Is Tenting a Better Fit for You Than RVing?

Updated on March 16, 2018
TIMETRAVELER2 profile image

I have traveled extensively throughout the US for many years and enjoy helping people to enjoy their own vacations.

If you are trying to decide whether tent camping is a good travel choice for you as opposed to RVing, there are a number of important things you need to consider.

These include but are not limited to factors such as

  • cost,
  • comfort,
  • use time,
  • space,
  • labor,
  • number of travelers and
  • safety.

Each person has to make decisions based on their individual situations and needs, so there is no one “right” answer for everybody.

A comparison of the pros and cons of tent camping and RVing.
A comparison of the pros and cons of tent camping and RVing. | Source

Cost

If you compare the cost of owning a recreational vehicle with having a tent and all of the amenities you must purchase to go with it, it’s possible that the two options can be almost even when it comes to price.

This would be especially true if you purchase a popup camper as opposed to buying a large Class A motor home and whether you go for one that is previously owned or new.

This may sound ridiculous, but the truth is that although some tents can be purchased for less than $100, others can cost upwards of $1700

The difference in price comes in the size, weight, design, purpose and quality of a given tent.

Certainly if you only want to do some casual tent camping for a few days here and there, a less expensive unit can work for you.

However, if you plan on taking extended vacations and have a family, you might do well to pay the higher price because you'll have more protection from weather conditions and more interior space in addition to many other amenities.

Either way, you should bear in mind that whatever you pay will be just for the tent.

Other Cost Considerations

You will also need to purchase items such as cots, air mattresses, sleeping bags, pillows, folding tables and chairs, thermal coolers, outdoor grills and many other items that add to comfort.

The costs for these things can add up, so if you think tenting is what your really want to do, make a list of the amenities you think you’ll need and research their prices before you make a final decision.

On the other hand, you can buy a previously owned fold out camper for a few thousand dollars that already is equipped with an air conditioner, shower, stove, refrigerator, hookups for electricity, running water, and other amenities.

This will provide more comforts and plenty of sleeping space, but your camper will have to be stored, insured and maintained.

So, in the long run, buying a tent is still probably your best financial bet if cost is a big issue for you.

Comfort

Comfort is another thing you need to consider.

  • Some people love sleeping in tents, dealing with Mother Nature and handling the challenges that go along with outdoor living.
  • Others would rather be off the ground and surrounded by solid walls in a unit whose temperature they can easily control.

This may seem like a “no brainer” to some, but one of the problems with RVing is that your unit limits your living space.

The same is not necessarily true with tents.

These days, they have tents that can be expanded to allow room for large numbers of people. I’ve included a video that shows you some of the latest innovations, some of which might actually work better for you than owning an RV, especially if you are traveling with children.

On the other hand, cooking is much easier in a recreational vehicle, especially when the weather is rainy, windy or cold.

Furthermore, not all campgrounds that allow tenters offer electricity or running water at their sites.

Thus, you have to decide which kinds of comfort work best in your situation.

Use Time

The majority of RV owners only use their coaches about one month per year. Thus, their units simply “sit” while they make payments on them.

With tenting, this is not an issue because when you’re not using your tent, you simply store it and its equipment in your garage or basement.

RVs deteriorate if they just sit, but tents do not!

Space

The average RV owner has less than 500 square feet of living space. If his unit is small, he has much less.

The same can be said of tents, depending on the type you purchase.

Some are just big enough for sleeping, while others have plenty of room for travelers to store their equipment, sleep and enjoy themselves, even when the weather isn’t agreeable.

This is especially true if you purchase a tent that can expand to make room for more people.

Labor

On the down side, tent camping can be a huge amount of work. Travelers need to

  • erect and take down their tents each travel day,
  • load their gear into their cars, unload them at the sites and reload them again later and
  • set everything up such as chairs, tables, beds, cooking tools and similar items.

An RV, on the other hand, is much easier because you load it before you leave home and unload it when you get back.

It’s like a large suitcase that holds everything you need for your trip.

It is more work during travel because owners must clean the inside regularly, but this takes very little time.

With a fold out camper, you get some of the same benefits, but you still must set the camper up, which can be miserable to do in wet, cold weather.

This is one area is where having a regular RV trumps owning a tent every time because you park your unit, walk in and within a few minutes, you’re all set!

Recreational Vehicles

Most older people choose to travel in RVs because they offer many more comforts than tents and are much less work. They are perfect for two person travel for those who can afford to own them.

However, even the largest ones are too small to house entire families for long periods of time.

Those with families who choose RVs do best with travel trailers because they are safer to use than other types of RVs due to the fact that people are not inside of them during transit.

They generally cost less to buy, too.

Their biggest benefit is that people can control their internal temperatures, do not have to sleep unprotected and can be more secure because they are hard sided vehicles.

RV travel offers many amenities and comforts to people who choose this mode of transportation.
RV travel offers many amenities and comforts to people who choose this mode of transportation. | Source

Tent Camping

Although RVs have many benefits, tents actually have more.

  • They are much less costly to own ,
  • store easily,
  • come in huge variety of sizes and
  • can provide much more living area than recreational vehicles.

People who use them pay less (and sometimes nothing at all) to camp and really get to enjoy all of the pleasures that Mother Nature has to offer.

Owners can choose between backwoods camping and full amenity camping, which is a big benefit both financially and psychologically.

In addition, the adults don’t have to tow anything because all of their equipment will fit right into their car!

This means that they can drive faster and arrive at destinations sooner.

Number of Travelers

Some people like to use recreational vehicles to travel with their children or other family members, but the truth is that vacationing in one of them with more than two people can become claustrophobic very quickly.

This is because each person must take his own clothes, cosmetics, medications and other items with him, and there just is not enough room even in the largest coach for these things.

Because you can purchase tents that are sized and designed to suit the number of travelers, this is not a big problem, as long as you plan carefully and organize well.

Of course the more people who are involved, the more dishes, linens, food and other items you need to take with you.

Therefore, it’s smart, if you can, no matter how you choose to travel, to limit the number of people who join you on your journey!

Safety

Last but not least is the issue of safety.

People assume that all campgrounds are safe, but this is not necessarily true.

You can never know who is parked beside you or what their intentions might be.

A tent is easy to breach, whereas an RV is not.

Furthermore,

  • if you drive a vehicle that is towing an RV or loaded with tenting gear, you are keeping all travelers safe during transit.
  • if you drive a motor home, the same is not true if you have more than two people with you, especially children.

This is because keeping kids belted in during travel rarely works well. As a result, in the event of an accident, kids can become flying missiles which creates major danger to them as well as those buckled into the front seats.

Safety is an issue worth thinking about because so much can be at stake if things go wrong.

So, while having a tent may be less costly in many ways, it may not be worth the savings in terms of safety.

Should You Tent or RV?

Is Tenting a Better Fit for You than Luxury Camping? goes into great detail about the various types of tenting and can help you to get a better idea about whether tent camping or RVing is your best choice.

Reading it may change some of the ideas you have about tenting and show you ways of doing it that can, in fact, make it a better choice for some people than RVing.

The good news is that nothing is written in stone. You can try one type of camping and if you don't like it, you can switch to the other!

Whatever you decide to do, remember that the whole point is to be able to enjoy yourself.

Do you think you'd prefer tenting to RVing?

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Questions & Answers

    © 2018 Sondra Rochelle

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    • TIMETRAVELER2 profile image
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      Sondra Rochelle 4 weeks ago from USA

      Janda Raker: There definitely are benefits to both types of travel, but I do think that as we get older, having those "extras" becomes increasingly important. Thanks for stopping by and sharing.

    • Janda Raker profile image

      Janda Raker 4 weeks ago from Amarillo, Texas

      I really enjoyed this article. It sounds like the "discussions" that my husband and I had when considering transitioning from many years of tenting to buying an RV (a pickup camper, in our case). Yes, there are many pros and cons. I still love tenting, but our camper has lengthened our camping season, with air conditioning and heating! And we really enjoy rainy times, snowy times, windy times, and evenings inside with a dinette and lighting, to enable us to play games, read, or visit with nearby campers who come to visit before bedtime. And if we're traveling a long distance, it's so convenient to have almost everything packed into the camper, so we can be on the road in minutes, on to the next destination. We've traveled that way throughout much of North America, even staying in our camper when we're visiting the "kids" from coast to coast. It is a great way to travel!

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