Hooniverse Asks: Camper, Trailer, or Tent, What's Your Poison?

campground
Do you like to go places and see things? Maybe occasionally meet people as well? If so, then you probably suffer from the affliction most commonly known as Wanderlust, and that is a primary cause of National Park traffic jams. It’s an epidemic!
If you do like to hit the road for more than a day, and are creeped out by motels after seeing Psycho on TV, then you’re probably a candidate for any one of the major campground home-away-from-home options currently offered. The most basic of those is the tent, which gives you protection from morning mist and mosquitos, but little else. Should you not be interested in being eaten by a bear in your tent burrito then you’ll more likely want to try something a little more substantial like a trailer. Or if backing up is not on your resume’s list of skills, a camper/motorhome.
These days you don’t even have to sink a lot into any of these options as most are available to rent. If you are a traveling man (or woman) what is your preferred campground accommodation? Do you like the bare essentials nature of a tent – so easy to set up and take down? Or, do you like a trailer, more substantial lodging, but there is that whole backing up issue? Maybe you like a camper, which can’t easily be left behind like a trailer can, but then again, it can’t be left behind like a trailer. What is your campground preference?
Image: Pinterest

61 Comments

  1. I’ve done my share of living in tents. Nowadays my idea of camping is a fresh hotel room with clean sheets, air conditioning, no bugs, and an ice machine in the hall.

    1. You’ve been talking to my wife, haven’t you?
      Seriously, after a full day outside on the Spyders, it’s nice to have a shower to wash off the road grime/warm up/cool down, a way to dry what’s wet, and a comfortable mattress.

      1. I’ve spent much of my life outdoors working as a field engineer in all sorts of conditions, plus I once spent three months travelling all around the US and Mexico with a tent. The romance of sleeping outdoors (or even in a camper) has been replaced by a desire for creature comforts. If I have to camp, give me one of these…

    2. I realized last summer that I’m not really great at camping because when I’m in nature I tend to photograph things, so I need a place to literally recharge my batteries. So a tent’s out. And I also dislike towing stuff, so a trailer’s out. Give me a hotel room too.

  2. When I was young and single it was a tent to stash all my stuff in and I slept high and dry on an air mattress in the back of my K-5 Blazer with the back seat out to make a campfire couch. Now that I am married with a child, IF I go camping, I have to do all the work for 3 people. So now it is either a cabin or the Holiday Inn (or the cheapest decent motel I can find online).

    1. I want to build one of these SO BAD even though i’m not sure one can satisfy my design objective of: “hot shower”. I just really love the idea of having something that you don’t need a full-size pickup to tow.

    2. Honey Bunny really wants one of these. To me they’re nothing more than a tent that needs a parking spot and registration the other 350-375 days out of the year. Sure, you don’t have to set them up in the wind and rain, and they have endless cool factor, but I’d just as soon rent one as own one, and I already own a tent.

        1. I was six blocks up the road on my way to work when all of a sudden in came upon me that 375 was perhaps an unreasonable estimate.

  3. Right now my set up is as below. 12′ coleman with a slideout. After 3 years I’m starting to think about moving to a hybrid trailer and upgrading the tow vehicle to a small class C RV (like 20′ max). That way big roadtrips and short camping trips can be done in the RV, and longer camping trips can drop the trailer at the site, use the RV to get around, and give mom and dad separate sleeping quarters from the kids (you know, so that we can stay up late looking at our phones).

      1. @mdharrell: My wife & I (and large dog} made a 5-day California Coastal trip in a
        SAAB 95 wagon like yours. Tenting for nice nights and inside the 95 on wet nights. Even with the back seats folded down it was a tiny bit cramped with the 3 of us. (yes it was a oil-burner)
        BTW Whats the towing capacity of yours? 😉

  4. Tuesday answer – Having spent way too many nights in a tent that would make a coffin seem roomy because that’s all that would fit in my saddlebags, give me either the lovely option of someone else’s camper that I rode out to meet, or a cheap and clean hotel. I’ve done and I’m sure will do a lot of camping and have enjoyed it, but in the finest Lethal Weapon III tradition… I’m getting too old for this $*** unless the weather is perfect.

    1. Your prescription:
      Motorhome with either a bumperload of 125cc dirtbikes or a trailer full of whatever you ride normally.

      1. Thanks, doc. But my health care has a pretty steep co-pay on this! The weather this weekend is looking pretty good, so towing and tenting it is. And if drops fall from the sky or the air mattress springs a leak, I know where to find a hotel.

    1. The reality is that a cheap camper is going to always need work, and sometimes significant repair. The camper body is surprisingly cheaply made, largely of wood. Things will break or fall apart faster than you can fix them.
      I bought a 1995 Jayco pop up in 2007 for $1,000. I immediately put $500 in the surge brakes and every year I patched canvas and rebuilt something. I ended up rebuilding the front and rear bulkheads, the front bunk and the door. I caulked and recaulked chasing leaks. It became my ongoing project vehicle.
      The good news is after 6 years we decided we didn’t want to camp anymore, and because of all my work I was able to sell it for $1,500. Not that I made money, but I didn’t lose my shirt either. Still, I imagine if I had spent $3K – $4K I would have had much less work to to do.

  5. Prior to children, my wife and I would go camping at least a dozen times every summer – regular cab, short box pickup. Throw the tent, sleeping bags, cooler, Coleman stove, and our “camping box” full of necessities like cast iron pots and plates and bug spray in the box. Hitch up the boat and leave civilization behind for a day or two. I may be romanticizing the past, but I really, really enjoyed those weekends.
    Our boys are now just about getting old enough that we may have to try again – but they’re spoiled. Now we can just drive less than 2 hours and we’re at the cabin (that is essentially a residential home that happens to be on a lake).

  6. Definitely a tent, for many reasons:
    1. Going away in pristine nature, I look for rreedom from people and sound. Having any vehicles around is disturbing.
    2. Simple is best. Less of a hazzle to get going, less complications on the way, cheaper concept.
    3. I live in a beautiful area. Every day I come home from work during the summer season, my RV allergy results in slightly elevated blood pressure levels.
    http://1.vgc.no/drpublish/images/article/2010/05/06/22302597/1/990/1665993.jpg

    1. I’m with you. With a beautiful view from the top of the cliff, there’s nothing like the Britsh Summer under canvas, with the gentle sound of hailstones lashing against the tent followed by the soothing crackle of nylon being torn to shreds as all your posessions flutter around the campsite.
      Of course, you go back for more the next year.

        1. Being crushed by a soccer [football] goal in your sleep while attending an
          infamously dangerous to life and limb open road motorcycle race would be about
          the most pitiful bit of irony I could imagine.
          “What happened to Nate?”
          “He was at the Isle of Man over the weekend”
          “Crikey, Mad Sunday and too much throttle?”
          “Nope, too cheap to spring for a hotel and he was crushed by some sporting equipment on a rain soaked pitch”

    2. How many times has this been said on Hooniverse “Having any vehicles around is disturbing”. I’m guessing not many, but anyway I agree with you if it is the right climate and right place and time of the year.

      1. Figured it might be unpopular in a way, but there’s a place for everything. Striving on to a mountain top to take in the view, relaxing ultimately while challenging oneself gets me in a sort of nature-religious mood. Something entirely different than fooling around with a Snowmobile or Jeep. It also helps to ditch the smartphone for an old featurephone on such a trip…
        For now, we had a new record of 2000mm precipitation over four months, cars snowed in on mountain roads both on Saturday and today, we haven’t had one day with above 20°C this year, and I have been cut off from my kids in kindergarten by landslides twice in may alone. Seems like summer is cancelled.

          1. Damn. I’m definitely/probably/maybe/ going to stop complaining about Canadian winters now…

  7. I’m with those who have concluded camping to be one of those things that just adds a degree of difficulty to the otherwise thankless tasks that one manages to streamline in to his lifestyle as a husband and father. I don’t often choose to remove my family from the four things that they are not actively complaining for me to make more comfortable, but if I do, it’s not going to be to relocate to confined quarters.
    If you’re giving me the option of going by myself, I could probably make a peaceful weekend out of a pile of cardboard on the floor in my garage if the weather was cooperative.

  8. http://image.sportsmansguide.com/adimgs/l/2/228226_ts.jpg
    When I was in college along the MA/NH border, we used to go out mountain biking with the rest of the rowing team whenever we had a full weekend. We would do “Epic” rides (back when that word meant something) of 100 or so miles on New England mountain singletrack with an overnight somewhere along the way. We would carry a backpack with water and food and a few tubes and other things for survival and a hooded sweatshirt.
    We were never a group less than 4, one guy’s girlfriend had access to a large van so she could drop us off and pick us up. We didn’t have cell phones because they were still ridiculously expensive, and analog, so reception in that part of the world was at best unreliable.
    We would camp under the stars with a small, contained, fire to have light and heat. If it was cold, we wore the sweatshirt, if it was warm, that was our pillow, but we basically slept in the dirt.
    I’m probably lucky to be alive. It was awesome.
    I have a tent now for family camping, my wife wants an RV eventually. I want to got back to just using the sweatshirt and being disgustingly sweaty and dirty. Maybe when my boys are old enough and I’m not too old yet. Haha.

  9. If you need to tow half your household on vacation, you’re not a traveller, you just want to watch TV somewhere else. I’d live in a camper though. Don’t need much space as a single person anyway.

    1. Disagree (even though I used to agree).
      When I’m in nature I like to have a bike to ride trails on, and a canoe to go paddling around in. When it was just me, or me and a +1, a single cab pickup can haul everything I’d need for a week in the woods just fine. Add 3 kids to the mix and you are looking at 5 bikes, 2 canoes, 5x the clothes, linens and toiletries, 5x the food, etc. Plus, when it’s rainy, the list of activities a family can do to wait out the storm are much different than the list of activities a single or couple can do, and they require a lot more space.
      Hence the popup. It’s a giant weatherproof tent with space to put all our stuff in or on, and a little room for cards/reading/boardgames, plus a fridge and a stove so we can make a family sized meal.
      Could I stuff my family in a surplus army tent for a week? Yes. Would it be nearly as enjoyable? No. Thus having a trailer (and picking camp sites that aren’t RV parks) allows me to get my kids out hiking and biking and chasing frogs and salamanders while still being comfortable for extended periods of time.

      1. Our family of 5 has tented all over the country, and will soon embark on another 3000 mile odyssey. We have a 10-man tent majal. I’d like a trailer for the extra storage space but the single largest inconvenience to tenting is having to break down and set up.

  10. So, who’s going to identify the station wagon in the lede photo? I can’t make it out.

    1. My AMC senses are tingling. It’s a ’59 Rambler Cross Country Wagon as it appears to have been called.

    1. I used the bed of my pick-up for a few years. With the tonneau cover, you can be dry if it starts to rain. Just bring a heavy blanket for padding and you’re good to go.

  11. My late dad always made me laugh as a kid when he said, “My idea of roughing it is a Holiday Inn without a Holidome.” Good advice that I’ve stuck with.

  12. After the last time we tried tent camping, “She who must be obeyed” has declared hotel rooms the only way to go. At least she prefers inexpensive and anonymous to luxury and is open to a camper

  13. I’ve thought about getting a small trailer that can tow behind a car, like a Boler, but then I realize a live in a cabin at the lake, and there’s really no point going anywhere else…

  14. If I had my druthers, I’d travel in an insane earth-roamer ORV camper based on a Unimog, complete with a deployable SxS “life raft” for exploring from base camp.
    Realistically, I’ll take an old 4×4 ‘Burb with sufficient suspension lift to get me and the family off of the beaten path, far enough out where there’s no longer any cell signal and you’ve got to dig your own terlet. From there, we’d camp in tents.

  15. I usually go camping with a tent, but I have slept in the back of my Explorer with the seats folded down and it’s weirdly satisfying. There’s just something about getting extra utility out of your vehicle…

    1. Agree – we’ve slept in the Suburban many times (reference my other post on this topic – whenever the tent blew down or became a nylon covered kiddy pool, we’d relocate to the ‘Burb for secure dry shelter).

  16. After years of tent camping, got fed up with the zippers, leaks, zippers, wind blowing it down, zippers, setup/teardown effort, and did I mention I got sick of the zippers? Two years ago switched to rented 20′ “expandable” trailer – with the beds that fold out of the ends. LOVE IT! Never going back. Real doors, real floor, real roof, heat if we need it, and I can unhook the trailer in 10 minutes and drive the truck around our destination. And now we have more space in the truck while cruising, because no tent gear to haul, and all our other “stuff” is in the trailer. Not sure why I didn’t figure this out years ago….

  17. I’ve done my share of ‘roughing it’ including living in a tent for a year once.
    I also did a bit of travelling where my room was a bit of nylon and canvas that was packed into the back of my 85 Ranger.
    From time to time I romanticize about doing some more camping, but my sore knees and back remind me my camping days are behind me.
    I would drive as far as possible after work on Friday, camp out and wake up Saturday, sometimes at a small airport where we found a completely different use for nylon. (skydiving). Hence the sore knees.
    But I wouldn’t go back and change a thing. Glad I did it; don’t need to do much more.

  18. 20+ years ago, my now wife, then GF, and I did tent-camping. First with us two-up on an ’83 Honda VF750S Sabre. Then from the trunk of either the ’73 Coupe DeVille or a rental car (for longer trips which would have required the entire day’s petroleum output from a middle-eastern country were we to use the Cadillac).
    Since 2002, though, this is the only way we do it.
    http://i394.photobucket.com/albums/pp29/mckellyb/P1000755_zpsf19b7b1c.jpg
    The below pictured coach has been to 49 states, 9 Canadian provinces plus one territory, with several hundred miles of gravel and occasionally surprise two-track ‘roads’ under its 22.5″ wheels.
    Gimme a queen-sized bed, in-motion sat dish, a side-by-side fridge/freezer with an ice maker, tankless water heater, a diesel genset any day of the week.
    10.5 MPG ain’t bad out of a diesel one-bedroom apartment. The 5.9L ZJ behind it does only marginally better.
    Though, when diesel was closing in upon $5/gallon (US and Canuckistani dollars are par if you go far enough off the beaten track) back in 2005, the 90 gallon tank was painful to fill when in the middle-of-nowhere Yukon/BC.

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