Hubby and I have camped everywhere in our double swag and back then it was so quick and simple to get away. The ‘chuck it in and hit the road’ aspect really appealed to us and the easy setup and smaller footprint always meant that you could set them up anywhere, get a good night’s sleep, and move on quickly after brekkie to the next road trip destination. We had a couple of permanently made-up tubs with all the other camping essentials, so a spontaneous night or two away was never more difficult than putting the Engel in the back of the Hilux and chucking some clothes in a bag.
Fast forward a few years and we had our first little one in tow. Camping suddenly required a whole heap more preparation and obviously, the swag didn’t suit, so we moved up to a tent big enough for our daughter to sleep between us. We still managed to get away often, and the packing and unpacking with one extra wasn’t any more difficult than with just the two of us. Although there always seemed to be at least three times as much washing! A few more years along and another two kids have meant our camping setup has had to evolve constantly to try and keep things simple; bigger tents, different gear and at times surrendering to taking two vehicles just to fit everyone and all their stuff in comfortably for an extended stay. Things had become so complex that it prevented us from getting away as often as we wanted, and spontaneity was a thing of the past.
The biggest thing that stops people from going camping is the amount of mental (and physical) effort that goes into collecting together everything required for a family of four, five, or more every single time you want to go away; from the shed, the garage, their bedrooms and wherever else you store camping gear when it’s not in use. Then you have to pack all that gear into the car, get the kids loaded, get to your camping spot, unload the kids and the gear and set it all up; only to go through the entire process in reverse when it’s time to head home. So, after many years of camping that followed the above process, only to be hindered further by the considerable amount of gear we had accumulated along the way, we were looking for an escape.
Enter the camper trailer. Hubby and I had been toying with the idea for a while before we finally took the plunge, but it’s safe to say that we’ll never go back; at least not while the kids are young. I used to spend Thursday afternoon and most of Friday while hubby was at work collecting and piling together all the cooking items, shelters, clothes, food, tents, sleeping gear, tables and chairs for five people ready for him to pack so we could leave Friday afternoon. With a camper trailer, you don’t have to do even half of that; everything is already packed from the last trip. And what used to take a couple of hours to set up for a full campsite with tents, poles, awnings, tarps, kitchen etc. now takes around twenty minutes. This is the beauty of a camper trailer; throw some food and clothes into your vehicle and hitch it up.
The speed and ease with which you can set up your campsite, especially for an extended stay during the school or Christmas holidays, all contribute to how quickly you and the kids are relaxed and having fun. Camper trailers are fully self-sufficient, so potentially you’ll be taking less gear with you overall. A kitchen, water tanks, power, gas bottle storage and a dedicated space to put your fridge means that everything is at your fingertips and not taking up space in the back of your car. For us, this means having access to all 7 seats of our Patrol. So, when our kids want to bring a friend, they can. The tables we used to use for meal prep, we now use for sitting at as the kitchen and fridge slide out from the side of the trailer and sit under the annex. This provides a comfortable area to cook and prepare meals that are out of the weather and a communal space to eat and drink without having to balance your plate on your knee. A big part of my planning before the camper went into carrying enough potable water for drinking and washing which also took up considerable space in the car if we were camping somewhere that didn’t have usable water. The convenience of having up to a hundred litres on board the trailer that can be pumped to the kitchen sink definitely makes drinking enough water much easier for the kids and washing up is a breeze.
A camper trailer also provides better protection from the weather than most tents and we’ve all had a gazebo or tarp shelter turn inside out in high winds. Trailer tents are made of thick, high-quality canvas which will most certainly keep the rain out but they are also much more insulated from the elements, so you tend to feel less exposed. Many times, when the weather has turned foul, we found ourselves huddling in the tent with very little space just waiting it out. Now if the weather turns bad, we simply drop one or both sides of the annex and sit around the table and play cards. Cooking isn’t hindered and the kids stay happy because there is still a large area to play under cover. On the downside, canvas can take a little while to dry after it’s rained, unlike a tent, but an extra hour or two waiting before home time to let it dry out is certainly worth the trade-off.
At the end of the day, swags, tents and camper trailers aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive choices; it’s all about tailoring your camping experience to your current needs and to where you’re going. I have used a swag, camped in a tent with one, then two kids, whilst pregnant and with infants, but with three kids under 12 we have at this stage ditched the tent in favour of our camper trailer. They are great value for money and won’t restrict where you can go. For us, it just makes sense.
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