Lightweight caravans, trailer tents and more
With caravan tow cars getting lighter all the time, here are the best alternatives to hitch up and avoid weight worries
When is a caravan not a caravan? What's a folding camper and what’s a trailer tent? They're not always easy to define.
Some of them look almost identical, and even owners of folding campers will often describe them as trailer tents, while both have been described as caravans. Lightweight trailers, however, have some of the best and most intriguing varients of anything in the caravan industry.
Labels don’t matter too much and all three categories have a lot more in common than you might think. Basically they all contain accommodation that you tow behind your car in a self-contained trailer, often without having to worry about needing a Towmatch weight check tool to ensure you're the right side of the law when you're towing.
All these options still have proper beds that allow you to sleep off the ground. Some need pegging out and others can be unfolded or made up and used without any pegging at all, meaning they can be sited on hard-standing pitches.
Here’s a bit more info on all three options in the land of the lightweight…
Some models have flip-tops, where the canvas unfolds like a giant pram-hood. These can take just a few minutes to pitch.
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.
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. Storage compartments can often be found in the main trailer.
They are built on a trailer unit that looks like the bottom half of a small caravan. In storage and when it’s being towed, a heavy duty tarpaulin covers the inner workings of the camper and, on site, the bedroom units fold out at each end and overhang the front and rear of the base. Many modern folding campers have hydraulic struts that make opening it out much easier.
Inside you’ll find what looks like a compact caravan, with a cooker, sink, fridge and sometimes even a toilet. Most campers have bench seats with a table at one end that can be converted to a double bed.
Some folding campers are as luxurious as any new caravans for sale, the only difference being that they have fabric walls and roof. With the addition of an optional awning, the living area can be vastly increased.
The next level up is the folding caravan, which has the advantage that it can be folded down for easier storage and towing but has rigid walls and roof.