Friday, August 15, 2008

Camping Off The Ground...The Tent Trailer

As you know we did the trial camping run a couple of weeks ago....made our notes....and were ready to go again this last weekend on the annual trip where this blog was spun to life last summer. That would be our annual wine tasting and camping weekend. But friends who join us on this trip and had been on our trial trip had me fuming with envy. Why? I should be excited right? It's another family who dare to join us on our adventures outdoors with small children. What I was envious of was a 15ft long metal box they towed behind their SUV that popped up into this wonderful box of nirvana with a queen and double bed, banquette for eating, stove for a cup of tea or coffee whenever the mood beckoned (mind you fires are a no! no! here in wildfire country), and this wonderful warm outdoor shower to wash away all the dirt, mud, sand, etc that has found it's way into every nook and cranny of their child's body.

So I must admit we came home from that trial weekend and I set out on Craiglist to secure a hopefully affordable, used, but functioning tent trailer to house my family of four for as long as it will take us or until our kids lay down in our driveway and refuse to go anymore. After the budget talk with the hubby...I agreed to push out a project here and downgrade a purchase there and I had a price point and was off and running. I found a couple of possibilities and was scheduling go-sees/showings. In preparation I of course begged my friends, who smartly bought theirs used from a dealer (smart because they may have paid a bit more than us, but they also have the dealer to fall back on for instructions, questions, perhaps warrantied respairs, etc), for "what to look fors." I cruised the Internet for reviews and other buyer's guide info. I honestly didn't find a lot.

So now that we own, yes we DID it...own a tent trailer and so many friends and readers within two weeks have said oh we have been thinking about getting one too I thought I had better get our buyer's guide out there:

  • Canvas: Basically the cover for your nirvana. Ensure there are no rips or mildew. A new cover can run $750 on up.
  • Zippers: Again replacement, unless you are a seamstress, can be challenging and costly. Climb in and zip and unzip every window and covering
  • Embellishments: Buttons on cushion, draperies, etc.. Easily replaced, but still something to check out.
  • Flooring: Most flooring is a linoleum and could be replaced, but check in out for stains (leaks from appliances or equipment), cuts, etc..
  • Electrical: Check everything functions off the plug-in, off the battery, and off the tow vehicle (notably brakes and brake/turn lights). Granted some things may be simply blown bulbs, but be weary of non-operational turn/brake lights. Labor at lot of of RV servicers if you are not a DIY person can run $150/hour and up.
  • Water: Put some water in the tank and check all line for leaks as well as appliances...sink and outdoor shower (if applicable)
  • Gas: Again check for leaks as well as functionality of stove, water heater, and any other appliance that run off this
  • Open and Close Every Little Door: There are so many small storage spots under cushions, drawers, etc where there could be damage hiding.
  • Put'er Up and Take'er Down: Do not be afraid to ask to put her up and take her down to ensure everything is sliding and moving the way it should.

And lastly...if you are going to a look-see/showing you think may turn good and it is not a dealer then ask them about their brake/lighting unit and what configuration it is. Our trailer is a 7 way...our SUV is a 4 way. Meaning our SUV supported all the lights, but not the brakes and the plugs that connect the two vehicles look nothing alike. So we drove it home...very carefully...and very slowly in the light with no functioning light system on the trailer. Then were required to go to a RV dealer/service and purchase an adapter, ~$50, to make the two vehicles work together.

So we are still working out all of our kinks, but are super excited about our new little home on wheels. With one weekend in it under our belts I already understand why my friends have theirs and why my jealousy was warranted. Just the lack of unpacking and knowing it is down there ready to go with the simple loading of a bag of clothes and a cooler of food...well it has caused two more unplanned for trips to go on the books this summer/fall. It makes taking the child on the go...camping....a lot easier on the parents who do the preparations and clean-up after. I will admit this purchase was more about me than the kids. But in the end it will allow them to experience many more camping destinations...and the tents are downstairs, but not forgotten and will be used.

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