Pros & Cons of Travel Vehicles
Fly Out, Rent a Car
This is an easy way to get started. Our very first trip out west was done this way. It opened our eyes, whet our appetite for travelling and exploring. The issue is hauling equipment. You are limited in what you can bring which makes you less self-sufficient. However, you can haul equipment and check it under the plane, and then can camp relatively easily with car rental of your choosing. We have hauled backpacking packs, tents, and equipment. Once you have the car, you can grocery shop, picking up a cheap cooler. This option saves time rather than driving XC. It was on this type of trip that we saw a Westfalia in Zion National Park and fell in love with it. That same type of vehicle would become our main travel machine in the future!
Vanagon--simply the greatest vehicle made for travelling as a couple. And our dog, at the time, Shannon. Cross between a motor cycle, sail boat, and space ship, it is efficiently and beautifully designed. We adjusted to Vanagon time travel; always left early, took our time getting there, and arrived late. Eventually we didn’t care about the time. Truly a zen vehicle. All in one. Bryan purchased ours for $1500 way back in the 90's. Unfortunately,these vehicles not sell for well over $10,000. We traveled with four people but two is ideal to able to stay in tent sites without hookups very easily. In addition to this fine machine leading our explorations, we drove it as a daily driver for 10 years until our first was born. Ours was the Westphalia 1984.
20 Ft Recreational Vehicle
This picture is clearly not the one we owned. But just to give you an idea of what it looks like. Renting one is also not a bad option!
We had 20 ft. recreational vehicle that looked similar to this one. It allowed us to stay in tent sites since it is still small enough. We prefer tent sites without hookups and we are not big fans of the noise of the full hook up sites/areas. We purchased ours after selling our Vanagon. Our first child, Isabella, had come along and this type of vehicle suited us better. Safer and more convenient. It also fits in a standard parking spot. We spend many nights in parking lots, safely, while en route. One spot in Halifax Nova Scotia, we stayed for several days in a parking area. Bathroom inside was great, air conditioning made it comfortable for baby while travelling, reasonably priced. Well laid out interior, comfortable, being self contained allowed us to travel at our own pace. The small size allowed us to sleep pretty much anywhere. The small size still allowed us to explore remote places, even though the design is a bit clunky and cumbersome. It is still relatively compact.
21 Ft Hybrid Travel Trailer
We were so busy with the kids being little, I cannot find any pictures of ours, so here is just an idea of a 21 foot travel trailer. Ours had the tent bump outs on the front and back ends. We really enjoyed that as you felt like you were sleeping in a tent. It does require some set up, but minimal! We pulled our travel trailer with our 2004 Ford Excursion This was when all three kids were under twelve. Simple, light weight, and the tents were awesome. They gave us lots of interior room when settled in while being more compact than larger trailers on the road. Required set up time, of course, with the tents. If we arrived late at a campground, setting up the tent bump outs was a pain as the kids were tired, cranky, and wanting it done NOW! One down side is not being able to explore as much because of the size of it when attached. It is a good choice with small kids but make sure to allow time for set up and take down without frustration. We began that two to three night minimum stay with this vehicle to make the set up and take down worth it. As a side note, we seldom cooked in any of the vehicles we traveled in. I do not like sleeping where I eat and so we mostly always preferred to cook on our camp stove outside. Always part of our set up process is setting up the eating and cooking area on the picnic table, under some type of shelter/sunshade. Another positive is this size travel trailer is small enough to get in tent campsites without hookups. And, we eventually out grew this and had less money to boot!
6X8 Utility Trailer
Not the best pictures. But it is our set up. It is a 6x8 utility trailer which we built a box on the back to haul and store our camping/backpacking stuff, bikes, and canoe. We did this the last two years as we out grew the hybrid and didn’t want to go bigger and to be honest, do not have a lot of money at this point. Hauling stuff in and out of the trailer box is a pain in the butt. It was helpful to be super-super-organizer! A tote and home for everything, clearly labeled on the outside of the tote. Clear totes are GREAT for this! But, even still, things are stacked in layers and often you need to pull all sorts of bins out to get to stuff in the back. Ahhh… gotta have the everything has a home attitude or it can get crazy. Otherwise it worked pretty well. You NEED time for set up and take down because this is all tent camping. With this travel option, the way out west we do all hotels until west of the Missouri river. Two to three night minimum for tent stays is a good rule here as well. We will continue this method as monetarily it works better for us, the time we have to travel we want to minimize the drive out, and the gear for more of what we want to do, backpacking and bikepacking is better suited to storing in this way.
Pick up Truck
We had a Toyota Tacoma way back when. I have to say it was one of my favorite cars. I love thinking back on all the cars we've had. It was a great daily driver. But we did take it out west. It is very practical, useful, reliable, and great for 1 or 2 people max. All the equipment is loaded into the back. Sweet get out and go ride.
Pick up Truck
This year, 2019, we did yet another set up. This is not the best picture but suffice. The F250 is a 4 door so we have three seats in the back and even three seats up front. All with shoulder straps as was an absolute requirement of mine. It is actually incredibly comfortable and spacious. We even had Abby our dog with us! :0
At this point in our travels and experiences, we are organized enough to keep our equipment in inventoried and labelled bins as well as our food separated by trip (i.e. bikepacking food items versus backpacking food items) and in containers. We also have our car food in bins (snack bin, lunch bin, cooler). Everything fits in the tailgate under the cap and we generally have it organized so the things we need first are closer to the tailgate, etc. It makes it easier on the drive out to our destinations to find shady rest stops or town parks to stop and have healthy lunches.
Of course the bike rack held all 5 bikes. If you wanted a little more wiggle room you could pop a Thule on top of the cap. I really loved this set up, not having to trailer anything behind. Bryan has some other ideas for next year as he doesn't like not having the option of being able to sleep easily/self-reliantly. Stay tuned...