June 28, 2021
There isn’t much good to be said of the COVID-19 pandemic, but there’s no doubt it fueled a nationwide surge in outdoor recreation. With “social distancing” mandates making it impossible gather in large groups, Americans flocked to the relative solitude of the outdoors in record numbers. Activities from hunting and fishing to hiking and biking to boating and off-roading enjoyed an unprecedented rush of first-time participants, and even now — with the worst of the pandemic in the rear-view mirror — it appears the country’s newfound appreciation for nature is here to stay.
Another outdoor activity experiencing explosive growth is the use of recreational vehicles (RVs). Massive sales gains are occurring across the entire RV spectrum, from small pop-up and truck campers to the largest Class A motorhomes. According to the RV Industry Association, total RV shipments will hit an all-time high of more than 576,000 units in 2021, with an estimated 56 million Americans traveling this summer using an RV they own, rent or borrow.
Of course, there’s a natural fit between RVing and hunting, but it wasn’t until this spring that I experienced my first mobile hunting camp thanks to a partnership with RV rental company Outdoorsy. Founded in 2015, Outdoorsy is basically the Airbnb or Vrbo of the RV world — giving RV owners the opportunity to rent to others when they aren’t using the RVs themselves. Outdoorsy has more than 200,000 RVs available on its website and app, and while the company has enjoyed steady growth since its inception, nothing compared to 2020’s incredible 4,500 percent spike in bookings over the course of the pandemic. And 90 percent of Outdoorsy’s 2020 customers were first-time renters, providing further evidence of RVing’s rapidly growing popularity.
I gained a lot of appreciation for an RV while spending a week chasing Nebraska longbeards with contributors Clint Casper and Zeke Pipher, as well as cameraman Matt Young. Based on that experience, here are my top five reasons you ought to consider an RV for your next out-of-town hunting adventure:
1. Location, Location, Location
There’s an old adage that says the three most important things in real estate are location, location, location. Hunters certainly understand the importance of finding good ground, and many of the very best hunting areas across America can be found in remote locations far from civilization. Given that, an RV is tailor made for helping you live comfortably far from the nearest motel or restaurant by bringing your accommodations along with you. And since an RV is mobile, it also gives you the flexibility to pull up stakes and strike out in search of greener pastures whenever necessary.
During our Nebraska turkey hunt, we camped in two different areas several hours apart. After struggling to consistently find turkeys early in the week, our move paid off in spades as we secured permission to hunt an excellent farm loaded with birds and some of the most beautiful scenery you’ll ever find in hunting camp. With the RV parked high on a ridgetop overlooking the Niobrara River, we were treated to a breathtaking vista every day and stunning sunsets every night. Better yet, we literally had turkeys outside the RV door, allowing us to literally roll out of bed, walk out the door and go hunting. You can’t do that at Motel 6!
Sure, you can pack into the backcountry or tent camp along a forest road in your hunting area, but neither of those options can hold a candle to an RV when it comes to comfort. Granted, you can’t get an RV quite as steep or deep as tent, but then again, there’s an awful lot to be said for a roof over your head when it’s raining, a heating system when the nights turn cold and — most importantly — a comfortable bed to sleep in after a long day of burning boot leather in search of game.
During our hunt, we experienced unseasonably cold spring weather, along with two days of heavy rain and three days of 40-mile-per-hour wind. Could we have survived all that in a tent? Sure, but it would have been miserable! Thanks to the RV, the weather was no big deal, and it sure was nice to come back at the end of the day, grill steaks and enjoy some relaxing time on the couch as we recapped the day’s events and made plans for the morning.
Handling logistics is one of the most challenging aspects of an out-of-state hunt. From what to pack, how to travel and where to stay, there are variety of options with pros and cons for each. For example, if you fly to your hunt, you can save a lot of time but your ability to bring gear is severely limited by airline baggage allotments. Plus, you’ll likely need to rent a vehicle upon arrival for local travel to your final destination.
If you drive to your hunt, you can bring more gear, but you may need to add a couple extra days to each end of the trip to account for driving time, not to mention motels and meals along the way. And if you are hunting with a group, you may need to drive multiple vehicles to fit everyone and everything.
An RV changes the complexion of the hunt-planning process dramatically. Not only can an RV accommodate plenty of passengers and cargo, some units will even accommodate your ATV! Of course, the RV also serves as a mobile kitchen, restroom and bunkhouse along the way and, as previously mentioned, gives you the ability to adjust the location of your “base camp” throughout the hunt as needed.
Finally, hunting out of an RV is likely to save you a considerable amount of time over the course of your hunt. Think about it; regardless of whether you stay in a lodge, motel, rental cabin, etc., it can often require 30 minutes to an hour of driving each morning and evening to get to and from the day’s hunting area. With an RV, you can often park/camp so close to the action you can literally step out the door and get right into game. Over the course of the week, eliminating all that back-and-forth driving adds up to precious hours of extra time to sleep longer in the mornings, catch some midday naps or simply hunt more.
Purchasing an RV outright — even a relatively small travel trailer — is a significant expense, and prices for big Class A motorhomes run well into six figures. However, thanks to rental options from providers such as Outdoorsy, securing an RV for a week or two of off-the-grid hunting is a surprisingly good value, particularly if you can share the cost among a group of three, four or five hunters. In fact, even when factoring the added fuel costs associated with driving a motorhome or towing a travel trailer, the total cost of hunting from an RV compares very favorably to flying, staying at a motel and eating out.
For example, 30-foot motorhomes can be rented for less than $2,000 per week, with travel trailers available for less than half that. Assuming the cost is being split among a group of four hunters, that puts the per-person cost of RV rental somewhere between $200 and $500, depending on the type of vehicle rented. Considering all the other advantages an RV offers hunters, that’s a lot of bang for the buck!
There are lots of practical reasons for hunting out of an RV, but perhaps the best reason of all is that camping in an RV is just plain fun! It also creates the kind of comradery you just won’t get at a motel. Cooking meals in the cozy confines of an RV kitchen, eating outside under the stars or simply sharing stories as you lie in your bunks before drifting off to sleep will make memories that last a lifetime.
During our hunt, we enjoyed impromptu bow shooting contests in camp, invited some locals to stop by for an evening social hour and even added a bit of adventure to our trip by driving the RV out of our first camp site during a rainstorm that turned the farm lanes to gumbo and made them unpassable. Thanks to some help from the local farmer, we were able to drive right across his pasture and lower a section of the electrified cattle fence to get the rig back on solid ground. I guarantee that’s a story we’ll recall with laughter on our next RV hunt!