RV Camper vs Travel Trailer: Which is best for you?

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RV camper vs travel trailer: what’s the difference and which is right for you and your family?? Plus how on earth do you pick there are so many different types of campers! Both rv campers and travel trailers have different options and features. Both options have their unique advantages and disadvantages, and the decision depends on your personal style and budget. Let’s get started so you can start adventuring!

RV camper vs Travel Trailer pin with photo collage of campers and RVs

The difference between an RV Camper and a Travel Trailer

An RV, or recreational vehicle, is a type of motorized vehicle that is designed for living and traveling. It combines a living space and a vehicle into one unit. RVs come in different sizes and styles, from small camper vans to large, luxury motorhomes. They have their own engines and can be driven on their own, without the need for a separate vehicle to tow them.

A travel trailer, on the other hand, is a type of towable RV that is designed to be towed behind a separate vehicle, such as a pickup truck or SUV. Travel trailers come in different sizes and styles, from small teardrop trailers to large fifth-wheel trailers. They are essentially a mobile living space that can be unhitched from the towing vehicle and set up at a campsite or other location.

RV camper set up at a campsite, example of a 24 foot class c RV
This is an example of a 24ft long class C RV all set up and ready for adventure!

Different types of RVs:

There are so many kinds of RVs and what type of rv that works best for your family will really depend on how you plan to use it and what your camping style is. Are you looking for a full time living space vs a weekend getaway? Or, perhaps you want something that can be off grid and travel to smaller less known locations? 

Let’s go through some of the kinds so you are a little familiar with them and what the benefits of each are. 

  • Class A Motorhomes: These are the largest rvs and most luxurious, built on a specially designed chassis. They typically have all the amenities of a home, including a full kitchen, bathroom, living room, and bedroom. The often usually include slide outs for extra space as well. Class A motorhomes can be up to 45 feet long (these are large RVs!) and can cost well over $100,000.
  • Class B Motorhomes: Also known as camper vans, Class B motorhomes are built on a van chassis and are smaller and more maneuverable than Class A motorhomes. They usually include a bed, small kitchen, and bathroom facilities, but may not have as much living space or amenities as a Class A motorhome. Class B motorhomes can be anywhere from 16 to 22 feet long and can cost between $50,000 and $150,000.
  • Class C Motorhomes: These motorhomes are built on a truck or van chassis with an attached cab section. They are larger than Class B motorhomes but smaller than Class A motorhomes, with a distinct over-the-cab sleeping area. Class C motorhomes typically have a full kitchen, bathroom, and living area, and can range from 20 to 32 feet long. They can cost anywhere from $50,000 to $200,000 depending on the features and amenities.
example of a large class a RV interior with slide outs
Large Class A RV interior

Things to consider when thinking about a motorhome: 

  1. Consider the size: the bigger the motorhome, the harder it is to drive and maneuver, especially on narrow, winding roads or dirt roads. Let’s be real, a large RV isn’t fitting down a narrow road or rough terrain. They are meant more for the open road. Think about where you plan to travel and whether you’ll be comfortable driving a larger motorhome in those conditions.
  2. Check campsite restrictions: Many campsites have length restrictions, so if you choose a larger motorhome, you may have fewer options for campsites. Make sure to research campsites ahead of time to ensure that they can accommodate the size of your motorhome.
  3. Think about your needs: Consider what amenities and features are important to you in a motorhome. If you plan to spend a lot of time on the road, you may want a larger motorhome with more living space and amenities. If you’re planning to do more outdoor activities, a smaller motorhome may be more practical.
  4. Take a test drive: Before making a decision, take a test drive of the motorhome you’re considering to see how it handles on the road and if you feel comfortable. This will give you a better sense of whether it’s the right size and type of motorhome for your needs.
  5. Engine: since the engine is a part of an RV you will need to decide what type of engine you want. Many RVs have the option for a diesel engine or more powerful engines if you are going off the beaten road. 
example of a large size 25 foot travel trailer
25 Feet Travel Trailer

Ok let’s dive into the types of travel trailers and things to consider for those

Types of Trailers:

There are many different shapes and styles of travel trailers.  Let’s review the common types of trailers

  • Fifth-wheel trailers/5th wheels: These are large travel trailers that are towed by a pickup truck with a special hitch mounted in the truck bed. Fifth-wheel trailers have a raised front section that extends over the bed of the truck, which provides more living space inside the trailer. They are usually more stable than other types of travel trailers because the weight is distributed over the truck’s rear axle.
  • Toy haulers: These are travel trailers that are designed to carry “toys” such as motorcycles, ATVs, or golf carts. They have a rear garage area with a ramp door for loading and unloading the toys. The garage area can also be used as a living space with fold-down beds or sofas.
  • Camper trailers: These are smaller travel trailers that can be towed by a variety of vehicles, including SUVs and trucks. They typically have a lower profile and are easier to tow than larger travel trailers.
  • Teardrop trailers: These are small, lightweight travel trailers that are shaped like a teardrop. They are usually designed for 1-2 people and have a basic sleeping area and a small kitchenette.
  • Pop-up trailers: These are lightweight travel trailers that can be collapsed and folded down for easy towing and storage. They have soft sides made of canvas or vinyl and are typically designed to sleep 4-6 people. Pop-up trailers usually have basic amenities like a small kitchenette and dinette, but may not have a bathroom or shower. They are a good option for camping enthusiasts who want the comforts of a travel trailer but prefer a more outdoorsy experience.

I will warn you that if you are doing your own research you may also see the terms: towable campers or conventional trailers. These are both just different names for a travel trailer. 

teardrop travel trailer example camping in the mountains
Small teardrop camper trailer in the mountians

Things to consider when thinking about a travel trailer:

  1. Tow Vehicle: When buying a travel trailer, you’ll need to have a separate tow vehicle capable of pulling the weight of the trailer. The weight of the trailer will determine the size and type of vehicle you need. A full-size truck or pick-up truck with a strong engine is typically recommended for a larger model, although some SUVs with high towing capacities may also work.
  2. Weight of the Trailer: The weight of the travel trailer is a crucial factor to consider when choosing a tow vehicle. Make sure to check the towing capacity of your vehicle and choose a trailer that falls within that range. Some new travel trailers are made lighter and can even be pulled by a midsize SUV.
  3. Type of Terrain: The type of terrain you’ll be driving on should also be considered when selecting a travel trailer. If you plan to travel off-road or in areas with steep inclines or declines, a four-wheel-drive vehicle may be necessary.
  4. Hitch Requirements: The type of hitch required to tow a travel trailer can vary depending on the size and weight of the trailer. Some larger trailers may require a special hitch like a fifth-wheel hitch or a gooseneck hitch, while smaller trailers can be towed with a standard ball hitch.
  5. Size of the Trailer: The size of the travel trailer can impact your camping options, as some campsites may have length or height restrictions. Additionally, larger trailers may be more difficult to maneuver and park in tight spaces.
rv camper vs travel trailer , which is better for you? pinterest pin with collage of campers and travel trailers

Want something other than a camper vs travel trailer?

There are some alternate options too!

Camper van

A camper van is a type of recreational vehicle (RV) that is built on a van chassis (larger then a standard van usually). They technically fit into the class c rvs category. It is essentially a van that has been converted into a small, mobile living space. Camper vans typically have a bed, a small kitchenette, and a seating area. Some may also have a bathroom or shower, although these features are less common due to the limited space.

Truck Camper

A truck camper is designed to be mounted on the bed of a pickup truck. It essentially turns the truck into a mobile living space. Truck campers are typically smaller and more compact. 

Consider the Places you will travel to before picking a camper vs travel trailer

The places you plan to travel can have a significant impact on the features you will need in a rv camper vs travel trailer. Here are some examples of locations and features that may be important:

  1. RV Parks: When staying in an RV park, you’ll likely have access to amenities such as electrical hookups, water, and sewage disposal. As such, you may not need a lot of self-sufficient features in your trailer or RV. However, you may want to consider features such as slide-outs or awnings that can expand your living space.
  2. National Parks: National parks often offer more limited amenities, so you may want to consider features such as a generator or solar panels that can provide power for your trailer or RV. Additionally, some national parks may have length or height restrictions, so be sure to choose a trailer or RV that can fit within those parameters.
  3. Camping Trips Off the Beaten Path (Boondocking): If you plan to take your trailer or RV on camping trips in more remote locations, you’ll want to consider features such as four-wheel drive, all-terrain tires, and a high-clearance frame that can handle rough terrain. You may also want to consider features such as a large water tank, a solar power system, and a composting toilet that can allow you to stay self-sufficient for longer periods of time.
  4. Day Trips: If you plan to use your trailer or RV for day trips, you may want to consider features such as a small kitchenette, bathroom, and sleeping area that can provide comfort and convenience during your travels. Additionally, features such as a retractable awning or outdoor grill can make it easier to enjoy the outdoors during your day trips.

Consider the amenities available at your destination, the type of terrain you’ll encounter, and whether you plan to stay in campgrounds or boondock. This can help you choose the right features to make your travels comfortable and enjoyable.

Last thoughts to think about: RV camper vs travel trailer

Before picking an rv camper vs travel trailer ask yourself these questions

  1. Where will you go and what amenities are there (do you have full hook-ups or do you need a generator or solar panels)
  2. What is your camping/travel style (do you want a smaller model or larger model)
  3. What is your budget (RVs cost more since you have the whole engine attached)
  4. What is the local availability and how soon do you want to hit the road (some companies have long wait times currently)

Still not sure how to do all this nature time with your family?

Let’s take a pause then: for some families, all this nature time and outdoor time can feel overwhelming. Usually, for us parents. I have lots of info on getting outside and making that time successful! Check out my article on learning to love nature time here, and on how to start family hiking here. Don’t worry my friends, I got your back! Now on to the best camping gifts for kids!

My vote on RV camper vs travel trailer:

We are team travel trailer!

After trying out both, a well as some tent camping! We are firmly in the team travel trailer camp. We like to feel like we are out camping (vs being in a large RV and feeling like we are in a hotel), we love cooking outside and spending most of our time outside. We use the trailer for sleeping and when the kids need a break on a day that is colder or rainy. We also love having a separate vehicle that we can take on day trips to explore the surrounding area more. If you have an RV you have to pack it up everytime you want to leave camp…No thank you! We like being able to leave the trailer set up and just take the tow vehicle.

two kids sitting in doorway of camper

Best Travel Trailer Brands

These travel trailers are lightweight making them easier to pull, and have the ability to add solar panels so you can go off the beaten road. They each have unique features like large windows, or outdoor kitchens that make them great choices!

  • Alto by Safari Condo: We love the expandable roof and teardrop shape. I mean all the windows! It is compact but can still fit a family of 4. It also has a small kitchen area which is always helpful! Check them out the Alto here!
  • Escape 19: This is made out of fiberglass so it is lightweight. The company has many different designs to fit different family sizes. Check out the Escape here!
  • NOBO by Forest River: Ok, I LOVE this one. It is lightweight and built to be taken anywhere! They have a few different sizes, but I love the smallest size (NB10.6). It has no frills and is designed to be a toy hauler. But the sofa bed in the back folds out and add a roof tent to the top so it sleeps the whole family. But, the part I am in love with is the extended awnings and the outdoor kitchen! It is definitely more roughing it and a camping feel, but I love that! Check out the NOBO here.

Ok, you have all the facts on travel trailers and RVs. Now it’s time to decide which direction is right for you and your family!

Post Disclaimer

DISCLAIMER: Nothing in this article should be construed as medical advice.  Consult you health care provider for your individual nutritional and medical needs.  The opinions are strictly those of the author and are not necessarily those of any professional group or other individual

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