Tent Campers

Want to get into camping with the family. Looking to go in state parks mostly but with some family campgrounds. Will be my wife and our 2 year old. Not sure we can live without AC (very hot-natured) so I may be answering my own question here…

Our vehicle can only tow 3500 lbs with a 350 max tongue weight.

What experiences do you folks have that may help me? Any brands/years I need to avoid?

Thanks for allowing this off topic post.


Scamp or Casita or T@B
They are not tent campers they are better - hardshell, light weight, nice features.

Coleman Columbia
My family used a Coleman Columbia for many years. If I recall correctly, it was about 1100 pounds with around 100# tongue weight. No problem handling two adults and a wee one. There are roof air conditioners which can be mounted onto tent campers, but we didn’t have one.

I think many tent campers (pop-ups) fall way under your maximum towing weight.


Flagstaff by Forest River
I have a Flagstaff 206LTD made by Forest River. It is a pop-up tent camper and it has air conditioning and heat. A queen bed and a full bed plus a dinette that makes into a single size bed. Sink and running water and small refridgerator. Operates on 12 volt, 110 or propane (the A/C requires 110v) My ranger pulls it easily. It weighs 1600 #s and the tongue weight is about 220#s. I have a receiver hitch. Hope this helps. Here is a good but on one if you are near Bettebdorf, IA


The popup camper industry
Like the paddling industry the tent camper industry has been bought up by large conglomerates and consolidated so the number of “manufacturers” has shrunk and ones that are different branded actually might have been built in the same factory. For instance Coleman is no more as it and others have been overtaken by Fleetwood. They depriciate quickly in value so you often can find used pristine units for a lot less then a new ones and there are many out there that should easily meet your towing capacity and comfort needs.

I personally like the very light well built easy to tow and easy to setup units with nothing in them of years past. Retired/sold our in the family used yearly 1959 all canvas Nimrod a couple of years ago and replaced it with a used 60’s all canvas Cox.

Used is good
It’s like the same advice that the good folks on this forum give to someone just getting into kayaking. Buy used! Let someone else eat the depreciation. If you find you don’t like it, you can probably sell it for close to what you paid.


Very fast setup, lightweight, roomy with a high ceiling, and great ventilation.

Pick up a copy of Boat and RV Trader. You will find lots of smaller trailers in there, some at super reasonable prices. Folks normally trade up, so (at least around TX) there seems to be a large supply of 14’ to 19’ used late model units. The only small trailers that seem to hold any value after they are over 5 years old are the small Airstreams. But they were probably double the price to start with.

Pop Up Website

Here’s another site…

Checkout Craigslist for your local area,


Type in “Popup Campers” in the search box over on the left of the page and see what it produces.

Hi cyberiankhatru

At least I don’t consider this an “off topic” topic. I’ve been a life-long camper, but only recently became interested in kayaking (after, while on a camping trip this spring becoming overwhelmingly jealous of three kayakers - I knew before I came home I wanted one of those!!!) I am now the very proud owner of an Eddyline Skylark - which fits beautifully IN my camper for transport. I have the best of both worlds and I love both my toys! In my opinion, camping is only a positive addition to the kayak experience - and to your family as a whole. I’ve found me a spot to camp where I can bound out of bed at dawn, pee, brush my teeth and run a comb through my hair before running down a path leading to a 1700 acre man made lake. I’m on the water as the fog lifts, and the sunrise comes over the trees. Who needs TV??

While I’m sure you will (and already have) get some good responses from this website, may I also recommend another that I monitor. This website is provided by “Trailer Life” magazine. I started out in tents - then married a city boy (big mistake, it’s been a huge effort to convert his sorry self Ü) I have owned three tent campers, and recently converted to a shameless hard top with all the “pretties.” I have been held captive in a too-small trailer with a two year old. If you’d like an appetizer - try closing you, your bride and your wee one in a bathroom without television or possibly electricity for 2 or 10 hours and pretend you’re camping on a rainy day. Those are the days memories are made of! We loved our tent campers!

There are so many wonderful options available to young families - be sure you check them all out! I have learned from my mistakes, and successfully raised myself two female campers/fishermen/hunters (who think mom’s kayak is the “ultimate”!!) My husband still hopes I won’t die…but we’re working on him. :wink:

RV towing tips


Trailer Life Open Forum


Good luck in your shopping, I’m excited for you!

:slight_smile: Cheryl


pop ups

– Last Updated: Aug-22-07 12:29 PM EST –

I have owned a Fleetwood Yuma Pop up trailer for the past 3 years. It weighs 2000lbs which is way under my honda vans 3500lb tow limit. It works very well for a family. The sleeping is extremely comfortable and you can have it with or without AC. The only problem with AC is it limits your campground choice to Electric site only. I do quite well with bunk end fans which run on 12 volt battery power so you can camp anywhere.

Advantages: you always stay dry, sleep on large mattress covered bunks with sheets and blankets, heater available for colder nights, sink, potty, protected from bugs, wildlife, and other "unpleasantries", you can keep all your camping gear inside the trailer so you never forget to pack!

Disadvantages: Takes a lot more effort to maintain and transport, set up and breakdown time is more than that for tent camping, lots more expensive, cant get into more primitieve/private areas, cant pack it into a kayak. Just to give you an example, takes 30-60 minutes to set up the pop up and 60-90 minutes to take down. Takes 10 minutes to set up a tent and tarp and even less to pack up.

Love my 13’ Scamp
Pulls easy, turns around in tight spots, and the hard shell is a big + in bear country. I don’t need A/C in the high country. The 3 speed fan is enough around these parts. I have several people a year ask if I want to sell. “Do you see a sign on it?”

Minivan + smaller tent trailer = perfect

– Last Updated: Aug-22-07 2:17 PM EST –

Starcraft 10ft tent trailer and a Chev Venture minivan. Awsome combination. Easy pullling. Half hour tops for camp setup and same for tear down. Fridge/freezer, furnace, king bed + twin bed + fold down table twin bed.

Make sure van has a tranny/oil cooler though.

My wife, child and myself love our Starcraft 10ft tent trailer. We love it but also liked tenting greatly before. Bought the trailer for ease with the child and future childs.

Why would you need airconditioning.....arent you camping to be outside?

soon adding van top canoe.....oh boy I cant wait......

My Take…

– Last Updated: Aug-22-07 2:36 PM EST –

Buy USED, you will save a Ton!!! If you can get a small Hard shell camper, the pop-ups are better then a tent on the ground but they still have many of the same tent problems, like poor ventilation when cooking inside on a cold day. ect ect. also most pop-ups with AC will not be able to keep the temps down in Direct down south Sunlight, they work fine at night or in the shade. Even the cheapest hard shell camper is better insulated. You also have to “Set up” a pop up. And frequently have to set it up again when you get home if you had to take it down in the rain so you can dry and air it out. You also cant pre load a pop up with supplies like the way you can with a hard shell camper. I graduated from tent, to pop-up to hard shell camper!! Like I said if you go used you can find some fantastic deals… Campers depreciate like crazy!!

What Swedge Said, But
Swedge is right, but I certainly enjoyed our Jayco 12 tent camper when the kids were young.

We sold it off because we just don’t need to sleep 6-7 anymore. For three people, you could get by with a smaller one.

If I were to buy another I would upgrade to Coleman, or Fleetwood, which are really the same brand

I am still thinking about getting a small one and just keeping it on the other side of the Sierras, but we don’t have to worry about it raining in the summer there. Its not called the high desert for nothing. We go several months in summer with almost no rain. If it does rain, it dries in about 10 minutes.

If you can only tow 3,500# you are kind of limited.

I am in the market
for a used pop up. I have a Subaru Baja which has a tow rating of 2400 lbs so I am looking for one of the smaller pop up campers. A couple of weeks ago we drove though a campsite at Myrtle Beach and talked to quite a few pop up owners and some similiar points were given as advice.

first of all every one said that their air conditioner was more than adequate for the job even on the hottest of days. And this day it was over 100!


Every single person recommended that you don’t cook in the pop up as the smell stays in the canvas forever. Most pop ups have the option of putting the stove on the outside.


Same unanimous comments. Don’t need it, more hassle than worth, way too much maintenance and again smelling up the camper permanently. recommendations ranged from a 5 gal bucket with a seat to camping only in parks with bathrooms.


Get one with the storage compartment on the front that is accessible from the outside.


If possible get the sink arrangement that swings down with the bar behind it. Apparently there can be a lot of water built up in the pipes that comes splashing down when you turn this stuff over when you are packing it up.

Do your maintenance checks every year including the bearings and the leveling jacks or you will be very sorry.

Get at least the awning.

Again these were comments from the owners. The name brands most liked were Fleetwood, Coleman, and jayco.

I am sure there are a lot more little things to look for.

One thing I noticed was the lack of space for “stuff” If you think about it, after you have folded everything out, there is no closet space to speak of and if there are 4 of you, everything is probably in a bag that you have on your sleeping area and you end up living out of your suitcase so to speak. Be very easy to be real messy in the camper if you are not very strict with organization.


Yes, we want to camp to be outside but here in NC and during the times we can be away the most, the temps go to 95 to 100 degrees. AM and late eve’s are great but middle of the day (baby’s nap time) we’d need the AC.

Now up in the mountains, maybe not so much but after discussing this with my wife, she’s being adamant about AC.


RV resource
If you want to learn more about pop-up campers, try this forum:


We travel in a fifth-wheel, though we started small, too. RVs are perfect for families with kids. I can’t tell you how much fun we’ve had with ours.

Lots of people have told you to buy used. That may be good advice and it may not. When we bought ours, we found that the used ones were often just as expensive, harder to finance and of course, no warranty. If you get something with a bathroom, the interest on the loan (if you get a loan) can be deducted from your income tax as it qualifies as a second home. If you get one without a bathroom, I question your sanity ;-).

Good luck!