is trailer camping easy?

I've resisted using a camper trailer for many years due mainly to the idea that most of the places I camp, you can't easily haul a trailer too. That's still true for the most part, although lately I have been noticing some really sweet spots that I could still get to with a trailer.

Lately I've been thinking that I might be taking some longer trips, like out west and north into Canada. Now I'm thinking of buying a small trailer for use kind of like a "motel substitute" - a way to get a no-frills night's sleep, shower and meal, in a rest area or public campground on the way to my destination.

In order for this to work for me, the camper has to be super quick to set up, efficient to operate and easy to maintain. Above all, I want to avoid a labor swap, where the ease of pitching camp is offset by the extra labor at other times of maintenance.

Simply pulling the trailer is a major disadvantage in my book, but I can live with that as long as there aren’t any others. So what do you experienced folks think? Is trailer camping easy enough to compare to a motel stay? Or are there a lot of hidden costs and inconveniences involved?

…are very cool trailers - basically a bed on wheels - one friend has a Little Guy, another a Go-Camp- very neat little rigs. Both say they’re easy to tow even witha small car, and a big step up from a tent - sleeping on the ground gets old as one gets older! Then there’s the .little ‘egg’ campers - Trilliums and Bolers - small FG rigs - bigger and more complex, but with considerably more space and facilities inside…

Here’s a couple of links to small trailer sites…


FG Trailers

What can go wrong?
Yeah, I’m following the teardrop thread, that’s what sparked my interest. I guess what I’m asking is, what kinds of things go wrong that won’t be mentioned on that thread? In the other thread, billinpa had some very good comments on the problems with pop-up trailers. I presume some people have had unexpected problems with the other types too, including the tear drops. So what are those problems?

I didn’t phrase my OP that way, because I don’t want to limit reponses to those who have had problems. If some people have found ways to make it truly easy, then please talk about that too. However, I was expecting to hear from people started out with high hopes and ran into problems, and I didn’t think those comments would be made on the other thread since it is phrased differently.

Trailers Schmailer!
I spent 6 months traveling the US a couple summers ago, camping the whole way. For the last half of the trip I bought a used Grand Caravan that I pulled the rear seats out of. That left me room to set up a cot and dressers from those plastic storage totes (with sliding drawers) you can buy almost anywhere. It was my own little home on wheels and I loved it!

Thought about a tear drop at the time but like you, didn’t want to pull a trailer. The nice thing about the van was that if I wasn’t in an area where I could find a place in the woods to stop and camp for the night I could just pull over on the street in any residential area. Who’s going to be suspicious of a white Caravan parked on the street?


I travelled around the US last year for nine months pulling a teardrop behind a '98 Subaru Outback (bike and kayak on the car roof); over the Rockies twice, up some gnarly dirt roads in the southwest, no problems. Carried a spare tire but never needed it. Very convenient. Check out for pics.

My tear has few systems: pump water sink, external drain, can be hooked up to electricity for interior lights or heater. You do, obviously, still need to find bathroom, shower, etc. But it worked great for me.


Easy…or not.
Depends on what your aim is and what you compare it to. We’ve done pickup camper, hard-sided trailer, pop-up, and (of course) hotel rooms. All have their advantages, according to the situation. We currently use a pop-up some of the time and tent other times. We also do hotels when not actually camping.

A lot of what has been said in the other thread about pop-ups, IMO, is not necessarily correct. Our 2004 model does not have problems with leaks or mildew. It makes a difference what the tent fabric is and how it’s put together. Setup isn’t that tricky, and yes - you can store gear in it. I suppose if you live in a particularly humid environment, your experience may be different. All trailers and campers sweat to some degree, no matter whether hard or soft sided, if you heat with propane. If you camp in very cold weather, you will find this out. Anything with soft side and/or large window openings can be aired out to dry easily after the trip though, if you have a dry day any time soon. OTOH - pop-ups do have their own special maintenance needs. The lift system must be inspected from time to time and eventually will need repair (after several years under normal operation) and the tent fabric or it’s mounts will eventually need repair - long before a hard-sided trailer does. But they can be repaired for a reasonable cost.

One thing I like about trailers in general (pop-ups included) is that they can be “pre-loaded” during the week, and then hook up to them after work going into the weekend, and drive off with no delay. That isn’t such an advantage if your trailer is without a refrigerator, but even that can be dealt with. Convenience, though, is largely what you develop as a system for preparation - regardless of what you sleep in.

Camping with a trailer isn’t particularly difficult if your vehicle is up to the pulling and your destination is suited to it. If you want it to be easy as possible, anything over 1000lbs or so should have a trailer brake - even if it isn’t required. It makes emergency stops and maneuvers so much safer. A good trailer brake is adjustable to your setup. As with tents, there are a lot of little tricks to simplify setup at camp. You learn some of those best by hanging out with other experienced campers, but some are specific to your rig.

There is no way to say (not knowing you personally) whether a trailer is going to be practical for you or not. That totally depends on your needs and expectations. All I can say is that my experience is that pickup campers are too much bother and not roomy enough unless there is a specific need for that setup, hard-sided trailers are too much up in the wind (unless it’s a “Hi-Lo” style, which is expensive), pop-ups (the current crop of quality full-size designs) are not leaky and complicated but require more setup time and can’t be entered enroute (to access the fridge or toilet, for instance), and tents must be transported and setup empty, put your bed on the ground (unless you set that up), restrict you to coolers and the latrine, are prone to leakage (if not immediately, much sooner in age than any trailer or camper), but are much more portable.

There. That didn’t help you a bit did it?

Any trailer…
no matter what the size will have possible road problems,fact of life.You have to back them places,and some drivers can’t even back the car let alone with the trailer. Trailer towing is not for the faint of heart. I have had my share of road idiots everywhere I went. With a trailer if you miss an exit it’s a whole lot harder to back with a trailer behind. People still think you can stop on a dime and cut you off coming up to stops,or in traffic. They tailgate trailers for some unknown reason{especially teardrops} because the are rarely seen. If you are slow because of weight,or large hill they sound the horn and give you the finger because you are holding them up,and they can’t see around you.Trailers are harder to maneuver in traffic,take longer to stop,and it all just seems to piss off other drivers. You can get flats, have wheel bearings go bad, have hitch issues just like the tow vehicle. Teardrops are very light weight,and not much problem for any car,but they still have towing problems just like the big rigs. If you have a bathroom on board there is sewage dumping,and water tank filling as added bother. Road tripping with a trailer is a bit more complex then driving to a hotel & checking in. There is also more attention paid to the tow vehicle too. Especially the cooling system,and brakes. Of course other maintenance items involved like state trailer inspections {if needed},sewer chemicals,winter readying the trailer’s water and sewer systems, and storage. I highly doubt tent camping involves any extra required maintenance of the vehicle,or extra driving headaches. If it is a short road trip and you can sleep in your car,why not? Walmarts allow campers to use their parking lot,some sell food,and have bathrooms open 24/7 . If you want to know more about teardrop towing,or camping,drop me an e-mail.


good advice
Yeah, that does help, as does billinpa’s additional comments. I’m after something low maintenance which can be used almost instantly after stopping - so I guess that points toward a hard-side. I do want a toilet, a shower, and indoor (but limited) cooking - those 3 I think define my goals.

Couple other things I’d like to do - tell me if this is unreasonable. These really have more to do with society than equipment features, I guess.

I’d like to have a shot at successful “stealth camping” in an urban environment - cases where I attempt to illegally spend a night or at lest get a nap in a parking garage or an apartment building parking lot.

Also, I’d like to be able to leave the trailer overnight, even several days, in a remote rural area locked to a tree.

Any thoughts on that?

Yes it is easy, and…
there is nothing like sleeping in your own bed.

We use ours as a base camp and then also bring along our backpacking tent and paddling gear, etc.

Years ago we tent camped,and then after all our kids were grown we finally got a pop up.

they are great, but if you pull into a place and it is raining out you still have to get out and set it up in the rain.

Now with our full size hard side, when we pull into a place and it is raining, we don’t even bother to unhitch until the following morning.

I have read the other posts about the little tear drops and mini trailers, but there is nothing like having a queen size bed, full bath with shower, dinette, frig and freezer, microwave, stove with oven, heat, A/C and hot water, and a dinettte, that you walk right into and everything is all set up and ready for you, including sewage and all the necessry holding tanks for both gray and black water.

The only drawback that I can see if you want to call it a draw back is you need a big enough tow vehicle, which in my case is a Ford F-150 with a V-8.

We bought ours on the spur of the moment seven years ago when I retired and we were going to take our four month trip of a life time to Alaska with our little pop up. Just prior to the trip we decided to get a full size hard sided one when we heard all the horror stories of the little wheels on the pop-ups, and it was the best move we could have made.

We bring two kayaks and a canoe on the truck cap, and our two mountain bikes and all other gear inside the truck.

I highly recommend it.

Our full size hard sided one with all the stuff listed above was the exact same price as the largest pop-up.



You can camp in Walmart parking lots
See RVs in those all the time. Walmart likes it because the RV’ers spend money at the store, plus they think they act as sort of a crime deterrent.

You might want to consider a Class B motorhome (van-based), if budget allows. That’s something my husband and I are considering for a “someday” purchase. Right now, we stick a tent-like extension on his Tahoe’s tailgate for car-camping, plus we have tents for backcountry use, plus we like to motel/B&B it sometimes. (And for solo car-camping, the inside of my truck topper is home away from home.) But to get the toilet, shower, etc. you need a motorhome set-up.

no way
The downs outweight the goods in my opinion.If you buy old your gonna need to sink money into it.It breaks down in the middle of no where it’s gonna cost you a arm and a leg to get it fixed,destroying the peaceful trip you had planned.

If you buy new your gonna need to have a monthly bill,stowage fee in off season(if you down own a garage etc).Licensing,regestration,stickers each year.

Also take a quick look at camping ground prices…YIKES!! A night camping is well over 50 bucks witha camper for sure.No matter how small it it!(i.e teardrop)

My suggestion would be take 800 bucks buy a large “base camp” tent.Put a large blow up matress in it etc.You can have all the comforts of home packed up in your trunk.

My take on it…

– Last Updated: Aug-15-09 8:45 PM EST –

is yes, it's easy. Backing into some sites is a challenge, but you'll get it.
Hidden costs may include trailer hitch, anti-sway bars, transmission cooler for tow vehicle.
With good bars, I've driven through horrible winds with no sway from the trailer.
Trailer vs Motel?
You meet people in state parks and campgrounds. Nice places to walk, bike and hike.
A motel is convenient to the highway, but little else.
A motel stay means you'll likely be eating out, with a trailer you're more likely to be preparing your own meals.
A motel gets better gas mileage.
Problems to look for in used?
Delaminating of the sidewalls. Look for very straight and true sides. Of course, roof leaks. A tire shop will check the electric brakes and bearings a heck of a lot cheaper than an RV store.
I'm sure a teardrop towed by a small car gets a lot better mileage than my rig, but I like to take our large dogs, and my wife likes having all the comforts of home, as Jack mentioned.
Have fun,

Edit: A large tent with a large mattress is wonderful. Used one for years. Wifey no longer wanted to hike to the potty in the night. Go figure. Also here in the south, an air conditioner can extend your camping season to year 'round.
I've yet to spend more than $37 for a campsite with hookups, the average is probably closer to $25.

Second that
Grand Caravan for camping. GF has one and this thing is an excellent kayak, gear, kid, camping, do-it-all hauler. Her factory rack (car) is strong and well made…no problem hauling 2 long yaks. We use a queen size air mattress and with the side windows popped open, there is good ventilation. Gas mileage is decent too at 23-25 highway with excellent driving position…love the Caravan’s/Town & Countrys. They also have a very good weight capacity for hauling light trailers. She kids me about was I first attracted to her or her van…

Bought my first new trailer about 4
months ago. A “lite” trailer of about 3300lbs to haul behind 6 cylindar Ford Ranger. Only used it a few times but find the loss of gas mileage i guesstimate at 1/3. Yes towing is a bit of a hassle and one needs to learn to slow down and prepare. Backing up is still a challenge as is hooking it up and unhooking and finding out how things work but it will come. I am slowing finding about the increased costs of an RV but i am happy with it. A trailer adds a certain amount of warmth and security i couldn’t get in my tent or truck canopy. I like it, but is it easy - no, not so far.

Class B
Not a bad option right now if you’re not planning on covering a lot of miles or don’t mind the gas bill when traveling. Lots of good used rigs around for very reasonable prices - a lot of bang for buck. The motorhome option makes finding a camping spot a little easier, but adds work and expense if you like to drive around from base camp.

50 bucks?!
Where ya camping for $50 a night? Graceland? Taj Mahal?

Even the really nice state parks in Oregon (with electrical hookup) are only $18 a night. And just because you can hook up to water and electricity doesn’t mean you need to. National Forest camps around here go for $15 a night (no hookups) and that fee is the same for tents. Maybe not the same in the east, but here in the west we have lots of places (good places) to camp on public land for free. Put that on top of cooking your own food, and if you do much camping the price of a trailer starts to go way down over it’s life span - especially if bought used.

Stealth urban camping with RV
Aside from the Wallyworld parking lots mentioned or such, that kind of “camping” is best done with a full-size van camper-conversion, IMO.

Locking trailer to a tree? Get lots of hardened chain, a couple heavy duty padlocks, and opt for “wagon” style spoked wheels. Run one chain through frame and through wheels - other chain through frame and around tree. Hope thieves don’t bring chainsaw and bolt cutters.

Why are you buying old ?

– Last Updated: Aug-16-09 6:29 AM EST –

I would never buy someone elses problems.

Naturally if you don't have a place to store it then it will cost.
If you have a place than there is no cost

Where are you paying fifty bucks ?
On our trip to Alaska I think the highest we ever paid was around $21, and in Canada they ranged between $8 and $12 per night
At the state parks down in Florida in the Keys for the past six years we have been paying in the $20's.
If we boon dock in the stae forests it's free.

Naturally if you go to a high end RV park you will pay a arm and a leg, but we head to the wilds where the rich and famous don't go.

We have reservations, right now for a week stay on the Carolina coast where we launch our kayaks right from our site, and it is $25 per night.


Backing becomes second nature
after you do it for a while.

Some hints:

Put your right hand on the bottom of the steering wheel, and don’t use the left one.

Turn the steering wheel in the direction that you want the trailer to go. Go slow. You will be quite surprised to see that with that hand locked in that position, the trailer will go where you want it to

Always back in from the drivers side, (if you can).

For instance: you are driving down the road and your site is ahead of you on the left hand side of the road.

Pull beyond it and then back in.

If the site is on the right, drive through until you can turn around and come in so it will be on your left.

If you have a partner, a pair of walky talkies comes in handy.

My wife watches the blind back corner and acts as a navigator. this also becomes second nature.