Top 10 Tent Trailer Tips

I was at a party last week when the subject of buying a new tent trailer came up. My friend had said she’d seen a nice-looking used tent trailer for sale and was considering buying it. The “Royal” Family camped in a tent trailer, otherwise known as a pop-up trailer for many years.

Tent Trailer

(Until The Queen Mother decided it was too much work and made ESP Boss buy her a different RV. But that’s another story!)

Throughout our years of owning a tent trailer, we actually went through three different models. Since we’re something of an old hat at buying tent trailers, I wanted to share with you my top 10 tips; all from personal experience!

The salesman or previous owner will make it seem like a piece of cake to set up and tear down your new trailer. And it is; for THEM. For you, it is a brand new process.

And, of course, it goes without saying that before you buy an RV of ANY type, you make sure that your vehicle can tow it safely AND that you have the needed hitches, receivers, brakes, and connections!

  1. Take notes. It’s better if you have one person taking the notes and the other person following the seller around
  2. Draw pictures or take pictures. It’s amazing how little things like not pushing a bed in from the right angle mean that the bed won’t slide in at all! (Our Coleman tent trailer had a very finicky door. If it wasn’t done exactly right, it wouldn’t latch into the ceiling!)
  3. Have the seller do a complete set up and tear down for you to watch. Make notes of any steps they have trouble with, especially if you’re getting a used model from a prior owner. It might indicate that the part is due to be replaced, doesn’t want to work when wet (or dirty, or dusty, or on Thursdays…), or that the current owner didn’t use the feature much and isn’t familiar with it.
  4. YOU do it. Yes, you will look a bit foolish since you don’t really know what you’re doing, but it’s a lot better to practice when you’ve got the “expert” there to help you out. Plus, you’ll get a feel, right away, for how much work it is to do. You might change your mind at this point and decide that a tent trailer isn’t for you! (The previous owners of our Coleman tent trailer bought a top-of-the-line model with ALL the extras, took it out once and decided that it was too much work! My folks got a great deal, but think of all the money they spent on an RV that didn’t fit their lifestyle.)
  5. Take it home and then practice it again.
  6. Use to schedule a test trip. You’re looking for a near-by campground that is easy to get to, has BIG level spaces, and is close to a major town so you can buy supplies, if you need them. This test run is just a test run — GO to a campground even if you prefer dispersed camping. Leveling the trailer on a nearly-level pad will make a big difference on your maiden voyage!
  7. Get to the campground when there is plenty of daylight left. There’s nothing worse than setting up an RV you’re not 100% familiar with in the dark!
  8. While you’re out, try out and test all the features of the tent trailer including the refrigerator, stove, toilet, inside and outside shower, lights, propane system, heating system, etc. If something doesn’t work, you need to get it fixed right away AND let the seller know about it! Going out with your new tent trailer is especially important if it is still under warranty.
  9. Make a folder with all the manuals in it and keep it in the trailer. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve had to reference the owner’s manual while on a trip. Luckily The Queen Mother is very good about keeping all that stuff handy.
  10. Be patient! Be patient with yourself, your spouse, your children and pets. Camping should be fun. Don’t expect everything on your maiden voyage to go well.

Our first trip with our first tent trailer: The “moon” feet didn’t reach the ground so we couldn’t level the trailer and had to drive into town for wooden blocks. The hot water heater wouldn’t stay lit (pilot light gizmo needed to be replaced!) And, it snowed! Thankfully, the heater DID work.

Readers Weigh In:

  • What do you do before buying an RV?
  • Have you ever taken your RV out thinking it was going to be simple and had a disaster instead?

2 Responses to “Top 10 Tent Trailer Tips”

  • […] This list is very different from the article I published a few months ago: Top 10 Tent Trailer Tips […]

  • Ray:

    Hi, this may-not be a top ten tip but it might be worth thinking about when you are purchasing a tent trailer or any type of RV. Where do you store it when you’re not using it? That may not be a problem for some but could be for others. Our first u-built tent trailer was awsome and fit thru a gate and in our driveway, out of the way of a passing lawnmower, wheelbarrow,ect. This brings to mind another minor tip (it kind of goes with your #4), think about the features that you really need. I paid $50 for our u-built and rebuilt it from the ground up.It cost me about $350 and by the end of it, it was pretty much bullet proof.I put in a ceiling light,2 fold-down shelves with plugs for a DVD player and a 12v battery. We were one step up from being in a tent.For 4 summers, we did all types of camping including some wilderness camping, and had too much fun. I guess what I’m trying to say is sometimes “simple is good”. I have looked at the Coleman Evalution Series trailers and if I could afford one, would buy one in a heart beat. The first thing I would do is tear out the toilet\shower they have inside. Some bodily functions are just not suitable for a tent trailer in my opinion.
    Anyway,I found your site because I am presently looking at buying a 1996 Coleman Taos. I was trying to find some personal reviews on it and went thru about 25 web sites until I found yours. I have yet to see the trailer opened up because the seller and myself can never get together on a day it’s not raining. ( he doesn’t want to put it away wet.I don’t blame him) I would be interested in any comments, likes or dislikes you have about it.

    Vancouver Island, B.C.