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Old 08-12-2009, 03:26 PM
 
Location: New Jersey
4,085 posts, read 7,666,910 times
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I kind of like the idea of building a tear-drop camper, as they're easy to build (and cheap) and it would be fun to make one since you can customize it as you go.

But whenever I think of pursuing a camper (or renting an RV), I just can't think of too many uses I would have for it. I might use it a week at the most. Most campsites charge so much for a site w/ hookups that I might as well use a cheap motel and save the gas money, not to mention the insurance, tags, maintenance, and inconvenience of towing something around. For the few times I camp, I would rather just throw a big tent and air mattress in the car and then I can even hike into woods or take them on a canoe to camp.

Anyway, not trying to knock pop-up campers; I'm just saying they are really for the enthusiast, because they are not the more efficient, convenient way to travel as they once were. When I was a kid we went from tents to a Starcraft pop-up and it did save us money, as motels were not cheap back then. Plus, we traveled locally (east coast mostly). Nowadays, I think it makes more sense for a person who can spare the money, or for a retiree who isn't limited by "vacation days" from a job, annd takes it out a lot and gets a lot of use from it.

Those A-Liners are really, really neat and I think it's a brilliant design. I'm sure they're a lot of fun. I can understand why you'd get questions on it!

I'm going to now go check out the ultra-lite campers website that jtbeck posted.
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Old 08-12-2009, 04:00 PM
 
Location: New Jersey
4,085 posts, read 7,666,910 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tripod View Post
Was wondering what one of those smaller sized pop-up campers that can be towed by a small car (hopefully)) would cost USED and in general how are they? I'm a complete newb to any type of camping but have developed a love of the outdoors since traveling the country 5 yrs ago and was making plans to buy a tent but started thinking about these smal pop-ups as perhaps a nice cheap alternative to sleeping on the ground. What can anyone tell me about them and how are they for someone on a budget like me, thanks.
I can relate, I went through this a few years back, and have yet to follow through because I can't get the time to travel this way yet, due to the economy I'm forced to stay close to home and not leave for more than a week or so.

I was intrigued by the tear-drop campers which you can build yourself. But, I took a cue from "Travels with Charley", by John Steinbeck. In his book about his travels across the entire nation (great book, I highly recommend it, by the way), he talks of how he took pickup truck and build a small cabin type cover for the back. He dubbed his vehicle "Rocinante" - it was essentially a home-made, custom-built camper.

I got to thinking about the best way to travel the nation, and "on a budget" was key.

I figured that any type of camper would require too much money, even if it was a home-made tear-drop or whatever. Also, there is the issue of maneuvering that set-up, which is fine in open country, but I want to go to cities, too, if and when I travel the nation.

So, I came up with the solution of doing on of a few things:

1. If I have time to do a LOT of traveling, invest in a reliable minivan or van that gets relatively good mileage. Preferably, not a passenger van, but one that is a work or cargo van. Take out the rear seats, if there are any, and install a few shelves for storage, with a way to lock the storage. Make it comfortable enough to stay in - make sure the floor has enough room for an airmattress (or even a thin futon mattress that can be rolled up and stored. If it's just me, this is more than enough room. In addition, carry along a tent. Sleep in the tent when possible because it's nicer - more ventilation, etc. But if it's pouring rain, or too freezing cold, the inside of the van works fine. With the van, you get a lot of benefits of a camper, without buying and and then pulling it around.

Why a cargo van? Easier to customize the back, fewer windows (you want privacy), it doesn't advertise "I'm a camper with all my belongings in here, rob me!!!", and it draws little attention from police or others who might harrass you. People just don't generally care much when they see a work van.

2. If not a van, then travel in an economical car, keeping tent, air mattress, etc. in the trunk. In the case of rain, cold, etc. you may be able to sleep in the car, but most often you'd sleep in the tent. This is obviously the cheapest, easiest option, but also it is less convenient and comfortable. Also, make use of inexpensive motels more often, since you're spending less with this option to begin with. If this is saving you a few thousand bucks, then think of how many nights in $40 to $70 motels that is! (A BUNCH! - and you'll stilll have money left over).

This third option is the one I would have to use for now -
3. If limited on time, as I am, pick a destination, fly there, bring a tent and mattress and all w/ you, rent a car, and then go camp wherever. Also use cheap motels when it makes sense to. I have yet to do this, but my good friend and his g/f did this a couple years ago. They brought external frame backpacks with them (with tents/sleeping bags on them, packed w/ clothes) as their checked items, plus daypacks as their carry-on. In Vegas, they stayed a night in a vegas hotel, then drove up to Utah in a cheap, economy rental car, camping all over, near Zion, Arches, etc. Their camping was mostly on BLM land so it was free. They once stayed at a paid campsite and once at a motel (where they did laundry). They managed to shower most days at their campsites w/ a large bottle (one of those collapsible ones) filled w/ tap water and left in the sun to heat, plus they got "real" showers at the hotel and paid campsite. They went back to Vegas for the last two nights and stayed somewhere for like $20 a night.

So, it depends on your situation - if you have the time and want to do roadtrips that are longer than a week, look into a cargo van or minivan that you can customize. If you only have a week or two to do things, then fly (if it's someplace further than a day's drive) and then rent a car and go tent camping and/or use cheap motels.

The flying is a bargain, because if the destination is over a day's trip away (more than 12-15 hours), you get more time actually AT your destination, and you're looking at well over a bare minimum $200 in gas alone (that's for a 12-hour, 750 mile trip, assuming 20 MPG and $2.75/gallon gas), not to mention wear & tear or rental costs. With good planning you should be able to get flights for anywhere from $250 to $500, plus it's more convenient and lets you enjoy your trip more. But flying definitely can be an economical part of the trip.

Hope that gives you some things to think about. I think if you go with the actual camper that you have to tow around, you really have to want that style of travel, because it will decrease your flexibility and will be as much an inconvenience at times as it is a convenience at other times.

Good luck figuring it out!
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Old 08-12-2009, 04:03 PM
 
1,244 posts, read 2,985,315 times
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I love the night and morning wildlife sounds. (No, not the drunken wildlife...) Last weekend while camping, we had a wood thrush who serenaded the campground every sunset and dawn. And one night there was a great horned owl hoo-hooing away. It was awesome. I don't want to be sealed off from that... what's the point of going camping?

The A-liner belongs to my dad; sadly I had to tell him that I would not be able to take it over when he was no longer able to use it. I won't have a tow vehicle for it (you really need a truck or something with a truck engine) and I'm really looking to "downgrade" to a small trailer that becomes a hard-floored tent. What I'd really like is an old fashioned camper-van.

Where do you intend to do most of your camping? If you are in the Northeast (like me), that means the frequent chance of rain, not something you tend to run into as much out West. A tent can be miserable in extended rain. But so can a van. Do you really want to sit in the back of your van all weekend waiting out the jungle rain? One of the reasons we love the A-liner is because it is darned pleasant in a rainstorm. It has a great deal of headroom and feels much less gloomy; it's like being in a little house. Last year I spent a week in the Adirondacks where it rained -- no, POURED -- five days out of six. I can't just take time off from work whenever I want, so that was my vacation. Without the A-Liner it would have been a miserable disaster. In a traditional soft sided popup, things would have been a lot more damp, even inside the trailer.

Also, I've never heard of restrictions on popups due to wild animals... that must be a Western thing. Again, consider what part of the country you plan to camp in most.

Last edited by Jeromeville; 08-12-2009 at 04:20 PM..
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Old 08-13-2009, 02:09 AM
 
Location: Way on the outskirts of LA LA land.
3,040 posts, read 10,444,463 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BergenCountyJohnny View Post
So, it depends on your situation - if you have the time and want to do roadtrips that are longer than a week, look into a cargo van or minivan that you can customize. If you only have a week or two to do things, then fly (if it's someplace further than a day's drive) and then rent a car and go tent camping and/or use cheap motels.
I spent two weeks this summer traveling with my kids around the western U.S. We drove everywhere we went, and either camped out or stayed in a motel, depending on where we were, what our needs were for the night, and our mood. I drive my Chevy Colorado crew cab 4x4 truck, and can get into places that large motorhomes and some trailers can't get to. Though I don't do it often, I can four wheel into some campsites and leave the crowds behind.

Quote:
Originally Posted by BergenCountyJohnny View Post
The flying is a bargain, because if the destination is over a day's trip away (more than 12-15 hours), you get more time actually AT your destination, and you're looking at well over a bare minimum $200 in gas alone (that's for a 12-hour, 750 mile trip, assuming 20 MPG and $2.75/gallon gas), not to mention wear & tear or rental costs. With good planning you should be able to get flights for anywhere from $250 to $500, plus it's more convenient and lets you enjoy your trip more. But flying definitely can be an economical part of the trip.
When you have more than one person traveling, the cost of flying increases rapidly. Even if it's just me and my two kids, it costs about three times as much to fly as it would if it were just me. It also costs considerably more than driving when we are all going along. The other nice thing about driving is you get to see everything along the way. For instance, if you fly from southern California to Denver, Colorado, you would miss all the spectacular scenery along the way. If you've ever traveled I-70 across Utah and Colorado, you know what I'm talking about.

Quote:
Originally Posted by BergenCountyJohnny View Post
Hope that gives you some things to think about. I think if you go with the actual camper that you have to tow around, you really have to want that style of travel, because it will decrease your flexibility and will be as much an inconvenience at times as it is a convenience at other times.

Good luck figuring it out!
I would like to have a tow behind unit on some of my trips, if only because I can keep it ready to go, so all I need to do is hook it up and go. Right now, since I take all my camping gear in my truck, I have to pack it all into the truck before I hit the road. I also usually end up forgetting something, because it didn't get put back into the right bin, or something like that. Having everything stored in a trailer means there is nothing to pack, and nothing to forget, when you hit the road (unless you forget to hitch up the trailer). Some places I've traveled would not be possible with a trailer, though, so there is a downside to having it. The camps on the four wheel drive trails are one such place. The "Going to the Sun Road" in Glacier National Park is another, because they don't permit vehicle combinations over 21 feet in length on a portion of that road.
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Old 08-13-2009, 02:17 AM
 
Location: Way on the outskirts of LA LA land.
3,040 posts, read 10,444,463 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeromeville View Post
I love the night and morning wildlife sounds. (No, not the drunken wildlife...) Last weekend while camping, we had a wood thrush who serenaded the campground every sunset and dawn. And one night there was a great horned owl hoo-hooing away. It was awesome. I don't want to be sealed off from that... what's the point of going camping?
I also enjoy the sounds of nature when I'm camping, which I get to enjoy from my tent. I don't particularly care for the sounds of other campers when they are drunk and obnoxious, or even when they turn on their music or their generator. Those are sounds I can do without.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeromeville View Post
Where do you intend to do most of your camping? If you are in the Northeast (like me), that means the frequent chance of rain, not something you tend to run into as much out West. A tent can be miserable in extended rain. But so can a van. Do you really want to sit in the back of your van all weekend waiting out the jungle rain? One of the reasons we love the A-liner is because it is darned pleasant in a rainstorm. It has a great deal of headroom and feels much less gloomy; it's like being in a little house. Last year I spent a week in the Adirondacks where it rained -- no, POURED -- five days out of six. I can't just take time off from work whenever I want, so that was my vacation. Without the A-Liner it would have been a miserable disaster. In a traditional soft sided popup, things would have been a lot more damp, even inside the trailer.
On my recent trip around the west (CA, NV, UT, CO, WY, MT, & ID), we had rain on a daily basis for about 9 or 10 days, ranging anywhere from sprinkles to good, long showers. Fortunately, on those occasions when we were using the tent, we had it set up before the rain started. Also, we were fortunate because we did not suffer any leaks while we were using it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeromeville View Post
Also, I've never heard of restrictions on popups due to wild animals... that must be a Western thing. Again, consider what part of the country you plan to camp in most.
The only place I know about that has such a restriction is one campground in Yellowstone National Park. That campground only permits hard-sided camp units, whether they are trailers or RVs.
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Old 08-13-2009, 06:35 AM
 
Location: virginia beach, virginia
128 posts, read 577,273 times
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A lot of this discussion concerns what got me interested in pups/RV's in the first place. Having to travel from Virginia to Atlanta and then to Florida, back to Atlanta to SE Tennessee and western NC and back to Virginia in June. I had to stay in motels and chose the cheapest I could (also cabins) They were very expensive plus the cost of food, etc. How expensive are the campgrounds/RV parks. Are they more expensive then the roach motels?
My feeling is that if I tow a small pup and buy my supplies at Walmart that I can beat the expense of multible motel stays very easily. Enlighten me if I am wrong.
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Old 08-13-2009, 10:11 AM
 
16 posts, read 106,475 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bob swanson View Post
A lot of this discussion concerns what got me interested in pups/RV's in the first place. Having to travel from Virginia to Atlanta and then to Florida, back to Atlanta to SE Tennessee and western NC and back to Virginia in June. I had to stay in motels and chose the cheapest I could (also cabins) They were very expensive plus the cost of food, etc. How expensive are the campgrounds/RV parks. Are they more expensive then the roach motels?
My feeling is that if I tow a small pup and buy my supplies at Walmart that I can beat the expense of multible motel stays very easily. Enlighten me if I am wrong.
This may not be the exact answer you're looking for, but I think it's relevant to your situation.

You can generally stay in a SP for around $20 a night (at least around here). Your food expenses will, of course, depend on you. I'm not sure what a cheap hotel would cost you. But there are some trade-offs to keep in mind:

1. Set up and break down of the PUP. It can be done fairly quickly, but it's going to be much easier and quicker to check into and out of a hotel.

2. Facilities. If you get a PUP with a shower/potty combo you don't have to brave the CG facilities. But you will have to dry out the shower and dump your potty. The hotels hot shower will be awfully nice, BUT it's also nice to know that you're the only person who's been sitting on your potty and using the shower in your PUP. And even if you do have to use the CG bath house, they're generally pretty decent. Just take flip flops or something. I'd recommend those in the hotel, as well.

3. Beds. Sort of the same as the facilities. It's a nice feeling to know that you're not going to be laying your head on the same pillow that someone else did the night before. You KNOW how clean your blankets and other bedding is. No worries in the PUP, in the hotel...who knows?

4. I can just about guarantee you that the view outside your PUP will be better than the view outside your hotel/motel room. The neighbors will probably be better, too.

If it were me, I'd probably go with the camper. I think the expense of the "trip" would be less, but you've got to factor in the cost of the camper as well. But, at the end, you've got a cool camper you can use for years to come. If you factor the expense by the years used, it's not too bad.
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Old 08-13-2009, 11:33 AM
 
Location: virginia beach, virginia
128 posts, read 577,273 times
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Thanks for the rational comments. It helps a lot.
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Old 08-13-2009, 03:28 PM
 
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Can you even get near state parks in major metro areas? They do fill up fast and you can show up there hoping for a walk-in site and be turned away. Or (usually) you have to make a reservation sight unseen and the site may be inadequate for your unit. (I love states where they show you pictures of the actual campsites during the reservation process)
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Old 08-13-2009, 08:56 PM
 
Location: Maryland
34 posts, read 94,776 times
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I bought a Phoenix pop up camper in the early '90s. Put it on my '93 Nissan hardbody 4X4. Got a few good years out of it until it started leaking. Didn't feel like dealing with it so I gave it to a friend.
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