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Making the jump from tent camping to RVing

AmongTheTrees
Explorer
Explorer
I'm a lifelong tent camper, but my partner and I are interested in switching to an RV for added convenience and comfort during our trips. I'd be happy to get some feedback on traveling in a small travel trailer.

A fifth wheel or Class C might be in our future a few years down the line, but I think we'd like to experiment with a smaller travel trailer in the meantime. It's just the two of us for now (hopefully with a canine friend in the near future!), so we don't need a whole lot of space. We like to visit National Parks and camp off-grid.

Right now, I'm thinking that a small travel trailer with a kitchen area and bed would be great for us. I've seen various teardrop designs and other small campers that fit this description.

But what's it like to stay in these? Do you feel cramped and crowded? Do you bring along a tent/shelter to give you more space to spread out on bad weather days? Happy to hear your thoughts on the matter!
45 REPLIES 45

tenbear
Explorer
Explorer
We, my wife and I (no pets), moved on from tent camping, canoeing with a tent, and got a small trailer. It didn't take us long, about 3 years that included two trips to the west coast from Vermont, to decide that was too small. We bought a larger trailer and wrecked that our first trip out. We decided a trailer was not for us so we decided on a 28' Class C. It has served us well for over 12 years.
Class C, 2004/5 Four Winds Dutchman Express 28A, Chevy chassis
2010 Subaru Impreza Sedan
Camped in 45 states, 7 Provinces and 1 Territory

PuppyDogMom
Explorer
Explorer
We bought a 19' TT, used it twice and realized it was too small, especially with 2 dogs. Traded it in on a 25' TT with a slide. Much happier. Lost some $$, but lesson learned.

doxiemom11
Explorer II
Explorer II
We went from tent camping to a 36' motorhome with 2 slides. Started full-time a year later.

LLeopold
Explorer
Explorer
Let's keep the rhetoric and getting personal to am minimum and stay on topic, please. I sanitized a few posts, but will not hesitate to close the thread or recommend a "time-out" if members cannot restrain themselves.

First notification...
Lou Leopold
Between RVs at this point
but I continue to tent camp!

BizmarksMom
Explorer
Explorer
I went from backpacking and tent camping to a travel trailer when I got fed up with playing the "what's living in the vault toilet?" game. I still backpack, but for regular camping I'm all about the trailer.

Mine is 25' hitch to bumper. Be careful about this measurement when evaluating campsites -- it doesn't matter how long the living space is, the whole trailer has to fit. I share it with 2 large dogs. I have a full time bed, a full bathroom, a nice kitchen space, and a jack knife sofa to hang out on if the weather is lousy. I will never go with a longer trailer, because it wouldn't fit in the areas I like to camp.

One other thing to think about... If you like to camp off of pavement in less developed sites, be very picky about the trailer construction. I sold my Keystone ultralight and bought a Nash after 2 years because the Keystone was not holding up on the dirt roads and dry lake beds I camp on. If you tend to stay in well developed camp grounds with all of the amenities, this won't be as much of a problem.
2019 F350 towing a Nash 22H

Blutoyz
Explorer
Explorer
I jumped right into a class A on a recommendation from a friend and have no regrets. If you buy a low mile well maintained unit for short money you can always flip it if you don't like it.

The bottom line is if you are used to tent camping any size will offer more comfort than you are used to and you can always throw a folding canopy/screen room in the trailer to spread out outdoors so being cramped is just a foul weather issue.

Just my $.02
She may be old but she is paid for (the rig that is)

paddykernahan
Explorer
Explorer
Tent camped for 10 years.
Loved every minute of it.
Had a one month trip where it rained almost every day.

Decided to look into a pop-up.
Found a no frills lightweight inexpensive one.
What a difference especially in bad weather.
Dry, warm, comfortable place to sleep and eat and read.
Large open feeling.
Easy to setup and take down (we were able to set up in les than 10 minutes).
Easy to tow.
Easy to manually push around the campsite.
Only problem was if it rains I couldn't stay awake.
The sound of the rain on the canvas was hypnotic.

Used the pop-up for > 6 weeks every year for 30 years.
Loved every minute of it.

Was window shopping and saw a B+ that I thought was the greatest thing since sliced bread and got a big discount. Just a few years from retirement and have been lusting after Class B's for years, pulled the trigger.

Got a 22 foot Class C (B+) and it is terrific.
Nice to have no set-up, tear down time.
Nice to have bathroom/shower available
Nice to have a refrigerator and air-conditioning with built in generator.
Nice to have everything with you at all times.
Almost always use the campground showers and bathrooms.
So for convenience, we love the Class C but still miss the pop-up.

If you rally like tent camping, try a pop-up to start with.

ppine
Explorer II
Explorer II
I believe in the cult of smallness. You do not have to give up tent camping either. For some types of trips it is always superior. Tear drops are tiny and cost a lot. For people used to a tent, a pop-up trailer get you out of the dirt, provides furniture, kitchen and often a head. They are easy to pull. With the canvas unzipped they are easy to see out of and provide air flow. In some ways better than any tent. Used ones can be had for not much. Easy transition from tent camping.

They are not great in hot weather or temps below freezing like most tents. Moving every day, it takes some time to set them up and take them down. We had a lot of fun with a pop-up.

2012Coleman
Explorer
Explorer
AmongTheTrees wrote:
I'm a lifelong tent camper, but my partner and I are interested in switching to an RV for added convenience and comfort during our trips. I'd be happy to get some feedback on traveling in a small travel trailer.

A fifth wheel or Class C might be in our future a few years down the line, but I think we'd like to experiment with a smaller travel trailer in the meantime. It's just the two of us for now (hopefully with a canine friend in the near future!), so we don't need a whole lot of space. We like to visit National Parks and camp off-grid.

Right now, I'm thinking that a small travel trailer with a kitchen area and bed would be great for us. I've seen various teardrop designs and other small campers that fit this description.

But what's it like to stay in these? Do you feel cramped and crowded? Do you bring along a tent/shelter to give you more space to spread out on bad weather days? Happy to hear your thoughts on the matter!
I'm surprised no one has mentioned renting a travel trailer in order to experience what its like to stay in one.

Check out RVShare.com and rent one with a floor plan your interested in. You don't mention what you have to tow with, but that is a big part of the equation. Good luck!
Experience without good judgment is worthless; good judgment without experience is still good judgment!

2018 RAM 3500 Big Horn CTD
2018 Grand Design Reflection 303RLS

SoundGuy
Explorer
Explorer
toedtoes wrote:
Small hard-sided (19 - 22ft) - these will give you less room than a hybrid of the same length, but you will not have to deal with tent ends. Most will have a wet bath, but you may find a dry bath. You will usually have a couch or 2-person dinette and a full bed or 4-person dinette. Stovetop and microwave and maybe an oven.

As you are used to tent camping, you are used to having limited water. For fresh water, a 20gal tank will be very similar to how you work now. A 40gal tank will provide you with the ability to use the toilet at night at the minimum. You'll be able to wash your face, brush your teeth and wash cookware. If you're conservative, you will have enough for drinking and cooking.


SoundGuy wrote:
Conventional travel trailers in the 19' to 22' range will have a full bathroom with a separate shower and if it has a dinette instead of a sofa that dinette will almost always seat 4. Mine has 30 gal tanks and we have no restriction whatsoever in using the toilet, shower, washing dishes, or anything else.


toedtoes wrote:
I was speaking of the lightweight trailers in that size. If weight isn't an issue, then the OP can get any configuration.

As for water, it is dependent upon your habits, needs, and length of stay. For some, 20gal won't last 2 days. For others it will last a week. My comments were meant as a general guide based on the average user on this forum.


My own 19' Coachmen is an example that is replicated by just about every other manufacturer out there with similar floorplans, including the Starcraft Launch 21FBS owned by friends of ours. My 2014 version is identified as a 19 footer by the manufacturer, has an 18' 6" box, current versions have a 19' box to accommodate a full length 80" queen bed, and measures 22' 6" coupler to bumper. Most manufacturers these days also offer single axle versions in the 17' - 19' range but AFAIK none have wet baths as you've claimed nor do they suffer from small tanks that would limit how one can use these trailers. In other words, 19' - 22' travel trailers, whether single axle or dual axle, are no different than their larger siblings and offer the same amenities.
2012 Silverado 1500 Crew Cab
2014 Coachmen Freedom Express 192RBS
2003 Fleetwood Yuma * 2008 K-Z Spree 240BH-LX
2007 TrailCruiser C21RBH * 2000 Fleetwood Santa Fe
1998 Jayco 10UD * 1969 Coleman CT380

toedtoes
Explorer II
Explorer II
SoundGuy wrote:
toedtoes wrote:
Small hard-sided (19 - 22ft) - these will give you less room than a hybrid of the same length, but you will not have to deal with tent ends. Most will have a wet bath, but you may find a dry bath. You will usually have a couch or 2-person dinette and a full bed or 4-person dinette. Stovetop and microwave and maybe an oven.

As you are used to tent camping, you are used to having limited water. For fresh water, a 20gal tank will be very similar to how you work now. A 40gal tank will provide you with the ability to use the toilet at night at the minimum. You'll be able to wash your face, brush your teeth and wash cookware. If you're conservative, you will have enough for drinking and cooking.


What are you talking about?! Conventional travel trailers in the 19' to 22' range will have a full bathroom with a separate shower and if it has a dinette instead of a sofa that dinette will almost always seat 4. Mine has 30 gal tanks and we have no restriction whatsoever in using the toilet, shower, washing dishes, or anything else.


I was speaking of the lightweight trailers in that size. If weight isn't an issue, then the OP can get any configuration.

As for water, it is dependent upon your habits, needs, and length of stay. For some, 20gal won't last 2 days. For others it will last a week. My comments were meant as a general guide based on the average user on this forum.
1975 American Clipper RV with Dodge 360 (photo in profile)
1998 American Clipper Fold n Roll Folding Trailer
Both born in Morgan Hill, CA to Irv Perch (Daddy of the Aristocrat trailers)

Tennessee_Nomad
Explorer
Explorer
It all boils down to how much comfort you're comfortable with. Going from a tent to a smallish travel trailer will seem like A huge jump... and it is, but you can get used to it in a hurry. We went from a 19ft TT with a small couch slide to a 37ft 5er with four slides. However, Our travel trailer did help us figure out that we really enjoy the RV lifestyle... and that we wanted more space and comfort. My advice would be... buy as big as you can afford. Good luck in your travels.
2010 Keystone Montana 3455SA Quad Slide
4 Goodyear G614's
2017 RAM 3500 DRW 4x4 Crew Cab
6.7L Cummins® Turbo Diesel
B & W Companion Hitch
All Made In USA

*I chose the road less traveled... Now I don't know where the hell I am*

SoundGuy
Explorer
Explorer
toedtoes wrote:
Small hard-sided (19 - 22ft) - these will give you less room than a hybrid of the same length, but you will not have to deal with tent ends. Most will have a wet bath, but you may find a dry bath. You will usually have a couch or 2-person dinette and a full bed or 4-person dinette. Stovetop and microwave and maybe an oven.

As you are used to tent camping, you are used to having limited water. For fresh water, a 20gal tank will be very similar to how you work now. A 40gal tank will provide you with the ability to use the toilet at night at the minimum. You'll be able to wash your face, brush your teeth and wash cookware. If you're conservative, you will have enough for drinking and cooking.


What are you talking about? Conventional travel trailers in the 19' to 22' range will have a full bathroom with a separate shower and if it has a dinette instead of a sofa that dinette will almost always seat 4. Mine has 30 gal tanks and we have no restriction whatsoever in using the toilet, shower, washing dishes, or anything else.
2012 Silverado 1500 Crew Cab
2014 Coachmen Freedom Express 192RBS
2003 Fleetwood Yuma * 2008 K-Z Spree 240BH-LX
2007 TrailCruiser C21RBH * 2000 Fleetwood Santa Fe
1998 Jayco 10UD * 1969 Coleman CT380

JimK-NY
Explorer II
Explorer II
AmongTheTrees wrote:
I'm a lifelong tent camper, but my partner and I are interested in switching to an RV for added convenience and comfort during our trips. I'd be happy to get some feedback on traveling in a small travel trailer.

A fifth wheel or Class C might be in our future a few years down the line, but I think we'd like to experiment with a smaller travel trailer in the meantime. It's just the two of us for now (hopefully with a canine friend in the near future!), so we don't need a whole lot of space. We like to visit National Parks and camp off-grid.

Right now, I'm thinking that a small travel trailer with a kitchen area and bed would be great for us. I've seen various teardrop designs and other small campers that fit this description.

But what's it like to stay in these? Do you feel cramped and crowded? Do you bring along a tent/shelter to give you more space to spread out on bad weather days? Happy to hear your thoughts on the matter!


First, think twice about the dog. Rules vary, but for most national parks, dogs are not allowed on trails or anywhere except campgrounds and paved areas such as overlooks. Leaving a dog in the campground is often prohibited and even if allowed would not work well for a small RV. Boondocking opportunities can also be limited with a dog. You will likely do fine in national forest, many State campgrounds and on BLM lands. Plenty of people enjoy camping with pets but others are seriously disappointed when they show up at a national park and learn about the restrictions.

rexlion
Explorer
Explorer
I have been happy with TTs in the 16'-17' size. A bed that can be left a bed full time, and a separate place to sit comfortably, are priorities for me. After a tent, even a small TT may seem spacious to you. And I bet you already are used to conserving water, right?

For outdoors, an awning might be enough for some. But for camping in skeeter country, I suggest a Clam or Gazelle screen room.
Mike G.
Liberty is meaningless where the right to utter one's thoughts and opinions has ceased to exist. That, of all rights, is the dread of tyrants. --Frederick Douglass
photo: Yosemite Valley view from Taft Point