View Full Version : Looking for advice on full-time living in a 5th wheel with three kids.

11-07-2014, 01:47 AM
Hello everybody,

This is my first post on this site. My wife and I have done a lot of research on different campers, and I think we have settled on the Heartland Elkridge 37 ultimate. The plan is to live in it full-time in Ohio. We have no pets, but have three kids. Does anybody have any experience with this model either in a short-term or long-term capacity? Also we were trying to find the right vehicle to tow it and was looking at a Ford F350. We are planning on buying once I get back from Afghanistan. I already know that it would be a big change, especially since we sold our house in Arizona and got rid of almost everything that we own so that we could do this. Any advice we be greatly appreciated.

Thanks for the assistance,
Gabriel Walters

11-07-2014, 06:19 AM
Hi Gabriel,

Welcome to the Heartland Owners Forum. There's lots of useful information here and a great group of friendly and helpful folks who are happy to share what they've learned.

I'm sure you'll get some feedback on the Elkridge 37 and on full-timing shortly.

11-07-2014, 07:56 AM
We have had our 2015 37 Ultimate since July. So far it has been a great trailer. The rear bunk room is great. We use it more like a family room since we only have on kid. There is a ton of storage in the rear of that thing. Outside kitchen is awesome!! You will love it. 1/2 bath is nice, mainly during longer stays. It should be great for full timing.

No major issues so far. Awning LED light not installed correctly. Outside molding came out of track. A weak breaker on our slide mechanism. All have been addressed easily with Heartland customer service. Parts shipped to me.

We are weekend campers with a few week long trips here or there. The trailer is more than enough for the 3 of us. So far we are loving this Elkridge. 42' of fun.

Any questions, feel free to ask.


11-07-2014, 08:25 AM
Gabriel, we happen to be using our ElkRidge as housing currently. Although not a 37ultimate, I can give you some insight.

The ER may work fine for your purposes, however o don't think that was the intent when they designed the ER line. It's mainly designed for vacationing.

Here's some things we've encountered:

1. Storage space for clothing is lacking. Small drawers, not a lot of closet space.

2. Sink is not very big, making washing dishes a challenge.

3. Holding tanks are smaller than the bigger units, so dumping needs to happen more often. With two of us, we dump about every 4-5 days.

4. Unit doesn't have the highest insulation values, so heating and cooling may need supplement. We have extra fans and heaters to aid in this.

5. Cold weather living in any RV will require some additions to keep pipes/tanks from freezing. We haven't "lived" through a winter in the ER, but we have done some winter camping to go ski. We would go through a 30# tank of propane in about 3 days, with temps around freezing during the day and colder at night.

6. Basement storage area is small, compared to higher-end units.

Hope this helps with some real-world experience! We love our ElkRidge!

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

11-07-2014, 10:49 AM
Thanks for the information. When you had your problems and they shipped you the parts did you fix the stuff yourself or take it somewhere?

11-07-2014, 10:58 AM
Erika, Thanks for the response. I was aware of the storage issues that was why we consolidated all of our belongings to less than 300 cubic feet. Have you guys tried to put a washer and dryer or a dishwasher in it? We were also planning on using space heaters and electric blankets during the winter weather. Havingbtondumpbthe tanks that often does seem tedious. Do you have a service come to help empty tanks and fill propane or do you have to move the camper every few days? I have seen that some camp sites for long-term have sewer hook-ups which I thought would have to be a necessity.

11-07-2014, 11:15 AM
Gabriel, first, me thank you for your service and our prayers are for your safe return home. Second, welcome to the Heartland forum. Now, while I can't help you with regards to full timing in the ER, Bette and I have been full timing since 2011, first in a Road Warrior and now in our Big Horn and we love it. I am retired military and I don't think you will have a problem with this transition due to being familiar with the nomadic military life. The F350 choice is a good one and will allow you to tow all but the very largest rigs in the Heartland line up. We chose the Big Horn because it is one of the lines that Heartland is designing to be lived in full time and the amenities show it. Plenty of creature comforts and storage. However, there is just two of us and it probably wouldn't work for your family. A good resource for additional info on full timing is Escapees.com which is a forum geared mostly to full timing. Good luck

11-07-2014, 12:08 PM
Thanks for the information. When you had your problems and they shipped you the parts did you fix the stuff yourself or take it somewhere?

I fixed these items myself. Heartland customer service has treated us very well.

-There is room for a washer and dryer in the front closet. I believe they have even revamped the front closet area for more ease of accessing the washer dryer area.

-I would think if you were going to be full timing in this unit, you would want to have a campground that has sewage hook ups available, if you're there for a long period of time. The 37 ultimate has four tanks. 2 Gray water tanks and 2 black water tanks. All tanks, I believe, are 40 gallon capacity.

-I believe, only the upper three models in the heartland lineup are warrantied for full-time use. Unfortunately, none of them have a bunkhouse floor plan. Gateway, Silverado/Oakmont and Elkridge are the only full profile models that offer the bunkhouse.

-Check out the two seating area kitchen configurations. One has a table and chairs with a separate couch and the other has a dinette/booth configuration with a wraparound style couch.

-We chose a second AC and fireplace as options. I am glad we did. It is a long trailer to try to heat and cool.

Good luck, I am excited for you.

11-07-2014, 04:59 PM
Erika, Thanks for the response. I was aware of the storage issues that was why we consolidated all of our belongings to less than 300 cubic feet. Have you guys tried to put a washer and dryer or a dishwasher in it? We were also planning on using space heaters and electric blankets during the winter weather. Havingbtondumpbthe tanks that often does seem tedious. Do you have a service come to help empty tanks and fill propane or do you have to move the camper every few days? I have seen that some camp sites for long-term have sewer hook-ups which I thought would have to be a necessity.

Jamie answered most of these.

We are in a park with full hook-ups -- I would not like full-timing where I had to move to dump! It's the shower grey tank #2 that fills up the fastest. Hubby showed me how to pull the levers, so I can do it. Some full-timers choose to leave the grey tanks always open. This can cause other issues, so we choose not to.

As far as propane, I am not sure what we will do. Danemayer, a moderator on here, has stayed in Breckenridge Colorado during the winter months. I believe he had a service bring a large tank and keep it filled. He can probably weigh in on that. In Texas, we don't get quite such harsh winters, so we haven't made that move yet. Just turned on the furnace this week for the first time.

We do not have a washer/dryer. Our park has washers/dryers so we use those, or take our stuff to a laundromat. The space for a W/D in an ElkRidge is in the front closet, which may not accommodate certain units due to the sloping roofline limiting the height of the closet doors. Be sure to take this into consideration.

As far as a dishwasher, in our unit there would be a space to possibly install one with a lot of modifications. I don't think HL offers this option in the ER line, but I bet it could be done. For the two of us, we try not to dirty too many dishes and make sure to do those dishes immediately after dinner.

I second the recommendation about dual AC and the fireplace, they will help keep the rig more comfortable. We ended up adding some thermal drapes to help cut the near-100* heat of the Texas summer -- we do not have dual-pane windows, which might help with heat and cold transfer.

11-07-2014, 05:19 PM
For what it's worth, the coldest weather we've been in with our BH without the Yeti Pkg, was 12 degrees. It was COLD! We kept the furnace on 70, ran an electric heater, and the fireplace during the day and still went through a 30# tank every 3 days. Kept a light in a reflector on in the basement 24/7, so fortunately we didn't have any pipes freeze. I couldn't leave the water hooked up once the sun went down, or the hose would freeze. The most irritating thing was we had a minor leak on the black tank valve, which dribbled down the pipe and froze till it eventually plugged up the line. If you're going to be in OH in the winter, it won't be pleasant. I would suggest investing in some good quality electric heaters (wired direct to the outside box), underpinning the trailer, and insulating lines INCLUDING the sewer line.

11-07-2014, 07:05 PM
As far as propane, I am not sure what we will do. Danemayer, a moderator on here, has stayed in Breckenridge Colorado during the winter months. I believe he had a service bring a large tank and keep it filled. He can probably weigh in on that.

If you'll be in one place for an extended period, have the local Propane supplier set up a 120 Gallon Tank for you. It's way more convenient than refilling tanks and bulk pricing is usually better. The downside is that you'll have a delivery and pickup charge which is why it only pays for extended stays.

I'd recommend checking WeatherSpark.com (http://WeatherSpark.com) to see what the historical low temps have been in the location you're looking at. Keep in mind that temps at RV parks can be several degrees lower than the official weather stations at airports or in metro areas.

Also, we have an owner-written Water Systems Winter Usage Guide (http://manuals.heartlandowners.org/?man=User%20Guides) that will help you prep your water systems for freezing weather operation.

11-07-2014, 07:54 PM
We are Canadian and living in an RV below 50f is a struggle and probably unsafe .We only do it the last two weeks of October and its no FUN
Rv s are for warm weather enjoyment.

11-08-2014, 03:43 PM
Thanks for you service and a safe return from overseas. Also look at the Cyclone line of toy haulers. The garage is set up with two happy jack beds and can be used as the kids room, with the 3rd kid sleeping in the loft. Many of the newer Cyclones have a second bath in the garage also. I believe there is a Yeti package available too. There is washer/dryer hookup, television connections in the garage and loft, and a full size residential refer. I know of a navy family in San Diego living full time in a Cyclone with 2 kids. Hopefully Mary will him in if she sees this thread.

11-08-2014, 06:07 PM
Hi! We are a military family that fulltime with 2 kids in southern california in our Cyclone. (The same one Tony, aka TwoToes was talking about) How old are your kids? We have owned a fifth wheel for the better part of eight years, and have been weekend users, part-timers, and full-timers. :) We have dealt with kids in our camper too from birth on up to 8, so we know about how to babyproof, etc.

The Elkridge line probably isn't waranteed for full-time use, BUT I haven't heard of Heartland turning down any warantee work because of it. (but again, don't quote me) We have a cyclone and bought it because, at the time, ours was the only model with the tub in in. I love the tub and have used it a few times for my own baths! :) The rear bunk in the Elkridge looks like it should work pretty well. If this model had been around when we were looking, we may have had a harder decision to make. Storage is at a premium with three kids!

If it were me, I would not enjoy cooking in the kitchen in that model, because it appears that there is very limited counter space. We were in another brand before this one with less counter space. One selling point is the kitchen slide out with the peninsula counter. We enjoy that because the kids eat there for most meals, do school on the counter, and I have plenty of space to prepare meals for myself - and any guests. Even having the amount of counterspace I have (which I think is pretty high for an RV in here), there are times when I long for more space. However, I have survived with just the kitchen table and the small amount (smaller than what you have in an Elkridge) available in this model. So, it can be done. I would definitely recommend making sure you take the option for the larger fridge.

My concern would be winter in Ohio. I would definitely get the yeti package, and follow the advice posted earlier from everyone. Winter will be rough. I don't know that I would be willing to winter somewhere with a "real" winter - and we've been fulltiming for two and a half years. Winter brings new challenges, with pipes in the undercarriage, black sewage lines, the whole bit. BUT if you have to winter in an RV, I would probably not choose a toy-hauler. The garage is not insulated anywhere near as nice as the rest of the camper, and even here in San Diego, their room gets significantly colder than the rest of the place. The furnace vent doesn't do much but pump fresh air into the room. Winter also presents challenges because of condensation. All of the propane appliances put off water vapor - plus five bodies exhaling will soak the insides of your walls with water - especially at night. You will need to ensure you are venting air properly (which will mean you will have to work harder to heat the place), and you will probably need to run a dehumidifier. Learn from our mistakes - We had serious mold issues in our first camper when we spent three months over the winter in it. We lost a mattress, and all of us got pretty sick because we didn't notice it. Do take the fireplace. Electricity is often cheaper to heat with than propane - but you have to watch, because too much electric heat in the cabin means that no heat is getting to the storage area where your pipes are. Busted pipes and water leaks are not fun.

I would NOT want to move around or stay anywhere for any length of time that did not have full hook-ups. We have the washer-dryer, and love it. We just got a splendide all-in-one. Grant does his laundry one day per week when he's home - and I can usually do 3-4 loads per day for everyone else. With three kids, depending on how old they are, you might do better with a stackable, because that will allow you to do more in a day.

If you have specific questions, feel free to message me - or post here. I'm on pretty often. Fulltiming with our kids has been an adventure - and it hasn't always been ideal. One thing I know - is that I have not wished to live in a house nearly as often as I thought I would (but if we were somewhere in winter, that would probably change - I don't like cold!). I enjoy that we are all physically closer - because it sort of forces us to spend time together. The thing to remember is that attitude will make or break the adventure. Your camper will have issues, and they will come at inconvenient times, campers are NOT like houses - things get messed up quicker, and water intrusion is a big deal.

I have tons of stories and can talk (or type) until the cows come home about full-timing with kids, and all. So, let me know if you have specific questions. Also - your family, I assume will be staying with family while you are in Afghanistan, and you will be purchasing this upon your return? Or they will be living in it while you are gone? If that is the case, please be very sure your spouse is VERY familiar with the workings of an RV and is handy enough to handle fixing little things without help. My husband is gone for a year to Haiti - and we chose to stay in the camper alone, but that is because we have been fulltiming for a while already, and I have been in campers since I was just a kid. I know my way around them, and am comfortable fixing plumbing issues, and many other small things on my own (even if there are a few four letter words involved). I don't know if I would have been able or willing to live full-time in a camper with kids if I hadn't 1)already been doing it with my husband for two years before the deployment began and 2)if I wasn't in a campground that was EXTREMELY friendly. I know that if something big happened, I would have support and help from the campground staff here.

11-08-2014, 09:35 PM
Hi Mary,

My oldest is my daughter who will be 8 in January then I have to sons aged 6 and 1.5. We are not planning on getting the camper until I get back. My wife and the kids are living with family right now. She actually started homeschooling them this year instead of having them in normal schools when she moved them to Ohio.

I think a place with full hookups is a must. I also have read the publications on here on what to do to help prevent the freezing of pipes and such while using them in the winter.

I just started looking at the gateway bunkhouse model because of the bath tub. However the tanks seem to be smaller, the table is smaller, and there is less storage in the bunkhouse room. I think that the fireplace and refer options do seem essential.

How is it having the kids in the camper full time? Do they tend to get on each other's nerves more often? Do you homeschool them? What did you do to baby proof the camper?

11-08-2014, 09:39 PM
Dan and Ann,

I read the link that you sent me about the winter water usage. It is a lot of work, but I think it is doable still. It does seem like we will be going through propane faster than what I was thinking. I will also have to consider limiting humidity as well.

11-08-2014, 10:01 PM
There is a ton of storage in the bunkhouse.

This is an feature I love.

11-09-2014, 01:43 AM
They will be a bit older when you get back and head into the camper. So, that will be a bit easier. You may still want to invest in a good babygate for the front door to keep the toddler from "toddling" out through the screen. Get one that screws into the door frame. It will be sad to drill holes - but it will save everyone the stress. The rest of the camper is pretty much "baby proof" from the get go. Other than the baby gate, putting the plastic things in the outlets and doing the cabinets - we didn't do much. In such close quarters, You are pretty much right on top of them, so you will know before they can get into trouble with most things.

We homeschool also, as we do not have an address to use to send kids to school from. We have enjoyed it. You will find that there are more and more military families foregoing the sticks and bricks life since we move so much. One thing you will want to consider is where the books and things will go. I have a bookshelf that I store in the kids room just for books- but it does look like you could use some of the higher cabinets in the kids bunk room for that. I bought a closet organizer with large fabric drawers for some additional school storage that sits under our fire place (the glass doesn't get hot, so books can go in front of it - we changed the hot bulbs inside to LED's).

The kids do really well in the camper. They are pretty well used to the smaller space, and since they have their own room, it isn't quite a big deal. The bunk house and the toyhauler garage will be a big help. Our kids always ended up playing together in each other's rooms anyway even when we were in a house. We have had few territory battles than I thought we would - though the kids are still little - it could start happening any day. I think they tend to get on MY nerves more often because I can hear every little thing they do. But that's my issue and I have to work on it. We do spend a LOT of time outside, too. ;)

One thing that started out awful - was bedtime. Putting all the kids to bed at one time in one room could prove problematic. My kids tended to talk and stay up too late, or play rather than going to bed. It ended up turning into a circus. We then began staggering bedtime so that the youngest went to bed first, and 30 minutes later the older one would go. That way, they both went right to sleep rather than staying up forever.

Please feel free to let me know if you have any other questions! We've been doing it for a while. :)