In recent years, campers can be seen headed out on adventures nearly any summer day, especially on weekends. For many people, the draw of a camper is being able to enjoy the tranquility of the great outdoors without giving up the comforts of home – you can literally bring the kitchen sink with you!
There are several different types of campers, so let’s start with a basic overview.
Pick-up campers are just that, a camper that sits on your pick-up truck. While there are a variety of styles, they generally include a double bed, a table that folds down into a single bed, a sink, and a small fridge. Great for one person, a couple, or even a small family. With the camper right on your truck, there’s no trailer to back up and your camper is always with you. On the downside, your camper is always with you. If you want to go out exploring for the day, it generally means packing up and securing everything in the camper so you can safely travel, and setting up again when you get back to your site.
Pop-up trailers, with their canvas sides over the beds, give you some of the feels of tent camping with the some of the luxuries of a camper. Most have storage space, a small stovetop, and can include a sink, fridge, and even a toilet. They’re not as big to pull as a travel trailer, but give you more space once they’re set up.
Travel trailers come in a wide variety of sizes and styles, from small teardrop trailers with just a bed, to luxury 2 bedroom palaces on wheels with big screen TVs. There is often more storage space to bring along those creature comforts from home and kitchen space to prepare your meals “indoors”. A bigger trailer often requires a bigger truck to pull it as well.
Motorhomes have all the amenities of the larger travel trailers, with the added luxury of riding in your “camper” rather than in the vehicle that’s towing it. Many also have the capability to tow a small vehicle so once your motorhome is set up you still have something to drive. Your site options will definitely be more limited with a bigger motorhome.
What to Bring
Depending on the size of your camper, the sky could be the limit! In a large travel trailer or motorhome, you can bring many of the things that you enjoy using at home. There is generally plenty of room for all of your cooking needs, personal products, and clothing. If you have a smaller trailer a lot of your needs will be the same as if you’re sleeping in a tent. Check out Nora’s previous post on car camping.
One thing I always make sure we have is rain gear. Sure, if you have a camper, you can go inside to stay dry, but that kind of defeats the purpose of camping! My family also always brings our bikes along. My kids love cruising around the campground loop and often make new friends while out riding. We also ride to the bathroom or shower house if it’s not close.
As mentioned in previous blog posts, a First Aid kit is a necessity! I keep a large one in the camper and a small one in my purse or backpack when we’re out and about. Unless you’re boondocking, if you’re camping in a camper, chances are you will be a little closer to civilization and there will be a campground host or park office somewhat close to help you out should an emergency arise.
One of my favorite things about camper camping is the little extra things you can bring. I have mini camper lights that I hang from our camper’s canopy that we plug in every night and a small flag that I hang up as well. It’s the fun little things that make your site your own.
Selecting a Site
Before selecting your campsite, you first have to choose a campground! As mentioned in our previous post, Minnesota has a plethora of state parks and private campgrounds to choose from. After you’ve narrowed that down, it’s time to choose your site.
When camping with a camper, your options are obviously going to be a bit more limited than camping in a tent. You’ll have to consider the length of your camper and the location of slideouts, if any, on the camper. Most online reservation sites ask which type of camper you’re hauling, how long it is, if the camper has slideouts, and what type of hookup you would like. With that, they also often indicate how long the parking pad is and if there is room for slideouts on either side.
Depending on your camper, you will have different options for hookups. Some sites have only electric, in either 30 Amp or 50 Amp. Which one you need will depend on your camper. In our camper, an electric hookup will run the all of the systems. Without electric, our lights and water pump will run off the battery and the fridge and water heater run off the propane tanks. Most state parks will have only electric hookups. Private campgrounds often have a combination of water and electric, meaning you can also hook a hose up to their faucet and have it constantly filling your water tank. If there is no water at your site, there is usually a dump station where you can fill your tanks before you go to your site, and empty them when you leave. The last option is a full hookup, meaning electric, water, and access to a sewer. In that case, your sewer hose connects to your grey (from the sinks and shower) and black (from the toilet) water holding tanks and drains directly into a sewer tank. Convenient? Yes. Smelly? Not usually. If you don’t get a full hook up, you just have to stop at the dump station on your way out to empty your tanks.
There are generally two different types of campsites for campers – pull-thru or back in. A pull-thru site is just like it sounds: you drive in one end of the site and drive out the other. These are very easy sites to get in and out of and are generally very level, which requires much less work when setting up. Motorhomes and larger travel trailers obviously are much easier to park in a pull-thru site. The downside, in my opinion, is that they are usually very close together, with little separation, such as trees, between sites. If you like to get to know your neighbors and are a social camper, these sites can be great.
Back in sites are just that – a site that you must back your camper into. While it takes a little more time and some skill in backing up a trailer, these sites are often more private and wooded than pull-thru sites. While generally relatively flat, they also can require more leveling with jacks and blocks. Some tent sites are also big enough for a smaller travel trailer to back into but generally won’t have hookups.
One of the first things I consider when planning a trip with our camper is how long we’re staying and what we’ll want for hookups. If it’s a short trip, 2-3 days, we can usually get by with no hookups and just use our batteries, propane, and water tank. For 4-5 days, we like to have electricity and water, as the batteries don’t always last that long and water can start to run low, depending on how far we are from the restrooms/shower house. Anything longer than 5 days and electric and water are a must and a full hook up is nice so we don’t have to pull out of our site halfway through the week to empty the tanks.
Things to Consider
While the luxuries of camper camping, especially in the larger travel trailer and motorhomes, are nice, it’s important to keep in mind your ultimate goals when camping, whatever they may be. For me and my family, our goal is to disconnect from screens and media, reconnect with nature, and spend quality time with each other. While I enjoy sleeping in a bed in my camper rather than on the ground in a tent, I spend most of my time while camping outside, exploring the trails and woods around our campground, playing games with my family at the picnic table (we never forget to bring Yahtzee along!), and relaxing around the fire while stargazing. Whatever your reasons are for camper camping, make sure to take time to step back and appreciate all of the amazing things nature has to offer right outside your camper door.