Choosing the RIGHT Trailer

Posted on Mar 6, 2023

New to Camping?  So what type of camping do you plan? Will you travel across the country, or typically travel 2 hours or less and camp in Ontario, or will you find a seasonal site and park your trailer? Next, how many people will need beds?  How old are your children?  Should you plan for extra beds for family growth of children inviting friends to come along? The term RV means Recreational Vehicle so that would include motor homes.  This article addresses the non-motorized RV only.  

With those questions answered now what type of trailer will best suit you?

A TENT trailer has lightweight and thus can be towed by small SUVs, small trucks, or some of the stronger cars on the market. Determining the towing capacity of your vehicle is critical to the selection of the appropriate trailer style.   Tent trailers are spacious and can accommodate as many as 7 people. They also require the least investment and hold their value very well. Furthermore, they can be stored in your garage. 

The downside to tent trailers is that they require some effort to set up.  While that may not be an issue if you camp for at least a week or more at a time it will become tiresome if you are traveling across the country and having to set up and take down every day. Also be aware that in some parks where bears roam, you will not be granted access to that campground.  

Most tent trailers do not have washroom facilities or air conditioners.  Larger tent trailers can have both but the investment required puts them at or near the cost of a Hybrid which offers more amenities. 

HYBRID trailers are the next step up from a tent trailer in relation to price but offer a full range of features not typically available in a tent model.  The are several advantages to a hybrid travel trailer starting with the weight.  Hybrids are the lightest in the travel trailer category and many models are available. Features include air conditioning, fully equipped washrooms, ovens, TVs, and bunk beds. Most, if not all, floor plans offer sleeping space for 5 or more. This style of trailer appeals to the camper that loved the tent trailer but wants a full washroom, possibly bunk beds, or any of the many features offered. The weight is less than travel trailers with comparable features making this an attractive option for a wider demographic. Of equal importance is the price point which falls in a range above tent trailers but below travel trailers.  Now understand that the price range for any category of RV can be broad and thus will overlap with the adjacent category. The reference to pricing, therefore, is general.

The downside to the Hybrid is the fabric bed ends which limits the camping options to locations that do not have a threat of bear attacks. 

TRAVEL TRAILERS as a category generally refers to pull-behind configurations.  This is the largest of the groups or categories and appeals to the greatest of the demographics,  By extension of that fact the variety of floor plans and features are the most extensive of RVs.  The second major differentiation is the type of construction. Trailers can be built with either a wood frame or an aluminum frame.  Wood-framed trailers have aluminum sheeting for the exterior walls whereas aluminum-framed trailers have a fiberglass exterior.  The weight differences between these two classes are minimal with the lighter of the two being an aluminum-framed trailer. Fiberglass trailers are significantly more expensive than wood-framed trailers. 

When shopping for this type of trailer you would begin by defining how you expect to use the trailer.  That can be a) for extensive traveling where you may plan to see the country and will experience a wide variety of road conditions. b) Short trips, typically for one or two-week vacations and weekends, c) Minimal traveling to full seasonal sites where the trailer will be parked for the entire season or seasons.  

The preferred style and construction for the a) option would be the fiberglass construction given the typically lighter weight and stronger construction. This choice will hold up better over rough roads and will optimize fuel consumption. Where the b) selection is more likely to be the one for you either the wood-framed or the fiberglass models are viable options. If c) is your selection the wood-framed models are desirable since the trailer will be stationary and, in fact, the larger trailers are not typically available in the aluminum-framed models.

Bunk Models are the most popular given they offer more sleeping space and are thus more of a family floor plan than a Couples model. Most bunk models include an outdoor kitchen.  Sizes range from 20 feet overall length to 42 feet so no matter which of the uses described above applies to you and your family a bunk model is available.

DESTINATION Trailers are typically in the 40-foot range but certainly smaller trailers are very commonly parked on a seasonal site as well. The advantage of a 40-foot trailer is found where it is virtually a portable cottage thus space is a significant factor. These models will typically have two to 5 slides and thus have excellent floor space.  A slightly higher ceiling is also an advantage.

A 5TH WHEEL is a distinct form of travel trailer identified by the height of the trailer to allow for the fifth wheel hitching system. There are two significant advantages to this style of trailer. The first most recognized is the ceiling height which gives the residents an environment more akin to their home atmosphere. The second is the handling characteristics of the trailer.  The fifth wheel hitch gives the trailer a more integrated connection with the tow vehicle. That is particularly significant in reversing the unit into a parking position. 

5th Wheel trailers offer virtually every floor plan available in travel trailers. 

The disadvantage of this category is primarily cost. The price difference is significant thus the category represents a much smaller footprint than the previously listed options. Some consideration should also be given to towing costs as the trailer being so high will have a greater wind resistance to travel trailers and some campsites may not be accessible if the tree canopy is too low. 

The TOY HAULER group is very unique in that the primary consideration relates to the  "toy" being housed. The towing capacity of the vehicle is always the first question asked but with toy haulers, the weight of the toy being added can be very significant. Again with this category both tow behind and 5th wheel models are available as are a wide variety of floor plans. 


Article Tags

  • Tent Trailers
  • Hybrids
  • Travel Trailers
  • 5th Wheels
  • Toy Haulers