The quest for the perfect family (5 of us) overlanding/camping setup....

JJMAC

Adventurer
Family of 5 here. 3kids. 13, 12 and 3. Have been trying to figure out the best camp set up for a long time. I guess this post will be more of a rambling than anything, but I am looking for suggestions from those who have found the perfect set up for family.

What we want/need:

Off-road capability:
We are not looking to traverse the Mackenzie trail by any means, but we do like to get off the beaten track and need a set up that can go anywhere our tow vehicle (4x4) can go.

Currently rocking a Ford Expedition and will drive this into the ground…



…. but will most likely be adding a Tacoma or Frontier when the older kids head off to college:





Fast deployment and easy takedown:

Our past setups (some you will see below) have been a real pain to setup and to take down. Especially after rain. Returning home and having to set everything back up to clean and air out is a real pain in the arse and something I really want to minimize as much as possible.

After much research I think this would be the ideal setup:

A teardrop trailer with a Roof Top tent for kiddos and vestibules on both sides. One for entry to RTT and one for an area to hang if raining or buggy.

Socal:



or Inca:



Pros to the teardrop:

- Hard sided and no headaches packing up when its raining. It can be used by by wife and I without RTT when kids move out and we are far into retirement.

- Nimble and quick. Its just easy to pack and go. No need to set it up first and pack before leaving.

- Kitchen built in. Hot water. Sink. The whole shebang.

Cons:

- Price, Price, Price. Way too much for us to afford right now. Fully loaded its about 25k. That is crazy money.

This will take years to save for and may never be an option.
 

JJMAC

Adventurer
So, Without further ado…. A little trip down memory lane:

We started with ground tents and mats:





Cons:

- Super pain in the arse to set up and take down. Especially with kids running around. Practically making the trip stressful before it even started.

- Rain. Nowhere to hang out except in the tent.

- Have to set up again after trip and dry out at home.

- Ground sleeping uncomfortable.


We then purchased a Coleman popup:

I quickly did a SOA conversion on it and threw some wheels and tires on:









and the day we soldit with original tires:



Really regretting selling this as this was the best setup we have had to date.

Pros:

- Plenty of room.
- Off the ground.
- Can hole up inside when weather gets bad and still have a table and play games and such.
- Heater and Sink. (never used stove or cooked in there. Almost removed it)

Cons:
- Need to find a place to store when not in use.
- Pain in the butt to setup.
- Had to setup and pack it with gear before you left for your trip. Storage is inside.
- Had to setup and clean when you returned from trip.
- not the best in wind.

So for some reason I sold this. I think mostly because I needed the money and also wanted to downgrade a bit.


So I bought a Kodiak tent:











And Disco-bed cots:







And did a Harbor Freight trailer mod:












This setup is great for Long Term Camping. The Kodiak is a great tent but is a super pain in the butt to setup. Especially the vestibule and screen room. And even worse to take down. And if its wet when you take it down you better be close to your car or trailer because it is super heavy.

Pros:
- Tent is awesome.
- Bunkbed cots are awesome.
- Plenty of room.
- Screen Room for foul weather.
- Cots are comfy.

Cons:
- The tent is freaking heavy. Poles and tent have to be almost 150 lbs.

- This is definitely a car camping tent. Unless you have a wheelbarrow, you will not be going father than 100 yards from your car with this tent.

- The cots are freaking heavy! 65 lbs per cot. Another 250 lbs total.

- Set up and take down are a pain in the butt and take forever. Not an ideal setup for short term camping.

- The rain vestibule and screen room cannot be left unattended/alone in rain or they will collapse. The design is flawed and rain pools on roof and must be pushed off from the bottom. Sucky design.

Trailer was great. LED’s in tool boxes. But once again I sold this trailer because I had no place to store it.
 

JJMAC

Adventurer
So then we tried a trip without the trailer and just the tow vehicle. The Expedition was so loaded down with a 200lb tent and 200lbs cots and food and water and gear and ice for 10 days that I was worried about the safety of driving it. We drove 14 hours to Maine and made it there safely, but on the way back (even without the water and food weight) I decided to buy a trailer so as not to destroy the new Expedition.


So I bought a 4x7 tractor supply trailer for $500 bucks:



When I got home I added racks and did a SOA flip and put on bigger tires. Its currently buried under all sorts of stuff in garage and this is a bad pic:



But it looks a lot like this:







So. That is where we are today. And the Kodiak and cots are not going to cut it for quick trips out with the kids. Long term camping of more than 3 days I would consider it, but I am really looking for a whole new setup that is easy on everyone.

So what I am thinking is getting a RTT for the new trailer and put it on the ladder racks. Get a big RTT with and vestibule like this:



And on the other side put an Awning and room like this:





Maybe add one to the back like this:



And the kids and wife can sleep up top and I can throw a cot in the vestibule. This will give us off the ground camping with easy setup and take down and another vestibule to hang in with table to play board games and such if its raining/buggy.

Maybe add a canopy like this for kitchen:



A total set up something like this. I like the RTT over the trailer rather than tow vehicle so we can break away in car to explore and not have to packup camp each time.



Eventually if we can afford and save for a Teardrop, I can put all of the awnings and RTT on the teardrop and have the perfect setup.

Anyway. Sorry for the rant. Any help or advice on what has worked for you all would help in our quest for the best setup for my family. We sure do love doing this:



and this:

 

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QuadsBC

Adventurer
I've got a family of 5 (little ones) and have been using a roof top tent deployed off my tundra. While it is convienent not having a trailer to store, there is a downside. Base camp is where you park it, so you can't set up a base camp, then explore the next day and have everything setup. I have to fully break down camp to drive somewhere wether it's the store for forgotten supplies or points of interest. The trailer is something you can leave and when you come back it's all still good to go.

I've only used the annex room once, in my driveway. The extra time setting up or breaking down in the field hasn't Ben worth the gain in the field yet.
 

gaap master

SE Expedition Society
My experience with a RTT and annex on an off-road trailer is that setup/takedown can be a hassle, and you still have to set it up again when you get home to let it dry out.

Have you looked into other trailer setups like Aliners or Jumping Jack trailers?


Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
 

Kevinat36th

New member
We are having the same dilemma for our family of 4 (girls age 6 and 8) for a year long pan-american trip. Have you thought about a hard shell roof top tent? Seems like it has a lot of the benefits and is easier to set up and break down (but pricey).

For our trip I imagine we will be doing a combo of camping and renting houses for longer term, but it would be nice to have an easy and comfortable set up for when we do camp. We have been going back and forth between a Tundra or equivalent with a pop-top cab over camper or a Land Cruiser (or GX470) with a hard shell roof top tent (tepui just started making one that I like). For us, with shipping our vehicle and everything, we are trying not to tow a trailer. Have you or any families out there have experience with our two options?
 

rlynch356

Defyota
For us (2 young girls and the 2 of us) we bought a used Horizon trailer with RTT, and already had an OzTent RV-5 (and 2 cots which were moving away from and using exped mega mats btw, saving the weight and time of dealing with the cots, as they are really not needed, the mega mat is excellent alone).

I am going to add a Fox wing to the trailer so the RV-5 zips in on one side and an extension panel as a wind brake.

that gives us room for 4+, easy setup, and easy-ish take down plus it all stores on the trailer. (the RV-5 lives on the drivers side box, foxing folds up and stays in place)
and gives us options to place the tent elsewhere if we want. We went 2 weekends ago as a family and setup was 30 minutes in the dark, and tear down more like 45-60, since the OZ takes a bit of time to get into the bag as well we had the cots on that trip, and wished we didn't.

add some time for dealing with the Foxwing (poles and pegs), and positioning the OZ but I realistically don't anticipate a lot more


Previously we just used the OZ with 2 cots and 2 Exped mats on the floor with reasonable room for 4.

if you don't mind the trailer - you could do an RTT on the truck and the trailer and accomplish the same thing and have faster setup and tear down (no tent nor mats to deal with)

for the family headed on the pan-am - I would look at options to fit 2 RTT's to the truck - I have seen this setup on Defender 110's before or a tacoma with a AT habitat and the sleeps 4 option
 
Last edited:

Kevinat36th

New member
Two RTT's is an interesting idea! Thanks.

I realized I kind of thread jacked the OP so I started a new thread in the South America planning forum for my question. Was excited that we had such similar needs. For you it seems hard to beat the trailer with RTT option
 

calicamper

Expedition Leader
Side note on the tall expanded metal rear trailer gate. Its a giant hit to mileage on the highway. I convinced a close friend to remove his during a trip. His mileage average jumped 4mpg and he didnt have issues holding higher speeds in big head winds. ;-)
Great for around town mow and blow gigs but terrible for highway speeds.
 

calicamper

Expedition Leader
I was just told to start planning our Yellow Stone trip!! Never been always wanted to see it.
Rig will be our 2010 2.5 Limited Subaru OB. Tires are at the wear bars, just ordered BFG T/A Advanced Sports, basically a slightly more beefy and harder compound rubber touring tire. I put 50,000 on the older design tire and hands down the best combo of durability and retained highway qualities.

We'll be towing the Lifetime trailer. Loaded we'll be running about 1300lbs. And averaging about 21mpg for the trip. Thinking 6-7 days.
 

bald.eagle

Observer
I'm in the same boat as you, JJMAC. We have three kids (8, 5, and 3, and a 75lb Chesapeake retriever) and I'm trying to figure out what the best setup will be for primitive camping. I don't get out on offroad trails or anything too remote, but I'd like to get out on some forest service roads and away from the campgrounds. Cost is always a huge factor for me and must be considered first and foremost.

I have a Suburban and would love to add a RTT with an awning and annex, utilizing the cargo area in the truck for another sleep platform. That makes for 4 sleep spots. My solution for kid #5 would be a suspended cot in the front seat area:

(not my picture)


While I like the portability and novelty of this setup, the inability to take the truck away from the campsite without breaking down camp makes it less than ideal. I'm a project guy, I love having an ongoing build and I love the idea of building a custom trailer with a RTT, gear storage, auxilary power, etc. However, when I look at the cost of that option, we're in the range of a pop-up camper, and that's not even factoring in the time it would take to design and build a suitable trailer- that in the end wouldn't even sleep all 5 family members (plus the dog!), so we'd still have to rely on the cargo area sleep platform.

The more I think about it, a smaller pop-up camper is the right solution for us. As several have said, being able to hit the road at a moment's notice is invaluable. The less planning and packing required for a trip, the more often you'll get out into the woods. I also think about inclement weather, and being stuck in a pop-up with the family definitley beats a big tent or even inside the truck! I think with a beefier suspension (axle flip or even axle-less options) and some basic upgrades to the camper itself (power, ac/heat, toilet/shower) would really be worthwhile and would make a very comfortable base camp.
 

Martinjmpr

Wiffleball Batter
Lightweight travel trailers?

Family of 5 here. 3kids. 13, 12 and 3. Have been trying to figure out the best camp set up for a long time. I guess this post will be more of a rambling than anything, but I am looking for suggestions from those who have found the perfect set up for family.

What we want/need:

Off-road capability:
We are not looking to traverse the Mackenzie trail by any means, but we do like to get off the beaten track and need a set up that can go anywhere our tow vehicle (4x4) can go.

Currently rocking a Ford Expedition and will drive this into the ground…



…. but will most likely be adding a Tacoma or Frontier when the older kids head off to college:





Fast deployment and easy takedown:

Our past setups (some you will see below) have been a real pain to setup and to take down. Especially after rain. Returning home and having to set everything back up to clean and air out is a real pain in the arse and something I really want to minimize as much as possible.

After much research I think this would be the ideal setup:

A teardrop trailer with a Roof Top tent for kiddos and vestibules on both sides. One for entry to RTT and one for an area to hang if raining or buggy.

Socal:



or Inca:



Pros to the teardrop:

- Hard sided and no headaches packing up when its raining. It can be used by by wife and I without RTT when kids move out and we are far into retirement.

- Nimble and quick. Its just easy to pack and go. No need to set it up first and pack before leaving.

- Kitchen built in. Hot water. Sink. The whole shebang.

Cons:

- Price, Price, Price. Way too much for us to afford right now. Fully loaded its about 25k. That is crazy money.

This will take years to save for and may never be an option.
.
Well, I'll weigh in here. Wife and I were in a homebuilt Teardrop for 3 seasons (2012 - 2014.) We did a total of 24 camping trips, 70 nights in those three seasons and traveled everywhere from all over Colorado to Glacier NP, Grants Pass, OR, Yosemite and Sequoia, down to Texas and Oklahoma, probably close to 20,000 miles at least. While it worked well for the two of us, by the time we neared the end of our third season it was pretty clear to us that we needed something a little bigger, and factory built (home built trailers are like "project" cars: There's always something that needs fixing and pretty soon, the fixing becomes a full time occupation.) After our third season we started looking at bigger, factory built campers and ultimately decided on a T@B Clamshell because that would give us a "real" camper we could stand up in, but also kept the outside galley/kitchen that we loved on our Teardrop. We just finished season 2 with the T@B and we're loving it still.
.
Now, as to your situation: Understand that if you're looking at a $20K+ Teardop, you're looking at the "top end" teardrop trailers - basically the "Airstream" of teardrops. Don't think that most Teardrops cost that much. In fact, I can't think of any reason to pay more than maybe $10,000 or $12,000, tops. Scott (Scott B on these boards) had a custom built off-road capable Little Guy teardrop made and I'm sure his cost was lower than that (though you'd have to ask him.) To be honest, some of the prices I see on these custom built teardrops make me :rolleyes: a bit. Because, come on, at the end of the day, it's still a teardrop, no matter how nice it is.
.
I don't know if you've shopped RVs much, but you can buy a LOT of trailer for $20k. Now its a true fact (and a bit unfortunate) that the build quality of a lot of modern RVs and travel trailers leaves something to be desired (that's actually why we went with the T@B because it is a cut above the average slapped-together RV in terms of build quality.) But if you shop around and have realistic expectations, you can find a decent trailer for a good price.
.
I'm not saying that I would recommend either a T@B or a teardrop for you - not with kids, because they're simply not made for more than 2 people. After all, if you get to your campsite and you have to set up a bunch of tents for the kids, then that puts you right back in the situation you're in now with having to set up a bunch of stuff and potentially take it down in the rain, worry about tents collapsing, etc. Ain't nobody got time for that! :D
.
I also agree with you about the limitations of having your sleeping arrangements attached to your vehicle - as with the RTT or any kind of sleep-in camper. Those kinds of setups work well if you are moving every day, or if you can set up a camp and you don't want to go anywhere that your feet or maybe a bicycle can't take you. But if you want to set up a camp and then spend a few days driving to other destinations, then it creates the problem of having to tear down and set up your camp every day and that can get old real quick.
.
So, what I would recommend is looking at light weight, single-axle travel trailers. There are actually quite a few and this segment of the RV market seems to be getting more attention lately. It seems to have started a few years back with the R-Pod and then that was so successful that other manufacturers started making straight up copies of the R-Pod, the Winnebago Winnie Drop and Jayco Hummingbird to name just two (and there are more.) These have a single-axle, a teardrop-type shape (although they are full size trailers that you can stand up in) and typically weigh between about 2200 - 3300lbs. Now that's not light weight (though they're classified as "light weights" compared to the big 2 and 3 axle travel trailers and 5th wheels) but you can pull it with a mid-sized truck without too much difficulty.
.
There are also "hybrid" travel trailers, which have pop-out tent sections for sleeping. Many of these can accommodate a family of 5.
.
Of course, any kind of trailer like this is going to cramp your style a bit in terms of off-roading. They're not designed for off-road travel and shouldn't be used that way. But, if you're willing to adjust your trip planning by going to a location and setting up camp and then taking "day trips" from there (as opposed to going "straight through" from one destination to another) they can be a good option and offer a comfortable travel experience.
 

MOguy

Explorer
When camping I DO NOT want to crawl in and out of things. I have a tent I can stand in for my primitive camping and tow a Hybrid (2400lbs and almost 24 feet when folded out) for campground camping. Over the past 8 years or so I have had 3 different campers. The Hybrid is by far our favorite but it is not the best option for off road camping.

For off roading I have a cargo trailer with a spring over on 33" tires. Nothing built out on it. It has a regular hitch and is 5X10 so it has it limitations.

I like the cargo trailer because it is versatile. Sometimes when I have gone camping with cargo trailer I have had to take a go kart, other times I take kayaks, maybe bikes. I have even taken a tent an AC and a generator when it was hot. I just load into totes and bags and strap things down.

 

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Ray Hyland

Expedition Leader
We went through a similar process, small tents, then a Springbar (huge, heavy, awesome), a hard trailer, etc.

But now that the kids are teens you might want to consider going back to small tents. That's what we just did for our recent 9-month trip. We had a 2-man tent for the wife and I, and a 3-man tent for the kids. They were right beside us so we had no safety concerns, but it was also nice having the added privacy now that the kids are older. Also now they are older they can set it up and pack it away themselves.

And then we put an awning on the truck for cooking under or hanging out when it was raining.

It was nice to go back to a simpler setup for a change.

Of course, I also have a removable AT Habitat Roof for the truck when we want to Glamp it up.

http://adventuretrailers.com/vehicle-habitat/

:)
 

Rezarf <><

Explorer
We have a family of 5 as well. My wife and I and our kiddos... 7,5 and 3. I have a FJ40 with a trailer and RTT. Honestly, we have arrived currently at a good ground tent that goes up quick. I can setup ours just under 10 minutes solo (fully erected, guy lines and fly) so not so bad, a little slower to take down but not by much. All that said we have decided that a pop-up during this season of life is in our future. I don't know if they can be beat. Some models have storage outside the front box on slides that can be loaded and unloaded with the tent up or down. That is a big plus in my book. Add drawers to the tow rig (we have a Land Crusier) and I think your packing becomes less of an issue.

 
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