Small Camper and Travel Trailer Buying Guide

Dec. 18, 2023

Some individuals prefer a more compact option when hitting the road. Whether traveling alone or as a couple, tent campers seeking an upgrade or those valuing better gas mileage and flexibility often lean towards smaller RVs.


When it comes to traveling small, there's a myriad of options available. Engaging in comparison shopping before purchasing a travel trailer is advisable to ensure it aligns with your preferences, travel plans, and financial considerations.




A small travel trailer or small camper trailer is usually less than 22 feet long and weighs less than 5,000 pounds dry. As we look at some options, we’ll be using those numbers as our general rule.


Avoid the misconception that small travel trailers lack features. The creativity employed to maximize space in larger RVs is amplified in these compact rigs. You'll be amazed at the innovations incorporated into lightweight trailers despite their size.


Let's explore various styles of small camper trailers, discussing their pros and cons, along with essential considerations before making a purchase.




Teardrop trailers hold a special place in our hearts! These ultra-lightweight trailers have a long-standing history spanning decades. Typically, they feature a bed and storage inside, one or two exterior doors, and a concealed outdoor kitchen beneath the rear panel.


Some teardrops weigh under 1,000 pounds, making them easily towable by various vehicles. Initially, the original design resembled a lockable tent—minimalistic and straightforward.


However, modern teardrop trailers offer a plethora of options. Some include toilets and sinks, while others feature convertible seating arrangements inside.





1. Lightweight: Easily towable with regular cars and SUVs.

2. Versatility: Ideal for off-road adventures due to their size.

3. Compact and Streamlined: The teardrop shape ensures aerodynamic efficiency, and many can be conveniently stored in a garage.

4. Affordability: Generally cost-effective, allowing customization with add-ons like tents and awnings based on your budget.




1. Limited Size: Typically accommodating only two people and lacking standing space, which might feel claustrophobic for some individuals.

2. Fewer Amenities: Despite ingenious space utilization, there's insufficient room for many additional features.

3. Limited Storage: Particularly noticeable when towed by smaller vehicles, leading to constraints on the duration of your trip due to restricted storage space.


Helpful Tips:


Carefully plan your trips to ensure access to bathrooms and showers. While teardrops are well-suited for boondocking, be comfortable with nature-provided facilities if you venture off the beaten path.




For those seeking additional space and features beyond a teardrop, stand-up trailers are a worthy consideration. Resembling miniature versions of standard travel trailers, they offer standing room (hence the name) with diverse layout options.


Select models may feature a full bathroom complete with a shower or a spacious kitchen. These compact trailers excel in maximizing multipurpose space, often incorporating seating areas that convert into sleeping quarters.





1. Height: Offers more room compared to a teardrop while remaining compact enough for towing with a car and garage storage.

2. Price: Relatively pricier than teardrops yet significantly more affordable than full-sized trailers.

3. Options: Customize or select features and amenities based on your travel needs, either by finding the ideal layout or opting for customization.




1. Boxier Shape: Less aerodynamic than teardrops, potentially making towing more challenging.

2. Rarity: Less commonly found compared to other styles, leading to potentially longer search times for the right fit.

3. Limited Space: Although more spacious than teardrops, they may not accommodate a full range of features and generally sleep two to four people.




Popup campers serve as an excellent choice for small travel trailers suitable for families. Being light enough to be towed by an SUV or car, these trailers expand both vertically and horizontally with tent components.


They offer diverse interior layout options, with some featuring bathrooms and kitchens. However, similar to stand-up trailers, opting for a small popup camper might entail sacrificing certain amenities.





1. Folded Dimensions: When not set up, small popup campers are low, providing good visibility while driving and convenient storage in a garage.

2. Space: Popup campers typically offer more sleeping capacity compared to teardrops or stand-ups.

3. Camping Experience: The tent-like components in popups enhance airflow, fostering a closer connection to nature compared to traditional RVs.

4. Price: Small popup campers offer a cost-effective option compared to larger alternatives.




1. Limited Space: Similar to other small travel trailers, there's a trade-off in space, although popups can often accommodate four or five sleepers.

2. Setup Time: Setting up and folding down a popup camper takes time, which could be perceived as a drawback, but proficiency improves with practice.

3. Tent-Like Qualities: Popup campers share some disadvantages with tents, requiring meticulous waterproofing and sealing for protection against the elements.


Hints and Tips for Shopping for a Small Travel Trailer


When browsing for a small travel trailer, you'll encounter a myriad of variations within each style. From oval pods to a-line designs, compact log cabins on wheels to innovative high-tech pop-ups towable by motorcycles, the options can seem endless.


To ease the process and make it enjoyable rather than overwhelming, consider a few steps:


1. Determine your vehicle's towing capacity.

2. Don't rely solely on the trailer's dry weight; seek professional advice to calculate additional weight for gear.

3. Identify the number of individuals the trailer needs to accommodate.

4. Prioritize essential amenities you cannot do without.

5. Establish a clear budget for your purchase.


Embracing Smaller Travel Trailers:


Small travel trailers offer tremendous benefits. They are more affordable, easier to store than larger alternatives, and provide access to dry camping spaces that larger vehicles cannot reach. Additionally, they typically cost less for insurance and maintenance.


If you're prepared to downsize your RV experience, exploring a smaller travel trailer is a fantastic option. It offers a unique travel experience that brings you closer to nature while maintaining the comfort of a real bed, a secure locking door (and possibly a toilet and shower).

Small Camper and Travel Trailer Buying Guide


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