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Tow Behind Camper or Motel Rooms


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Got some questions for anyone's input please.  

My lady and I are going to begin taking extended trips out west and north for hunting and sightseeing.  Currently we have a 26' motorhome but there are several issues we don't like - gotta tow a vehicle, gotta crawl over each other to get out of bed, tiny bathroom...  So we are gonna make a change.

We drive a Suburban that we can fit 5 dogs comfortably in their own crates and carry ALL the needed guns, shells, collars, clothes, etc... required to hunt on platforms I built that attatch to the top of the crates.  

I get 17 MPG whether I do 55 or 80.

We are discussing spending $10 - $18000 on a tow behind travel trailer and get exactly what we need in a camper.  We camp a lot locally in the spring and summer so it will get used quite a bit.  We are looking at 2, if not 3, 10 - 14 day trips each year chasing birds and/or scenery for the next 10 years, if not longer.

Is a camper worth this kind of money - initial investment, insurance, annual upkeep, decrease in MPG?  Or should we look into stating in motels and eating in town all the time.

Sorry for rambling - just wanted to give all info I could.  Thanks in advance for your input.

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It's like every other toy you'll buy, only you can determine if "it's worth it or not."

I've been using a pull behind travel trailer for a mobile hunting camp for the last 2.5 years.  I generally like the flexibility it affords us but it's not perfect.  The biggest benefit to me is that I can usually park the thing close to the area I intend to hunt, therefore I'm not driving long distances back and forth from motel to hunting area each day.  It's also nice to have the ability to prepare your own meals rather than eating at some  greasy spoon restaurant every day.

Sometimes there will be a campground near your hunting area but many times there won't be.  Therefore you'll want to equip your rig for camping off the grid.  In my case that meant roof mounted solar panels, dual batteries, portable generator, satellite tv antennae & receiver.  If you plan to camp off the grid get a trailer with the largest holding tank capacities you can to extend your time between dumping stations.

Like you mentioned, we use ours in the off season to travel and visit friends and family so it's not just a hunting expense item.

One other benefit I've enjoyed with this trailer is off season scouting.  It's the cat's a$$ for that.  Pull it to an area you think you might like to hunt in the future, spend a few days with the dogs checking out the area in comfort.

Best of luck in your decision making.

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Even when the hotel welcomes hunting dogs, 5 dogs in a hotel is a PITA in my experience, so for that reason alone IMO its worth it.

Look at bigfoot campers if you want a 4 season one

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I think you'd like the camper. Many times depending where you camp you can have the whole place to yourself. The dogs like that. There is also a freedom to go where motels do not, and you are not locked in to a specific place if you want move. You already have the rig to pull it. Main thing in your case is that your wife is happy with it.
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Sorry this is something I think can only be answered yourself. Everyone has that same dilemma, that spends any amount of time chasing birds.
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One more thing that happened to me a couple times is you typically have to make reservations in good areas well in advance of opening week to get rooms.

If that local area is devoid of birds because of local weather like hail you have to drive long distances to hunt. So you are screwed.

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I finally bought a hard-sided camper this past year after considering it for a long time.  We have mostly stayed in motels during our western trips since the late 1980's but did tent camp three years near Pierre.  Two years it was great fun but the third year put me off shoulder season tent camping forever.  Biblical freezing rain and gale force wind for the better part of a week will test anyone's patience even with the best frame tent.

Hence, I bought a used 22 foot Arctic Fox trailer with one small slide from a dealer this past September.  It has one queen bed and a dinette that turns into a bed, albeit a fairly short one.  I looked and looked for a bunkhouse-style arrangement with bunk beds, but when you want a true four-season trailer, your options are extremely limited in the used market.  My biggest concern was being able to stay warm and not have the plumbing freeze since we went to South Dakota in November this year.  That is why I held out for a true four-season unit.

Overall, the camper was a great success.  There was plenty of room for three of us, although we're used to tent camping so you may want to take that with a grain of salt.  We were able to stay right where we were hunting, thus avoiding a lot of back and forth driving to town had we stayed in a motel.  We were also able to cook all our own meals.  I like to cook, so that's a bonus for me.  Plus it gave us something to do in the evening.

We mostly stayed in a campground with an electrical hookup so running down the batteries and/or running a generator was never an issue.

Dealing with dogs was easier as well.  No concerns about them running into the road or getting in a fight with somebody else's dog running loose in the motel parking lot.

The downside was that towing a camper 1,100 miles one-way in less than ideal weather is no fun, especially at night.  I have a 2000 Ford Excursion with the 7.3 diesel engine and it was still a chore.  I've towed a dual axle boat trailer around for many years and was surprised to find the camper was much more troublesome in terms of wind resistance and swaying.  I would definitely take an extended test drive with your Suburban towing a trailer of the size you intend to purchase to make sure that you are comfortable with it.  I have a 1500 Suburban as an everyday driver and it really struggles to tow our camper as it is right at the tow capacity when loaded with gear.

The other main concern is the increased possibility of a mechanical failure that will impact your trip.  I had visions of smoking a bearing or losing the trailer brakes and having to make or seek out repairs in the middle of nowhere, all the while burning vacation days.  I don't often see this issue raised by the retired guys since they typically have more time to deal with this sort of thing.  For those of us trying to squeeze in as much hunting as possible in a week with a 20 hour drive on either end of it, this is a much bigger risk.

Cost-wise it saved us some money, but only if you ignore the cost of the camper itself.  Our fuel cost essentially doubled and since we stayed in a campground, there were still some daily fees involved.  We saved money by cooking our own meals, but in the whole scheme of things, it really doesn't amount to much in a week given how much in costs to bird hunt in general.

I'm pretty happy with it on the whole and hope to get some use from it this summer as well.  We're already making all sorts of plans for next fall now that we feel like we've got some of the wrinkles ironed out.

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On longer fishing and hunting trips I usually tow my 24' Airstream TT. This trailer has 3" of fiberglass insulation between the inner and outer aluminum shells. It has a thermostat controlled furnace, a bath with shower, twin bunks, kitchen and food storage areas, a 6.8 cubic foot 12V fridge/freezer, and a convertible dining area that works for up to 4 people. It is perfect for 2 people to hunt out of.

My dogs stay in insulated boxes in my F350.

The best thing about the TT is independence from cafes and restaurants. I cannot eat cafe food every day. In the Airstream I can prepare excellent, healthy meals without a problem. The motel option leaves you dependent on 'eating out'. UGH!

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buy a weight distributing hitch to prevent excess sway, pack the wheel bearings and buy good tires

tire age is important if you are buying used, there can be plenty of tread yet the tires are bad, I would replace them every 5 years myself

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We use our 24' TT quite a bit, I use it alot during hunting season.  37 nights this past season.  I like unpacking once.  I would echo the four season model recommendations, mine is a three season model, no heat in the enclosed basement, I froze the plumbing once in November.
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Bill and I have up to now, stayed at local hotels and eaten in town.  The problem is a lot of times the local hotel is not very nice.  I hate the heater in the wall that either has on or off and is horribly noisy and you have to get up in the middle of the night and turn it off.  You are never quite sure of where the sheets, bedspread, or carpet have been exposed to.  Dog friendly hotels, you pay extra and then have to worry that if you go out to dinner, the hotel mgmt needs to go in the room and the dogs got out.  Or the hotel mgmt insists they stay off the bed, really???? THen there is the eating out,  you have no choice but to eat out.  Then choices in the small towns are limited.  One town we were in, the only place for breakfast was the gas station.

Are there nice hotels, sometimes but you pay more and then might not accept dogs.  For example, in Watertown SD, the Ramada Ramkota.  Very nice but don't accept dogs.  

So this year, we rented a 19' trailer.  I admit, it was hard to find a smaller trailer.  We were staying on a hunting property where they had shared rooms and one bathroom for 5 or 6 rooms.  We hooked up to the electric and the water.  I loved it.  We had our own place, warm and dry.  I could use the bathroom (including the shower) when I needed to, have a cup of tea in the morning or before going to bed.  The ability to make a meal if we feel like it is a great option.  THe dogs were ok in the trailer.  

I know the cost is a more for gas and the rental or purchase of a trailer but having a comfortable, nice place to stay I think is worth it.  Especially if it's your own trailer.

I love to hunt, but I like my comfort and my own stuff around me.  

Cindy

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Maybe trailers are better, now, but my family did the trailer camping thing in the 70's, and I remember all the work a trailer involved.  We did one 3-week road trip each year, and 3 or 4 long weekends each year.

Before each trip, the trailer had to be hauled out of storage and cleaned up.  That was a 1 to 2 day task.  After the trip, the trailer had to be cleaned up and put back in storage, another 1 - 2 days.  Then, there was usually some major malfunction on each trip which required at least one down day to repair.  Dumping the septic tank was always an ordeal.  Also, it took longer to drive everywhere because of pulling the trailer.  Couldn't travel in wind or snow because of the trailer.  Whether it was being used or not, the trailer always needed to be maintained.  

Lot'sa lot'sa work is all I remember.

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We got rid of our Pop up trailer in 2014.  I was tired of hauling it and then spending an hour setting it up...most of the time in the dark.  I miss the ability to jump and go...but not the hassle and upkeep additionally our HOA doesn't allow it to be parked at the house unless its in the garage...and ours was too long to do that so it was a rental space at a storage lot $65 a month...what a pain.

I see a hardside camp trailer in our future, maybe a couple of years but for now its the motel route.

I would think with 5 dogs, the camper is the only way to go.

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Maybe trailers are better, now, but my family did the trailer camping thing in the 70's, and I remember all the work a trailer involved.  We did one 3-week road trip each year, and 3 or 4 long weekends each year.

Before each trip, the trailer had to be hauled out of storage and cleaned up.  That was a 1 to 2 day task.  After the trip, the trailer had to be cleaned up and put back in storage, another 1 - 2 days.  Then, there was usually some major malfunction on each trip which required at least one down day to repair.  Dumping the septic tank was always an ordeal.  Also, it took longer to drive everywhere because of pulling the trailer.  Couldn't travel in wind or snow because of the trailer.  Whether it was being used or not, the trailer always needed to be maintained.  

Lot'sa lot'sa work is all I remember.

It's just like everything else you own, it requires some work to maintain it, some cost to maintain and store it. Dumping the holding tanks shouldn't have been a problem, it's pretty simple and straight forward.  Knock on wood I've never had any kind of major problem with mine.  I did just wax it two weeks ago and that requires some effort I can tell you.

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It's just like everything else you own, it requires some work to maintain it, some cost to maintain and store it.

Exactly.

"Saving" on the costs of hotel rooms unavoidably comes at quite a price in money and your own free time.

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