Pop-up campers are wonderful in so many ways. You can tow them with a regular car or SUV. They don’t hurt gas mileage so much because, when folded down, they’re low-profile, and they don’t weigh so much. You can store them in a garage. They can accommodate a lot of campers even though, when folded, they don’t take up much space. And, with a few exceptions, they cost less than “stick-built” or fiberglass trailers, and certainly less than motorhomes.
For these and other reasons, when I first started thinking about buying instead of renting a pop-up, I was thinking of “tent trailers.” The kind with a roof that cranks up, and then there’s all sorts of canvas or other fabric that folds out to create a big tentlike thing, only it’s off the ground and has a little kitchen and might even have a potty.
For our big trip to Lopez Island, I planned on renting one of these. It would be fun to see how we liked it! Sooz was on board. Tyler and Wally wagged their tails whenever I asked “wanna go camping????!!!” Of course if I use the same tone of voice and suggest getting their teeth cleaned, they still wag. Of course I would never.
I set about finding rental pop-ups in the south Puget Sound region where we live — and couldn’t find much. There was one place a half-hour south of here, but they weren’t very responsive to emails, and I worried that they might not be responsive in other ways, too. I found another place that sounded great — selection, reasonable rates, online reservations — but they are almost 400 miles away, in the wrong direction, so that was a no-go.
I forgot about it for a while and focused on work and helping my aging parents. Some nights, though, alone and sleeping on the floor in their rented house (they had moved on to nursing homes and assisted living places), I would poke around online. It was during one of these sessions that I stumbled upon the “A-frame camper” concept.
A-frames are like pop-ups, in that they do actually pop up (and down). But they have hard, A-shaped roofs once they’re popped up, and, with a few exceptions, don’t have any tentlike structures. They’re unusual. They still offer many pop-up advantages. But they seem more solid, and perhaps better suited to rainy climates (like the one we inhabit) than tent trailers. They’re made by a number manufacturers: the two that are probably best known are A-Liner and Chalet.
On our trips back and forth to California, and at a couple of nearby RV shows, Sooz and I stared at these nifty little campers. At some point I made a speech about us growing older and we could drop dead tomorrow and shouldn’t we be having some fun… and she bought it. Would the wisest among us ever make such a purchase? Possibly not. But we agreed that we could justify it to ourselves. Besides, we already had a good tow vehicle for one of these little guys — our 11-year-old Mazda Tribute SUV. It was rated to tow 3,500 pounds, and after some initial research I determined that it was adequate to tow all but largest A-frame models.
Side note: RV sales professionals assured me that we could tow ANY of these models with our Tribute, even the large ones. Their evidence, however, was anecdotal, and when I looked up capacities and crunched numbers and asked experienced online forum members, the answer was always “No, not the largest ones. You’d need more tow vehicle for one of those.”
I have since learned quite a bit more about towing capacities, and… well, it’s a good thing we didn’t buy a big A-frame and try to pull it with our Tribby (whose name was Richard Parker). We would have been dissatisfied (and possibly in danger), and would have ended up searching for a larger tow vehicle.
We decided we liked only the largest of the A-frame models. Of course! But to get one of those, we’d have to trade in Richard Parker. What to do?
Remember, during all this time, I am schlepping back and forth to beautiful Lincoln, California, and trying to work and run errands for family members, and killing time in the evenings surfing around RV-related forums and other websites.
At some point I ran into a discussion about Eggs. What are Eggs? (I wondered.) Ah. Scamp. Casita. Small, aerodynamic, fiberglass-shelled trailers that still don’t weigh so much, so that they are, for some, an alternative to pop-ups and A-frames.I stared at the Scamp website. I stared at the Casita website. I scoured the forums for information on both. I even went so far as to email one of the companies — I don’t remember which — and ask for a referral to a nearby owner so that Sooz and I could take a look at one. (These companies don’t sell through dealers like most RV manufacturers, they sell direct. So there’s no showroom where you can go kick a tire, unless you happen to be near a factory. We weren’t).
But no one got back to me.
Further reading led me to discover other brands of Eggs. A few of those brands were consistently lauded by anyone who had seen them. And one of those highly touted was Escape Trailer Industries — known for both quality and great customer service.
And their factory is located less than four hours from our home.
So we emailed them to ask for a referral. And the next day we had contact information for a couple who lives right here in our little town, owners of an almost-new Escape 21, who were willing to give us a tour of their trailer.
I won’t mention their names here, because I think they might not want to be plastered all over cyberspace, but I will say that they graciously gave us more than an hour of quality time poking around their Escape 21. They also told us what they liked about it, and about their experience, to-date, towing it and camping with it.
We got back in our car to drive home and I asked Sooz what she thought about it.
“I LOVE it!” We didn’t know it at the time, but it was a remarkably good impression of Seattle Seahawks linebacker Richard Sherman’s line for a Campbell’s Soup TV ad. “I LOVE it!”
Of course, the Escape 21 would require a beefier tow vehicle than a we had — but so would any of the A-frame models we liked. And we wouldn’t be able to store it in our garage (though there was some hope of squeezing it in beside our house). And it would cost more. But other than these minor details, it was the right way to go. Why?
“I LOVE it!!!!!!”
Stay tuned for a complete Toto Tour: a glimpse of what it was that Sooz loved (and still loves).
Sharing is caring!
Following is daring.