Living the RV life

  • Article by: DOUG SMITH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 9, 2012 - 12:33 AM

Sales of recreational vehicles are on the rebound, with the biggest growth among families with kids, and of lighter models that can be towed by more vehicles.


Rick and Brenda Allanson of Edina are longtime RVers. They are on a trip to the Black Hills of South Dakota.

When Rick Allanson and his wife, Brenda, gather with friends or relatives, it's often at their 30-foot travel trailer, not at their Edina home.

Except in winter, an RV park on the Mississippi River north of the Twin Cities is their home away from home.

"Everyone loves to come to the campground to barbeque, have a campfire and make s'mores," Rick Allanson said. "We're there almost every weekend. It's a getaway."

A getaway on wheels.

Longtime campers, the Allansons are passionate recreational vehicle enthusiasts.

And they are not alone.

Nationwide, about 8.9 million households own RVs -- the highest ever -- according to a 2011 University of Michigan survey. That's up from 5 million 30 years ago.

In Minnesota, about 150,000 trailers and motorized recreational vehicles were registered in 2011. And that doesn't include pickup campers, which aren't tracked because they don't need special license plates.

RVs are ubiquitous at Minnesota campgrounds: Half the campers at Minnesota state parks "rough it" in some type of recreational vehicle or trailer. And the number of RVers here and nationwide is expected to remain steady or grow as the nation recovers from the Great Recession.

Manufacturers cranked out 252,000 RVs last year -- the highest total in four years but still well below the 390,000 shipped in 2006. And Minnesota's RV sellers are optimistic they will find buyers at the 45th annual RV, Vacation and Camping Show, which opens this week in Minneapolis.

"Last year, we had the best year we've ever had," said Jeffrey Pearo, business manager at Hilltop Trailer Sales in Fridley. "We're expecting this year to be as good, if not better, than 2011."

Breaking a stereotype

If you think RVers are all gray-haired retired baby boomers, think again.

"There are plenty of retirees who are RVing, but many are families with children," said Kevin Broom of the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association.

Said Pearo, "I would say the biggest portion of our business is younger families."

The average age of an RVer is 48, and 39 percent had children under 18 living at home, according to that University of Michigan survey. The largest gain in RV ownership over the past five years was among those age 35 to 54, and they make up nearly half of all RV households. Still, 3.6 million baby boomer households have an RV.

The Allansons are in their mid-50s, and their four kids are grown. They bought their first travel trailer eight years ago, and now park their trailer from April to October at a seasonal campground near Otsego on the Mississippi River.

"Even in traffic on Friday nights I can get there in an hour," Rick Allanson said. "We go up Friday after work and come back Sunday. We fish the Mississippi for smallmouth bass, walleye, catfish and giant carp. We also do a lot of kayaking. And the campground has swimming pool and shuffleboard."

Their RV has all the comforts of home: a sofa and two chairs, table, refrigerator, oven, microwave, air conditioning and heat. "Last year we got a TV," he said.

And unlike a cabin, the Allansons' camper can be towed from their retreat to other campgrounds, including the Black Hills, their favorite destination.

"Minnesota has an unbelievable number of great campgrounds, including some right here in the metro area," he said.

Easier to tow

Pearo said the latest trend in RVs is lighter-weight trailers that can be towed more efficiently and with smaller, cheaper vehicles.

"We have a 23-foot Koala trailer that weighs 3,200 pounds," he said. "A conventional 23-foot trailer weighs about 4,400 pounds. Manufacturers are using more composite materials and are cutting weight from frames. It makes them easier to tow, with better gas mileage, but the biggest factor is they are towable by more vehicles."

The hottest sellers are in the $20,000-to-$30,000 range.

Meanwhile, the Allansons have bigger plans.

"I think next year we're going with a fifth-wheel," Rick Allanson said. "It's bigger, the ceilings are taller. People's mouths just drop when they see one.

"Camping has come a long way."

Doug Smith •

  • related content

  • Chart: RV show info

    Tuesday February 7, 2012

    When: Thursday-Sunday • Where: Minneapolis Convention Center • Hours: 10-9 Thursday-Saturday; 10-5 Sunday • Cost: $10 age 13 and older; $4 for children 6-12 • Info:

  • Chart: Minnesota RV registrations

    Tuesday February 7, 2012

    Registrations of RVs in Minnesota has remained steady in recent years:

  • Two brothers in two new vehicles fall through two spots in the ice

    Wednesday February 8, 2012

    It was double trouble for two brothers in northwestern Minnesota, who separately crashed through thin ice in their new vehicles last week.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

Click here to send us your hunting or fishing photos – and to see what others are showing off from around the region.


Tennessee 7:25 PM
Philadelphia 12/20/14 3:30 PM
San Diego 12/20/14 7:25 PM
San Francisco
Minnesota 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Detroit 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Cleveland 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Atlanta 12/21/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Green Bay 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Kansas City 12/21/14 12:00 PM
New England 12/21/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 12/21/14 3:05 PM
St. Louis
Buffalo 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Indianapolis 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Seattle 12/21/14 7:30 PM
Denver 12/22/14 7:30 PM
New York 7:00 PM
New Orleans 7:30 PM
Milwaukee 9:00 PM
Oklahoma City 9:30 PM
Golden State
Florida 6:00 PM
Colorado 6:00 PM
Toronto 6:00 PM
Washington 6:00 PM
Anaheim 6:30 PM
St. Louis 9:30 PM
Los Angeles
Edmonton 9:30 PM
San Jose
St Thomas (TX) 61 FINAL
Rice 72
Stony Brook 6:00 PM
Temple 6:00 PM
FIU 6:00 PM
Long Island
Lehigh 6:00 PM
South Alabama 6:00 PM
Seton Hall 6:00 PM
South Florida
Ga Southern 6:00 PM
Yale 6:00 PM
Cleveland State 6:00 PM
Wright State 6:00 PM
Western Carolina
Nicholls 6:30 PM
Louisiana Tech
Morgan State 6:30 PM
Idaho State 6:30 PM
South Dakota St
Oakland City 7:00 PM
Austin Peay
Eureka 7:00 PM
Appalachian St 7:00 PM
Connecticut 7:00 PM
Southern Miss 7:00 PM
Jackson State
Coastal Carolina 7:00 PM
Ole Miss
Montana State 7:30 PM
South Dakota
LSU 8:00 PM
Ohio 8:05 PM
CS-Dominguez 9:00 PM
Cal State Fullerton
Walla Walla 9:00 PM
DePaul 9:00 PM
Oregon State
Nevada 9:00 PM
Portland State 9:00 PM
San Francisco
CS-Bakersfield 9:05 PM
Utah State
Nevada 12/20/14 10:00 AM
Utah State 12/20/14 1:20 PM
Texas-El Paso
(23) Utah 12/20/14 2:30 PM
Colorado State
Western Mich 12/20/14 4:45 PM
Air Force
South Alabama 12/20/14 8:15 PM
Bowling Green
BYU 12/22/14 1:00 PM
Marshall 12/23/14 5:00 PM
Northern Ill
Navy 12/23/14 8:30 PM
San Diego St
Central Mich 12/24/14 11:00 AM
Western Ky
Fresno State 12/24/14 7:00 PM
Niagara 76 FINAL
Cleveland State 58
High Point 59 FINAL
VA Commonwealth 81
Towson 64 FINAL
Wake Forest 74
Presbyterian 50 FINAL
Charlotte 66
Chicago State 62 FINAL
Bradley 59
Northwestern Coll 58 FINAL
Drake 102
Vanderbilt 67 FINAL
Marquette 80
Temple 4:00 PM
Southern Miss 4:00 PM
Ole Miss
UMBC 4:00 PM
Miami-Florida 5:00 PM
St Mary-KS 5:00 PM
South Dakota
William & Mary 5:00 PM
Troy 5:30 PM
Loyola Marymount 6:00 PM
St Francis-PA 6:00 PM
Indiana-Southeast 6:00 PM
Delaware State 6:00 PM
Tenn Temple 6:00 PM
West Virginia St 6:00 PM
Fairfield 6:00 PM
Seton Hall
Dartmouth 6:00 PM
New Hampshire
Ball State 6:00 PM
Jacksonville 6:00 PM
Tennessee St
Trine 6:00 PM
Western Mich
Tenn Tech 6:30 PM
Samford 7:00 PM
New Orleans 7:00 PM
Incarnate Word 7:00 PM
TX-Pan American
Ark-Little Rock 7:00 PM
South Dakota St
CS-Northridge 7:30 PM
Northern Ariz
Santa Clara 8:00 PM
(19) Oklahoma St 8:00 PM
Weber State
Washington 8:00 PM
San Diego State
Cal Poly 8:00 PM
New Mexico
(10) Louisville 8:00 PM
Grand Canyon
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters





question of the day

Poll: Should the lake where the albino muskie was caught remain a mystery?

Weekly Question