About Me

Hello fellow RVers, and welcome to the Gr8LakesCamper "About Me" page!

So, what "About Me?"

My name is Rick Kessler. I'm the managing editor for RVBusiness and Woodall's Campground Management magazines. (Click the links, go to the websites and subscribe - it's free!)

My wife, Angie, and our kids, Hannah, Luke and Ben, have been RVers since 2007. We were tent campers prior to that, but only just a few times. The last time we went tent camping is when we woke up sore, cold and wet and promised to never again go camping again … unless we were in an RV — an experience shared by many RVers, I bet!

Our camper is a new-to-us 2000 Trail Lite Bantam Hybrid C-21B we bought in 2007. We bought it from General RV in Michigan. One of the reasons we bought it was because our tow vehicle at the time was our 2002 Pontiac Montana minivan. It came with a factory-equipped tow package, but even then its maximum tow capacity was 3,500 pounds (which includes four adults). We assumed we were destined for a pop-up camper until the Bantam came along. The dry weight is 2,700 pounds, but me being skeptical I think the actual dry weight is closer to 3,000. That left us with 500 pounds to spare — not much. I'm sure we were pushing the limits.

We upgraded our tow vehicle in 2009 to a 2006 Chevrolet Trailblazer LT EXT. With its extended wheel base, 5.3 liter V-8 engine, locking rear differential and the 3.72 rear axle ratio, the Trailblazer doubled our tow capacity to 7,000 pounds. Pulling the camper is now an absolute dream.

In 2017 we upgraded our tow vehicle once again, this time we bought a 2014 Chevy Silverado 1500 LT. It's a double cab, standard 6-foot-6 box, 4x4 with the EcoTec3 5.3L V-8 gas engine. I specifically sought this truck because of its gas mileage – mine is right in step with the listed 18 city/24 highway – but the truck's towing capacity is 11,200 pounds thanks to its factory-equipped Max Trailering Package (MTP), which includes: integrated brake controller; rear view camera;  integrated sway control; 3.73 axle ratio; heavy duty automatic locking rear differential; enhanced cooling radiator; tow-haul mode; revised shock tuning; heavier duty rear springs; 9.76-inch rear axle; and increased rear gross axle weight rating. Other specs of note: 16,700-pound GCWR; 7,200-pound GVWR; 5,309-pound minimum curb weight (vs. 5,201 without MTP); and 1,866-pound max payload (vs. 1,974 without MTP).

Our setup also includes the Equal-i-zer sway control — something I am completely satisfied with and would highly recommend. Our first aftermarket brake controller was a Prodigy and then later a POD — no complaints with either one – but the Silverado has an integrated controller.

Although we have only been RVers since 2007, several members of my extended family are RVers from way back. My grandparents traveled most of North America in their motorhomes, and several sets of aunts and uncles travel in 5th wheels, travel trailers, hybrids and pop-ups. Some even break out a tent every now and then!

We live in southern Michigan, which means our camping season is confined to seasonal jurisdictions. On top of that, the kids are all active in one thing or another so our spring opportunities are somewhat limited as well. Still, we manage to camp two or sometimes even three times a month from June through September.

We consider our RV our cottage. We like that we can take our cottage most anywhere, and we enjoy discovering new campgrounds in distant locations and all the area has to offer. My favorite thing about camping is sitting around the campfire, doing nothing more than relaxing and laughing with family and friends.