Let me be clear, my parents never took me camping growing up. This is most likely because they had four kids ranging from ages 18 to 1 and the thought of spending the night in the dirt was unappealing. I owned one sleeping bag, which I took to summer camp and also used to bobsled down the stairs at our house. My sister and I camped in our neighbors backyard a few times and we were lucky if we made it through the night without calling it quits. Camping is not in my blood.
Then I moved to Colorado, and camping became a necessity in order to hike 14ers.
I bought my first tent and sleeping bag, invested in a headlamp and camping chair, and found a grill on craigslist that was missing a handle. Over the years my husband and I have woken up to a tent covered in frost, water-soaked everything due to rain storms, mosquito bites and near frostbite, plus a busted out tent window courtesy of our dog. Last summer, over Memorial Day, my husband awoke at 4am and started a fire because he was so cold and we ended up abandoning camp at first light. Once the sun went down, my daughter wanted to mostly play in our truck because it was so cold. Family camping is an affordable way to get out of dodge, but it has its challenges, especially when small children are involved. I soon grew tired of waking up alone in the tent, while my husband slept in the cab of our truck due to discomfort and cold.
Something had to be done if I wanted to save our summers and spend time in the great outdoors without splurging for cabins or hotels.
So we upgraded! To a Skamper!
A Skamper is a truck camper. This cozy home sleeps four and fits on the inside of our truck bed, allowing us to drive on any road we desire and saves a registration fee. For long trips it can be left at the campsite by bringing down four stabilizing poles, thus allowing it to stand alone. For a quick trip, we can keep it attached to the bed of the truck with some crafty tie-down methods. When not in use, it sits in our driveway, taking up just a little space and allows a fun play house for our daughter. We had talked about buying one for years before we pulled the trigger and browsed craigslist for weeks to find just the right one. If you’re on the fence, I’m about to tell you why you should purchase one as well, and elevate your camping game.
Reason 1: You’ll save money in the long run
Our Skamper cost us $2200, as we bought it used on craigslist. If you live in Colorado and browse craigslist, you’ll find many options for buying campers and most of the prices you see can be negotiated. Consider this, a two bedroom cabin in Estes Park at the YMCA in the summer will run you about $450 for three nights. A campsite inside the park will run you $26 per night or $78 total ($18 a night in winter). Colorado has a plethora of public land that doesn’t cost a dime to camp on, so just think how much you’ll save over the years on not paying for a cabin, hotel, or condo up in the mountains. You’ll be able to venture out more often and spend time in beautiful places for longer than you would if your travel plans were subject to availability of lodging.
Reason 2: You’ll save time
It takes my husband about an hour to put the Skamper on and take it off our truck. Add in a little time packing some clothing and groceries and we are on the road in less time than it once took us to play the Jenga game it was to pack our car. The nice thing about a camper is it stays packed. Your sleeping bags/sheets, dishes, cooking supplies, everything is now in one place. I took a quick trip to the dollar store and bought plates, coffee mugs, silverware, dish soap, teakettle – you know all the basics you’d usually bring camping – and loaded them up in our camper so we’re always stocked. I even put staples like instant coffee and dry goods in the cabinets so we aren’t shopping for the same things over and over. Our camper has a fridge, stove, heater, and sink, so no matter where we camp, we aren’t far from the comforts of home.
Reason 3: You’ll sleep better
There’s nothing like hearing the sound of rainfall on your tent… until the rain has seeped into your tent. Who doesn’t love a midday nap? Until its 90 degrees outside and you can’t fathom putting your child down in the sweat box that is your tent. The closeness of family camping is wonderful, that is until you’ve got to fit yourself, your spouse, your dog and your child all on one queen size air mattress…for which you forgot to bring the air pump. If you only have two days off a week, I know you value your sleep, which is why you’ll love your camper. Ours is a pop-up, so Charlotte sleeps on the top bunk and my husband and I turn the couch into a bed below. There’s even privacy curtains up top, so if she’s napping during the day, or goes to sleep before us, we won’t disturb her too much. There’s a lock on the door, so I feel safe leaving her in the camper to sleep while we are having our adult time around the fire. In the morning, there’s no bright hot sun to wake us up at the crack of dawn, so we can all enjoy a little R&R.
Reason 4: You can camp any time
Moraine Park Campground in Rocky Mountain National Park is open year-round and costs only $18 in the winter. All the sites are first come, first-served, and since most people don’t winter camp, you’ll have your pick of prime real estate. That’s the beauty of owning a camper! You can go anytime you choose and not have to plan around the weather. Another lesson I’ve learned is that with many campsites, only the RV spots are able to be reserved and the tent spots tend to be first come first-served. We are planning a trip to Zion this month and I wanted to stay at the Watchman Campground and was only able to book a spot ahead of time due to having a camper. Now we won’t have to worry about showing up early on a weekday to stake out a spot only to end up with something sub-par. To me, this takes the stress out of driving 8-hours only to hope that we’d end up with a place to stay for the week.
Reason 5: You can spend more time doing what actually matters
Spending time with the family is the reason to get away from it all to begin with. Who wants to take the time to pitch the tent, unload the car, inflate the air mattress, make a last minute trip to the store for trash bags or something else you forgot, only to be rained out? Instead of cooking breakfast in the cold, my husband can cook for us over the stove in the camper and I don’t have to worry about my daughter dropping her plate on the ground. We spend less time prepping, packing, and unpacking now and more time hiking, sleeping-in, and enjoying our time together. When we get back home we only have to unpack our suitcase and coolers and can spend the rest of the day mulling over what a great weekend we had together.
So there you have it, five reasons you should jump off that fence and buy a camper.
If you’re not sure one will change your life, then you can always rent one and take it for a road trip this summer. Colorado has so many great areas to explore and having a home on wheels is a cozy way to experience it all. As a bonus, one day you can retire, sell your home, and spend your time on the road discovering every National Park and Monument in North America or become camp hosts (my personal end game)! When searching online for a camper you’ll notice how well they maintain their value… so worse case scenario you can always sell your camper and buy a hot tub instead.