I’ve finally talked my husband into buying a pop up tent trailer for camping. No more sleeping on the ground for me!
We could buy a used tent trailer for under $3,000 and then fix it up with paint, a new $800 canvas and homemade curtains so it looks brand new. There’s a blog called The Popup Princess devoted to stunning before and after remodels that has all the DIY instructions. But so far, I’ve had zero luck finding a pop up suitable for our situation.
Before I became obsessed, I didn’t know the difference between a class one, class two and class three trailer hitch. Tongue weight was never something I gave serious thought to either.
It turns out that most new pop ups are too heavy for my Subaru Outback. My gross vehicle weight towing capacity is 2,700 pounds, but without trailer brakes, I can’t pull anything more than 1,000 pounds. That means I’m looking for a used model from the late 1990s like a Coleman Taos or Laredo, or a newer, slightly heavier one that I would pay to have upgraded with electric brakes.
A low moment came in July when I had found a 1996 Coleman Taos in Spanaway that we were going to buy Saturday morning. Friday night we dropped the kids and poodle off at my in-laws’ house so we would be ready for the journey. Then I got a text saying that the pop up had already sold. I was crushed — all that advanced preparation for nothing.
When the former magazine “PopUp Times” was founded in 1998, the industry was selling 68,000 tent trailers a year. But in 2016 “RV Business” reported that sales were down to 10,000. Today many families choose R-Pods, A frames, T@B trailers, or travel trailers instead because they are easier to set up.
A valid question that tent trailer enthusiasts ask on forums like PopUpPortal.com is: “Are pop up trailers a dying breed?” After months of searching Washington for the right tent trailer, I think the answer might be yes. The inventory in our state is miniscule.
It reminds me of what it’s like buying a home in a hot real estate market. You can lower your expectations, expand your territory, up your budget and still have trouble finding something you’d want to live in.
The housing market and pop ups might seem like a weird comparison, but it’s not, seeing as how the high cost of housing is influencing many people’s decision to live in their RVs full time. The Thousand Trails campgrounds in La Conner, Mount Vernon and Monroe are popular with full-time RVers who come from all over the country to stay for a couple of weeks. How Americans live and what camping means is changing fast.
Nostalgia and camping go hand in hand. If I could zip back in time to the good ol’ days of the 1990s, I’d buy real estate, oil stock and a tent trailer. It’s too bad that I didn’t think of that in high school.
Jennifer Bardsley is author of the books “Genesis Girl” and “Damaged Goods.” Find her online on Instagram @the_ya_gal, on Twitter @jennbardsley or on Facebook as The YA Gal.