One thing is clear about tent trailers: You either love them or, well, you don't want one. The reasons for each view are many. Tent trailers are light enough to pull behind cars, a compact 4x4 and even some three-wheeled "trike" motorcycles! They often set up readily and offer features surprisingly similar to a smaller, sheetmetal travel trailer. So what's the downside?
In the late '80s, I tested the "Duck Truck", a specially equipped Starcraft Suburban with a camo finish and a Ducks Unlimited jon boat on top. Sylvester Stallone had the vehicle for a while, and my test was for OFF-ROAD Magazine. We decided to take a tent trailer, in this case a nicely appointed Starcraft with remarkable features for a tent trailer.
In the furnished VHS video, my wife Donna and I watched an attractive, 110 pound model in high heels assemble the tent in minutes. So, we thought, this a very useful way to sleep ourselves and youngest son, Jacob, at the time six years old. When we decided to take along our granddaughter Sarah, at the time four, the idea still seemed practical. Our first setup was at Iillipah Reservoir along Highway 50 in Central Nevada.
It happens that the wind was blowing, neither uncommon nor lightly, something like 25-30 mph. We were confident that the tent would go up in minutes, fast enough that the wind would not ruffle a single canvas panel. As it turned out, it took thirty minutes to get set up, all the time fighting the wind while placating two very tired and hungry small kids who wanted the dinner we had promised.
On another note, tent camping in bear country is not always a success. But in fairness, larger bears find it equally easy to can-open a sheetmetal travel trailer to access food or your day's salmon catch. All said, it's a matter of personal taste, what you want to do and, in the case of bears, how lucky you feel. Security is another issue with canvas, much like the canvas-versus-hardtop Jeep debate.
When Starcraft generously offered us one-year access (a long-term test) to a new 21' fully self-contained travel trailer, we were ecstatic. The satisfying trips we took with that trailer, its features and the towing ease, sold us on metal travel trailers and Starcraft products. Travel trailers seem right for our lifestyle and the 3/4-ton or larger capacity trucks and SUVs that we tend to own.
This is the forum to discuss the merits and virtues of tent trailers—with possible critiques like the one I just launched. I'm simply trying to be objective; however, loyal and happy tent trailer campers may take my comments to task. Please do so, right here at the tent trailer and trailering forum!—Moses Ludel