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Old 02-19-2013   #1
Denver, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2004
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 3,097
Family Camper / Trailer???

Hey Buzzards...

Looking for some input on pop up campers vs. travel trailers for camping with the family. Looking for something to sleep 2 adults and 2 kids, something I can pull with a truck (under 9000 lbs trailer weight), something that has cooking facilities inside as well as a toilet.

We've tent camped for the last couple of years, and the wife wants a little more comfort / warmth / options. We looked at a couple of the larger POP up campers (2 beds, kitchen, slide out dinette, mini toilet and shower), and some travel trailers in the 24-28 ft range. Both seem to fit the basic requirements, but I'm not sure what would be the best for us. We rented a pop up and an RV (same amenities as the trailers for the most part) last year to test them out.

We plan on using the set up for colorado camping, some National Park road trips to UT/AZ etc.

Any thoughts or experiences?


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Old 02-19-2013   #2
Park City, Utah
Paddling Since: 1998
Join Date: Mar 2011
Posts: 94
I've had both and prefer the hard shell. Remember that bears can rip through the pop-ups. You can pull into any Walmart and sleep in the hard shell without having to do any work.

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Old 02-19-2013   #3
MT4Runner's Avatar
Kalispell, Montana
Paddling Since: 1997
Join Date: Apr 2012
Posts: 1,436
Originally Posted by tczues View Post
I've had both and prefer the hard shell. Remember that bears can rip through the pop-ups. You can pull into any Walmart and sleep in the hard shell without having to do any work.

Standard RV's are made with thin aluminum siding, 2x2's, and thin paneling. Bears could rip through them, too...they just don't know they can! :lol (yes, pop-ups make more inviting targets).

Completely agree on the "Walmart rationale".
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Old 02-19-2013   #4
Denver, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2004
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 3,097
Good point. I wondered about the Popup cooking thing. Seemed like you were essentially cooking inside a tent, which sounds like a bad idea for bears etc.
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Old 02-19-2013   #5
Osprey's Avatar
Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 683
My buddy has a hard side and he left some mini-snickers bars in there in the offseason….bear just pushed in one of the windows and destroyed the cabinets to get to them. The extra safety is really mental but I think most people get overly worked up over bears anyway.

With the hard side you get a bit of better insulation though and of course the ease of not having to setup. It’s just more convenient, especially if you are moving around. Depending on the size, you can get a little more privacy and separation of the sleeping areas with a travel trailer. Generally nicer kitchen and probably an oven, which a lot of popups won’t have. Much bigger fridge, and you can get to it. In a popup it’s generally not worth the hassle and I take a cooler.

On the other hand I do have a popup for about 13 years now. Easy to tow, I can take it down crappier roads and into places I don’t see travel trailers, if that’s your thing. It’s enough to get me off the ground and have a heater and sink and that’s about all I need. Except for coffee and hot water, I generally do end up cooking outside just to not smell up the inside and make the mess outside. Biggest drawback is if you are moving a lot like on a road trip, setup and takedown everyday is a little bit of a pain. Base camping though it’s great. With a couple people setup/takedown it is pretty fast. If storage is an issue the popup is easier as well. For the basics a popup is pretty nice, if the wife wants some more creature comforts and a bit more ease of everything, I’d go for the trailer.
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Old 02-19-2013   #6
El Flaco's Avatar
Golden, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1984
Join Date: Nov 2003
Posts: 1,879
The other thing I've heard about hard sides is that it generally extends your seasonal comfort range by a month on either side. They hold heat better (duh) and will also better insulate against the noises of other campers. If you have young kids that go to bed early, that might be a big plus.
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Old 02-19-2013   #7
Golden, Colorado
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 1,012
I went with a pop-up so that it could be stored in our 3rd car garage. This is great for convenience and weather protection. If you are going to be storing it outside or at a storage yard, I'd look into getting a hard side camper. All campers are pretty light, but popups seem to always have something breaking or ripping. A torn window is a major expense. I also went with the popup because they make high clearance versions that can be taken placed you can't take a travel trailer.

Popup pros:
Store in your garage (less hassle getting away, weather protection)
Larger interior space once popped up.
Off-road versions can get you back into areas where travel trailers can't go.

Hard side pros:
Not as loud in wind
Better insulated
Better noise insulation
Better theft protection while away (but not by much)
Better bear protection
Less moving parts to break.
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Old 02-19-2013   #8
Boulder, Colorado
Join Date: Feb 2007
Posts: 42
Towing concerns

You did not say what you would be using to tow this, but if you have an SUV, it would be unwise to tow a 24 foot travel trailer, let alone a 28 foot.

The issue is the length of the wheelbase of the truck vs. the length of the travel trailer. The standard rule basically says if your Tow Vehicle has a wheel base of 110" you can tow a 20' trailer and you can safely tow one additional foot for every 4" of wheelbase. This issue is stability, not weight.

Using that rule, to tow a 28 foot trailer, you would need a wheelbase of 142 inches. A Chevy suburban has a 130 inch wheelbase, so the rule says max 25 feet. Unless you have a full size pickup, I bet your wheelbase is shorter than 130 inches, maybe much shorter. So what is the wheelbase of your tow vehicle?

Can you tow longer trailers? Maybe, if you are careful and if it is set up exactly right, with 12% to 15% of the weight on the tongue, and appropriate equalizing hitch, etc. There are some exotic and expensive hitches that you could buy that would probably help. Once you start to exceed the rules of thumb, your margins start to disappear.

A friend of mine flipped a travel trailer and one of the large Ford Broncos in Wyoming on I-80, started going back and forth, (yaw) and it just kept getting bigger until it flipped. Basically the tail wagged the dog. This was his first trip with the trailer; he bought it in California but never made it home with it. He was not hurt, but the trailer and truck were totaled. I don't remember exactly how long the trailer was. The Broncos were pretty large vehicles, but the wheelbase was only 104 inches. Of course the wind blows in Wyoming, and lots of other places in the western US.

The salesmen will tell you that you can tow a 28 foot trailer with an SUV, but it is just unwise, even if you are within the weight limits.

Remember that the specifications for vehicles and trailers lie, using a stripped down unit. The unit you buy will be heavier, and therefore can carry and tow less. I bought a Ford F350 and was furious when I weighed it and found that I lost 800 pounds of carrying capacity compared to the brochure. You should put your SUV or truck on a scale before you buy any sizable trailer, and find out how big the lie was. Newer trailers have a sticker inside giving the actual weight, which is generally a lot more than the spec weight, even before you add water and personal equipment and people and boats and ......

Spend some time hanging out on the RVer forums before you try to tow a large travel trailer with an SUV. Ask this question there and you will be told in no uncertain terms that this is a very bad idea. Mountainbuzz is not really the place to ask towing questions, it is the place to ask boating questions.

Of course, if you have a full size pickup with extended cab or a long bed you probably can tow a 28 foot travel trailer, if you don't exceed the Gross Combination Vehicle Weight Restriction (GCVWR). If you don't understand what GCVWR really means, it is time to start reading.

My two cents.

Open boater.
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Old 02-19-2013   #9
Denver, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2004
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 3,097
Not looking to pull a big trailer with an SUV. Original post says I want to pull something under 9000 lbs with a truck. Thanks for the caveats on towing capacity.

Main thing I was interested to hear from buzzards was what they use (camper vs. trailer), why they like it, what the tradeoffs are etc.

I've done some digging around in the RV forums, but I'm interested in what boaters are doing with campers and trailers around Colorado since I'm a boater and will primarily use it in CO.

Thanks for the info to the folks that replied.
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Old 02-19-2013   #10
oarframe's Avatar
Gardnerville, Nevada
Paddling Since: 00
Join Date: Jun 2008
Posts: 447
Maybe a Four Wheel Camper? Slide in like a hardshell camper, pop-up keeps the weight down, mileage up. Weighs about 1000-1500lb dry. Some models have a toilet. You'll want a granby or larger.
check this site out:
Wander the West -> Four Wheel Camper Discussions

Oh, and bears will go right thru a big motorhome as easy as getting in your house, tent or garbage can.

more snow = more water
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