RVing and cycling: Great summer travel combo

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Farm Forum

Summer is the traditional time for meandering motorcycle trips along America’s back roads and scenic highways. Each year, more and more riders are being spotted towing ultra-light camping trailers.

It seems these mini pop-up tent campers are gaining in popularity as Baby Boomers adopt the motorcycle touring lifestyle, according to Dale Coyner, owner of Open Road Outfitters (openroadoutfitters.com) and author of several motorcycle touring books.

These inventively engineered little Recreation Vehicles can be towed easily behind a small car or midsize motorcycle, yet when parked they open into a comfortable off-the-ground space that provides for sleeping, eating, and storage.

Coyner was first attracted to motorcycle camping 20 years ago because of its simplicity and comfort. Soon he discovered small pull-behind trailers and began selling USA-made mini campers by Kompact Kamp (kompactkamptrailers.com) and Time Out (timeouttrailers.org).

“Less is more,” says Coyner. “I’ve spoken with a number of folks over the last few years who are selling their full-size travel trailer and going to a class of small, lightweight camper that is marketed primarily for motorcycles.”

Making camp, when and where you want, is easy with these small rigs, Coyner says. “You pull into a spot, drop the jack stands, pop up the tent and you’re done,” he explains. “Rain, bugs, heat, and mud are no problem. Everything sets up off the ground and is fully screened and waterproof.”

While mini campers obviously do not offer such conveniences as a kitchen or stand up shower, these small pull-behind campers have advantages that make up for some of those missing features, including getting into more remote fishing and camping locations.

“When I think of going camping,” reflects Coyner, who lives in northern Virginia, “it is to a place like Brandywine in West Virginia. It’s a national forest campground where generators are not allowed. It has a unique camping experience that seems more friendly and community-oriented than rolling into a large campground with big motor homes where people tend to stay in their own RVs.”

Many mini trailer buyers are coming from tent camping. “They still want that outdoor experience, but they’ve gotten to the point where it’s not fun anymore to sleep on the ground,” says Coyner.

Depending on the model, these small tent trailers are designed to set up in only a few minutes. They are so light, that once off the hitch, most can be moved around by hand. Not only are these little rigs easy to set up, they also cost less than other RVs.

For a modest mini camper, hitch, and wiring, expect to spend about $3,500. If you want to add all the bells and whistles, the bottom line could be upwards of $7,000. “I’m not saying that a couple thousand dollars is not a lot of money,” says Coyner, “however, when you compare it to the cost of other recreation vehicles, or staying in hotels while touring, it is relatively small.”

As for amenities, the Mini Mate Camper by Kompact Kamp Trailers of Myerstown, Pa., features a fiberglass 40-inch by 60-inch body and lid with luggage rack, a double bed, and off-the-ground changing room. The tent has 6 feet 4 inches of headroom at the peak and features LED lights, stabilizer jacks, independent rubber torsion suspension, and 15 cubic feet of storage.

Another manufacturer, Time Out Trailers of Elkhart, Ind., has been producing small tent campers for 40 years. While under tow, the camper presents a small profile with the trailer’s box measuring 65 inches long, 43 inches wide, and a height of 31 inches. When set up at camp, the length expands to 104 inches to create a spacious camper for two people.

The Time Out Deluxe model includes a queen-size bed, 40 square feet of sitting area with a table, and 23 cubic feet of interior cargo space. “Spectators are amazed to see so much come out of such a small space.”

Being an off-the-ground camper is important, especially if the weather turns sour. “When you step up and out of the weather into a dry, roomy Time Out,” says Coyner, “it feels like you’ve entered a motel room, not a camper.”

If more space is desired, you can attach an optional screen room or awning. Other extras, such as a spare tire or cooler package, are available for additional costs.

All of the trailers Open Road Outfitters carries are designed to be no wider than the bike’s mirrors and sit low enough that riders can see over them under tow. Depending on the model, weights range between 325 and 385 pounds with a tongue weight of approximately 25 pounds.

As for the size of motorcycle needed to safely handle an ultra-light, pull-behind camping trailer, Coyner says that most full-size touring bikes like a Honda Gold Wing or Harley and all trikes can safely ride two up and tow one of these trailers.

“If you are riding solo,” he continues, “certainly a bike between 800 to 1000 cc’s is adequate. Though, I always recommend that all bikes have dual disc brakes upfront.”

Whether touring overnight or across the country, towing a mini camper can dramatically reduce your costs and increase your fun and freedom.