A lifelong camper himself, Lance Camper Director of Marketing and industry expert Bob Rogers offers encouragement and great tips to those considering trying out tow-behind and pickup truck camping. We focus on questions that first time camper buyers would have on their minds. Buying a camper isn’t an every day event. It’s something you’ll have to ponder and decide after much consideration. As an avid camper and outdoorsman himself, Bob teaches us what questions you should be asking to help decide what kind of camper is right for you and your family.
50 Campfires: We understand you’re an avid camper yourself. How did you get into camping and working in the industry?
Bob Rogers: I grew up in Michigan in an active outdoor oriented family. In the winter we raced snowmobiles, towing a four-place trailer behind a motorhome. In the summer we camped while fishing the great lakes and trout streams.
I had worked in the auto industry most of my career and decided it was time to try something new and focused on the motorsports & RV industries, where my passion & skills easily transferred. Since moving to the west coast, my family has enjoyed camping in the desert and the local mountains. Being an avid gear and product guy, I have focused on marketing & product development and continue to have a blast along the way!
50 Campfires: What’s your favorite camping memory?
Bob Rogers: I have a ton! From my childhood, I remember running around the campground after dark with my friends playing flashlight tag.
As an adult, the time spent with my family and friends off-roading in the desert as we “circled the wagons” with a big fire in the center, will never be forgotten. Just recently, fly fishing and mountain biking with the guys in the Sierra Nevada’s is tough to beat!
50 Campfires: With so many brands, sizes, designs, and options, searching for the right starter camping trailer can be overwhelming. What resources are available to help decide the best fit for me and my family?
Bob Rogers: The Recreational Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) has a website just for this purpose, its called “Go RVing” (gorving.com). It’s a terrific place to start gathering information and get some of your questions answered.
RV shows are another option, featuring local dealers and multiple brands/styles/price points all in one area.
And of course I would be remiss if I didn’t mention our website, Lancecamper.com if your considering ultra-light travel trailers, truck campers or the very functional toy haulers.
50 Campfires: If someone has only camped in a tent or with a tow-behind like a pop-up – and enjoyed these adventures – what similarities will they see when they step up to a full-sized trailer? What are the plusses that may get them there?
Bob Rogers: For similarities, you will have a nice, dry place to sleep and hang out that can be parked just about any cool place you can get to in an SUV, fortunately, that’s where the similarities end! Now add a super comfortable bed (vs. rock or stick you missed while prepping tent site…), heating & even air conditioning, your own toilet and shower (worth making the upgrade alone in my opinion!), a cooktop range, oven and microwave, and for rainy days a large dinette to play games on and TV to watch movies on after getting snuggled into bed!
50 Campfires: A lot of the readers of 50 Campfires have a small SUV or crossover or mini-van for their families. Can these kinds of vehicles be set up to efficiently, safely pull a camper trailer? How big a trailer can they pull?
Bob Rogers: Certainly, this is the primary reason the ultra-light travel trailer has become so popular. Lance builds models ranging in size from 15’ to 19’ long designed to be towed by compact SUV’s (such as the Ford Focus and vehicles with tow ratings of 3,500 lbs or more) & mid sized SUV’s (such as the Ford Explorer with tow ratings of 5,000 lbs and up). For full size SUV’s and pick up trucks with tow ratings of 6,000 lbs and more, we have models up to 23’ in length. You really can find a trailer to fit most of today’s more popular vehicles.
Also, I would encourage first timers or people moving up from tents and pop-ups, to check out Truck Campers and Toy Haulers as great alternatives to travel trailers. Truck Campers allow you to tow other toys (boats, motorcycles, quads, horse trailers, etc.), and give you the flexibility to take the camper off the truck once you have arrived to use for exploring, launching boats, etc. Toy Haulers are similar to traditional travel trailers but have a rear ramp allowing you to load your toys (bikes, motorcycles, kayaks, other) or other cargo like dog crates, lumber from the home improvement store, inside the trailer with room made available by the fold up furniture that is part of this very functional design.
50 Campfires: What are your best three tips for the young family weighing their options in buying their first camping trailer?
Bob Rogers: First, decide if your going to use your existing vehicle as a tow vehicle, if so, find out what it’s maximum towing capacity is (found in the vehicles owner manual), this will determine the largest size trailer you should be considering. If buying a new vehicle to support your adventures, obviously you can tailor it to handle the size trailer you’re shopping for.
Then consider how many people you need to provide sleeping accommodations for and if your willing to convert the dinette for sleeping or want your eating and sleeping quarters to be permanently arranged for their intended purpose.
Finally, decide on a budget, this will help you narrow down (or expand!) your available choices.
50 Campfires: Alright, I’m convinced to buy a camper. Talk a bit about affordability if you would. Do you have examples of ways families have made the jump affordable? For example, partnerships or time-sharing, special financing, etc.
Bob Rogers: One of the great things about RV’s is that you can find one to fit just about any budget. It is also actually a very affordable alternative to the more traditional type of vacations like the fly/hotel/rental car combination. There is also special financing for RV’s that extend beyond the typical 5 year contracts you find in the auto industry, making monthly payments much more affordable. Again, the GoRVing.com website is a great source on this subject as well for people new to the lifestyle.
As far as timeshares, leasing, etc., due to the great disparity in the value of the same used RV, unlike automobiles or condos, there has not been any business models of that type that have gained traction yet.
50 Campfires: Any final thoughts for both the yet-to-be and the every-weekend trailer campers of the 50 Campfires audience?
Bob Rogers: For the aspiring first timers I would say to do your homework but don’t be overwhelmed by the choices or systems in today’s RV’s, they really are easy to own and operate. Spend some time thinking about what type of camping you will be doing the majority of the time (in an established campground with hook ups for power & water or off the grid/boon-docking with no hook ups) and what type of activities your new “base camp” will be supporting (hiking, biking, fishing, photography, tailgating, etc.), keeping this information in mind when your researching & shopping. For the seasoned pros, I challenge you to try new destinations and keep making memories. The worst day camping is better than the best day mowing the grass!