25 Affordable Camper Alternatives to an RV

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feet hanging out of tent and showing scenery
Photo credit: AZemdega/istockphoto

RV OR AREN'T V?

If you own a recreational vehicle, chances are your summer RV season started months ago when you began plotting your route and reserving sites. If you don't own one, there are plenty of reasons not to. They're big; they're expensive; they eat up lots of gas; they require yet another vehicle if you want to get around town wherever you're going; and they require lots of storage space. If you love car camping, but are tired of tents and aren't ready for an RV, here are a few cost-effective alternatives.
Habitents
Photo credit: Courtesy of habitents.com

HABITENTS

Price: $100 | Buy it at Habitents
You're giving yourself a moderate amount of space for sleeping and no amenities like a kitchen or toilet, but you have access to your vehicle's lights, radio, power outlets and other features. Also, it folds up and stows in the glove compartment of your Toyota Prius, Honda Fit, Subaru Outback and Legacy, or other hatchbacks.

Napier Sportz Dome To Go
Photo credit: Courtesy of napieroutdoors.com

NAPIER SPORTZ DOME TO GO

Price: $290 | Buy it at Napier Outdoors
A simple dome tent that attaches to a hatchback or SUV with a sleeve, this tent is just as ideal for tailgating as it is for a weekend of car camping. Complete with rain awning and 17 square feet of space, this gives you a little bit of room without requiring a lot of labor to set up or break down.

Davis Tent Company Wall Tent
Photo credit: Courtesy of davistent.com

DAVIS TENT COMPANY WALL TENT

Price: $1,600 to $1,800 | Buy it at Davis Tent & Awning
If you're a hunter -- or even a "hunter" who just likes to spend the occasional wintry weekend out with friends kicking back and cooking out -- chances are you're already familiar with these canvas tents. Equipped with wood stoves, vinyl flooring and space for up to four people, these tents are equipped to withstand the elements while providing a little extra comfort in the high country or during the shoulder seasons.

Rightline Gear Truck Tent
Photo credit: Courtesy of rightlinegear.com

RIGHTLINE GEAR TRUCK TENT

Price: $179.95
Pickups are great camping vehicles, but aren't so great for sleeping out under the stars when the bugs are biting. This floorless tent buckles right onto a pickup truck's bed, sleeps two and provides a mesh-screen view of the night sky. Throw in a truck air mattress, and you've got yourself some comfortable, portable sleeping quarters.

Kodiak Canvas Truck Tent
Photo credit: Courtesy of kodiakcanvas.com

KODIAK CANVAS TRUCK TENT

Price: $370 | Buy it at Kodiak Canvas
Not all truck tents are meant to withstand the elements. This tent comes in multiple sizes to fit just about any pickup truck and is made of watertight canvas that can extend over the tailgate, if necessary. With a 5-foot ceiling, five windows, and rails that connect right to the truck bed, this all-purpose tent can save a vacation when the weather is less than ideal.

Cricket Trailer
Photo credit: Courtesy of taxaoutdoors.com

CRICKET TRAILER

Price: Roughly $30,000
Taxa Outdoors' 15-foot tent-trailer hybrid has one axle, weighs all of 1,500 pounds and can be towed by even a four-cylinder car or SUV. With room for two adults and two kids, multiple windows, a pop-up vent, solar panels, battery or outlet electrical system, LED lighting, and a kitchen sink with plumbing hookups, it has a whole lot of RV amenities. At around $30,000, though, you're getting awfully close to RV pricing.

tepui tents kukenam sky 3 tent
Photo credit: Courtesy of rei.com

TEPUI KUKENAM SKY 3 TENT

Price: $1,425 | Buy it at REI
Rooftop tents got their start in Australia, where it pays to put some space between yourself and the various pests and predators on the ground. You simply attach it to a vehicle's roof rack, undo some straps, attach poles and the included ladder and you're done.

Jayco Jay Sport
Photo credit: Courtesy of jayco.com

JAYCO JAY SPORT

Price: $11,747 to $15,000+
When most people think of a tent trailer or pop-up trailer, this is what comes to mind. Not quite a travel trailer and not quite a tent, this is a reasonable means of upgrading your camping experience with amenities like actual beds, a kitchen, dining area, a roof fan, water-resistant flooring, and storage for all of your stuff. The price can rise substantially when you start adding items like sofas, showers, or extra dining space, but it's easy to tote around at just 1,250 to 1,600 pounds when emptied.

Yakima Skyrise 2
Photo credit: Courtesy of yakima.com

YAKIMA SKYRISE 2

Price: $1,099 | Buy it at Yakima
The key issue with rooftop tents is their cost. Consumers may wish they were cheaper, but keeping you both comfortable and safe on the roof of a vehicle is a costly endeavor. A slightly less-expensive option is this lightweight two- to three-person tent with a 2.5-inch foam mattress, and large rain cover.

Maggiolina Carbon Fiber
Photo credit: Courtesy of autohomeus.com

MAGGIOLINA CARBON FIBER

Price: $5,999
If you value a lighter tent and more space over money, this is your roof tent. Weighing just 101 pounds and sleeping two adults and a child easily, this carbon-fiber tent is made to withstand winds of up to 50 mph. It also puts 4 inches of insulation between campers and their vehicle while putting them on 3.5 inches of plush foam mattress.

Forest River Flagstaff Tent Camper
Photo credit: Courtesy of forestriverinc.com

FOREST RIVER FLAGSTAFF TENT CAMPER

Price: $9,000 to $17,000
It's a tent trailer, but it's a lot bigger than some of the others on this list. Starting at 1,465 pounds for the 12-foot-long base model and more than 2,400 pounds for the decked-out 17 footer, you'll need at least a small SUV to pull it. That said, even the base floor plans have a storage trunk, spring mattress, a slide-out dinette, and power lift system. Paying more gets you ventilation fans, taller accommodations, an electric water pump, an awning, air conditioning, USB ports, and more.

Meerkat Camper
Photo credit: Courtesy of littleguytrailers.com

MEERKAT CAMPER

Price: $17,820
This trailer from San Diego-based Little Guy Trailers weighs just 900 pounds, which means just about any four-cylinder car with a hitch can pull it. The full kitchen has a seating area that converts into a bed, storage under the seats, a refrigerator, a sink, a 120-volt electrical system with outlets, wood cabinets and a full closet. For those who are a bit tall for this tiny trailer, there's a pop-up top that provides some extra space.

Used 1986 Volkswagen Vanagon
Photo credit: Courtesy of autotrader.com

VOLKSWAGEN VANAGON

Price: $12,500 to $55,000
These haven't been sold new here since the early '90s, but these Volkswagen vans were built for conversion. Some factory models were flat-out campers with a refrigerator, two burner stove, stainless steel sink, cabinets, and heaters. You can still find multiple versions on used-car sites like Autotrader, and replacement parts, including the Westfalia pop-up mesh top, are available on sites like GoWesty.

Big Woody Ultimate Teardrop Camper
Photo credit: BigWoodyCampers/facebook.com

BIG WOODY ULTIMATE TEARDROP CAMPER

Price: $13,789
Teardrop campers look awfully small, but when you equip them with dual sinks, a refrigerator, television/DVD player, cabinets, a queen-sized bed, and cedar-lined closets, they can get awfully luxurious in a hurry. Big Woody will sell you ready-made trailers, or you could pay $900 for a kit and build it yourself.

Camp-Inn 560 Ultra Raindrop Trailer
Photo credit: CampInncampers/facebook.com

CAMP-INN 560 ULTRA RAINDROP TRAILER

Price: $21,846
If you want to go a bit more luxurious with a teardrop trailer, the Raindrop is the way to go. Ranging between 1,040 and 1,430 pounds, depending on the options you've added to it, this 13-foot trailer fits a queen-sized bed, a front couch that converts into bunk beds, two doors, multiple cabinets, vintage hardware, a roof fan, a full kitchen out back, stainless steel counters and tables, water and propane hookups, and multiple power outlets. It's pricey, but it's pretty.

Safari Condo Alto-R Trailer
Photo credit: Courtesy of safaricondo.com

SAFARI CONDO ALTO-R TRAILER

Price: $29,868
Tall campers and trailers don't always coexist peacefully. However, the Alto R takes this into account with a retractable aluminum roof that increases the height to nearly 7 feet. The aluminum body keeps the trailer's weight to less than 1,900 pounds, while still housing amenities including two dining areas, a flush toilet, shower, space and water heater, refrigerator, stove, sink, electrical outlets, and LED lighting. It's small enough to fit in most garages but light enough to be pulled by most cars and SUVs.

Coachmen Clipper Camping Trailer
Photo credit: Courtesy of rvtrader.com

COACHMEN CLIPPER CAMPING TRAILER

Price: $4,000 to $17,000+
The "Express" version sells for just $4,000, but is basically a two-person tent with a bed in it. The hard-sided model can be had for about twice the price of the Express, but isn't quite as roomy as the Classic. That comes with a stove, toilet, shower, dinette, storage and lots of sleeping room.

Rolling Huts
Photo credit: Courtesy of rollinghuts.com

​ROLLING HUTS

Price: $145 a night
Oh, we didn't say you could buy this particular RV alternative. Located just outside of the Old West-themed town of Winthrop, Washington, the Rolling Huts are a rolling herd of small cabins with room for two, a fridge, a microwave, a coffee pot and Wi-Fi. However, your grill, toilet, and faucet are all outside, while your shower is in a nearby barn. These mini cabins may be on wheels, but they're roughing it more effectively than some of the tent trailers we've featured.

Lancaster Park Model Cabins
Photo credit: Courtesy of lancasterlogcabins.com

LANCASTER PARK MODEL CABINS

Price: $24,900
Now if you want a cabin you can actually take with you, Lancaster Log Cabins has several different floor plans to choose from. However, if you're looking for a cost-effective model that can be towed with a pickup or large SUV, the one-room model is the way to go. With a double bed, bunk bed, full bathroom with shower, kitchen with sink and fridge, air conditioning and a television built in, this cabin and its quaint little front porch make a lovely portable home for four.

1994 E-350 Ford 7.3L Diesel Skoolie
Photo credit: Courtesy of buslifeadventure.com

CONVERTED SCHOOL BUSES

Price: Varies
Whether you're a snowboarder chasing storms, a band on the run, or just a free spirit in search of adventure, the converted school bus may be for you. With the seats torn out, both full-sized and short school busses have plenty of room for bunk beds, full kitchens, showers and other amenities. Skoolies are their own subculture, but a quick check-in to Bus Life Adventure, can help you find your own Further.

Airstream Basecamp
Photo credit: Courtesy of airstream.com

AIRSTREAM BASECAMP

Price: $36,400
Airstream trailers retain their vintage Atomic Era look, but these rolling aluminum hot dogs have updated with Wi-Fi, LED lighting, USB ports, device docking and other features. They tend to be a bit dear for trailers, but this two-person base model comes with a rear hatch, charging stations, fold-down sink and stove, heating, air conditioning, toilet, and shower with hot and cold water. It's Airstream's entry-level offering, but it's packed with more features than most entry-level RVs several times its size.

Pontiac Aztek Camping Package
Photo credit: Vacationtime247/youtube.com

PONTIAC AZTEK CAMPING PACKAGE

Price: Varies
It's a shame that Walter White's car from "Breaking Bad" was so painfully ugly: It was more innovative than most people realized. During its original run in the early 2000s, the Aztek came with a swing-open tailgate, a removable cargo tray, a center console cooler, 93.5 cubic feet of cargo space, a 10-speaker stereo with rear controls, and a camping package that included a tent attachment, an air mattress, and a compressor for inflating said air mattress. These cars now sell for $1,500 to $7,500, while the mattress-tent combos can still be found on Aztek fan sites and occasionally on eBay.

Fleet Truck Camper
Photo credit: Courtesy of fourwh.com

FLEET TRUCK CAMPER

Price: $17,995
Four-Wheel Campers knows its way around slide-in pickup campers, but this model that fits into the bed of the Toyota Tacoma, Chevrolet Colorado and other small trucks is exceptional. The fleet is just 975 pounds empty and sleeps two to three adults or a bed and couch. There's a sink, stove, countertops, 6 feet 4 inches of headroom and options from a fridge to a water purification system.

Northstar Laredo Truck Camper
Photo credit: Courtesy of northstarcampers.com

NORTHSTAR LAREDO TRUCK CAMPER

Price: $24,485
You're going to need a heavy-duty, 3/4-ton truck like the Chevrolet Silverado 2500, Ford F-250 Super Duty or Ram 2500HD to hold it, but those with the payload capacity for this 2,100-pound camper get a bargain. A full dinette, kitchen (with three-burner stove and refrigerator), full closet, bathroom (with shower and toilet), swing-away table and four windows. You don't need a full RV if your truck already is one.

Honda Element with Tent/Cabana
Photo credit: Courtesy of amazon.com

HONDA ELEMENT WITH TENT/CABANA

Price: Varies
The Honda Element was yet another great camping car that got less than a decade on U.S. roads, but at least the brand is still alive and the vehicle is still beloved. While used versions sell for as little as $2,000, the final 2011 models fetch nearly $20,000 simply because people liked the surf wagon's washable rubber floors, stain-repellent fabric, tall ceiling, and general surfer- and pet-friendliness. Honda offered a factory-made cabana that was basically a changing station that attached to the back of the vehicle. It also offered an attachable tent that sleeps six, and both items are still easily purchased today.

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