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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! Moses
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
There's never an excess of stowage space for off-pavement travel. Often, owners turn to specialty trailers for carrying necessities into the back country. For this purpose, the sometimes inexpensive surplus military trailers have become iconic, including the U.S. military M416 1/4-ton trailer for short wheelbase Jeep 4x4s and other short wheelbase tow vehicles, and the M415 1/2-ton trailers for the four-wheel drive club's support pickup truck to lug around. There is also an aftermarket with custom built trailers, specialty designs that mimic or exceed the virtues of the sturdy military trailers. These trailers often incorporate a tent as well, making family recreation more comfortable and practical. This forum is for off-road trailer enthusiasts and users to share information, equipment and hitch tips and upgrades with others. There is a distinct need here, and owners of these off-road trailers can be of great service to newcomers!—Moses Ludel Reno 4x4 and Hills Angels clean up Moss Lake above Reno, Nevada. Mark's Jeep CJ-8 Scrambler with widened track pulls a larger military-type off-road trailer at left. On the right, Craig's Jeep CJ-5 totes a compact multipurpose trailer. The U.S. Military M415 and M416 surplus trailers are popular for off-road use as are many custom designs. With an appropriate hitch system, Mark has been over the Rubicon and other tough Sierra trails many times—with the trailer in tow.