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Tent camping is an excellent way to get started camping with your family.
 But what if a tent just isn't for you? 
Maybe your family craves a few more comforts. 

   [Motor Homes]     [Camper vans]
[Travel Trailers]     [Truck Campers  {other truck options}]    [Pop-up Tent Trailers ]    [LEAN-TOS ]     [CABINS]  




It would be unfair to dismiss other forms of camping besides tenting without mentioning their merits.
 Family camping does not just mean parents and children. Grandparent's camp, too, and many who are older or disabled would have to stay home if they had to depend solely on tents for shelter.

A friend of ours father has had two knee operations that make the simple acts of ducking into and out of tent doors and getting into and out of a sleeping bag on the floor close to impossible. The small RV he and his wife bought enables them to continue camping with them once or twice a summer.

Over the age of thirty-five, humans tend to lose about 1 percent of their bone mass every year. Although this degeneration can be delayed by exercise, the fact is that by the time many Americans reach their seventies, brittle, deteriorated bones have made sleeping on the pads we associate with tent camping painful. Recreational vehicles and tent trailers come equipped with thick foam mattresses that reduce the skeletal pressure and, just as important; the beds are set at a convenient height.

Past a certain age, the ability to shut a door and close a couple of windows against the cold or fire up a generator-powered air conditioner becomes more than a mere connivance; it is the only way many people can safely continue to enjoy the outdoors.  Trailers and motor homes also makes sense for families that will be on the road a lot during extended vacations and may find themselves taking the last campsite available late in the evenings or ending the night in public rest areas.

Another consideration is weather. 
A little rain during a tent camping trip is romantic; a lot of it and people become quarrelsome and exasperated.

Having a trailer or camper parked in your drive greatly reduces the amount of packing you need to do before a trip.
The living and sleeping quarters are ready to go. About all you need to do is buy groceries and occasionally refill the propane tanks. That's something to consider if your work is all-consuming and vacations are limited to weekend getaways.

Lastly, hard-sided vehicles provide a sense of protection tents can't match. 
While crime in campgrounds is generally not a problem, no one can completely ignore security. And in a deep pocket of country that dips from western Montana into Wyoming and Idaho, it's not only against human thieves that we lock the doors. Grizzly bears have on rare occasion's torn apart tents and killed campers.
In a few campgrounds along well-traveled bear corridors, only hard-sided vehicles are admitted.

Because the initial cost can be substantial, keep in mind that most types of trailers and recreational vehicles can be rented. So can tents and basic camping gear. Leasing a larger RV doesn't come cheaply, but it's probably a good idea to camp in one for a week or so to see what it's like before investing a lot of money in buying one.


Let's take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of each of these options.


Motor Homes

[Class A motor homes]     [Class B motor homes]     [Class C motor homes]

Class A motor homes which are constructed on specially built chassis, are the largest recreational vehicles.

 Many retired people live in them year-round, towing small cars to drive. When the motor home is moored in camp. They are like yachts in a harbor slip, offering every Convenience of home and then some. But big motor homes can be expensive and unless you own an oil refinery, your bank book will take a hit each time you turn the key

You can't turn them around or park them just anywhere, and many campgrounds and scenic byways have length restrictions that preclude their use.

Lots of families vacation in Class A Motor Homes,
 however you would have to stretch the definition to call it camping!

Class B motor homes are built on van chassis.

They differ from Class C motor homes only because they lack an overhead bed that sticks out over the driver and passenger seats.

The boxy old Winnebago was the prototypical Class C motor home.

 Its descendants are more aerodynamic, more fuel-efficient vehicles, with better handling on the road.

Both Class B and Class C motor-homes are fully self-contained, with propane heaters and kitchen units; electrical power is provided by generators.
 Although these motor homes are much more versatile than Class A motor homes, you still have to resist their conveniences, at least in fair weather, and step outside the door to breathe the scent of nature.

Micro-mini motor homes are smaller yet. 
Built on truck chassis, some of the 4-cylinder models provide little more than comfortable sleeping quarters, although many contain stoves, bathrooms, air conditioners, and propane heaters. Most have standing room, but there isn't a lot of space to lounge around. That, however, is not altogether a drawback, because it encourages vacationers to spend more time outdoors.


Class B motor homes offer comfort, safety, and convenience for families that prefer the comforts of home.


Camper vans

A conversion van is a regular van to which the builder adds taller roof and whatever interior improvement he wishes.

Conversions built on one-ton cargo vans are as large as small motor homes and can be as elaborate as the owner cares to make them. They are a good alternative for the craftsman who aspires to having a motor home yet can not afford the price of one.

Van conversions range in size, the smallest being the familiar Volkswagen camper, which is fully equipped at the factory. These compact vans are the Swiss Army knives of the RV universe.


Today's VW campers, besides being mechanically more reliable, offer an incredible range of conveniences, from sinks to stoves to overhead, pop-up extensions with full-size beds.
They are really too small for a family of four to comfortably live out of, but are a great vehicle to take tent camping. VW vans make lunch or dinner on the road a cinch, offer a cozy retreat for playing cards or reading during bad weather, and have enough lie-down room to nap in at roadside rests.

Volkswagen van campers are the "Swiss Army knife" of RV camping
-small - but efficient.


Recreational vehicles allow people who aren't interested in "roughing it" to enjoy camping with family and friends. They are especially useful for helping elderly and disabled individuals to enjoy summer outings.


Travel Trailers

Travel trailers offer the obvious advantage of being detachable, leaving you with a car or truck to drive after making camp instead of a lumbering, ground-hugging motor home. But that is their Achilles heel as well, because you have to go through the trouble of hitching them up and leveling them out each time you move. Also, the overall length of the rig can get to be a little tiresome to maneuver around.


RV sales have cut into the travel-trailer market, but they remain popular among families that haul them once or twice a summer to semi permanent camps. They also are a favorite of hunters, who park them at trailheads and leave them between days off. Some people have abused camping privileges by leaving their trailers in the best sites for weeks on end and visiting only on weekends; fortunately many campgrounds have enacted policies prohibiting this practice


In recent years, fifth-wheel trailers have gained greatly in popularity. They have a forward-Overhanging section that hitches directly over the real axle in a truck bed. This makes them tow easily and track better on sharp turns; it also reduces the overall length of the outfit. The disadvantage is the same as it is for any large trailer. It takes a lot of horses to haul them, and a lot of fuel to feed the horses.


Truck Campers

Truck-toppers are removable units designed to sit in the beds of pickup trucks. Larger ones have an overhanging bed that projects out over the cab of the truck. Though they are less costly than similar-sized motor homes, most are equipped with the same amenities, including propane heaters, stoves, and sinks. They are extremely popular in western states, where rough roads sometimes necessitate four-wheel drive or high clearance.


There are a few drawbacks. Floor space is limited by the width of the truck bed, so there isn't much walking-around room. Taller camper units make the whole rig tipsy Placing four feet of wind resistance on top of the cab pretty much shoots the gas mileage, too  And, of course, passenger space is limited by the seating in the cab.


Despite these disadvantages, truck campers are a practical choice for some campers. If you consider this alternative, avoid the mistake of buying too big a camper, which puts a strain on the engine, brakes, and suspension, and makes the entire rig unwieldy One solution is to buy a top with an accordion-type extension that raises to full height in camp but folds down for easier driving. Such roof extensions also are options on some vans and motor homes.


Pop-up Tent Trailers

Tent trailers offer many of the advantages of recreational vehicles, while preserving more of the outdoor camping experience tenters enjoy


Tent trailers have collapsible sides and either plastic or aluminum tops that lock onto the body for towing and crank to full height in camp. The beds are housed in side wings that slide out from the main body Some are as luxuriously appointed as larger motor homes, with such conveniences as showers, refrigerators, kitchen units, toilets, awnings, zip-on rooms that you can add in camp, bicycle and boat racks, outside cargo lockers, sofa-bed layouts, even portable whirlpool baths. Pop-up trailers operate either off 12-volt car batteries or hook to standard 110-volt electrical outlets. Most come with propane tanks to operate the hot-water and stove units, and sometimes even the lights.


At the other end of the spectrum are smaller models that have little besides a take-down table and the extensible wings that make up into camp beds.

Having little wind resistance, tent trailers pull like a whisper, and once you get used to routine, you can set them up in ten or fifteen minutes. They can be retracted just as quickly.


The elevated sleeping area and ease of hauling make tent trailers good choices for older campers. Kids like them, too; they instantly convert the big beds into playgrounds once trailer is opened. Screen windows keep tent trailers airy and cool in hot weather, and can be easily heated either by the furnace system or a lantern.

About the only disadvantages of tent trailers are their prices. A fancy one will cost almost as much as the car you'll need to haul it. There is a good used market, but if the canvas is in good condition, even vintage tent trailers retain their value.


Pop-up tent campers offer many of the advantages of recreational vehicles, while preserving more of the outdoor camping experience that tenters enjoy.




As a camping experience, living in a lean-to constructed of log walls and a cloth front somewhere between tenting and renting a small cabin. Inside the walls, you have the corn of individual beds, a table and chairs, and perhaps even a woodstove to test your pioneer cooking skills. Yet you are never more than a millimeter of canvas away from the elements fair weather, you can roll up the cloth so that the entire front stays open.


Lean-tos hold a rustic attraction for parents and children alike. Baxter State Park in Maine has a long-standing tradition of offering rental lean-tos in several campgrounds.


Although lean-tos are not widely available, they offer a unique experience that every camper should try.



Rustic cabins are an option most campers overlook. You won't find them listed in all brochures and guidebooks, but many national forests quietly offer them for a nominal fee. A few national parks also rent cabins, some with canvas walls.


Is it camping? Perhaps not, but it is a form of pioneer living that offers much the same rewards by bringing families together in a spirit of common work. Cabins are an excellent choice for larger parties and for winter outings, when snow camping with small children can be more hassle than it's worth.


To find out about reserving cabins, contact local forest district headquarters. Weekends tend to book up quickly, so plan your trip well in advance. Be prepared to either hike, snowshoe, or cross-country ski to some cabins. Kids' plastic sleds make the job of hauling gear a lot easier than it would be if your back did all the work. No matter what you hear about provisions, always pack along an extra propane or gasoline lantern. Dark log walls and small windows combine to make most cabins pretty gloomy without the extra light.

Renting a wilderness cabin can be a great way to get a reluctant family involved in outdoor activities. For many, it is a relatively inexpensive way to take a family vacation.


Today, a growing trend among camping enthusiasts is to combine the back-to-nature aesthetic of the great outdoors with the convenience of a cabin. The following list, courtesy of Kampgrounds of America (KOA), reveals the top reasons why campers are turning to cabins:

People who live in small houses and apartments in urban areas don't have room to store a lot of camping gear.

People drive smaller, fuel-efficient cars that aren't capable of towing a trailer or able to carry tents, coolers and other camping equipment.

New campers want to try the outdoors experience without having to buy or borrow a lot of gear.

Young families find cabins to be a comfortable, convenient alternative to tent camping.

People want affordable accommodations that offer the outdoor experience with the comforts of clean restrooms, hot showers, laundry facilities and convenience stores nearby.

Campers want to be close to recreation, sightseeing, historic, entertainment and shopping venues.

In response to this trend, many campgrounds across the country are offering on-site cabins that are perfect for new campers, seasoned veterans, and travelers looking for an alternative to a drab motel room.

Kampgrounds of America, which started its Kamping Kabins program in 1982, had the foresight to see the potential popularity of cabin camping. Today, they have more than 3,800 Kamping Kabins at nearly 500 KOA Kampgrounds in North America and the number continues to grow.

Kamping Kabins have log-frame bunks and double beds that are equipped with mattresses. You bring your own sleeping bags or bed linens, in addition to basic kitchen items to cook over the outdoor fire grate. The cabins come in two varieties: one-room, which sleeps four, and two-room, which sleeps six. Most have electricity and some have heating or air conditioning. For added security, all Kamping Kabins have lockable doors and a KOA owner or manager is on-site 24 hours a day.

Kamping Kabins are great for a weekend getaway or as an affordable resting place on your way to other adventures. Depending on the geographic location, one-room Kamping Kabin rates begin at around $30 per night and range to $60 per night.

For more information about Kamping Kabins, 
as well as the locations of KOA Kampgrounds,

Courtesy of Article Resource Association,, e-mail:


Camping in a Hammock

Have you ever considered using a hammock as an alternative to the traditional tent? Many others have! Hammocks are becoming quite popular not only for backpackers but also for the common camper. These people are often referred to as "treehangers." With a little practice, common sense and preparation, a hammock can be used in just about any type of weather - rain, cold, high winds, etc. Rain flies, hand warmers, and netting  keep you out of the elements, toasty warm and away from the nagging bugs.

There are many advantages to using a hammock when camping. They are lightweight and are more affordable than an average tent. They are easy to set up and take down. They can be used in just about any type of landscape. And most importantly, they are extremely comfortable. In addition to a good nights sleep, camping hammocks also provide a great place to relax when hanging out around camp.  

Using a hammock is fun and quite easy to do. Like anything else, experience teaches you the best lessons. Here are just a couple common mistakes that you should be sure to avoid.

Look out for dead trees
Always be sure that you evaluate the integrity of the trees you are planning to tie your hammock to. Be sure they are sturdy and will not collapse when put under stress.

Examine your ropes for wear
 A damage rope weakens your hammocks performance and can easily break with your weight. Wrap your ropes around trees at least twice before tying your knots. This will reduce the wear on your ropes and also protect the trees. 

Tying good knots is essential when using hammocks. The bowline, taut-line hitch and the fisherman's knots are the three most important.

 A bowline knot is a strong, solid knot and should be used to tie the ropes around the trees to supports your weight. Use the taut-line hitch for your rain flies. These knots are easily tighten or loosen based on your needs. Note: rain fly ropes should NOT be used to support your weight in the hammock. And finally the fisherman's knot. This knot is used to attach ropes together for extension purposes. Spend some time practicing these knots and you shouldn't have any problems hanging your hammock correctly and safely.

Lying in a hammock is one of the most effective ways to reduce stress and is a great way to relax. The way that the hammock contours to your body's natural shape and the fact that your body's weight is so evenly distributed gives you a feeling of weightlessness.

Hammocks are a great alternative when camping 

Read More on Hammocks . . .

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