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Author Topic: Advice for newbies considering a really tiny camper  (Read 707 times)

vito55

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Advice for newbies considering a really tiny camper
« on: May 21, 2017, 01:48:35 PM »
Two years ago my wife and I decided we should buy a camper for our travels. Not so much for saving money, but primarily for 3 reasons: sleeping in our own bed, and not one that might vary significantly in quality and cleanliness in motels; being able to prepare food ourselves and not having to eat three meals a day in restaurants which usually meant far too many calories and pretty expensive on a long trip; and finally, being able to take our little dog with us and not have to limit ourselves to pet friendly motels.

We also did not want to have to buy a new towing vehicle, so we limited our weight consideration to what our Subaru Outback could pull. We ended up buying a top-of-the-line T@b from Little Guys in Ohio. This little camper, which weighs only 1800 pounds, was pretty amazing. Wet bath and toilet, a/c, "queen" size bed, refrig, sink and stovetop, flat screen TV and stereo system, and really impressive engineering and build quality. But this posting is really intended to make those of you thinking about a T@b or similar tiny camper to really consider some of the drawbacks. The main drawback is space. Floor space in this camper is about 4 square feet, so while one person is making up the bed or cooking or whatever, you either have to be in the shower area, outside the camper, or sitting at the table if the table is set up. Especially when stuck inside due to inclement weather, the lack of ANY space is really a turnoff. Having to use the same space for a dinette table and for the bed means that if you want to be able to sit at the table, the bed has to be closed up. So if there are two of you, both have to get out of bed at the same time, and as I stated before, one of you has to find a spot to hide while the other converts the bed to the table set up. The bed itself is small, and not really "queen" size. You are sleeping on relatively thin set of dinette table cushions laid flat, and while this sure beats sleeping on hard ground in a tent, its not much of a bed. My wife and I are relatively short, but we found to lie flat we had to sleep with one of us toward the back of the camper and one toward the front, requiring the back sleeping person to climb over the front person to get up for the bathroom or anything else. Storage in this 13(?) foot camper is exceedingly limited, so much of what we took with us was kept in the Outback. This was OK except when it was raining heavily Oh, the T@b offers an optional tent extension which is quite nice, but not really sealed so in a heavy rain it was not usable and all the time we had bugs getting inside the tent. I would think that other very small trailers have some of the same limitations so when you are looking, try to imagine going through all of the days and nights activities within this space before deciding that it is for you.

After one year with the T@b we sold it (and they were in high enough demand that we sold it quickly and for a good price) and ultimately bought a Vintage Cruiser from Gulf Stream. The Vintage is bigger than the T@b, and oh what 6 feet can do. Now we have a real queen size bed, with access on both sides of the bed (pure luxury!). The bathroom is a dry bath, with a real shower with door, regular toilet, and small sink and vanity. The kitchen area has a real frig, freezer, microwave, sink and stovetop. Of course it has A/c and heat, and a ceiling exhaust fan and a dinette table that very comfortably seats two and in a pinch could hold four people. Having a bed and a table in separate areas, always set up, totally changed our camping experience. Storage both within the camper and in a large outside storage area allows us to not have to put hardly anything in the back of our tow vehicle. But speaking of tow vehicle. The Vista weighs (empty) about 3,500 pounds, and probably closer to 4,500 when fully loaded including the fresh water tank. We ended up getting a Dodge Durango because we didn't want a truck, and the Durango has a towing capacity of 6,200 pounds. So far we love this Durango and when not towing the camper it has become our primary vehicle, relegating our older Subaru Outback to being the back up vehicle for whichever one of us is not using the Durango.

We didn't get to use the Vista last year as much as we had hoped to, but it is just bigger enough that we felt we were traveling with all the comfort of home. It has everything we want, and nothing we don't. Its still a pain to back up (like any smaller camper), and wind resistance when we tow it cuts our mpg from about 24 down to 12. Right now we see no need to get a larger trailer since the Vista gives us all that we need. But without question it is better for us by far than the little T@b was. Build quality of the T@b was better than what we have in the Vista, but from what we looked at, nothing seems as well engineered and built as does the T@b, including the Airstream we looked at. But all in all we are so glad that we were able to move up from the tiny T@b to something still small by RV standards but just perfect for our needs.

Hope this long post was valuable to some of you and might save at least one person the hassle of seeing a tiny trailer and thinking "how cute!" and then regretting it soon afterward.
Retired US Army; Honda Goldwing rider and former MSF Instructor, NRA Life Member

RedandSilver

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Re: Advice for newbies considering a really tiny camper
« Reply #1 on: May 21, 2017, 03:29:16 PM »
Thanks for the review.
I hope that others considering a small TT take note.  There is such a thing as too small and most outgrow it in no time at all.

It seems we see this often, that many new to RV'ing, start out small and then start upgrading over and over.
I usually recommend that someone buy at least a little larger then they think they need to reduce the upgrading cycle that is sure to start.
But I also understand testing the waters before jumping in with both feet.  Another reason we almost always recommend buying used at first.

I wouldn't doubt that if you ever want to do long trips or Snowbird (if that applies to you) that you might very well upgrade again.
Then it's likely that if you go with another TT that the tow vehicle will also need another upgrade. 
A MH might let you use your current TV as a toad, if the right MH is purchased someday.  That's a whole topic in and of itself.  But IF you
ever upgrade again it MIGHT be something to at least look into, just so you know, IMO.

I hope your newer TT serves you well and you get more use out of it then you did with your first one - I'm pretty sure you will.
« Last Edit: May 21, 2017, 03:30:55 PM by RedandSilver »
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bsandey

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Re: Advice for newbies considering a really tiny camper
« Reply #2 on: May 21, 2017, 03:42:20 PM »
The micro trailers are, as stated, in demand, and many people love them. But they are not for everyone. I just bought one myself (Aliner Ascape), and I do love it. It's exactly what I wanted, and even more. Yes, the table has to be removed to make the bed, and there is no room for two people to be moving around inside. But my idea of camping is not to be inside the camper much, other than at night to sleep, or if there's a storm. But even then (with a storm), we're not moving around all that much. Maybe a movie on the TV, or play a game of cribbage or Yahtzee. And all this I'm able to tow with my Jeep Patriot, so I don't need to also add in a car payment along with the camper payment.

Maybe in 8, 10, 12 years or so, I might want to move to something a little bigger. i might also want to stay with something small like this. I don't know what my future plans will be. But that's far enough into the future to give me many years with this camper I have now. No one can tell me that I'm doing it wrong and my camper is too small. It's just right for me. In fact, I'm so excited about this camper that I started a new blog to post stuff about camping (or anything else). I've never felt this way about tenting or the pop-up I had when married and the kids were younger (it's now me and my 14 year old son, and my dog "Henry" that will be using the new camper).
« Last Edit: May 21, 2017, 03:46:14 PM by bsandey »
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vito55

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Re: Advice for newbies considering a really tiny camper
« Reply #3 on: May 22, 2017, 09:23:30 AM »
As I alluded to in the start of this thread, it was not only the tiny size of the camper, but the reality that at our age now we no longer want to sleep on a thin foam "mattress" that is really just seat cushions laid flat, and no longer can tolerate having to climb over each other to get out of bed in the middle of the night. But that all said, I will admit that this whole RV thing is still a question mark for myself and my wife. We've already run into RV parks that are pretty sleazy, or when traveling without advance reservations finding it hard to find a decent place to spend the night, so we decided to make the summer of 2017 our real "test" year. If we reach the late Fall and find that either we didn't make much use of the camper for whatever reasons, or that our experiences were not what we had hoped for, this new camper will also go on the selling block and we will go back to the less than totally satisfactory travel mode of motels and restaurants. Maybe I'll update this post in a few months with our conclusion. But for now I do know that the tiny trailer thing is not for us.
Retired US Army; Honda Goldwing rider and former MSF Instructor, NRA Life Member

UTTransplant

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Re: Advice for newbies considering a really tiny camper
« Reply #4 on: May 22, 2017, 10:23:05 AM »
To each their own. I have a friend who has had her T@B for 6-7 years and she absolutely oves it. She tows it with a Subaru too, and she just can't tow anything more. We had a 17' Casita for 4 years. It worked great for up to two weeks, but we found we couldn't handle the closeness more than that. Since most people take short trips (1-2 weeks), not everyone wants bigger trailers. We now have a 24' box size that works for 5-6 weeks at which point I am regretting the things I didn't have room for. If we ever go for longer trips regularly we will get a Class A, but we don't need it yet.

Summary, everyone needs something different in their camping experience. It is generally based on how long they are gone, how they travel, and what they value in the experience. No one size fits all whether it is big or little.
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SargeW

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Re: Advice for newbies considering a really tiny camper
« Reply #5 on: May 22, 2017, 10:38:37 AM »
Great review Vito. I am always amazed by the folks I see, full timers or long timers that are able to travel and live in small units. I have seen several Tab trailers, A Liners, and truck campers. Many have been full timers and have simply adapt to the rig that they have, and see no reason to get a bigger unit.  I applaud those folks, as not everyone's idea of RVing has to be like mine. 

I'm sure some of those folks look at me like I'm nuts for pushing this behemoth around and having all the systems to take care of.  And sometimes I agree with them......
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Dara

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Re: Advice for newbies considering a really tiny camper
« Reply #6 on: May 22, 2017, 11:04:10 AM »
I'm a single person with 2 cats and wouldn't want a tiny camper either.  you know cats, they need room to "go crazy".  thanks for the review. it solidified my decision.
Travel Adventurer, Motorcycle Enthusiast, Vegan Cat lover and KW agent
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Kevin Means

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Re: Advice for newbies considering a really tiny camper
« Reply #7 on: May 22, 2017, 11:37:32 AM »
Yep... definitely not an issue of right or wrong. Thank God we live in a country with so many choices of so many things. 22 years ago, I thought my tent camping days were over when we bought a cab-over camper. Then, three Class A motorhomes later, all progressively bigger, I've found myself back in a tent, Jeep camping in the middle of nowhere.

Notice I said, "myself?" It's not for everyone... including Cyndi Jo, but I enjoy it. I've tent-camped more in the past four months than in our RV. Compared to my tent in the middle of Death Valley or the Mojave Desert, those tiny trailers are pretty luxurious. :D

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Oldgator73

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Re: Advice for newbies considering a really tiny camper
« Reply #8 on: May 22, 2017, 12:03:04 PM »
We tent camped for about 25 years all over the US and Japan. When I was about a year from retiring from the AF we purchased a 36' triple slide 5 th wheel. Pulled it with 3/4 ton Dodge single cab with Cummings diesel. We fulltimed about 5 years and eventually sold the rig in about 2004. Fast forward to 2016 and we end up with a Winnabego Winnie Drop, 17' with a dry weight of 3500 lbs. I am trying to adjust. We have all the amenities needed; full kitchen, wet bath, queen size bed. I would like to have a seating area other than the dinette. I would also like to have a walk-a-around bed(much easier to make and I wouldn't have to crawal over the wife to go to the BR). It was cheap enough at $15,200 out the door. I'll get used to it since I don't want to go bigger or more expensive.

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2016 Nissan Frontier 4x4 Crew Cab
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Dara

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Re: Advice for newbies considering a really tiny camper
« Reply #9 on: May 22, 2017, 01:12:55 PM »

After one year with the T@b we sold it (and they were in high enough demand that we sold it quickly and for a good price) and ultimately bought a Vintage Cruiser from Gulf Stream. The Vintage is bigger than the T@b, and oh what 6 feet can do. Now we have a real queen size bed, with access on both sides of the bed (pure luxury!). The bathroom is a dry bath, with a real shower with door, regular toilet, and small sink and vanity. The kitchen area has a real frig, freezer, microwave, sink and stovetop. Of course it has A/c and heat, and a ceiling exhaust fan and a dinette table that very comfortably seats two and in a pinch could hold four people. Having a bed and a table in separate areas, always set up, totally changed our camping experience. Storage both within the camper and in a large outside storage area allows us to not have to put hardly anything in the back of our tow vehicle. But speaking of tow vehicle. The Vista weighs (empty) about 3,500 pounds, and probably closer to 4,500 when fully loaded including the fresh water tank. We ended up getting a Dodge Durango because we didn't want a truck, and the Durango has a towing capacity of 6,200 pounds. So far we love this Durango and when not towing the camper it has become our primary vehicle, relegating our older Subaru Outback to being the back up vehicle for whichever one of us is not using the Durango.


how do you like the Vintage Cruiser?   i know it's a lightweight model, but does it feel cheaply made inside?  like everything is just particle board and paneling.
Travel Adventurer, Motorcycle Enthusiast, Vegan Cat lover and KW agent
2012 Ford F-150 Lariat Supercrew 3.5L Ecoboost
2002 Honda CBR600F4i

vito55

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Re: Advice for newbies considering a really tiny camper
« Reply #10 on: May 22, 2017, 03:11:45 PM »
The materials and workmanship of the Vintage Cruiser does not seem to be of the high quality that the T@b was, but it has not been a problem for us. Considering the size of this trailer and the weight, I guess it could not be rock solid. For what its worth, the dealer that I bought the Vintage from had their head technician prep the trailer before we picked it up, and he was the one who showed us how everything worked. When I noted that the materials seemed a bit inferior to what we had previously had in the T@b, he stated that NONE of the travel trailers are up to the T@b's standard of high quality, but that the Vintage was as good or better than most of the brands they sold. When I mentioned that we had looked at Airstream, but the cost was just too high, he said that contrary to popular opinion, the quality of build in the Airstream was nothing special, and not superior to what we had just purchased in the Vintage. The one item that we had an issue with was the fitting under the bathroom sink where the city water input connected to the hose that then supplies everything else in the trailer. The fitting had deteriorated over the first winter with the plastic just crumbling (and keeping us from using city water when we de-winterized). The dealer replaced it for us with a metal fitting so we should not have the problem reoccur, and it may have been my fault, not the factory, for not insuring anti-freeze in that area when winterizing the trailer. Other than that, everything is working as it is supposed to so I must say I am not disappointed with the quality at this point.
Retired US Army; Honda Goldwing rider and former MSF Instructor, NRA Life Member

Rjaye

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Re: Advice for newbies considering a really tiny camper
« Reply #11 on: July 30, 2017, 12:13:58 PM »
I'm looking to trade my 2017 Subaru crosstrek for a 2017 6 cyl outback...also have been looking at the Tab as well as the Falcon f20...... in your opinion would an outback tow the falcon at 2400 dry weight or stick with the smaller tab?

 

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