Sometimes taking a camper is easier, drier, and just more comfortable than a tent. But sometimes it can be more a hassle. Contributor Robin EH. Bagley takes us through her process of transitioning from a camper to a tent.

After a couple chilly nights spent sliding off my tiny sleeping pad, plus being cooped up in the tent during a rainstorm, my husband and I started talking about taking the plunge and buying a camper for when camping at campgrounds (not backpacking trips obviously).

Oh the advantages! Getting off the ground, no need for inflatable (and slippery) sleeping pads, maybe even a heater. Throw in the fact that we could keep some gear in it that wouldn’t need to be packed into the car, making it easier to make our getaway on Friday afternoons, and it seemed like the perfect solution.

Then came the debate, the pondering, the deliberation. What kind of camper?

Eventually we (thought) we decided upon a popup camper. Lightweight, easy to pull, still somewhat tent-like, and budget-friendly. We started shopping, and missing out on most of them. Briefly we departed from the popup plan and looked into truck bed campers. We looked at one that I couldn’t get out fast enough. Yikes!

Overpowering smell of mildew. Every cabinet was wired shut. The cushions? Just burn them. Eventually we discarded the truck bed idea because switching trucks in the future would possibly make the camper unusable.

I started to feel like I was in an episode of HGTV’s “House Hunters.”

Back to popups! Finally we got the jump on one for sale and eagerly went to check it out. It was in great shape and so CLEAN. It was perfect.

But it was kind of big. Two king beds? Did we really need that much room? And it was above our budget. Commence second-guessing. Just like “House Hunters.” But it was exactly what we wanted, wasn’t it? So we made an offer. They countered above our budget. More deliberation. Another counter-counter offer. Still couldn’t reach an agreement, so we said we’d think about it.

We thought. We thought about the space. We thought about the money. Then my husband started watching YouTube videos on setting up popup campers. Cranking up the ceiling, pushing out the wings with the beds, securing everything, unlatching the door, hooking it into place. We watched it, twice.

Finally I said, “The tent is easier than that.” If the camper wasn’t going to be any easier than setting up the tent, how much were we really gaining? And it was so much larger than we really need. So we decided to pass this year. We bought a new tent, new sleeping bags, and I invested in a new, insulated sleeping pad. So we’re sticking with the tent. Who knows, maybe next year?

4 comments on “House hunting for a camper

  1. We’re having this debate ourselves. but we rarely backpack to a campsite, and we have a family – so the popup makes sense. but finding a non-mildewy, clean one in good shape might be akin to finding the holy grail. Wish us luck. Happy camping!

  2. My hubby and I made our mini van a glorified tent for our camping trips. Off the ground, rain proof, able to sleep at truck stops on the way to the next hiking site. The van flips back when we get home.

  3. We found a great, clean pop-up for a reasonable price. The title transfer and vehicle inspection went smoothly, but the whole leveling, set up , etc. did take longer than setting up our tent. The first time we used the pop up, I thought we made a mistake. However this month we went to a state park with electric, our pop up plugged in, we were able to have heat when the temperatures cooled at night, and lights to read and play scrabble! We are not giving away our tent, but the pop up is great for fall camping!

  4. So, we bought ourselves a MASSIVE tent (sleeps 10 just for the two of us and the dog). We call it the Taj MaTent. Then we bought a high-quality inflatable queen bed and a high-quality mattress topper (critical for bottom warmth and comfort). We also bought flannel sheets and a down comforter just for camping. This gives us as much space and comfort as a pop-up camper for a fraction of the cost. And then, of course, we have bins of car camping gear, like the stove and pots and pans and all that. We glamp in total comfort! Our friends went camping with us last year and brought their RV. They were jealous. Why? Because the campground had no hookups and required that generators be turned off by 10pm. The SWELTERED in their RV while we were perfectly comfy in our tent. They also had to suffer through having sweltering kids in their RV. We put our kids in their own tent FAR AWAY from us. Bliss!

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