25/07/2023
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Trailer tents and folding campers: the ultimate guide

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If you love camping and exploring the great outdoors but are looking for a more comfortable option than a tent, you might want to consider a trailer tent or folding camper

In this guide, we'll cover everything you need to know about trailer tents and folding campers in the UK, from what they are to where to buy them, maintenance tips, and towing considerations.

Whether you're a seasoned camper or a beginner, this article will help you make an informed decision for your next camping adventure.

Page contents

Words by Iain Duff

 


What is a trailer tent?

Inside the Camp-Let North trailer tent

(Photo courtesy of Camp-Let)

A trailer tent is a versatile camping option that combines the convenience of a caravan with the freedom of a traditional tent. These compact units are designed to be towed behind a vehicle and unfold into a spacious and comfortable living space at the campsite. They typically consist of a trailer base with folding canvas walls and a roof, providing a cosy sleeping area, a dining space, and sometimes even additional storage compartments. Trailer tents are a popular choice among camping enthusiasts due to their ease of use and practicality.

Inside, trailer tents have off-the-ground beds with mattresses that usually fold out from the trailer and can be used as a seating area during the day. In larger units you’ll find further inner tents in the awning for more sleeping space and some trailer tents allow you to increase the sleeping accommodation by fitting under-bed compartments.

The living area is usually in an integral awning, which offers plenty of space for tables and chairs and other camping furniture. Some models have their own built-in groundsheets, while others are open to the ground. Storage compartments can often be found in the main trailer unit.


What is a folding camper?

Inside the All-Road Opus folding camper

(Photo courtesy of Opus)

A folding camper, sometimes also referred to as a folding caravan or a pop-up camper, is another fantastic camping solution for those who desire more amenities than a traditional tent can offer. These campers feature a hard-sided body that folds down during travel, making them more aerodynamic and compact. Once parked at the campsite, the sides expand outwards, revealing the comfortable interior.

Like trailer tents, in a folding camper you get loads of living space and you also benefit from on-board beds with mattresses – many boasting sprung wooden bases for comfort and condensation control.

A typical folding camper usually has two two-berth beds and a large living area/kitchen. The living area often consists of two comfortable bench seats that sit each side of a table which can sometimes be dropped down to create yet another two-berth bed – although the couple sharing the adjacent double will find it difficult to get out at night when the spare bed is in use.

The kitchens normally have a sink, running water, three-way fridge and plenty of storage in the form of cupboards and shelves. There is often a wardrobe and you can get a flushing toilet and washroom in top models. Full electrics, heating and hot water often feature in the larger units.


What are the benefits of trailer tents and folding campers?

So, are trailer tents any good? Are they a better option than a traditional tent or a caravan? Here are some of the key benefits of owning a trailer tent:

#1 Convenience and easy set-up

One of the main advantages of both trailer tents and folding campers is their quick and straightforward set-up process. Unlike traditional tents, which require a fair amount of time and effort to assemble, trailer tents and folding campers can be unfolded and ready for use in a matter of minutes.

This is especially valuable for campers who want to maximise their time enjoying the great outdoors rather than struggling with complicated set-ups. When not in use, they can be compactly stored, taking up less space than full-sized caravans.

#2 Compact and lightweight

Trailer tents and folding campers are designed with portability in mind. Their compact size and lightweight construction make them easy to tow, even with smaller vehicles. This feature is particularly beneficial for campers who may be hesitant to tow larger caravans or those who prefer a more nimble camping experience.

#3 Comfort and amenities

While traditional tent camping has its charm, trailer tents and folding campers offer an elevated level of comfort. They provide cushioned sleeping areas, weatherproof interiors, and often include kitchen facilities, giving campers a home-away-from-home experience in the wilderness.

#4 Versatility

Another great advantage of trailer tents and folding campers is their adaptability. Many models come with add-ons like awnings or annexes, offering extra living space and flexibility to accommodate more campers or gear.


What's better – a trailer tent or folding camper?

Towing trailer tents

(Photo courtesy of Comanche)

Deciding between a trailer tent and a folding camper largely depends on individual preferences and camping needs.

Both options have their unique strengths, so it's essential to consider factors such as budget, towing capacity, and desired amenities.

Trailer tent advantages:

  • Simplicity and quick set-up
  • Lower cost compared to folding campers
  • Lightweight and easy to tow
  • Flexible storage options

Folding camper advantages:

  • More spacious and comfortable interiors
  • Hard-sided body offers better protection from the elements
  • Additional amenities like kitchenettes and washrooms
  • Suitable for year-round camping due to better insulation

Ultimately, the choice comes down to personal preferences, budget constraints, and the level of comfort and convenience desired while camping.


Types of trailer tents

Trailer tents come in various configurations to suit different camping styles and group sizes. Some common types include:

#1 Inflatable trailer tents

Inflatable trailer tents use air-filled beams instead of traditional poles for support. These tents are quick to pitch and deflate, making them ideal for campers who prioritise easy set-up and takedown. The Air Opus can be inflated electrically at the push of a button, making it even easier to set up.

#2 Small trailer tents

Small trailer tents are compact and lightweight, with two-berth trailer tents perfect for couples. A four-berth trailer tent is ideal for small families seeking a cosy camping experience without the need for extra space.

#3 Large trailer tents

For larger families or groups, six-berth trailer tents and eight-berth trailer tents offer ample space and multiple sleeping areas, providing comfort and convenience during extended camping trips.


Where can I buy a trailer tent?

Inside a folding camper

(Photo by Iain Duff)

Finding a trailer tent to suit your needs can be done through various avenues, both online and offline. Some options include:

#1 Dealerships

Visit authorised dealerships of trailer tent brands to explore different models and receive expert advice on selecting the right one for you.

#2 Online retailers

Browse online camping and outdoor equipment retailers to compare different trailer tent models, prices, and reviews from other campers.

#3 Secondhand market

Consider checking out the secondhand market for used trailer tents. Websites, classified ads, or auctions can be good places to find affordable options.


Should I buy a new or used trailer tent?

The decision to buy a new or used trailer tent depends on budget constraints and personal preferences. Here are some points to consider for both options:

Buying a new trailer tent

  • Assurance of a warranty and manufacturer's support
  • Access to the latest features and technology
  • No wear and tear, ensuring pristine condition
  • Potentially higher upfront cost

Buying a used trailer tent

  • Lower initial cost compared to a new unit
  • The possibility of finding well-maintained models in excellent condition
  • Some room for negotiation on price
  • May require more thorough inspection for any potential issues

Ensure you thoroughly inspect any used trailer tent for signs of damage or wear, and verify the authenticity of any provided documentation or service history.


How much does a trailer tent cost?

The cost of a new trailer tent can vary significantly based on factors such as brand, size, features, and whether it's new or used. On the lower end, small, basic models can start at around £2,000 to £4,000, while larger, well-equipped trailer tents can range from £5,000 to £15,000 or more. Inflatable trailer tents and those with additional amenities tend to be on the higher end of the price spectrum.

Secondhand trailer tents vary in price depending on the model, age and condition. Auction websites like eBay, Shpock and Gumtree usually have dozens on offer – from barely serviceable scrappers for less than £100, right up to nearly new ex-demonstration models for £10,000 or more.

A good-condition folding camper from a brand like Pennine or Conway from the 1990s can be picked up for less than £1,000 and, for a first-time buy, that might be perfect for your needs. But if you want something more up to date you might have to pay between £5,000 and £12,000 from a dealer.

You’ll pay a bit more for a used trailer tent at a dealer than you would for a private sale, but you should get a warranty of sorts and, if you do find anything wrong with it when you get home, the dealer will put it right.


What are the most popular brands of trailer tent and folding camper in the UK?

The UK offers a wide range of reputable trailer tent and folding camper brands, each with its own unique features and designs. Some of the most popular brands in the UK include:

  • Air Opus
  • Cabanon
  • Camplair
  • Commanche
  • Conway
  • Holtkamper
  • Isabella/Camp-let
  • Jamet
  • Raclet
  • SunnCamp
  • Trigano

These are just a few examples of popular brands, and there are many more options available on the market. It's always recommended to research and compare different brands and models to find the one that best suits your needs.


Trailer tent maintenance and storage

The decision to buy a new or used trailer tent depends on budget constraints and personal preferences. Here are some points to consider for both options:

#1 Cleaning and maintenance

  • Clean the exterior and interior of the trailer tent regularly using mild soap, water, and a soft brush or sponge.
  • Pay attention to seams, zippers, and any potential areas of wear or damage. Repair or replace them promptly to prevent further issues.
  • Ensure the trailer tent is completely dry before folding and storing to prevent mould and mildew growth.
  • Lubricate hinges, locks, and moving parts as recommended by the manufacturer.
  • Check the tyres for wear and maintain the recommended tyre pressure.
  • Inspect and clean the trailer tent's awning, if applicable, following the manufacturer's instructions.

#2 Storage

  • Clean the exterior and interior of the trailer tent regularly using mild soap, water, and a soft brush or sponge.
  • Store your trailer tent in a clean, dry, and well-ventilated area.
  • If possible, elevate the tyres to prevent flat spots.
  • Use a breathable cover or tarp to protect the trailer tent from dust and debris.
  • Consider removing the trailer tent's battery and storing it separately in a cool, dry location.
  • When storing for an extended period, periodically inspect the trailer tent to ensure no pests or rodents have made their way inside.


Towing a trailer tent in the UK and Europe

Towing a Camp-Let trailer tent

(Photo courtesy of Camp-Let)

Towing a trailer tent requires some preparation and knowledge of relevant regulations in the UK and Europe. Since late 2021, all drivers in the UK are allowed to tow trailers with a maximum authorised mass (MAM) of up to 3,500kg without the need to take a car and trailer driving test.

Here are some more essential points to consider:

#1 Towing capacity

Ensure your vehicle has the appropriate towing capacity to safely tow your trailer tent, including accounting for the weight of your camping gear and belongings.

#2 Driving considerations

Be aware of the additional length and weight of your trailer tent when driving. Allow for extra braking distance and adjust your driving style accordingly.

#3 Speed limits

Different countries may have varying speed limits for vehicles towing trailers. Familiarise yourself with the regulations in each region you plan to visit.

#4 Safety equipment

Invest in safety equipment such as towing mirrors, a hitch lock, and a stabiliser to enhance the safety and stability of your towing set-up.

#5 Legal requirements

Make sure you are aware of all the legal requirements for driving and towing in the UK and the countries you intend to visit in Europe. This includes trailer registration, insurance, and any necessary towing permits.


Things to consider when buying a trailer tent

When selecting a trailer tent, keep the following factors in mind:

#1 Berth size

Consider the number of people the trailer tent needs to accommodate comfortably.

#2 Facilities

Decide on the on-board amenities you require, such as kitchen facilities, toilet, and storage space.

#3 Set-up time

Evaluate how quickly and easily the trailer tent can be set up and packed away.

#4 Towing vehicle

Ensure your towing vehicle is suitable for the size and weight of the trailer tent.

#5 Budget

Set a budget and look for options that meet your requirements within your price range.


Frequently asked questions

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about trailer tents and folding campers:

Q: Do trailer tents have their own kitchens?

A Higher-spec trailer tents have their own kitchen units, while, with more basic models, you’ll have to bring your own camping stove and other gear.

Q: What else do I need to bring?

A With most trailer tents, all you need is to add are a few personal possessions, such as bedding, kitchen utensils and food before you hit the road – everything else is provided in a neat package ready to hook onto your towbar.

Q: How do you level a trailer tent on site?

A The best way to level a trailer tent is to use a spirit level. Place it on the floor (or flat surface) with the ends pointing towards the sides. Put levelling ramps under the wheels and push the unit up the ramps until it’s level.

Q: Do trailer tents have internal lighting?

A Some trailer tents and most folding campers have lighting installed in the sleeping area, which runs off the campsite’s mains hook-up. You’ll need a camping mains unit or a caravan-style hook-up cable to supply the power.

Q: Can my car tow a trailer tent?

A Check your car’s manual and consult the section dealing with payload capacities and towing. The majority of cars should be capable of towing a trailer tent of up to 750kg but some manufacturers expressly state that their small cars aren’t designed for towing and to do so would invalidate the warranty.


Six of the best trailer tents and folding campers in 2023

#1 Camp-let North trailer tent

Camp-let North trailer tent

(Photo courtesy of Isabella)

Trailer tents are all about finding your freedom and being able to spontaneously head off in search of exciting adventures. The Camp-let North brings together the best features of two previous models and is the perfect choice when you want to explore in first class.

The Camp-let North’s integrated poles mean you can quickly put the tent up and take it down with a few basic steps.

The spacious lounge area and ventilated sleeping cabins have room to provide holiday accommodation for the whole family. And if you decide to stay in one location for a while, you can easily extend with a sun canopy and annexe.

This is a long-term investment, too. With its canvas made with Isacryl material, the Camp-let North is easy to clean and the material should keep its colour for years.

See Comanche tents at the Bicester Comanche website

Camping Awards 2023 winner for the best trailer tent/folding camper

Specifications

Price:

£6,399

Sleeps:

2-6

Weight:

250kg

Size:

323 x 160 x 95cm (closed) 575 x 400 x 230cm (open)

#2 Raclet Solena trailer tent

Raclet Solena trailer tent

(Photo courtesy of Raclet)

The lightweight Raclet Solena trailer tent is a 'quick-erect' style tent with a solid floor area, with no pegging needed for the main sleeping/living area.

The hard floor is a secure top for the trailer when packed away. The jockey wheel and spare wheel come as standard.

And there are other options available, including an awning, sun canopy, annexe, side storage brackets and bike rack fittings.

Specifications

Price:

£3,995

Sleeps:

2-6

Weight:

320kg

Size:

220 x 145 x 96cm (closed) 420 x 290 x 210cm (open)

#3 Comanche Montana Explorer folding camper

Comanche Montana Explorer folding camper setup

(Photo courtesy of Comanche)

Comanche Montana Explorer folding camper trailer

(Photo courtesy of Comanche)

Inside the Comanche Montana Explorer folding camper

(Photo courtesy of Comanche)

The Montana Explorer lives up to its name – and it provides you with endless options for your exploring.

It’s the ideal companion for weekend getaways, touring adventures or longer-term holidays. And with the large array of accessories on offer, including an awning, chest box and cycle rack, you can tailor the four-berth tent to your needs.

Setting up the Montana Explorer folding camper couldn’t be easier. The trailer folds open easily and the main canvas structure and cotton interior rooms pop up. Simply push the poles into position and fold the beds out and you’re ready to go. The standard version of the Explorer has two cosy beds, featuring high-density foam mattresses that rest on a folding slatted base for extra comfort.

Under the mattresses you have lots of space to store all your camping kit – including furniture, utensils and luggage.

See Comanche tents at the Bicester Comanche website

Specifications

Price:

£7,249

Sleeps:

2-4

Weight:

295kg

Size:

250 x 166 x 102cm (closed) 351 x 242 x 237.5cm (open)

#4 Off-Road Air Opus folding camper

Off-Road Air Opus folding camper

(Photo courtesy of Opus)

This version of the hugely popular Air Opus folding camper simply screams out the word “adventure”.

It has all-terrain wheels, spring suspension and higher ground clearance, compared to conventional folding campers, making it designed to cope with rough roads. The fabric is 350g polycotton and the frame has a single inflation point – inflation takes just 90 seconds with the flick of a switch.

A pull-out kitchen is an optional extra; a sink and two-burner hob slide out from under the chassis.

Specifications

Price:

£20,999

Sleeps:

2-4

Weight:

120kg

Size:

540 x 215 x 140cm (closed) 650 x 215 x 295cm (open)

#5 Trigano Odyssée trailer tent

Trigano Odyssée trailer tent

(Photo courtesy of Trigano)

The Odyssée is a trailer tent designed for adventure and discovery. It’s compact, lightweight and easily manoeuvrable, but still provides plenty of room and comfort for your family camping holidays.

The 'pram design' makes it quick and easy to pitch, so is ideal for touring. You can be fully set up in just 20 minutes, meaning you have more time to relax and enjoy your holiday. The Odyssée’s awning is attached to the rear and unfolds at the same time as the bedrooms. Pitching is easy… first, lift the bed over then unfold the canvas. Connect the main key pole, then lift over the awning and push out the two main awning poles.

The two double beds come with slatted bases and mattresses with quilted covers, designed to give you more comfort. The beds cleverly elevate to reveal a roomy storage area below. Large PVC windows on the front and numerous mesh flyscreen vents make the trailer tent bright and airy throughout the day. And there’s plenty of airflow to keep temperatures down on warm nights.

The Odyssée is available with or without a kitchen unit and it is made from durable high-quality cotton and is treated to prevent the material from decay or the formation of mildew.

Specifications

Price:

£6,399

Sleeps:

2-4

Weight:

400kg

Size:

216 x 152 x 119cm (closed) 460 x 400 x 240cm (open)

#6 Cabanon Mercury trailer tent

Cabanon Mercury trailer tent

(Photo courtesy of Cabanon)

The Cabanon Mercury is a good-size trailer tent, with a spacious living area and an integral sun canopy with built-in wind breakers.

It can sleep up to eight people with the optional under-bed tents. Inside the cabin area there are two double beds which both have a slatted bed base. Headroom inside the cabin is excellent.

Specifications

Price:

£6,399

Sleeps:

2-8

Weight:

309kg

Size:

760 x 440 x 220cm (open)


Conclusion

Trailer tents and folding campers offer an excellent balance between camping convenience and outdoor adventure. Whether you choose a compact trailer tent for a weekend getaway or a spacious folding camper for extended trips, these versatile options cater to various camping preferences.

By considering factors such as size, features, budget, and towing capacity, you can find the perfect trailer tent or folding camper to create lasting memories on your camping journeys throughout the UK and beyond.

Prices and product availability mentioned in this article are subject to change, and it's advisable to check with dealers and retailers for the most up-to-date information.


Expert Camping advice!

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Every issue is packed with inspirational travel, the top camping sites to stay on, reviews of the latest tents, camping gear reviews, practical help and much more to help you get the most out of your camping adventures.

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