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Ottakee

Camper to pull with a Minivan or a class B motorhome?

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I really have the itch for something to camp in.  A tent is one option.

Today I saw a nice smaller motorhome (class c???) But it only gets 8 miles to the gallon.

Do any of you have a pop up or other type trailer you pull easily with a minivan?  Or one of those cute Class B motorhomes that are about the size of a full size van?

Or great options for tent camping for a plus sized, almost 50 year old mom who needs to pee at least once a night.

 

Ideally I would be able to take 1-2 more people with me and possibly bikes...and in my dream my kayak.

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The Best Small RVs -- helpful article with pros/cons on some specific models of class B and small class C motorhomes
5 Lightweight Camper Trailers -- very compact trailer options that can be towed behind a minivan
8 Awesome Small Campers with Bathrooms

re: pop-up
From camping with friends who had a pop-up, and also hearing stories from other friends who had a pop-up -- it's VERY time consuming to set-up a pop-up -- one was a family of 5, each with assigned jobs as soon as they pulled in to their campsite, and it would take 45-60 minutes with each person doing a different aspect of set-up. Also --frequent issues of the pop-up mechanism jamming and having to virtually be a mechanic to get it to finish going up (or come down) all the way.

re: our experiences
We had a 25' hybrid (hard shell camper, with fold-down canvas "pop-outs") that we pulled with our chevy suburban. While we enjoyed our time using it, it is an expensive hobby -- constantly fixing things and buying new tires, extra gasoline cost from poor mileage from weight/towing, annual registration fee. And, cost to park/store it, as we did not have a way of doing that in our driveway or yard.

High gas costs really is a thing. For example, towing that trailer dropped us to an average of about 9-10mpg -- going over a mountain pass on the interstate dropped our normal interstate suburban mpg from 16-17mpg -- to just 6mpg. (:0 One of those articles I linked above discusses the importance of NOT max-ing out your towing capacity, but rather, if getting a trailer/camper, don't go more than 80% of your towing capacity, as you will be adding weight with gear, food, etc. And, you just don't want to strain the engine of your main source of transportation. 🙂

re: bathroom
Even though our trailer had a pretty roomy bathroom with a bigger shower and a toilet and sink NOT in the shower, we tended to avoid using the built in bathroom because it was just more convenient to use the campsite bathroom and shower facilities. With the trailer, it meant:
- paying a fee to dump waste at a dump station
- additional cleaning during/after each trip
- the shower held so little water that you really have to turn off the water between wetting and soaping up and rinsing off

re: rent/try-out before you buy
You might calculate costs and see if it would just be cheaper to rent an RV or camper/trailer each time you want to travel (which puts the burden of registration, repairs, upkeep, and storage costs on the RV rental place rather than on you). That also would allow you to rent the size you need each time -- if frequently going solo, then you don't need to rent something that holds more than 1 person. At the least, I would *highly* recommend renting a few different options BEFORE buying to try out different options and see what works best for you.

Good luck! Warmest regards, Lori D.

ETA -- PS
Another thought: do you really need your minivan? What about trading it in for a pick-up with a streamlined camper shell? You can throw a nice air mattress in the truck bed, along with your ice chest of food, a couple of plastic crates of gear/supplies, and a 2-burner propane camp stove that you can set up on the picnic table at your camp site and enjoy cooking at your campsite. You might also be able to fit your kayak in the truck bed/shell -- or put it on the roof, and put your bikes on a rack on the truck back, Just a thought!

Edited by Lori D.
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My sister and her husband tow a nice sized pop up with their Honda Odyssey. I’ve camped with them and they put that thing up super fast - they are much nicer today than when I was a kid!  I’m a little jealous. They mainly camp at the coast, but two summers ago they took an epic camping trip from the east coast to Utah and back including Zion’s, Yellowstone, the Black Hills, etc. Their Honda did great and they all seemed to love the adventure.

We are tent campers and I love camping. My dh prefers “real” camping involving wilderness and backpacks, but I’d be very happy with a small trailer parked in a clean campground next to a lake or river!  And definitely with a kayak!! 

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The cost of the car camper we would like isn't realistic for the amount it would be used so we tent camp.  I think the cost is about $80k and probably used for a total of 1 month out of the year.  We do camp a lot in the summers, often every other weekend will be a long weekend camping and will take a week occasionally. We have a large tent which fits 2 sets of bunk bed cots (saw some at Costco recently), which save a lot of space.  We have a P.E.T. (portable, environmental toilet) which you set up like a little stool and put bags under.  We only use it for numbers greater than 1.  The woods are used for #1 (we camp in pretty remote areas so this is not a problem).  We have a little outhouse/shower tent (like This) for the PET and also take a camp shower.  We have a propane tent heater but don't let it burn while asleep.  The worst thing about tent camping is needing to go potty on a cold night, or maybe it's trying to nap on a hot day...  Anyway, we need to endure a little hardship to build character.  And it is so fun to watch bugs crawl on outside of the tent!

ETA:  we also put a thermarest over cots which makes it super comfortable.  Anyone on the ground would also get a thermarest.  Right now, we can fit small kids head to toe on one cot so it works with no one on the ground.  Oh, the other worst thing about tent camping is kids rolling out of their sleeping bags, being cold and crying in the middle of the night.  Maybe that is the worst, because it never only happens once in a night.  However, it is not as bad with cots because there is less freedom to roll.

To answer the title question, I would choose the camper trailer.  If you are at commercial camp sites, you can leave the camper behind and just drive your car.

Edited by parent

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I’ve been wanting to upgrade from tents, but I’ve run the math every which way, and it’s near impossible to combine my family’s body weight, gear weight, hitch weight, and the weight of even a pop up and still be sure I’m under my Caravan’s gross vehicle weight rating.

I have looked casually at some super lightweight options, but they tend to be more expensive, and not much of an upgrade from tents (for the price.)

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RVing is, in general, best viewed as a very expensive hobby.

We currently have a Class B Winnebago Travato 59K. That was a downsize from a 35' Forest River Class A.

I would be very surprised that a small Class C would only get 8 miles a gallon. I'd suspect something was off with the engine or transmission, or whoever was driving it was way overloading it or had a very heavy foot. Not that I think the mileage would be tremendously more than that, but it seems low to me. We got right around that in our Class A, which was much bigger and heavier than a small C. Of course some of the mpg depends on how you drive and where (mountains versus flat, city versus rural interstate, etc.). In our B we average around 18-19 mpg.

They all have their pros and cons, so you have to figure out what works best for you and what you're willing to sacrifice.

There's a lot of overlap in what is classified as a small Class C versus a Class B+.

In general Bs are the most expensive driveable RVs in terms of square footage. You pay more for having a one piece, reinforced, mostly metal body versus the fiberglass shells that are used to make As and Cs (and the B+). In general Bs tend to be better built than the others because of not having to modify the body. Anecdotally, we hear people report fewer issues with them. One bonus with a B is that unless you're parking in a downtown area or a deck you can usually use one as a daily driver if necessary.

Just about any RV other than a large Class A (40+ foot diesel) is going to be tight. That's just kind of a fact of life with RV's. The bathroom in our B is tiny, and a wet bath (which means it all gets wet when you shower and it has to be wiped down afterwards). We still use it, even DH who is 5'11" and around 200 pounds. We've been RV'ing for twelve years and I've yet to use a campground shower. Having my own bed and bathroom, and being able to take the pooch along, are the main things that interest me in an RV. Bs are really meant for just one or two people. I don't think there's any way you'd manage a third. So for more than two you'd really need to bring a tent.

Ironically, our plan was always to up-size from our Class A gas RV to a larger diesel RV. But we got tired of the hassle and stress of driving such a large vehicle, and of the hassle of pulling a car. So we decided to go the opposite way instead--as small and easy to drive as would fit our needs. We've been very happy with it.

With anything towable you really, really want to educate yourself and make sure you're not pulling more than your vehicle is capable of. Many people focus on the pulling, but it's really the stopping that is most critical! If you're a good driver you can probably pull more than your vehicle is rated for w/o damaging its transmission or engine. But handling that towed camper in the wind, or getting it stopped in a reasonable distance . . . those are what you really want to think about, and make sure your vehicle can do.

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Thanks for all of the advice and insight.  I have pulled a 5000# trailer with #3000 pounds of live weight (horses) so I understand how to drive a trailer, stopping distances, etc.  The issue is I just don't want that level of stress.  I also don't have that one ton diesel suburban either anymore.

I do need to keep the van as it is almost new and a gift from my MIL right before she passed away....and I often have 5-6 adults in it.

So, as much as I dream and wish, I might be back to a tent or a local hotel for costs and ease.  I can put gear,kayaks, bikes, etc in this small trailer I bought this weekend.

IMG_20190510_193154598_HDR.jpg

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I have been looking for a small trailer. We used to have a 26 ft travel trailer, but now that I am looking at traveling w/o kids .i want something much smaller. I have narrowed down to https://nucamprv.com/tab-camper/lineup/.

The nearest TAB dealer is several hours from my house, but DH and I recently took a day to drive up and check them out. My bottom line is a comfortable bed and a toilet. 3am treks to the restroom are no fun. If I was alway going to be alone, I would go with a TAB 320 S, but the inside height is too short for DH. He prefers the TAB 400. Brand new, these are more expensive than other small trailers, but much better quality. My DH was sold on the temperature difference alone. We went through several different brands of trailers, and on a warm sunny day, the TABs were much cooler inside.

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We have a minivan and a large pop up. I can have it unhitched and set up by myself in under a half hour. It is not a big deal. We bought it for 3k and did a bunch of renovations in it to make it cuter and fix it up a bit. All told we are out about 5k but it has 2 king beds, a double bed that is also the dinette which slides out to create more space, an a/c and heater, hot water heater and working fridge and stove. We all sleep  very comfortably (family of 6) in it and our minivan pulls it without issue. It's not for everyone, but for the number of people sleeping in it, cost of investment, and weight, it can't be beat. 

We took it to Yellowstone for a week last year (among other smaller trips). Staying in a campground with electric cost us $10/night. Staying in a hotel would have cost $250 per night. We did have cost of gas to consider also but we also stayed at other national parks on our way there and back (Theodore Roosevelt and Badlands). All told, including gas and campgrounds, the trip cost $700 for 9 days and an 18 hour one way drive. If we had stayed in hotels, that trip would have cost around $2400. Probably even more since we would have eaten out some rather than cooking our own food. The camper will pay for itself in a year or two with trips like that. 

Edited by MeaganS
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If you have that trailer you could do a pretty nice tent set up! A big tent, that is cabin style so tall enough to stand up in on all sides. Maybe even one of the "pop up" ones that has the poles built in, A cot and a foam ikea mattress. Chairs. Folding table and camping stove and if you will be near an electrical outlet you can add an electric kettle, or a keurig, an electric griddle, even an instant pot or crock pot. I always try to choose campsites near a toilet, but if need be the portable outhouses are not bad at all. 

Otherwise, yes, a pop up. 

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9 hours ago, Ottakee said:

Thanks for all of the advice and insight.  I have pulled a 5000# trailer with #3000 pounds of live weight (horses) so I understand how to drive a trailer, stopping distances, etc.  The issue is I just don't want that level of stress.  I also don't have that one ton diesel suburban either anymore.

I do need to keep the van as it is almost new and a gift from my MIL right before she passed away....and I often have 5-6 adults in it.

So, as much as I dream and wish, I might be back to a tent or a local hotel for costs and ease.  I can put gear,kayaks, bikes, etc in this small trailer I bought this weekend.

IMG_20190510_193154598_HDR.jpg

We have an Odyssey and a small 8' covered cargo trailer and we are able to bring all.the.things. when we camp! Bikes for 8 people, a dorm fridge or 2 to plug in instead of messing with ice and coolers, the works ... we look like the Clampetts going camping LOL

We have a nice 12x14 cabin style tent that fits all 8 of us (with cots for the kids in one half and a queen air mattress for me and DH in the other) and all our bags too. I've considered getting one of those small port a pottys to keep in the tent so I don't have to go outside and walk to the shower house at night, but so far haven't done that yet. If you only need room for 4 people or so, you'd have plenty of room in a tent a bit smaller than ours and still have room for a port a pot toilet.

We looked at RVs too, but just couldn't swallow the cost.

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2 hours ago, Momto6inIN said:

We have an Odyssey and a small 8' covered cargo trailer and we are able to bring all.the.things. when we camp! Bikes for 8 people, a dorm fridge or 2 to plug in instead of messing with ice and coolers, the works ... we look like the Clampetts going camping LOL

We have a nice 12x14 cabin style tent that fits all 8 of us (with cots for the kids in one half and a queen air mattress for me and DH in the other) and all our bags too. I've considered getting one of those small port a pottys to keep in the tent so I don't have to go outside and walk to the shower house at night, but so far haven't done that yet. If you only need room for 4 people or so, you'd have plenty of room in a tent a bit smaller than ours and still have room for a port a pot toilet.

We looked at RVs too, but just couldn't swallow the cost.

We've got one of those small Porta potty things in the popup. It's not the most fun to clean, but totally worth it to not have to take children to the bathroom all night long. If we had to tent camp for some reason, I'd strongly consider bringing one. It's hard enough to sleep well in a tent (at least for me), but getting cold and walking back and forth across a campground all night just doesn't help. 

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