Trailer and RTT or an enclosed camper?

VirginiaDoug

New member
Traded my highly modified Xterra for a more family-friendly Pathfinder (that happens to have a V8!). As I modify the Pathfinder for my purposes - mostly camping at fairly accessible sites - I'm going to be building a camp trailer. My son and I just tent it at the moment and I haven't had him out anywhere very remote as he's only seven. I'd like to take him out more and more frequently as he grows and a modicum of comfort would go a long way to keeping him interested.

Anyway, I'm rambling. What would you prefer for your rigs? An expedition trailer with a roof top tent or a proper "teardrop" camper (converted enclosed trailer)? Cost and construction considerations are welcome variables. Fabrication isn't a huge issue, within reason. I'm cheap, so right out of the gate, buying a respectable RTT hurts my soul. I imagine gear would be easier to store and access with the open trailer though. What say you, please. Thank you for your responses.
 

Jnich77

Director of Adventure Management Operations
Definitely a camper of some kind. I'd shoot for something like a used Castia. By the time you buy an enclosed trailer and do all the work, you have almost bought a used Castia.
 

Camfam

New member
I like the trailer with RTT myself. You can let your imagination run wild if you DIY. My 9 year old sons eyes light up every time we open our tent up. Something about sleeping way up off the ground is cool. Another reason for me, my trailer is small so if I get a bad/small camp spot, it’s easy to move around.
 

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old_CWO

Active member
split the difference: find a clean used pop up. You will still get the tent experience but it's a little more practical when the kids are young. Clean used ones are usually available for less money than a new RTT. They're not a beast to tow and have room for showers and potties if you need it.
 

Teardropper

Active member
An expedition trailer with a roof top tent or a proper "teardrop" camper
I can't imagine having to climb a ladder to get in and out of a tent, let alone use it at 0300 to take a pee break. But that's just me, I suppose.

Beyond that, teardrops have close to zero setup. They don't flap in the breeze, there is no problem with putting them away wet, and they are warmer (or cooler with the fan running.)



Tony
 

old_CWO

Active member
I can't imagine having to climb a ladder to get in and out of a tent, let alone use it at 0300 to take a pee break. But that's just me, I suppose.

Beyond that, teardrops have close to zero setup. They don't flap in the breeze, there is no problem with putting them away wet, and they are warmer (or cooler with the fan running.)



Tony
Let's not dismiss that teardrops just plain look cooler! The permanent and ready to go galley of a teardrop is also a huge advantage in my opinion.

We had pop-ups for years and they were great for camping with kids. You get a lot of sleeping space for what you're towing and they can be a good low cost starter rig. Nowadays I mostly travel where it's windy so tents of any kind are out and probably will never have another pop up. RTT continues to be trendy and popular but I would never put up with the inherent negatives given the price point on them.

One thing for sure: there's more than one way to skin this cat but probably no "perfect" solution.
 

Mass_Mopar

Keep it simple stupid
We lived with a RTT on top of a wrangler for a few years before we opted to have a 5x8 cargo trailer built for us, with a roof rack for a RTT.

Our primary considerations with the trailer were:
  • Big enough to sit inside / eat a meal / get changed / etc - our #1 priority was having a small space for enjoying life out of the elements with hard sides. After eating meals standing under awnings getting soaked by sideways rain and standing in mud & puddles, putting said awnings away soaking wet or broken from strong wind, we decided a small box on wheels would make our trips much more enjoyable. That said, we wanted something as small and lightweight as we could get away with, since we were towing it with a wrangler. Size and weight are the enemies of fuel economy and maneuverability.
  • We opted to avoid "Off-road" trailers in general. #1 they tended to be much more expensive especially when they included interior living space, but #2 we realized if we bought a big expensive off-road trailer, we probably wouldn't choose to drag it down gnarly off-road trails anyway. The vast majority of our trips include long highway travels, base camps for 1-3 days, local exploring, then moving on and repeating. A regular road trailer will do this with ease, and if you get a well-made one, it won't complain too much when you drag it down fire roads. Couple other benefits - gas mileage (skinny, small tires, lower ride height), roof height (if our trailer was jacked up on a timbren suspension with 33s to match the jeep, the Roof tent would be almost inaccessible for deploying and stowing)
We feel like we get the best of both worlds with this trailer - I put a vinyl plank floor in it, built an open "L" shaped bench so we can store things in totes underneath, built a fold-down table, added a 45L fridge, and built a small bench in the V-nose to house the dual house batteries and the electrical system. Our 3 year old has slept inside the trailer in her pack-n-play since she was 6 months old and has recently graduated to a kid size cot. Parents and dog sleep in the RTT up on the roof which we all enjoy immensely. Eventually I plan to change the layout of the interior to be able to convert from bench to full size bed so the whole family can sleep inside if the weather is truely terrible, but I haven't bothered yet. The trailer itself has 5'3" interior height, is a 5x8 cargo trailer so it's track is identical to the wrangler, and the box is the same width as the wrangler, so it tows great and I can see around it without tow mirrors.

All told, the entire setup ran me around 10-12k. I opted for a lot of bells and whistles on the trailer, including insulation, electric brakes, hardened roof for walking on, etc, so you could easily build one yourself for less. Our roof top tent is 96" long by 72" wide, so plenty of room up there when it's open. We also really enjoy the ability to detach and explore with our tow vehicle unburdened by the weight the trailer now handles.

Trailer3.jpgtrailer4.jpgtrailer5 (1).jpgtrailer6 (1).PNGtrailer1.jpg
 

Graton

Member
I'd vote for a hard sided trailer for all the reasons Teardropper mentioned - a RTT doesn't have much of an advantage over a quick setup ground tent (e.g. Gazelle Tents). I have an AT Habitat, which I love, but thinking of going with an Off-Grid Expedition teardrop in the near future.
 

calicamper

Expedition Leader
Depends on your trip style and what sort of stuff you do once on location. Many people on this forum drive, sleep drive. Which case vehicle based bunk and no trailer works best. My family we use camp as our cheap hotel, while we go out hiking, biking, being tourists etc, which case base camp not tied to the vehicle works best.

Region? Tent camping works great till you hit windy no shelter places “Moab” or discover the great shoulder months with no summer crowds but risk cold or harsh weather that just isn’t tent enjoyable etc.

I’m 8 yrs in with tent on a trailer, I know all its negatives and the future places we want to visit has me thinking a new more RV style trailer TAXA Mantis? With heater, AC, hard walls and individual bunks for my two kids 11 and 8 is probably the best solution. The tent on a trailer has been great I’ll probably just keep it given the trailer doubles as my truck to haul stuff.
 

Airmapper

High-Tech Redneck
split the difference: find a clean used pop up. You will still get the tent experience but it's a little more practical when the kids are young. Clean used ones are usually available for less money than a new RTT. They're not a beast to tow and have room for showers and potties if you need it.
Best suggestion I've seen honestly. If we are really being honest. Keep it off really rough roads and you are golden.

I currently run a M416 and RTT. I also have a Coleman Sea Pine Pop-up trailer. I've towed both to the Blue Ridge Mountains and back. Both have merit.

I'm single, so currently the only person I have to keep happy is me and all I need is a place to sleep, so my preference is the M416. It's light, compact, and rugged as a brick so I can tow it places one wouldn't normally want to tow a trailer if I so desire. Me and a buddy did a trip last week and on the way home went hiking at the top of a rather washed out gravel road, I'd never have taken the Pop-up there, but the M416 was not a bother in the least to drag up the mountain. I mean you can have it bouncing like a rubber ball back there, only thing it's going to hurt is your stuff rattling around in the tub. I like the setup, I think it's awesome, but I recognize it's not ideal for everyone.

However, if money were no object and comfort was king, and I find myself with a family and can afford it, I see a nice square-drop being where I would gravitate to. Keep it small as practical while still having a ready, clean and dry place to rest or sleep without any extra setup.

But for general family camping for a weekend in one place, with no rough roads in mind, the good old Pop-up is pretty solid. I grew up with my folks doing that and it just works.
 

ottsville

Observer
You've gotten lots of good replies. One thing about teardrops to remember is your kid is probably going to quickly outgrow sharing a bed with you, which means a tent becomes an additional thing to carry whether ground or rtt.
 

alanymarce

Active member
In our case - neither of the above. We converted our vehicle to have a bed inside, along with storage and fridge, as well as a variety of other smaller modifications from comfort and efficiency. When we need to carry a second spare wheel, sand ladders, and extra fuel they go on the roof rack. No RTT, and no trailer. We'res relatively light, fuel efficient, and can go more or less anywhere. If you have a trailer then some places are not really accessible, and if you park the trailer you have to come back for it. The RTT is better in this sense, however adds wind resistance, hence fuel consumption, and lifts the CoG, affecting stability (and yes, this is true with the stuff we sometimes carry on our roof rack, but most of the time the heaviest weight (the fuel) isn't there - the cans are empty or not present).

Not an option for more than two people, obviously...
 

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old_CWO

Active member
Keep it off really rough roads and you are golden.
With a few simple upgrades you can take them on some reasonably rough terrain. I had this little guy 20 years ago and it was already old when I got it. With a simple spring over lift you can see it had plenty of ground clearance even with the 5.30-12 tires. The interior cabinets were beefed up with some glue, screws and poplar 1x1 and 1x2 reinforcing. It went unscathed up some pretty hairy unimproved roads in Eastern and Western Washington for several hunting seasons. For reference - the XJ had about 4" of lift and 32x11.50s on it in that photo.

trailerleftside.JPG
 

Airmapper

High-Tech Redneck
With a few simple upgrades you can take them on some reasonably rough terrain. I had this little guy 20 years ago and it was already old when I got it. With a simple spring over lift you can see it had plenty of ground clearance even with the 5.30-12 tires. The interior cabinets were beefed up with some glue, screws and poplar 1x1 and 1x2 reinforcing. It went unscathed up some pretty hairy unimproved roads in Eastern and Western Washington for several hunting seasons. For reference - the XJ had about 4" of lift and 32x11.50s on it in that photo.
Can't beat those older trailers, the saying "they don't make them like they used to" fits all too well. Personally I'd trade you my 2004 model that is twice the size for yours in a second. It's a better made trailer and I know it.

The newer ones, say late 90's and newer, are just very shoddily constructed. Thin metal in the frame and not enough frame. Brittle plastic body covering (I busted the body backing it over a small smooth uneven spot in the yard.....) Wood that has more in common with cardboard than trees. I'll fitting and poorly designed lid seals that let everything in. That is what drives my warning to keep them off rough roads more than the suspension setup. Unless you plan to crawl the whole way under 1mph, they will rattle themselves apart.

My parents got an early 80's Sun Lite camper when I was a young kid. It was solid. The canvas rotted off of it, but had it been replaced and some other minor repairs made, I believe it would still be viable to this day. The frame and body were good.
 
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