Camping in a trailer
The pleasure of being at home everywhere you go
These outdoor enthusiasts seek escape and adventure without sacrificing comfort, especially when it comes to camping. For many, the road to the perfect vacation is traveled with a tiny house on wheels attached behind their vehicle. Far from being a cardboard box, the trailer is a secondary residence that can be carried everywhere you go... and that appeals to campers of all ages and backgrounds.
Catherine Chénier doesn't hide it: when she thought of offering herself more comfort while camping, she didn't immediately think of a trailer. "We were looking for the van life", says this mother from the Laurentides region. However, once the idealized image promoted by social networks dissipated, the less practical aspect of life in a converted van took over.
She and her life partner, Jean-François, considered their options, and the trailer made a lot more sense. "With our budget, we would have needed to look at older vans," explains Catherine. Jean-François didn't like the idea of investing in a vehicle that was too old just to have a compact motorhome. The mechanics could have quickly become a problem.
Not to mention that with three children ages 5, 10 and 13 in the equation - and thus the need for five belted seats - the complexity of the search and the budget required became even bigger issues for the couple.
After some time, Catherine and Jean-François determined that the compact size (just over 14 feet) of the lightweight Helio O4 trailer would be a great fit for their family. In perfect condition, the second-hand 2019 trailer that they purchased late last summer is stylish and modern.
And at about 1200 lbs, it can easily be pulled by many types of vehicles, including the Subaru Outback the family already owned. As a bonus, because of its reduced weight, it can be moved "manually" in smaller campgrounds. And unlike a tent trailer, which can only be unfolded at the destination, this trailer is accessible at all times. Perfect for breaks and meals on the road!
An avid adventurer, Catherine had always been a tent enthusiast. It was after an experience in the rain with her son Liam that she experienced her flash. “We're getting older!" laughs the camping mom. “I was tired of leaning against the canvas and getting soaking wet, and of all the hassle of setting up and taking down the tent, putting everything away, and the rest."
Although the acquisition is recent, the small family took advantage of last fall to test their trailer during a few stays in the regions of Portneuf and Bas-Saint-Laurent. Although their vehicle is designed for four people, everyone can sleep in it if need be.
For the upcoming adventures this summer, Catherine will adapt to the desires of the kids, who will sometimes sleep in the Helio, sometimes in the car (equipped with a tailgate), and sometimes even in a nearby tent.
Daughter of a camper, partner of an angler
Already popular in days gone by, the world of camping is experiencing an unprecedented boom. According to Denis Robitaille, director of business development at the Fédération québécoise de camping et de caravaning (FQCC), the practice has increased by 25 to 30% in recent seasons.
On the side of touring caravans (conventional trailers, tent-trailers, fifth wheels, hybrid trailers, park trailers, and camping boxes) we’re talking about an increase of almost 40% in quantities delivered by the American manufacturers, between 2020 and 2021. This is a record for the industry!
The pandemic has accentuated the phenomenon, pushing people to go out into the wild. "You find yourself in your own bubble, isolated from others," quips Denis, explaining the camping craze.
Accustomed to life on the entertainment circuit, Élisabeth Grenier and her boyfriend, Jessy Caron, took advantage of the forced break from show business to camp out more. Now that they’re back on the road, between a series of concerts in the United States and Europe, the couple intends to keep their good habits.
Jessy likes to fish in his spare time. It was his sweetheart who led him to discover the world of camping. “I've been camping since I was a kid," says Élisabeth, now 32. “My father was a gung-ho camper!"
For her musician boyfriend, camping was relatively new, but he got into the game for better fishing. For two years, the couple camped with a rooftop tent, a canvas shelter that you carry and unfold on top of a vehicle. "It's a cool concept," says Élisabeth, who says that they still use this tent on occasion.
Last spring, they got their hands on a new Québec-made trailer, a Prolite Suite. No need to pack up everything in the morning to get to where the fish are jumping! "It's much more practical for fishing trips," explains the young woman, who also brings along her dog, Balou.
After a summer with this 12-foot light and compact trailer, the couple from Québec City felt a little cramped. Before the end of the season, they found a used 14-foot Prolite Mini, with more storage space and a full kitchen area. "We snapped it up real quick," recalls Élisabeth, hoping that she and her boyfriend had found the perfect trailer.
The couple likes to drag their "little cabin" all the way to Gaspésie, where Jessy enjoys salmon fishing. The size of the trailer is ideal for settling in remote corners and at the best sites. "No need to choose a campground for big trailers," exclaims Élisabeth.
Mobile family life
Nothing in her early life predestined Marie-Philippe Linteau to love camping the way she does now. "I wasn’t a born camper at all," she says. However, the mother of 4 children (6 months, 3 years, 5 years, and 8 years of age) was sold on camping by her life partner.
After their first child, the couple began to escape for a few nights of camping, as many young parents do. As the number of children grew, so did their need for space and comfort. So in 2016, the Bellechasse family acquired their first 19-foot trailer, a used hybrid with canvas sections that open up for beds.
"On a whim," two weeks before leaving on vacation, the pair bought the trailer with the goal of renovating it. Fortunately, Marie-Philippe's significant other is skilled with his hands and the challenge tickled his fancy.
"I'm not handy at all," affirms the 30-something-year-old, who is a dance teacher in her everyday life. When it comes to home and trailer renovations, Yannick executes the ideas of his better half. "You could say that I'm the brains of the operation and he's the arms," laughs Marie-Philippe.
One thing is for sure, the combination works pretty darn well! You only have to see the results of their teamwork on Instagram to believe it. And since the first trailer was fixed up in a hurry – just in time for the holidays – the twosome repeated the experiment in the summer of 2020.
This time, it was the turn of a classic 29-foot fifth wheel trailer to be transformed. Dating back 20 years, the new vacation home on wheels needed a makeover. "It was old and ugly," recalls Marie-Philippe.
Completed at the end of last summer, the renovations are spectacular. You have to look closely at the photos of the project to see that it’s a trailer and not a modern and hospitable tiny house. "It's comfortable, but it's still camping," specifies the happy co-owner modestly.
The couple was motivated by the desire to build a trailer completely to their taste and adapted to their needs, something of a rare find for a family with four children. In their trailer, three of the beds are bunks. As for the baby, he sleeps with his parents, who have a king bed on board.
And don't think that living the dream nomadic life means breaking the bank! The most recent restoration only cost about $2,000, Marie-Philippe estimates. The spacious 2002 trailer with annexes cost $7,500. Moreover, by playing their cards right in a market where demand is high, the family could prove to be a winner in an eventual resale.
When it comes to inspiration for her work, she often starts with a colour and takes advantage of internet as an inexhaustible source of ideas. She tries to reuse as many things as possible instead of buying new at high prices.
Whether it's for a quick weekend or a longer vacation, the couple appreciates the ultra-comfortable "base camp" they have created. It offers a nice stability for the kids, even far from home. "It's like being in very our own cabin," sums up the mom.
Driving “Miss Daisy”
With its red stripe contrasting with the white of its fiberglass hull, "Miss Daisy" hides her age pretty well. Manufactured more than 30 years ago, the little 13-foot Scamp trailer has been living new adventures since 2018, accompanied by her owners, Michel Audy and Line Meunier.
The pair of young retirees, who are experienced campers, found this American version of the popular Boler by chance in Gaspésie. The rounded shapes, the impeccable condition, and the quality of the construction of the 950 lb trailer immediately seduced the duo from Lévis. "She’s ever so pretty!" enthuses Line.
After a few years of borrowing Michel's sister's tent trailer, the couple wanted something that was their own to take on the road. Even if they gave up a bit of space, the Scamp had the qualities they were looking for and the perfect size for the couple.
On board, there’s electricity, a stove, a fridge, and a precious heater to rely on. In the back, a bike rack completes the mobile vacation home that the Audy-Meuniers pull with their Acura RDX SUV. "You almost don't feel it," confirms Michel.
The trailer is ideal for these golf enthusiasts. No matter where the couple stops, the "old-time beauty" is always ready to welcome them. At their destination, "Miss Daisy" then sits quietly while her owners enjoy themselves on the green.
Preparing for a month-long trip to the United States this spring, Michel and Line are excited about visiting some of the most beautiful national parks in the United States. "It will be the first time we've been away for so long," points out Line, excitement in her voice.
But already, the two retirees know that wherever they go, they can count on "Miss Daisy" to make them feel at home.
Jean-François and Catherine’s trailer
Purchased second hand, this Hélio O4 2019 trailer is perfect for Catherine, Jean-François, and their three children. Light and nifty, it delights them with its modern look and the space it offers to sleep the whole family.
Jessy and Élisabeth’s trailer
Unearthed second hand, Elisabeth and Jessy’s Prolite Mini trailer is perfect for the couple. The added value, in their view? It offers plenty of storage and a full kitchen space, and its small size is ideal for squeezing into remote corners and the very best trailer campsites.
Marie-Philippe’s family trailer
Completely renovated inside, the 2004 Palomino Fifth Wheel family trailer is a real little house on wheels that fills Marie-Philippe, her boyfriend, and their children with joy.
Tips for carefree camping
1. Take the time to explore the market
When the time comes to shop for a trailer, it's best to plan ahead to maximize your chances of finding one that suits your needs. Especially in this period where the demand for recreational vehicles is exploding! Somewhat in the shadow of the popular van life, trailer life seems to be more easily accessible to buyers. All the better! Buying in a hurry should be avoided, however, unless you’re not on a budget.
2. Do a trial rental
Nothing better than renting a trailer to know if this type of camping is for you. Denis Robitaille suggests renting directly from the dealer, in order to have more recent and better quality models. "The type of trailer you rent can change everything!” he insists.
3. Restoring is in!
To fix up a trailer, to deal with the current scarcity of certain products, or even for the simple pleasure of personalizing the mobile home, restoration is gaining in popularity, according to the FQCC expert. "It's fashionable to buy an old trailer and renovate it," he explains. And a trailer is the perfect option for creating a trendy and comfortable home for less.
4. Imagine the future
In order not to have to change trailers too quickly, it’s wise to project (a little) into the future to see what your needs and goals will be. A particular trip is in the plans? Will the number of people to be accommodated increase soon? Are there specific activities that will be done from this "base camp"? You need to keep these requirements in mind and make realistic choices.
5. Take an FQCC course
Insulating a trailer properly, managing the propane or electricity supply, ensuring a good match between the vehicle and the trailer, understanding how to use and drive it, learning how to park it... the FQCC answers all the questions campers have during its courses. "Our mission is to make camping interesting for everyone," says the director of business development. Bringing together nearly 27,000 families in Québec, the organization also wants to help people experience a safer and more enjoyable nomadic life.
6. Finance it like a house
The fact that it is possible to finance a trailer like real estate property makes its purchase more accessible. "You can pay for the trailer over a period of 20 years," points out Denis Robitaille. This option allows a greater number of people, especially young people, to acquire their little cabin on wheels. "It's clear that there’s a youth movement afoot," notes the director.
7. Follow your beliefs
With so much to offer, everyone can follow their beliefs. If you see camping as an opportunity for pure connection to nature, you can minimize your footprint and energy consumption. More eco-friendly trailers, from their manufacture to their use, do exist. Solar panels, composting toilets, lighter and more compact models that consume less energy to move and operate... it's up to each and everyone to choose the trailer that suits them best.
8. Get good and organized
Solid on-board organization is essential, especially with families in tow. To avoid having to prepare everything before each trip, many enthusiasts leave equipment and accessories in their trailers throughout their camping season. This way, hitting the road on vacation becomes faster and more efficient. And there are fewer oversights! As for meals, Marie-Philippe plans her menu and places everything she needs in the kitchen of her trailer, as she would if she had a summer cottage or cabin. This way, the mom doesn't find herself in a jam, far from the grocery store, when her four little campers are hungry.
10 reasons to love a trailer
- Floor space is maximized and access to the different sections is usually easy. It's hard to find a more spacious form of mobile accommodation at a comparable price.
- It allows you to carry bulky accessories and equipment on board (bikes, inflatable paddle boards, fishing rods, etc.). Be careful with the total weight of the luggage and equipment though.
- Access to spaces is maintained during road breaks, including access to storage and appliances. Kind of like motorized recreational vehicles, including vans!
- It can be set up quickly at its destination, without needing to be unfolded like a trailer tent. The interior layout is also more practical and often more complete.
- It comes in a variety of styles and sizes, from the ultra-lightweight compact model to the fully equipped luxury giant.
- Some lightweight models do not require a large vehicle to tow them. Of great interest when the price of gasoline is going up!
- Contrary to the tent or the tent-trailer, it offers more insulation (heat as well as coolness); protection (theft, insects, and animals); and soundproofing.
- Beds can be large and, when stationary, as comfy as those at home.
- Simpler and motor free, it is more durable and affordable than a motorized RV. Some well known trailers, such as the famous Airstream, have a long-lasting exterior cladding that admirably keeps them from depreciating.
- A trailer is simple to set up, detaches easily from the car, and locks so owners can freely explore their destination without a care in the world.