Monday, August 30, 2010

Camping and Traveling With A Tent vs. Trailer And A Six Dollar Upgrade in Iowa

Two years ago, I set out across the country with my teardrop trailer, "trailie."  The past two years I have been traveling with my tent.  I receive questions asking which is better to travel with, a tent or a trailer.  As with everything, it's all about how you prefer to travel and what comfort level you are able to tolerate.

For me, I find it much easier to travel longer distances in a tent and I am one that doesn't get the "planner of the year" award. For that fact, a tent is much more versatile.  I can change direction at any time without reservations since some campsites will more likely take a solo camper with a tent as opposed to a trailer. I can make a uturn in the middle of the road if I see something I want to take a photograph of, and it takes the same amount of time to set up my tent as it does my trailer at a site.

Of course, I don't get all of the luxuries that a trailer brings, but in some cases...I can "upgrade" to a trailer site and get a better view.  Case in point...a week or so ago I camped in Iowa by taking an exit that I assumed would have camping facilities since there was a lake.  Both my map and handy camping application on my iphone told me otherwise, but I thought I would give it a try anyway.

Lucky for Max and I, there was a wonderful campground with plenty of availability.  When I checked in, I told the woman at the gate that I was camping in my tent and she immediately gave me directions to the "camping hill."  I took a swing by the hill to find an open field of grass with a few pegs in the ground marking "spaces" for people to set up their tent.  Each site was a hike from the parking lot and there were already a few families camped out by their rented plots of land.  They talked to each other as if they were at each end of a football field and music blaring to match.  Kids were running around all over the place and in the corner of the open field there was a solo man in a chair, staring at Max and I walking around to find a spot.

I went back to the station and asked if there were any other sites for the night.  At that point, she told me that I could select any site I wanted but would have to pay the full trailer price.  It was $12 for the "open field, good luck being rested" plot of land or a quiet spot on the lake for a mere $6 more.  It wasn't hard for me to make up my mind.  I chose the upgrade!  Max and I decided to live large for the night with our lake front property rental!

I thought about writing down the top reasons to camp with a tent or trailer, but here might be a better way to make a decision.  If you agree with most of the five qualities in either of these two categories, your decision has been made.

I should travel with a tent:
You don't mind sleeping an inch from the ground
You like hearing the noises of nature (and people) all night and all day
You like to live on the edge and sleep just a thin barrier away from people and wildlife
You like to save money in gas
You don't mind if it's too cold or too hot

I should travel with a trailer or RV
You want a comfortable even temperature and a secure shell to sleep in
You don't mind the cost of gas
You want the comforts of home
You want privacy and the option to hide from the world
You don't mind that you aren't allowed on all roads


Lynne said...

I've camped in tents, popups, trailers and RVs, and personally, I'm lovin' the freedom, comfort, and security of a small self-contained RV these days. I can pull into a Wal-Mart or truck stop if I just want a quick place to rest and only have to turn the engine off to start camping (great for those rainy or snowy nights, and the $0 camp fees are pretty sweet too)!

My kitchen and bath are always available both when I'm parked for the night or when touring during the day. Even got a generator if I need a bit of electricity.

If a real RV camper is still too big or expensive an option, I've also seen folks take a simple minivan and temporarily "camper-ize" it by replacing the rear seats with a small air mattress, some velcro drapes, roll-up screening with magnets for the windows and/or sliding door, and even adding a small 12v fridge and porta potti. It can make a surprisingly nice little "camper van"!

I applaud you for being agile and energetic enough to pitch a tent every night, I really do! But when you get older and less agile (like some of us dear readers!), a small camper vehicle might be a really sweet upgrade one day.

Anonymous said...

Looks like some nasty weather is headed your way! Safe travels
do you have one of those nifty weather radios?

Sinbad and I on the Loose said...

Over the past 40+ years I've camped everyway there is except for backpacking. With a trailer was my least favorite. I always had to be aware of where and what I was getting into while driving. A tent is next on the list. Kind of a hassle setting up and transferring equiptment to and fro. Gear was forever getting wet when it rained. Camping in my old Land Rover was the best. My kit was simple and I could sleep inside the vehicle or out under the stars. Best of all I could go anywhere where most would not venture. Now the years have creeped up on me and I now camp in a mini RV. I park, walk in back, put on a pot of tea, lie down and read. I miss the ability to get off the beaten track, but this way of camping will do these old bones just fine. Oh, and having a pot to pee in without having to go outside in the middle of the night is much welcomed when you grow older. You'll see.

Alison said...

Thank you for your comments!

@Lynne - I hear ya! I look forward to a "really sweet upgrade" sometime in the future. Sleeping in a tent doesn't give you the most restful night's sleep, but it's how I choose to travel right now. Meeting friends along the way and staying at their house is always nice too. :)

@Sinbad - A mini RV is a good solution too! I hear ya about being able to take care of business close to where you sleep. I've had several occasions where I had to get up in the middle of the night to find the restrooms in bear country. Yikes!

Travel Blog said...

Great post! This is very informative. One of the least expensive but most exciting types of vacations is a camping and hiking trip. It's the type of vacation that all family members can enjoy.

Travel Blog

Travel said...
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