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OT/NT (you've been warned) Looking for advice on tent trailers.

6011 Views 47 Replies 20 Participants Last post by  aceinspp
Caution, this one is sort of long, and you've now had adequate opportunity to bail...

So, Debbie and I somehow got on the subject of camping the other evening, and discovered that the mutual desire to resume such a "rustic" activity is still alive.

Without the kids this time.

Like we used to do before the kids showed up.

Where back in the days of tossing the tent and camp stove, plus fishing gear and sleeping bags into the van or truck, and heading up to mountains only took a couple hours of preparation, with great times were had beside a stream or creek, just relaxing was our idea of a weekend well spent.

Then munchkins took over.

Took them tent camping a couple of times, but it didin't seem to work as smoothly.

Ever had a five year old puke all over your sleeping bag at 02:00 in the morning?

Out in the wilderness.

Where it's really dark out untill you find your flashlight.

And your pawing around in a panic to "get the lights on" finds your hands extra warm and slippery?

Thought so.

From that point on, I would stare in envy at the folks who had self contained units (trailers, campers, tent trailers), and vowed that someday we'd have such nice accomodations.

Well, we eventually got a big (9.5') cab over camper that we'd all fit in (Debbie & I in the queen sized bed over the cab, Jessica on the dinette bed, and DJ in the overhead cupboard - seriously, it was designed for a kid...) and it had everything except a dishwasher, microwave, and stereo.

It was big and bulky, required a truck that would pass anything but a gas station (1 ton truck extended cab with 454 cu. in. engine), and when you stick two (ot three if a frind came along for the trip) restless kids in the back seat of the truck for more than 2 hours, you wished that they had better reading skills (or iPods, which hadn't been invented yet).

As all things must pass, we eventuially sold the camper, and the kids found other interests (other than spending long weekends under the watchful eyes of their overly suspicious parents).

And since they're both pretty much grown up now, I shouldn't be subjected to such discussions like, "If we had a pool. and the pool burned down, would insurance pay for it?" (i swear to God, that one really did come up. you can't effectively argue with an eight year old...), road trips have not appeared quite so daunting.

However, along with the growing up of the kids, so has the aging process effected our own bodies, and as such, I was treated to a stark revelation from my wonderful wife.

While she would still enjoy camping out in the wilderness, and fishing, and campfires under the wide open skies, and watching the skunks parade through the campgrounds at night, she has absotively no interest in sleeping on, or in close proximity to, the ground ever again. Ever...

Hence, I am on the lookout for a tent trailer (no more camper. camper = pain in the buttocks), which has a reasonable pedigree of reliability, retention of value, and is properly appointed in creature comforts.

Key to those comforts in El Spouso's mind is a self contained sand box. I also concurr.

I'm ill prepared to spend upwards of $17,000 for such a contraption, so I'm gonna need some tips, tricks, or well grounded advice on what you may have found that worked well for you, or things to stay away from...

Thanks in advance for you help, and if you've read this far, thanks for hanging in there...

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Hi Duncan,

Wife and I have used and enjoyed about every kind of camping rig that can be imagined through the years.
Canvas tarp, tents, truck campers, tent trailers, travel trailers, well guess that covers it.
My advice on tent trailers, at your mile post. Don't do it.
They are compact and easy to tow, that ends the up side.
Down side. They are cold, drafty, insecure, inconvenient to access while traveling, and uncomfortable to stay in especially
if it is a little rainy and windy. Usually the wheels and tires are undersized which leads to trouble on the road.

Look at a "light" travel trailer. We pull our 23' all through the mountains with our 1/2 ton GMC with no problems
and when we get there we are COMFORTABLE.

Just my opinion.
Rick Marty
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Good on ya Duncan, that's cool.

I had a 24' Four Winds travel trailer that we towed around with a 2003 Dodge Durango. We did enjoy it... while gas was "reasonable" (south of $3.25/gal). It made a week long trek to Yellowstone in 2005, carried my team-mates and I through two years of the Logan to Jackson bike race, and made trip or two to Moab Utah for fun in the desert.

Then one day I was wondering where all my money went and calculated that per person per night, between monthly payment, insurance and fuel cost, it was cheaper to get a penthouse suite at a Vegas hotel for the family..

It's gone now... I'm happier.

I do miss it though, it was comfy. If we were to do it again I'd seriously look at a previously owned tent trailer, lighter, easier to tow, easier on fuel. We're fair weather campers now anyway so I don'r really need four siolid walls, though the Air Conditioning was nice in Moab..

Let us know what you find..

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Thanks for the advice.

A couple of things that drive me to the collapsible unit are weight, and "behind the fence profile"...

We're towing with a Toyota Tacoma access cab, with a V-6, so gross weight is a bit of an issue, especially wishing to maintain power margin up and down the mountain roads.

While I can appreciate the solidity and weather resitance of fixed walls, for me there are visibility concerns (towing and manuevering wise) plus wishing to keep this thing out of sight from the neighbors (somebody is moslt likely liable to complain).

Since we're most'ly "fair weather" campers, the consternation over cold and drafty is sort of minimal, and security (while a general concern) is of minor consequence, if we don't have much to steal. Purse and other valuables are usually locked up in the cab of the truck...

We don't play where the bears are (that I know of...)

I've been noticing that most of the units I've been perusing have 14" or 15" wheels, which alleviated my previous concern over bearing over heating (like is experienced by 12" and smaller rims). I also planned on having two complete bearing and hub assemblies on hand for such situations, just because preparedness helps keep your mind at ease out on the road...

I need to spend some time at the various dealers, touching, feeling, inspecting and evaluating what they're offering. I know they hate it when engineers start asking the "pointed" questions...

I will however take your advice and look into light weight travel trailers, to see what my alternatives are. I could be pleasantly diverted...
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Understand the "missing it" part.

I realy liked having my big old camper all to myself for long weekends at the race track.

Just me up in the queen sized bed, no taking the dinette apart to make up a bed for someone else, and no squeezing past any other "occupants".

Like a portable little apartment.

However, loading and unloading the rig from the truck was a pain, and manuevering it into the back yard (don't hit the eaves, and avoid the fence columns) made for a good reason to leave it on the truck for months on end.

That crippled the already marginal gas mileage of the truck, for no other reason than convenience...

And gave Debbie occasional fits, as she was the primary driver of that big truck (less miles per day to and from work).

I'm still flipping coins on what I "need", and Debbie is just going with the flow at the moment (no frinction, which I like).

I need to take her with me to the various dealers, and make her part of the decision...

We've hopefully gone past the point of having to consider the needs or desires of other family members (esecially since the truck won't comfortably carry more than two people), so this ought to be an interesting experience.

As an additional point, this whole deal isn't exactly like signing up for an amputation of a limb or anything, if we find that we made a poor choice, we can (hopefully) sell the abberation, and rethink our next adventure...
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Duncan - Ms Dawg and I enjoy the same type of camping!

We found we could rent any size of pop-up from a local dealer at a good and fair rate. The advantages are:

1. No payments.

2. No storage issues.

3. No depreciation in value.

One thing we did add were some good cushions. The ones they supply are too thin for our old bones.

We just spent the second week of Sept. by a very nice small lake in Wisconsin. I believe it was less than $270 for 10 days, propane included. You can sure get a lot of these vacations with your budget.


Edit: I guess I should add, one disadvantage is they may not have one available for spur of the moment trips.
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Sheepdog has a very good idea & also look @ the Burro Travel trailer..
Go with either the smallest, lightest soft top tent trailer, or stay at a motel. Susie and I have had tent trailer, hardtop tent trailer, hardwall trailer, and two Class C moble campers. Now we either stay at the Inn, or use a small dome tent. Our meals usually are breakfast and dinner at establishments, with a picnic lunch. The lightweight tent trailers can be pulled by most cars, don't hurt gas mileage much, have a small storage footprint, and have a low profile.

I had written a much longer, more detailed reply and somehow deleted it .

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I second Jim's idea.  A rental is the world's best test drive.   

We had a Jayco pop-up.  She loved it.  Put a lot of miles on it.  It had dual axles, a crank-up top, a heater ( nice to have) and a tongue weight of about 200 (?) lb.

That last part made it hard to move when not in use, as the tongue wheel digs into gravel.  Lighter would have been good.

You are right--sometimes there is no substitute for a campfire. 

I use a long wheelbase conversion van. (no cold ground or sticks under the floor) I simply took out the middle row captain's chairs and replaced them with another fold down seat (got it out of a junked one for the kingly price of $25) then turned the back one around to face the back doors.

With all the seats set up you can carry 8 VERY comfortably, but I usually leave the back seat down flat and haul all my business stock for shows back there with the poles and tables underneath, and STILL hauls 5. Fold both seats down and it sleeps 5 (6 if two of them are under 10). You can also haul stuff like plywood and 2x4s on the seats if you need to (or pull the eats to haul bigger dirty stuff)

Also, there's no "feeling around in the dark" for a flashlight... just open a door and the dome light comes on.

And did I mention, since it's titled as a station wagon the plates and insurance are CHEAP?

The only down side is it gets about 13mpg (which might also be an UPside since they are rather inexpensive to buy used at the moment, lol), Ok for a second or reserve vehicle, but might be tough for a daily driver.
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Both my brother and I have considered this in the past, for the very same reasons. Our parents had one when we were younger and neither of us recall it being overly uncomfortable or inconvenient.

He and his wife eventually purchased a used tent camper for significantly less than $1000 just to see whether it was what they really wanted, with the idea of upgrading to new if they found it a positive experience. Ultimately, they did find it a positive experience, but... they ended up keeping the used one. Several years later, when they did finally sell it, it had held its value and they made almost all their money back on it.

If I were doing this now, I'd think Sheepdog's recommendation of renting would be a good way to test the water before making even a modest investment in a used camper.

FWIW, several years ago my local RV place had a line of pop-up campers with hard-sided panels on the wings, instead of the traditional canvas, set up in some sort of folding arrangement.
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I like most started out camping in a tent,then to a van and then to a pop up camper to a class A motor home and down to a 5th wheel camper.Being a good Sam life member I can stay at a lot of camp grounds for $23 to $25 per night. Now If I was in your position I'd do a lot of visiting of dealers to see what is available for your needs. The newer pop ups can now be equipt with air and a lot of other amenities. They are light weight and pull well and well within your price range. Also the pop up is low profile and fit behind a fence so no one can see. Seeing what is available is the best way to go. I shopped for a long time before I came up with the 5th wheel which fits my needs. Of course I do not have a storage problem as I built a pad along side the house. If a camping show comes to your area definatley go. See a lot of campers all in one place. Later RJD
Hey Duncan...the bride and I find ourselves on the other side of the coin...4 kids 5 and Under...

Carla and I began camping in a tent about 10 years ago, then graduated to a Pop-up (parents had one when I was a kid-what a blast)..

then on 2nd trip with 3 kids in PU, we decided we had outgrown the PU-sold! and moved up to a 33' TT.

A few points if you will allow me to sputter along here:

1. Around here Used (pre-owned) units are easily had, esp this time of year (most quit camping in August). Now is a good time to buy (in SC).
2. A pre-owned unit could be a good way to get back into camping..you get the break on the deprecation.

3. I'd look for a unit that had NEVER been cooked in (or smoked in)...both odors never really go away!
4. Nowadays most PU have a locker on the front end for extra storage. Ours did, and it leaked...check all the flooring, everywhere for rot, or water damage!

5. Some units had a bad roof (a few years back on Coleman) like most LS Train purchases, you must be educated not to be skrewed!
6. If you find a unit you really like, and it's used; ask the owner to set up and drench with hose while you inspect inside, yeah it's messy, but may save you some headache in the rain!
7. New PU campers are outrageously priced...some sell for more than I paid for our New TT .
8. If you must buy "new" try to find last years model.

9. Go here for the best online PU Camper site! http://www.puxtradingpost.com/ here is the link for the store, the site was showing server busy? weird, but still a Plethora of info on PU Campers.

10. Some late models have the crank in the rear (not located on the tongue) for ease of use.
11. BAL Leveler!..This is the easiest way to level a PU, I loved mine http://www.campingworld.com/shopping/item/bal-light-trailer-tire-leveler/21017

thought I'd share some pix, but who knows how to do that anymore/

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Duncan, we bought a nice Rockwood about 9 yrs ago for ~$8000. It was expensive because it had a slideout and full bath. Whether from watching too many CSI episodes or staying in too many hotels that weren't clean enough, I don't like: sleeping in a bed with someone else's fluids on the bedspread or an old bandaid between the sheets ( in a nice hotel), public showers- whether in a hotel room or campground, carrying luggage in and out every night on a trip, etc. We loved it, and kept it until we had our third little blessing. We are apparently lazy, and it got to be too much work to load and unload everything for a two day weekend, since there was not enough storage space for the five of us.
We traded it in 7 years later and got ~$5,500 for it! not a bad investment.
I would personally go with as much storage as possible, with a bathroom. IMHO

Keep us posted!

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I haven't read any of the replies, so I have no clue if anyone already replied in this manner.

However, since you know exactly the kind of place you want to go camping, why not try and purchase a small piece of land, and build one of these 'Tiny houses"?

Granted, it is not a $300 ultralightweight tent, but from what you have described, it is what your wife has sort of demanded. Plus, it has wheels and can be moved. The built up, fitted out versions are pricey, but from what I have seen, they look very well made and have a lot of thought in them.

The savings would be:
1. Having to buy a truck with a gas obliterating engine
2. Having to haul a trailer and try and fit it out to have 'creature comforts' and still be road worthy.
3. Having to stay at campgrounds and deal with the other campers. (that would be saving your sanity)

You could buy the plans and build it yourself, too. And it is a real house!

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I've got to laugh! The folks in the SCA have been doing this sort of thing for years. Taking trailers and building permanent buildings on them and storing them at the campsite that we do Pennsic at. Lots of variations on the theme. From Gypsy vardos with cavass tops to Full blown kitchen and shower trailers that store lots of camp gear off season. Our group is looking at a shower house and ktichen set up with winter storage of camp furniture that we ONLY use at Pennsic

Lots of good suggestions here. For us for now camping "medieval style" we just purchased a Panther Primitives tent that we uber comfortable. I built a slat bed that breaks down for transport and we use a high end futon mattress on that for a bed. The girls still sleep on cots for now. As it is we still have a LOT of room. Yes not quite as secure as a Pop up or a Camper but for the rquiremwents we have fits the bill.

go to google pictures and type: ALPEN KREUZER

that might be, what you are looking for.
We most enjoyed and it was the most convient , when for a weekend of camping , we removed the seats from the extended van , except the two in front , and used a air mattress , which made for great sleeping . and room for the packing needs for the weekend .
Return home , remove gear , re-install seats , everything back to normal use for the van .
A van stands up to some very very bad weather , which happens sometimes , and if there is an emergency , simply start it up and drive away !
IF a mind change happens , a van is easy to sell compared to a camper , and time of the year senistive for sales .
What ever , enjoy the moment .

Oh yes , and the van is a safer place to be alsleep in , all things considered .
Not sure if you have ever seen our trailer, but you might consider alll fiberglass trailers. We have had ours since the fires took our tent trailer. Our Casita is wonderful trailer and extremely light. I can pull easily with my Jeep Cherokee. It has a dry weight of somewhere around 2700 lbs and is totally self contained with a shower and porcelain toilet. Pulled to Florida and back and all over California and Arizona.
I had an Apache folding trailer before and it was nice, but the biggest problem I find is that it is hard to make an overnight stay anywhere such as a rest stop. Again, it is nice to be able to just get out of your tow vehicle and jump into the trailer for a soda or a cup of coffee or lunch on a long drive.


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Duncan...a few comments.

1. I owned a tent trailor for years. Compared to your PU...they're big....wider than the truck...and higher than you think. They are just as hard to back up as any trailor is.

2. You have a pulling issue with your truck...you really want a light trailor.

3. You started by saying you and Deb liked the "light" kind of camping..so why not just sit down and figue out how to build a "camping system" for your PU. You have all the tools that you'll need to make something. For example, shell on top...recessed bed below it...storage under the bed...and a chemical potty in the corner. A hitch shelf would be an easy way to carry the BBQ/fuel/etc that you don't want inside the PU bed/shell. Make it a roll on/roll off design and you can just leave it in the side yard. Had a friend who did this with a van...and he had a lot of fun with it...doing light camping along a stream.
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