The Many Advantages Of Tent Trailer Camping

advantages of tent trailer camping

The 2019 camping season begins this morning (kind of), with the opening of the camping reservation website where we live. Thousands of campers will flood the site beginning at 7 AM. There’s always a mad rush to book the best sites on the most popular weekends. It reminded me of this popular post I wrote about a year ago, and I thought I’d republish it for any passionate campers out there. Enjoy! 

Hey everyone! We opened up our tent trailer (aka pop-up camper) today, in preparation for our first camping trip of the year, 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.


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.


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.


…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.


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.

Comments 17

  1. Am I the only one around here who thinks this is a helluva luxury? 🙂
    As a kid I used to be a scout and loved camping, but we never had more than regular tents. I have slept in a pop-up camper only once as a teenager and it felt like a mansion.
    Planting the seeds in young minds is pretty important, I really like to provide this experience for my girls, but my wife vetoed it yet, as our younger daughter will be only one year old soon (btw any experiences in camping with babies?). To kickstart this I was looking forward to set up a tent in the garden this summer and sleep outside with the older one. Just did not tell her otherwise I should answer the question every day that “when will it be”?
    Oh, and yes the most important rule “don’t touch the canvas”! Thanks for sharing this, it brought back some memories 🙂

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      You know, I feel like camping in our tent trailer is a real luxury, even when I’m parked between 40′ motorhomes at the campground. I don’t know, I have simple tastes I guess. You bring up such a great point about planting seeds. We didn’t start camping with our kids until they were 11, 9 and 6, so there’s definitely no rush. I’ve read that experiences beginning around age 8-10 are the ones that kids will carry with them into adulthood. And I think setting up the tent in the backyard is a great idea. It may seem small, but it would be quite an adventure for your daughter, she’ll love it!

  2. Love this post reminds my off my childhood. Mom and Dad were *frugal* and we tented for years. When my parents talk about they laugh like it was pure hell. Not how I remember it though – too much fun going from lake to lake in northern British Columbia.

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      I wish I’d done more tent camping in my youth, but I have to say I do like the added comfort of being off the ground. Isn’t it amazing how our memories from childhood are so often cast in this warm glow. It’s just pure nostalgia, no matter what the reality was at the time.

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      I have a bunch of widgets that are part of the Jet Pack Plug-Plug In, but it looks like the “Recent Tweets” Plug In was included with my theme, which is the “X Theme”. It is pretty cool. 🙂

  3. I hope your trip was great! I have to be honest, for someone who loves nature as much as I do, there has been very little camping in my lifetime – once in Slovenia when I was 20 and that’s it! It has never been something I was drawn to. But I’m trying to change that. I have no problem sleeping outdoors or going without comforts, but, and this may sound crazy, my need to decompress in my own private space at the end of the day and read or whatever I think has made me look at camping the wrong way. I am the kind of person that will have a grand time drinking with friends on the stoop and then just slip away without saying goodnight – awful I know! My husband really wants to take the kids camping, so I am going to put on my big girl pants and get over my little end of the day anti-social quirks. I will sit at the campfire and try not to ruminate. lol. (I also don’t like walks on the beach, which make me think of death, to my husband’s dismay.) I have been reading “My Side of the Mountain” to my 10 year old son, which is a classic book about a little boy who leaves NYC to go live off the land in the woods of the Catskills for a year. It’s a great book for inspiring a kid to want to learn about nature and some pretty cool outdoor skills that would be quite fun to master. It is somewhat fantastical, but it is really awesome. My son is too old for me to read to him, but I really wanted to read it too, so he is humoring me. Not for the last time in his life I’m sure! : )

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      We had such a good time this weekend. There had been a fire ban in place due to very dry weather over the past few weeks. But it rained steadily the day we left (Friday), and the burn ban was lifted just as we were pulling into the campground. The rain soon dissipated, and the next three days were perfect weather-wise, in the 80’s and not a cloud in the sky. You never know, I think you might learn to love it. : )

      By the way, I remember fondly my Mom reading to me well beyond the age I learned to read. I think she probably read the entire Narnia Chronicles series aloud to me, as well as a number of other books, and I’m sure it means the world to your son. : )

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  4. Great post. I have never been a fan of camping, but my husband and son love it. We camp in a tent, however I would love to have a tent trailer, I feel like it would be a better option even though it would be a bit of an investment to get one. Thanks for sharing this information, especially dispelling the myths around tent trailers.

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      If sleeping in a tent is your #1 turnoff from camping, then a tent trailer may make all the difference for you. There is definitely an up front expense. I’m not sure if I mentioned it in the article, but we purchased ours for $2000, which was a very good price. You can easily get a used one in excellent condition for $3000-$3500. Thanks for reading! : )

  5. We’re a family of four…kids are now 16 (daughter) and 13 (son). We’ve been “tent campers” for 10+ years, but feel like it’s time to get off the ground (especially me; my wife is still fine w/sleeping bags on the ground). We’re looking at a pop-up or a small/medium Travel Trailer (we have a Ford Expedition). After doing a TON of research on the internet, we finally made our first in-store visit to RV sales places in Albuquerque, NM (we live in Santa Fe). After a full day of window-shopping, we are all leaning towards a pop-up over a TT. Leaving out the economic factors (price, better gas mileage) the two main factors that are swaying it for me:

    1) The Pop-Up seem more “airy” and open. It would seem like you’re actually “camping” (which I thought was the real reason why people use RV’s/trailers!). TT’s seem “boxed in”…dark, with only a couple of windows..and they don’t sleep as many people.

    2) Pop-Ups seem like super-luxurious big tents-on-wheels…with the added benefit of kitchen extras. TT’s seem like cheaper Class C’s/A’s/5th Wheels. At least on the dealer lot, it felt like TT’s were a step down from those other options…whereas in the PopUps, it felts like a big step up from a tent. Kinda a weird analogy, I know–but that’s just how it felt.

    The search continues. Who know, we may end up getting a TT after all. But at least for now, we’re leaning towards a PopUp.

    I’ll keep y’all posted.

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      Hi Ray, thanks for stopping by! I feel the same way you do about pop-ups vs. tent trailers. I much prefer the “airy” and open feel of a pop up, and the fact that they can sleep so many people. Our 3 kids have brought friends along from time to time, and there’s always enough room. The fact that they are usually the more economical choice as well, makes it even better. I’d love to hear how things turn out when you do make a choice!

  6. having g spent almost all of my youth calling, backpacking and being in the tt with my folks – out doesn’t matter which out takes to get you out – just do it.
    My first tent trip was to oak creek canyon (Sedona) at 6 weeks. Without knowing out i was hooked!!!
    The folks graduated from tents to a 16 ft Terry and never no red up fron there. Bright, light, lots of windows – huge front window, pull down double – it was great. We hit every major western park.
    In my teens i backpacker the Sierra, Tetons and so much more.
    Tents, TT’s and rv’s – or a backpack – just get out there!!!

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