Starling Travel

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…)

The Prius Camper

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

Long ago, Topolla made a camper that replaced the back hatch of a Saab 9-3. It looked like this.

Saab 9-3 with Toppola

It was obviously the inspiration for the Japanese company, Campinn, for this Prius Camper Conversion. AutoBlog did a piece on it last year.

Prius Campinn Motorhome

(Continue Reading…)

January 9, 2013

The VW Bug MiniHome Motorhome

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

I can’t believe I haven’t written about the Volkswagen Bug MiniHome Motorhome. The plans for it were in the June 1977 issue of Mechanix Illustrated.

VW Bug MiniHome Camper Motorhome

You can buy plans for this camper here: (Continue Reading…)

January 6, 2013

The Beauty of a Tent Trailer: You Can Deploy It In Your Garage

Filed under: Camping,Motorhomes and Campers,Teardrops & Tiny Trailers — Laura Moncur @ 12:06 pm

One thing I loved about the teardrop trailer was that I could work on it in my own garage. That is a feature that is shared with a tent trailer. After a trip, I can pull our tent trailer into our garage, lift it up and out and be able to change sheets, unpack clothing and food and do whatever repairs are needed.

Here is a photo of our Jayco Eagle deployed in our garage.

Deployed Jayco Tent Trailer in the Garage

As you can see, when the bunkends are pulled out, the trailer barely fits lengthwise. When the roof is raised, there is less than a foot’s clearance from the trailer roof and the garage door when it’s opened. A similarly sized travel trailer wouldn’t even fit under the garage door, so I wouldn’t be able to store it in my garage. I would have to find a storage facility for it. Not so with the tent trailer.

Before a trip, I can open the trailer up and stock up the cooler, pack our clothes and other gear. I love that I can set things up perfectly before we go on our trip. Knowing that we have packed everything, calms my pre-trip jitters.

If my tent trailer was any bigger, however, I wouldn’t be able to have this luxury. Our box is only 8 feet, so we can fit lengthwise. We don’t have a high-wall camper, so we are short enough to fit under the garage door when it’s open.

This is a feature that I wasn’t expecting when we bought the tent trailer. I had enjoyed renovating our teardrop trailer in our garage and I wasn’t even sure that a tent camper would fit even if it was fully packed up. I’m so grateful that I can pack the camper before a trip and empty it out afterwards in the comfort of my garage.

January 3, 2013

HEAVY: A Study in Camper Dinettes

Filed under: Camping,Motorhomes and Campers,Teardrops & Tiny Trailers — Laura Moncur @ 10:37 am

The dinette table in our tent trailer is HEAVY.

Is The Jayco Dinette Table Heavy?

I know why this is the case. It needs to double as the middle support of a bed so our camper can sleep six people.

But we don’t need to sleep six people.

So, I took the table out of the trailer and we haven’t put it back in.

Is The Jayco Dinette Table Heavy?

But a nagging part of me thinks that I should bring the table on our travels to put outside, letting it be the focus of our outdoor cooking. And another nagging part of me worries about leaking bunk-ends in the rain with the three of us huddled on couches, wishing we could just turn them into a bed like they were intended.

Is The Jayco Dinette Table Heavy?But then again, that table is so HEAVY! I weighed it on my bathroom scale and it tops out at 16.3 pounds. No wonder I almost throw my shoulder out every time I try to move it!

I looked online and found some options. One of them solves the outdoor kitchen problem. A forum poster on Popup Portal named hsr posted his homemade outdoor galley and it looks much lighter than my table.

Built this to replace the Cabela’s Deluxe Camp kitchen. It was just too big (especially to store inside the PUP), heavy and had no easy way to level.

DIY Outdoor Galley and Camp Kitchen for a Popup Camper

The only problem is that when he weighed the two parts of that outdoor galley, they topped out 23.5, which is way lighter than the Cabela’s Deluxe Camp kitchen, but heavier than my dinette table. I could make something simple like my original table, however, that would weigh about ten pounds or so.

And what about the bed and that supposed leaky scenario where we are all huddled into the middle of the camper? I found an option for that as well. Instead of a heavy table, fritz_monroe used a few wood slats to bridge the middle.

My kids are getting to the point where they won’t share one of the king sized bed ends. So my daughter has been sleeping on the dinette. However, we like to use the table in the screen room when we are camping. So I needed to come up with a way to support the cushions for her. I didn’t want to use plywood. So I connected a bunch of 1×3 fering strips with nylon webbing. This is what I came up with. The spacing allows the boards to fold up accordion style.

Tent Camper Dinette Bed Slats

That many strips of boards might be foldable and easy to stow away just in case we need them, but will they weigh less than six pounds? Maybe, but now instead of a simple table, which can go outside for cooking or come inside to make a bed, I now have two kludgy replacements that weigh almost the same as the original table.

I guess that dinette table isn’t so heavy after all…

January 2, 2013

What Bears Do In The Woods: Privacy Tent Options

Filed under: Camping,Teardrops & Tiny Trailers,Tents — Laura Moncur @ 8:00 am

Since our trailer is so small, there isn’t room for a porta-potty in it. We needed to find a privacy tent that was small and easy to set up. After much searching, we found one that worked for us.

Texsport Hilo Hut Privacy Shelter at Amazon.comThe first privacy tent we tried was the Texsport Hilo Hut Privacy Shelter. We bought ours at Sportsman’s Warehouse for $39, even though it was cheaper through Amazon because we wanted to be able to easily return it if it was too hard to put up. I wanted something that didn’t take forever to put together. Unfortunately, I didn’t find out how long it took the Hilo Hut to put up because the cheap plastic connector on one of the poles broke the first time we tried it. I returned the tent with the offending part taped to the outside of the box. It was very disappointing.

Texsport Deluxe Camp Shower at Amazon.comThere was a bigger and better looking privacy tent at Sportsman’s Warehouse that looked like this Texsport Deluxe Camp Shower, but this one looked even harder to put up than the smaller one. More importantly, the box for this tent was HUGE and I couldn’t imagine where we would store the tent. I was keenly aware of the fact that I’m only getting a port-potty and privacy tent for those incredibly rare situations when we are camping without any hookups or access to bathroom facilities. They might be used if the campground bathroom is so far away that it feels dangerous to walk that far in the dark. This isn’t a necessity that we MUST make room for. It’s a luxury that I’d like to keep hidden in storage unless we need it, so this huge tent just wasn’t an option for us.

Trekker Fold A Privy from Cabela's We ended up buying the Trekker Fold-A-Privy from Cabela’s. It was the right size for Mike (who is quite tall), and set up was insanely quick. It is a pop up shelter, kind of like the sunshade Mike and I have for our windshield. All we had to do was pull it out of the bag and it popped open. Then we unfolded it and it was ready to be staked to the ground. There were no fiberglass poles to unfold and thread through the tent. There were no weird connectors to snap into pieces. It was a breeze. Additionally, it was a very small tent when folded, so I could easily squeeze it into the under seat storage in the trailer. It did cost $20 more than the Hilo Hut. My reluctance to buy it wasn’t based on price, setup, or size, however. I was really worried that I wouldn’t be able to get it folded back up. Fortunately, I found this video showing me how to get it folded back into the carrying case.

After watching that video twice, Mike and I were easily able to fold up the tent and get it back into the case. It really is a great little privacy tent for us.

Matter of Time Instant Privacy Pop Up Shelter at Amazon.comIf you don’t have a Cabela’s near you, I found a very similar tent for the same price on Amazon. It’s called the Matter of Time Instant Privacy Pop Up Shelter. It looks like the Fold-A-Privy and I’m sure that the folding technique is the same. We were just eager to buy ours from a store where we could easily return it if we didn’t like it, so Cabela’s worked out for us. Look how good the Matter of Time looks with this retro Apache Hard Side Pop Up Camper.

Matter of Time Instant Pop Up Shelter next to a retro Apache pop up trailer

If you are looking for a way to have a port-potty and need a small privacy tent, I really feel the pop up tents are the best option. If it’s not easy to put up and takes up too much storage space, then you won’t bring it with you and it won’t be there for those emergency times when you need it.

December 16, 2012

Towing Tips from Chevrolet

Filed under: Motorhomes and Campers,Teardrops & Tiny Trailers — Laura Moncur @ 7:43 am

I really liked this quick video from Chevrolet about how to tow with their pickup, the Silverado.

While I love the backup camera, seeing that they have a switch for tow and hauling mode made me want to look at Chevy’s for my next tow vehicle.

Via: RV Education 101: New technology

December 15, 2012

Is This Teardrop Trailer Worth $150,000?!

Filed under: Teardrops & Tiny Trailers — Laura Moncur @ 1:29 pm

This photo of a teardrop trailer has been floating around the RV forums and the Pinterest boards, but no one had a link to what it was and who made it.

Bulleit Woody Tailgate Trailer

I finally found it online and you will never guess who is selling it! (Continue Reading…)

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