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Author Topic: Brand new, in the research stage, how small is too small?  (Read 889 times)


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Brand new, in the research stage, how small is too small?
« on: August 05, 2018, 12:10:06 PM »
Hello All,

My wife and I have been bitten by the RV Life bug. We went on a short weekend trip to do some white water rafting and noticed we stayed outdoors all day except to sleep. We came to the realization that not only would a travel trailer allow us to travel more often (can't tell you how many times a last minute trip was impossible because we could not find pet friendly lodging), but we would also enjoy the simple times hanging out together around the camp site. And lets face it, having your own bed makes any trip better.

The big limiting factor in my decision is my vehicle. I have a v8 4runner that has a towing capacity of 7,000 pounds, but unfortunately, the payload is only 950 pounds. Which means I am trying to keep my tongue weight under #400 and lower. A new vehicle is not an option at the moment. I love my 4runner to death and I am a total fan boy when it comes to the older 4runners.

My wife is pretty set on having a bathroom and being able to dry her hair with a hairdryer. I on the other hand like the boondocking style. I think we will meet in the middle after the experience. But her needs do mean I need a full bath instead of a wet bath.

We are looking at Jayco Hummingbird models and Forest River R-pods. One thing I wonder is if these trailers have enough room for a couple and a dog to comfortably staff inside if we encounter bad weather. Can I get an experienced take on this? We like to cook so that is another concern as some of the models do not have much counter space.

And finally, what is the general consensus on slides? I see lots of negative comments on slides, but the very people slamming them still seem to like them haha!

And sorry for the long post. But the ultimate goal is to test the waters with a small Travel Trailer and then if we need to, we can upsize down the road when we understand more of what we enjoy.

Here is a break down of how we plan to use the travel trailer:
50% Short trips 2-3 days (hiking trips, fishing, rafting etc)
30% week trips which would mostly include beach destinations like OBX
20% super long trips- We want to try tripping it from SC to Yellowstone. If we like the trip we would love to do more of these type trips.

I appreciate any insight you can provide!

Gary RV_Wizard

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Re: Brand new, in the research stage, how small is too small?
« Reply #1 on: August 05, 2018, 12:22:09 PM »
The amount of space needed is a very personal thing. Further, cramped quarters can be tolerated of a day or two with a bit of grumpiness, but even lovers can get aggravated when tripping over each other day by day. Bear in mind that most people buy too small and end up trading in a year or so, so err on the size of larger (but within your 4Runner's limits).

I think you can get the bath you want, but the hair dryer means electrical hook-ups. And to take advantage of that bath, you may find you need water - and perhaps sewer - as well. You and the wife need to have a long talk...

Slides, like anything else mechanical, can have problems.  However, the payback in living space is fabulous, so far more people love them than hate them.  Besides, happy campers don't write as many internet blogs as complainers.   FWIW, I'm old enough to remember when many people claimed they would never buy a vehicle with an auto transmission, and later with power windows or a/c. Try to  find them now...

Gary Brinck
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Home: Ocala National Forest, FL


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Re: Brand new, in the research stage, how small is too small?
« Reply #2 on: August 05, 2018, 12:27:12 PM »
Most people trade in after a year or so. You really need a truck. You badly need a truck. You will be overweight before you leave town. I full timed in a 27 foot class A with no slides for a year before trading it in and getting a 33 foot class A with no slides. And it was too small. I now have a 33 foot fifth wheel with three slides. It is big enough. I am single living with three cats. Two people in something that small would be a disaster.
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Re: Brand new, in the research stage, how small is too small?
« Reply #3 on: August 05, 2018, 02:07:23 PM »
Since upgrading the tow vehicle isn't an option at this time, you don't have a lot of choices. Either buy a smaller trailer that you can pull... or don't. Enjoy some great times camping..  or don't.
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Re: Brand new, in the research stage, how small is too small?
« Reply #4 on: August 05, 2018, 02:49:20 PM »
Well. a couple of answers...

Wife and I started with a tent.. Only used it once though
Then a PUP (Tent camper or PopUP) this one was, per the ads. able to sleep six (No way)

But it had two 2-person beds that pulled out (No storage. but we used one for storage) and a convertable bed/dinnett (Bench seats) that also slept 2.  Chummy but nice. We towed it over about 1/4 of the USA.

Next came a 13' SCAMP.   LIkewise it had a bed in front (one person) 2 person in back and a convertible bed/dinette, Both had a small kitchen. ice box (not a fridge as you would have today) and Fresh water 5-10 gallons.. No waste storage (we used a barker tote).

No toilet either though we had a portta potty

A 16' Scamp has what is called a Wet Toilet (TOilet and shower and waste tanks).

Chummy but yes. doable. we traveled with Wife, Myself, Daughter and Kitty.

Finally I towed that 13' Scamp to a RV dealer and drove a 38' Class A home.. Let me tell you that.. Was DIFFERENT.. Took me a couple trips to get used to it.
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Re: Brand new, in the research stage, how small is too small?
« Reply #5 on: August 20, 2018, 09:11:51 AM »
Dear Clemson13....You can get a lot more these days with the lighter campers. I started with a Ford Edge SUV and a 3,500 lb towing capacity. My first TT was a 17ft clipper, queen bed, full bath and kitchen (both were small though). Storage was also limited. But like you I couldn't afford a bigger tow vehicle (or truck). We lasted one year before jumping to a 33ft 5th wheel and a 2500 HD truck. Yes, slides add weight, but also room you are looking for (you need space for the dog). My suggestion is to rent one for a few weeks and test it out. Lots of business do RV rentals. This way you can test the waters and see what works for you. But with 7,000 towing capacity you have more options than I did. I looked at the R-Pods but they were too small and very limited storage.
David - Charlotte NC
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Previous 5th wheel (Keystone Sprinter) and TT (Coachman Clipper) Owner.


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Re: Brand new, in the research stage, how small is too small?
« Reply #6 on: August 20, 2018, 09:27:06 AM »
Nobody can tell you what's too small, that's very personal. It depends solely on you and your wife. As an example, most people would probably say that my family is too big for a pop up, yet we've done many many 3-4 week trips in our little pop up. We are 7 people, 5 of whom are adult sized. Were we having dance parties inside? Nope. But we all got along and had an awesome time and always looked forward to the next trip on the books. We were also thankful that it wasn't a tent lol, because before that we used an 8 person tent.
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Re: Brand new, in the research stage, how small is too small?
« Reply #7 on: August 20, 2018, 09:48:41 AM »
You can only do what you can do. Based upon your desires I'd get the largest trailer with slide that your 4Runner can comfortably handle. If after awhile you find you really like RVing, I think you'll also find you want a bigger unit. At that point you'll have to make the 4Runner vs. bigger unit+bigger tow vehicle decision.
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Re: Brand new, in the research stage, how small is too small?
« Reply #8 on: August 20, 2018, 11:27:12 AM »
Occasional weekend trips means you can be comfortable in a much smaller package than a full timer. We hauled a pop up over most of the mountain west and Midwest for years with four kids. We also had a great time with a 17í  Casita with a wet bath. There are all kinds of ways to deal with a wet bath comfortably, so donít make your decision based on that. I always dried my hair outside the bathroom anyway. You will need an electrical hookup or generator for a hairdryer though. Just look for something you can tow comfortably with your water gear.
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Re: Brand new, in the research stage, how small is too small?
« Reply #9 on: August 20, 2018, 09:24:44 PM »
Hi Clemson13,
It seems like you and your wife camp some what like my wife and I. We camp to spend most of our time out side. We need a dry comfortable bed and a space inside if weather gets really bad. Wife likes her own toilet and shower. For us it was all doable in a 72 sq. ft truck camper. We showered out side with a hand pressurized pump and she had a porta potty. She also had her her dryer. Our longest trip out was 2 1/2 months. Yea we were ready to come home but had a great time. That was when we were younger as in our 50's. We now camp in luxury, to us, we now have 112 sq. ft. of travel trailer. 7' wide by 16' long. No more pota potty, no more outside showers. two comfortable single beds, do to a little remodeling. We still cook and eat probably 95% of our meals out side, mostly shower and sleep in the trailer. Basically when people as what we do our answer is, hike, eat, and sleep. We keep things simple so loaded were right at 4000 lbs. Hair dryer and blender for her smoothies no problem. Solar panel, battery, inverter. Even ran a small electric heater in the truck camper with the solar panel, battery inverter set up. What i'm trying to say is try to figure out what kind of camping your into an chose your camper around that. Have fun happy camping.



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Re: Brand new, in the research stage, how small is too small?
« Reply #10 on: August 21, 2018, 08:06:32 AM »
I'd consider a used class C.
For what you'll spend on a new smaller trailer, you can find a nice used class c.
Tow your 4runner.
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Re: Brand new, in the research stage, how small is too small?
« Reply #11 on: August 21, 2018, 12:32:54 PM »
Just what I was thinking-tow the 4Runner. 

Buy something a little older.  Avoid the depreciation and hassles of brand new. 
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Re: Brand new, in the research stage, how small is too small?
« Reply #12 on: August 21, 2018, 01:07:30 PM »
There are a number of newish pop-ups with bathrooms!!
I was doing a lot of research for towing with my older vehicle and bathroom was a requirement for me. (I will be staying a full week and may not have access to a bathroom and shower.)

Very doable... lots of choices out there, just go as small as you can stand well below your vehicle max... destroying your primary (and much loved) vehicle would be a shame...
See about renting before buying to trial run a few floor plans.

Do your research and good luck.
I love my little camper, she is small but perfect for two adults and the dog.
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Re: Brand new, in the research stage, how small is too small?
« Reply #13 on: August 21, 2018, 01:40:22 PM »
Very good answers already on here. 

I can only add one bit of advice.  Happy wife=happy life.  Unhappy wife=Unhappy life.  Unhappy wife long enough=Unhappy life with only half of your stuff left. 
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Re: Brand new, in the research stage, how small is too small?
« Reply #14 on: August 21, 2018, 02:18:05 PM »
We are in a similar situation that we spend as little time inside our trailer as possible since it's for trips. Our trailer is on the small side at 21 feet with no slides.  I can't see us with anything smaller, while still having a half way decent bed, bathroom (and ours is cramped) and enough room to stretch out a bit. 

Realistically I think you need to accept that you need a larger tow vehicle, or less comfort.  R-pod's and similar tear drop style trailers seem popular.  Some have wet baths, but you won't be blow drying your hair in it. Well maybe sitting on the toilet.


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Re: Brand new, in the research stage, how small is too small?
« Reply #15 on: August 22, 2018, 11:55:39 PM »
The "bathroom" is an area you need to clearly define for your needs. It WILL determine the size, type of camper you get.

I have been tent camping for 50+ years. The wife has gone with me twice. She cannot stand public facilities, even if they are spotless and brand new. So I needed a camper with a bathroom. It didn't take me long to find out that a porta-potty in the middle of the camper wasn't an option. Pretty much rules out all pop-up campers. Does your wife want a bathtub, or shower? Some units come with showers only, some with "bathtubs".

We went to several RV shows so we could walk through the units. I learned real quickly that a TT was out of the question. She wants a bedroom with a door separate from the rest of the coach. Pretty much rules out Travel Trailers and pop-up campers for me.

My needs are simple, I want to tow the boat. In Illinois that means a 5th wheel, or Class A/C. I'm not maintaining another engine, vehicle so a 5th wheel is my option. Illinois has a 60' total length limit. Those were my requirements.

Sounds like you already have some requirements defined. Tow vehicle, and "bathroom". You might want to expand on the definition of bathroom. You can always run an extension cord into the tent to do your hair. Power is easy to solve. Hot showers and flush toilets are a diffeent set of problems.

As for space requirements. I can live a week in a two man tent, just me and the dog. The wife needs just a tad more space. Remember, you are outside people and more than likely will spend most of your time outside. Delegating the camper for sleeping duties. But we get back to that bathroom issue. A pop-up with a canister toilet/shower is an option IF she is agreeable? If not, you looking at a travel trailer and will be hard pressed to find one within your trucks capacities. I'm sure it exists, but it will take many hours of reaserch to find it.

One tip. Since you are outside people and you can't control mother nature, buy a portable carport. They coast about $150 new, and you can find them on sale for about $100. I bought a 10' x 20' Shelter Logic brand portable carport about a decade ago for camping. I set it up and move my picnic table under it. Half of it has an 8' picnic table and the other half has room for numerous camp chairs. Spent many a day/night playing cards on the picnic table during heavy storms while the rest of the campers headed for crowded hot tents, pop-up campers. And if they were cheap tents, fighting leaks.

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