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The Solo Traveler Blog

Solo camping: tent or RV?

Beautiful Mazinaw Lake.

Beautiful Mazinaw Lake.

I love camping!

This year, I’ve gone camping two ways. I camped and traveled through Arizona, southern Utah and parts of Colorado by RV. I also stayed for a week in a tent in Bon Echo Provincial Park, about three hours northeast of Toronto.

Which did I like better?

Well, each has its advantages and each can be preferable depending on the experience you seek. I’ll share their pros and cons. In the reading, I’m sure you’ll infer which I prefer. If not, I’ll make it clear at the end.

There were occasions when RVing was social.

The pros and cons of RVing solo.

I took the smallest RV available, a 16-foot camper that sleeps three. It had a bathroom, fridge, stovetop, sink, table seating for four and a lounge chair at the side. With full hookup, it had electrical, water and toilet facilities. Here is my pros and cons list.

Pros for RV camping.

  • An RV is self-contained. With a fully equipped RV, at the right campground you have all the basics of home.
  • In bad weather you are completely protected.
  • You’re really mobile. Take down the curtains from the night, toss the bed back together and you can be on the road in 10 minutes.
  • It’s easy to experience several different landscapes or even towns and cities in the course of a week or two.
  • Storing things, getting dressed… it’s all easy.
  • You can lock the doors of the vehicle for safety.

Cons for RV camping.

  • Most RV parks are more like parking lots than parks.
  • Where you stay is determined by your vehicle, its size and the hookups you want.
  • RV parks are expensive ranging from $30 to $60 per night.
  • Because everything is in the RV and because the park is not appealing, I found myself not spending a lot of time outside.
  • The maintenance of life includes cleaning counter tops, sweeping the floor, making beds and then unmaking them in the morning and storing the sheets…
  • People are friendly but they retire inside their RV early at night. (But not always. Read Paying Forward a Kindness on the Road.)
  • Traveling by RV is expensive. Even my small RV consumed a lot of gas.
My campsite in the Hardwood Hills section of Bon Echo Provincial Park.

My campsite in the Hardwood Hills section of Bon Echo Provincial Park. This was taken before I got the fly up over the picnic table which wasn’t necessary for a few days as the weather was gorgeous.

The pros and cons of tent camping solo.

First, I need to be clear. I car camp. It’s not wilderness camping but at Bon Echo it felt like it. In the Hardwood Hills section I couldn’t see my neighbors. So my car is nearby with a cooler, food box and other supplies. In addition, I have a three-man tent and a fly over the table for protection from rain and things falling from the trees. It’s pretty simple. Here are the pros and cons.

Pros for tent camping.

  • The campgrounds are located in natural terrain whether they be forests or semi-arid vegetation.
  • You’re outside all the time. The tent is really just for sleeping. I LOVE this.
  • There are no beds to set up at night. You just crawl in the tent.
  • Regular campsites for tents are inexpensive running about $23 per night in a provincial park in Canada.
  • The maintenance of life involves cooking food, cleaning dishes and lighting a fire – that’s it.
  • Traveling is cheap when you use your own car. (Mine is small and very fuel efficient.)
  • Most campgrounds offer comfort stations with shower and laundry facilities.
  • Any campsite will do in a pinch.

Cons for tent camping.

  • Rain can make tent camping less pleasant. (Make sure you have a good fly.)
  • Getting dressed can be a challenge in a small tent.
  • With all the dirt around, you get dirtier.
  • It takes more time and effort to get back on the road as you have to pack up the tent, etc.
  • You may not feel as safe since there is only nylon between you and the rest of the world. (Read Camping alone – protected by a code of ethics.)

My choice?

I can see some solo campers saying that tent camping is a no-go because it doesn’t offer the comforts of home and you get dirty. Plus, safety may be a concern.

For me, if there’s not too much traveling, I prefer tent camping. It’s cheaper and I love being outside all day with no work other than making dinner and cleaning dishes. And, as a solo traveler, that’s definitely not a lot of work.

Bottom line, it’s really just a matter of personal preference.

Getting closer to nature, in all its small glories, is one of the reasons I love tent camping.

Getting closer to nature, in all its small glories, is one of the reasons I love tent camping.

 

My thanks to Cruise America giving me an RV to try on my southwest road trip.

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  • Spartangirl

    I solo camp – dreamed about it for a long time. I read lots of stories
    and articles about both tenting and RVing. Tenting wasn’t going to be
    for me, and just couldn’t handle all the maintenance RVers seem to have
    to do. I finally bought a teardrop trailer – best of both worlds! Comfy,
    safe, has a galley and fits in anywhere. Not much to it that can go
    wrong, so very little upkeep. Everywhere I go I meet really nice people
    who want a “tour” of my TD. Has solar capabilities, too. Check them out –
    may be what will be your best fit, too.

  • http://solotravelerblog.com Janice Waugh

    I like your thinking Dave. Good luck with the decision and have fun!

  • Dave Reynolds

    Thanks for the great article! You make some excellent points, pro and con, for both modes of camping. My wife and I are debating if to purchase a small RV, e.g., van conversion or continue tent camping (car camping) with our Prius. Another option is a small ultra light tent trailer. We prefer to maintain a small carbon footprint for the sake of our grandchildren as well as the economics of rising fuel costs. We use a solar panel to power camp lights, a small radio and cell phones. We’re leaning towards upgrading our tent and also incorporate cabins in our travel plans.

  • Ellen

    My first solo trip was in a minivan, with the seats removed. When I was younger, I was quite nervous about being seen as alone. I still always set up 2 chairs at my campsite, to make it look like I have a camping partner. Now, I tent almost every weekend of the summer, and I love the variety of sites where I can go. I just need to learn to set up a tarp correctly! I’ve had to return home early with very soggy gear a few times.

  • http://solotravelerblog.com Janice Waugh

    Thanks Patricia. You’ve made some great points!

    Janice

  • Patricia Coon

    RV’d for over 15 years solo. Best setup has lots of solar panels to be able to camp anywhere, anytime. I don’t like the noise of a generator. Solar doesn’t run a microwave and toaster well, but propane oven/stove cooks just about everything. I spent lots of time outdoors, sitting around a campfire (including cooking in cast iron), only to sleep inside safely. Solar ran the computer and charged the cell phone; propane ran the fridge and heat (when needed). Air conditioning – just step outside. Once set up with solar, you don’t ever have to pay money for a campsite. You can “boondock” off the beaten path, next to lakes and streams, at Wal-Mart parking lots (don’t put chairs outside it’s not for camping, just overnighting), in National Parks, State Parks, Conservation Corps sites. One whole RV group is dedicated to this concept, moving every couple of weeks to a new destination – Quartzsite, AZ, the Slabs, Borrego Springs, CA, Flagstaff, AZ, all the way up to Seattle and across to Jamaica, VT. Fun, active group for solo travelers – join in, have fun, go your own way, follow – whatever. Miss that lifestyle!

  • festessentials

    Awesome article, thank you for sharing. Personally I love and always will love tent-camping solo, however I am now a motorhome owner and considering full-timing it simply because I can travel and stay wherever & whenever :-) for others considering buying an RV check out the Guide to Buying an RV / Motorhome / Camper

  • Mikito Ohara

    In traveling or any outdoor activity, your best buddy would be your tent. That is why buying the perfect tent that suits your taste is crucial. Check out Tent for sale

  • *a Couples Odyssey*

    That’s why we converted our RV to more than just an RV. We’re not dependent on hookup’s, and the bed we have is fixed. Although it consumes 10L/100km (yeah that’s metric) we are driving our RV from the Netherlands to India. Did you know in Iran a liter of gas costs about $0,02. ow and after a few european countries, there won’t be any rv-stops, which makes rving (is that a word?) more like camping out :)

    For us that’s pretty much what was needed to solve the cons :)

  • PeteTaylor

    I mostly go camping for weekend fishing trips. I like to go off the beaten path, so tents are the only option for me. But I think the beauty of going outdoors is that you are close to nature, so living in an RV would take away from that feeling a bit. I think a tent is better unless you have a small child who might require a bit tidier accomodation.

  • Janet Campbell

    A few years ago my husband and I were tent camping, as we do almost every year. He got sick, and spent a week in the hospital. I was so afraid of being in my tent alone that I slept horribly uncomfortably that entire week in the back of my car. Looking back, it was silly. Your comments about being safe reassure me should I ever camp alone again.

  • jacob smith

    I would do the RV reason because Storing things is very easily that you are carrying while travelling or spending picnic vacation spot.

    Panama city condos

  • My Quality Time

    I’m thinking about a T&B by Little Guy

  • Patricia Havis

    I went for my very first ever camping trip (just overnight) with my dog back in February. I had never ever been camping in my life. I bought a tent and all the other gear and got in my vehicle and drove to a state park. Stephen F Austin State Park in Texas. I was very nervous as it was my first ever solo trip, plus the anxiety of never having camped before! But I found it very relaxing (once the tent was set up — never done that before either – but got a nice camper to help me). My dog was very relaxed too. It was quiet and because the weather was cool there weren’t lots of bugs to deal with. I really didn’t have to spend that much money on supplies, even though I was starting from scratch. I went again a few months later but it had gotten much warmer and I didn’t enjoy that other state park as much. I highly recommend car/tent camping. I was surprised at how safe I actually felt by myself in the campsite. I think an RV would be expensive and a bit of a pain. The only real pain at the tent campsite is setting up the tent — since I’ve only done it a couple of times and am not comfortable with it yet.

  • BMJ

    I live in Montana and have solo camped for years. I have tented and RVed…but I am going back to a half ton truck with a light weight “slide in” camper, which I used to have. It is a nice “middle of the road” option.

  • http://www.MyBeautifulAdventures.com/ Andi Perullo

    I think I would do the RV!

About Janice Waugh and Tracey Nesbitt

Screen Shot 2014-07-30 at 8.52.44 PMI'm an author, blogger, speaker and traveler. I became a widow and empty-nester at about the same time. And then, I became Solo Traveler... Here's the full story. >>
Tracey NesbittI’m a writer, editor, food and wine fanatic, and traveler. On my very first trip abroad I learned that solo travel was for me. Here's the full story. >>

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