The Future of RVing

Recently, I received an e-mail from a reader that brought up a topic I haven’t addressed on IO before: the future of RVing. And I thought my opinion on the subject was something worth sharing, so here it is.

More and more people are hitting the road – full-timers, part-timers, and vacationers. Making reservations in advance use to be the exception for just the hottest destinations, but is now becoming the norm during the busy season. It gets more challenging to find a spot on short notice near big cities, and RV park use is going up faster than new parks are being built.

Also, many quaint towns that use to be good places to visit and stay are becoming more popular as the internet makes sharing and finding these locations easier. The nature of these places, like Sedona in AZ and Jackson Hole in WY, changes and becomes more touristy, losing some of the initial charm.

Free dispersed camping locations that use to be empty see more people, prompting stronger rule enforcement by their governing agencies. Places that get abused are shut down, the most popular are turned into pay-to-stay. And it gets harder to find privacy at the better-known locations.

All of this might paint a bleak picture of the future of RVing. It’s human nature to worry about the unknown, and no one really knows what RVing will look like ten, twenty, thirty years from now.

But here’s my take. As popularity rises, business-minded individuals will spot an opportunity and more campgrounds and RV parks will spring up to meet the growing need. “Popular” destinations is a fluid concept and it changes. Iconic places like the Keys and Yellowstone will probably always see high visitation, but other locations rise and fall in popularity based on press and opinion.

Towns grow up and change, but I bet I’ve passed through towns in my travels that have the same kind of charm that locations like Sedona use to have decades ago. But you don’t hear about these places on the internet, because they haven’t been ‘discovered’ yet.

Boondock spots near popular attractions fill up and are hard to get into. But there is so much public land opened to dispersed camping out west that we’ll never run out of free places to camp. And every boondock location has beauty when you take the time to look for it.

And RVing is trending right now, but trends come and go. It’s easy for us to imagine, loving this life like we do, that one day everyone will want to live like this. But really, most people don’t. Most people love their houses and their more stable and predictable lives, and I can’t see that changing in our lifetime.

Yes, rising populations, a changing economic climate, and dozens of other factors will contribute to the evolution of RVing, and change is scary. But not necessarily bad. A decade ago it may have been easier to find camping space, but back then we didn’t have the wide cell phone coverage and data speeds that make staying connected with each other, working online, and a host of other aspects of RV life easier – it’s not all gloom and doom.

I personally am looking forward to seeing what RVing becomes in the years ahead.

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Becky

Forget about what the world tells you your life should be like. At IO I teach people how to ditch the status quo and go full-time RVing before retirement. Included at no additional charge: seizing your dreams, living boldly, and making a difference.

38 Comments

  1. Becky on February 10, 2018 at 2:07 pm

    Thanks for the comments everyone!



  2. Teri on February 9, 2018 at 1:25 pm

    The shortage of RV sites seems to be impacting workamping as well. This is the second job that told me they are out of RV sites already for workamping for summer and I am on their list for summer 2019.



  3. Terri on February 9, 2018 at 9:33 am

    Love this post, Becky, and I think you are right – I think there are still many good things to come with RVing, and just as jams and flourescent clothes, hideous hairstyles and pet rocks were all the rage at one point, the trendiness of RVing will go away. Those that truly love it will continue to do it. Simple living and minimalism will stay for those who truly love it and benefit from it.

    And yes, the changing economic climate may force some into living an RV lifestyle who might not have done so otherwise. But I think that in the long run, there are many good things to be gained from it.
    Terri recently posted..All I want (Read: Inner Conflict)My Profile



  4. John on February 8, 2018 at 6:38 pm

    Well said. I agree with those that worry some good spots today will be “ruined” by popularity. But as you say, there are many possibilities for new places to take their space. This happens with tourist destinations worldwide, great places become much less great, but there are other places to go.

    There is a bit of an issue with things getting so crowded even the new spaces get overrun, but unless the RV vanlife boom continues for much longer than such lifestyle fads tend to it probably won’t get too bad everywhere. Part of this decent future does depend on private parties seizing the opportunity. My guess is it will also depend on public lands putting in more roads (even dirt roads) to give more access to more RVs and vans easily on public lands. I am a bit more worried that this won’t happen 🙁
    John recently posted..ACA Healthcare Subsidy – Why Earning $100 More Could Cost You $5,000 or MoreMy Profile



  5. Haole Hiker on February 8, 2018 at 6:09 pm

    The Fed owns around 610,000,000 (million) Acres, 240,000,000 of it is owned by the BLM. 47% of the land in the West is owned by the Fed. Be really hard to sell all that off. More 14 day enforcement? Most likely. Sky is not falling.



  6. Becky on February 7, 2018 at 5:15 pm

    Thanks again everyone for your musings, thoughts, research, and opinions, I’ve read every comment. And most importantly I appreciate you remaining level headed and not turning this into a mindless shouting match, you’re all the best readers a blog could have! <3



  7. Mary on February 6, 2018 at 5:32 pm

    I so appreciate your level-headed response to a currently hot-button topic. I also appreciate you bringing up the reality of “the selfish factor,” i.e., people who were lucky to enjoy this lifestyle before it got crowded wanting to keep others out of it. An unpleasant fact, but a fact nonetheless. Thank you.



  8. Gordon on February 6, 2018 at 4:55 pm

    I am a crusty old time, Eastern camper thinking about rving. Recently, I was in upstate NY at a popular waterfall in a state park. I was unhappy to see, despite the sign, that the porta potti was filled with diapers. I supposed that this is a result of young city folks visiting that are unused to being in the outdoors.

    I mention this because, it only takes a few people to spoil what God has given us. We were given the great outdoors, but we were also given the responsibility of properly taking care of this great gift. The campers motto: always leave a place better than how you found it. Happy trails.



  9. Terry on February 6, 2018 at 12:44 pm

    I’m still RVing, have made my mandatory reservations for this summer six months in advance (National Forest campgrounds in Colorado), however I also plan to resume backpacking this year so I can go where I want, when I want, without a reservation and have all the privacy I desire.



  10. John Vowell on February 6, 2018 at 11:34 am

    It just depends on your RV lifestyle of choice. We know people that move from park to park paying large fees each year. That lifestyle may get much more difficult as the years go on. We choose to boondock 365 days a year. We’ve been at it six years and haven’t been plugged in to the grid in two years. The last time we we paid to stay at a campground was four years ago on the east coast. There are still loads of places to camp for free out West. One thing we do is skip all the over priced, dog hating national/state parks. We just camp in the adjoining public lands for free where we can take our dogs on long off leash walks, stay for longer if we want, and where the scenery is just as good. Rather than go to the boondocking spots that are “advertised” in all the blogs, we use those blogs to rule out where we’ll camp and then we go find places that haven’t been written about. That type of RV lifestyle will probably be viable long after we’re done doing this.
    John Vowell recently posted..Prelude to… a Return of “TailS from the Back Seat”My Profile



  11. Larry on February 6, 2018 at 9:06 am

    Off topic I know, but have you ever been to Lochloosa Florida? There is a beautiful lake plus lots of WMA land.



  12. Kent on February 6, 2018 at 7:29 am

    Well said.



  13. Mary ~ Reflections Around the Campfire on February 5, 2018 at 7:42 am

    I’m wondering if the Baby Boomers are accounting for much of the increase in RV travel. Many of us are retired now and hitting the open road, either full time or part time. My husband and I usually plan trips quite a bit in advance and mostly travel with reservations. We’ve had no trouble ourselves in securing our campsites but, this past summer, we saw quite a few “Campground Full” signs posted outside State and National Park campgrounds along the west coast. As the most popular spots continue to fill up, I believe travelers will look more toward the city, county and regional campgrounds that may not be so well known. Here in New York, we’ve been greatly encouraged by Governor Cuomo’s support of the New York State Park System. The state has committed to funding improvements in our State Parks and their campgrounds in an effort to update the Parks and promote healthy outdoor recreation. As a family of outdoor enthusiasts, we’re all happy to be reaping the benefit of his foresight. I wouldn’t be surprised to see other states, towns, counties doing the same thing – I’ll bet there’s not one around that doesn’t appreciate the dollars that flow into their communities via tourism. Here’s a fun fact: When our kids were young, we bought a sports counter to help us keep track of how many RVs we saw on our road trips on any given day. My husband and I still use it even though the “kids” are now young adults. On August 13th of last year, we hit an all time record – we counted 927 campers on the interstates of Washington state that day. No wonder campsites are hard to come by! 🙂



  14. AZ_Kit on February 4, 2018 at 5:38 pm

    I also worry about BLM land not being there forever, with the government we currently have which would be happy to see it all sold off. I think lots of people are using RVs as affordable housing, since rents continue to rise at an insane pace compared to wages. I’ve gotten to recognize some of the RV dwellers around my area… there’s one in particular that rotates every night in a different parking lot, some nights at my gym, some at the Safeway (the Gabby Giffords Safeway btw), some at the LA Fitness, etc. I live part-time in my car, and part-time in a house near Snyder Hill BLM, which overlooks a tract of gorgeous county land filled with cacti, and a perfect view of Kitt Peak and Baboquivari Peak. I hope that land never gets sold.



  15. Linda Sand on February 4, 2018 at 2:11 pm

    Good analysis, Becky.



  16. Jodee Gravel on February 4, 2018 at 12:12 pm

    I agree that, like so much in life, the popularity is cyclical and we’ll see changes the longer we’re living the life. It is frustrating to have to plan farther in advance than we’d like to just to get a site in the more popular places, but it has also meant discovering new and exciting places off the “beaten path”.
    Jodee Gravel recently posted..Thank Heaven for Little BoysMy Profile



  17. Leo on February 4, 2018 at 12:11 pm

    Great insightful look at the industry. Thanks for sharing your well thought take on different subjects.

    I think there are many variables that can make the number of RVs on the road swing slowly or quickly, the economy, climate, geopolitics, fuel prices, media and probably a few other unforeseen forces.

    Your picture of the powerlines coming from the rising or setting sun is amazing! Immediately the thought that came to me was our energy coming from a nuclear power plant 93,000,000 miles away and a woman walking across a barren landscape to the future. You could totally sell that photo to the solar industry! A poster child of sorts!



  18. Scott on February 4, 2018 at 11:25 am

    Great post. The RV industry is definitely booming now, but economic downturns are inevitable.
    Scott recently posted..Lake MeadMy Profile



  19. LIsa on February 4, 2018 at 11:12 am

    This is a topic I have an interest in; indeed it was the question I asked Bob Wells at the RTR during one of his Q&A’s. Anecdotal evidence suggests there are more RVs on public lands and in RV parks and there is no question that some public lands (e.g., near Sedona) are being closed to dispersed camping. The closing of dispersed camping lands near popular destinations may also be driven by homeless encampments springing up on these popular public lands (this according to Bob Wells) and encroaching subdivisions populated by NIMBY residents. I can’t speak to the crowded RV parks but what i did find is that the camping and RV park industry has seen a steady growth of just under 2% from 2012 to 2017. Mind you the economy has been chugging along during those years; another recession (which is due) will, no doubt, put a dent in the numbers. (Just look at the 2007-2009 stats to see what happens to the industry.) The sale of new RVs 1978-2016 has increased by only 10% or so over the course of those years. (1978=: 390K units; 2016= 431K units) Of course, that is only new RVs but it suggests not all that more RVs have hit the road in the past 38 years (although 2016 saw one of the largest increases in sales) and remember that of those 40,000 new RVs that have hit the road since 1978, quite a few of those have probably already been “retired.” I’m sure many of you would prefer to rely on your own observations, but I post this for those like me, who like to dig deeper;I;m a researcher by trade so I can’t help it. : ). I am not sure I can post links on this comment so I leave it to those interested to find the statistics; they are from the Recreational Vehicle Industry Assoc (RVIA) and IBIS World (Marketing Research).



    • Ellen on February 22, 2018 at 10:30 am

      Not sure where you’re finding stats — RVTravel.com, in its weekly newsletter, posts RV manufacturing data, month over month and year to year. In 2017 about 1/2 MILLION new RVs left manufacturing plants for dealerships, and more than that are projected for 2018. Not all get sold, to be sure, but many will be (manufacturers don’t like producing what won’t sell; dealers don’t like RVs sitting on their lots for too long). Not all will go to new RVers — many will go to people upsizing or downsizing, and some will keep their old rigs.

      We’re heading into our tenth year of full-timing and there’s no doubt about the increase in RVing we’ve seen over this past decade.

      Becky’s right about trends and shifts in what’s popular. But RVing has also become a way to live cheaply for many people, and as the cost of living rises, as more people opt to live off the grid, the RVing lifestyle will continue to thrive.



  20. Becky on February 4, 2018 at 10:41 am

    Thanks for the thoughtful comments everyone. This is surely a subject that many of us will be keeping an eye on in the years ahead.



  21. Kathi Foy on February 4, 2018 at 10:24 am

    Thanks for your thoughtful reflection on this topic, Becky.



  22. Ken Creed on February 4, 2018 at 9:22 am

    Very good written article Becky.
    Ken



  23. Syl Jones on February 4, 2018 at 7:43 am

    You are an amazing young lady. Love reading your blog. I love blogs because I can study written thoughts. Your thoughts are so insightful; you live it, you know it, & (bless you) you share it.
    I am not on the road. Yet. I am still “studying up.”
    Until then I am absorbing all the facts I can.
    Thank you.



  24. Norm H. on February 4, 2018 at 6:31 am

    I appreciate your positive, yet realistic, post on this topic. The “vacation” and “snowbirding” destinations will always be crowded and reservations will often be necessary. But, RV life is about exploration and discovery, too! There are yet many hidden gems to be found if one is willing. So, “just do it!” Looking forward to following your travels with your new trailer, as it will undoubtedly allow you to find more of those gems.



    • sdw on February 5, 2018 at 7:35 am

      Just one thing you didn’t think of Norm. “Ultimate Campgrounds” app, “Compendium” app,
      “Free camping” app, and on and on and on. There are very, very few Places left. And since these apps and the internet tell the world where all these places are. Finding these gems won’t be gems anymore. Been camping and RVing for 55 Years. You probably haven’t got the scale to go by that I have.



  25. raz mataz on February 4, 2018 at 4:03 am

    two things here. 1) as far as i know every last republican senator and congressperson in the west wants to sell off all the blm land. 2) trump has stated several times that he wants to sell all of it also. maga. ice cream. raz



    • Dave on February 4, 2018 at 10:34 am

      ITMFA



  26. Dave on February 3, 2018 at 10:28 pm

    The increase in RV activity today is largely due to the baby boomers reaching retirement. That demographic has created spikes in demand for whatever services are needed for the phase of life they are passing through. A lot of boomers sampled the nomadic life in their youth which was one of the hallmarks of the “hippy” lifestyle. Many of that generation spent a summer roaming westward or hopping on a cheap Icelandic Air (Loftleidir?) flight to Europe. Those that didn’t wander, wished they had and now they can. A lot of them have some money now and, unlike their parents, they’re not afraid to spend it. For the next 15-20 years, RV parks will be crowded and the Hoosiers will be busy building the units.



  27. Jeff on February 3, 2018 at 8:15 pm

    Becky, you are again spot-on! It’s very obvious here in SoCal the competition for camping sites has not only greatly increased the cost in the state and county parks, but reservations are required nearly year round. But as you say these same campers expect and are getting more. For example I can stay in Borrego Springs with FHU, WiFi and a pool for less than the state park. The changes are inevitable.



  28. Cinn on February 3, 2018 at 7:06 pm

    Thanks for putting a positive voice to this topic, Becky. Very refreshing.



  29. Tom on February 3, 2018 at 7:04 pm

    What do you think will happen as gas and diesel prices rise again?



    • Becky on February 4, 2018 at 10:36 am

      In the vehicle industry, when gas/diesel prices rise, sales for more fuel efficient vehicles also goes up. I imagine the same would apply to RVs.



  30. Judy Blinkenberg on February 3, 2018 at 6:48 pm

    We have been full timing for 9 months and have spent more on camping than we could really afford. We wanted to see National Parks, and we bought shirts. Hopefully this year we can find more free or lower price sites. We may stay at previous places. I do not know what our future holds.



  31. Teri on February 3, 2018 at 5:10 pm

    I do think some of the shortage of RV spots is due to RVs being used as more affordable housing and semi permanent residents. This would not be in parks with limitations on stays but I have talked with people that have two or three parks they continuously rotate to keep in the stay limits.



  32. Michael on February 3, 2018 at 4:39 pm

    I am a marketing manager for a company that owns multiple rv parks across the country. Many rv parks are starting to focus on park models which are semi permanent. This is because a new park model can be purchased for $29900 and most new rvs are considerably more than that. I think rv’s will be less popular and smaller more affordable units will the norm in the future. Computers have made designing maximum use of shorter small space much more efficient. A 24 ft. bumper pull today has as much usable space as an older 30 footer. The hurricanes in Fla. and Tx. have pushed many more folks into Az. this year than in the past and there are still lots of available sites. I’m on the road camping every summer across the west and Becky is right, popularity comes and goes. Weather, and forest fires greatly impact an areas density. Time will tell.



  33. Barney Ward on February 3, 2018 at 4:13 pm

    The small town of Rockport Tx is adding rv spots to the tune of about 150 a year. This town that Hurricane Harvey hit as it came ashore is only 11000 folks but the rv sites number something half that now.
    Barney Ward recently posted..Puppy DogMy Profile



  34. RGupnorth on February 3, 2018 at 4:08 pm

    Nice photograph – Have noticed over the past number of years that with the population growth, better economy, etc. That the NP’s are more crowed, same with state parks. There are more cars,campers, RV’s etc on the road and in most areas we still have 2 lane highways, 4 lanes of freeway (2 each way). Campgrounds are full other than off season – so there is probably a bump in the road right now with a lag in space catching up.



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