What’s Your Choice: Campervan, Caravan or Tent?

Cool Camping Bambi Vintage Caravan small - Campervan caravan or tent?

Everyone goes camping for different reasons but it got us wondering about the pros and cons of using a campervan, caravan or tent. So we thought we’d explore the three options and ask for a few opinions from friends of Inspired Camping.

Tent

Using a tent is a great way of really feeling truly outside but being able to keep well sheltered. You can really hear the rain, feel the heat of the sun and the power of the wind. The acoustic sound of nature really permeates the canvas too giving everyone a great camping alarm clock.

Tents come in all shapes and sizes and there will definitely be the right one available depending on your needs and your budget. If you like to go backpacking then the weight of the tent is your priority. However, if you have a large family then it’s important to have a tent with all the right living areas and bedrooms.

Security can be a bit of an issue depending on where you decide to pitch your tent. Canvas and zips aren’t exactly the best protection against petty thieves so it’s wise not to leave anything of value in your tent while you are away, especially as you may find your insurance won’t replace anything if it was taken from an unsecured space.

It’s always wise to check the weather report before you go camping with a tent. Some are not very robust in howling gales and you don’t want to end up sleeping in the car because your tent collapsed in the middle of the night… as we found out!

Campervan

Using a campervan is a great way of cutting down the hassle of regular camping trips, but without having to do without anything. Everything stays in the van ready for your next trip and as long as you keep everything clean there’s very little to do before you set off on your trip.

It’s also great if you have a family as you can all sleep in the same vehicle and have cooking and storage facilities easily available without having to pack or re-pack anything. It’s also much more secure as doors and windows can be locked, and as long as you maintain the vehicle properly it rarely lets you down.

However, unless you are going to use the campervan regularly it can be an expensive and underused asset that just sits outside the house waiting for the next trip. However, with a bit of creative thinking they can be used as a kids playroom, extra guest bed or home office if you are willing to risk your gorgeous campervan getting a bit messy.

However, if something goes wrong then remedial work can be expensive. Also, unless you have quite a bit of money burning a hole in your pocket you will have to settle for older vehicles which have higher maintenance bills and a slower engine so you will definitely have to get used to allowing more time to get to your destination, while pulling over regularly to let the queue of vehicles behind you go by.

One other problem with the campervan can be that after pitching up at your destination you soon have to pack everything up to be able to move off to another location to get supplies, go surfing or anything else the family might want to get involved in. Also, unless you leave an awning at your campsite or have a trailer you will find the van to be crammed with camping paraphernalia in-between stops.

Caravan

Caravans have in the past probably been both the most popular and the most unpopular mode of camping. Many people love them and hate them in equal measure. However, we feel they are getting a new lease of life within the camping world. With classic Airstream, retro and vintage models being reintroduced by their proud owners. We are now beginning to see some glorious examples of caravan history being re-loved and re-introduced into the campsite.

They come with the benefits of the camper van that they can be left packed and ready for the next camping trip, however, they can also be stored nearer to your regular holiday destination and, depending on your towing vehicle of choice, can often be faster than a similar aged campervan.

They are ideal for a family as once at the campsite they can be pitched and left for the entire time you are there, without reducing your ability to move around from place to place in your tow vehicle. This cuts down on the hassle factor and means the family can focus on their holiday rather than the job of un-packing and re-packing.

However, one of the bonuses of a caravan is that they can be used for other purposes when they are not on the campsite. They can be a play room for the kids, an office, an extra bed for guests and a small business if you are willing to hire them out to those without the comfort of a caravan. As they are easily moved,  you could even pitch them up in a sunny corner of the garden as a summer house.

But these are just our ideas and as we know everyone has different requirements and ideas about what fits those best, so we thought we’d ask the friends of Inspired Camping about their favourite method of camping and this is what they said…

Tina Las Vegas Spin Award

DJ TinaT

Founder of Camp Spin Off

I love camping in tents personally. You can breathe the fresh air, feel the morning sun and feel like you’re part of nature.

Allie Bombach 23 Feet Inspired Camping

Allie Bombach

Film Maker 23 Feet 

I love it when I have none. Just a pad and sleeping bag under the stars is the best way to watch the world turn in your sleep.

Martin Dorey, Camper Van Cookbook

Martin Dorey

BBC Presenter of One Man And His Camper Van
Author of:  The Camper Van Cookbook: Life on 4 Wheels, Cooking on 2 Rings and  The Camper Van Coast: Cooking, Eating, Living the Life

Sorry my tented friends but I’d go for a camper van every time. Having everything there, in the van, reduces the need for the faff that can accompany camping trips. It’s a way of packing light but without going without! If the van is packed and ready and all you need is a few basic groceries it makes departure painless and swift. I like that. It makes the sense of freedom come more easily.

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstalls 3 Hungry Boys Inspired Camping Cool Camping

The Three Hungry Boys… Tim, Thom and Trevor

Channel 4 Presenters and authors of The Three Hungry Boys

Seeing as we’ve been so well looked after by Winnie our VW camper and Daisy our converted milk float we’re going to have to say Camper Van.

Jane Field-Lewis My Cool Camper Van Caravan Campsite Campingsite

Jane Field-Lewis

Co-Author of My Cool Caravan, My Cool Camper Van and My Cool Shed

I can see the benefits of all of them, and have ended up with a hybrid version. Our tiny (& I really do mean tiny) 70’s vintage caravan is stored on a lovely farm in West Sussex. That is the centrepiece of our camping experience. It is a lovely little space, I love the way it looks, the 70’s fridge and two-ring gas stove, the sound of the rain on the roof. Our teenage son understandably prefers his own space, a tent. Friends come for the weekend and pitch tents too. I have a collection of vintage striped canvas windbreaks and lovely outdoor lights. I guess, the way it has evolved, in a way we set up our own little version of Glastonbury.

When writing and styling ‘my cool campervan’ I was reminded of those early family holidays, of the joy of the journey, of taking your time. I made two short campervan films that are on our website and on YouTube about just that.. take a look, and I’ll bet you end up wanting one!

Lee Woodward Mountain Leader Annapurna Inspired Camping

Lee Woodward

Mountain Leader And Lead Tutor – Outdoor Adventure University of Highlands and Islands, Scotland

Depends on my mission. Wild camping is best; however campervans are very useful for travelling long distances especially with a family.

Brian Green and Family Brian's Backpacking Blog

Brian Green

Brian’s Backpacking Blog

I’m definitely a tent/hammock/tarp kinda guy. In fact my entire ‘shelter’ system weighs less than 1 pound! Yes, that’s right… 1 pound!

I like to be able to travel light and quick so that I can go further into the backcountry on foot, which is hard to do with a caravan or camper van. While I’ve enjoyed many a night in a camper van, I’ve gotten used to being able to pack my backpack with everything I need to get by comfortably and have the freedom to go wherever I choose without too much planning.

When I go camping with my two young children this changes, and I will take more of the home comforts with me. With my kids we always use a tent and drive to a reasonable accessible campsite – they have small legs!

Ruben-Martinez Co-Founder Of Glamping Hub Inspired Camping

Ruben Martinez

Co-Founder of The Glamping Hub

This is a great question and I would have to say that my favorite is neither! My favorite place to stay are yurts. They are awesome! I love doing a good 10 mile snowshoeing hike in the Rocky Mountains and having your final destination a secluded yurt, lighting a fire, eating some dinner and knowing that civilization is nowhere to be found.

 ChrisHaddon My Cool Caravan My Cool Campervan Inspired Camping Cool Camping

Chris Haddon

Co-Author of My Cool Caravan, My Cool Camper Van and My Cool Classic Car

A caravan was and still is my first choice and I have a great passion for them, especially the vintage American models. The practicalities of a caravan in term, arriving at a destination, pitching, unhitching then hooking up is another major selling point for me because it leaves you free to explore in your town car. Which in turn for me, and many others, opens up another aspect, the possibilities of owning a classic/retro tow vehicle which seems to be becoming an ever popular choice and in part has led me to my third title, available on the 26th April 2012 ‘my cool classic car’.

I am however, (and have been for a while), hankering after a campervan but that is realistically a few years on from now, I would have to thin out my collection of caravans before I go down that line! What appeals to me is the ease of just getting up and going off in a campervan most likely just for the day – they certainly make day trips and picnics more comfortable and stylish. Some of the campervan owners in the book go on Sunday drives, literally just thirty minutes down the road, park up, read the paper and have a cup of tea – again, making the best of their spare time and not having to travel for miles.

Tess Carr Co-Founder The Happy Campers Inspired Camping

Tess Carr

The Happy Campers Book and Website

I will always choose a tent above everything else…..I LOVE our bell tent, although I’m not averse to campers or caravans …. maybe in my twilight years I will give them a go!

Through5eyes Inspired Camping Cool

Nathan Steinbauer and Stephanie Choate

Film Makers Through Five Eyes

Tent, definitely. After a long day’s drive it’s really nice to get out of your vehicle and set up camp under the stars. And, while caravans and camper vans are often restricted to cramped parking lots, we’ve often had a lovely green space or a forest clearing all to ourselves.

Mark Gordon Feather Down Inspired Camping Cool Camping

Mark Gordon

General Manager, Feather Down

A tent. I have bad memories of mobile home holidays that I have only just got over.

Tom Dixon Canopy and Stars Inspired Camping

Tom Dixon

Managing Director, Canopy And Stars

Treehouse, sorry I love treehouses, but if one of the above, probably a tent although I do love (Gypsy) caravans too. But there’s just something wonderful about canvas.

Well that’s got us reaching for the keys to our campervan, caravan… actually our tent…!

We want to say a HUGE thank you to our contributors for sharing their thoughts and ideas, and now it’s time for you to do the same. So we’d love you to use the comment section below to tell us what you’d choose: a Camper Van, Caravan or tent, and most importantly, why?

Inspired Camping

Picture Credits: The individuals featured unless otherwise stated and My Cool Caravan

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6 Responses to “What’s Your Choice: Campervan, Caravan or Tent?”

  1. 6 June 2012 at 5:17 am #

    I’ve only tried tents and I do like them. I like feeling like I’m on an adventure.

    But if I could have a camper van with solar panels, refrigerator, and coffee maker I’d think about trying it out. :)

  2. 6 June 2012 at 7:43 pm #

    Tents are all well and good , but with our British weather they are a pain to put up in the wind and rain and especially with the “larger” family tents, take a good while to pitch.. So I’m voting campervan which is all nice and cosy with everything to hand and if you are like me and drive it everyday..very cost effective…..I’m sorry but I’m with the “Top Gear” frame of mind when it comes to white plastic boxes..errr I mean caravans.. ;-))

  3. Tim
    13 June 2012 at 8:49 am #

    “…they can also be stored nearer to your regular holiday destination and, depending on your towing vehicle of choice, can often be faster than a similar aged campervan.”

    Hmmmm…..can’t think of many campervans that wouldn’t be able to match the 60mph that towing vehicles are LEGALLY restricted to! ;-)
    Perhaps if people understood that it doesn’t matter how good a driver they are, it’s the lump behind them that fails and flips on the motorway holding thousands of fellow campers up for hours at a time……

    • 13 June 2012 at 1:53 pm #

      You make a very good point… We definitely agree that all caravans must be loaded properly, maintained and towed well to make sure a flip never happens. For anyone interested there’s a very helpful guide here.

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