A. I’ve been camping since I was in the womb – I mean that literally, my mom and dad were camping a few days before I was born. I’ve slept outside for probably thousands of hours and in every weather – all 4 seasons, desert to forest to mountain to beach. I’ve done it all, more or less. Any camping experience I haven’t had is either 1)niche (if you counted, say, Mt. Everest as a “camping trip”) or out of my price range (I have never gone backpacking in Iran).
To be blunt, I’ve earned what you might call “comfort”. I want to be able to spend a week or two in the woods, but, I don’t want to have to deal with all the fun stuff you get spending a week in a tent: leaks, rips, heavy storms, animals, weirdos, cold snaps, hot snaps, you name it.
In other words: I want to stay close to the basic “shape” of tent camping but without all the downsides. And we did not want things like satellite TV and a bread maker. A travel-trailer-style camper just isn’t us.
Thus, we wanted the basics of tent camping but with the benefit of a travel-trailer. What we got is perfect.
Q. What did you buy?
A. A 5×9 Mid-Range by Hiker Trailer. We customized most elements available: we have the fancy fan, a tool box, the “lock-n-roll” trailer hitch, and some interior customizations.
Q. How big is it inside?
A. floor-space, a queen-size bed. Enough headroom to kneel, so you can get dressed pretty easily. But you can’t stand up. Kneeling (including the mattress), my head nearly touches the ceiling; I’m 6′ tall.
Q. 5×8 or 5×9? Does it matter?
A. We have so much room for storage just by adding the extra foot. I’m sort of concerned we’re going to go from our “tight 2 bins” to the whole “be a goldfish and expand to fill the available space”.
Q. How’s it sleep?
A. We got one of those internet mattresses, the kind you hear advertised on every podcast, a tri-fold number. We had to use an electric knife to trim it by about an inch and put down some weird underlayer to help ensure it doesn’t get moist. Honestly it’s about 98% comfy as our home mattress (also off the internet – no, not that one, the other one you hear on every podcast).
Q. How’s it tow?
A. I guess it depends on what you drive. I have a 2017 Tacoma w/ a v6 and the full-on towing package, purchased specifically to tow a trailer this size.
I don’t want to say “You don’t notice it”, because you do, but it hardly affects performance. Going up a mountain uses a little more of the engine, and braking takes a little extra effort, but not so much that you’ll have a serious learning curve.
Where there is a pretty big learning curve: backing it up (obvs), some drive-thrus, and tight parking lots. I had to spend 20 minutes sitting in a parking lot in Moorefield, WV because a couple of people just sort of blocked me in with their monster trucks. (Also I’m pretty unsure of how it handles in tight spaces so I did not want to ding their big monster trucks, nor my new trailer).
Q. You said light, and fan? It has power?
A. Yes. It is powered by one of those heavy-duty marine batteries (as in boat, not oorah). It has 2 internal lights: one in the galley, and 1 in the cabin. There are no external lights. The fan is a high-speed exhaust-type fan mounted in the center of the cabin; it has a button you can press to have it keep the cabin at 70-something degrees.
We mostly use battery-powered lamps, though. The main light is blazingly brilliant (a very nice LED) and for whatever reason, my wife decided she doesn’t like to use it unless necessary; and the galley light is rarely needed, as we almost always have everything stowed by dark, anyway.
We opted for a portable solar charger; it has a panel the size of a smallish office whiteboard that you can move around to track the sun. It can charge the battery in a few hours on a bright day. The downside is, here in the eastern woodlands, you’re almost always 100% covered by decent tree canopy. But it’s a very nice to have, in case you need it, since it occupies very little space/weight. There is also a plug for “shore power” if you’re in a developed campground, but we’ve never used it.
There is no heater. Technically these are not rated for 4 seasons; lots of people use them in winter but they have no special insulation and winter environments bring extra challenges. We have very little interest in winter camping, so it doesn’t bother us. On cold nights, say in the highlands of West Virginia, we just bring an extra wool blanket and dress warmly for bed. So far, we’ve endured near-freezing without ever feeling cold. Some people use heaters in theirs but it scares me.
Q. What kind of gear does it have? You said “galley”, does it have, like a stove and water and stuff?
A. Ours does not. Like I said above, we want “durable tent camping”. So we still use a camp stove, but we upgraded from my little JetBoil to an actual white gas stove thingee. There is no water storage; not having to winterize was a key consideration. Like I said: there’s our 2 tote bins of the same stuff we took tent camping, with a few things removed (spare stakes, patch kit, ground cloths). The other consideration was we wanted no food in it. All food is stored in the truck.
Our “galley” is incredibly sparse compared to some.
As I write this, the whole Covid thing has kinda fucked up our camping season; it’s May 3rd and we haven’t gotten out yet, because many places are just closed, like “they closed the forest road” closed. We’d hoped to have had a shakedown trip for this season done by now. As-is, we might get out to some places by the end of the month. If not, I won’t have much hiker trailer stuff to report on for a bit.