This is the question that perplexes any avid camper. When is the right time to move up to a bigger or better camper? Amy and I have struggled with that for the last several months. We started out tent camping in the fall of 2012. Though tent camping brought us great memories and a direct connection to nature, the tent “phase” only lasted from that fall camping season until mid-December when we decided it was time to upgrade. We purchased a Rockwood Freedom popup camper and immediately used it that winter. Like a kid with a new toy at Christmas, we could not wait until the spring flowers to bloom; we became those winter campers. Our friends even thought we were a little nutty to camp during the off season. Hence, our blog’s name; Crazy 4 Camping. Over the next 3 years, we camped extensively throughout all seasons at over 60 different campgrounds in 12 states. We loved every minute of it! We meant great people, hiked beautiful trails, and experienced nature the way it is intended. Our popup camper brought us great joy.
Yet, as we began camping with some of our friends this past summer, we began to get the “itch” for something new. We admired our friends’ travel trailers. How great would it be to have a bathroom and shower in our camper? Boy, if we have a camper with a slideout, the dogs would have plenty of space to move around. A fridge with a freezer means ICE CREAM while camping. All the perks of a travel trailer began to overshadow the simplicity of our popup. Amy and I found ourselves really considering the move. With as much camping as we do in a single year, it would be a wise investment. But a few things needed to happen before we could take that next step.
With the popup, we were able to tow with our SUV; Chevy Equinox. To move up to a travel trailer meant we also had to upgrade our tow vehicle. This, in itself, was a major undertaking. I researched endlessly to find the right truck for the job. My heart was yearning for a Chevy Silverado but I looked at a variety of trucks. I read articles, Google Reviews, and sought advice from friends who own trucks. I visited dealership after dealership, Craigslist ad after Craigslist ad. I could not find the right truck at the right price. Just as discouragement set in, my friend came to me with a proposal. He wanted to sell his truck and at a price that was overwhelmingly reasonable. Though the loan process, with a bank I will leave unmentioned, was a bit challenging and chaotic, within a few weeks of his proposal I now owned my first truck; 2013 Tundra 4×4. Those first few weeks were spent driving the truck all over town, showing it off to friends and family. I was super excited!! But it wasn’t long before I started thinking about a new camper.
At this point it was mid-November and I knew that December and January were the best months to shop for campers because you can often get great deals during the off season. Like the truck, we did extensive research. I feel like I was on the Internet almost every night searching for the “perfect” camper. We attended multiple RV shows in hopes of finding the right one. We visited more RV dealerships than I care to recall. There were times that we went through all the campers of the dealership twice, just to double check. We researched companies, looked at Google reviews, and compared prices throughout the country. The Internet is a powerful tool for the consumer. The search became so analytical, I began making Excel spreadsheets when we narrowed it down to five or six trailers we liked. We would look at the advantages and disadvantages of each one. Being 6’3”, I “tested out” every camper. I would lay on the bed and stand inside the shower to ensure I fit. We had to pass up a few great campers because they had 74” beds or showers that required me to tilt my head in order to fit. I remember at one dealership, we walked back and forth between two campers like four times, scrutinizing every last detail. The process became agonizing. Where’s our perfect camper? This process became a chore and I was not looking forward to the camping season like I normally would. After all said and done, at the beginning of March, we finally found the one. Yes, the price was a bit out of our previous budget, however, the price was very competitive in comparison to other RV dealerships. Although the camper did not include every possible feature, it was the best match for our camping lifestyle. So, we pulled the trigger. We bought a 2016 Crossroads Sunset 250RB. We traded in our popup and received a fair value, especially for how much we used it. We got our money’s worth. We filled out the paperwork and eagerly waited for our demo and walk through the following weekend. Since then, we have camped both weekends, despite the poor weather conditions. Friends and family visited us at the campgrounds and delighted in our newest “toy”.
The day we picked up the camper was bitter sweet, but mostly sweet. We were blessed with a new camper that will bring years of happiness and memories. It’s everything we could ask for with the additional features we did not have before (i.e. bathroom) But, we said goodbye to the popup. That camper has been everywhere. There is now an empty space in our garage where we used to store it. We have moved up to the “glamping world” from the world of simplicity. Before we left the dealership, I walked into the old popup one more time. I wouldn’t say it was an emotional moment but it did seem a bit weird to move on…
So, when is the right time to upgrade, you may ask. There is no definitive answer. Life circumstances will dictate that. If your family grows, whether children or pets, you may find yourself looking for more space. Maybe you take interest in “toys” like a 4-wheeler or motorcycle and want to upgrade to a toy hauler. Maybe you’re like how we were…tired of sleeping on the ground of the tent and now ready to move up to a popup. Some of you reading this are getting close to retirement and the thought of selling your house and making a 5th wheeler your new home and traveling adventure seems appealing.
Though I can’t tell you when the time is right for you to upgrade, I can offer you some advice. First, take your time. Quick decisions are usually emotional ones. This is why I never planned on buying a camper at an RV show. They want to get you all caught up in the heat of the moment so they can get a sale. Second, do your research! The Internet offer so many opportunities to shop without ever leaving your couch. Compare prices. Look at reviews of the camper. Be sure to look at the reviews of the dealership as well. We found a great camper that we really liked but found out the dealership had been downgraded to an “F” from the Better Business Bureau. For us, this was a deal breaker. When you’re at the campground, look around. Which campers do you see the most? If you see a camper you like, introduce yourself to the owners and get their input on that particular model. Third, ask questions. Don’t feel like you’re a nuisance at the dealership. That’s their job. If they want the sale, they will answer your questions while you are there, in an e-mail, or return phone call. Finding a good dealership is critical. This is more than likely the place you will bring your camper to be serviced or to address warranty issues. Take detailed notes! Trust me, after looking at several campers from various dealerships, it all becomes blurry. You will not remember the details of every camper no matter how great your memory is. Finally, be willing to travel to find you perfect camper. Though there are RV dealerships with 20 minutes of our house, we traveled an hour north to make our latest purchase. In fact, we met a lady there the same day we picked up our camper who had travelled 8 hours from North Carolina to buy theirs.
In the end, upgrade when the time is right for you. Take your time looking for the right camper. Remember, there is no such thing as a perfect camper. You will never find one with ALL of the features that you want. Find the best one for your needs and have a blast camping!!! Happy camping!