We often hear at RV shows that truck campers are not well suited for families with kids. As Aunt Angela and Uncle Gordon, we put that assumption to the test.
When we’re out on our truck camping adventures, Gordon, Harley, and I will send my niece Kate and nephew Sean postcards from the road. Upon our return, we enjoy sharing our pictures with them and talking about how much fun it is to camp and travel in a truck camper. After all, it’s never too early to start promoting truck campers to the next generation.
This year we decided that Kate, age five, and Sean, age three, were finally old enough to experience their very first truck camping adventure with us. In fact, this would be their first camping experience of any kind. With its full-wall slide-out and full-booth dinette that converts into a bed, the 2012 Travel Lite 1000SLRX also seemed like a perfect camper the four of us. We would soon find out.
Are Truck Campers Kid Friendly?
Above: No, we didn’t let the kids drive the rig. Maybe in a decade, or two.
Before we get into our adventure with my niece and nephew, I’d like to share some thoughts on why I believe truck campers are family and kid friendly.
In our “Do More and Spend Less” article, we point out that truck campers are ideal for staying in the driveways of family members while you’re on the road. For families with kids, this means you can visit grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins without being house guests. The ease of parking in a family member’s driveway makes camping safer, more convenient, and more enjoyable for the visiting family, as well as the hosts. As we like to say, we’re guests, but not house guests.
Speaking of easy parking and camping, we know several families who use their truck campers for swim meets and other away games with their children’s sports teams. Staying in the camper allows them to camp at the event so they don’t have to fight traffic in the morning, or stay in expensive hotels. We also know a few parents who have used their truck campers for visiting colleges with their high schoolers. And there has to be a few Boy Scout and Girl Scout parents who enjoy staying in the comfort of their truck camper while their kids get the “roughing it” experience a few feet away with their Scout friends.
If you go to an amusement park, concert, outdoor event, or even a playground, you can park in a regular parking area, side-by-side with the cars. That also means you have access to your camper’s bathroom should your family need it while you are there. You also have the ability to drive off-road and boondock in out of the way places. Imagine sharing the off-the-grid truck camping experience with your kids, far from the hustle and bustle and light pollution of civilization. Look! What constellation is that?
With truck campers being relatively limited in run-around room, camping in a truck camper will encourage children to be outside and away from television, computers, and electronic games. Once outside, children can experience nature and explore their surroundings. You mean there’s more to the world than XBOX and Facebook?
The ability to camp in cold weather makes it so that you can take a family trip over winter break when the kids are on their school vacation. Truck campers also allow you to tow your toys so you can share hobbies as a family like boating, snowmobiling, ATV driving, and horseback riding.
With the compact size of a truck camper, you can store and keep your camper at your house making a fun place for kids to camp-out with their friends at home. Truck campers can also make for a romantic child-free “get away” for the parents. Just be careful as this can lead to more children.
Finally, a truck camper is the ultimate Family Emergency Vehicle (FEV). With four-wheel drive and provisions ready to go at a moments notice, a truck camper can evacuate your family in an emergency situation such as floods, forest fires, hurricanes, earthquakes, and other natural or man made disasters. Truck campers are also wonderful support vehicles to help others who are in trouble, such as a sick family member at their home or in the hospital. For more on using a truck camper as a FEV, read our article, “The Truck Camper as a Family Emergency Vehicle”.
When looking for a truck camper as a family, you should consider the different family-friendly features and options like over the dinette bunks, pop-out rear and side tents, and dinettes that convert into beds. Some campers include all of these sleeping options, not to mention full-wall slide-outs and dry baths.
If you’re considering a truck camper for your family, we suggest taking into consideration not just the size of the camper, but the lifestyle it offers. A truck camper can give your family a safer and more active lifestyle than other RVs offer. They’re also ready to go when it’s just mom and dad, or grandmom and grandpop, or, as you’re about to read, aunt and uncle.
Planning For the Trip
For Kate and Sean’s first trip out camping, and our first experience truck camping with children, I wanted to keep things simple and stay local. What if they didn’t like the truck camper? What if they couldn’t sleep? What if they got scared and wanted to go home? With those questions in mind, I started looking at campgrounds near our home in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
My normal mindset for selecting a campground is to look for free wireless internet, laundry facilities, and reasonable rates. With the kids, I quickly realized that I would need a very different mindset. For example, a few campgrounds here in Lancaster don’t allow children. I had heard of campgrounds not allowing truck campers, but was shocked to learn that some don’t want anyone camping under the age of fifteen.
I also needed to find a campground with a playground near the campsites. After dinner, the kids would need to play and run around. Surprisingly, there were only a few campgrounds in the area that had playgrounds. That limited my choices even further.
Eventually I settled on Pequea Creek Campground in nearby Pequea, Pennsylvania. The campground is about twenty miles south from our house, just enough to give the kids a sense that we traveled somewhere. Perfect.