The dreaded day came.  The day dh said that he wanted to take the kids camping.  This brought dread to me for a couple of reasons: first, I’m not a camper.  I’ve been camping before, even RVing, and yeah, it’s fun for the first day until the mosquitoes start biting and you try to sleep through the cacophony of bugs buzzing and wild animals rooting around your campground.  And let’s not forget the sun rising at 4a.  Second, dh wanted to rend an RV.  Whoa!  Deep breath.  RVs are fun and provide a great home away from home when camping and traveling, but when you’re actually on the road, are they really safe for kids?

I agreed to take a field trip with dh to the RV store to look at the rental RVs to see how we could safely transport our 7 and 9 year old kids to the campground.  We looked at 3 different RVs, all class C: 22′, 25′, and 30′.  Class C RVs have a cut-away van chassis with a bunk over the cab, plus a bed in the back (and let’s not forget the bathroom!).  Essentially an RV is a chassis, be it truck or van, with a box frame built on top of it.  According to RV Consumer Group, the Class C is considered one of the safest because it has the van cockpit area intact: the driver and front passenger protection is there.  They’re just the right size for a small family to get away for a weekend.  On this camping trip, there will be 2 adults and 2 children: dh, MIL (um, did I mention I’m not fond of camping?), our 7 yr old harnessed in a Britax Frontier, and our 9 yr old in a booster seat because he’s too big for anything else (for you car seat people whose minds are whirring about possible car seat combinations ;) ).  In each RV, the only lap/shoulder belts are located in the front driver and passenger seats.

The 22′ RV has lap belts galore.  There are 2 lap-only belts at the dinette table on the forward-facing side.  Upon further investigation, the seat belt is bolted to a metal bar under the bench.  The seat belt came from a couple inches forward of the bight (crack), which can pose serious install problems.  Because the bench was completely surrounded by plywood, I couldn’t tell how the metal bar was secured to the vehicle.  The cushion on the bench was removable, so there’s the potential for it to move around during a crash.


 

 

 

The other 3 seat belts are lap-only and found on the sideways-facing couch.  The belts are bolted to the floor.  Can you imagine sitting with your 2 best friends or family members buckled in sideways in a lap-only belt on the couch?  No wonder no one wants to buckle up in these things.

  
 

The 25′ RV was set up nearly the same seat belt-wise except that instead of a couch, it had a single side-facing lounge chair with a lap-only belt.

The 30′ RV had 4 lap-only belts at the dinette with 2 on the rear-facing side facing the 2 on the forward-facing side.  It also had a side-facing couch with 3 lap-only belts.

 

 

 

So the dilemma is where to put everyone in the 25′ RV, the one we feel best suits our needs.  Given that dh is the driver and the only other position where a booster can safely be used is the front passenger seat, that’s where 9 yr old ds will go with the express instructions to not move, lol.  He’s been well-versed in the dangers of airbags.  Britax doesn’t allow installation of their restraints on side-facing or rear-facing vehicle seats, nor does any other car seat manufacturer (I checked with Britax and as long as the restraint is placed on a forward-facing vehicle seat and can be installed per the directions given in the user manual, installing in an RV is just fine).  Given that restriction, dd will go at the dinette ASSUMING I can get a good installation of less than 1″ of movement at the belt path.  The Frontier tends to be a, er, fussy seat to install under the best of circumstances; I’m not sure how it will do given what I have to work with on the dinette bench.  MIL will sit in the side-facing chair in a lap-only belt (and I hope her head doesn’t collide with ds’s should a crash occur).

I would so love RVing to be the easy answer, but it’s not.  Load up some food, throw the dog and kids in and go.  If you got tired mid-trip, you laid on a bed and slept; if you got hungry, you made a sandwich.  That’s the way it used to be before we got smart.  I remember it being that way when I went RVing in the 70s with my dad and his family in the ol’ Winnebago.  Unfortunately, there are some serious safety issues with RVs because of unrestrained passengers who can fly into each other in a crash (you’re 4 times more likely to be thrown from a vehicle if you’re unrestrained).  A 40 lbs. child becomes a 2200 lbs. bullet in a 55 mph crash when he’s not buckled, so while it’s fun to run around and be free in the RV, it’s incredibly dangerous.  And don’t forget about the luggage and other miscellaneous things laying around the cabin of the RV.

After we got all the logistics figured out, the RV was going to be $129/day + $0.32/mile + a fee to empty the tanks + gas + a per hour charge for the generator, if used.  Insurance is included.  In order to take possession, we would be required to pick up the afternoon before we needed it and return it the morning after returning home, thus incurring 2 extra days’ charges.  Dh decided to find a nicer condo to rent for cheaper instead.  With real beds.  And a real shower.  And internet.  I may now go :) .