Although camping in recreational vehicles has always been popular, it really took off when the pandemic shut down many other forms of entertainment and lodging. RV camping became a safe option for going places because you had your own kitchen and bed wherever you went. So many people placed orders for new RVs that, for some, the wait time was longer than a year!
My husband and I ordered a small camper trailer back in May 2021. We decided that at our age tent camping no longer held any appeal, but we missed spending time in the great outdoors. By May 2022, we were told that the trailer we had selected wouldn’t be ready for at least another six months! We changed gears and quickly found a barely used Rockwood A-frame pop-up trailer on craigslist. The only catch? We had planned to tow the smaller trailer with our passenger car, but our Rockwood is too heavy, so we went truck shopping . . . in May 2022 when the car lots were pretty much empty.
By the time you read this, however, we’ll have just received our truck and will be heading out to camp! Researching this article was part of our preparation, helping us learn what we need to know from RV camping pros. If you’re traveling the same path, it may help you, too!
Crystal and Janice’s Pop-Up Camper
Crystal Hyslop and Janice Czyscon have been camping with a trailer since 2016, and they say, “Camping is the best way to see our gorgeous state and country.” While they currently have an Aliner Ranger 12 Offroad with front and rear dormers, they’ve had other models, too. They love their Aliner because, as Crystal explained, “It fits in our garage, is easy to put up, and we can pull it with our Ford Edge, which is equipped with a 3,000-pound tow package.”
They take off each summer for extensive out-of-state camping trips, but in New Mexico, their favorite locations are City of Rocks State Park, Valley of Fires, Rockhound State Park, and the Lincoln National Forest. For camping in Southern New Mexico, they say fall is best and to “avoid windy March!”
Their advice for those new to RV camping includes doing a test run close to home to learn how to set up and connect power, water, and sewer. They suggest a trip of about 300 miles to learn your limits.
Janice also recommends RV campers travel light, but that can be a challenge when you’re taking everything including the kitchen sink! She urges campers to stay organized and put things where they belong so they can easily find what they need. Along with all the basics like cooking and eating utensils, towels, and bedding, here are their “must have” items: a screen tent in case the campsite has mosquitoes, flies, or other buggies you don’t want as roommates; an outdoor camper rug; camp chairs; plastic totes with secure lids to stay organized and to store stuff outside if necessary; a good tool kit; and a well-stocked first aid kit/medicine bag.
They sum up their camping experiences this way: “Camping makes life better. We have traveled more than 30,000 miles and camped in tents and now our Aliner. We have been to 75 percent of our national parks. We have hiked some fantastic trails and seen gorgeous night skies. But it is not without its challenges . . . bad weather, less than ideal campsites at times, and lots of peanut butter sandwiches!”
Lonnie Klein’s Motorhome
Las Cruces Symphony Orchestra Conductor Emeritus Lonnie Klein has been RV camping for more than 30 years and now has a Thor Freedom Elite 26-foot Class C motorhome. He says, “I have modulated from tents, popups, trailers, and now the motor home. I chose this because it drives like a truck, is easy to maneuver, and is totally self-contained. I had a trailer for years but was limited to certain campsites, particularly on BLM land.”
With decades of experience camping in the state, Lonnie has quite a few favorite locations. He lists state parks such as Caballo Lake, City of Rocks, Eagle Nest Lake, Elephant Butte, Lake Brantley, Leasburg Dam, and Rockhound plus scenic areas like Ghost Ranch, Chama, and Cloudcroft as “just a few” of his top choices.
In addition, Lonnie says, “Cristina Salazar and I camp at Bureau of Land Management locations quite frequently. We have the huge Romero-Salazar reunion twice a year and always camp up north on BLM land. It’s great fun with about 40 to 60 family members, and the weather is nice and cool!”
Speaking of cool weather, Lonnie also suggests camping in fall when there is typically no wind or rain, but says, “We camp all year round depending upon our schedules, the weather, and the location.”
Lonnie’s top tips include reading the manual and watching videos to learn how to properly set up your rig . . . and to practice before you depart for a trip. He says, “RV sites are great for tips and advice.” Just about any type of camper has a Facebook group for fellow owners to share tips and ask questions. He also encourages booking sites early. “Get your reservations online to reserve a site at any New Mexico state park,” he says. “Don’t wait until the last minute! I usually overbook in case I want to come early or leave late.”
Lonnie’s must-have items are “knives, lanterns, batteries, summer or winter clothes, plenty of water, insect repellant, great food, and adult beverages.”
Types of Campsites
Privately owned RV parks
From franchise campgrounds like KOA to privately owned locations, there are RV parks in many areas you’d like to camp. Each campground sets its fees and amenities, but RV campers will usually be seeking water, electricity, sewage, and perhaps nice bathrooms with flush toilets and showers. Some parks also offer cable TV hook-ups and WiFi as well as recreation facilities like volleyball courts, pools, and fishing.
The Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service both manage many campgrounds. Fees are usually much lower than privately owned RV parks, but they won’t offer as many amenities. If you can camp without hook-ups and your rig isn’t too long, you’ll have more campsite options. Free dispersed camping on public land is also allowed in many places. You can camp on public land, the BLM website says, “as long as it does not conflict with other authorized uses or in areas posted ‘closed to camping,’ or in some way adversely affects wildlife species or natural resources.” There are restrictions for both BLM and Forest Service land.
Learn more at blm.gov/programs/recreation/camping and fs.usa.gov. Read about camping on BLM land in the Las Cruces area at lascruces.com/bureau-of-land-management-camping-update.
The State of New Mexico has 35 state parks, most of which allow camping. The state offers a great deal for frequent campers: Get a camping pass for $180 for 12 months, discounted for seniors. The New Mexico State Parks website also has a handy tool for last-minute campers with a “camping this weekend” page that shows locations with availability. Learn more about camping at state parks at emnrd.nm.gov/spd/find-a-park.
Other types of camping
My Facebook feed is currently filled with offers for Harvest Hosts, a membership program that offers the opportunity for self-contained RVers to camp at almost 4,000 vineyards, breweries, farms, attractions, and other small businesses across the country. You pay a reasonable fee of $99 per year to gain access to the app on which you make reservations for a single night of camping at a venue along your way. You pay nothing to the host other than to agree to make some sort of purchase: buy wine, eat at the restaurant, purchase some alpaca yarn or honey, etc. The company offers another program called Boondockers Welcome that works a little differently: People host you on their private property and earn rewards as hosts. Learn more at harvesthosts.com.
Story by Cheryl Fallstead
Originally published in Neighbors magazine
Posted by LasCruces.com