Here’s another question I get asked frequently: “Where can you go in a Casita?” And by that people mean, how capable are they on dirt roads. What you’re using for a tow vehicle matters too of course, but for this post we’re going to focus on the trailer itself.
Part of the answer depends on the type of Casita. The 13 footers are probably a bit more off-road worthy than my 17 footer because being shorter they can make tighter turns and fit in more places. Newer ones also come standard with a high-lift axle where in the days when Cas was built, it was merely an option (and one he doesn’t have) and higher clearance is good for iffy roads.
But a lot of it has to do with practice and confidence.
For instance after leaving Mojave National Preserve I went boondocking down a BLM road near Kingman, AZ that use to be paved long ago but now is more dirt than pavement and sections of the road are washed out leading to dangerous ravines on either side. The first half-mile or so is easy to get to and that’s where the majority of people choose to camp. The rest, well, one look at it and thought to myself I could probably make it down here if I had to, but if I made a mistake there’d be a lot of damage and I’d need someone to pull me out, so I didn’t.
After a week of being there, a Class A with a toad comes rolling into the boondocking area and they blow past my spot and onto the hard part of the road. Oh no I think, they’re going to have to unhook the toad to back up. They merrily proceeded down the hill on the washed out road without incident and that evening on my daily walk I saw them parked in a spot quite a ways down the road. A few days later they were gone, so they must have made it back out just fine too.
What was the difference between them and me? Confidence in their ability for sure, and possibly practice too.
Or, maybe they were being reckless.
Sometimes it’s a fine line between confidence and recklessness. Because the Class A made it out and back without a problem, people will look with admiration on their feat and praise their skill. If they’d gone off the road into the wash however, everyone would have shook their head and said they were stupid to try such a thing.
So, how do you learn where that line is between confidence and recklessness? Practice.
True story, before I started RVing I saw SUVs as an expensive showpiece for people who wanted others to think they were rugged and tough. Where I lived in Wisconsin and later South Carolina there were few dirt roads and nowhere to use these types of vehicles as they were intended.
It wasn’t until I started traveling that I realized yes, there actually are roads that need 4-wheel drive. My first time driving down a dirt road in South Dakota my first summer on the road my knuckles were white on the wheel as I went over the little washboard bumps while farmers blew past me in their work trucks.
I’ve come a long way since then, and it was simply from repeat exposure to dirt roads.
Practice driving dirt roads without your RV first if you can, then as you get more comfortable, start taking your RV down them. Over time you get a feel for what is possible and what is dangerous, and before long you’ll be, if not an expert, at least accomplished enough to get your rig into some pretty sweet spots. Casitas may not be advertised as ‘off-road’ trailers, but they do just fine with some precautions, practice, and a little common sense.
Here are some more tips:
Go slow! The biggest mistake I see newbie RVers make on dirt roads is thinking they can go as fast on them as a paved road. That’s where you end up with opened cabinets and broken belongings. On some washboard roads I go less than 5 mph, but I’ve never broken a dish in transit. The only time you want to ignore this advice is if you’re on a sandy road that has loose spots, those you want to keep speed over to avoid sinking in the sand (note: I know people without 4-wheel drive who go down sandy roads, but I don’t chance it – too easy to get stuck).
Walk the road first. I say this a lot on boondocking posts. Even if it’s a location you’ve found online that previous campers with bigger rigs have said is fine, be cautious and walk or take just your toad/tow vehicle first. Dirt roads deteriorate over time and one big rainfall can wash a road out.
Check the weather. Some dirt roads become impassable when wet, due to washes or road consistency. Avoid iffy roads if there’s rain in the forecast. If it does rain while you’re camping down an iffy road, don’t try driving out until it’s dried off – even if you can make it you’ll leave ruts behind that make it harder for future campers. Don’t camp in low spots.
Watch the plumbing. On a Casita, the black and gray tank vales and pipes are exposed and it’s the lowest clearance part of the trailer. Measure how much clearance you have there (it varies not only depending on whether you have the low or high axle, but also on what size tires you have) and watch that left side of your trailer when going over humps and rocks. Fortunately being on the driver’s side, it’s pretty easy for me to keep an eye on it in my mirror when inching over bumpy terrain. With my setup I also need to watch the hitch, because there’s a pretty big distance between the back wheels of my truck and the wheels of the Casita and if I go over a big hump I can drag my hitch post.
Learn more about boondocking:
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