnauzer, Scooter. It was the perfect retreat. Could I have done this for a longer period of time? Most definitely….I had to tear myself away every time I had to return home & to my job in NYC. The van was the base & where I kept warm at night or dry if it was raining, in addition to cooking, showering & using the chem toilet, but most of the time I was outside sitting in the sun at the campsite or on oceanfront rocky coast reading & contemplating, or taking extensive walks. It was never enough!! For me, where there’s a will, there is a way. A Type B = less is more, keep it simple & keep an open,curious mind…….

  • Hard to fathom living in the close confines of a Type B for weeks or months at a time. We make friends as we go and enjoy entertaining at the campgrounds, so the kitchen space would concern me. This year we added a portable ice maker to our rig because we tired of buying 10# bags of ice every day. With that much ice in the freezer there wasn’t room for anything else. Looking forward to learning from you as you go and hoping to seeing you in TX this winter. There are some great state parks there and I’d recommend Ft. Davis State Park in west Texas. You will really enjoy biking in those mountains. The hiking down from the park to the old fort is an adventure.

  • I just think it all depends on you! My husband and I get along well in an RV or around the house. In the RV we have agreed to put things away quickly, try to be a bit more considerate and move out of the way more often. Our RV is 23′ so not much bigger than yours and we have done fine. You can, too, if you decide to!!

  • Our recent travels in our 2007 RS Adventurous have been three and four week trips. On our last trip we traveled from our New England home south through the Appalachians to the Carolinas (where we parked in a regular parking space in downtown Asheville) and west through the Ozarks to Texas then up the Natchez Trace to Independence MO (where we parked on the street outside the Truman home) and back home through the heartland into Pennsylvania and upstate NY. We cook our own meals outdoors or in, shower in our rig, meet people from all walks of life, enjoy the outdoors in good weather and catch up on our reading in our cozy van when the weather is bad. We don’t feel cramped; we feel liberated! Not having “stuff” is wonderful, and has encouraged us to declutter and downsize when we are at home. We wouldn’t trade our B for anything.

  • We have had a 2004 Roadtrek for four years now and love it. We have made several month-long trips in it….to Florida, through the West twice, up to the Northwest, back to Florida and most recently out to the National Parks of Utah & Arizona. We boondock often but also stay in commercial parks as well as National and State Parks. We are 76 & 73 years old and still carry our bikes with us. Laura said it right – being outdoors enjoying the weather when it’s nice and reading indoors when it’s rainy is great, and not having “stuff” with us is liberating. It’s the best!

  • Three cheers and a free glass of wine for Laura. Man-O-man! You hit the nail directly on the striking surface. I agree totally. Lucy and I are currently enjoying life inside and outside our Roadtrek, a 1998 190 Popular, on a 360 powered Dodge chassis. No complaints here and a ton of happy hours spent.

    Thanks Roadtrek for a well thought out, well constructed adventure machine…

    Spokesman Dave

  • We have owned our B, Roadtrek 04190P, for 2 years now and have taken several trips of 1-5 weeks living in it, or should I say sleeping in it. We have purposely bought small RV’s to force ourselves to be outdoors. You can never feel closed in being outdoors. The whole idea of taking a trip is to be enjoying and appreciating the great outdoors. There is so much beauty in our great country. We have pulled pop-ups and travel trailers in the past and decided we did not want the hassle of pulling one or parking one anymore. The B gave us freedom to go anywhere and park anywhere. For us the trade off was the best decision we ever made. We have learned how to do without many things in a B, and where to go to get what we need. We don’t look at our B as our home away from home, it’s our bedroom on wheels. The rest of our “house” is the great outdoors and we never feel cramped there. Rainy and cold days just mean finding a place to be indoors, it could be a mall, tourist attraction, museum, or just kicking back in our B watching old TV shows, movies or reading a book.

  • We’ve traveled as long as 3 months in our 22′ LTV Sprinter and have no problems. We are generally only a few days in one spot so the convenience of our B and its floorplan are perfect for us.

    Some folks like to do an occasional motel stay but we much prefer sleeping in our own bed. We are all different so you always have that option.

    Mike, I would have to include LTV and Great West B’s and make it the Top Six. Both are Canadian built and excellent companies.

    Hope you enjoy your trip. We sure did when we were there.

  • So is this one big trip? two or three with stops back home between?
    Are you going from Florida to Texas? If so, when?
    maybe we can meet in the Florida Panhandle.

  • Mike,

    We’ll be out in our 1989 Chevy Horizon Type B Campervan starting 2 weeks from now for about a month. It’s interesting seeing what others say about the lack of space we’ll both be experiencing. In fact, mine is about 5 feet smaller! Well, the goal of the trip is to learn as much as possible and experience the Western states because neither of us have really seen the National Parks/nature out there. I guess I don’t see what more we need!

    I’ll be following your journey. I built and customized a WordPress site for my trip, too. I’m calling it LearnSponge. You should be able to access it by clicking my name 🙂

    Take care on your trip. Hope to meet up some day!

    Kyle @ LearnSponge.com

  • I find it very hard to believe that you would mention the ( Big four) when in fact Leisure travel vans, and Great West, in my opinion are the two finest class B on the market today. Both made in Canada. I own a 06 LTV Free Spirit, so I may be a little biased .Check it out!

  • You’re right, Sanford. I’m learning more about LTV every day. They have a new unit coming out Friday that looks very impressive. I hope to write about them regularly. Stay tuned!

  • My wife and I along with our cat spent 3 and a half months in our Roadtrek 190 Popular 4WD driving to and around Alaska last year. We had a great time and made some great friends on the Walk-about. Over 16,000 miles. Up via WY and return via WA, OR and CO. Arctic Circle, almost every town and highway in AK and several days at Denali NP. Blog about the trip is at http://www.ozarksphotos.wordpress.com .

  • This title is pretty silly, if you have been reading things like the Yahoo Roadtrek List, you would know there are a few fulltimers (couples and singles) in Class Bs. We’ve spent 5 weeks in our Roadtrek 190P with 2 dogs (about 55 lbs each) and 3 weeks with all 4 dogs. It is not a problem. We’d spend more time if we could. But I realize the Sprinter is narrower than the Dodge/Chevys, so maybe it feels smaller.

    I am not surprised you left Safari Condo off your list, but Sportsmobile??? We see at least as many Sportsmobiles on the road as Pleasure Ways.

    • I am looking at a B and I figured we are outside most of the day anyway and at night we watch Tv. So I don’t think space is a problem.

  • It’s bit difficult, but after some time you get habitual to this. but hey u can go anywhere u want, just start RV and go buddy u can find more options here if u like to visit : vmtenterprises.com

  • You missed the awesome Safari Condo from Quebec.

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