It takes about 30 minutes to pop-up and level a tent trailer. (Jennifer Bardsley)

It takes about 30 minutes to pop-up and level a tent trailer. (Jennifer Bardsley)

Pop-up tent trailer lets family ‘upgrade’ their camping trips

This summer they’ll travel in comfort to Larrabee, Alta Lake and Brooks Memorial state parks.

Summer is upon us, which means I can roll my beloved Coachman Clipper tent trailer from out of the side yard and pop it up for action. We’re not going on a grand adventure this summer like we did in 2018, when we went to Jasper and Banff National Parks in Canada, but we are visiting Larrabee, Alta Lake and Brooks Memorial state parks.

When I first researched buying a tent trailer several years ago, my biggest question was if it would be worth it. The answer to that depends upon whom you ask. My husband would much prefer backpacking in the Cascades with a Ther-ma-Rest and a bivy sack. But you won’t find me carrying my home on my back anytime soon. For me, camping in our tent trailer is a huge upgrade to car camping in our old tent. Here are its advantages:

Rest. Our Coachman Clipper has three Sealy Posturepedic mattresses. No more sleeping on the ground for me! Not only do I get to snuggle up next to my husband under a fluffy duvet, but the kids each get their own bed.

Comfort. On our epic trip to Canada, we discovered the virtues of our tent trailer’s heating and air-conditioning units. One night in Jasper it dipped down to 34 degrees. When we drove home via Silverwood Theme Park in Idaho, the temperature soared into the high 90s. While noisy, both the heater and air conditioner did their jobs.

Relaxation. Our tent trailer triples the living area of our old tent, and the kids appreciate being able to stretch out in their own space. They still say things like: “Your sock touched my blanket!” But for the most part, they respect each other’s territory. Features like the roll-out awning, the electrical outlet and the tiny kitchen sink also make camping a bit more posh.

When collapsed, a tent trailer can easily be stored in a garage or side yard. (Jennifer Bardsley)

When collapsed, a tent trailer can easily be stored in a garage or side yard. (Jennifer Bardsley)

Maneuverability. If we had a big honking truck, I might have campaigned for a travel trailer. But since our Subaru Outback has limited towing capability, a lightweight tent trailer is the perfect size. The pop-up is easy to store by the side of our house, and is a breeze to tow compared to a hard-side trailer.

Admittedly, I’m a huge tent-trailer enthusiast, but I’m not so smitten that I can’t recognize the drawbacks to owning a pop-up. The biggest issue is that they aren’t suitable for winter camping, and even spring and fall camping can be dicey. Windy weather is dangerous in a pop-up, which we learned in Idaho when our awning almost ripped off.

And hopefully it’s not raining when you return home, because you need to let the canvas air out for a while before you collapse it. In bear country, you need to store your food inside your car or in a locked bear box. Tent trailers can also be tricky to set up. I’m not strong enough to slide out the berths without help.

The best thing about tent trailers is that they are magical things. They stay hidden most of the year, but reveal themselves for special occasions, and create a brand new living space for your family to enjoy.

Jennifer Bardsley publishes books under her own name and the pseudonym Louise Cypress. Find her online on Instagram @the_ya_gal, on Twitter @jennbardsley or on Facebook as The YA Gal. Email her at

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