Many people have asked us why we traded in our Lance 650 truck camper for the Winnebago Revel, so we thought we'd make a blog post about it!
First off, we absolutely LOVED our truck camper. We purchased the Lance in November 2016 -- just in time for ski season. We already had the F-150, so we figured that would be the best way to have the convenience of a hotel on wheels while also maintaining the 4WD for our winter activities. We spent three amazing years traveling California and some other western states (eventually upgrading to an F-250 to better handle the weight), and while some of our best memories were made in the camper we dubbed the 'Beasom Bungalow,' there were a few issues we discovered along the way (I'll get to those).
After taking a few international trips in which we rented a variety of camper vans, we fell in love with the convenience of the #vanlife. We did a LOT of research, and we decided to pull the trigger in April 2020 on 'Rudi' -- a 4WD 2020 Winnebago Revel. Here's why:
Camper: We are mainly weekend warriors, and the truck was Robbie's everyday vehicle. So during the week we'd keep the camper off of the truck, then we'd have to dedicate some time before every weekend trip to load the camper back on. We had to take the tailgate off of the truck (which requires two people) and the backflip we had covering the bed -- which meant we had to have a space to store the tailgate and back-flip when the camper was on the truck. For the first year, we had to pay for a parking space at a storage unit when the camper wasn't being used, which meant we couldn't keep our things loaded in it 24/7 (plus there was an added monthly cost).
Revel: The van sits in our driveway fully stocked with the fridge on so we can go at a moment's notice. Robbie uses the van as his everyday vehicle as-is.
Camper: Because the camper sits in the bed of the truck, you lose space the truck provides. Our skis, backpacking gear, the steps to get in and out, leveling blocks, etc. had to go on the floor of the camper which made it difficult to get in and out. Due to the model Lance we had, we couldn’t put a rack on the roof, so we crammed everything inside. If we wanted to pull over and have lunch or use the bathroom, we had to pull everything out and reorganize.
Revel: The bed goes up and down, leaving plenty of room in the 'garage' space in the back for all of our gear. We also added the Owl Vans B2 Box to exterior door, which houses some of our loose items (grill top, leveling blocks, hoses, etc.). It is SO easy to pull over and eat a meal or grab a drink -- you can even access the kitchen area and the bathroom while driving since there is a pass-though.
Camper: We had to make sure the small 5-gallon propane take was full before every trip. Propane ran the fridge, stove and heater, and the tank would only last about three days. It's a special tank which required going to a refilling station, and we quickly learned most gas stations stop refilling after 8PM (which left us spending many nights in the cold, without heat). The camper also only had one house battery, so we had to be very power conscious. It did have one solar panel, but it wasn’t enough (especially on the cloudy wintery days). More often than not, we found ourselves just eating out unless we were parked somewhere for the night , but if we didn't have enough propane, we were toast (pun intended)!
Revel: In the Revel, there is NO propane tank, and most of the power comes from the lithium battery/solar upgrade we added from Agile Off-Road. The heater runs on diesel, which is ALWAYS easy to find (unlike a propane filling station). We added a secondary fuel tank, so now we get about 700 miles on two full tanks. We seriously never eat out anymore, and since we have an induction cooktop, as long as we have battery/solar, we are good to go!
Camper: We are big skiers and do most of our camping in the winter months. The Lance was a four-season insulated camper, but we couldn’t have fresh water in the tank in the winter. We did use the toilet in the colder months, we just added anti-freeze and that seemed to keep the septic tank from freezing. To empty the tanks we had to find a dump station (which run about $10 per dump), but they aren’t always easy to find.
Revel: In the van we have a removable cassette toilet, which means we can empty it in our home bathroom, or in any public restroom. It's so much easier than having to find and stop at an RV dumping station (and saves you time)!
In the end, while we had a blast making memories in the camper, it just wasn’t as easy to be spontaneous. We have already logged more than 50 nights in our first year in the van, and we didn't come close to that in three years with the truck camper. Plus, with the pandemic hindering international travel for a while, it's been wonderful having this epic adventure rig to explore our beautiful backyard that is California.
Everyone’s needs are unique, but for us, the Revel meets or exceeds them! Yes -- the Revel is a financial investment and our loan term on the van is much longer than the truck + camper; however, our monthly payments are actually less than the truck + camper when you factor in registration and insurance.
If you're in the market for a new adventure rig, do your research. Go visit your local RV dealer and walk inside of the unit you're considering purchasing. It really helps to physically see the space and picture yourself living inside! Happy adventuring, friends!
Welcome to our Bungalow! Our tiny home on wheels will serve as our personal hotel, restaurant, edit bay and memory maker for many years to come. (Oh, and Dina Scrabble victories)!
Why get a camper?
We have long been dubbed by our friends and family as the 'adventure couple.' Every weekend in the winter you will find us up in the mountains skiing, and in the spring, summer and fall we spend our time off mountain biking, kayaking, boating, camping and hiking near Northern California's beautiful rivers and lakes. We have always dreamed about having a cabin in Lake Tahoe one day, but our finances and careers would mean that dream would remain as such, for now. We found ourselves spending a ton of money on last-minute hotels and scrambling to find a dog sitter for our fur baby Brewski every time we wanted to plan a weekend getaway. If only we could retire now and work later! Our wheels began turning (no pun intended) -- why don't we bring the hotel to us?
Our motto since we sarted dating six years ago has been: 'No Reservations.' We like to approach our trips in an unassuming and flexible way -- in other words, we hate planning. We like to be on our own time, and we both have that go-with-the-flow attitude. Our first taste of the camper life was during our honeymoon in September 2014. We spent 11 days driving around New Zealand's South Island in an RV. We would park in the darkness of the night in some random town and wake up to a new backdrop every morning. From ocean beaches to sheep farms to glaciers -- our morning cuppa was spent enjoying the picturesque scenery and being on no one else's time but our own. If there were stops we wanted to make along the way we did -- no stressing over checking into a hotel or cancellation fees. It was total freedom. It was magical.
"If you don't do it this year, you will be one year older when you do. " -Warren Miller
In November 2016, we decided to go for it and get a camper of our own. Since we are big skiers, we wanted to be able to drive in the snow with 4WD no problem. We also wanted something less cumbersome so we can park in the parking lots of the ski resorts which allow overnight parking. So, we chose to go with the cab-over camper option rather than tow a trailer. Robbie's truck is a short-bed F-150, so there weren't many options -- but the Lance 650 was built specifically for his truck. It's a 4-season camper, meaning it's insulated for those cold nights in sub-zero temperatures. There is a propane heater, a solar panel to help replenish our power supply and a shower and toilet -- all on the bed of the truck! There is also a two-burner stove, microwave, refrigerator and queen bed. I mean, what else do you need?
The day we signed on the dotted line, we took the Bungalow out for her madiden voyage to an RV campsite next to Lake Berryessa. We learned all about the private versus public campsites (which we will talk about in later posts) and the new little world we were about to embark on. We filled up the tank and started planning our next series of trips. Buckle up! You're coming with us!
Ok... so this post is WAY over-due, but better late than never, right?
I am going to go over our 12-day honeymoon to New Zealand! The country is stunning, the people are friendly and the adventures are unlimited! If you are adventurous and enjoy the great outdoors, this is the trip for you!
DAY 1 | FLY INTO AUCKLAND, DRIVE TO WAITOMO CAVES
The morning after our wedding, we hopped on a plane and flew from SFO to Auckland, in NZ's North Island. 12 hours later, we arrived -- it was 5AM local time. We picked up our rental car (which was a manual transmission in a car with the steering wheel on the right side) and we drove (on the wrong side of the road -- thank goodness for Robbie) about two hours south to Waitomo Adventures. We pre-booked the 'Lost World Tour' excursion about six months out to ensure we got a spot.
By 7:00AM we had arrived and had about 20 minutes to squeeze in a power nap. Then it was off to our first adventure! Our group consisted of two guides plus Robbie and me, which made for a super personalized experience. We first suited up in wet-suits, steal-toed boots, helmets and headlamps. Then we proceeded to the route...
We walked through jungle-like terrain until we reached a gaping hole in the ground. Cables spanned from our feet, down 100 meters into the caves below. Next, we were abseiling (like repelling but below ground). The abseil down was remarkable -- eye stimulation overload! We kept looking up and down at the cable between our fingers, then over at the walls of the caves growing the most vibrant green ferns. The cave walls appeared to be sweating water -- a series of natural high-speed slides carrying the water from the earth's surface 100 meters to an underground river.
Once we landed on our two feet, we began our trek through the underground tunnel carved out by water. Every few minutes, our guides had us shut off our headlamps and gaze at the glowworms clinging to the ceiling of the caves. The glowworm, also known as Arachnocampa luminosa, can only be found in New Zealand. By the thousands, these tiny creatures radiate their luminescent light and create a natural flashlight for visitors entering the caves. With the help of their glow, we climbed through small openings in the rocks and jumped into pools throughout the tunnel.
We walked, swam, jumped, crawled, stopped for lunch and drank from the natural water flows. After about three hours, we finally saw the light (literally), as we had reached the end of the tunnel, but our journey was far from over! We were greeted by a sheep farm upon exiting the caves -- a lush, vibrantly green pasture with hundreds of friendly sheep. Then our guides took us to our final stop: dinner. We changed back into our warm clothes, ate a BBQ dinner with fresh New Zealand ingredients and had some hot tea. Then we drove back to Auckland to rest up for the night.
The Waitomo Caves excursion made for the most incredible greeting to our jam-packed honeymoon, and we would highly recommend this trip to anyone looking for a memorable adventure!
We drove back to Aukland that night, spent the night in a beautiful hotel near the Sky Tower, and got some rest before boarding another flight the next morning!
DAY 2 | FLY INTO CHRISTCHURCH, PICK UP THE RV
We boarded and early flight to Christchurch in NZ's South Island. We picked up our home on wheels from Wilderness Motorhomes (they are so easy to work with and just awesome people), made a grocery run and hit the road! Our plan was to do a counter-clockwise loop around the South Island, with zero reservations booked for overnight camping. New Zealand is very lax on where you can camp, as long as you aren't within city limits. As you'll read, we had a few activities booked along the way, but no real set plans otherwise.
We headed west toward Arthur's Pass and made our first stop Hokitika (a small town on NZ West Coast) where we found a nice remote area to camp along Hokitika Beach.
DAY 3 | EXPLORE HOKITIKA GORGE
We woke up on Hokitika Beach (literally the ONLY people for miles), made breakky and headed toward The Hokitika Gorge -- it is definitely Off the Beasom Path, but SO worth seeing! The blue-green water of the Hokitika River makes its way through the rock sided gorge, and there is a really neat draw-bridge that overlooks the river along the way. Round trip the walk is less than a mile, and would be a great option for kids. In September the water is cold and moving fast, but this would be a fun spot take a dip in the summer months!
Next stop: Okarito! This is where we would camp (again along the beach).
DAY 4 | OKARITO, FRANZ JOSEF GLACIER
We woke up in Okarito and did a little nature hike in the Okarito Lagoon to get the legs moving. This part of NZ is very wet and tropical, and the views of the ocean from this hike were beautiful.
We got back in the RV and headed south toward Glacier Country to check out Franz Josef Glacier. The ice is receding at an alarming rate, and there are signs along the trail stating where the face of the glacier was just 100 years ago. The valley (carved out by the glacier) is blanketed in dark rock and vibrant green moss. The river emerging from the glacier is known as Waiho River -- too rugged to be cleared for farming, it is covered in native forest.
We found a place to camp on Gillespie's Beach nestled between Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers (again, surrounded by sheep)!
DAY 5 | FOX JOSEF GLACIER, ROAD TO WANAKA
After another successful night freedom camping (no one in site, no costs/reservations) we watch the sunrise on the beach and made our way to Fox Glacier. We were the first ones on the trail behind the guide who made a rock path over the river for us -- the glacier recedes so rapidly the walking path changes daily. There are signs reading beware of falling ice and granite rock, as the glacier is very much in transition.
We hopped back in the RV and made our way toward Bruce Bay -- one of NZ's most beloved beaches. The coast here is lined with driftwood and rocks people have written messages of endearment on. We found out the river rafting trip we had booked months earlier was cancelled due to high rapids, so we had to adjust.
Next stop: Wanaka! We drove to the quaint resort town of Wanaka and had just enough time to hop on our bikes and ride around the beautiful lake. Wanaka is known as the gateway to the Southern Alps Mount Aspiring National park (a wilderness of glaciers, beech forests and alpine lakes). We made our way through town, looking inside some of the local shops, when we passed the Harris Mountains Heliskiing operation. Robbie convinced Dina to go inside. Long story short, they had two spots left on the heli fo the next day, and we signed up! We went to a ski shop, rented gear and got some beers to cheers at the pub nearby! We parked the RV on a mountain road just outside of town, and got some rest before our big day!
DAY 6 | HELISKIING FROM WANAKA
We woke up early and made our way to the heli pick-up zone which was in the middle of a sheep farm blanketed in vibrant green grass -- quite the juxtaposition from the snow-capped mountains we could see in the distance! We went through the safety-briefing, hopped in the heli and started gaining altitude toward the South Harris Mountains north of Coronet Peak! The heli dropped us off on the ridge line, and away it went! We clicked in and skied down some of the most epic runs of our lives -- seven total! Eacch runs varied between 1,500-2,500' and the terrain was open boats above the tree-line -- or "wide rolling mountain flanks" as Harris Mountains writes on their website.
We even got to see the famous Kea -- the world's smartest high-flying parrot! They are as smart as a three year old and would fly alongside us!
Editor's note: Dina fell and tore her ACL and meniscus on the last run of the day (of course) but she still had a BLAST (and it made her a better skier once she recovered). She was taken to the local hospital in Wanaka where the New Zealand ski team doctor checked her out and confirmed her injuries. Dina would like to send a BIG THANK YOU to the medical team who took care of her and brought her tea and cookies!
DAY 7 | QUEENSTOWN
After learning how to use crutches and adjusting to the pain meds, we spent the day exploring Queenstown -- a much more touristy town with several nice hotels and ritzy places to shop and eat (think the Aspen of NZ).
Lake Wakatipu serves as the backdrop for this beautiful town (similar to Wanaka, just a bit bigger). We ate at Fergburger TWICE (yes, it is THAT good), once for dinner burgers and the next morning for breakfast meat pies. We had fun exploring the nightlife here (there are lots of little pubs and bars to check out). For us it was a one-stop wonder, but many people spend their entire vacations here -- in the summer months there is a lot you can do in the area from hiking to bungee jumping to lake activites. We found a place to camp outside of town, then the next morning it was off to another adventure!
DAY 8 | ROAD TO MILFORD SOUND
After our meat pies from we headed southwest toward Milford Sound. We stopped in Te Anau for lunch and went to 'Miles Better Pies and More' which has the BEST homemade meat pies in NZ made fresh daily (we highly recommend stopping for lunch, as they close early)!
Then we continued on the LONG road to Milford Sound. In 1950, crews carved out a two-mile tunnel through the granite mountain that allows one car to pass at a time (before that, the only way into the sound was by boat, plane or hike). The views on the other side of the tunnel are epic! Waterfalls everywhere -- we recommend doing this drive in the daylight so you can take it all in.
After a long windy road, we finally made it to Milford Sound -- formed by glaciation over millions of years. Milford Sound is known as the wettest inhabited place in NZ and one of the wettest in the world (annual rainfall is 252"). It is also one of the most remote places in New Zealand with only about 40 residents but one of the most-visited tourist spots.
Once we arrived, we discovered there was a boat leaving within the hour, so we got our tickets and hopped aboard. We were fortunate to arrive at Milford on a rare clear day, and we saw the picturesque snow-capped mountains lining the crystal blue water, including the tallest peak in the fiord, Mitre Peak (5,522'). We also saw glaciers from the water, dozens of waterfalls, bottlenose dolphins, fur seals sun bathing not he warm rocks, and the entrance to the Tasman Sea.
There is a small lodge with food and drinks, but it's a good idea to pack your own food for this very remote part of NZ. We camped in at the Milford Sounds Rainforest Campervan Park (lucky for us we didn't need a reservation since it was off-peak season, but if you are coming November-April, a reservation is a MUST). After a long day or driving and exploring, it was time for bed. Milford Sound is one of the darkest places in the world at night, and the stars were unreal! But beware: The Kea birds are on the hunt in this part of NZ! They poked and prodded at our roof vents all night trying to get in!
DAY 9 | KAYAK MILFORD SOUND
The next day we woke up early and prepared for our kayaking trip with Rosco's Milford Kayaks (we booked this one months in advance). This was one of the most breathtaking experiences EVER, as we got to see geology and wildlife up close and personal. The kayak company packs a lunch for you, so the more time you can spend out there on the water, the better! We again scored another clear day, so we got to see SO much! We highly recommend putting this on your to-do list if you come visit!
We headed back out on the road we came in on, and made the trek north toward Mt. Cook, finding a place to camp on the side of a remote road along the way.
DAY 10 | MT. COOK
We drove to the trailhead at Aoraki / Mount Cook -- the highest mountain in NZ at 12,218'. Since it was early spring, there was still plenty of snow on the ground and in the mountains, which made for a picturesque backdrop. We didn't hike to the top, but took the Hooker Valley Track where we crossed three suspension bridges over the Hooker River. From the carpark, the hike is about 6.2 miles RT and takes about 2-4 hours.
We continued our journey toward Lake Tekapo and stopped at a little salmon farm where Dina caught dinner, and we had a feast in the RV and set up camp for the night.
DAY 11 | WINE COUNTRY
We went wine tasting to wrap up our week of adventures, and oh what a week it was! The plan WAS to mountain bike in some of the awesome trails in this area, but since I was injured we changed our plans and settled for wine tasting :). We stopped by Maude Wines (which was delicious) and got to talking with the sommelier. We said we were from the Napa region of California, and they made sure to tell us that a cork is an old method of bottling and screw tops are much better for keeping wine from spoiling! They said we are too pretentious in the States and think screw tops = cheap wine, but that shouldn't be the case. Haha... something I've never forgotten! After visiting wine country, we started our final leg toward Christchurch.
DAY 12 | HEAD TO CHRISTCHURCH
We drove all the way to Christchurch so we would be better positioned to return the RV first thing the next morning. We saw some of the earthquake damage from February 2011, when a 6.2 magnitude quake struck 6.7 miles southeast of Christchurch (which was at the time, NZ's second-most populous city). It was sad to see some of the homes that hadn't been rebuilt in neighborhoods where life had resumed. We found a place to camp near an industrial area on the coast (much more difficult to find a camping spot within city limits).
The next morning we caught our flight to Aukland, then flew home to SFO.
New Zealand is the PERFECT country to rent an RV because it is very camp-friendly, and the landmarks and sites you'll want to see are so spread out. The South Island is like a giant land mass of national parks, with so many different types of topography and terrain. There are lots of one-way bridges, but since we went in September, it was very desolate, and we basically had the road and sites to ourselves (we hear in the summer traffic can get pretty gnarly in some areas). It was also rainy, so it was convenient to have a change of clothes at the ready in the RV.
It was so nice to sleep where we wanted, eat when we were hungry (rather than having to drive hours until the nearest town), and just be on our own schedule. If we liked a spot, we stayed there longer, and we never felt rushed to get to the next place. Plus, it was really fun to talk to the locals and get their take on what was "worth seeing" since we didn't have much time.
Until next time, NZ! Thank you for your beautiful beaches, lucious landscapes, glorious glaciers and friendly folk. We will be back!