Dipping a Toe Into the RV Lifestyle: Pop Up Campers, Small Travel Trailers, and Rentals

RV Owners

New to the wide world of RVing? Welcome! It’s a pretty amazing travel lifestyle, if we do say so ourselves. (Sure, we might be a little biased…)

When you hit the road in an RV, the world is truly your oyster. Anywhere the roads lead, you can go — at your own pace, and with the comfort of knowing your very own bed, kitchen, and closet are along for the journey. It’s like traveling in your own private bungalow on wheels!

Of course, in some cases, those bungalows are pretty darn big. It can take a lot of vehicle space to contain all those creature comforts. And if you’re used to driving a small sedan, or even an SUV, a 40-foot diesel pusher can be… well, intimidating. And that’s to say nothing about how much big RVs can cost, both to purchase and to fuel.

(Psst: No matter what kind of rig you end up journeying in, here’s one worthy investment: a Passport America membership, which gets you 50% off your campsite accommodation fees at almost 1900 campgrounds across the nation. At less than $50 per year, it’s an expense that easily pays for itself during your very first trip!)

Fortunately, there are lots of different sizes and styles of RVs out there, and if you’re looking to start small, you definitely can. In this post, we’ll walk you through a few of the smaller RV types available, from lightweight campers to pop-up trailers and more.

Let’s get started!

Lightweight Campers

A teardrop trailer on a small car

Maybe you dream of driving a travel trailer, but you find you have a slight problem: you don’t drive around town in a huge, one-ton pickup.

For may would-be RVers, this can be a serious limiting factor. After all, fifth-wheel travel trailers may be relatively affordable, but the same can’t be said of the gigantic vehicles needed to tow them.

But did you know there are some small travel trailers and camper trailers that are actually lightweight enough to be towed behind midsize trucks and SUVs? Some teeny tiny teardrop trailers can even be pulled by regular sedans!

Of course, that doesn’t mean you can simply go purchase any trailer under 20 feet in length and expect your little Honda to chug along happily. It’s important to check out the trailer’s weight as well as your tow vehicle’s rated capacity before you make your purchase. This may be expressed as the GVWR, or gross vehicle weight rating, on the RV’s user manual or product page.

Small, lightweight campers come in a variety of different styles and types, so let’s take a closer look.

Pop-Up Campers

a pop up camper set up at a campground

One of the most affordable and lightest-weight options out there, pop-up trailers are a perfect solution for campers who aren’t afraid to get close to nature. They feature flexible canvas walls that allow for excellent cross-breeze and ventilation, as well as reducing total weight and making them easy to store and tow.

Small pop-up campers are an excellent upgrade from tent camping and a perfect way to try out the RV lifestyle without making a big monetary investment. However, they do sometimes lack some of the luxuries and conveniences of their bigger motorhome counterparts — like private bathroom facilities, full-sized kitchens, and more.

Travel Trailers

A dog peeking out of a travel trailer

If you want something a little closer to the big motorhome lifestyle, but without the big motorhome price tag, check out small travel trailers that still feature hard walls and possibly upgrades like slide-outs — without the huge footprint or driving hassle of larger trailers or campers.

As technology improves, even some very luxurious travel trailers are getting lighter and lighter, which opens the possibility of trailing them behind smaller, more common vehicles. However, these “featherweight” trailers can sometimes be quite expensive, due to their construction with high-tech components that are both light and durable.

Hard-sided travel trailers come in a wide range of shapes and sizes, from tiny teardrop trailers to traditional, rectangular models and luxurious, iconic Airstreams. Each has its own benefits and drawbacks, though in general, the smaller the footprint, the fewer amenities you’ll find inside.

Camper Rental

Still not quite sure which type of camper or trailer is right for you? Renting an RV or finding a campervan for hire is a great way to try before you buy — you can get the experience of several different travel styles without making the investment in your own rig right from the start. That way, you’ll be well informed when the time does finally come for you to get an RV of your own.

However, keep in mind that renting smaller RVs and travel trailers can be challenging at large, commercial dealerships. Since mid-sized motorhomes are self-contained and luxurious, many commercial RV rental dealerships offer them exclusively, so if you’re looking for smaller RV rentals, the peer-to-peer market at RVshare is an excellent resource.

When traveling in a rental RV, you can make it feel more like home by bringing along some of your favorite creature comforts, whether it’s a cozy, well-loved blanket or just your go-to mug for morning coffee. Although many RVshare rentals are well outfitted with these kinds of extras, bringing along a little piece of home will help you get a more complete sense of what it would be like to have a rig of your own someday, which can be helpful in the buying process. By trying out several different types of small trailers and motorhomes, you can get a sense of how much you really need out of your vehicle to have a comfortable camping experience. Some people require more creature comforts and luxuries than others — the best way to find your individual preference is to try it first hand!

For more information on lightweight trailers, check out the Lightweight Travel Trailer Comparison Guide by Randall Eaton, which covers all the types of trailers we discussed here in more depth.

Good luck on your search, and don’t forget — sometimes, big fun comes in small packages!

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