SFR: tent trailer opinions?


dead in the water
What's the general opinion on tent trailers? Useful? Pain in the ass? Cold as hell? Just end up sitting in the driveway 99% of the time?

We've got a VW camper van that is fine and dandy. But it's going to be a bit tight with the baby. And my wife doesn't really like having to pick up and roll just because I want to duck 5 miles down the road for a fishing hole. She'd like something that could stay in the campground. Yes, a travel trailer would be a better plan. But I'm not confident that my Ranger can tow even a small travel trailer with any degree of safety. Though I know my parents generation towed everything with anything when they were going camping, so what do I know? But in any case, I won't be getting a bigger truck for a while (or ever if the economy doesn't pick up). And we're considering selling the VW since we need to get a regular minivan at some point anyway.

One of those badass popup truckbed trailers would be the coolest solution. But they cost a pile of cash and doesn't really solve the "want to stay in the campground" problem with the wife.

So I figured I'd ask the crew here. Tent trailers, your thoughts?

Jerry Daschofsky

Staff member
Josh, there's nothing wrong with them. BUT depending on what type you get dictates the headaches associated with them. Growing up, we had two. One was an old sears that literally was a TENT trailer. It had a huge tent that popped up and out of it. Had tons of room. But then we got a coleman (I think it was a coleman) a few years later that was like what you see today. Which had beds at both ends that popped out and had an eating area, small bathroom, and kitchen in the middle part. Only major problem was making sure the zippers stayed clean so they didn't gum up and also that you made sure it was VERY dry before you closed up the trailer (or you'd get rot and mildew).

If you look, you can find the small sixpac campers pretty cheap for your little ford. They work pretty good, but cramped compared to a tent trailer. Your truck should be able to haul it. My parents hauled the big sears beast with an old mercury comet we had. Did just fine. I know they have hardsided ones now. I've actually thought about buying another one. Would like a camp trailer again, but would like the popup so I could stack stuff up on the top of it easier (then having the racks on top of a standard travel trailer). Could toss a pontoon on it, and a small fold up trailer to use on the toon.


dead in the water
I'm thinking more of the "coleman" type than the old school "tent in a box" kind. Those hard sided popup trailers are weird looking. They seem like little a-frame huts. Seems like they would be crowded in there.

Jerry Daschofsky

Staff member
Well, I only brought the sears one up, because that's literally what it was, a tent in a trailer. but it had TONS of room.

But the other one was pretty nice. It had a hard top (where the sears only had a canvas top that clipped down). Could store stuff on top. It's where we strapped our bikes and other misc gear down.

Itchy Dog

Some call me Kirk Werner
I agree, the "A Frame" hardsides seem like they'd be cramped inside. I have seen, from a drive-by distance, hardsided pop-ups that extend straight up so you have a flat roof and hard walls. Don't know who make's them though. A quick Google revealed an interesting design by Trailmanor and also Hi-Lo. I like the looks of the Hi-lo design better, but I based that only on a quick glance.

I just dumped our truck and 5th wheel because they weren't getting used. I could see getting one of these some day- wouldn't need much of a tow vehicle to pull them and they stow away nice and compact.
My folks have owned two Colemans. The first was the smallest model and it was fine, but got a bit cramped w/ more than two people. We towed it through Jellystone behind a was dicy at times, but we made it. They now have one of the larger models and my dad tows it behind a Toyota Tacoma. It pulls it just fine. I'm sure it would bog down a bit going over the pass, but towing it to the Methow he has no problem keeping it at 55-60 mph. He actually bought both in your neck of the woods at Apache. We actually sleep 4 guys in the one he owns now and we're pretty big guys...6'7", 6'4" 6'2", and it's still pretty comfortable. Coleman's are definitely the way to go w/ pop-ups, but they're pretty spendy and hold their value well.
My wife and I have had a Skamper tent trailer for about 15 years. It has a furnace and a gas powered refrigerator, two pretty wide beds and a table with padded benches. It's equipped with screens and heavy palstic, zip down windows. It's a great little rig and tows well behind my truck or her Escape. We've had it all over the place and now have our two Grand-nepherws living with us. With forur it's a bit tight but doable as long as you have some other things like pop-up canopy for a table, etc.
Google Apache tent trailer. They have many fully hard sided models that are more traditional in design with the 2 beds at each end and full glass windows. They have a small cult following and are pretty cool.
We were searching for a tent trailer a couple years ago and after looking at several and talking to friends that had them decided they were too much of a pain. We ended up going with this small trailer instead. It is relatively light weight (1,200 lbs) and pulls easily with my wifes Escape or my Tacoma that replaced the ford in the picture. Despite how small it looks it has plenty of room for me, my wife and son and sometimes one of my sons buddies. It has a fridge, sink and stove. We love it and use it all the time. When we get to our destination it is ready to go ... no set up to speak of.
Tent trailers are fine for what they designed to do. If you live in Michigan you will find a million of them. Not so many in the Pacific NW. I think the main reason is RAIN. We had one about 20 years ago. It was great except for one problem. It seemed like it always rained when we took it out. Never leaked, but when we got home we always had to put it in the garage and open it up to allow the canvas to dry. As you know, mildew is death on canvas.

Another problem is secruity. You just can't lock up anything. I like the SCAMP idea.

We were searching for a tent trailer a couple years ago and after looking at several and talking to friends that had them decided they were too much of a pain.
A few of my friends have told me the same thing. Especially after one of the cables that extend the slideouts break. I think the possibility of finding an older birchwood trailer around 15 or 16 feet in usable condition is very possible and that size would be easily towed with a small truck or vehicle. There is a lady in Klamath Falls (The Tin Inn) that re-habs vintage trailers that are pretty cool. I just love those old classic trailers with birch interiors. Very cool.

Kim Hampton

Not Politically Correct
We are now working on our third version of a Coleman. We kept trading up as the wife would see a newer larger model otherwise we would still have the second one. The first had a floor plan that we ended up not liking. These trailers are a bit of a pain but probably much easier than setting up a large tent. Just crank the thing up, pull the bunks out, slide the door into place, set up the awning if you want and go camping. They are comfortable. Our model has a small slide out for the table which gives more room which is a lot nicer. I towed it behind a truck that had a 350. The truck didn't even know it was there. Made it up the steep grade to Chopaka many times. Of course the wife always wanted me to go in the back way as she didn't like looking over the side of the road into the valley below.:eek: Also we had Yakima racks installed for the bikes and pram. Apache is the dealer in Washington and seems to be good to work with. I've started to look at campers as I bought a boat a couple of years ago. Can't tow the tent trailer and boat at the same time. Anyway I'll be selling the trailer when I finally pull the trigger on a camper. With a camper it looks like I'll be giving up space. One thing I'm starting to figure out after looking at campers. If you want a few features the things get heavy in a hurry.

Shawn Seeger

(aka. wabowhunter)
I have owned 3… just kept upgrading (lost 1 in the divorce years ago)… the first was a used Starcraft it was a great starter trailer – pulled by a Chevy Astro Van (6 cyl), we had 2 babies and wanted a place for them to play when the weather would go sideways and we didn’t want to pack up and go home… number 2 and 3 were/are Coleman’s (made by Fleetwood). They are the best on the market in my opinion… the type of wood used for the floor and beds, the craftsmanship on the inside seems better to me.

Anyway, we use them for outings all year long, it is our base camp during elk and deer hunting, and it is home for many weeks during the fishing seasons… the only drawback that I have is not having a garage. It is really important to had dry canvas/sunbrella when putting it away in the winter… so during the fall and winter, my hunting and fishing buddy takes his tent trailer (a Coleman as well), because he puts it in the garage and cranks it up ¾ of the way and lets the tent part hang and dry out.

They are great and really roomy for the size…mine has a King size bed on one end, a Queen on the other, the table makes into a bed, and the couch makes into a bed. I would say go check them out….