A Tent on Wheels?

My home on the trail after lessons learned (all under 32 pounds).

On the right is my home on the trail after years of lessons learned (all under 32 pounds).

My first experience with backpacking was a disaster. My pack was too heavy. My shoes were too tight. Temperatures were too high, and mosquitoes were swarming. I loved backpacking and was hooked! I continue to backpack now, twenty years later, and continue to learn with every trip.

Why would a backpacker who prefers ultra-light travel want what I’ve sometimes called with a smirk, “a tent on wheels?”  I’ll answer this question later.

Before I started backpacking, I purchased a pack, sleeping bag, tent, and camp stove. I use none of those original items today even though they’re still intact. Knowing what I now know, I would have bought a different piece of equipment in every case.

Purchasing the wrong tent on wheels (or travel trailer) would be an expensive mistake. My wife and I planned a trip to Buffalo Point and rented a camper trailer from a local dealer. They were great to work with and provided us with a Dutchmen Kodiak 24-foot unit that weighed about 4000 pounds. The interior was very nice, and the air conditioner worked well, an important feature in July. It was the perfect camper trailer because it offered everything we could want at a size and weight we “could” tow.

Dutchmen Kodiak 24-foot

Dutchmen Kodiak 24-foot

From our three nights at Buffalo Point, we knew we wanted a lighter camper. Just because you can pull it doesn’t mean you should. As in backpacking, lighter is better but involves some trade-offs (or sacrifices). We determined what was essential for us.

1. A flush toilet and shower

2. A bed and dinette area that are separate and can be left set up, allowing one of us to take a nap while the other reads or writes at the dinette.

3. A weight limit of 3000 pounds and length limit of 20-feet. These were arbitrary numbers but gave some guidance.

4. That we tow the RV with our present vehicle (Jeep Grand Cherokee) since I plan to drive it for several more years.

While not essential, we liked fiberglass exteriors for durability and resistance to hail damage. We also liked a fiberglass roof better than a rubber roof if we had a choice.

What were we willing to sacrifice?

1. We were willing to go with a much smaller bathroom.

2. We didn’t need an oven but wanted to be sure we had a microwave and a stovetop burner.

After enjoying our rental experience, visiting with campers at Buffalo Point, walking through many travel trailers, and reading reviews, we began to lean toward the Forest River RPod. The R-179 floor plan with its spacious kitchen (by RV standards) and a separate dinette and bed best met our needs. The dry weight was around 2700 pounds. The length was 16-feet (20 with the hitch).

We located a dealer with an R-179 in stock and were impressed after walking through, crawling under, and generally kicking the tires. We reached a good price and made the purchase a few days later. Working with the knowledgeable folks at the dealership got us off to a safe start with our little trailer.

RPod 179

RPod 179

While pulling the travel trailer home, my Jeep purred “thank you.” I realized no extended mirrors would be needed and liked being able to view the rear wheels for reference when turning or staying centered in my lane.

Why a tent on wheels?

I love backpacking and will continue to do extended outings, but also enjoy day hiking. A travel trailer will increase our flexibility in getting to the trails we want to explore. We like the idea of having a comfortable base camp at the end of the day. My wife loves being out in nature and doing day hikes, but is not into backpacking. I love being with my wife and having time to visit in the evening and enjoy meals together. It’s also nice to have a secure and dry location for a camera and computer when reviewing trails.

We’re looking forward to some trips into Missouri soon and welcome any recommendations on day hiking locations as well as RV parks. We’re new at this, so suggestions and advice about RV camping are welcome!

Check out this tiny combined toilet shower. “Navy showers” are recommended, so you don’t use up the 6-gallon hot water tank. You can see the bed that remains set up beyond the bathroom.

Toilet and shower

Toilet and shower


We were surprised at how much space the single pull-out adds. The dinette and refrigerator are housed in the pull-out.

Dinette and kitchen.

Dinette and kitchen.

Hopefully, my next pictures will be on location at Lake Fort Smith State Park. The scene below was from a couple of months ago 0.2 mile from the campground.

Shepherd Spring Waterfall

Shepherd Spring Waterfall

Looking forward to winter and some multi-night backpacking trips with my 32-pound n0-wheels load. Still a backpacker at heart! I’m just a backpacker with one tent on wheels.

4 thoughts on “A Tent on Wheels?

  1. jim, we have learned the hard way, having a good floor jack can come in handy…. also an extra spare tire is good for additional “peace of mind”… i really like the r-pods, almost bought one myself… enjoy!!

  2. congrats on yer new toy. me & dana are usin’ ours for sure. been in 31 states in just over a year. just got back from alaska. got over 700 pics to show you. bob

  3. Congratulations on your new home on wheels… you’ll love it – perfect transition from a tent. I can relate to everything you wrote here. We used to backpack with our canoe in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area in Northern MN. We changed equipment over the years and now love our 31′ 5th wheel. It was important for us not to be too big. Enjoy 🙂

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