Raise your hand if you’ve ever wanted to go explore the great outdoors.
Keep those hands up if you want to camp without being in a tent.
If you’ve got your hand raised I think you’re going to like a travel trailer!
RV travel trailers are more than just a way to camp without waking up with a broken back. In fact, they’ve become quite a lifestyle with thousands of people hitting the road every day in pursuit of a travel filled life.
If you’ve got a pickup truck, and an itch to see what America (and beyond!) have to offer, then consider getting yourself a travel trailer.
But, before you jump out and say I do to the first one you see, make sure you read up to understand what you might be getting into.
That’s the point of this article!
My goal is to help you understand the details of these camper trailers so you can make the most informed decision possible. We’re going to dive into what a travel trailer is (and is not!), the main features, the advantages & disadvantages, and much more.
If you’re just here for the quick info, right below is the TL;DR.
So… What Is A Travel Trailer?
Travel trailers – a.k.a. bumper pull campers, camping trailers, pull behind trailers, towable campers, or more – are a type of RV that are NOT motorized and must be pulled by a tow vehicle from the rear bumper (or fifth wheel, but they’re a completely separate class in our eyes).
They are hands down the most popular kind of RV on the market, and we even own one ourselves (Airstream 30 foot Flying Cloud)!
Now, travel trailers come in a wide variety of sizes. In fact, this RV type has the widest selection of options for the consumer, and it can be rather tricky to understand them if you don’t already have a background. Further below we list out the different RV options and we have separate articles dedicated to each.
Now, bumper pull RVs will range from 6 feet to as long as 35 feet (some fifth wheel options can go longer) and can be as cheap as $10,000 or as high as $250,000 or more.
People often use a travel trailer for vacations where they want the camping experience without the hardcore camping. However, they’re being used much more frequently for full-time living.
Just remember – there’s only one question to know if your RV is a travel trailer…
Does it have an engine or not?
If no, then you’ve got a travel trailer.
If yes, then you’ve got a motorized RV.
Travel Trailer Quick Facts
Typically between 15 – 35 feet.
Between 3,000 to 12,000 pounds.
Usually up to 6 people, although if you’ve got children I’ve heard many trailers sleep 8 comfortably.
Between 0-3. Our Airstream doesn’t have a slide out, but most fiberglass RV trailers will come with slide outs.
Often between $10,000 – $175,000. There are some ultra-luxury options north of $200,000.
Main Features & Amenities You Can Expect In A Travel Trailer
A travel trailer is much more than just a camping trailer. In fact, you can consider them tiny home on wheels. Technology has gotten so good, that they offer a wonderful living experience and a decent chunk of the population are now living in camping trailers full time.
Most recreational vehicles provide a wide variety of amenities, but when you break it down, these trailers will typically offer four core features:
- Living Quarters (think of it like a seating area)
Nearly every travel trailer I’ve come across will have a dedicated seating area with a small dining table (usually built for 4 people) that can often be used as an extra bed. Many floor plans allow people to convert their living space into multiple bed options.
Some RVs include an additional couch depending on the size of the travel trailer, and the location of the kitchen compared to the dining room.
Personally, I think the main reason people purchase a camping trailer is because of the bedroom. The whole goal is to sleep comfortably while traveling, right?
With that being said, this is where travel trailers will typically shine. The sleeping space is going to offer you a cozy area to spend your weekend in the forest.
You can typically expect a queen size mattress (which is not usually a normal queen size FYI). However, some larger trailers will offer either full size queens or a king size bed, depending on the living space floor plan.
Okay, it needs to be said. The bathroom situation for every recreational vehicle is bad. I personally haven’t found a bathroom in a travel trailer I like.
Not that it isn’t doable. You just have to understand, I’m 6’4″ and need to sit down to shower because I’m too tall for the shower head (maybe too much info, but you must know this going in).
Smaller tow behind camping trailers will typically offer a wet bath – where the toilet and shower are one. Although most larger recreational trailers will offer a bathroom that has the sink, shower, and toilet separated.
Just don’t expect much when it comes to the golden throne on your travel trailer.
In my opinion, I think a lot of manufacturers get the kitchen right with camping trailers. They will often include a fridge (which has decent storage), a one or two burner stove top, a convection oven (and/or microwave combo), and a sink.
I’ve seen some towable RVs with an island to help provide an additional kitchen prep area. However, you have to expect a much tighter experience with camping trailer kitchens when comparing it to a house or even a fifth wheel travel trailer.
Advantages Of Travel Trailers
Lots Of Options
Have you ever gone to an RV show looking for a camper trailer? If not, I highly recommend it. Why? Because you’ll get first hand experience at viewing the WIDE range of options available to you. There’s a floor plan for every kind of situation. Have a whole family and need more living space plus bunk beds? Easily done. Need more storage space? No problem. What about garage space for those extra ATVs? Yep, that’s an option too. Do you need a mobile office as you transition to being a full-timer (like us!)? Yes sir, Airstream offers a floor plan just for that. As you can see, the options are nearly limitless and you’re only held back by your imagination.
Travel trailers come in a wide range of price points. If you’re just getting started and want a small space to go camping, then pick up a little 20 foot rig and take off for under $20,000. If you want to boon dock, and will be fine with fewer amenities than you’ll save on price too. With the wide range of options, you can expect a wide range of prices that are bound to fit within your budget.
Okay, so most people will say that travel trailers don’t provide as much storage space compared to a fifth wheel trailer or class A motorhome. Yes, you’re not going to have as much, this is true. But, you get the extra benefit of the additional storage space within your pickup truck bed, and when you’re hauling your recreational vehicle you can often put items within the living space if needed.
Disadvantages Of Travel Trailers
Most travel trailers are going to require a fairly powerful pickup truck. This might mean needing to replace your current vehicle. A family SUV can operate as a decent tow vehicle for smaller trailers, but as you go up in weight with larger trailers you start to require a heavy duty truck. At first you might groan about needing to upgrade your personal vehicle, but trust me you will feel much more secure knowing your towing safe and sound with more then enough “umph” to get you up and down hills.
If you’re planning to go full time then you’ll want to start looking for pickup trucks. Yes, you can get away with a SUV, but most travel trailers will require a strong tow vehicle. You don’t need to go all out and get a diesel engine (although we recommend this), but you’ll need a pickup truck with enough towing capacity to handle a loaded down camping trailer when you’re going up and down hills, over rough terrain, and beyond.
Want to know what’s terrifying? Hauling a camping trailer down the highway going 70 miles per hour when you have to swerve around dangerous roadside debris, only to feel your travel trailer start to sway out of control. This does happen, which is why driving an RV requires significantly more focus compared to regular driving. Plus, some specialized hardware, like an anti sway device and the right hitch. The reason this is a disadvantage for travel trailers is because the tongue weight is at the very back of the tow vehicle. With your vehicle and trailer being connected by one single point, you can experience significant sway if you’re not careful.
What Are The Different Kinds Of Travel Trailers?
Okay, so now you know what a travel trailer is, the pros and cons, and some quick facts, what about all these variations?
Fifth wheel trailers, bumper pull campers, pop up trailers, what’s the deal?
Well, this is the problem with the term “travel trailer”. It’s very broad because you’re speaking about a wide range of options within this bucket. In fact, in our main article on the different RV types and classes, we bucket travel trailers into 5 distinct categories (with fifth wheels being their own type, more on that in a minute).
Like I mentioned earlier in the article, this article is mainly focused on the traditional travel trailer, but I wouldn’t do you service if we didn’t mention the other types which make up the full category.
Going from largest to smallest in terms of average length and weight, here are the different travel trailer options:
1) Fifth Wheel Trailers
This kind of RV is a travel trailer, but it’s not a bumper pull trailer. It’s actually towed from a special hitch located in the bed of your truck. The special hitch is referred to as the fifth wheel.
This trailer type is often going to provide significantly more space compared to the other options listed, and will often be more expensive. If you’re looking for the full-time RV lifestyle then this option is a good fit for you.
2) Toy Hauler RV
We like to class toy haulers into the bumper pull section because it keeps the categories clean, but this RV type is often in a league of its own. The specific feature making these trailers unique is the garage which comes included within the RV.
However, this trailer type can be any of the options typically available. It can be a motorhome, a fifth wheel, or a bumper pull trailer.
3) Travel Trailers
What this article is all about. I have to include it so you get a full understanding of the different types and where each falls in line.
If you’re currently comparing your options, check out our other post exploring the differences more in depth between travel trailers and fifth wheel rvs.
4) Hybrid Travel Trailers
This hybrid travel trailer option is going to be a mix between a pop up and a regular travel trailer. It’s going to provide you with the benefits of a travel trailer, but being much lighter because it has the same features of a pop up camper.
They give you a fairly stable bottom with some of the kitchen amenities while also being fabric which can expand when you’re setting everything up.
5) Pop Up Trailers
A pop up trailer functions something like a tent on wheels. Some models will have a very small kitchen or other basic features. However, for the most part this type of RV is built with just enough space to house a handful of people when it’s fully extended.
The trailer extends with all fabric, much like a regular tent, and are used as the primary sleeping space. They can be pulled by small vehicles (almost all trucks, many SUVs, and even some motorcycles).
6) Tear Drop Trailers
This tiny clamshell like trailer is built with the intention of sleeping in it only. It’s shaped literally like a teardrop (hence the name), and are built for quick trips to the woods with more protection from the elements than a pop up camper.
The kitchen space is is on the outside of the trailer, with just a mattress within the trailer.
Hopefully this article helped you breakdown travel trailers, and if they’re a good fit for you and your specific needs.
This type of RV offers the widest range of options compared to any other RV type, and if you get creative I’m positive you’ll find one that works for you.
Whether your a solo traveler, just a couple (like us), or you’ve got the full fam, consider getting a travel trailer to explore nature and the great beyond!
If you are interested in learning more about other RV Types, check out our other articles:
- The Ultimate Guide To RV Types & RV Classes
- Everything You Would Want To Know About A Class A RV
- Everything You Would Want To Know About A Class B RV
- Everything You Would Want To Know About A Class C RV
- Everything You Need To Know About Fifth Wheel Trailers
- Everything You Need To Know About Toy Haulers
- Everything You Need To Know About Teardrop Trailers
- Everything You Need To Know About Hybrid Travel Trailers
- Everything You Need To Know About Pop Up Campers