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Towable RV's Part II

Aug 17, 2007
Towable RV's Part II

There are two main categories of recreational vehicles (RV's); motorized and towable. Towable RV's include fifth wheels, travel trailers, folding/tent/pop-up campers, toy haulers, and park models. Discussion of fifth wheels and travel trailers were covered in part I of this article. In this article, part II, discussion of folding/tent/pop-up campers, toy haulers, and park models will be discussed.

Folding camper, tent camper, and pop-up camper are all terms for the same type of camper: a camper that folds down into a hard side base "box" unit, has pull-out sleeping areas with tent-like canvas sides and canvas camper sides with screened windows and clear plastic coverings for the windows. There are also hybrid models that have hard sides instead of the canvas sides, but still have the canvas slide-out sleeping areas on either end.

These campers have some great advantages. They are lightweight which makes them easier to tow than fifth wheels or travel trailers, have a low profile so they do not obstruct your view while driving, are easy to store because they do not take up a huge amount of space, and are the most reasonably priced towable camper.

Pop-up campers are a nice upgrade from a tent because they are more comfortable for sleeping and provide better protection from the elements. Most pop-up campers have heaters, and air conditioners can usually be installed as an option so the camper will be comfortable when the temperatures get cool in the fall and also when it's over 100 degrees in the summer and you're in a campsite with no breezes to help cool you off.

Pop-up campers are typically the first camper people purchase because of the lower cost.

The "box" part of a pop-up camper ranges in length from 8-18 feet. After the camper is popped up and the sleeping areas are slid out, the camper can reach a length of approximately 25 feet. In addition, some pop-up campers have slide-out options that add more interior space and many have optional screen room packages that add even more interior space. Depending on what model and brand of pop-up camper you purchase there are bathroom facilities in the camper along with adequate cooking areas, a dining area and relaxation area. Most pop-up campers also have a stove that can be hooked to the outside of the camper where grease spatters and food that boils over the top of the cooking pot are easier to clean up.

The sleeping areas are on either end of the camper and are much like a tent except that you're sleeping on a mattress and not the ground or a cot or an inflatable mattress, and you have the benefit of heating or air conditioning if you have those features in your pop-up. One note about the mattresses in pop-up campers: they are often thin and not nearly as comfortable as a regular mattress. Buy an eggshell type foam topper for the mattresses. It will make a big difference.

There isn't a lot of privacy in a pop-up camper though. The privacy you do get is obtained by pulling a curtain closed. And space is at a premium, even in the larger units with slide-outs.

Our family's first camper was a Coleman popup camper and we loved it. It was easy to store, easy to tow, easy to maneuver into a campsite, easy on our pocketbook, and easy to maintain.

The biggest downside to a pop-up camper is the setup and takedown time. There's no getting around the fact that they are a lot of work to set up. After you arrive at your campsite and have your trailer parked where you want it the camper has to be unfolded, usually with a hand crank although mechanical push button systems are becoming popular. The beds then have to be slid out and the support poles outside and inside need to put in place. The door needs to be slid down from the ceiling and put in place. And the entire inside needs to be unfolded and unpacked.

If you have two people working together and you get a system going, you can get your camper and campsite set up in about an hour, which isn't bad. But you might get jealous if someone with a fifth wheel or travel trailer pulls in the site next to you and you see that it only takes them 10 minutes to get everything set up-including getting their campfire going.

Another disadvantage with a pop-up camper is inclement weather. Windy conditions may make you wonder if your camper is going to blow away like Dorothy's house in the Wizard of Oz. Rain isn't as bad but you need to make sure too much rain doesn't collect on top of the canvas in the sleeping areas and collapse them. Rain is not fun at all if you have to take the camper down while it's raining. If that happens you'll have to pop the camper back up when you get it home to dry out the canvas or it will mold and mildew.

Even though there are disadvantages, pop-up campers are a good choice if you don't have a lot of money to invest in a camper. And camping is a lot of fun. It's worth putting up with a few inconveniences.

Toy haulers, or sport utility trailers, are a fairly new type of towable trailer. They are a travel trailer or fifth wheel trailer with a cargo area either in the front or the rear for all your "toys" (think four-wheelers, snowmobiles, canoes, jet-skis, dune buggies, etc.).

They have a built-in ramp so once you arrive at your destination it is easy to get things in and out. And it's a nice to be able to put things back in the cargo area at night for safekeeping or when its raining.

Other than the cargo area, they are pretty much like any other travel trailer or fifth wheel except the living area will be smaller. They also usually come with (or have the option of adding on) at least one generator, a fuel tank and a larger than normal water tank.

Some people who own toy haulers put furniture in the cargo area when they are going camping somewhere and are not taking any "toys" with them. The cargo area then becomes a spacious living room.

A park model is a lot like a small mobile home except it is designed to be transported and hooked up to utilities. But they are not meant to be transported frequently.

A park model is a good choice for a permanent campsite that is rented by the year. The trailer is transported to the site, set up, and left there for the year (or longer depending on the contract). They are also a good choice as a cottage if local ordinances allow it.

Park model trailers have all the amenities of home. Some have loft areas but they are definitely designed for children because the ceilings are very low,

How do you decide which RV/trailer/camper is right for you? Decide what your needs are and what you can afford. Then shop around and see what you like. Talk to people who already own RV's. Find out what they do and don't like about their camper. If you're not sure you are going to like camping and want to try it out before you invest in an RV, consider renting one for a week so you can try it out without a huge investment. Or, if you have family or friends with an RV, ask to borrow theirs.
About the Author
Dorrie Ruplinger is the publisher of http://www.bestrvsite.com which provides information and resources about Door County Wisconsin parks.
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