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Tent trailers

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Tent trailers

By Jean-Luc Théberge, author of the Guide du petit campeur québécois 

Tent trailers can be an excellent choice for campers

You must have a vehicle designed to pull a recreational vehicle (RV). A sport utility vehicle (SUV) or a minivan with a towing capacity of 1,600 kg (3,500 lbs) is sufficient to pull an average tent trailer.

Draw up a budget
 It’s important to assess your needs clearly before shopping for an RV. The camping season is short, after all! You often have to make choices and keep some money for the winter season, too. Plan your budget accordingly.

A tent trailer, or pop-up, is a major investment, nonetheless. Expect to pay $4,000 to $12,000, depending on whether you buy a new or used one, large or small, etc.

Choosing the right model for you

There are hundreds of models of tent-trailers, for every taste and budget. They can sleep from one to ten people. In Quebec, their length is always measured in feet, with the RV closed, excluding the hitch.

Tent-trailers come in all sizes, designed to be towed by motorcycles and other vehicles. The most common sizes are 8-, 10- and 12-foot frames, closed.

A tent trailer is almost twice as large open as closed, and that is its main advantage. They are usually 7 feet wide, a bit more than a standard vehicle. The vast majority of tent-trailers sold in Quebec are manufactured in the United States.

Most of the time, the rigid part of the roof is raised using a pulley system. Then the beds on both sides are pulled out to extend the canvas and secured with crossbars. The door is fixed in place with latches. There are also tent-trailers made entirely of canvas, without a rigid roof, and folding trailers with rigid walls. Many recent models even have side extensions that add more space inside – and more weight to the RV. These models range from 500 to 1,700 kg (1,000 to 3,500 lbs). There are also lighter models, designed to be towed by motorcycles.

The beds in a tent trailer are very comfortable, compared with sleeping in a tent. For one thing, there are no rocks under the mattress. Since you are not sleeping directly on the ground, you needn’t worry about humidity seeping up from the soil.

Tent trailers often come equipped with a small refrigerator and a propane stove. That gives you greater independence when you camp on sites with no services. One of the major advantages of a tent trailer is that you can put your dry food, pots and pans, sleeping bags, etc. in there at the start of the summer. It makes preparing for a trip much easier.

Some advice
When you arrive on the campsite, release the RV and level it so that the door will open and close properly and the fridge will work. Raising and lowering the tent takes about half an hour when everything goes smoothly.

Your fuel consumption will be 30 to 40% higher when you are pulling an RV. You can dismantle the dining room table to make an extra bed. You’ll also have to raise the tent when you return home, so that it can dry properly and to prevent mould and stains. This also gives you access to the fridge so you can empty and clean it.

Properly maintaining your tent trailer will let you enjoy it longer.

Advantages

  • More comfortable than a tent
  • Dryer than a tent 
  • Lots of space inside 
  • Twice as large once it is open
  • Often comes with a two-burner stove
  • Often comes with a small refrigerator and a heater and sometimes even a toilet
  • You can leave dry food, sleeping bags, pots and pans, etc. in the trailer all summer
  • Easy to tow
  • Makes you independent on unserviced campsites
  • Doesn’t get blown around when towing
  • Can be towed by an SUV
  • You can detach the tent trailer in the campground and use the towing vehicle by itself to get around

Disadvantages

  • Takes a sufficiently powerful towing vehicle
  • Has to be towed
  • Fuel consumption rises by 30 to 40%
  • Raising and lowering it can become a chore on long trips
  • Much more expensive than a tent, but much cheaper than a trailer
  • You can’t get inside once it has been lowered
  • Lack of sound insulation
  • Must be raised again when you return home to air it out properly

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