When is it time to upgrade?

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…

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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!

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What is Camping?

It seems like a simple question, right? Webster defines camping as “to live temporarily in or as if in a camp or outdoors, usually for recreation”. Yet, defining camping is ultimately in the eye of the beholder. One aspect of camping Amy and I enjoy is people watching. We love to walk around the campground and check out what everybody is camping in whether it is a  pop-up, travel trailer, fifth wheel, motorhome, or tent. Actually, we have seen some people camp in teepees.We stir up conversations, find out where they are from, why they camp, etc.

Camping means different things to different people. For some it is embracing the simple life and getting in touch with nature. This means nothing more than a simple tent. I have met some people who would never set foot in a camper  because it is not “real” camping. Our first camping experience as a couple was at a campground near our house called Cedarbrook. I met an older gentlemen who had been camping since he was a boy scout. We had a good conversation on what camping means. He was there with his wife who insisted on camping in a travel trailer. She had to have her own bathroom and shower. As a good husband, he respected her wishes and they own an RV. However,  he told me that he prefered tent camping to anything else. He told me stories of winter camping in Michigan. WOW! That seemed crazy to me, until I tried it myself. This man told me the only way to experience true nature is to camp as close to it as possible (tenting). Being in a camper is not “real” camping, he told me.

While this man enjoyed the experience of tent camping, I have talked with other campers that insist that pop-up campers are the way to go. They are the best of both worlds. On one hand they offer the nature aspect of camping, since it’s essentially a glorified tent on wheels, yet it provides the luxury of being off the ground and other amenities such as water, stove,refigerator, etc.

A buddy of mine owns a 30 foot travel trailer and loves it. He has a wife and two little kids and for his family neither a tent nor or a pop up would be their definition of camping. Although both he and his wife both started out tenting and then moved up to a pop-up, when the kids came along there was need for more space and a sense of self-containment. Bathrooms were a must. And truth be told, my buddy could not live without his flat screen tv or sattelite on a trip camping 🙂

As Amy and I visit more and more campgrounds, we meet many people that have made their camper their home. Many campgrounds not only offer weekly rates, many also accomodate campers who stay “long term”. Most of these type of campers choose 5th wheelers. “Permament campers” want the freedom to up and move whenever they choose and live in regions of the country dependant on the seasons. Amy and I joke a lot about selling the house and buying a fifth wheeler as our portable home. Though sometimes I am not sure if we are joking….

For me, camping is an escape from the reality of the stresses of the work week, deadlines, projects, etc, etc. Camping gives me that much needed break from every day life, even if it only lasts a weekend. It energizes me to get through the next week so that I can camp the following weekend! From a spiritual side of things, camping and embracing nature allows me to enjoy God’s creation and spend time with Him. Walking the trails, sitting on the benches next to the lake, and relaxing by the campfire give me that opportunity to experience God.

Amy and I started out with a tent. We loved tent camping with our dogs and they loved it too. After a few months of fall camping, we decided to buy a Rockwood (model 1980) pop up camper. We love our new camper and we have used it several times in the winter and this spring. As teachers, we are blessed to have the summer off so we have big plans to travel the country searching for more campgrounds and experiencing the peace of camping.

What does camping mean for you?

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