Monthly Book Giveaway - March 2023

Lets talk campers

So quality is not great on most campers I see and that's going to lead to some woodworking projects in one way or another.  Let's hear about the good, the bad & the ugly.  

So, trying to get the family camping is like pulling teeth, they all want glamping.  Personally, I'm happy if I can just get the humidity knocked down in the summer, a proper camper w/heat & A/C opens up many possibilites.  We went to camping world today to look at sub 3000lb pop-ups, the minivan will pull those.  First we looked at the 40' fifth wheels and some, actually most, were very nice!  Let the kids know these + $90K for a tow vehicle is totally doable but you each get $0.38 from mom & dad when you graduate HS instead of a budgeted bachelors degree.  So yeah, writing a check right now for $200K puts a dent in their future not mine.  Sorry kids, my retirement first, your education second.  Then I though maybe a ~17' regular trailer which in theory would work for the van but pushing it, those actually have less room for sleeping.  Then I though maybe a ~30' bunk house +$35-40K for a decent 1/2 ton rig after trading or more likely selling my truck.  Anything over ~8K and I'd want a 3/4 ton, the 6.4 gas in the RAM is meh, the 7.3 gas in the Ford appears it cannot be equipped the way I require so that leads me to diesels, new stripped 2wd RAM is $65K and probably eternal lead time, Ford is $74K and eternal +10 years lead time.  The used market is full of salvage titles and dreamers.  The F150 max towing will on paper tow 14K, I wouldn't but I am wondering how it would handle 10K in real life?  

Camping world had no shortage of brands and all looked iffy even if nice, I saw the most apprentice marks on the new Coleman trailers but the higher end ones were not immune.  They carried:
1. Coleman
2. Jayco
3.  Forest River
4. Mallard
5. Coachmen
6. Keystone
7. Heartland (Pioneer?)

Of what we looked at, I liked the Keystone 34TSB the best but the internet tells me a new 2023 will be $60K, their new 2022 only had the MSRP listed at $74,419 and it has an empty weight of 8660lbs.  I'm assuming another 1000lbs rolling down the road with food, water & stocked cabinets which would be a bunch for a 1/2 ton truck, I think?  Way says y'all who have lots more experience?  My heavy towing experience has been with class 8 trucks and a 500hp Ram 2500 effortlessly pulling a 13K# 48' Featherlite race trailer.

22 Replies

I would say if you go up into the mountians you would definalty want some good towing power. That is a chunk of change with a camper and a truck to tow. Don't know enough about campers though. But another option would be a motorized RV, then a tow package to tow a small vehicle.

Or even a tent would work out, providing you have an air mattress, and no one is afraid of the snakes like someone is here. Just saying.

Main Street to the Mountains

Hey, I'm totally on board with a tent, heck a really nice tent is like $2K with all the bells and whistles but I can't talk anyone into it.  I've towed 6K# behind my truck in hills no problem but it was gravel, a trailer with a bunch of frontal area and a higher center of gravity is going to be more work.  I don't anticipate going very far into the mountains, probably just western NC/SC, any farther and I'll rent a Suburban or equivalent.  I really, really don't want a powered RV, just that much more to maintain.  I just found out I'd have to pay property tax on it too.  The only way I can see avoiding that is building one on my own sub-2500# trailer to avoid the legal requirement to register it at all, I'd rather avoid that though.
ive done everything from a pack on my back to a full blown rv and ill still take a tent any day. sadly swmbo wants the hotel experience !

working with my hands is a joy,it gives me a sense of fulfillment,somthing so many seek and so few find.-SAM MALOOF.

Build a tiny house on wheels, that would be a good project.

Main Street to the Mountains

I'm already in the planning stages of building a real house, a tiny house build might have appeal later in life when my boys aren't lazy and I can trust them.  

I prefer tent camping 10 times out of 10 but my vote is waining.  This will at least get me a little closer to nature than a hotel though.
There is always rentals up here in the mountains. Even a couple of tree houses.

Main Street to the Mountains

We've done the rental thing a time or two and that may continue to be a thing, just probably not when camping with a camper we own is the competition.  If it's a long way from home then that would make much more sense.
We've got a 2010 27ft Sprinter. I have done lots of projects on it. Mostly cabinets and trim but wiring as well. We take it out 8-10 times a year.

It weighs 6900 empty. I'm guessing closer to 1500lbs of crap in it. Call it 8500lb loaded. I tow it with a 2014 1/2 ton Silverado with the 5.3l V8. It's rated for 9500lbs towing. Given that I load up the bed with firewood, chairs and a cooler I'm probably right at rated load.

I've towed it over 8,000 ft passes in 100 deg heat. But to keep the temp gauge steady I slowed to 30 mph with the AC off. Normal driving is issue free.

We would consider an upgrade but I have a hard limit on 30ft hitch to bumper. I just don't want to deal with anything longer than that. We have always managed to park it but some spots were very difficult. So far anything at that length (or shorter) isn't any better than what we currently have.
Steve, thanks for the real world input.  I've considered something bigger that would require more of a tow vehicle but now is a terrible time to try to buy something new or used.  The more I read, the more people are concerned with frontal area, which I get and given my intentional plan to avoid the interstate as much as possible and stay within 200 miles of home, I'm hoping being the slow guy doesn't cause too many problems.  It shouldn't if the speed limit is only at 55mph on a back road anyway.
My recommendation to RV shoppers is to buy the smallest unit you will be happy with. That is with the assumption that you will travel with it and not park it on a lot.
When I travel on the freeway I stay in the right lane and go the speed of the slower big rigs.
We bought used years ago but with the rush to camp during/after Covid prices have really gone up.  Wonder if/when folks will abandon camping and the used market will become reasonable again??
Barb, I was guessing that was going to be this winter…but might be next fall when none of those campers get used this summer since everything is back open. Guess we’ll see!

Ryan/// ~sigh~ I blew up another bowl. Moke told me "I made the inside bigger than the outside".

Boats were the same way last few years, pricing went up, so folks could practice social distancing. Now they are up because folks need money.

Main Street to the Mountains

Ryan - camping is a lot of work (it's not all roasting marshmallows around a campfire!) with packing, etc.  Fun, but requires some organization and then the equipment maintenance.  
I've seen some good used deals, the one we looked at last night is attractively priced and would work with my truck on paper, in real life I think it would be stretching it.  New MSRP are way high but it seems most dealers knock off a decent chunk right away, that still doesn't make them cheap and they drop another 20-30% in value as soon as they leave the lot.  A package deal with a tow rig & camper would be attractive and I could slash some of that investment by selling my current truck but I'm not seeing any of those.

The interior quality of just about everything we've looked at seems suspect,  Wood isn't wood, it's like some kind of foam board with a vinyl wrap which is fine until it isn't.  I know if we buy used and I start fixing little things as the kids tear them up, I'm going to use real wood and that's going to add a little more weight.  The mechanicals I'm comfortable with too, I don't mind maintaining things, I'd just rather avoid having to be repairing a bunch of stuff due to poor initial quality.

Regarding size, the 25' we looked at last night would be about it on the lower end and still be comfortable.  I'm going to another dealership today to see what they have, the four bunk beds in the back is one thing we know we really want and there's options out there, just not a whole bunch of them.
My Cousin Lana had a small camper and loved it.    Sold it got a bigger camper and a larger truck to  pull it.  Really likes the rig and gong camping.   Problem she can only go to camps that have drive trough camp sites as she can not back up the rig.     Single woman.  
In my elder years my camping is the best Hotel In the area.   Does it have a good place to safely park the Porsche?    Are there good restaurants close by?      Better than that just have a Flensburger on the screened in back porch in a comfortable chair.      


My wife and I do a lot of camping. I'm not into the gigantic rigs which are more for full timers living in them. I pull a 29' Earthbound (long story on these collector item trailers). Definitely higher quality than run of the mill trailers but no longer made. It is all aluminum and composite with a steel frame underneath. Zero wood so nothing to rot. Weighs 4700 dry and about 6000 loaded. It could easily be pulled by a 1/2 ton but I pull it with my F350 diesel. Effortless and especially helpful in the mountains near me. If you're going to buy, I'd suggest one that's 2 or 3 years old with all of the bugs worked out. The newer ones seem to be even more cheaply built and warranty issues can put them in the shop for months. Plenty of horror stories out there. Don't believe any salesmen when they tell you X vehicle can handle this trailer. Do your own math based on the actual vehicle payload and GVW. 
I'll second the recommendation on buying used.  We were fortunate to find owners who really took care of the units and for our current RV, did a lot of nice upgrades.  
We could do a lot of hotel renting for the price of a bigger pull rig and a trailer. That puller would be a must, we have a wannabe pickup now. A Ford Ranger.

Since there are just the two of us, something as simple as a teardrop would be adequate for simple runs.  I'd love to build one, because I have the know-how and tools that would allow me to, but it would be project number 3,497.8 and scheduled for a few decades after I'm gone.

I used to work for Cariboo Campers, out of Brewster, Washington.  They used 2x2 construction and came with a life time warranty against roof leaks.  Every few years, someone would come up the Vantage, Washington, hill and the wind gust would flip their cab-over camper.  Obviously, this was not your average leak problem, but we'd repair the damage and replace the top on our dime for the reputation.

Those campers were heavy as sin, but kept the truck in far better condition than any other camper would have.