Living in an RV Trailer_RV PrepperLiving in an RV Trailer | Have you ever considered living in an RV trailer as a way to enjoy life more and as a backup place to live if things go bad? Listen in to this episode with David Help of RV Prepper as he discusses living in an RV trailer.

In this Episode on Living in an RV:

  1. Weight & Balance is Critical
  2. Water - Don't Skimp on It!
  3. RV Solar Power
  4. Bus vs. Fifth Wheel Trailer
  5. Top 3 RVing Challenges
  6. Fuel Management
  7. Diesel Exhaust Fluid
  8. The great side of RV'ing
  9. RV's and Overpasses and Bridges
  10. Truckers Maps
  11. OnX Maps
  12. Safety Third

RV Weight & Balance

Living in an RV Trailer | RV Living Tips: Water

David Helms: Indeed. And it's really worked out really well because we look how we load the RV, because weight is critical on an RV, as far as safety. You have to make sure that you have your weights balanced where you need to have them so you can go down the road straight and you don't put undue stress on either the tow vehicle or the tires on the fifth wheel or travel trailer, whatever you're using that way. RV trailer weight guide, weight of RV trailer

Brian Duff: Right.

David Helms: So you've got to make sure you keep it because it's controllable at that point. We try to have it that we know where is the repeatable process of A goes to the A slot, B goes to the B and C goes to C. We try not to have any variations around that.

Brian Duff:  All right. Right now, if you get those variations, if one side ends up heavier than the other, do you find you have problems when you drive it? Like with handling and all that?

David Helms: Exactly. It changes the dynamics of the; I call it "the harmony of travel." It will make the fifth wheel or the travel trailer, and even in motor homes, you'll see them kind of start listing to one side.

Especially if there's not a big wind blowing, if they're listing to one side, you're too weight-heavy on that side. So one of the things we look at when we get everything loaded up, we walk around the unit a couple of times in different directions as husband and wife, or team travelers, to look to see what we see that's out of place.

Then if we see something, we say, "Hey, wait a minute. This isn't right. Do you agree on this?" And say, "Yes," or "no." Then we address it accordingly.

Brian Duff: Oh, okay. Because I imagine you have... And that's a good way to do it because you have to take in account the water, where's your water tank and your black water, your gray water and your freshwater, where are those tanks at. Because that's a lot of weight, right?

David Helms: Oh, exactly. At eight pounds a gallon, it adds up real quick, so I've got a 90-gallon water tank on here, so I've got 720 pounds floating.

RV Water

Living in an RV Trailer | RV Living Tips: Water

David Helms:  One thing that I don't scrimp on when we start traveling and stuff, I don't reduce my freshwater.

Brian Duff: Good.

David Helms: I don't reduce it for the simple reason that water is life, and without it, you're not going to survive.

Brian Duff: This is one thing I was thinking about today, and before the podcast started, Dave and I were talking for a little bit. One of the new projects that I'm going to come out with and kind of document it is I just picked up a van.

I'm going to outfit the van for my kind of like a get-the-heck-out-of-Dodge vehicle, but one that I live in as I drive around the country just seeing the sights, meeting people and doing the podcast from the road, eventually.

So, with that, I'm big on the water aspect too, and I've been trying to noodle something out. It's more like we were talking about earlier with the Six Sigma, trying to be efficient with water. Because, man, it's such a precious resource when you're on the road and if things go wrong, you may not be filling up for a while. Right?

David Helms: Exactly. And I get my water management skills from being a boat owner and traveling. When I lived in Florida, I would travel from the east coast of Florida over into the Bahamas and down that way.

You learn how to take very short showers with very little water, and you learn how to manage your water to make sure that you have water to drink to survive with. That becomes critical at that. Water management skills, it's right up there, so it bled over into the RV rather easily for me.

Brian Duff: Sure.

David Helms: Now, some people seem to have a great deal of difficulty by not paying attention to it, and they think they can stand in the shower and just let the water run as long as they want to. They don't understand the ramifications to it.

Brian Duff: Right. I noticed one of the videos I was watching on Van Life, on TV, and it was a pretty comprehensive system for recycling the water. So much so that they actually had a shower in their van and it involved the actual physical filtering of the water and then hitting it with the UV light. They would use that to run around for their showers, so they didn't have to use their drinking water supply.

David Helms: That's a good idea. That's a really good idea. It is something that the UV lights are getting better, cheaper, faster, stronger, that they have multiple uses for that. It's one of the talks to the discussions we were having just the other day about trying to think of if there's some type of large-scale UV light that we could use to sterilize water with. It's the way to go.

Now, we also carry with us a couple of five-gallon buckets that I've got set up with one of the Sawyer mini-drip systems to it, and it works well. So if we're running low on water somewhere and I need to put 15 or 20 gallons in, it's going to take me a few hours to do it, but I can get water from a stream, and I have confidence that it's going to be filtered pretty good going in.

But if there's some way I can install a UV light into a tank that I can hit it from reserve batter, I think I'd be that much better off.

RV Solar

Living in an RV Trailer | RV Living Tips: Solar

Brian Duff:  Do you run solar on your trailer?

David Helms: I do, but I don't have it mounted to the trailer. I'm running it as a suitcase, and I've got a 200-watt Zamp solar system.

We had it with the bus, and it would recharge four house batteries to almost half their capacity, which you're not to supposed to run them down much further than that if that far. It would have them charged back up for me in about five hours, which I thought was phenomenal.

We haven't used it too much with the fifth wheel yet, because we've only had it a couple of weeks and we're working all the kinks out of it. I think it's going to be super for it. I've got a place inside the RV for it where I can strap it down for travel. Then it only takes me just a couple minutes to deploy it.

Brian Duff:  Well, I guess that makes sense too, especially since you're leaving your fifth wheel somewhere and you're driving around in your truck. Where if you're going to be doing something for a few days in your truck, it might make sense to bring that with you as opposed to leaving it in the trailer. It might be getting broken into, or if something happens on the road and you need energy, you'll be able to get it.

David Helms:  Exactly.

Brian Duff:  Now, does your truck charge? Will it charge the batteries in the trailer as you drive?

David Helms: It sure does, through the pigtail system that's on it. It throws a 12-volt charge going into the batteries that I have inside. So normally, these fifth wheels only come with one deep cycle battery to it, which is ludicrous.

Brian Duff:  I agree.

David Helms: I already had a second one installed. Probably next spring I'm probably going to stack it and install two more over the top of the others. Which would be overkill, but I'd rather have overkill than not have enough.

Brian Duff:  Shocker that I hear a prepper say he might be into the whole overkill when it comes to extra batteries. That's so...

David Helms:  It does. It doesn't kind of go hand in hand too good, so yeah.

Brian Duff: Right. Have you thought about putting a solar setup on the top of it?

David Helms: We've thought about it, and I had one that was on top of our bus. We were making a trip coming back to Montana from Minnesota a few years back. You'll come on a section of the highway that's got a lot of wind.

I mean, a lot of wind. And the wind ripped it right off the roof.

Brian Duff:  Oh, no, kidding. Wow.

David Helms:  I felt the roof go “thonk,” and I looked out in the side-view mirror, and there goes the solar panel out into this field.

Brian Duff:  How high up off the top of the bus was it?

David Helms: 12 feet. It was right on top of one of the air conditioners. It was a trickle charger, if you will. Just a little 100-watt unit and it has it where it mounts right to the mounting bolt holes on the AC units. And-

Brian Duff: And there's no gap in between it or anything? Between the AC-

David Helms:  Less than a 16th of an inch.

Brian Duff: Oh, wow. Holy cow.

David Helms:  It ripped that bad boy right out.

I mean, it tore a solid sheet of aluminum. It just ripped it through the mounts, because I stopped and got out and got it.

Brian Duff:  So it just pulled it out of the screw holes and out of the air conditioning.

David Helms:  Yep.

Brian Duff: Wow.

David Helms: Yep.

Brian Duff:  Well, so much for that solar panel.

David Helms:  It was-

Brian Duff: How'd the solar panel do after it landed?

David Helms:  Shattered. We call that a BSM, a butt-sucking moment.

Bus vs. Fifth Wheel

Living in an RV Trailer | RV Living Tips: Bus vs. Fifth Wheel

Brian Duff:  Oh, man. Now, how big was that bus?

David Helms: It was a 35-foot diesel pusher, so we're basically the same size because I'm 34'10" with this fifth wheel.

But with the truck that I bought and the fifth-wheel trailer that I bought, I'm at 50% of the weight that just the bus was by itself before I added anything to tow behind it.

Brian Duff:  And your maneuverability's probably a lot better, isn't it?

David Helms: Oh, it's a lot better. I can't get over how much better it is. The discussion last weekend while we were out, and I looked at my wife, and I said, "I feel like I'm committing heresy by saying I really like this better than the bus."

David Helms: She looked at me really shocked because I was attached to that bus. That's the only vehicle I've ever really been attached to.

Brian Duff:  That's cool, man. But now, how does it do when you go off-road?

David Helms:  This is the type of thing you don't really want to take off-road too much through big ruts. Now, this one section that we go camping in when we go dry camping, we used to drive the bus down to it. I thought, well, this fifth wheel ought to be a lot easier, and it was, which was surprising to me.

As long as you can keep it flat and don't get in too much of a hurry, it'll go just about any place the truck will go, as long as you have clearance above you.

Brian Duff:  Right.

David Helms: I've got probably about 16 inches of ground clearance underneath it before it would do some damage, so I have to pay attention to the ruts. But the ruts I went into the other day were about 10 inches deep, and you just go slow and it just gently rocks back and forth and your little tushie just kind of sucks it back down on the seat cushion to make sure it doesn't tip over.

So it takes prudence and patience, which something I ask God for every day. I mean, I want it right now. Then He laughs.

But it'll go. It'll go places. Especially for a big unit, it'll go some places. I was surprised. You just kind of worry when you go those places. Like, can I get it out?

David Helms: And am I going to tear something up? Because they're not cheap.

Brian Duff:  Yeah. Now, how does the new with the fifth wheel and the truck setup compare to going off-road with the bus that you had?

David Helms: Oh, it's much easier.

The truck is a four-wheel drive, and it's got so much power. I've got 910-foot pounds of torque in this thing, and it's got like 425 horsepower, and I haven't chipped it yet. I don't think I will because it's very responsive. I was surprised at the amount of power and maneuverability. It just made a huge difference to it.

Now, Rhonda says to me, she goes, "I cannot believe that everything in the cabinets didn't get tossed around like what they used to do on the bus." Because when she opened up the cabinets, you're always ready to catch stuff that might fall out, right?

Brian Duff:  Right.

David Helms: She said it was all in the place where she left it.

Brian Duff:  Oh, wow.

David Helms: I said, "That's very interesting." So I guess I went slow enough. One thing that we were surprised at was the amount of storage that we have on this. We don't have the under storage like what we had on the bus, but we have a tremendous amount of storage inside the RV. We've got more cabinets than we ever had on the bus.

We bought a bunkhouse unit because we travel down to Florida to go see the grandkids, we want to have some places for them to come and crash. Which means it's more storage space for us on other things. So it has a tremendous amount of storage space. I would say two times what the bus had.

Brian Duff:  Oh, wow. One thing I was thinking about earlier was because I was thinking about that same problem. I don't like using a lot of plastics to drink out of and all that stuff, and it's just my kind of gig, so I was thinking about it. I use like Mason jars and glasses all the time, and I was thinking about how to secure those, so they don't do it, bounce around and smash.

So I was thinking about if you can screw their rings down inside the cabinet and then just screw the Mason jar on it. Kind of like the reverse or even the same. If you can do it on the bottom of the shelf, just like my ... I don't know if your dad used to do it in the garage or you do.

David Helms: I still do it.

Brian Duff:  There you go. So that's kind of what I was thinking about. I don't know if it'd be a pain or if it is worth it or not.

David Helms: All right. It'd be worth a try. I mean, do it on a small scale. Do you know?

Brian Duff:  Right.

David Helms: See what it does for you. I mean, to me, that makes sense. I understand your concerns around plastics because. Even though I drink out of quite a few of the plastics and stuff in everyday life, I try not to, because you never know what's going to leach out of them.

Top Three RV’ing Challenges

Living in an RV Trailer | RV Living Tips: Top Three RV’ing Challenges

Brian Duff: Yeah, exactly. Now, with all the time you've spent RVing, what's the top three challenges that you've found in doing the whole RV thing?

David Helms: Wow. Number one is probably going to be patience, and that's with either yourself or the other person you're traveling with. It's not because you're going to get upset or angry with them from hooking it up or disconnecting, stuff like that. It's the patience to take time to do it right. That's one of the struggles I always had as a child, and growing up was patience.

The other is fuel management.

Then we talked a little bit about this a little while ago here, you and I did. It came to weight management, to be able to master where to put things in to control the weight of the unit. That was the top three for me.

RV Fuel Management 

Living in an RV Trailer | RV Living Tips: RV Fuel Management 

Brian Duff:  Oh, wow. When you say fuel management, what are you talking about?

David Helms:  Well, you know, you look at your fuel gauge, you say, "Oh, great. I've got ... " because that bus held a hundred gallons of fuel. It loved a lot of gas stations as we went around the road. But you look at it, and you say, "Okay, I'm going to go from point A to point B, and we're going to dry camp, and there's no place to stop for fuel after we get here."

If you're going to rely on that generator, that generator system's going to burn between eight-tenths of a gallon and a gallon and a half of fuel an hour, depending on the load you have on it. So if it's summertime and both air conditioners are running, it's going to take that whole gallon and a half an hour to run.

Wintertime, you shouldn't be out there in the snow, but if you're in a cool area and you want to run the heat, then it's only going to be like eight-tenths of a gallon. That will be able to give you creature comfort to a point. Then you have your batteries to rely on during the night and you just kind of shut everything down.

But fuel management becomes critical on that because if you run it too long, you might get to the point where you can't get back to where you need to be.

A lot of these RVs that have generators built into them, once you get down to a quarter of a tank of fuel, they have a cut-off switch, and it shuts off the generator. You're like, "What's wrong with my generator? I've got a quarter tank of fuel. Why is it not running?"

Brian Duff:  Oh.

David Helms:  Well, you go back and read your owner's manual, first off, you turn in your man card, then you read the owner's manual. And you say, "Hey, I've got a quarter tank. It's going to shut off. It did what it was supposed to do. But is a quarter of a tank going to be enough to get back where I can get fuel?" Something you have to think about.

Brian Duff:  Yeah. Yeah. No, definitely do. Well, what's the average range like on your bus? What was your range on a tank of gas, or fuel? Excuse me.

David Helms:  Oh, hey, that's a great question, and actually, I've got the numbers on that. When I wasn't towing, I towed, I would get 11.2 miles to the gallon with that bad boy at 37,000 pounds. That's really good fuel mileage. So I could get-

Brian Duff:  What was it back-

David Helms: 11.2 miles to the gallon.

Brian Duff: Wow.

David Helms:  That's pretty good for a big beast. And it-

Brian Duff: Yeah, it is. I'm dreading hearing what comes next.

David Helms:  Now, when you hook the tow vehicle behind it, we went down to nine. That didn't matter if I was flat towing or whether I was crossing the Rocky Mountains. It was nine miles to the gallon. And now, Brian, that's with the generator running.

Brian Duff:  Oh, wow.

David Helms: So that, I was very fortunate, because I had a pre-DEF unit and it got phenomenal fuel mileage. Now, it wasn't going to win any drag races, and it never meant to. But some of the guys that get these big ones that fly down the road at 85 miles an hour thinking, "I've got to have 500 horsepower here, and I've got to beat everybody to wherever they're going."

But, I mean, to go over some of the humps and everything that's out West here, you had to bury your foot to the floorboard to keep it at 45 miles an hour going up and over. But it did. It averaged nine if I was pulling a vehicle behind me. Now, when I say pulling a vehicle behind me, we used to tow a big K-1500 Silverado.

Brian Duff: Oh.

David Helms:  Yeah. That's almost 7,000 pounds.

Brian Duff: Yeah, that's a big truck.

David Helms:  Then we decided to pull our Explorer when that truck reached its age of maturity and the Explorer's about a thousand pounds less. The mileage did not vary between the two. That's what was wild.

Brian Duff:  Right.

David Helms: Explorer was just a little shorter. It turned a better, tighter radius. That was about it.

Brian Duff: Hmm.

David Helms: Now, I would go about 750 miles before I would stop and fuel up if I was driving from point A to point B.

Brian Duff: Wow.

David Helms: Or we were going to switch drivers and stuff, we'd break the trip up. But I would usually run the fuel as much as I could to see how far I could stretch it and I never went past 750.

Brian Duff: Wow. That's a pretty good range, though.

David Helms:  Yeah. Then with the new truck, with this new diesel that I've got, I get about fifteen and a half, is what I've seen so far on a new engine that's really not broke real good all the way. So I'm about fifteen and a half miles to the gallon and towing the fifth wheel with our full load on it. So I'm really happy about that. It doesn't have as big a fuel tank.

Brian Duff: And how far is your range with that?

David Helms:  I'll probably get about 400 miles.

Brian Duff:  Okay. So you'll have to fuel up more often.

David Helms: Exactly. That's the drawback. Now, I could probably put an auxiliary fuel tank up in the front of it, but then I'm adding more weight to it. But the prepper in me says, "You need to take extra fuel in case you can't find fuel. So I'm trying to work that out in my head and in my heart right now — a little bit of a conflict time.

Brian Duff:  Yeah. What are you conflicted on?

David Helms: Whether to spend the money now to wait and add another 40-gallon tank onto it.

Brian Duff: Oh, I gotcha.

David Helms:  Yeah, so it's just ... I don't know. I'm just not there yet.

Brian Duff: Yeah. And that's the thing. It's always you want to plan for the worst, but are you actually going to ever need it kind of thing? Like the risk worth versus reward or the investment versus the reward: Is that worth it at this point?

David Helms: Oh, exactly. You just kind of have to sit there and say, "Okay. Here we go. Yes, no, facts, benefits, what outweighs what." That's part of that Six Sigma thing. We're going back and looking at it.

Brian Duff: Sure.

David Helms:  So we'll give it six months, eight months, and then we'll cross that bridge when we come to it and decide what to do.

Diesel Exhaust Fluid

Living in an RV Trailer | RV Living Tips: Diesel Exhaust Fluid

Brian Duff: Right. Now, a minute ago you mentioned something about that you had a pre-DEF engine or something like that? Or pre-DEF requirement?

David Helms: Correct. Yeah, exactly.

Brian Duff: What's that?

David Helms: DEF is Diesel Exhaust Fluid. All of your new diesel, whether it's heavy trucks, whether it's buses or cars, you have to have this DEF fluid. It goes into the exhaust system, and it burns off the impurities of the exhaust.

Brian Duff: Now, is that something that feeds into the fuel or is it a separate fuel tank that you have to have that's lifted in?

David Helms: It's a separate tank. Yeah, if you ever put DEF fluid into your diesel fuels, don't drive it, because you're going to explode an engine up real fast.

Brian Duff: Well, I wouldn't [crosstalk 00:26:39].

David Helms: It's a separate tank to it.

Brian Duff: Yeah, don't do that. Mind4Survival and RV Prepping, we don't advise to do that, so stay away from it.

David Helms: Yeah. Exactly.

Brian Duff: So what? Is it like you go into the gas station and buy a quart of this stuff? Or how does that work?

David Helms: Well, it starts in gallons. You can get a galloon or a two-and-a-half gallon box, which is kind of like one of those cheap wine boxes, with the hose in it.

Brian Duff: Yeah.

David Helms: You can also buy it at the truck stops that they have the diesel islands for the trucks. They usually have a couple of them. It shows signs for RVs, and they've got a small enough hose to get into your DEF tank.

I filled mine up in the truck the other day for the first time ever. It felt very foreign to me. It was easy to do. You know better than not to put it in the diesel fuel, so they usually put it on the opposite side of where your tank fill is.

Brian Duff: Oh, okay. There you go.

David Helms: So it's a step that you purposely have to do it. A lot of the manufacturers on some of the pickup trucks put the DEF fuel tank right there next to the fill tank for your regular diesel fuel.

Brian Duff: Right.

David Helms: I thought that's a good idea until mine's underneath the hood of my truck. So I have to physically raise the hood and reach in and open the tank up there. I thought, "What a pain in the backsides?"

David Helms: Well, actually the more I think about it, I'll go through that pain in the backsides because that keeps me from doing a stupid thing and putting DEF into my diesel fuel.

Brian Duff: Right.

David Helms: It takes it out of that realm for me, so works well that way. So I carry a two-and-a-half gallon box in the truck with me. My tank holds 10 gallons for the DEF fluid, which is supposed to take me, I think they said it should take me about 9,000 miles. But when I got from the dealer, it didn't have much in it, so I filled it up.

Brian Duff: Wow. So 9,000 miles for one of the... so that's something now that if you don't put that fluid in, does the truck stop or what happens?

David Helms: Yeah. It goes into a low-gen, is what they call it. It's also called, it's diminished engine performance. You won't go very fast, and then it will warn you. This thing's got warning lights and comes up and says, "DEF fluid level is low. Get DEF soon," and then you're warned about so many miles ahead.

Then if you don't do it, it goes into a limp. Then it's like five, 10 miles an hour and you're going to go until it finally gives up the ghost and stops. But a gallon of it and a gallon should be able to get you about 700, 800 miles, I would imagine.

Brian Duff: Yeah, I guess my concern is more along the whole prepping for a catastrophe or major cataclysm kind of stuff that we all tend to think about at times. So that's something else now that you have to plan for every 600, 700 miles you go, you need this DEF fluid for diesels.

David Helms: Yeah, another 8.7 pounds per gallon that I worry about. Hey, in fact, to that weight thing, buddy. I think about if I carry enough to take me for a while and everything, just say I take 10 gallons with me. Okay? That's 87, almost 88 pounds. Well, it is 88 pounds and where do I place that in the back of the truck and the room it's going to take up and that things that way.

Fortunately, DEF is plentiful around the different truck stops and if you have issues around one, even some of the agricultural implements these days, some of those, I understand are being plumbed for Def. So that might give me an option as far as a farmer as well.

But I don't think that's going to be widely based in that for a while, because they get to have that fuel that's got the dye in it, so they don't have to pay the road taxes, and the sulfur content's just a little higher in it.

Brian Duff: Oh, okay. Yeah. Well, it's so much going into this stuff nowadays. Would you-

David Helms: Sure is.

Brian Duff: ... ever consider picking up an old diesel truck too, some of those older trucks that still, I mean, those diesels run forever, that would maybe get you around some of that or whatever. Or it's just not that big of a deal?

David Helms: I have considered it, and I am considering it. My wife's going to kill me when I say this, but I've got feelers out right now for one that's a pre-DEF unit that's got about a half a million miles on it, but the guy's replaced just about everything. It's not something we're going to buy right now, but it's given me some options.

I've got a friend that's getting ready to buy that truck, and I'm going to guinea pig off of him. So I'm going to university for diesels with this guy, and he's a diesel mechanic.

You know what's really great for me and that's where I'm really lucky, is my brother-in-law here in town runs a diesel repair shop that is a wrecking yard for heavy trucks. That's what he does. He takes heavy trucks and sells the parts off of them. So he might have 15, 20 huge diesel engines sitting on his floor at one time.

If I've got a challenge on a diesel engine, Ralph is the absolute smartest man alive that I've ever met. I'm not saying that because he's my brother-in-law. But when it comes to diesel engines, this guy can create parts to make things work that they don't make parts for anymore.

Brian Duff: Right.

David Helms: So I'm learning.

Brian Duff: That's a pretty good connection to have, and I see you're keeping him on your good side, so way to go.

David Helms: Yep. So when he gets a wrecked truck in there, that's got a bunch of DEF fluid in it and everything else, I'm thinking about going and snagging it and putting it in a storage container.

Bridges and Overpasses

Living in an RV Trailer | RV Living Tips: Bridges and Overpasses

Brian Duff: But see. So what else about the RV? So you've got the flexibility, you have the freedom. What is it like driving in this ... I grew up in LA, and I'm sure you've been around and driving all around for a lot of years, and I'm living in Vegas now, I lived in DC. So one of my big concerns with it is how's that whole traffic thing work out for you?

David Helms: Remember that statement I said earlier about the BSM, the butt-sucking moment? When you're driving an RV, you've got to pay attention to where you are in the lane, because you're much wider than a car.

Brian Duff: Right.

David Helms: But the other thing that a lot of people don't think about is you've got to pay attention to what type of an overpass you're going to go under.

Brian Duff: Yeah.

David Helms: Here's a good laugh you'll have. Rhonda and I've been married 11 years, and we knew each other at DuPont from being business associates and stuff. That's never played into the relationship deal. This was something later in life. But when I decided to move up to Illinois to open up a training center for DuPont, I had an RV down south, and I needed to move it up.

She flew down with me, and we did a two-day ride up to Minneapolis where she was living. She had flown down. When we got into Minneapolis, it was raining cats and dogs, so I went to take her to the airport to drop her off.

I knew my clearance was 12 fleet ... Excuse me, 12'2". As I was pulling into the airport there, they had these signs that hang over the road, says Clearance 12'6". So I said, "Good. I've got it covered."

I started to go underneath one of these signs, and it hit the front air conditioner. It ripped it off its mounts. Now, these are case-hardened bolts, and it peeled it back. It's a horrible sound, especially when the rain starts coming inside your RV and you have to stuff plastic in it.

David Helms: Come to find out what that sign was down at about 11'6". It was an interesting day, and it was very expensive too. So you've got to pay attention to what you're going under.

Brian Duff: Now, one thing I heard when I was talking with Ryan Mitchell over at the Tiny Life, he had mentioned a buddy of his was towing his tiny house down the road to move somewhere. I guess the issue was the bridge clearance was, I don't know, 12'6", 13'6", something like that. But when they would repave the road, they didn't stop at the bridge.

They repaved under it, so they just kept jacking up the height of the road. It's something that I notice now driving around. You find that some freeways here up in the Vegas area, I never see asphalt. You don't see a lot of asphalt in some places here anyway because of the heat.

Then down in LA coming back, I noticed that you would see asphalt up to the edge of the bridge and then it was concrete under that and that they don't pave under the bridges. But I guess not all companies have that figured out. So ...

David Helms: No, they don't. And that's one of the reasons why I am updating my maps. I only deal with the truckers' maps, and it tells you realistic numbers to it. The owner-operators independent group, they go out, and they measure.

David Helms: The guys that do the wide loads and heavy loads, they have to have certain clearance, and they go out and get the exact measurements. I got turned in with that by my son. Lives down in Florida because he was a long-haul, heavy-haul trucker.

Brian Duff: Okay.

David Helms: What that means is you know all those big engines, the sails you see on those huge windmills out on the wind farms?

Brian Duff: Right.

David Helms: He hauled those windmills, as far as the engines.

Brian Duff: Oh, wow.

David Helms: Not the fins, the wings. He hauled the engines, so it'd be between 150 and 300,000 pounds. They knew what their clearance was on it and they knew what they had to have to get around. So he got me turned onto this mapping process and that's what I live by now.

Trucker Maps

Living in an RV Trailer | RV Living Tips: Trucker Maps 

Brian Duff: Yeah, that's a lot of fun. You're sitting there plugging and moving stuff around. But where can people go to find that then, because that sounds like a pretty good resource? Because I worked on diesels for years and I've never heard about it, so this is something new to me.

David Helms: Sure, I mean, they're basically it's the map books that are at all the different truck stops, and there's one that will tell you the different mountain grades. There are two separate ones, and it's mountain grades east and mountain grades west.

It's two separate books. I actually got mine off of Amazon when I bought them last. Can't even sit there and tell you the brand name to them right now. I wish I had them in my hand; they're out in the RV.

But it will tell you what the grades are, as far as what percentage of grades you're going to come up and go down. It'll let you know your stops for your fuels. It'll also tell you your bridge clearances, your overhead clearances, and stuff and they update that every year.

Brian Duff: Oh, wow.

David Helms: So, I mean, it runs like $14.00 a copy. So it's just, you get one for the eastern US and one for the western US, where you plan on traveling.

Brian Duff: No, that's pretty cool. I've never even heard about that. And it's-

David Helms: I'll send you the information and a couple of pictures of it when I can find it here.

Brian Duff: I'm looking at it online, and it's Mountain Directory for Truckers, RV and Motorhome Drivers.

David Helms: That's it.

Brian Duff: Yep. There it is. It's on Amazon for, paperback for $44.45.

David Helms: They've gone up.

Brian Duff: Yeah. For some reason, it's saying that if I buy it used, I get it for a whopping deal of $84.13, so it's ... Oh, it's from $44.45 so, yeah. So that's the low-end price on it.

David Helms: Sure. That's for either/or. That's either east or west.

Brian Duff: Yeah. That's west.

David Helms: And if you buy both of them, it comes up to it.

Brian Duff: But I imagine it's one of those investments, especially once you said they have it in a hard copy, which is always nice. Well, good. That's awesome, man. I'll put a link to that in the show notes for people. Thanks, Dave. That-

David Helms: I'm sure they'll like it.

Brian Duff: Yeah. I'm really excited now. I'm a map freak, so now I get to find something new to look at and spend time messing around with.

On X Maps

Living in an RV Trailer | RV Living Tips: On X Maps

David Helms: Oh, about four blocks from where my house is here in Missoula, we have On X Maps. I don't know if you're familiar with that or not.

Brian Duff: No, I don't know it.

David Helms: They're a map company that does all the sporting maps and other topographical stuff for electronic downloads. It went from being a small business here to a very large business.

Matter of fact, one of the former Amazon execs is now the CEO over there, and it's a big business. So it's called on, O-N, and then the letter, excuse me, the alphabet X.

Brian Duff: Oh, wow.

David Helms: It's phenomenal what they have.

Brian Duff: Yeah, are they good on their prices? What do you like the best about ...

David Helms: You know, I haven't priced stuff because I haven't got it because it doesn't do anything from me on the road and I don't hunt that much anymore.

Brian Duff: Right.

David Helms: My nephew uses it and to keep him out of the areas he's not supposed to go into, so the fines aren't so big.

Brian Duff: Okay.

David Helms: But it can tell you from point A to point B. If you hook it up to your GPS unit while you're out there hunting, it'll let you know exactly where you are.

Brian Duff: Yep. I'm looking at that too; Wow. That seems pretty cool.

David Helms: It's a neat system.

Brian Duff: It's funny. The river they showed was the Salmon River, so that's not too far from there. Oh, wow. That's really neat. Yeah, you're getting all kinds of excellent views on where you can be and ... Wow. Nice. Have to check that out.

David Helms: No, I'm hoping, and I've talked to a couple of people that were in their marketing group that's since moved on, I was trying to convince them they need to come out with an RV or truckers' version of that where they could do it for the highways. They just like, roll their eyes like, "I don't know if we want to do that.”

Well, I don't think they understand there are over 12 million people in RVs out on the road here in the US alone. There's got to be a lot more truckers than that.

Brian Duff: Yeah. I mean, who knows whether it would be worth it or not, I don't know. But I remember a company called Blockbuster that said, "Oh, that new technology. We don't want anything to do with that." So ...

David Helms: Yep. I remember that.

Brian Duff: Yeah.

David Helms: "People will always come here to rent. They're not going to do anything online."

Brian Duff: Well, you're going to download stuff? Come on, everybody. I know this technology causes a lot of pain for people, but it does make some things easier. Like, I don't have to go to Blockbuster and rent their movies anymore, not that they'd be around anymore.

David Helms: Oh, yeah. Exactly.

Safety Third

Living in an RV Trailer | RV Living Tips: Safety Third

David Helms: You know, it's interesting in looking at your web page and stuff and I'm going to jump in on something. You had a deal on there where you're talking about when you're at SHOT Show. I think it was back in the end of January of this year.

Brian Duff:  Yep. Yep.

David Helms: And it was called Safety Third. Now, coming from a company that-

Brian Duff:  Man, it was Mike Rowe.

David Helms: ... Oh, yeah. I had the opportunity of meeting and filming him with a group of people at Kansas City for the Skills USA thing many years ago.

Brian Duff:  Sure.

David Helms: Just a dynamic individual.

Brian Duff: Yeah, he is. He's good.

David Helms: After working for a company like DuPont, and they're the ones who pioneered the safety in the workplace-type thing, because they kept blowing company people up and family members up with the gunpowder they were making.

Brian Duff: Oh, right. Right.

David Helms: And everything was always Safety First and when you had that Safety Third, I stopped and listened to it. It pulled me back into something and I was like, "Oh, yeah," and all the buttons started to click and the bells started to ring.

We got involved with NASCAR, with Hendricks Motorsports and Jeff Gordon. There was a group of us that was part of that start-up. The Hendricks group started this thing. It's called the Ten Keys to Success. It's a great thing. I'll take a picture of the card and I'll send it to you so you can look at it.

But one of the things that you said in that Safety Third was you have to take responsibility for your safety first.

Brian Duff:  Yes.

David Helms: So and I take it to number four in the Ten Keys to Success under determination. Says, "Have the courage to stand alone when you're taking the big risks in life. And you have to take it this way: If it's to be, it's up to me."

Brian Duff: Yep.

David Helms: Man, you snapped me back when I listened to that. I guess it was two days ago I was listening to it again. I was like, "Oh, man, this really comes true with everything in prepping."

Brian Duff: Sure. Yeah. It's right there. No, it's something I've always kind of known in the back of my mind, but it took Mike Rowe. I heard him speaking about it and it's like, yeah, everybody's all hey, put everybody else's safety first. But, I mean, just, it's human nature that people are going to watch out for themselves first.

So as the organization or everybody else, is safety your ultimate priority for everybody? I don't see it that way. I think that people, like you said, have to be responsible for their own selves because you can't always rely on other people. I can't rely on the company to be responsible for my safety.

I mean, where'd we get unions from? Worker conditions and all of this stuff that hey, not getting into a whole whether unions are good or bad thing, so everybody calm down. Don't start getting fired-

David Helms: That's fine. That's exactly ...

At the same time, they came around originally for a reason and whatever they're doing now, that's their thing. But I don't know. I think we have sometime, it's kind of that caretaker, nanny kind of thing in the culture a little bit. On I need to be response this and that.

Brian Duff:  No, I need to be responsible for myself. If everybody's responsible for themselves and companies are responsible stewards, then everything should work out fairly well. If you are looking at safety third, I can be responsible for myself, do what I'm working on, and also look out for other people as able, and together, it should all work.

David Helms: Exactly. If you think about when you travel and you're on that aircraft and you talked about that. You think about taking your hands in the pilot's life and the co-pilot's life and you say to yourself, "Well, that's true. You do."

David Helms: But when you listen to the safety speech that they have with it and they talk about put your seatbelt on, tighten it up a little across your lap, in the event of loss of oxygen. It says, "Put yours on first and then help others."

Brian Duff: Yep. Yeah, that's-

David Helms: Now, let's look out for number one first. So ...

Brian Duff: Yeah, and people that might be listening to us thinking, "Oh, well, yeah, that's just being self-centered." No, it's not that way. When you drive down the highway, and we're talking about RV prepping, when you drive down the highway, am I focused on how to make other people safe? Like, "Oh, well, hey, buddy. You shouldn't be doing that there." No.

Brian Duff:  I can tell everybody that drives by me that's texting that they shouldn't be texting while they're driving. Unless I'm actually taking care of myself, I'm making the road a more dangerous place because I'm not paying attention to what I'm doing. I'm not taking my safety first.

So if I take my safety first, then I shouldn't run into other people and do things like that, as opposed if I'm too busy worrying about what everything else is going on around me.

David Helms: Sure. You know, defensive driving 101 goes back to that statement: If it's to be, it's up to me, so let's drive defensively and watch out for the other guy.

Resources Mentioned in this Episode

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David Helms (RV Prepper)

Content Creator for RV Prepper Podcast and RV Prepper YouTube channels.

35+ years in the Transportation Coatings Industry with an emphasis on Aviation, Marine and Heavy Duty Truck

ASTN/NCATT Certified Instructor specializing in Aerospace Coatings Application

45+ years as a visual creator in still photography and film production. Client list includes (but not limited to) 3M, DuPont Performance Coatings, PPG, Valspar/Sherwin-Williams, SATA/DanAm

Avid practitioner of the prepping lifestyle specifically around the RV Industry.

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