Tag: Carolyn Higgins

Wildfire Safety

It’s summer! The days are longer, the sun is brighter, and the temperatures are higher. Do you know what this means for most of the western United States? If you guessed Wildfire Season you guessed right. It’s a sad reality for many western states. From May to October wildfires present tremendous risk to our National Forests and a huge potential to destroy them. Wildfires can begin in a heartbeat and spread within minutes.  Do you know Wildfire Safety while camping or boondocking?

It Could Happen to YOU!

Recently, I stayed at Lake Cochiti campgrounds. Just as I settled in, I received notice to evacuate due to wildfires spreading only five miles away. I was close to the Cerro Pelado Wildfire near Santa Fe, New Mexico. I’d been watching the smoke come over the ridge for a few days. But, I was told it wouldn’t cross over into the campground. Well, that assumption and information were DEAD wrong.

When I had to rush to pack up and leave, it got me thinking. I spend a lot of time in forests. I need to arm myself with more information about what to do in case of wildfires.

A few months ago, I released a video about preparing for weather emergencies, but I didn’t talk about wildfires. And the honest answer is I didn’t know how to talk about it. I’d never experienced it as a danger while boondocking. Well, now I can talk about wildfire preparedness. I’ve done the research to find tools, apps, and resources to help me prepare. Having armed myself with knowledge, I feel safer while camping on public lands and I don’t fear getting caught in a wildfire. I’ve done the work, so you don’t have to start from scratch. 

Ready? Let’s dive into how to stay safe if a wildfire breaks out while you are camping or boondocking.

No time to read and want to listen to the original video about my wildfire experience from my YouTube Channel? Click below.

Tips & What You NEED to Know

Boondocking on public lands adds an extra element of danger for recreational vehicle dwellers. I’m sharing what I learned about boondocking safely in national forests (since that’s where most of the wildfires are), tools for staying informed on fires in your area, and how to be prepared if you need to evacuate.  

Tips When Boondocking Near Wildfires

#1 DO NOT GO OFF-GRID!
If you are within 100-miles of a wildfire, stay within range for cell signal. You need to have your location, GPS, and emergency alerts on at all times. High winds accompany wildfires and can change at any time, changing the direction without warning.

#2 KNOW Where You Are. You need to know the closest towns around you.  Remember, boondocking in a forest alone means no one will be there to tell you to evacuate or what town to head to or away from. After you are settled, take a look at what type of emergency alert system the towns use. If a town near you gets evacuated, YOU NEED TO GO! Don’t stay, pack up and get moving to safety. 

Pro Tip:

Three places to check for alerts: Facebook for local Fire or Police, the National Forest Service for the forest you’re in (follow them on Twitter for FAST, real-time updates), and the City Government Offices near you. Some cities will use an emergency alert system to notify the town of evacuation in the event of a wildfire. Call the City to find out if you can sign up for text/phone alerts, but stay proactive and alert in case phone alerts fail.  

#3 Don’t Camp Alone. While solitude is great, (and you all know how much I like camping alone!) in this situation, if you know you are near wildfires, there is safety in numbers. You never know who might have a resource, like a HAM Radio, to help receive information about the fire and evacuation notices.  

#4 Make a Plan. Prepare ahead of time! Have an evacuation plan, know how you came in. Find an alternate route out, if possible. If you think you might need to make a quick getaway, bring all your things inside and stowed for travel, bring in your awning and anything else that will take you more than 5 or 10 minutes to pack up. Look at the towns around you and find their emergency evacuation routes. Know your way out!

Helpful Resources and Apps for Wildfire Alerts

Wildfire Safety Resources

FEMAFema.gov and available in your app store. You can sign-up for email and text alerts. You can enter up to 5 locations and you can change them as you move around. Make sure you locate towns north, south, east, and west of where you are camping.

National Weather Service: Website weather.gov and available in your app store.

Clime App: Fire Weather Alerts

Fire, Weather & Avalanche CenterFireWeatherAvalanche.org and search FWAC in your app store: This website/app will show you how big the fire is, containment, weather conditions, smoke drift, and more.

Ready.gov/wildfires: National service to help people prepare for disasters and emergencies.

Smokeybear.com: Learn more about Wild Fires and Wild Fire behavior. The more knowledge you have, the more confident you will be when needing to respond in this type of situation.

TIP: You can GOOGLE search the fire name to find more specific and updated information as well! Stay proactive and know the name of the fire(s) in your area. Typically, this search brings up a link to local information reported about the fire and possible Facebook pages to follow for local police and fire.

Wildfire Safety prepared

Stay Alert, Stay Safe During Wildfire Season

Having accurate, current information about your surroundings can be critical for anyone living a nomad life or even if you are just a recreational camper. Knowing how to stay safe near wildfires while camping or boondocking and having a safety plan can be the difference between life and death for you. Literally. 

Wildfires are fierce and unpredictable and often uncontainable. Know your surroundings, and have a plan. Be prepared, be happy, be free, and be safe this summer.

Other Resources from Carolyn’s RV Life:

RV Life Extreme Weather Survival Guide Vid

Extreme Weather Safety Blog

Tips for Keeping Your Dog Cool in Your RV

How to Stay Cool in Your RV During the Heat of Summer

Escaping the Heat in Florida’s Blue Springs Park (click below)

Have a question for me or want to chat about RV Life? Check out my Roadside Chat with Carolyn Video Call HERE: Live Calls with Carolyn and Personal Video Messages – Carolyn’s RV Life (carolynsrvlife.com)

Subscribe to my YouTube Channel by clicking the icon above for more RV Life How-To and Not Tos.

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DISCLAIMER: Carolyn’s RV Life and Carolyn Higgins share her experiences, thoughts, opinions and ideas in this blog post and on this website for entertainment purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, instruction or guidance. Viewers/Readers should consult with professionals before pursing any actions or behaviors exhibited in this video. Carolyn’s RV Life or Carolyn Higgins cannot be held liable in the event of any accident or injury that may occur as a result of application of procedures and information provided in this video.

How to Buy the Best Used RV

How to Buy the BEST Used RV

In this blog, I want to share the process I used to purchase a new-to-me, used RV, replacing the infamous “Matilda”. The decision to purchase a new-to-me RV was definitely not a rash one. It took me a couple of years to make the choice to part with my first RV, Matilda, which was a giant lemon! I learned a lot through this process and want to share my experience, along with a few tips and tricks on how to buy the best used RV, while still traveling and living as a full-time nomad.

Being A Nomad Has Its Advantages When Wanting to Buy the Best Used RV You Can Afford

The beauty of being a nomad while looking for a used RV is that I looked for and researched used RVs all across the country and in different seasons. I actually started seriously looking in Tallahassee, Florida when my second, third, or fourth round (I lost count!) of the Matilda issues started. With all the RV troubles, I was at my wit’s end. I just couldn’t’ do it anymore.

( If you missed my adventures with repairing Matilda, check out my video below).

I started looking in May and I learned:

  1. You do not want to buy an RV in the summer. 
  2. You do not want to buy an RV in states where RVing is popular. For me at the time this was Florida.

After doing some research, and looking all across the country, I knew prices were higher in Florida than in other states. I also realized that buying in the summer meant I was buying at peak season when everyone was looking to buy, which drives prices up on new and used RVs. It’s a law of economics: high demand and low inventory = higher prices.

There Are More Options to Choose From When You are Mobile!

As a full-time solo female RVer, I am mobile, and this means I can look at any state to purchase a new-to-me RV. I was in the Oklahoma/Texas region in the fall when I decided to look Northwest, Midwest, and Southwest. I had so many options being in this central part of the country. Using RVTrader.com and Craigslist, I was able to look for the best used RVs to buy. Through all this research, I found my 2005 Itasca Spirit all the way over in Albuquerque. I thought, “Well, I’m headed west, so Albuquerque is my next stop!”

When I arrived in Albuquerque, I took my time inspecting the RV and negotiating the price down. If you don’t know this, never pay the sticker price! You can and should negotiate the price down. I was only willing to pay cash for my new-to-me RV. The beauty of paying with cash is you already know exactly how much you can afford to spend, and there is no need for financing or credit approval. 

Be sure to have enough money set aside for registration, licensing, taxes, and your emergency fund. NEVER ASSUME YOU WON’T HAVE BREAKDOWNS! Breakdowns happen and routine maintenance is a must, so don’t forget to always budget and save for this!

Buying used rv

Negotiating Does Not = Preparing for Battle When Buying the Best Used RV

The negotiation process intimidates most people. The first thing to know and remember: it’s not a fight. Stay calm and confident. Negotiating is about creating a win-win for you and the seller. You have the power to walk away, so remember that! There will always be another RV. And maybe this one just isn’t the right one for you after all! 

How do you know what a fair price is when buying a used RV?

First, do your research! I’d been looking at RVs all across the country for months, so I’d seen a range of comparable RV costs nationwide. Then I looked at comparable RVs in Albuquerque to hone in on the local used RV market

I realized I was too excited about the Itasca and wanted backup. I visited a couple of other dealerships in the area and found a 1995 Class A. The Class A motorhome was in really good condition and it was listed for a lower amount than the Class C. I now had options, and more importantly, leverage! I purposefully told the salesman during negotiations about the Class A down the road that it was a lower-priced option I was seriously considering.

Be Patient and do your Due Diligence! 

It helps to inspect the RV (taking it to a professional for inspection is best), so you know its condition. Use any flaws or downsides to your advantage. “Well it does have that dent in the bumper”; “I really wanted something smaller, so I’m not really sure…” This will show that you’re not committed to that particular Residential Vehicle. The seller might be more willing to come down on price if they think you’ll walk away.

We spent an entire afternoon going back and forth on price. I was very firm with the salesperson and I kept saying, “I have cash, and this is it, this is all I can give you.” Keeping myself from being emotionally invested or reactionary helped me stay calm. I kept reminding myself that in the end, if the price wasn’t right for me, I could just walk away. And I almost did several times! 

Negotiating to buy a used RV
Here are some phrases I used that might help you when you start feeling pressured:                        
  • No, I can’t do that.
  • I’m going to need to think about it more.”
  • You know, I think I’m going to sleep on it.” 
  • I think I’ll look around a little more. I’ll let you know..

The last thing the dealership salesperson wants is for you to leave.  They know once you walk out the door, the chances of them making a sale plummet. So, if you stay calm, they will keep negotiating with you, “working the numbers,” and “trying to get you the best deal.”

In the end, both you and the seller should feel good about the price you’ve agreed on.  

To Trade or Not to Trade-In?

The other part of my process of negotiating was trading in Matilda.

Keep in mind, dealerships will always give you the least amount possible for your trade-in. I mean their first offer will be almost insultingly low. I basically got nothing for Matilda. Sure, I could have gotten more from selling my RV myself to a private buyer, but I wasn’t motivated by the money. I just wanted Matilda out of my life once and for all! I didn’t want the hassle of trying to sell Matilda. It was a peace of mind decision to just trade her in – even if at a loss

Being a solo nomad, there was also logistics of how I would drive two RVs and where I would park them both until I could sell Matilda. I wanted to get on the road, so storing Matilda until I could sell her wasn’t an option for me. It just wasn’t worth the hassle for me at the time. Free time and sanity are worth more to me than a few hundred dollars.

The bottom line is if you have an RV to trade or sell, be realistic about its condition and how much time and energy you want to invest in squeezing more money out of it.

Here’s my vlog on my experience and a tour of my new-to-me RV.

Ask These Questions Before You Buy the Best Used RV

  1.  What kind of repairs or maintenance has been done to the RV? (You can and should ask for records and paperwork, and probe about things like tires, bearings, roof repair, winterizing, and water damage.)
  2. Where has the RV been stored? Weather naturally damages RVs over time. Has it been in covered storage, or exposed to severe weather like the direct sun or heavy snow? Climb up and Inspect the Roof! And look for signs of leaks inside (stained ceiling and walls, bubbles, or warping in the sides of the RV inside or out) 
  3. How often has the RV been used? (Owners who use their RVs regularly tend to maintain their RVs and spot problems for repairs before they become bigger issues. Rarely used RVs with low miles are not always a better option.)
  4. How many previous owners? (This could be a red flag for having continuous repair issues.)

You can also bookmark this page on my website as a helpful resource for buying an RV to live in: https://www.carolynsrvlife.com/buying-rv-to-live-in/

I hope this helps you with researching your next used RV purchase. Good luck and safe travels! And as always, Be Happy, Be Free, and Be KIND!

Haven’t started your RV life yet? Here are a few links to help get you started!

Fun Facts of RV Life

Full-Time RV Living Resources

RV Living Challenges

Full-Time RV Living Q & A

Subscribe to my YouTube Channel by clicking the icon above for more RV Life How-To and Not Tos.

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DISCLAIMER: Carolyn’s RV Life and Carolyn Higgins share her experiences, thoughts, opinions and ideas in this blog post and on this website for entertainment purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, instruction or guidance. Viewers/Readers should consult with professionals before pursing any actions or behaviors exhibited in this video. Carolyn’s RV Life or Carolyn Higgins cannot be held liable in the event of any accident or injury that may occur as a result of application of procedures and information provided in this video.

Finding Free Campsites Tips

Viewers on my YouTube channel ask me all the time, how I find the Most AMAZING FREE campsites for boondocking in my Class C RV. Below, I’m going to share with you my best tips and secrets for how I find free campsites for boondocking locations using my favorite apps.  So let’s talk about Boondocking.

What is Boondocking?

Boondocking simply means “dry-camping” outside of a formal campground. It’s formally called “Dispersed Camping”.  There are no services! No toilets, garbage service, water, or electrical hookups. Just you and nature! While it feels wild and free there are some rules and regulations, so be sure to check with the Public Land Agency you’re visiting before camping anywhere.

Free Campsites for boondocking

The Best Websites for Free Boondocking Campsites

So, let’s jump right into the tips and what I use for finding free campsites.  I have two favorite websites:

  1. http://Freecampsites.net 
  2. http://Campendium.com

These two websites are invaluable to my RV Life! You plug in the city or town you’re in or simply use your current location’s GPS coordinates and it will show you places that other boondockers have reported.  Here’s why I love these resources:

  1. Each provides great detailed information about the sites they list.
  2. They tell you conditions and what size rig it would accommodate.
  3. They often tell you if there’s a cell signal and which carriers pick up service.
  4. Most sites are reviewed by others, which is invaluable!

In most cases, I already know if I can get there with my 25ft Class C RV before I arrive.   

Next, let’s talk about other tools I use for finding my own special boondocking spots!

Apps for Free Campsites

Are there Apps for finding my own Boondocking off The Beaten Path??

“Is there an app for that?” is probably the first thing you think or say when someone says you should try something new. The answer is YES, of course, there are Apps for going off the beaten path ad exploring public lands on your own! Here are a few of my favorite apps that are available for Androids, iPhones/iPads, and Google devices.

Free Apps and Tools for Going Off the Beaten Path

  1. Google Earth & Google Maps (Free Apple App Store & Android Google Play Store): Google Maps with Satellite view is my FAVORITE App! If you want to avoid crowded sites and like exploring remote places, you’ll love using Google Satellite View for boondocking. I can use Google Maps to virtually explore National Forests, Deserts (BLM), and other Public Lands for potential camping spots away from the crowds. Then, I can use Google’s Satellite layer to explore an area further by zooming in on the map. It’s the perfect tool because it allows me to can get right down to the road and see any openings for camping. So for me in Class C RV, being able to see the road is really important and it gives me a good idea of whether or not I would be able to drive the roads.
  2. FreeRoam (Free Apple App Store & Android Google Play Store): This app will help you find campgrounds, boondocking, and RV Parks. There is a filter setting for things like the weather, safety, crowdedness, cell signal, and more. You can also find nearby dump sites, fresh water, groceries, propane, and more. You can even find routes around low clearances! There is a lot of detail with this app than can help you plan routes and make the most of your next campout.

Purchased Apps and Membership Websites for Finding Free Campsites

Now a few tips on apps that you will need to purchase for finding free campsites.

  1. US Public Lands App ($2.99 Apple App Store & Android Google Play Store): This app will show you an overlay map of public lands around you. It will show you the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), US Forest Service, National Park Service, Army Corp of Engineers, and more. Moreover, you never have to guess where one boundary begins and one ends.
  2. Boondocker’s Welcome & Harvest Hosts App (The App is Free Apple App Store and Android Google Play Store): Boondockers Welcome (boondockerswelcome.com) and their app, Harvest Hosts, are great for escaping crowded campgrounds and instead of finding a private spot to camp that is provided by a host. The annual membership fee is $50 and the app (Harvest Hosts) is free to download. What you get in return is access to over 2900 Host locations across the country on private property to boondock for free. You must have a self-contained RV that can dry camp for as long as your stay. This is not for tent camping or vans. Travel Trailers, motorhomes, and truck campers are allowed.
Free Campsite Tips

Ready, Set, Let’s Camp!

I hope these resources help you find some amazing boondocking spots this spring and summer.  If you’ve never tried boondocking, I hope you will give these resources a try and go explore our beautiful country! Get out there and travel the unknown roads and live adventurously! I’ve listed more apps and vids, below. As always…be HAPPY, be FREE, be KIND.

Helpful Vids & Links:

How to Drive an RV on Mountain Roads Without Killing Your Brakes

Remote Boondocking in a 29′ Class C RV

Easily Share Your Location with Family and Friends with Google Maps

BEST Tires for Boondocking RV Life

My Favorite Free RV Camping Spots

Subscribe to my YouTube Channel by clicking the icon above for more RV Life How-To and Not Tos.

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DISCLAIMER: Carolyn’s RV Life and Carolyn Higgins share her experiences, thoughts, opinions and ideas in this blog post and on this website for entertainment purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, instruction or guidance. Viewers/Readers should consult with professionals before pursing any actions or behaviors exhibited in this video. Carolyn’s RV Life or Carolyn Higgins cannot be held liable in the event of any accident or injury that may occur as a result of application of procedures and information provided in this video.

RV Living Safety Tips

RV living can feel exhilarating, challenging, and scary simultaneously. After setting out in my RV in 2016, I’ve learned a lot about RV Living safety and dealing with fear. Most of my encounters with strangers have been overwhelmingly positive, friendly, and harmless. This doesn’t mean that I’ve never been afraid or questioned whether I’m in a dangerous situation.

From Fear to Freedom

I am a huge proponent of showing, through my travels and experiences, that the world is NOT a scary place. The media bombards us daily with images and commentary sensationalizing worst-case-scenarios of the human experience. Daily news stories leave many people convinced the world is scary and danger lurks in every corner. When we live in fear, we restrict ourselves. We can’t fulfill our dreams when we’re afraid to live. How did I overcome my fears? By getting out there and living my life, researching, studying, and taking precautions.

Experience and preparedness give us a greater sense of empowerment, especially as women traveling alone. Fear is a natural response to certain situations. It brings out the fight or flight instinct in everyone. Pay attention to how a situation is making you feel. If you are uncomfortable, do not talk yourself out of how you feel! So many times we dismiss our gut instincts instead of taking a minute to validate what we are feeling. If something doesn’t feel right, there’s probably a good reason. Don’t let your fear paralyze you. Instead, use it to get yourself to safety. Remember, YOU are your #1 priority!

RV Living Safety Tips

Lessons Fear Teaches Us

Fear is a primal instinct. Our bodies and minds are always on the lookout for threats to our safety and well-being. However, allowing fear to overtake our thoughts can distort reality and keep us from rational thinking. Fear can protect us or cripple our ability to live freely and make decisions. How we handle fear reveals a lot about us. Is your fear protecting you, or is it limiting you?

If You Haven’t Had a Crazy Experience, You Will!

RV and nomad life are not for the faint of heart. You will encounter unique people and challenging situations. You may even have to face and continue to deal with the same fears daily. I’ve had some interesting encounters over the years. Knocks on my door in the night, interrupted showers, and headlights glaring into my RV from big noisy pick-up trucks, to name a few. I’ve learned a few things about where to camp and where not to camp. I’ve learned where you might run into some sketchy situations or where it might take a scary turn. Whether or not I’m in danger or feel the area might put me at risk, I’ve learned to quickly assess a situation and rely on my gut instinct to keep me safe.

Below are the six best tips for RV living and camping safety.

Safety for RV Life

RV Living Safety Tips for When You Arrive at Camp

Tip # 1 The biggest thing to remember for RV living safety is to be ALERT at all times and TRUST YOUR GUT INSTINCT.  Just because you pull into a campsite, it does not mean you are now in a protective bubble. I’ve learned 99.9% of people are friendly and helpful. However, I have camped in a few locations that made me feel more on guard than others. You are not being fearful when you have your guard up. You are being alert and prepared! If someone or something doesn’t feel right, it is OK to say, I don’t want to be here and leave.

Some warning signs that a campsite might not be safe – or peaceful:

  1. Lots of garbage, especially beer cans and such. If it looks like a party spot for locals, I skip it.
  2. Drug paraphernalia. Yes, I’ve seen needles– even in the forest. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to camp in someone’s shooting up spot.
  3. Unfriendly locals. If the locals drive by and sneer at you, or worse, get out and harass you, GO!
  4. Homeless encampments. I prefer to steer clear of areas where people have taken up permanent residence. The sad fact is, there’s more crime in places like that. And even if you’re not in danger, these areas also attract people who could harass you for money and other favors.

If you are a solo female traveler, you will also want to watch the video below for more tips.

Tip #2 Have an escape route.  It’s important to know how you will exit your campsite. You want to be able to leave your parking area quickly without turning around. You should always park with your nose facing the way out. If someone is trying to break into your RV, leave whatever is outside and drive away.

Tip #3 Always leave your keys in a strategic place at night.  Select a place close to you and easy to access at night in the dark. This goes along with tip #2. If you have to flee in the middle of the night, you want to be able to grab your keys and jump in the driver’s seat quickly. The last thing you want is to be fumbling around and having to turn on every light to find your keys.

RV Living Safety Tips for When Encountering Alarming Situations

#4 Don’t Panic!  Take a minute to breathe, collect your thoughts, and remember you are the #1 priority to take care of! Just because someone is knocking or calling to you from outside, does not mean you have to immediately respond. Take your time to put your thoughts and a strategic response together. This leads to my next tip in RV living safety.

#5 Don’s admit you are alone!  If you are camping or traveling alone, do not admit you are alone. Answer in the plural. (“Yes, WE’RE camping here…” ). Carry an extra camp chair and put them both out. Put a pair of Size 14 men’s shoes outside or in the dash. To see how I handled a situation like this check out this latest video on a midnight visit by some persistent locals.

#6 Don’t open your door for anyone.  While most people are not wanting to harm you, you never know when a situation may become dangerous. You don’t have to open your RV door to communicate. You can speak through the door or ask the person to go to your driver’s side window, but do not roll down the window. Asking them to go to the driver’s window, means you can also drive away quickly if needed, as you will be sitting in the driver’s seat ready to go.

Stay Safe, Stay Prepared, Stay Fearless, and Travel On

So there you go, six simple RV living safety tips. These are my very basic tips to help keep you safe while traveling and living your best RV life. Check out my list of videos below from my YouTube channel for other helpful tips and shared experiences as I travel and live in my RV. Be sure to like and subscribe to my YouTube channel for videos on How To while living in an RV, Tips, Tricks, and more! If you are looking for more RV Life resources, visit my resource page here.

And as always…

BE HAPPY, BE FREE, BE KIND. ♥ Subscribe to my YouTube Channel for more RV Life How-To and Not To.

Video Links:
Scary Visitors in the Night
Trusting Your Gut Instinct
13 Safety Tips

Subscribe to my YouTube Channel by clicking the icon above for more RV Life How-To and Not Tos.

DISCLAIMER: Carolyn’s RV Life and Carolyn Higgins share her experiences, thoughts, opinions and ideas in this blog post and on this website for entertainment purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, instruction or guidance. Viewers/Readers should consult with professionals before pursing any actions or behaviors exhibited in this video. Carolyn’s RV Life or Carolyn Higgins cannot be held liable in the event of any accident or injury that may occur as a result of application of procedures and information provided in this video.