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  1. #1
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    Car camping travel trailer vs tent

    We have an escape 21 travel trailer that is very nice but driving with it is a pain and we currently have to store it in an expensive inconvenient lot. We have averaged 5-10 days of use per year since we bought it and I am considering selling it in this crazy market and buying a big ass tent. Am I going to regret this decision?
    Family of 3 with a 6yo and my wife has health issues that preclude her from doing most active outdoor activities. If we sell it I would buy a nice big ass tent and a good sleeping pad set. Probably an easy up canopy and figure out good organizing options to make packing time similar to the trailer. In my mind the camping experience is similar in nice weather and not fun in crappy weather either way.

    Trailer pros:
    Warm dry space for crappy weather but still too small to be fun to hang out it.
    Fridge and stove inside for easy food options.
    Easy to stay organized.
    Can potentially use for skiing but the family isnít really into it.
    Trailer cons
    Expensive like $2000yr for storage and insurance, we have an idea to store at our house but not sure if we can pull it off permit wise.
    Sucks to drive and halves gas mileage
    Limits camping locations

    Tent pros
    Cheap and easy to store
    Can use money for other vacations
    Better driving
    More location options
    Tent cons
    Tents are not fun in the rain
    More effort to setup and stay organized
    Food storage is harder.

  2. #2
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    $2,000 a year (plus gas savings) buys a lot of nights in a hotel when you want to go skiing or the weather gets shitty. Shit, you are paying $200-400 a night for camping that Iíd argue is subpar than a good tent setup anyway.

    Iíd sell it and go nuts buying a super nice (and heavy!) tent and mattress combo plus some Tupperware bins. Or just stay at the Hilton.

  3. #3
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    We are considering ordering an Escape 21 - which one do you have?
    Quote Originally Posted by powder11 View Post
    if you have to resort to taking advice from the nitwits on this forum, then you're doomed.

  4. #4
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    Seriously - campers suck unless you're OK with all the shit that goes along with owning one.

    Tents suck if you camp in the rain with any regularity.

    The tent + hotel option when the weather is shit would be *my* choice. But I have VERY little tolerance for shoddily constructed mobile "homes."

  5. #5
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    We have a 2018 so itís the classic layout. When we bought it I could park at our house but 2 moves later we have a house with a view that needs a carport roof list that might not fly with the city to fit the camper.
    The tenting when itís nice and spending the extra costs for hotels or Airbnb and plane tickets is where I am leaning. I figure I can spend $1000 on a tent nice pads and a bunch of storage and have a great setup. I can also consider a non tow capable car which is another plus.
    Basically looking for validation or holes in the idea.

  6. #6
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    If you decide to sell it, please let me know.
    Quote Originally Posted by powder11 View Post
    if you have to resort to taking advice from the nitwits on this forum, then you're doomed.

  7. #7
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    Car camping travel trailer vs tent

    Everyoneís needs and situations are different. I have no need to winter camp to ski so a trailer works great for me. I have a place to park it fully equipped with all the hookups - power - sewer - water, so I can use it as a spare apartment when visitors come on the summer. I am fully comfy pulling a trailer and I can triple pull it with my drift boat. Which gives us a very comfy base camp when fishing the rivers of the west.
    That said with your situation I would probably go the tent route.

    Edited to add as I get older not sleeping on the ground and pooping inside along with the occasional hot shower is priceless.


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  8. #8
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    Dec 2020
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    Biggest difference is a toilet and shower. Keeping dry, warm and fed in a tent is possible, if a porta potty and solar shower would work I might get rid of the trailer. I would consider a rain fly in addition to the tent.

    ETA I don't think a small vehicle to camp with is going to be comfy.

  9. #9
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    While I'm sure a trailer/van/RV is better than a tent, I think you need to be able to commit a huge number of days for a camper to be "worth it" by most monetary standards. Everyone is already hitting this nail on the head. Tents are pretty fun when the conditions are good for it, but definitely a pain in the rain. Consider how rarely you may want to camp in the rain - even with a camper - and how much better a hotel is in a lot of those conditions.

    We have a pretty LL Bean big family tent you can stand up in, but have only used it with two adults so far and can't say if it's really ideal or not. I find that I really want to be staying some place for at least two nights so that the setup doesn't feel like a drag. Having cooking gear and other stuff organized in totes is key! I say don't skimp on the mattress, and try to find the most comfortable camp mattress you can find. When I go with a skimpy backpacking one, I regret it.

    I'd love to hear other's recommendations on their ultimate plush car camping tent. I've read a lot of recommendations for this one, and even poked my head inside one once. It is heavier/bulkier than most tents, but the setup time does look really fast.

    https://gazelletents.com/products/t4...37760210927784

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hopeless Sinner View Post
    Biggest difference is a toilet and shower. Keeping dry, warm and fed in a tent is possible, if a porta potty and solar shower would work I might get rid of the trailer. I would consider a rain fly in addition to the tent.

    ETA I don't think a small vehicle to camp with is going to be comfy.
    I've had good luck with a minimal bucket type shower while showering using this pump. We heat up water either with the sun or a camp stove. I'd say it feels like about 90% of a full shower - totally refreshing especially when we are out for more than a night. This is mostly assuming fairly warm weather and either a bit of privacy, lack of shame or enough of both.

    https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0...?ie=UTF8&psc=1

  11. #11
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    Are the 5-10 times per year fixed or do you choose based on the weather? Obviously tenting isn't that big of a deal if it's not raining/snowing/howling wind/etc. It seems crazy to me to spend $2k in carrying costs annually for so few days. Besides the fact that you are tying up so much capital in an asset that's at the height of it's value (particularly one that historically just lost value).

  12. #12
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    5-10 days per year is our average. We have a few summer trips planned that canít move but pnw summer is reasonably reliable weather wise. Between limited vacation time, school and other life activities and the lack of available campsites (they all book out fast) close to Seattle I donít see that number going up a lot.
    I did not grow up camping but have spent lots of nights in tents to enable sleeping near activities, if itís just me I will sleep out or in a bivy sack or backpacking tent next to the car with no complaints but would never camp to hang out at a campsite. My wife likes to camp for the sake of being out of town so the camper was mostly for that and I am looking to move down the hassle and cost factor while keeping it enjoyable for her and my son.
    If we change cars it wonít be to something small but it would open up a minivan or hybrid crossover with lots of space but canít tow.
    From a money perspective selling is an easy win. Good recommendations for tents and sleeping setups are welcome.

  13. #13
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    Would a smaller pop-up camper be park-able at your house?

    Pros of a pop up:
    -light, small, and easy to tow.
    -easier to park and maneuver
    -still have a fair amount of space in them once popped
    -still has the upsides of an indoor space / kitchen to use when the weather is shitty

    Cons:
    -not warm
    -usually no bathroom (can also be considered a plus if you don't want to deal with blackwater tanks)
    -setup / take down is slower

    $2000 / year in camper storage fees is nuts to me. But sleeping in a tent kinda sucks, especially for more than 2 people. It's one thing to sleep in a tent if you're backpacking and away from everything. But if you're just driving up to someplace and sleeping next to your car, you might as well have a decent bed, a space you can stand upright in, and a kitchen that's semi worthwhile.

  14. #14
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    I'd get two tents. A big one for everyone to sleep in, and a kitchen tent to hang it in during the rain or bugs. Keeps sleeping and eating separate and you'd probably end up with more room. And a place to nap.

    A cot with a sleeping pad is super comfortable too, better than a large air mattress in my experience.

    This kitchen tent is the one to get: https://eurekacamping.johnsonoutdoor...2-screen-house

  15. #15
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    Just sold our van and did a quick tent camp (no rain) with our friends with an RV. We set our tent and kitchen up and took down in the time it took them to get ready to camp and ready to leave. We have a pretty decent river camp for rafting. My cot and air pad are as comfortable as my bed at home and more comfortable than the bed in the van. I can almost stand up in our tent. I will miss ski area camping but we only did that 2-4 trips a year. We have a river groover, groover tent, and wag bags for dumping. We don't normally shower for quick camp trips but also can heat water on the stove or sun and put it in our nemo shower.

    The amount we got for the van could cover hotels in those situations for the next 30ish years for the amount we would hotel it at $200/night. Not counting insurance and maintenance.

    I'm mostly justifying selling our van to put money towards a garage build so I feel better about it. I do think there will be times I miss our van. Thanks for the thread.

    For sleeping setups, the Big Agnes Q-Core is a sweet pad. It's on the spendier side of pads. Get the add-on stuff sack to inflate. The BA synthetic sleeping bags with the sleeve for the pad are nice and not that expensive. I've used most of them-Thermarest, Paco, foam, etc. Cots are basically cots. I like having one-flattens out uneven ground and it's nice to be off the ground. I moved to Helinox for my cot. Spendy f'r. Packs down really small though (fits in my dry bag on my raft easy). Roll-a-cot, Cabelas style outfitter cots are comfy but take up more space. Tents, get a taller one. Don't need to be able to stand all the way up, just enough to put pants on. Kitchen-you'll find that a couple roll-a-tables with a tote with your camp kitchen will give you as much cooking and dishes options as a smaller camper does.

  16. #16
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    Based on the event thread I am a bit surprised at the lack of pro trailer input here. I could store a pop up but donít see it offering compelling advantages over a tent and it still has the towing downsides of preventing me from safely driving 10-15 over in the left lane. Doing 65 on 5 or 90 sucks.

    A kitchen and hangout tent is in the cards for sure. Are the screen house tents worth it over an easy up canopy? I can plan camping around not going to buggy area but not reliably around rain showers.

    Does anyone make a queen width cot I can put 2 exped mega mats or similar on and cover with a queen sheet and comforter?

  17. #17
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    Just use two wide cots. Zip tie them together if you have to.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by carlh View Post
    Based on the event thread I am a bit surprised at the lack of pro trailer input here. I could store a pop up but don’t see it offering compelling advantages over a tent and it still has the towing downsides of preventing me from safely driving 10-15 over in the left lane. Doing 65 on 5 or 90 sucks.
    A pop up weighs like 1500 lbs, compared to around 3500 lbs for your Escape. And they're low, so they stay in the slip stream of the vehicle. Not sure what you're towing with, but when I was pulling a pop-up, I'd go 80mph all day long and it only dinged my mileage by maybe 1 mpg.

    Main advantage is that you get 2 queen sized beds, a kitchen, a sitting area, and enough headroom that you can stand upright. And you can buy a perfectly decent one for $8k or so, use it for a while, and then sell it for a grand less than you paid for it. And if it gets windy, it doesn't blow away.

  19. #19
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    Fair points on the pop up maybe that is worth another look. We tow with a q7 tdi so it will pull the 4500lb escape at 80 but fuel efficiency drops dramatically, I get like 18-20 mpg going 60-65 and sub 15 if I punch it into the mid 70s plus the obvious safety questions about pulling a big tall trailer that fast.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by carlh View Post
    <snip> the obvious safety questions about pulling a big tall trailer that fast.
    Those same questions apply to pulling pop-ups at that speed - 'cause they usually have shitty, tiny tires and questionable bearings.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by carlh View Post
    Fair points on the pop up maybe that is worth another look. We tow with a q7 tdi so it will pull the 4500lb escape at 80 but fuel efficiency drops dramatically, I get like 18-20 mpg going 60-65 and sub 15 if I punch it into the mid 70s plus the obvious safety questions about pulling a big tall trailer that fast.
    For sure. I pull with a full size pickup. I could barely even notice the pop-up back there. Now we're pulling a 21 foot travel trailer and I definitely notice it. Both in how the truck drives and how thirsty it is.

    Quote Originally Posted by skaredshtles View Post
    Those same questions apply to pulling pop-ups at that speed - 'cause they usually have shitty, tiny tires and questionable bearings.
    A lot of the old pop-ups had tiny wheels, but pretty much all of the ones that are worth buying these days have decent size tires. 14" or 15" rims. Similar to what's on any other trailer.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dromond View Post
    While I'm sure a trailer/van/RV is better than a tent, I think you need to be able to commit a huge number of days for a camper to be "worth it" by most monetary standards. Everyone is already hitting this nail on the head. Tents are pretty fun when the conditions are good for it, but definitely a pain in the rain. Consider how rarely you may want to camp in the rain - even with a camper - and how much better a hotel is in a lot of those conditions.

    We have a pretty LL Bean big family tent you can stand up in, but have only used it with two adults so far and can't say if it's really ideal or not. I find that I really want to be staying some place for at least two nights so that the setup doesn't feel like a drag. Having cooking gear and other stuff organized in totes is key! I say don't skimp on the mattress, and try to find the most comfortable camp mattress you can find. When I go with a skimpy backpacking one, I regret it.

    I'd love to hear other's recommendations on their ultimate plush car camping tent. I've read a lot of recommendations for this one, and even poked my head inside one once. It is heavier/bulkier than most tents, but the setup time does look really fast.

    https://gazelletents.com/products/t4...37760210927784
    Kodiak Canvas tents are heavy, bulky, and way overbuilt but great for camping when you don't have to carry it more than 100 yards. I use mine for surf trips when weight isn't an issue and can't imagine going back to anything else. They're the gold standard in car camping as far as i'm concerned. Biggest downside is that you need to stake them out really well or the design doesn't work, you couldn't easily use it on slickrock for example.
    Three fundamentals of every extreme skier, total disregard for personal saftey, amphetamines, and lots and lots of malt liquor......-jack handy

  23. #23
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    I didn't read all the responses so I am sure I have nothing new to add, but I recently sold my 17' hardside trailer and went car camping last weekend in somewhat challenging conditions. I have a giant SUV that sleeps inside nicely so my bed was still comfy. That said, it was cold and wet and very windy outside, so the easy-up wasn't much of an option (had to be tied down and lowered).

    A friend had a pop-up camper and that first night hammered home that the beauty of a camper is when the weather is bad. When the weather is fine, yeah, not necessary. But having the thing is all about the shitty weather.

    I also found having a proper fridge in the camper being a hudge luxury; going back to cooler camping was a PITA.

    That said, if I couldn't store the camper at my house, I am not sure it would be worth it. That's a major reason I sold the camper, moving somewhere I couldn't store it.
    "fuck off you asshat gaper shit for brains fucktard wanker." - Jesus Christ
    "She was tossing her bean salad with the vigor of a Drunken Pop princess so I walked out of the corner and said.... "need a hand?"" - Odin
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  24. #24
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    I considered that one but my friends talked me out of it, because of high winds. When camping in Fruita, the wind occasionally roars through, and there isn't much to tie down to. Supposedly those hubs can get pushed in and the whole tent collapses.
    "fuck off you asshat gaper shit for brains fucktard wanker." - Jesus Christ
    "She was tossing her bean salad with the vigor of a Drunken Pop princess so I walked out of the corner and said.... "need a hand?"" - Odin
    "I'd eat a bag of Dicks and wash it down with a Coke any day." - iceman

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by Conundrum View Post
    For sleeping setups, the Big Agnes Q-Core is a sweet pad. It's on the spendier side of pads. Get the add-on stuff sack to inflate. The BA synthetic sleeping bags with the sleeve for the pad are nice and not that expensive. I've used most of them-Thermarest, Paco, foam, etc. Cots are basically cots. I like having one-flattens out uneven ground and it's nice to be off the ground. I moved to Helinox for my cot. Spendy f'r. Packs down really small though (fits in my dry bag on my raft easy). Roll-a-cot, Cabelas style outfitter cots are comfy but take up more space. Tents, get a taller one. Don't need to be able to stand all the way up, just enough to put pants on. Kitchen-you'll find that a couple roll-a-tables with a tote with your camp kitchen will give you as much cooking and dishes options as a smaller camper does.
    The pad sleeve does seem nice - I hate rolling off of it in the middle of the night. I was stoked to read some cot recommendations as I've wanted to try them, then saw that $350 price tag. You were not kidding on the cost! Still, a lot of cots look super bulky, and these are sleek. Maybe there is a budget version...

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