Help me buy a camper
May 19, 2020 5:41 PM   Subscribe

We are camper shopping. Looking for opinions about lightweight pop-up or other smaller campers that you love, or warnings about the camper you hated.

We are looking at pop-up / A-Frame type campers - probably about 2500 lbs max. It's just going to me and Mrs. COD camping, so it doesn't need to sleep six. Budget is $7K to $15K. The range is wide because we are fine with buying used or new.

What are you camping in Mefites?
posted by COD to Travel & Transportation (8 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
 
We have a Palomino Solaire sort of like this one with the two pop out beds on either end and we love it so much.
The pop out beds make us feel like we are tent camping but gets my achy old bones off the ground so I can sleep. It is just two of us but we do like the extra space - we pick which bed to sleep in depending on the layout of the camping space and use the other one for extra lounging space.
posted by hilaryjade at 8:03 PM on May 19 [1 favorite]


I've had a VW Vanagon Westy camper for 15+ years; its akin to a mobile studio apartment. The ground clearance helps with exploring more remote areas; the size makes it less of a bumble to move about a city in, and they will hold or increase in value.

I'm not even going to begin to explore the vastness of the Westy across the internets; plenty of pros (above paragraph); and cons - maintenance. YouTube has a near cult level of VW Van sites; and every imaginable piece part and item is now available to order via the webs too.

The near luxury of the Palomino above is enviable - pull behinds have advanced light years in the last couple of decades; as has the ability of more cars to be able to move them about.
posted by Afghan Stan at 8:32 PM on May 19


I have a Chalet LTW and I love it. The A-frame roof makes it feel amazingly spacious despite that it's actually really small, and it has every amenity except a bathroom (but does have an outdoor shower). I'm short and have a bad back and have no trouble putting the roof up and down. It's way under your weight limit. I got mine new at the top end of your range about seven years ago so I imagine you'd need to go slightly used to meet your budget.
posted by HotToddy at 9:44 PM on May 19


If you don't mind climbing a ladder, have a look at a roof top tent. We've used a Maggionlina hard-shell type for about 12 years now, and it's very comfortable and handy (no trailer to pull!)

Actually the tent has lived on top of a trailer for the last few years, which is sort of an improvised camper, as the family is now five people and a dog. That also works great.
posted by Harald74 at 11:35 PM on May 19


we have a 1990's Jayco popup that we pull with a Honda Pilot.

it's OK. better than sleeping on the ground. It's really not that difficult to set up, but we are thinking of upgrading to a "hybrid" style like what hillaryjade posted above, because setting it up in the rain and keeping the slide-out beds dry is difficult.

ours doesn't have AC, shower or a toilet, but we did get a portable toilet mostly for midnight emergencies.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 7:37 AM on May 20 [1 favorite]


I have one of the few Amelia campers that A Liner made in 2008. I am extremely fond of it - it's about 12 x 8 feet of living space and I lived in it and traveled for seven months - it's been across the US three times now! I looked at pop up trailers as well when I was shopping in 2017 and I decided against them because 1) I didn't want to have to go to the trouble of setup every night and 2) every used one I looked at smelled moldy. This was in NC, so YMMV if you're in a dryer area, but it made me super wary of them in general. I paid $8000 for Amelia at Camping World and that was too much: DO NOT GO to camping world. I was a complete newbie and thought they would be helpful in getting me started and teaching me things: they were not. Honestly you'll just do much better going through the classifieds or maybe a small dealership. There are lots of small trailers out there in your price range, absolutely and I say go used. New ones are SO expensive and the value just drops like a stone. Figure out what your non negotiable extras are and go from there - I was determined to have a bathroom and I am very grateful for it. It doesn't have a shower or anything but having an actual functioning toilet made my long trip possible. My camper also has a 3 burner propane stove and a fridge and 2 sinks. If I had it to do over again I would actually look for something a little bigger than Amelia, like maybe an R-Pod. They seem pretty great. But I really drool over Casitas. They don't come up used much though and I am pretty sure they are out of your - and my! - price range, sigh.

Advice!
Look at the size of the black water / gray water tank - bigger is better. Amelia's, which is both, is only 20 gallons and that is realistically about 3 - 4 days of no hookup camping especially if you're washing dishes, etc.
RV mattresses are universally terrible but a memory foam topper can make all the difference.
Look at the storage. Storage is so key in a camper; mine is fairly abysmal and the "closet" is essentially useless because it is too narrow to shelve cheaply, so it's just a tall narrow space.
Find all the plugs. They can be hidden in some seriously weird places.
You want to store the majority of stuff up at the front of the camper so the weight goes on the tow thing.
One propane tank is not enough, it's better to have two.
Learning to back up a camper is hard. Go to a big empty parking lot and practice, practice, practice. What you want to do is put your hand on the bottom of the wheel and turn it the way you want the camper to go, watching from your side mirrors. Small campers turn FAST and it is scary but once you have it down it's a life skill you will have forever.
A red solo cup on the tow ball makes hitching up much easier, as does a back up camera.
Buy a couple traffic cones; they really help for backing into spaces.
Pieces of wood, just boards, work just fine for putting the legs down on, you don't need special plastic things.
And I can't think of anything else but if you have any questions feel free to memail me!
posted by mygothlaundry at 1:18 PM on May 20 [3 favorites]


Consider the weather and seasons you want to camp in. I have done a popup and now a smaller hybrid camper. We are somewhere north of 150 nights total between the pop-up and the hybrid (part hard sided and part tent fold out). If you have any inclination to camp in cooler (ie sub freezing) temps, a popup can be...challenging. If you are travelling (ie changing sites each/most nights) a pop-up can be nasty to have to pack down wet and then put back up wet. If you have limited ability to put it back up and dry it out when you get home (ie storing it away from home)....again wet canvas can get ugly fast! However, a light popup is a great improvement on a tent. Our 1000lb popup towed like nothing was behind us, and was light enough to 'hand bomb' around a tight site. Setup gets much faster once you're good at it. They stay nice and cool in warmer weather, if you have a big fan to just move air (however, I imagine in Texas summers they could get unpleasantly hot if you dont have any A/C). Camping down to about freezing, we were comfortable with a built in propane heater. I would choose the popup with the minimum of 'built in systems' you can manage...more to go wrong! I have not experience with an A frame style trailer, but, I suspect it would perform better in cold weather, and not be such a menace to deal with in wet weather. I would also consider looking at a very small hard sided camper...ie a Trillium or Boler. They are great for a couple, very weatherproof, and super easy to tow. They also can be left 'ready to go' on the driveway more so than a popup (which really you end up packing/unpacking every trip), which we found made short trips more enticing (less work). Whatever you decide, have great fun!
posted by Northbysomewhatcrazy at 5:35 PM on May 20 [1 favorite]


Buy the tow vehicle first. Know the tow vehicle's gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) and do not violate this when picking an RV.
There is a difference between whether a vehicle "can" tow your RV, and whether it "should" tow it safely under multiple road conditions, weather conditions, vehicle and RV conditions, etc. Safety first.
Curt MFG: Towing 101: Towing Capacity Guide

Consumer Reports: Beginner's Guide to RV Trailers
Trailer Life: Smooth Moves; New Fiberglass-Built Trailers
The Dyrt: 9 small campers you can pull with almost any car

Once you narrow down your preferred make and model, check about online forums for owners. Introduce yourself and post a few questions.
Read about problems with the frame and tires, difficulty with towing, chronic leaks and mildew, and structural issues. Read about problems with systems (plumbing, electric, propane, solar). Read about feedback from the manufacturer for new and used RVs.
If you have a tiny trailer in mind (Scamp, Aliner, Jayco, teardrop), you may be able to find a rally nearby, or something posted from an owner on YouTube.
Good luck.
posted by TrishaU at 7:35 AM on May 21


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