Apparently one camper is not enough.
Last year in the Sierras and Cascades, and especially around the National Parks, we found ourselves reflecting fondly on our twenty years of van camping, where we could go and camp nearly anywhere with a decent road. National Park campgrounds, National Forest campgrounds … whatever. We had also passed by some places that looked interesting but required heading down unknown roads that might not have parking or even turning space for our fifth wheel. Some people are more adventurous than us, but we’re reluctant to head down roads with the fifth-wheel that we might have to back out of for miles. Throughout the last two-thirds of the trip, we discussed the possibility of adding a truck camper to our rv stable, but did not seriously pursue it.
Now those years of van camping were shorter trips (up to three weeks). Rainy days were lousy since we had no indoor kitchen. Trips to the campground bathroom in the rain or at night with mosquitoes were never fun. And the animals got left at home. But we were very mobile, almost never made reservations even in the summer, and we explored a lot of the USA and Canada in a relatively short amount of time.
As we planned to explore Washington and the Olympic Pennisula this summer/fall, we realized again that the fifth-wheel would require long day-trips since campgrounds appropriate to our size were relatively few in some of the areas we wanted to visit. This resurfaced the truck camper idea. (We already have the big truck, after all, so a truck camper is an economical way to have a smaller mobile camper. A larger Class B or small Class C would also work well for us, but would be far more expensive.)
With the next trip just a few months away, we started looking seriously to see what was available. We needed something a bit bigger to fit all of us (Oma, Opa, 90 lb. dog and the cat), and we wanted decent sized tanks for flexibility when staying places without hookups. We looked around at some used truck campers within a couple of hundred miles (and beyond in some cases), but were not successful. Much of what was available was not appealing. Some nicer later-model units were priced too high. (I need more than a couple of thousand dollars discount over new for a three-year-old camper, even if it appears to be in great shape.) One unit had some promise until we saw the serious water damage and delamination in a corner.
In the end, we found a new Arctic Fox 1140 that had been sitting on a dealer’s lot for a year. After some negotiation, the price wasn’t too much more than the used late-model campers, the options were close to what we wanted, and we pulled the trigger.
Are we getting rid of the fifth-wheel? No, definitely not. It’s a wonderful home while we’re on the road, and – at a bare minimum – I expect we will always use it for our snow birding. Our fifth-wheel is very comfortable and I think we could travel in it indefinitely. But in situations where small size and mobility trump comfort and convenience, I think our new truck camper will be a great alternative.