Starting anew after a couple misfires

SickPup404

Member
May 26, 2015
15
Good afternoon,

As I said in my thread from yesterday, the wife and I bought a used 1999 Coleman/Fleetwood Mesa PUP several years ago, and had to sell before using it. The one we looked at last night (a 2006 Starcraft Antigua 195CK Hybrid) turned out to be a fixer upper for $5,500...

So before I start going crazy, I thought I would try to reset back to the beginning.

What we have for the tow vehicle is a 2017 Ford Explorer Platinum, 3.5L EcoBoost, Class III tow package which gets us 2,000/200 (max/tongue weights) without WDH, and 5,000/500 with WDH.

We went into this thinking we would like to get a hybrid popup to get the "camping feel" with less expense than a full/normal camper, but avoid some of the leak issues with a full PUP. Plus, another big "goal" is to be able to take more vacations locally (even just long weekends) without all the expense of flying, hotels, eating out, etc.

After reading a bunch of threads here, it seems like issues can come up in any TT (PUP/Hybrid/normal) if they are new or used. Leaks seem to be the most prevalent with mechanicals next (support struts, slide outs, etc). Though I am handy, I'm not up to tearing down a camper to replace the floor and rebuild it.

We are looking for the capacity to do camping with our 10 year old and possibly 1-2 of his friends, so total sleeping capacity of 4-5 max (looks like you either get 4 or 6, so we're leaning toward 6).

Also, for budget, we went into last night ready to drop $5500 cash, but I would be willing to go to the $9-11k mark for nicer shape or even new (saw a stripped down new 2020 Dutchmen Aspen Trail 1760BH at a local dealer for $10995).

So the help I need is this:
- As a new person to camping, is a hybrid easier to drive with and set up than a "regular"? It might be the wife driving occasionally (but she never wants to back up!).
- I'm guessing that to stay within our price range and towing capacity, and stay under that 5k weight, we should look around 22' length or less?
- Is a hybrid a good fit for what we want to do? We really think a traditional PUP isn't the best choice for us any more as we're both over 50 now.
- Is there really a savings over a traditional vacation?

Any other questions, tips, advice? I am starting to think I'm getting in over my head. When I make a big purchase, I usually like to make an Excel sheet to compare models, but this has me going nuts!

Thank you!!
Steve (aka Total Noob)
 

eoleson1

Super Active Member
Jul 5, 2011
3,636
Macomb County Michigan
Some answers (my opinions)
A hybrid is easier to set up than a pop up, but more difficult than a travel trailer
You will probably have to stay in the 20' range to get something under 5k

My wife and I are over 50 as well. We had to replace the pup last year. We looked at new pups, hybrids, and TTs. I wanted canvas. She wanted ease of set up. The pups were too much work, so they were out. I liked the hybrids, but the beds were small, the mattresses were thin, and someone would have to crawl over their partner for the midnight bathroom run. We ended up with a TT. We didnt get the walk around bed, but I cana slide off the end and not have to crawl over DW in the night. Honestly, a season and a half into owning it, I don't miss the canvas at all.

Is it a savings? We like to stay in expensive campgrounds, so for us, it's a small savings. The advantages over a hotel room though are endless.
 

CampingFamily1

Super Active Member
May 12, 2007
969
Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN
Yes it is a big investment.

Yes there are savings vs staying in resorts and hotels. I estimated it over 16 years it would have costed us 3x more without a camper. But sometimes we still stay in hotels when we want convenience and no setup time.

A hybrid travel trailer
is bigger, heavier, picks up more wind on windy days. You don't want to max out your tow capacity when you're up at 5,000 lbs, you want to have some buffer capacity.
has worse gas mileage
doesn't require packing up and transforming into a small popup/popdown box. you can leave it a mess inside and drive home
popping up is not that hard, its packing up and transforming that is the hard part of popups

Being over 50 doesn't matter for having a popup unless you are disabled somehow.

Just a few thoughts.
 

jmkay1

2004 Fleetwood/Coleman Utah
Oct 10, 2013
7,866
Northern Virginia
Here are my 2 cents as I tow a 3500 popup with my 4 runner also with a 5000 tow rating and I will say. I would not want to tow any more than this with my set up. Towing a TT or Hybrid your looking at wind resistance combined with the weight. It will not be a fun or comfortable ride if you tow any more than 3500. Especially in the mountains.
First thing to do is to find your max payload numbers and after deducting family and gear how much tongue weight can you add to be within your limits. You are going to be surprised.
 

Toedtoes

Super Active Member
May 28, 2018
2,840
California
So the help I need is this:
- As a new person to camping, is a hybrid easier to drive with and set up than a "regular"? It might be the wife driving occasionally (but she never wants to back up!).
- I'm guessing that to stay within our price range and towing capacity, and stay under that 5k weight, we should look around 22' length or less?
- Is a hybrid a good fit for what we want to do? We really think a traditional PUP isn't the best choice for us any more as we're both over 50 now.
- Is there really a savings over a traditional vacation?

1. driving-wise a low wall popup is probably easier. That's because you will be able to see over it. Also, other drivers will be able to see over it and are less likely (although there are those will anyway) to try to merge in between you and the trailer. Backing up is a bit more difficult with a shorter trailer, but both just need some practice.

Setup is more involved with a popup. Depending on the age of the hybrid, they have different setups for the bunks. So keep that in mind and ask questions.

2. Consider your payload also. With 3-4 passengers (2-3 who are growing boys), you could hit that max before you add the trailer's hitch weight. I recommend you stay under 80% of the vehicle's towing capacity. This gives you some leeway for better power in hilly terrain. It will also be less work on the vehicle so it lasts longer.

3. Since you will be including friends for your son, you might consider a standard travel trailer. Let the boys sleep in a tent. A trailer with a dedicated bed for the two of you, and a dinette or couch convertible for the few times it will be just your son. Some hybrids do have a dedicated bed inside - this can be really nice as if the boys choose to tent or it's just the two of you, you don't have to use the popout beds at all. It would give you more versatility than a hybrid with no interior bed.

One thing to consider is where you want to go with the camper. Do you want to camp at traditional campgrounds and play in the outdoors? Or do you want to do traditional sightseeing vacations and stay at RV Parks? Some RV Parks have restrictions against popups and tents. If you want to travel most days, changing your nighttime locatios, a popup or even hybrid can be a lot of work after a day's driving. If you want to drive to a location and stay there for 3+ days, then the work is less irritating.

4. In general - no. Of course it will depend on your destinations (both with traditional vacations and with the trailer). Your expenses will be different. You will spend more on fuel (unless you have a lightweight popup, you can guesstimate 10mpg - any better and you're doing great). Your nightly campsite can run anywhere from $0 to $100 depending on where you choose to stay. You will have maintenance costs for both the vehicle and trailer. Trailer tires every 5-7 years, regardless of wear. Storage fees if you can't store it at home. Off season, you need to check on it after the first rain and after every storm regardless of where it is stored. A leak left over the winter will destroy the trailer; pest damage, vandalism, and/or physical damage found three days before a trip can make for an expensive repair. Recaulking every 1-2 years. Remember the trailer is basically a home in an earthquake - things will shake loose. You will need to do basic handyman jobs with screwdrivers, electrical wiring, plumbing, etc. - if you can't do the basics, you will be paying for that.

Insurance, if needed, and road service for trailers will add to yearly expenses. Increasing battery bank, adding solar, and/or getting a generator (and the necessary fuel) can be a one-time added expense if you choose to dry camp.

Where you can save money is with meals - choosing to cook instead of eating out for every meal can be a money-saver.

And there are some places that you won't reasonably be able to go with the trailer. Europe, Hawaii, etc. As you have a school-age kid, your trips will be guided by his school schedule - along with every other family wanting to camp. Major destinations, and/or holiday weekends will need reservations. Travel time will need to be added into the plans. If you want to go cross country to Disneyland (or Disneyworld), you will have to consider how long you can reasonably drive per day. Most folks limit daily driving to 6-8 hours. That will be time not spent at your destination. If you choose to make it a road trip and sightsee along the way, you may not ever make it to Disney.

None of this is to turn you away from getting a trailer, just a realistic look at what it entails and what choices you have in what "camping" means.
 

SickPup404

Member
May 26, 2015
15
Thank you all for the incredible insights and advice! Hadn’t even thought about carrying a tent for the boys - great idea!
 

firepit

Super Active Member
Feb 26, 2020
2,785
If mostly just your boy and tents are a option for the boys.
How about something like this.
I got my heart set on one.
Dedicated bed...power awning.
A bathroom with shower...nice sized fridge etc.
And no canvas to mess with
Right now they are a little past your top end price to pay.
But before the corona they were right there around $11K.
I bet in the spring when we are past the corona dealers are gonna be buried in inventory.
And first time camper owners who bought one for something to do during virus will be selling and not trading in on somethin else.
Ebay and craigslist etc will be loaded early spring next yr.
Dealers will be making deals on new stuff due to all the used stuff for sale.
At least thats what im betting on.
Once people who only camped and bought campers for something to do during the virus can go back to their normal routines.
We will have a run on used stuff and dealers will wanna deal.
The pics are what i am gonna buy but a example for you.
2500 LBS dry.
I bet you can buy a light 14-18 ft used somethin a few yrs old for under your high budget mark.
 

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Sotovoce

Active Member
Jun 27, 2015
299
Georgia
Thank you all for the incredible insights and advice! Hadn’t even thought about carrying a tent for the boys - great idea!
A tent for the boys is a great option. I spent a week camping with my granddaughters when they were about the same age. They slept in my backpack tent and kept their clothes in the cab of the truck. A couple of backpack hammocks made lounging outside comfortable for them.
 

Orchid

Sharp Shootin' Grandma
May 8, 2011
5,832
Florida by way of WV and MD
My experience with hybrids has been less than stellar, so I may be jaded.

I would rather have a smaller TT, than a larger Hybrid. I have a floorplan picked out for our next TT, and it sleeps six. Several different manufacturers make them, I'll try to find one to add to this post.

Hybrids are advertised as super light weight. And they are. It's just how they get that way that's a problem. The two I have dealt with personally had floor and bunk ends made of Styrofoam, rather than wood. A thicker piece of Styrofoam sandwiched with paper thin (literally almost as thin as paper) slices of wood glued to either side. This is what we were walking on and sleeping on. I have met people on this forum, who found the same thing in theirs - some just recently.

I also needed a ladder to reach the latches on the bunk ends. Putting them back was even worse. And all of them leaked. Every single one of them. The wood where the bunks attached to the trailer rotted away. The bunk end latches eventually stripped out on one of the campers.

These are my own personal experiences with them. I will never have one. I understand that others have had better experiences, but I've found plenty of people on this forum that have had every single problem that I did with them. I would really skip the whole hybrid scene.

Oh, one more thing .... ours towed like CRAP! Our 32' TT tows like a dream. One of the hybrids, which was 17' (I think) was not a comfortable tow. It absolutely required a WDH, but was still iffy. That particular one was a Jayco Jay flight or Jay lite or something like that. If you are really wanting a hybrid, I'd at least try to avoid Jayco.

Also, I'm 56 years old, with some physical disabilities/limitations and have two recent knee replacements and can put up our pup by myself. Over 50 is NOT the same as over 80. [LOL] There is a recent "age" thread where some members who are in their upper 70's and 80's are still hand cranking their pups! We use a drill to put ours up, but 50 is not "too old."

COLEMAN_COLEMAN_LANTERN_LT_17B.jpg
 

Toedtoes

Super Active Member
May 28, 2018
2,840
California
Hybrids are advertised as super light weight. And they are. It's just how they get that way that's a problem. The two I have dealt with personally had floor and bunk ends made of Styrofoam, rather than wood. A thicker piece of Styrofoam sandwiched with paper thin (literally almost as thin as paper) slices of wood glued to either side. This is what we were walking on and sleeping on. I have met people on this forum, who found the same thing in theirs - some just recently.

They can also have a very small CCC.
 

jmkay1

2004 Fleetwood/Coleman Utah
Oct 10, 2013
7,866
Northern Virginia
Hybrids are advertised as super light weight. And they are. It's just how they get that way that's a problem. The two I have dealt with personally had floor and bunk ends made of Styrofoam, rather than wood. A thicker piece of Styrofoam sandwiched with paper thin (literally almost as thin as paper) slices of wood glued to either side. This is what we were walking on and sleeping on. I have met people on this forum, who found the same thing in theirs - some just recently.
. I’m not sure about newer units, but even TT marketed as lightweight can have this styrofoam floor your talking about as well. My parents have a 25’ Rockwood Ultalite and they have been having issues with their floor since they bought the camper. After research it appears they also have a styrofoam floor combined with fewer joists on the frame to hold this floor. Now 14 years later they are talking about selling because they are afraid they are going to fall through the floor as it is super spongy now. It’s insane how manufacturers thought styrofoam was a good idea.
 

SickPup404

Member
May 26, 2015
15
@firepit, I showed the wife and she absolutely loved the retro look!

@Sotovoce, now I'm adding hammocks to the list- awesome! (And I'm sure there's tons of other tips/tricks I'm not thinking about. But I have a that list started now - including a piece of outdoor carpet for the patio area!)

@Orchid, the wife and I talked about it at length last night and decided the TT route was the way to go for some of your reasons, as well as what @Toedtoes and @CampingFamily1 (and others) said about being able to pretty much hook up and go without a lot of pack up, or stop for the night and not have to set up. We looked at a Dutchmen at a local dealer that has the same layout you posted for that $10-11k sweet spot.

Another question: Should we look for two axles? Wife and I both have heard it can improve handling while driving?

Thank you all!!!

[off topic]
Somewhat related to the whole get there and use the camper without setup....

We are in lower Delaware. We adopted our son as a newborn from Dallas, Texas. I had the bright idea of flying down, then doing sight seeing on the way back by driving, being able to stop as needed, etc... It seemed like a great idea at the time! It really was beautiful between about Memphis and VA in the mountains. Texas and Arkansas were flat, straight, boring roads, and we live in flat Delaware.

Anyway, our first short leg was only to Texarkana because we couldn't leave TX until paperwork was approved by the courts. About 3 hours drive time from Dallas, add in an hour or so with stops. Piece of cake!

Next leg was Texarkana to Knoxville. 10 hours drive time. With a newborn. With more time for stops. We stopped at the Hampton Inn we saw - assuming it was the right one.... We were wrong! We had made reservations at Hampton Inn Knoxville East. We stopped at Hampton Inn West Cedar Bluff. It was another 30 minutes to drive to East, but we couldn't do it. Lots of stress already, but the night manager took pity on us, set us up in a room, and cancelled our reservation at East for us.

Next leg was Knoxville (west) to home. 9 hours drive time with more for stops. Mountain driving is harder and we didn't even get to DC until about 10PM, and home is still 1.5-2 hours away. When we finally got home around midnight, I had a breakdown (ugly crying and all!) trying to set up the pack-and-play in bed mode for our son.

Trust me! I don't look forward to ever stressing again about setup/breakdown!!
[/off topic]
 

firepit

Super Active Member
Feb 26, 2020
2,785
@firepit, I showed the wife and she absolutely loved the retro look!

@Sotovoce, now I'm adding hammocks to the list- awesome! (And I'm sure there's tons of other tips/tricks I'm not thinking about. But I have a that list started now - including a piece of outdoor carpet for the patio area!)

@Orchid, the wife and I talked about it at length last night and decided the TT route was the way to go for some of your reasons, as well as what @Toedtoes and @CampingFamily1 (and others) said about being able to pretty much hook up and go without a lot of pack up, or stop for the night and not have to set up. We looked at a Dutchmen at a local dealer that has the same layout you posted for that $10-11k sweet spot.

Another question: Should we look for two axles? Wife and I both have heard it can improve handling while driving?

Thank you all!!!

[off topic]
Somewhat related to the whole get there and use the camper without setup....

We are in lower Delaware. We adopted our son as a newborn from Dallas, Texas. I had the bright idea of flying down, then doing sight seeing on the way back by driving, being able to stop as needed, etc... It seemed like a great idea at the time! It really was beautiful between about Memphis and VA in the mountains. Texas and Arkansas were flat, straight, boring roads, and we live in flat Delaware.

Anyway, our first short leg was only to Texarkana because we couldn't leave TX until paperwork was approved by the courts. About 3 hours drive time from Dallas, add in an hour or so with stops. Piece of cake!

Next leg was Texarkana to Knoxville. 10 hours drive time. With a newborn. With more time for stops. We stopped at the Hampton Inn we saw - assuming it was the right one.... We were wrong! We had made reservations at Hampton Inn Knoxville East. We stopped at Hampton Inn West Cedar Bluff. It was another 30 minutes to drive to East, but we couldn't do it. Lots of stress already, but the night manager took pity on us, set us up in a room, and cancelled our reservation at East for us.

Next leg was Knoxville (west) to home. 9 hours drive time with more for stops. Mountain driving is harder and we didn't even get to DC until about 10PM, and home is still 1.5-2 hours away. When we finally got home around midnight, I had a breakdown (ugly crying and all!) trying to set up the pack-and-play in bed mode for our son.

Trust me! I don't look forward to ever stressing again about setup/breakdown!!
[/off topic]
You can get a bunch of different color combos as well.
The dedicated bed is a biggy for me and hard to find one in a small travel trailer.
 

SickPup404

Member
May 26, 2015
15
Quick question on the weight recommendation.

From what I gather in replies here, as well as some other TV posts, I should stay below about 37-3800#. Is this total GVWR or UVW/Dry?

Wife and I have been looking at some new ones (Forest River Wolf Pups, FSX, others) and most UVW/Dry are 3000-3800 and GVWR 4000-4700.

From what we've seen so far, if we need to stay under 37-3800 GVWR, and we're looking at traditional TT, that really limits what we can choose from.
 

SickPup404

Member
May 26, 2015
15
Sorry, should have been more clear.

Looking at what we can tow with our TV. With WDH, it's rated 500/5000 (tongue/GVWR). With recommendations here (and in similar TV posts) being in the 37-3800 range, is that based on GVWR? If so, we need to limit our shopping further. We've been looking at 37-3800 in dry/UVW with GVWR 46-4800.

Sorry, the weights and recommendations have me a bit confused...
 

Toedtoes

Super Active Member
May 28, 2018
2,840
California
Yes, it's GVWR. As I mentioned above, dry weight doesn't come into it because it really means nothing - you can add 1lb or 1000lbs to it. The GVWR is the max that trailer can legally weigh with everything you put into it. You don't want to overload it.

Folks are recommending that you stay below your max towing capacity. The usual is no more than 80% of the max. So if 5000 is your max, then you want to stay at around 4000lb.

As pointed out, towing at your max can be a problem. Especially if you tow in hills, long distances, etc. Having that buffer can save your transmission.
 




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