David Stairs


Guaranty RV sales, Junction City, Oregon

One doesn’t notice it at first, not until you start frequenting environments dominated by parks and resorts. Until then it’s subtle, in the background. But driving through the Targhee National Forest it’s inescapable: the number of RV-related camps and services expands exponentially. In Yellowstone, general elevation +7500′, there are so many RVs it can be pretty slow going. In the RV parking area at Old Faithful there are RVs of all sizes, motors running to keep the AC up.

RV-O-Philes carry all their life needs— portable bar-b-cues, bikes, sport vehicles in tow— as a means of providing for the gadabout lifestyle. This home away from home, in some cases, is a permanent lifestyle change. A good number of people tow boats up into Yellowstone, where two-thirds of the lake is reserved for powered craft. What might they get for mileage when even a full Prius gets seriously reduced efficiency at such elevations? Should one even dare ask? Is this proof Americans aren’t at all serious about global warming, or at least not where vacations are concerned?

Guaranty RV in Junction City, Oregon sells about 60 units per month from May to September. The RVs we inspected varied in price from $60,000 for a starter, to about $360,000 for a custom job. Most of the vehicles are diesel, and the smaller ones reportedly get almost 20 mpg. They are also designed to haul up to 5000 pounds uphill.

Many of the models were composites of varying components— a Winnebago body on a Dodge chassis powered by a Mercedes engine. Most boast all the comforts of home: full kitchen and bath, fold down beds or bunks, tables and benches or couches, entertainment center, pull-out rooms, AC, king-size beds, etc., etc.

Dustin at Guaranty told us that Guaranty holds monthly barbecues for customers as a means for meeting and mixing with their clientele. Many trade up.


Rented RV at Lake Powell, Arizona

Lest you get the false impression that the RV lifestyle is the domain of retirees, like those portrayed in About Schmidt, think again. We passed parks with RV campers packed close together as far as the eye could see in Colorado. In Kanab, Utah the RV Corral promises all the comforts that a plugged-in environment has to offer. As a person accustomed to preferring wilderness camping, where one carries in everything one will need and leaves no trace of one’s passing, RV culture was a revelation to me. The sheer numbers of Americans committing resources to the lifestyle, however, proves that I’ve been living in a bubble. Then again, haven’t we all?

David Stairs is editor of Design-Altruism-Project.

4 Responses to “RV Nation”

  1. Koz Says:

    As the poet Pope wrote,

    “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing
    Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring:
    There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain,
    And drinking largely sobers us again.”

    Global warming caused by RV’s, clunker cars and increased CO2 gases? Is the world flat? Does the universe revolve around the Earth? If everyone drove only a Prius would global warming decrease? Or is global warming caused by something larger than man, something outside of man’s control? Something to ponder while driving the RV up to Yellowstone 🙂

  2. Stacie Budek Says:

    I love to camp, but I do it in a tent. I have noticed over the years that more and more people are using campers and RVs and not just small ones, but huge ones that take up the whole space in state parks. And most of the time only 1 or 2 people are using it. They need to plug in and have a lot of things that use electricity, the plasma TV, air conditioner, heater, etc. If people want to camp, do it in a way that doesn’t hurt nature as much. People still have to get to their destination somehow, but at least once they are there, they won’t be vacationing in a second house. It will save on the gas getting there and the energy used while there. Global warming was caused by more than RVs, but at least part of the problem will be lessened.

  3. Casey Canon Says:

    I’m not going to lie.. when it comes to camping, I’d rather be in an RV with a bathroom, shower and bed instead of in a tent on the cold, hard ground. But, I’m also not a big fan of outdoor camping. Although I’d rather be in a more luxurious environment like an RV, I’m aware that’s not exactly environmentally friendly. These days with high gas prices and a bad economy, it’s also not affordable (this SHOULD be decreasing the use, but obviously it’s not). Not only are people dominating the roads and campsites with RV’s, but they’re also now largely used at things like music festivals (Bonnaroo, Rothbury, etc). If you see an aerial view of a music festival camping area, you will see miles and miles of RV’s clustered together. It’s just another excuse to drive around your gas/energy guzzler, which will down the road hurt the environment, not help it. Maybe activists and designers will collaborate to make hybrid electric RV’s with “green” qualities.

  4. letter from David Stairs, Designers Without Borders « Kvjm Says:

    […] the purposes of design in our complex world. Recent posts he has authored at D-A-P include “RV Nation,” “POSTprofessional,” and “Bruce Mau and the Apotheosis of […]