Starling Travel

January 31, 2013

Choosing The Right RV For You: Fifth Wheel Trailers

Filed under: Camping,Motorhomes and Campers,Teardrops & Tiny Trailers — Laura Moncur @ 10:00 am

Fifth Wheel Camper and TruckFifth-wheel trailers look like travel trailers, but they have a large gooseneck at the front that attaches to a huge hitch on the bed of a pickup.

Cost

Used fifth-wheels can be found in the classifieds for as low at $800, but a good one will probably cost you about $2,000. New, they can go for as much as $50,000, so they can be very pricey if you want a brand new one.

Another cost you have to plan for is a pickup. You MUST have a pickup to tow a fifth-wheel. An SUV with a high towing capacity won’t work for you because you need to have the pickup bed to attach the trailer to your vehicle. If you already own a pickup and plan to continue owning one, then you’re set, but if you prefer any other car, you cannot tow a fifth-wheel with it.

Storage

Just like the travel trailers, a fifth-wheel trailers can’t just be easily stored in your garage. They are very high and won’t fit under a garage door. They won’t even fit under a drive-thru roof, as shown in this video (BTW the driver and his son escaped unscathed).

You’ll have to find a huge spot on your property to store it out in the elements or store it at an RV storage facility at $100-$120 a month.

Mileage

My mom owns a fifth-wheel and a Toyota diesel truck. The truck gets 18 mpg when it’s not towing and 12 mpg when it is. You can assume it will take about 6-7 miles per gallon off your usual mpg.

Capacity

Jayco fifth wheel floor planAs huge as fifth-wheel trailers are, they don’t seem to sleep much more than tent trailers. My eight-foot tent trailer can sleep six, whereas my mom’s fifth-wheel can sleep six people. The difference is that there is a lot more room to move about in her trailer than there is in mine. Considering that their trailer is THIRTY feet long, I’m surprised that there isn’t sleeping capacity for twenty people in that thing. If fifth-wheel manufacturers used their square footage as efficiently as truck camper and tent trailer manufacturers, they WOULD be able to sleep twenty per trailer.

Comfort

Fifth-wheel trailers are the epitome of comfort. Not only is there heat and A/C. There are refrigerators, microwaves and a plethora of other amenities. If you plan on living in your RV full-time or even half the year, a tent trailer would be a hardship. A fifth-wheel, on the other hand, would be like living at home.

Effort

Every time my mom and Reed go camping with us, I’m surprised at how long it takes them to set up. They don’t have to pull out bunk ends or raise the roof, but it usually takes them just as long to get their fifth-wheel into its spot, leveled and ready to go. I don’t know if that is added complexity on my mom’s part or if fifth-wheels are REALLY that time consuming to get into a campsite. Just watching this video from RV101 about how to hitch up a fifth-wheel makes me break out in a cold sweat.

Restrooms

Carriage Cameo Fifth Wheel Beautiful BathroomYes, yes, a thousand times, yes! This is one place where fifth-wheel trailers really shine. I’ve seen the most beautiful bathrooms in fifth-wheel trailers that make the bathroom in my own house blush with inadequacy.

Safety

Fifth-wheel trailers are supposed to be safer to tow than bumper pull travel trailers, but they are BOTH very susceptible to wind. Every year in Utah, we have several fifth-wheels overturned on I-15 because of heavy winds. Considering that I’ve driven in wind storms such as these with my tent trailer and had NO problem, I’m very reluctant to trade it in for a trailer that is harder to tow under those conditions.

Additionally, the law doesn’t require RV owners to take any special classes to learn how to drive their monstrous vehicles. If you want to drive a fifth-wheel, you basically have to teach yourself how to drive a vehicle that’s as big as an 18 Wheeler. If that doesn’t scare you, then you’re a far better driver than I am.

Campsite Availability

In the national and state parks, you could run into troubles with some campsites not being long enough for your fifth-wheel. Many of them list their limitations, for example, 25 foot, on their websites, but sometimes you might show up at a campground, hoping you could stay there and find that your 30 foot fifth-wheel just doesn’t fit.

Additionally, a campsite might be long enough to fit your huge fifth-wheel, but getting it into its spot might be a geometrical nightmare. Trying to make your long trailer fit into your campsite might be possible, but only if you are a master driver.

At the luxury RV resorts, however, you won’t have that kind of problem. The resorts that specialize in pull-through sites and have beautiful landscaping will gladly welcome your fifth-wheel and maybe even put you in their lovely premium sites just because your camper is that nice.

Weirdness

Model T and a Fifth WheelNo one will think your fifth-wheel is weird. They won’t think it’s cool or come over and ask what it looks like inside. Since they are so commonplace, you will be camping in obscurity every time. You will have to make MAJOR modifications to your fifth-wheel or tow it with a strange tow vehicle to get any attention.

The Walmart Factor

When Walmart offered to let campers stay overnight in their parking lots, fifth-wheels are the exact campers they had in mind. The only time a fifth-wheel trailer has been turned away is when the Walmart doesn’t allow overnight camping at all.

Conclusion

I’ve never owned a fifth-wheel trailer, so my viewpoint might be a little off on these RVs. They may be harder to level or easier to hitch up than I imagined. I’d be interested in using one for a few months to see how that would change my viewpoint, but at this time, I don’t have a vehicle to tow one nor the space to store it.

Here are links to the other entries in this series:

January 30, 2013

Choosing The Right RV For You: A-Frame Campers

Filed under: Camping,Motorhomes and Campers,Teardrops & Tiny Trailers — Laura Moncur @ 10:00 am

Chalet A FrameIf you like the idea of a hard-sided travel trailer, but want to be able to store your camper in a garage, an A-Frame camper might be your best bet. They fold up flat like a tent trailer and lift up to a cute little cabin-style camper.

These kind of trailers are available from the following manufacturers:

Cost

Finding A-Frame campers used is almost impossible. When I do find them used, they aren’t amazing deals like I find with a tent trailer. They usually range in price from $6,000 to $25,000, which is almost as much as they cost new. They usually settle in the range of $10,000 to $15,000 for used.

The benefit of the A-Frame trailers is that you can tow them with smaller cars than travel trailers. We couldn’t quite tow one with our Prius, but most mini-vans and other six cylinder vehicles could handle them.

Storage

Just like a tent trailer, you can roll it into the garage for storage. Depending on the height, you might even be able to deploy it in the garage, like a tent trailer. If you don’t have space in your garage or on your property, then you’ll have to pay to store it at a facility for about $65-$100.

Mileage

Towing an A-Frame will reduce your gas mileage by about five miles a gallon. skipnchar at RV.net Open Roads Forum said:

When I was towing a 2500 lb. pop up trailer with my Mazda B4000 I got 15 or 16 MPG towing and 19 or 20 running empty. Don’t know if this helps much or not but that’s about as good as I can do I would expect you’d find something similar (losing something like four or five MPG towing depending on the actual weight.

Capacity

A-Frame trailers sleep far less people than comparably sized tent trailers. Most of them only sleep two people. Some of the floorplans can sleep four people if you fold down the dinette. If you want to sleep two adults and a child, but need some place for one of the adults to sit while the other and child sleep, then you are out of luck.

Comfort

A-Frame Reflectix InsulationThe beauty of the A-Frame trailers is that almost all of them come with propane heat and A/C. The hard-sided walls keep in the heat WAY better than a tent trailer. Some people add Reflectix on the windows to insulate against the sun in the hot weather. I suspect that also works well in the winter to keep the heat escaping out the windows.

Effort

Unlike a tent trailer, their setup is hilariously easy. Here is a quick video showing you how they work.

Some of them are more elaborate with dormers, so they take slightly more time to set up, but on the whole, you can get your A-Frame camper up and ready within five minutes.

Restrooms

A-Frame trailer bathrooms tend to be just like tent trailer bathrooms, where the toilet is out in the open unless you pull the paper-thin curtain for what acts as privacy. The only exception is Chalet, who has an origami bathroom that folds up nicely with a real door. Here is a video showing the setup of that trailer.

The Chalet XL 1938 is the only A-Frame trailer with a full sized bathroom with a real door. Here’s the floor plan.

Chalet XL 1938 floor plan

Here’s a video showing one that was for sale. She has some trouble with her camera, so you’ll have to turn your head to the side to see parts of it, but it gives you a good idea.

Safety

Towing an A-Frame trailer is probably just as easy as towing a tent trailer. It is UNAFFECTED by strong winds and you can see over it out the rear window. Despite being slightly heavier than tent trailers, I suspect they are just as safe to tow.

Campsite Availability

Just like tent trailers, A-Frame trailers can fit into almost any campsite with no trouble. And I doubt you would run into any of the elitism that tent trailers experience at campgrounds because they are so unique that campgrounds will want to put them in the premium spots.

Weirdness

A-Frame campers are so new and rare, I suspect you’d have just as many people wanting to see it as I did with the teardrop camper. Additionally, I’d bet that setting up and breaking camp would become a source of entertainment to anyone in the campground just because everyone would want to see how they worked.

The marketing for A-Liner says, “It takes 30 seconds to set up and 30 minutes to answer all the questions from the other campers.” If you like this sort of attention, then an A-Frame is for you. If not, having one would be an embarrassing trip every time you camped.

The Walmart Factor

Even though they have to pop-up, I bet you would have no trouble at Walmart with an A-Frame. They are hard-sided, so I suspect it would be easy to sleep. The only problem I could see is with the units that don’t have restrooms. You would have to stay at a 24 Hour Walmart or hold your bladder until they open up in the morning.

Conclusion

I’ve never owned an A-Frame camper, so my viewpoint might be a little off on these RVs. Their sleeping capacity is slightly smaller than I’d like and finding them used is rather difficult. I’d be interested in using one for a few months to see how that would change my viewpoint, but at this juncture, I don’t think an A-Frame is right for us.

Here are links to the other entries in this series:

January 29, 2013

Choosing The Right RV For You: Bumper Pull Travel Trailers

Filed under: Camping,Motorhomes and Campers,Teardrops & Tiny Trailers — Laura Moncur @ 10:00 am

Serro Scotty HiLanderThis category includes the adorable Canned Ham trailers of the Fifties right up to huge bumper pull trailers.

Cost

While you can find a used travel trailer for only $800, the cost to tow it must include a tow vehicle that can handle its weight and increased wind resistance. If you already own a huge pickup, then you’re doing just fine and will be able to find an inexpensive used trailer for about $1500 to $2000 that will last you for YEARS.

While it is possible to find many used travel trailers in the classifieds for a reasonable cost, a new travel trailer will cost you a minimum of $10,000 and that is for the smallest and most basic of units that will only sleep two people. If you have any more than two in your family, you will have to get a LOAN to afford your trailer.

Storage

There is NO avoiding storage costs with a travel trailer if you don’t have a swath of property to put it on. They are too tall to fit into a normal garage, so they are almost always stored outside in the elements. Expect to pay quite a pretty penny to keep your travel trailer when you’re not using it. RV storage facilities usually charge between $100 – $120 a month to store an RV.

Mileage

Towing a travel trailer not only eats up gasoline, you have to have a gas hog vehicle to tow it. Don’t expect to get more than 12 mpg and that’s with a diesel truck.

Capacity

Strangely, you can usually sleep more people in a tent trailer than a travel trailer, but they usually can sleep at least four people. The least expensive trailers usually only sleep two, but I’ve seen travel trailers with sleeping capacity for 6-7 before.

Comfort

Nothing beats a hard-sided trailer for comfort. Almost all campers have heaters that run on propane and some even have A/C units as well. There is room inside to change clothes and hide from the rain. Some of them even have separate rooms for the sleeping quarters for additional privacy.

Effort

All you do is back in, level out and connect to the water and electricity. I’ve never owned a travel trailer, but I suspect it takes only slightly more time than our teardrop did, as long as you know how to back up a trailer (that’s a tricky maneuver).

Restrooms

Not all, but MANY travel trailers have restroom and showers. That can complicate things because those facilities need to be emptied when they are used, but sometimes a little gross work is worth not having to walk to the vault toilets in the cold night.

Safety

There is always a risk of being blown off the road when you’re in a travel trailer. If you need an example of this, watch this video:

This video, in particular, really scared me and it’s why I haven’t been willing to upgrade to a canned ham, despite their retro cuteness.

Campsite Availability

Only the biggest of travel trailers can’t fit in a campground spot. Most travel trailers are maneuverable enough to get into place and are small enough to fit.

Weirdness

Riverside Retro 150The canned ham trailers of old can be SO cute that they probably would attract as much attention as my teardrop, but most travel trailers are non-descript and white. If you want attention for your RV, then you’ll have to go with a retro canned ham (and the maintenance costs for it). Otherwise, you’ll be hard pressed to find an adorable and unique travel trailer. There are a couple of brands available today.

If you want to hide in obscurity, however, you can do so quite easily in a travel trailer.

The Walmart Factor

As long as you don’t unhitch, you can dry camp in a Walmart parking lot. Just make sure you ask the manager if it’s alright.

Conclusion

I’ve never owned a travel trailer, so my viewpoint might be a little off on these RVs. They may be harder to hook up or easier to tow than I imagined. I’d be interested in using one for a few months to see how that would change my viewpoint, but at this time, I don’t have a vehicle to tow one nor the space to store it.

Here are links to the other entries in this series:

January 28, 2013

Choosing The Right RV For You: Truck Campers

Filed under: Camping,Motorhomes and Campers,Teardrops & Tiny Trailers — Laura Moncur @ 10:00 am

Truck CampersIf you want the luxury of a bathroom or to be able to sleep while your partner drives, a truck camper might be your next option.

Cost

You can get a used truck camper for as little as $300 in my local classifieds. That doesn’t say it’s a good camper, but it does go to show how inexpensively you can get started, as long as you have a truck. While a cheap and good truck camper may be available for less than $2000, the truck to haul it with is NOT cheap. After looking at the current truck campers, they appear to need the biggest trucks in order to carry them. Additionally, the new campers are NOT cheap. They start out at about $18,000 and go up in cost from there. At that price, and considering you need a truck to haul them, you might as well get a travel trailer or a fifth wheel.

Storage

Truck Camper DollyThe beauty of a truck camper is that you can store it in your garage in a spot the size of one parking spot (or even smaller). You will need to make or buy a truck camper dolly (pictured to the right), in order to move it into the garage, since the camper would be WAY too high to fit under a normal garage door. If you don’t have any empty spots in your garage or on your property, you would have to pay for storage, but just like the teardrop, you might be able to negotiate a smaller fee because truck campers are so small.

Mileage

The best mileage you’ll be able to get out of one of those trucks is about 18 mpg with a diesel truck. That will probably fall to about 12 mpg with the camper on.

Capacity

Truck campers sleep less people than a travel trailer or tent trailer, but more than you might think. They appear to only have a one bed and a dinette, but many of them have an overhead bunk that you can fold down to sleep one more. They ARE small, however, so if you have a big family, you’ll be hard pressed to sleep them all in the truck camper.

Comfort

Just like the teardrop, a truck camper is hard sided and relatively small in size, so it’s easy to heat and keep warm. Some of them have propane heaters and even A/C units, so you can keep comfortable, no matter what the weather.

Additionally, there is an added comfort while you’re driving. Your children could play in the camper in the back or your spouse could sleep in the bed over the cab. Any of the passengers can use the bathroom while you continue to drive, making stops less frequent. Just like a motorhome, you can have a little freedom of movement while you’re on the road.

Effort

If you are on a long road trip, a truck camper is as good as a motorhome for ease in setup and breakdown. If you are staying for a long time in one spot, however, it is a rather involved process to take the camper off the pickup and setup at a site so you can use your truck for running errands or heading to the lake. If you’re unfamiliar with it, here is a fast-forwarded video showing the process:

There is a camper jack system that looks like it’s easier called Stable Lift. This is a little video showing how it works.

This jack systems costs an extra $2500 – $3000 and requires that you bring your camper to them for installation, but it looks like it makes camping with a truck camper much easier.

In the end, the effort to set up and break down a truck camper looks about as difficult as putting up a tent, so the truck camper might be out of the picture if you like to camp for long periods of time in one spot.

Restrooms

Lance 825 Truck CamperThe older units don’t tend to have bathrooms, but the new ones have bathrooms and showers, so you don’t have to take a walk in the cold in the night.

Safety

Because of their high profile, truck campers are top heavy and it’s a little easier for them to flop over. You also can’t see out your rear view mirror and they usually don’t fit under drive-thrus.

Campsite Availability

Truck campers are so small that they can fit into any campsite, no matter how awkward. I don’t know if there is a prejudice against them like tent trailers, but they are very maneuverable.

Weirdness

I don’t know exactly how much attention a truck camper would attract. They certainly don’t have any of the cuteness that a teardrop or a canned ham would have, so I suspect you’d be safe to camp in obscurity.

The Walmart Factor

Because they are fully self-contained, truck campers would be able to dry camp at a Walmart. I’ve seen them several times at our local store for overnight stays.

Conclusion

I’ve never owned a truck camper, so my viewpoint might be a little off on these RVs. They may be harder to drive or easier to set up than I imagined. I’d be interested in using one for a few months to see how that would change my viewpoint, but at this juncture, I don’t have a pickup to carry one.

Here are links to the other entries in this series:

January 27, 2013

Choosing The Right RV For You: Tent Trailers

Filed under: Camping,Motorhomes and Campers,Teardrops & Tiny Trailers — Laura Moncur @ 10:00 am

Palomino Pony 1988 08-03-12 from Starling TravelIf a teardrop is too small for you, then you should look at a tent trailer next.

Cost

I found our first tent trailer for only $500. It only lasted us three months, but we camped for a total of two weeks in the camper, so it easily cost less than renting a similar trailer would have cost. Our current camper cost us $1000 and was a definite improvement. Buying a tent trailer new reaches the $10,000 range, but even that is less expensive than new travel trailers. Tent trailers can be towed by almost any car, so you don’t need to buy a new tow vehicle.

Storage

Deployed Jayco Tent Trailer in the GarageTent trailers are small enough to roll into a garage in one parking space. I wrote about this before here:

If you don’t have an extra spot in your garage or on your property, then you have to store it in a facility. The cost for storage at those places ranges from $65 – $100 a month.

Mileage

We have chosen tent trailers that are VERY light, with no amenities like onboard water or bathrooms, so we have been able to tow them with the Prius. It only lowered our gas mileage by five miles per gallon. On our latest journey to Quartzsite and back, we averaged 29 mpg with the Prius.

Capacity

Tent trailers beat the teardrop, hands down. You can EASILY sleep six people in our tiny eight foot box tent camper. Some of the larger ones even sleep 7-8 people. If you have a large family, it may be that a tent trailer is your only option.

Comfort

I thought a tent camper would be as cold as a tent, which was the reason we bought the teardrop trailer, but it is warmer. I think part of the reason is the solid roof. It is definitely warmer in the living spaces than on the bunk ends. Additionally, the tent material is WAY thicker than the canvas of my Springbar tent. It appears to be covered with some sort of vinyl coating on the outside and that makes considerable improvements in the cold. There is also plenty of headroom to stand up and couches to sit on when it rains outside.

While a tent trailer is warmer than a tent, it IS colder than being in a teardrop, travel trailer or fifth wheel, especially if you don’t have a heater. Many tent trailers do have propane heaters (and even A/C units), but ours doesn’t. Instead, we use electric heaters and they work beautifully. It was 27 degrees in Las Vegas a couple of weeks ago when we were there and our little heater was able to get it to a toasty 67 degrees in our tent trailer.

Effort

My biggest problem with the tent trailer is the effort to set up and break camp. It’s not as labor intensive or time consuming as a real tent, but it DOES take some time to level out and get the roof up. We can get set up or break camp in about 20-25 minutes, which is about half the time it took us to put up our Springbar and camp kitchen, but WAY more time than it took us to get the teardrop ready.

If you are unfamiliar with the tent trailer setup, here is video describing it:

Restrooms

Some tent trailers even have bathroom facilities, but they are rare and the privacy tends to consist of a thin curtain. Our tiny tent trailer doesn’t have a bathroom, so we have to camp at campgrounds that have some or use our porta-potty tent. I talked about those options on these two posts:

Safety

Honestly, towing a tent trailer has been easier and safer for us than towing the teardrop. It is UNAFFECTED by strong winds and we can see over it out the rear window. It’s so easy to tow that I can’t feel it on the back of our car. Aside from a tent stuffed into the trunk of your car, the tent trailer is the safest option on this list.

Campsite Availability

A tent trailer is small and can fit in any campsite there is available, but paradoxically, we have had instances of trailer bigotry at some campgrounds. I admit that our first tent trailer, the Palomino, should have been called The Duct Tape Palace because it took so much duct tape to keep the tent fabric together, but we’ve also experienced a touch of elitism with our Jayco Eagle, even though it’s in excellent shape.

We’ve had a campground host say that she couldn’t put us in a certain spot because “everyone would see it there.” We’ve NEVER had trouble getting SOME spot with water and electricity, but somehow, certain campgrounds don’t want people to see that they have tent trailers for some reason and I never expected that sort of bigotry.

Weirdness

Tent Camping in Buckskin Mtn State Park AZThere is NOTHING weird about a tent trailer. Even when we drove up in the Duct Tape Palace, no one gave us even a second glance. If you want people to ooh and ah over you and your RV, a tent trailer is NOT the option for you. If you want to camp in obscurity, however, people won’t even notice you and your tent camper.

You may, however, feel like a second class citizen in a tent trailer. That has only happened to me once, at a luxury RV resort. They saw our tiny tent trailer and were going to move us to the back of the campground, but we had made reservations to stay next to my sister, who had arrived a day earlier in her teardrop. They had put her teardrop in a premium site because it looks so cute and cool, but were reluctant to put us next to her in our tent trailer. In the end, we got the premium site, but they really made us feel like we weren’t quite good enough for their fancy RV resort.

You can see other stories of tent trailers feeling like second class citizens here:

Then again, if we had tried to stay at that resort in a real tent, they wouldn’t have let us stay at all. The bigotry we experienced being in a real tent was even worse, so having a tent trailer is definitely a step up for us.

The Walmart Factor

Lots of Tent TrailersI’ve never tried to dry camp in a Walmart parking lot before, but I’ve heard through the grapevine that the managers generally say no to tent trailers. Considering that you can hear everything around you in a tent trailer, a parking lot might not be the ideal location to get some sleep.

The forum users at Popup Portal have varied ideas about popups at a Walmart. Some of them have done it, others say it’s not safe and still others say you might as well find a campground. You can read their opinions here:

Our tent trailer doesn’t have a bathroom, a battery or a propane heater, so a stay at Walmart wouldn’t really be pleasant to us, but each person decides on their own comfort level in situations like these. It really seems to be up to each individual Walmart manager.

Conclusion

We have been happy with our tent trailer, so that’s where we stopped choosing, but there is a whole other world of RVs out there.

Here are links to the other entries in this series:

January 26, 2013

Choosing The Right RV For You: Teardrop Campers

Filed under: Camping,Motorhomes and Campers,Teardrops & Tiny Trailers — Laura Moncur @ 10:00 am

The next option available is teardrop camping. Mike and I owned a teardrop camper for a scant six months, but we took it on a cross-country trip that spanned ten states.

Cost

A teardrop camper can be towed by ANY car, even a Prius, so you don’t need to spend a ton of money on a huge tow vehicle. We found our teardrop trailer used for $1200, but good deals like that are few and far between. There are less teardrop trailers on the road, so there are, understandably, less teardrop trailers on the used market.

Unless you can build a teardrop yourself, they are paradoxically expensive.Unless you can build a teardrop yourself, they are paradoxically expensive. When I can find a good used travel trailer for about $1,200 in my local classifieds, it is crazy to me that some new teardrops cost upwards of $8,000. They are SMALLER than a travel trailer. Shouldn’t they cost LESS?!

Storage

The teardrop is so small that it will fit in your garage in one of the spots. If you have an extra spot in your garage or on your property, then storing a teardrop won’t be a problem for you or cost you extra money. Otherwise, it can be stored at an RV storage facility, but it’s so small, you could negotiate a smaller fee than the $65 – $100 a month that RV owners usually pay for storage.

Mileage

Towing a teardrop reduced our gas mileage by only five miles a gallon. We were driving a Prius, so we ended up averaging 29 mpg on our Epic Journey.

Capacity

If you are a couple or out on your own, a teardrop is ideal, but the minute you add even one ten year old child, the sleeping chamber becomes a claustrophobic hell instead of a cozy den. For some, even the thought of sleeping in a tiny teardrop trailer is too cramped, but that was never a problem for us as long as Mike was able to sit up straight in the bed.

Comfort

Camping in the teardrop was ideal for us. It was the first time that I had been able to sleep the night through while camping without being interrupted by strange noises or by freezing cold. We camped in that teardrop in 38 degree weather with a 20 degree windchill (making it feel like it was only 18 degrees out there), and we couldn’t feel the cold at all. If we touched the outer walls, it felt cold, but as long as we stayed away from the walls, we were toasty warm. It didn’t fair quite as well in the 112 degree weather of Southern Utah, however. Without an A/C unit, it’s impossible to escape that kind of heat.

If the weather turns bad, however, you are trapped in a small sleeping cabin, with very little room to move about. There is nowhere to change clothes, unless you create a tent-like area outside (like I did), so you are required to change in the bathrooms.

Effort

Teardrop at Craters of the Moon KOA Arco IDSetting up the teardrop was INSANELY easy. We would drive up, level it out, chock the tires and take the folding chairs off the bed. DONE! The camp kitchen was out back with nothing to set up but a small table for the camp stove.

The strange thing is that the teardrop was so easy to set up that I started doing things to make it more complicated. Even though my teardrop had a kitchen on the back, I brought the camp kitchen that we used to use when we went tent camping on some trips because then I could use the water hookups at the campsite. This gave us a working faucet and sink, but it also complicated things more than they needed to be. The fancy teardrop trailers have sinks built into the galley, so I’m sure that one feature would be simplified with a more expensive teardrop.

Restrooms

There are no bathrooms in the teardrop (of course), so you have to camp at a facility that has some or create your own porta-potty tent yourself. I talked about those options on these two posts:

Safety

The teardrop was VERY easy to tow and didn’t pull on our car at all in good weather. The height of it DID block our back window, so there was that limitation, but other than that, it was almost like driving a car without a trailer attached at all.

The one time we had troubles with the teardrop was in heavy winds in Kansas. There was a wind advisory out that day, so it was an extreme example, but we could definitely feel the teardrop pulling in the wind. Of course, winds like that knock over trucks pulling fifth wheels, so the teardrop actually handled it very well.

Campsite Availability

Nothing beats a teardrop for campsite availability. It can fit into the smallest of the campsites and not one campground refused access to us. We were allowed the premium sites with water, electricity and even sewer (not that we could use it). Even campsites that were awkwardly situated weren’t a problem for us. We were able to just roll our little teardrop into place by hand. Plus, snooty campgrounds like to have unique vehicles like teardrop trailers on their property, so they will offer you premium spots just so other people will see you and think they are cool.

Weirdness

At first, the weirdness factor was a benefit to me. People would come up to us and ask us if we were sleeping in that tiny thing and I was delighted to show it off. After our Epic Journey, however, I had had ENOUGH. After two weeks of explaining the concept, I was DONE with talking to people about my teardrop. I just wanted people to leave me alone. If you are outgoing and love to talk to strangers, then the teardrop is perfect for you. If, however, you just want to go camping and relax in peace, a teardrop will be a definite negative.

The Walmart Factor

Mike and I never tried dry camping at a Walmart in our teardrop trailer. You’d probably be fine as long as you are able to sleep in your teardrop without unhitching, because most Walmart managers insist that you don’t unhitch your trailer from your vehicle if you’re dry camping on their property. Of course, you wouldn’t have a bathroom other than the one at Walmart and you couldn’t set up your chairs because that’s another thing that’s not allowed. If, however, all you needed to do was get a few hours of sleep, then the teardrop would probably be fine in a Walmart parking lot.

Conclusion

I actually miss our teardrop trailer and every time I see it in my sister’s garage or they join us for camping, I get a little nostalgic for it.

Here are links to the other entries in this series:

January 25, 2013

Choosing The Right RV For You: Your Car

Filed under: Camping,Motorhomes and Campers,Teardrops & Tiny Trailers — Laura Moncur @ 10:00 am

Habitents PriusWhether you pack a tent in your car or you actually SLEEP in your vehicle, car camping is the MOST affordable.

Cost

Car camping is cheap in gas mileage, storage and cost of gear. The most expensive tent I ever bought was $400, which is still $100 cheaper than any trailer I’ve bought.

Storage

Rather than filling up your garage, sitting outside in the rain, or costing you a monthly fee, a tent and other camping gear can be stored in a spare closet. You shouldn’t have to pay for separate storage for a tent unless you live in the smallest of apartments.

Mileage

Extra tents and gear have absolutely NO impact on your gas mileage.

Capacity

Habitents PriusIf you want to sleep IN your car, then you’re limited to two or three very cozy people. If you’re willing to sleep in tents, then you can accommodate any size of family. Your limitation is based on how many people you can fit into your vehicle.

Comfort

Camping in a tent can be COLD! Even if you have a four season tent and four season sleeping bags, you are limited to temperatures no lower than 40 degrees. Any lower and you will be truly roughing it. Additionally, it can be HOT! During the day, you will swelter if the temperature is any higher than 95 degrees. Battery powered fans and other DIY kludges can extend your camping temperatures down to 35 degrees and up to 105 degrees. For the most part, your camping time will be restricted to the best weather days if you want true comfort.

Car Tent on a Ford RunaboutIf you are sleeping IN your car, then you can extend your camping season, but then you have no place to change clothes. Additionally, it can be surprisingly uncomfortable to sleep in your car, even with an air mattress. That car roof gets mighty close to your face when you have an air mattress thick enough to make sleeping comfortable.

Effort

Tent Camping is cheaper. I get 40 MPG fully loaded.Putting up a tent, the cots, the air mattresses, unrolling the sleeping bags and setting up the camp kitchen is a time-consuming effort. It only took us about 40-50 minutes to set up or break camp each time, but on a long road trip, that adds up to an hour and a half of hard labor each day.

Restrooms

There are no bathrooms in your car or a tent (of course), so you have to camp at a facility that has some or create your own porta-potty tent yourself. I’ve talked about those options on these two posts:

Safety

Driving a car full of camping equipment only affects the drivability of a car if you fill up the back until you can’t see out the rear window.

Campsite Availability

You can camp at any state or national state park, but many RV campgrounds won’t let you stay in their sites with electricity. When it was cold and we wanted to have an electric heater running in our tent, it was pretty near impossible to get a campground to let us stay at a site with electricity. We were willing to pay more, but they just wouldn’t let us put a tent up on their premium sites. Additionally, we couldn’t stay at any campground that was all cement or gravel because we couldn’t stake down our tent. We needed a 10’X10′ swatch of land to get our tent up (that wasn’t the case for our Hobitat, only our Springbar tent).

Extreme Car CampingIf you are camping IN your car, that is looked upon with wary by some camp hosts. I’ve actually seen a woman at a national park tell a man he had to leave his campsite after his first evening because he was “just sleeping” in his car.

Weirdness

The only time I ever had a stranger talk to me about my tent was on an extremely cold morning after and even colder night. He said, “You musta froze last night.” We were pretty much ignored when we went tent camping.

The Walmart Factor

If you asked permission to put up a tent on the Walmart parking lot, I’m pretty sure the manager would laugh you right out of the store. If, however, you asked if it was alright if you slept in your car, you might be allowed or might also be looked at like you’re a homeless wastrel. Of course, there is always the option of stealth camping if you’re sleeping in your car.

Conclusion

In the end, the cold did us in. It’s particularly frigid in the Utah mountains, even in the summer, so we ended up leaving the car camping behind.

Here are links to the other entries in this series:

January 24, 2013

Choosing The Right RV For You

Filed under: Camping,Motorhomes and Campers,Teardrops & Tiny Trailers — Laura Moncur @ 6:14 pm

I’ve learned a lot about maintaining and fixing RVs from Mark Polk over at RV 101. This video is a pretty good introduction to RVs and camping, but it entirely misses FOUR very important RV categories you have to choose from when you’re deciding whether an RV is right for you.

My experience with camping is rather different from Mark Polk’s, so here is MY guide to choosing the right RV for you.

Size DOES Matter Tent Trailer VS. Motorhome

I believe in the Minimum Impact Method when choosing camping equipment. What that means is that your camping choice should have the least impact on your pocketbook and life when you’re NOT camping. Here are ALL choices that I will be covering over the next week:

If you notice, the previous video mentioned NOTHING about camping in your car, teardrops, tent trailers or truck campers.

I will be covering the following benefits or negative attributes:

  • Cost: How much each kind of RV costs, both on the used market and new.
  • Storage: Where you can store this kind of RV and how much that would cost.
  • Mileage: How towing (or hauling) this RV affects your gas mileage.
  • Capacity: How many people can sleep in each RV.
  • Comfort: How well this kind of RV protects you from the cold or heat.
  • Effort: How difficult the RV is to set up and break camp.
  • Restrooms: Whether the RV has a restroom or not.
  • Safety: How safe it is to drive this RV.
  • Campsite Availability: How likely you will be to fit in a campsite or be allowed to stay at one with electricity and water.
  • Weirdness: How likely it is that strangers will come to your campsite and want to ask you about your RV.
  • The Walmart Factor: Whether the RV is welcome to dry camp at a Walmart.

I hope you enjoy the posts for the next week or so and I hope they help you decide what kind of camping is right for you.

January 20, 2013

Living in a Garbage Truck? No, It’s A TerraCross

Filed under: Camping,Motorhomes and Campers,Teardrops & Tiny Trailers — Laura Moncur @ 8:16 am

I saw this video and something about it just seemed wrong.

It was called “Living in a Garbage Truck,” but everything seemed a little off. Thanks, to Snopes for setting things right.

The vehicle pictured above may resemble a garbage truck from the outside, but it is in fact designed as a sort of a cross between a mobile home and an off-road vehicle. It’s a TerraCross “Home on Wheels” manufactured by UNICAT… The particular model displayed here is the EX63-HD/MAN TGA 6X6.

The problem that I had with the photos was that there were windows on the indoor shots, but no windows on the outside. That’s because there is a roof-lifting mechanism that reveals windows. You can see it in this model: EX45-HD / Unimog U 5000

EX45HD Roof Lowered

EX45HD Roof Lifted

It doesn’t appear that they make the EX63-HD/MAN TGA 6X6 anymore, but there are many designs to choose from. UNICAT is a German company, so the prices for the vehicles were listed in Euros. They only had used vehicles listed and they ranged in price from 98,000 Euros (approximately $135,000) to 288,000 Euros (approximately $383,000). And of course, that doesn’t include the cost of getting the TerraCross from Germany to the U.S.

For now, the dubious dream of living in a garbage truck is out of reach for most Americans.

January 10, 2013

Camping Fondue

Filed under: Camping,Food,Motorhomes and Campers,Teardrops & Tiny Trailers — Laura Moncur @ 12:03 pm

Yesterday, I was reading this entry from Retrospace about motorhomes in the Seventies.

When I saw this photograph from an old brochure, I was intrigued by its familiarity.

Camping Fondue

That wasn’t the first time I had seen someone enjoying fondue in a camper. Then, I thought that maybe I had just seen it before on Retrospace’s other entry.

Camping Fondue

But even that entry seemed like a cliche to me. It wasn’t until I went searching that I found exactly HOW much a cliche eating fondue while camping was. (Continue Reading…)

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