Hey everyone! We opened up our tent trailer (aka pop-up camper) today, in preparation for our first camping trip of 2018, which is happening this coming weekend.
The camper actually became my writing spot for the afternoon, and it got me thinking about the many advantages of tent trailer camping.
In our consumer crazed world, even the age old pastime of camping has fallen into the clutches of materialism. As an example, go to any campground these days and you’ll be hard pressed to find someone using a tent.
Most campsites are occupied by large travel trailers and expensive pickup trucks, or motorhomes equipped with amenities that would rival a custom built home.
I never really camped as a kid. I mean, I did on a couple of occasions, but it wasn’t a pastime that we took up as a family. But regardless of my lack of exposure to camping early on, as I got older it was always something I felt I would want my kids to experience.
Fast forward to eight years ago.
A friend of mine was taking his two boys camping at a nearby provincial park, and called to ask if my son, who was around 10 at the time, and I wanted to join them.
It was just the one night, but I thought it would be a cool experience, so I quickly agreed.
As it turned out, one night was all it took, and I was hooked. In fact, I can recall the very moment I realized it.
A SKY FULL OF STARS
It was late in the evening, the boys had gone to sleep, and my friend and I were sitting by the fire, deep in conversation. I leaned back, and in the darkness could make out the tops of the towering pines, swaying gently as the breeze moved through them. The trees appeared as black shadows against the night sky.
Above them was a canopy of stars. Without the pollution from house lights and street lamps, it’s amazing how brilliant the night sky becomes.
I distinctly recall how peaceful it felt, and thinking how much I wanted my family to share the experience.
AGENDA FREE LIVING
Based on my very romantic description above, it goes without saying that I highly recommend camping to anyone. But there’s more to it than a starry sky.
When you’re camping, there’s no agenda. No alarm clocks, no morning commute, and no meetings. You get things done, but you do them on your own time. The oft-harried pace of daily life is placed on pause for a few days. And it’s an easier environment than most to put down your phone, and connect with real people.
CAMPING CAN BE A HUGE EXPENSE….
…but it doesn’t have to be.
If you’re interested in taking up camping, but tenting it is too hardcore for your taste, owning a tent trailer, or pop-up camper, can be a great alternative.
There’s no need to fork out tens of thousands of dollars on a luxury RV, not to mention an expensive pickup truck you would need to tow it.
OUR TENT TRAILER EXPERIENCE
That night my son and I spent camping with my friend and his boys had me hooked.
The following summer, my wife and I purchased a used tent trailer from my brother-in-law who decided to, you guessed it, upgrade to a much larger and fancier RV.
Seven years later, we love our pop-up camper more than ever. In fact, I believe that it can be the best camping option for families with kids.
Based on our family’s experience, I’ve created a list of the many benefits of camping with a tent trailer. I’ve also dispelled a few myths.
Beginning with the economics of tent trailer camping, this is a personal finance website after all, here it is.
Tent Trailers Are Economical
We purchased our tent trailer used for $2000 seven years ago. I replaced the wheels this spring for $140, but aside from that it hasn’t cost us a penny. Compare that to $25,000+ for a new travel trailer, financed over 15 or 20 years, not to mention the expense of owning a pickup truck to tow it around.
This may be my favourite thing about owning a tent trailer vs. the hard shelled variety.
By opening the screens on all sides, it’s easy to get plenty of air flowing through the camper.
On a warm night, with screens open, it can feel almost as though you’re lying directly under the stars.
Tent Trailers Sleep a Tonne of People
Tent trailers have the ability to sleep more people than even the largest luxury RVs. A friend of mine has a larger tent trailer (14’ box), which sleeps 10 people. Ours has a 10’ box and sleeps 8 people comfortably. On one end there’s a king sized bed, and a double on the other. In addition, there are two benches that pull out into a double and single bed.
This offers plenty of room for our family of five, with space for more in case one of the kids brings a friend along.
Easy To Tow
This is an area where tent trailers offer a distinct advantage over much larger and heavier, hard shelled RV’s. They can be easily towed with a minivan. There’s no need to own an expensive, gas guzzling pickup truck, or monster SUV.
We own a Toyota Sienna with a 3.3L engine, and it offers plenty of towing power for a camper of this size. If we had purchased a larger camper, we would also require a far less fuel efficient family vehicle.
Easy To Store
When camping season is over, you need a place to park your RV. Unless you own an acreage, you likely have to pay someone to store it for you. Prices vary, but can start upwards of $100/month.
Our tent trailer sits on an 8’X10’set of patio stones in our backyard, and we can easily steer it in and out with our van.
They Make A Perfect Sunroom
During the summer, when we’re not camping, we keep our tent trailer set up in our driveway. It makes for the perfect sunroom! It’s a great place to grab a nice warm, afternoon nap.
As I mentioned earlier in this post, our camper has become my new writing space for the summer.
Our kids will often use it for sleepovers, and if we have family visiting from out of town, a few of us will sleep in the camper to allow more space in the house for our company.
Dispelling Myths of Tent Trailer Camping
They Let Water In
The pull out sections of a tent trailer are made of canvas, so people often assume that water can easily penetrate the surface when it rains.
In the seven years we’ve owned our tent trailer, we’ve endured many a rainy day. I can say that during that time, we haven’t had a drop of water get inside the camper.
Of course, you do have to be careful not to get rips or tears in the canvas, and if it is wet outside, it’s important to avoid touching the canvas from the inside, or water could saturate through.
They lack creature comforts of larger RV’s.
Our tent trailer has a furnace which has kept us perfectly warm on some very cool evenings early in the camping eason. It has a small refrigerator, as well as an indoor and outdoor stove.
The sink can be hooked up to the campsites water supply, and also has a tank that can be used when there is no source of running water.
We are able to plug in our coffee maker and a small microwave as well. In theory, we could hook up a TV, but that’s the kind of thing we’re trying to get away from when we’re camping.
Tent trailers do have some limitations, when it comes to amenities. While some larger models come equipped with toilets, most do not, and they certainly don’t have a dedicated washroom or shower.
That said, most campgrounds have washroom and shower facilities which most campers tend to prefer using, regardless of what their RV comes equipped with.
Our camper doesn’t have air conditioning, but some tent trailers do. With the abundance of air that flows through our camper, I’ve rarely missed having A/C.
They’re a pain to set up and tear down
This is one advantage hard shelled RV’s have over pop ups. There is some inconvenience in having to set up and tear down a tent trailer before and after using it.
But it’s not as much work as it may seem. When we arrive at a campsite, we can do a full set up in about 15 or 20 minutes, the same goes for tear down upon departure. In my mind, it’s a small price to pay for all of the other benefits.