Well, not sure if we are the luckiest family or if we just bit off a bit more than we can chew but as of last month my husband and I are the new owners to a 18 1/2 ft little piece of heaven on wheels. I have been wanting to get a little light weight camper for YEARS! (And I finally have it, yeah!) We kind of plunged into this ownership without coming up for air but it was SUCH a good deal that we couldn’t pass it up.
So without boring you to tears, I will give you a quick rundown of how this impromptu family vacation took flight. For the last several years I have been watching Ebay, RV Trader, Craigslist, and many other sites waiting for a great deal on a chance to own a little, affordable camper that we could tow behind our (then) unreliable smallish truck. I have found a variety crazy good deals but my husband always vetos going to pick them up. My previous steal I found was in New Jersey. Over a 24 drive one way, without allotting extra time for stops and a baby. That deal got vetoed! The deal before that I found was an oldish camper in Alabama with an extensive Title explanation on Craigslist.
Well, needless to say after all of my “gems” my husband jumped at my find of a 2010, like-new camper within a 1 1/2 hour drive, that was available from a reputable dealership. After the approval from my esposo (spouse, if you are not from Texas), I called in an made an offer. The camper was already on an Independence day inventory sale and marked down several thousand $ but I offered $500 less than the sale price and was ecstatic when they accepted my offer.
Prior to taking my offer the salesman let me know that if I did make an offer (and it was accepted) the camper wouldn’t be ready for 1-2 weeks. I told him that Independence day weekend was the only long weekend we had all summer and the offer was conditional on the camper being ready by Wednesday afternoon. I made my offer first thing Tuesday morning. Well the salesman said he would talk to his “team” and get back with me. As he put it, “I have bosses who have bosses and they all have to say yes.” Within an hour I got the news that our offer was accepted with my time condition.
The next day after after my husband got off work we headed out to claim our prize. After getting stuck in traffic for over an hour and finally getting to the dealership we got to finish our transaction and see our new-to-us trailer. 2+ hours later we hit the road and headed out for our first trailer campout. I was pumped, my husband was a little more focused on learning to drive with a camper attached to the vehicle, that didn’t seem so “compact” in Dallas traffic.
We arrived to the campsite about 2 or 3 a.m. Thursday morning after a 6+ hour drive. I will say that it was very nice to not have to pitch a tent in the wee hours of the morning. After getting the trailer in place and securing it with wheel wedges, stabilizers, etc., we showered in the nearby public restroom and called it a night. Getting everything in place took about an hour but it was dark and it was our first time with the new trailer. That said, it definitely took less time than setting up a tent in the dark.
Using our camper for the first time was definitely a learning experience from which we haven’t graduated yet but it was also a lot of fun as well. I am sure it will take us several times using the camper before we figure out how everything works. The camper came with running water, 2 beds, microwave, stove, ac, and working toilet. All of those things were very nice to have available 24 hours a day.
Since it poured rain for about half the trip it was really nice to have a real roof over our heads. It doesn’t matter how well you set up a tent or if it says “waterproof” on the label. In my experience, all tents leak water inside by the end of a really wet campout and you have rain water pooled in every corner of your tent. The camper was a step up from that, for sure. It also felt a bit safer when it started to lightning outside.
The thing I loved most about the camper versus previous tent camping experiences, is that there is a place for the kids to get out of the heat. I bought an extra wide baby gate and was able to place it in front of the bed creating a sort of makeshift playpen where my daughter and her cousins could bounce around, have some snacks, watch cartoons and cool down!
I also really loved having a toilet in the middle of the night. During the day we used the regular public restroom but at night or during the bouts of rain, we had the trailer facilities to utilize. During the whole trip I never got adventurous enough to try out the shower. We just used the restroom next door for bathing but I still liked knowing the shower was there, if needed.
If the next time we camp we stay somewhere without bathing facilities, I will let you know what I think about the “wet bath” in the camper. That is the only feature I was not crazy about. The camper does not have a proper separate bath/shower and toilet areas. Essentially, a wet-bath is an enclosed restroom in which you sit on the toilet and use a hand-held shower to bath. In a pinch, I am sure it will work but not my first choice for showering. As my daughter is one year old and only takes baths, I sanitized one of our empty coolers and bathed her in that. It was a bit red-neck and we got a little water on the floor but it will work until she is old enough to take a shower.
The only thing this compact trailer was really missing was an oven. During my research I noticed that only older, compact trailers have ovens. The currently manufactured compact, light- weight models just come standard with a microwave. As we like to have baked foods on our campouts, we found a way to work around this issue.
I located an under-cabinet mount toaster-oven on Amazon and my husband mounted it to the trailer cabinetry. You could get a regular toaster-oven but with the limited counter space we found the cabinet-mount oven to be very functional. If you decide to try the same idea, I will tell you to remove the oven from the mounting plate for transport. I think if it was left during transport, the oven might slip off the mount while being moved. However, the oven easily comes on and off the mounting plate while the mounting plate itself stays attached to the under-side of the cabinetry.
Overall, the camper was a big hit. I was a dry, cool place out of the rain and we really enjoyed having it. I look forward to many more family adventures and writing about them for you but for now that is my first impressions about trailer camping and can’t wait to hit the open road again!