To go dark or not to go dark?

Discussion in 'Going to the DARK SIDE' started by ProbablyNotLostWanderer, Mar 18, 2019.

  1. ProbablyNotLostWanderer

    ProbablyNotLostWanderer Member

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    I'm really conflicted. We currently have an '06 Aliner Classic, which I love. Tows easy, five minute setup, stores in my garage, hard sides keep us comfy in Colorado winters and Texas summers.

    However...
    1. We're a family of four. Me, husband, a 4yo and a 6yo. And a dog.
    2. One of my kids is on a very restricted (medically necessary) diet. He can't eat most convenience foods or from restaurants, so all the meal prep happens in the camper. And I have to manage cross contamination with a tiny amount of counter space.
    3. My husband started teaching high school this year. (I freelance from home...or anywhere with even a sporadic internet connection.)

    Right now we all fit just fine for a weekend trip (we basically just use it as a nice tent to sleep in), and we've done longer trips to see family - camping a few days out, staying at a place with more space and where we can do food prep and laundry and showers, then a few days camping back to our home.

    We took a trip a few weekends ago and it was terrible. I know bad trips just happen, but it rained the whole time and we were stuck inside in about 3 square feet of floor space on top of each other and in each other's way and it was just generally miserable. I started thinking about how we are actually going to be able to take some longer trips now that my husband has more time off - summer! spring break! Christmas! Thanksgiving! - and I didn't even want to if it was going to be like that except longer and with more stuff crammed inside.

    We got home and looked at some smallish, lightweight bunkhouse travel trailers, and were pretty impressed. Some of them even have freezers as well as bigger fridges, which would make meal prep for the food allergy kiddo much easier. I'm having a hard time finding the floor plans we want used, so we'd probably have to get a new one. My husband says he wants to make the move in the next year or so (camping is more my thing than his), but I'm waffling. I love the Aliner and we've had lots of great trips in it. And I HATE the thought of having to pay for storage. Somehow, this feels much worse than shelling out the money for the trailer itself. We could also try gutting the Aliner to give us more beds/floor space options, but that would destroy the resale value (I think I can get about $3k for it as is). If we were just planning on continuing to do shorter trips, we would stick with the Aliner for sure, but the teaching/having summers off is a game changer.

    If you've made it all the way through, thank you! So... what would you do? Talk me into or out of it! :)
     
  2. Snow

    Snow Well-Known Member

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    Time to sit down and make some lists.. The pro's and con's of both the A Liner and a TT (one con might be that you would also need a larger tow vehicle) and go from there.. Not sure if your able to store a trailer at your residence at all, so yeah might have storage fee's.. Getting something like a screen room with roll up storm panels might be something to consider (they are out there, then food prep outside.) In the end only you, your husband and the bank account can decide what is the better option..
     
  3. kitphantom

    kitphantom Well-Known Member

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    You will also have to consider if your current tow vehicle will work, or if you will need to up-size that too. Even if you go for a hybrid, you will still be increasing the sail area of the trailer.
    If camping is important to you, gives you family time together, having a place that is easier to prep and cook food, and more space for bad weather might very well be worth it.
    We had to move to a small TT from an 8' popup 4-1/2 years ago, when my back got so I couldn't handle the popup anymore, esp. solo. We ended up with a nice size fridge and freezer that work very well, and our food choices have improved a lot. We often take meals cooked at home and frozen. They stay frozen, so if we end up not using them we can take them home again. Unlike living with just a cooler, where we had to eat whatever was the most thawed meal.
    How much counter space etc. you may gain will depend on the camper you may choose. Our trailer is 17', with a walk around queen bed, kitchen and counter space is limited, but works for the two of us pretty well. I have a vinyl cover I put over the end of the bed to give me more space at times. In some places, we set up outside. (The awning on ours is not helpful, so if we're going to do much cooking outside we set up a separate shelter - one reason we don't cook outside as much as we once did.)
    Having to store a camper somewhere else is an extra expense. We made sure we could park our TT in our driveway, it's handy for us to have it at home. When I was sick last year, I used it as a visiting parlor so a friend could visit me, since she's allergic to our cats. It was a nice chance for me to get out of the house - even if it was just in the driveway. It's funny though, we have friends who can't keep their similar sized trailer at home, and they say they don't mind having it stored elsewhere.
     
  4. nineoaks2004

    nineoaks2004 Every meal is a picnic and every Day is a holiday

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    I think most of your answers are listed above, including the bottom line, only you and you DH can make the ultimate decision, You will have to sit down and decide what would be best for ya'll as a family the start research on those types of units especially since it sounds like longer trips are in the future.. Also you must take into consideration the TV and will it carry the camper. Good Luck with the decision and happy camping.
     
  5. ProbablyNotLostWanderer

    ProbablyNotLostWanderer Member

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    Thanks for the replies!
    Snow - great idea about setting up food prep outside. I'll look into this.
    KitPhantom - appreciate your been there done that perspective! If we're end up making the switch, we are only considering options that would give us each a sleeping space that doesn't have to convert, and a small dinette also. So I figure I could always use the table for extra prep space. I like the vinyl cover idea - it does seem a shame to have a queen bed that is just sitting there not being useful unless we're sleeping in it.

    In terms of the tow vehicle, we are rated to 7300 pounds, and the trailers we're looking at all have gross weights under 4000 pounds. The dealer we've visited rents out travel trailers similar to what we want, so before we hit go we'd probably rent for a weekend and see how the towing actually feels.
     
  6. ProbablyNotLostWanderer

    ProbablyNotLostWanderer Member

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    Oh, and we'd definitely have to store off site. Our HOA is really strict.

    I know we have to make the decision, but sometimes it's helpful to get other people's perspectives/experiences. I mean, if you can't trust people on the internet to tell you how to live your life, what's the point? [LOL]
     
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  7. jmkay1

    jmkay1 2004 Fleetwood/Coleman Utah

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    If you have to store it anywhere I would first look into that. Around here storage fees are very high. Sadly I'm losing my cheaper storage at the end of the year so back looking. Everything else is very high and much further away. Right now it's 45 min away from my house. Fixing it, getting ready for a trip is all done in the storage yard. I also can't trust leaving my battery in storage so that comes home with me. Perhaps your area will be different but if storage is a possibility I would look into that first. If my storage was closer it would be a different story. Right now it's a pain.
    As mentioned you may need to look into a bigger tow vehicle so more money being spent.
    Another thing to look at is where you love to camp. Does your favorite campground have sites large enough to accommodate a larger tow set up.? If I didn't tow in the mountains a lot I would probably be more open to a small hybrid myself but I didn't feel comfortable towing something with essentially a brick wall behind me, weaving around very narrow roads with very little room for error and not being able to see behind me. It's a tough decision and you really have to list the pros and cons of each, look at your budget and compare cost to operate the larger rig vrs what you got. Does your state have different requirements with owning a bigger rig, how about taxes (if any) for the rig?
     
  8. Toedtoes

    Toedtoes Well-Known Member

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    I agree that you should look at storage locations and costs now. Sometimes, that is a deal breaker.

    A screen room could be a good compromise depending on where you "camp". If you stay at RV Parks, many have restrictions against tents, screen rooms, etc. If you stay at actual "campgrounds" then that is usually not a problem.

    If the kids were a bit older, I'd suggest adding a tent to the mix for them. Since they are still young, that isn't really an option.

    But for the cost of storage for 6-12 months, you could buy one of those Clam screen rooms and the wind panels. Easy to set up and take down, even for one person. Would provide a second space when needed that would hold a table, chairs, etc. or could be used as a playroom for the kids when it's raining. Add a tarp that could be hung between the trailer and the shelter and you'd double your space when it rains. When it's nice out, you can continue as you are doing.
     
  9. neighbormike

    neighbormike Well-Known Member

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    I'm glad you said you would rent a tt before purchasing - that was going to be my suggestion! I went dark last season and a tt is definitely a different towing experience! I quickly got used to it, but a bit more cumbersome than I was expecting. I also really like the idea of the Clam shelter... it's a pretty affordable way to gain quite a bit of living space (although you need room to haul it). Good luck and keep us posted!!
     
  10. ProbablyNotLostWanderer

    ProbablyNotLostWanderer Member

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    More great info, thanks! I will need to check on what the taxes/registration process is for a bigger camper. We camp almost exclusively at state park campgrounds, and I don't think length would be an issue there. Our current Aliner is 15 feet including hitch, and the TTs we're looking at are around 22 feet including hitch. One thing I'm not sure about is many of the sites we use specify no tents - don't know if that would apply to the outdoor shelters/screen rooms being discussed here.

    I *think* storage here would run around $75-100 a month. That seems like a lot to me, but mostly because I'm annoyed by people telling me what I'm allowed to park in my driveway. A mitigating factor is that my in-laws have said we can store something on their property for free. It's about 4 hours away, so it would be an "over the winter" kind of thing, but might save us 3-6 months of fees annually.

    Jmkay1 - hope you can find storage that's closer and cheaper than expected!
     
  11. ProbablyNotLostWanderer

    ProbablyNotLostWanderer Member

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    I can see I need to check out these clam shelters! :grin: And yeah, I think renting is a good move. I mean, part of me hates the idea of "wasting" the money that could be spent on a travel trailer or actually going camping, but logically I know it's a smart move.

    ETA: Checked out the clam shelters. WANT.
     
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  12. ProbablyNotLostWanderer

    ProbablyNotLostWanderer Member

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    Couldn't get back to sleep after a 4 am kid emergency, so I was trawling through Craigslist. For the first time since I've looked, I saw a couple of smaller bunkhouse models. It must be a sign... [Guitar]

    But in all seriousness, I'm excited to think that there might be some used possibilities out there. Only thing that makes me nervous is I'm worried about hidden flood damage (from Hurricane Harvey).

    Also, a question about shape - both of the ones I saw on CL have a pretty flat front, but I've also seen some with a more rounded front. Can anyone chime in with whether that makes a noticeable difference in towing ease/gas mileage?

    https://houston.craigslist.org/rvs/d/clute-2016-springdale-fireside-travel/6844763499.html

    https://houston.craigslist.org/rvs/d/manvel-2011-sportsman-classic-19bh/6844245805.html
     
  13. giadiep

    giadiep Active Member

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    I can't answer your question about aerodynamics, since I have never towed a rounded front trailer. I can tell you that towing a travel trailer like the ones you listed will drop your gas mileage significantly. You are towing a brick wall. And they are susceptible to cross winds because they act like sails. However, you will adapt to it quickly.

    Just an FYI that you can get a new trailer for 33% off of the listed price fairly easily. So you can look around at new ones for similar money of the first one you linked to without fear of flood damage and it will have a warranty. I know someone that owns an RV dealership here in NY and they told me that the mark-up allows this kind of discount.
     
  14. kitphantom

    kitphantom Well-Known Member

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    Our Retro has a slightly rounded front, but the sides are still flat, so any aerodynamic advantage is pretty much a toss-up. Friends have a Casita (fiberglass "egg"), which is rounded on all edges, and a bit narrower than ours. It's more aerodynamic, but they still talk of maybe up-sizing their tow vehicle a tad when they need a new one.
    With the Retro, we have been known to have mpg in the single digits, depending on which tow vehicle was being used and weather conditions. With the Silverado, we're usually around 10-13 mpg. If you're not towing far, that doesn't make as much difference, on longer hauls, cost aside, having to stop to refuel a lot is a pain. Safety and comfort are other considerations, both are more important to us than mpg.
     
  15. GreyFox

    GreyFox Well-Known Member

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    I've been towing for 20 yrs - popups, hybrid, travel trailers and can assure you that the only way to enjoy a "noticeable" difference in fuel mileage is to tow a low profile trailer like a popup. Any higher and fuel mileage will drop like a rock regardless of the profile of the trailer. Yes, Airstream owners do tend to report somewhat better than the typical 10 to 12 mpg when towing a full height trailer but it's an exception rather than a rule. You'd be best to think in terms of 10 to 12, otherwise you're sure to be disappointed.
     
  16. Toedtoes

    Toedtoes Well-Known Member

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    Anything but a low profile, lightweight trailer is going to drop you to about 10mph on average. So, don't be bothered by those shape differences with trailers. Focus on condition and floorplan.

    Since you indicate there is a restriction on tents at the campgrounds you stay at, I suggest asking about the clam/screen shelters in particular. If those places say no, then you know that isn't an option and can move forward with getting a trailer. If those places say the shelters are allowed, then you can look more into that before making a decision.
     
  17. DesertRed

    DesertRed Member

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    Have you considered a used Trailmanor? It might be a way to get more room while keeping a "pop up" type concept and may fit in your garage. They can be a tight fit from what I've heard and seen. We got to step inside a new one at an rv show a couple months ago and it was pretty impressive. It's a really nice way to have the best of both worlds if you can find one in good used condition. They are pretty expensive new. There are facebook groups for them if you want to do more research on them. Not sure if anyone on here has one or not that might chime in.
     
  18. nhlakes

    nhlakes Well-Known Member

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    If you can live with the add-a-room or whatever, that would certainly be the cheapest option. But if you tend to move around a lot (couple nights here and a couple nights there) and setup time is important to you, it may be somewhat of a pain. The Aliner is a breeze to setup by itself. We had a Aliner Ranger 15 and moved to a TT.

    If you're really interested in travel trailers, see if there there are any RV shows in your area and go check them out. Otherwise spend some quality time at a large RV dealer that keeps most of their units unlocked and accessible during business hours. You need to be OK with telling pushy sales people to let you wander and stop bothering you. I'd suggest bringing the kids to get a good feel for space with all of you inside, but you would risk getting their hopes up.

    If the models you are currently considering have a bed that needs to be constructed every night, I suggest you at least look at a slightly large model that does not require setup/teardown every night/morning. That makes a huge difference for some people - and one of the main reasons we moved from an Aliner to a TT. There are lots of 21' bunk house units (~24' total length) with a slide and comfortable floor plans.

    Hopefully your family has, or has always wanted, a truck. ;) If you don't know where to begin as far as 'will this tow that', if your tow capacity is double the suggested dry weight of the camper (usually advertised), you're probably in a comfortable range. You can work out the real numbers once you get serious. TowCalculator.com works pretty well.

    While the towing experience is different with a travel trailer, those rainy days with 4 people and a dog would still feel like a vacation rather than punishment. And meal preparation would be SO much either. My wife loves to cook but did not cook much in the Aliner even when out for 1-2 weeks. In the TT she cooks like she does at home.

    Good luck!
     
  19. Sneezer

    Sneezer Well-Known Member

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    Look at a used trailmanor or Hilo trailer. Both offer hard sides but the lower profile of a pup. Some you might be able to store at home.

    Can you fit a big pup? Dual king/queen beds with a slide out dinette? Some have more counter space, and a high wall would be nice too.
     
  20. ProbablyNotLostWanderer

    ProbablyNotLostWanderer Member

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    So much good info here - I love this forum!!

    On a typical trip, we're either doing a weekend at a state park near us, or for our longer (time wise) trips, we go longer distances, but we like to break up the drive to make life easier with the kids, so there's a lot of one-night stops in various campgrounds every 3-6 hours along the way. So ease of setup is a major consideration. In this, the Aliner does well for us.

    However, since my husband will now have summers off, I can see us picking a destination, camping our way there, staying for a week or so, then camping our way back. So I am trying to balance good road trip characteristics with being comfortable (or at least functional!) while staying for longer in a place.

    Oh, and I DEFINITELY would get a floor plan where we wouldn't have to convert the sleeping spaces. That's one of our biggest irritations right now. And I figure to justify making the move, it's gotta be pretty close to perfect for what we need.

    Side wind resistance is something that's crossed my mind too - we've spent a lot of time driving to see family in NM (from Houston) along that I-10 corridor and the wind can get pretty fierce out there, even without any kind of trailer!

    Thanks again, everyone, for the great info!! I'll keep doing my research - I'll call our local state park and ask about the clam shelters, and look into the trail manors and hi-los. I love the idea of pop ups, but I know I wouldn't be able to sleep in them. Combination of hearing every single noise in the campground through the canvas, plus the feeling of being suspended while lying on the mattress. And trust me, I need my sleep. If Momma ain't happy... ;)
     

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