A RV, or recreational vehicle, can come in many different flavors. Short, off-road style trailers with a roof top tent mounted to the top are fairly light and can be pulled just about anywhere, while a 40 foot travel trailer or fifth wheel offers all the comforts of home. Motor homes offer a nice living space and can pull a trailer. While a camper van is smaller and can fit just about anywhere. If you have a pickup, you can add a camper, or just attach a canopy and throw some sleeping bags in the back.
There are countless options for camping vehicles. It all comes down to how you want to travel.
Travel trailers are by far the most popular type of rv. According to the RV Dealers Association, nearly 300,000 travel trailers were sold last year alone.
The smallest of these, such as the Hiker Trailer, can be as short as 8 feet, weigh less than a thousand pounds, and cost less than $4000 new. They come with a small kitchen, a couple of cabinets and space for a queen mattress. If you’re trying to keep cost and weight down, be careful when considering upgrades such as mounted solar panels and awnings. These trailers are small enough to get into tight camping areas, and can be pulled by a smaller vehicle such as a Toyota or Honda.
If you want a trailer that’s built to go anywhere you want to go, check out ExtremeTears.
These trailers are rugged and designed for off-road use. Pull it behind a Subaru or a Jeep, and you’re just about unlimited in where you can go.
If you are looking for a more comfortable set up, and you have a bigger vehicle to pull it (such as my F-250 diesel) you can look into a much bigger trailer. Ranging from 18 feet to 40, you can pack in all the comforts of home.
The biggest advantages to these are multiple beds, kitchen with sink, refrigerator/freezer, microwave, lots of storage for food, pots and pans, dishes, etc. Most have air conditioning, and they all come with a propane/electric heater and forced air. Water is handled by three large tanks mounted under the floor; fresh, grey, and black. Solar power kits can be easily included or retro-fitted, and a small generator can be connected for unlimited, reliable power. Bathrooms include a sink, toilet and a shower- so nice after a long day of hiking or running around on a four wheeler. Wifi and an LCD tv can keep the kids entertained when all else fails.
Smaller trailers, those less than 20 feet, weigh less than 6000 pounds, sleep 2-6 people, cost less than $15 grand. My 27′ Shadow Cruiser gross weight is a little over 9000 lbs, sleeps 9 people and MSRP is around $36 grand. The bigger you go, the more they cost, the heavier they get, and the options for places to park them become more limited.
Fifth Wheel Trailers
If you need a lot of space, this is the way to go. You’ll need a bigger pickup to pull one of these beasts, but short of spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on a bus, nothing compares to the kind of luxury a 40′ trailer can offer. Along with the typical features, such as full size beds, fridge, freezer, a/c, forced air, etc, you can find things like ceiling fans, 50″ tv’s dual sinks, even gas fireplaces.
You will have to surrender some truck bed space for the hitch, however, so don’t expect to be able to utilize much of that area. Also, these trailers are tall, limiting the kind of space you can pull through (think tunnels on river roads, or some gas stations. You don’t want to lose your air conditioner unit to a poorly planned side trip.
The advantage over a conventional trailer is because part of the trailer is over the pickup, the overall length of your set up is a lot shorter, increasing maneuverability and stability.
A toy hauler is a larger trailer or 5th wheel. The back end of the trailer is built with a ramp that folds down, allowing access for things like motorcycles, four wheelers, etc. The utility section of the rv is open for your toys, but when they’re not put to bed you can usually find fold-down beds, cabinets, etc to allow for more living space.
If you have a bigger pickup, you may want to look into getting a camper. The phrase “You can’t take it with you” doesn’t really apply here. With a camper and properly outfitted rig, you can go just about anywhere. You don’t have to pull a trailer for keeping your gear, negating many of the problems you come across in tight areas. Yet you still have a comfy place to sleep, with a mini kitchen, mini bathroom, and extra space to store stuff when you’re on the road.
Campers are more expensive though. A new, large camper from Lance for example can range over $50,000 with options.
Motor Homes & Camper Vans
Motor homes limit where you can go. Advantages include more space, and you can still pull something behind you, whether it be a boat, car, or a trailer with your off-road toys. The disadvantages are pronounced though. Once you park and set up camp, if you have to go somewhere- say run into town for supplies, or if you want to go exploring, you can’t. Not unless you want to break camp first. I stayed in a trailer for a few months in an rv park on the Columbia river while I was working a job there. My neighbors had a motor home, and one night they were hanging out in front of the frozen food section of the local quicky mart, trying to talk themselves into another frozen pizza. We were too far away from an open grocery store to ride bike or walk, so they were stuck with what they had in front of them.
Also, motor homes aren’t really off-road capable. That really limits where you can go, at least as far as exploring off grid.
Camper vans have many of the same problems as a motor home, but they are much smaller.
You can get into more rugged areas, and they are much cheaper to buy and operate. Some of the bigger ones have lift kits, over-sized tires, and all the gear you’d find on a F-250 with a canopy, but with more room.
Do I Even Need a RV?
“Need” is a loaded word. It all comes down to how comfortable you want to be while you’re out. A big trailer has all the comforts of home, and can be set up to sustain you off grid for weeks. But you can’t pull them very far off highway. A good camper on your truck, or a small, rugged camper trailer such as the solutions offered by ExtremeTears will allow you much more freedom to explore the back country. However, you become more limited on how much you can take with you.
Another option would be a roof top tent, or even just a ground tent. Jump over here to learn more.
In the end, my family chose to get a 27 foot trailer to pull behind our F-250. We like to set up a “base camp”, unhook and then go explore for the day. We come back to a great set up to cook up steaks for the evening and have a secure place to get some good rest, so we’re energized for the next day.