Everyone who buys a camper, whether it’s a 42-foot Class A bus or a tiny tow-behind has a list of requirements in their head as they are making their choice. Or sometimes they don’t… Some people go through 2, 3, or even 4 campers in the space of a half-dozen years, realizing that first one didn’t have X, the second didn’t have Y, and so on. So it does pay to think about what you’ll be doing with — and in — your camper before you shell out the big bucks to buy one.
Me, I’ve been really happy with my little trailer for the last six-plus years and I wouldn’t trade it for anything bigger or more full-featured, at least not this year. The size is good for one person and for smaller sites and campgrounds. It’s easy to tow, pretty easy to back, and it doesn’t kill my truck’s gas mileage. But those are all the “other” reasons I like my trailer. Why I really like it is because I spent a lot of time thinking about what I wanted to do, how I live, how much space I could live in, and what that space should look like from a functional standpoint. (Having two years in a row spent 40% of my year in hotels for business gave me some strong opinions on space and a lot of experience in what was essential for my personal comfort!)
When I was thinking about becoming a full-time vagabond, I worked out five basic requirements for my living space:
- Being able to stand up inside the trailer
- Having a decent kitchen inside the trailer
- Access to a toilet and a shower
- A big bed to sleep in(I’m not a twin-bed sleeper!)
- A table that was available all the time.
I’m kind of a glamper when it comes to outdoor life. If it’s too hot, I’m inside with the A/C running. If there’s bugs, same. If it’s cold out, or rainy, I’m most likely inside, instead of huddled under the awning, wearing layers of clothing. I didn’t really think about all these eventualities when I was buying my trailer. But I did walk through a lot of smaller trailers and decided after the first few weekends of checking them out that I wanted a trailer where I could not only stand but take more than two steps at a time. I can actually do planks in my trailer or use my arm weights without hitting anything (and, yes, I’ve done both of those inside my Alto in bad weather!).
Right up there in the glamper life is being able to cook inside, rather than have an outside (read: exposed to the weather) kitchen or need to cook over a campfire. I see people cooking breakfast outside when it’s 45F and I think, yeah, I’d never do that. I don’t even have an outdoor stove or grill, to be honest. I’m not much into cooking big meals, so my little two-burner propane stove inside has been enough for me. I don’t have an oven, but I do have a little toaster oven. I have a small fridge with an even smaller freezer. Given I’m just cooking for me, this setup works. Gourmet chefs would probably want more.
I have been thinking about getting a single-burner induction cooktop that I could plug in and use outside, rather than heat up the inside with the propane stove in hot weather. But I’ve also been thinking about that for more than two years and haven’t bought anything yet.
Bathroom with a Shower
I’m a female person, and I’m older than I used to be so I knew that I wanted to have a bathroom in my trailer. I know some people are fine not having one, they use the campground bathrooms. Not me. I use mine all the time. I don’t mind the dump process that empties the two tanks of grey water (shower water and dishwater, for example) and black water (the contributions from the toilet). I worked on a boat where that process was way worse, so trailer dumping seems really easy; it takes me maybe five minutes to do when I’m leaving a campground. Easy peasy. And for that, I get to just take two steps from bed to bathroom in the middle of a cold, rainy night. Yeah, indoor plumbing for the win.
I don’t use the shower as much, but it’s nice to have it when the campground bathrooms are disgustingly dirty or have low water pressure, or, worst of all, only work with a big supply of quarters. And when campgrounds closed their bathrooms during the 2020 pandemic-affected camping season, having my own shower (and that toilet) was essential.
Bed vs. Table
Some smaller trailers or RVs make the space for a bed do double-duty with a table, so you get one or the other, but not both at the same time. I wanted the ability to sit at a table and then go take a nap or lay flat without having to reconfigure the furniture. The bonus with the Alto is the bed area can be set up as a second seating area, which means in bad weather, I have another place to sit besides the front table and that makes the trailer feel bigger than it really is.
Some Alto owners never made the bed into a sitting area and I get that. Sometimes I just pull out the pillows and use them to make a little sitting area in one corner. Now that I have a three-inch thick topper, it’s even more comfortable to sit on bed and I’ve been converting the bed to a seating area only when I need to dig something out of the storage area under the bed. I pull out the pillows from under the bed, arrange them in that same corner you see above, and settle in; the upside of this is that it’s way easier to slip into horizontal position for a quick nap.
What About You?
If you’re thinking about a new trailer or RV, what are your requirements? Working those out by taking a realistic look at your camping style and travel style in general, what makes you feel comfortable and what drives you crazy, will help you get the rig that best fits you. And I hope it makes you as happy as my Alto has made me over the years.