For the lighter weight tow vehicle without a lot of horsepower, a tent trailer can be an excellent solution. The compact SUV, a SWB Jeep 4x4, or even an AWD car* provides a sufficient platform for towing the typical tent trailer.
*Note: See my comments following biggman100's reply to this statement. He clarifies the weight of some modern tent trailers; I agree with him that an AWD car is surely not a candidate for the heavier tent trailers available! Always adhere to the vehicle manufacturer's tow rating, recommended trailers and the use of a factory recommended hitch!
Tent trailers are available with every kind of accessory, rivaling a travel trailer on a smaller scale. Years ago, we tested a nice StarCraft tent trailer that had hot water, refrigerator, stove, a toilet and shower! Sure, this wasn't Airstream caliber or size, but it did work—well!
On the downside, a tent trailer has some drawbacks. From a security standpoint, canvas is not even a slight deterrent to theft break-in or worse, and then there's the "bear syndrome". Leave enough peanut butter, bread and honey scent around, and even some kinds of human scent, and the bears will visit. Even the smallest black bear can rip a tent trailer to shreds in an effort to get a free meal!
Not that sheet metal trailers are a failsafe. There are many stories about travel trailers, bed-mounted campers and bears. I'll limit this to an Eastern Sierra, Buckeye Creek campground tale of recent times. Bears out of the Yosemite Valley have found their way into the Bridgeport Valley/Twin Lakes region, and on a regular basis, they visit the campgrounds. A friend who camped there said bears tore through the windows of cabover campers and travel trailers in an effort to reach foodstuff left out and wafting a scent.
So any trailer or a camper can be vulnerable, it's just that one swipe of a bear paw can rip apart a tent trailer wall. (In Grizzly country, it takes just a few more "can opener" swings to open a sheet metal wall.) Something to consider...And please, don't feed or encourage the bears, they're drawn to human food and garbage enough!
I have also used mini-tent trailers like the USA VenturCraft, even their tiny Sportsman model, on trails like the Rubicon. You often see an M416 trailer doing this kind of duty...These units have no provision beyond stowage and a bed. Their great advantage over tent camping is that the tent trailer places you off the ground and above any accumulation of frost, snow or streaming rain water—above the mice, chipmunks and squirrels, too!
Another consideration with tent trailers is the setup time. Even under the best of conditions, it takes from 20-30 minutes to set up the tent trailer. Don't listen to the salesperson, ask them to demonstrate the "10-minute setup". Who knows, maybe times have changed.
We set up a tent trailer in a windstorm alongside Highway 50 at a camping spot. Two kids under six years of age stood by watching two adults struggle with the canvas, tubing and braces. It took an hour before we had a meal in front of us. Had this been a sheet metal travel trailer, even in a windstorm, we would have walked through the entry sheet metal door and been cooking a meal within minutes...On that note, there are now tiny, lightweight travel trailers that can be towed readily.
Would like to hear how tent and tent trailer camping works for you and your family!