If you’ve spent any time doing research on the Internet as a newbie to camping, you’re probably pulling out your hair trying to decide on what’s right for you! Well sit back and grab a cup of coffee and we’ll discuss them in detail!
Recreational Vehicle Types
It’s important to select a vehicle that fits your expectations and your budget. Motorhomes have several advantages over the travel trailers. They are completely self-contained, easier to set up and have room to move around while on the road. They are also more practical for long trips where you might be boondocking (staying in a rest area for instance with no hook-ups).
Class A motorhomes are the largest and most expensive RVs on the road, and they are usually the best built. The chassis can be set up as a diesel pusher with the engine in the rear or a gasser with a front engine. Some of these may be as long as 45 feet, but no special license is required to legally operate one.
NOTE: Some states may require an air brake endorsement and special license on diesel pushers with air brakes. Check your local laws.
These motorhomes offer their owners the most interior space and available features. Some are equipped with slide-outs that expand the living quarters, and it is common to have a separate master bedroom suite. The list of features, amenities and appliances are endless. Common perks include a washer and dryer, ice maker, full bath and shower facilities, and robust home entertainment systems. They also have plenty of basement storage for cargo. Campers can stock their RVs with enough supplies to stay on the road indefinitely.
While these are great options for both quick weekend getaways and full-time camping, they are expensive, and their size is intimidating for many. Maneuvering these vehicles through twisty mountain passes can be a hazardous and parking in restrictive camping sites may prove to be a hassle. After arriving and setting up, it is difficult to leave again to run simple errands, and many choose to tow along another vehicle (toad). In addition to the initial expense of the RV, the costs of repairs, insurance and fuel are also the highest of any other mode of camping.
While the Class A may be intimidating to some, it is the number one choice of retirees and families of four or less, however there are bunk house versions available for larger families. The ability to access all of the amenities while on the road is the most attractive feature. And being able to stop at a rest area for the night with no set-up whatsoever or need to exit the vehicle is the most attractive feature. You should expect to get between 7 and 9 mpg.
The class B is often referred to as a camper van, and it includes many of the standard passenger vans made by Ford, Chevy, Mercedes, etc. They are typically built on a full-sized van chassis and feature a raised roof to facilitate walking upright. Like the class A, it is possible to find both diesel and gasoline powered variations.
These basic campers have comfortable sleeping quarters and all of the necessities of life. Due to their small size, they are the easiest to drive, maneuver and store. It is also possible to take one of these on quick day trips or to run errands. They can comfortably accommodate one or two travelers, and are usually fully self-contained. Campers enjoy access to a refrigerator, sink, hot water, showers, toilets, air conditioning and heating. While still initially expensive to purchase, they are much more economical to operate.
Interior space on these versions is often cramped. If more than a two people are going to be using it, the tight quarters can quickly become uncomfortable. The sizes of the appliances are also much smaller. There is no space for luxuries like laundry facilities or full sized entertainment systems, and they do not have the cargo capacity to carry many supplies. These are most popular with single folks, traveling alone. You should expect to get between 12 and 16 mpg.
These are mid-sized RVs that range from 20 to 32 feet. They are built on top of a standard heavy duty van chassis and are usually intended for families on a more limited budget. These will have many of the same advantages as the class A, but at a lower overall cost and a lot less room.
They will usually have toilet and shower facilities, an adequate kitchen and plenty of places to sleep. Some of the larger models feature a master bedroom suite in the rear while others forgo this option in favor of a more open floor plan. Couches and tables convert into beds and the overhead compartment above the cab can be used for storage or additional sleeping quarters.
The class C motorhomes can be every bit as challenging to drive as the class A, but they are usually more easy to manage in restricted camp sites. Travelers often tow a separate vehicle. The fuel costs are slightly better, as is the maintenance and insurance; however, these are still fairly expensive to operate compared to the class B. You should expect to get between 10 and 14 mpg.
Also known as a travel trailer, or TT, these are small portable mobile homes with all of the conveniences of home. Bumper pull travel trailers were the original campers of the fifties and sixties and started the camping craze. They are constructed on top of a standard trailer frame and are equipped with a number of amenities that you would find in the Class A or C. Trailers can be kept simple, or filled with every luxury imaginable. They may have their own water supplies, kitchens, bathrooms and small refrigerators. Sizes can vary dramatically, and some are outfitted with as many as four slide-outs for more interior space to stretch out in.
The main advantages of a travel trailer is the fact that you use your own vehicle to tow it. Depending on the size, you can use anything from a car, to an SUV, to a 4WD pickup truck. These RVs connect with a standard ball hitch receiver. There is no need to purchase a separate vehicle and you always have a service vehicle on site at the campgrounds.
Like all trailers, they can be difficult to maneuver. Trailers also need to be level, and the setup and removal of the tow vehicle can become problematic and time consuming, especially for the handicapped or elderly. You will see names like, “Ultra Lite” or “Feather Lite” on some of them. And while this is an enormous benefit for fuel economy and an inexpensive tow vehicle, it can be quite dangerous on windy days or through mountain passes. When you see strong storms coming through the campground, it is highly recommended to take safe cover in a bathroom or facility building, due to the light weight of these units.
The 5th wheel trailers, AKA 5er, are very similar in many respects to the standard travel trailer with one major exception. They feature a gooseneck connector that attaches in the bed of the tow vehicle. The 5er offers a number of advantages over the travel trailer.
Towing the vehicle is simpler. The gooseneck extends over the back of the towing truck and connects from the bottom of an overhanging section of the trailer. There is more leverage from the center of the truck to make maneuvers easier and better weight distribution for a more stable drive with less tail swing or fishtail. The overhanging section of the trailer also offers additional interior space that is not available in the standard travel trailer. These connections are much stronger and easier to manage than generic ball hitches.
Like all trailers, they can be difficult to maneuver. Trailers also need to be level, and the setup and removal of the tow vehicle can become problematic and time consuming. The 5th wheel comes with all the extreme weather warnings as the TT, though most of them are quite a bit heavier.
They toy hauler comes in many different versions! Class A, Class C, Bumper pull and 5th wheel. The most popular type is the 5er. Toy haulers combine the features of a travel trailer and sport utility trailer. They are perfect for those that wish to bring their ATVs, dirt bikes, or snow mobiles camping with them. The rear compartment is used for storing equipment and vehicles and features a folding wall that doubles as a loading ramp, and some triple as an outdoor deck which can be closed after unloading and converted to living space.
Like all trailers, they can be difficult to maneuver. Trailers also need to be level, and the setup and removal of the tow vehicle can become problematic and time consuming, and all the extreme weather warnings as the TT and 5er.
These trailers are great for the occasional camping trip or weekend getaway. They are lightweight and easily maneuverable. There are more options for towing vehicles as well. Small trucks, station wagons and full sized sedans equipped with appropriate ball hitch receivers can be used to haul these campers. They offer the bare essentials of survival and make camping much more comfortable as opposed to tent camping.
Due to the space saving design, it is difficult to store anything in them. Supplies and equipment must be carried separately. The folding joints and canvas sections are prone to wearing out and may eventually develop leaks. Tent style trailers expose campers to more of the elements. Other basic necessities, like toilets and kitchen facilities, are often minimal or absent entirely.
The pop up camper is for the minimalist enthusiast wanting to experience nature first hand. A safe towing speed should be maintained when towing a pop-up of no more than 55 mph.
These are just the seven most popular types of campers. There are many more but these are the most used outside of standard tent camping.
Why go Camping?
These days there are all manner of detox diets, meditation courses and forced technology disconnects that promise a break from the stresses of modern-day life and a period of healing for your body. The thing is, none of these ever truly disconnect you from the issues that plague you in the city; they’re always just a few steps away.
Camping gets you out into nature, away from technology, phone signals, cars and work life, and forces you to immerse yourself in the wilderness. This ensures a true escape from hectic city life, and nothing can rival the meditation of strolling amongst quiet, towering pines or the technology detox of physically not being able to use your phone or surf the net on your computer. If you’re ever feeling overburdened or stressed out, camping is your answer.
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