We were tent camping at a family reunion near Lake Willard in Utah. The weather was beautiful and the kids were having a great time playing in the Lake. After tucking them into their sleeping bags, we settled down too after a long day in the sun and all the family reunioning we were exhausted. Several hours later a huge storm rolled in and tore our tent to shreds. We scrambled the kids into the van and tried to salvage what we could from the tatters of the tent. It was too long after that, we started seriously considering a different way to camp.
There are numerous factors to consider when choosing an RV. My family and I have owned tents for car camping, then we’ve had a pop-up tent trailer, a pop-up truck camper, a hard-sided truck camper, a Class C motorhome, and a travel trailer. Today, we own a twenty-seven foot travel trailer and a pop-up truck camper. I occasionally tent camp with girlfriends.
Below are some questions to ask to help clarify which features are important for you and your travel buddies.
Will this be used for weekends or longer periods of time?
The longer the trip, the more amenities you may want. I like the pop-up truck camper for one or two night trips close to home (we live near the foothills of Denver). We typically use it to get closer to trailheads, spend the night then hike the next day and head home. We take the trailer when we go fishing or take longer trips. Since my husband is self-employed, he sometimes needs to work. We set up an awesome work space in our trailer. See my other article about setting up an office space in a trailer.
How much money are you willing to spend?
I’m not a fan of buying new for several reasons. First, I couldn’t always afford it and I believe there are really good deals to be had in the used market. I can always change the color of the curtains or replace flooring for a lot cheaper than going new. We got a great deal on our Lance trailer (4-season). It was only two years old when we got it. We were able to pull out the jack knife couch and replace it with some foldable tables from Ikea and make a great workspace for longer trips.
Will your RV require a vehicle to pull it or carry it?
Trailers are great because you don’t necessarily need another vehicle than the one you already have, depending of course on what you want to pull. Pop-up tent trailers are lightweight and have their advantages. I could probably pull a small one with my Subaru. The disadvantage would be if you’re wanting to move camp frequently or want to sleep in it on a long road trip. The tent fabric does make it lightweight but it does not act as a good sound barrier. Whatever your neighbor is doing or however late they are doing it, you will know about it unless you opt for earplugs!
Motorhomes are great when you’re on the road. You can make lunch and snack easily, use the bathroom, and sleep overnight at rest stops with relative sound protection. Ours had a built in generator and was convenient to use in these situations. We drove from the Denver area to Seattle to buy a sailboat, trailered it down to San Diego and did some racing all while staying in the motorhome. The disadvantage was the maintenance and insurance. It’s one more engine that needs oil changes and the tire replacement can get expensive.
Camper vans (class B) are a bit out of my experience. My dad had a Chevy van in the 70s that he built in a bed and it had the quintessential shag carpet on the walls as well as the floors. I always slept out in a tent. For me, I want something I can stand up in and use an indoor toilet unless I’m in a tent. They are becoming very popular and did consider getting one before I got my pop-up truck camper but I didn’t want another engine to maintain and I already own my 2016 Chevy truck and can use it for other things.
How long do you want your rig to be?
Depending on where you want to go, the total length of your vehicle may prohibit you from certain campsites or roads. Going-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park has a total length limit of 21 feet, width of 8 feet and a height of 10 feet. We camped on the east side and had to leave our trailer at camp and come back over. To camp on the west side, we had to drive around the south of the park. Even if we had been less than 21 feet, many places would have been difficult to pull off and enjoy the scenery. There’s always a trade-off.
Although it seems expensive, renting the type of unit you think you want is advisable. You will be able to determine which features you really like/need and which you don’t. You may think that teardrop trailer is perfect and then find out you’re terrible at backing up short trailers or that you’d really like to stand up.
At this point, we have two RVs which I realize is an extra luxury! I view camping equipment like some people view shoes – one does not fit all purposes and therefore, having the ability to choose is has increased our ability to have adventures.