Off the Porch

Want a camper? It’s time to start looking
Feb. 01, 2013 @ 03:19 PM

One thing I always remember Uncle Evander saying was this — “If you’re going to procrastinate, do it now.”
There are advantages to being prepared, though and I try to get ready ahead of time. Sometimes, you can save real money by getting ready ahead of time and a couple of years back, Cherie and I did just that for a planned trip across the country.
All Americans should, at one time in their lives, travel across America. Cherie and I did it by car and the whole trip we discussed how much fun it would be to travel across with the dogs, camping and seeing the sights. We figured three weeks of travel could get us a good look at the west and our plan was to travel fast until we reached Minnesota and then hit some of the more popular sites, camping where we ended our days.
It was one of the best trips of my life and we did it in an 8-foot box pop-up and the Honda Odessy van we bought just for the trip. We hit 10 national parks including Glacier and Yellowstone, and only spent one night in a motel, cooking all but about a dozen meals along the way.
We got a great bargain in our camper by planning ahead and buying in January. Our Fleetwood pop-up came from Out of Doors Mart in Kernersville and was one of the best investments we ever made. It was a discontinued model and Joel Kilby, manager at Out of Doors Mart, gave us a great price because we were buying in the off season.
Last week, I bought a larger slide-in camper for our pickup and again, because of buying in the best time of year, I got a great deal. We’ve had a slide-in truck camper for about 10 years and spent countless nights in it on the sandy stretches of beach that form the Outer Banks of North Carolina. This summer, grandson Charlie and I revisited South Core Banks, a 20-mile strip of sand, sea oats and scrub hardwoods and pines across the Core Sound from Davis, North Carolina. This fall, Cherie and I revisited Core Banks for a little fishing trip that resulted in me catching a 46-inch red drum.
As we get older, it seems the little slide-in we’ve had for so long is getting smaller. Over the years, I’ve turned it into a rolling tacklebox with few amenities that make a woman’s life livable. We decided it was time to move up to a little bigger camper and the new one is just that, with more seating and sleeping room, an honest sized dining table, and a furnace for cold nights on the banks or the high desert.
Choosing a camper is like choosing everything else in life, there are lots of tradeoffs. Our truck is a regular 4x4 pickup so the luxury slide-ins were not an option for us. We chose one with an 8-foot box and a pop-up roof. Compared to most pull-behinds, it is spartan to say the least but we need to drive on the beach and towing a trailer on the beach isn’t easy and ferry rates go out the roof.
We traded space and comfort for the ability to easily drive on the beach and cover the 500-mile trip out and back on the least amount of gas. It is all we need and nothing more. If you take shorter trips and stay in one location for several days, a larger slide-in will work for you.
Of course, the bigger pull behind trailers afford more luxury than the homes most humans live in, some have large screen TVs and even fireplaces. Campers like this are great for families or those who are comfortable to settle in one spot for a while. While trailers offer comfort at a more reasonable price, motorhomes, even small ones, offer the easiest and most comfortable travel with the ability to stop, park and go to bed almost anywhere .
I’m fascinated by the Walmart campers, folks who travel and spend their nights in Walmart parking lots. Walmart has no policy against this and I’ve done it with the truck camper many times and once with the pop-up pull-behind. With a motorhome, almost anywhere is a camp spot and were it not for the higher levels of gas consumption, this would be the way to go.
Fuel consumption can be a big deal on high mile trips like our cross-country adventures. We’ve done two 6,500-mile trips across the US, once the aforementioned summer trip across the northern tier and once to Vegas for SHOT Show along the southern route. Our Odyssey gets about 19 mpg with the camper in tow. A motorhome gets about 10 mpg. You can rack up a couple of thousand dollars in gas with a motor home or even a tow-behind on a pickup. Our truck with the slide-in gets about 13 mpg, not good but OK on shorter trips like the Outer Banks.
If you feel the wanderlust, and wandering is a great way to spend the summer, you might consider getting into camping. It increases the adventure level, saves money, and it’s a great way to see America. If you are thinking in that direction, though, it’s time to start looking at campers and making plans.
Get off the porch, get out there and see America.

Dick and Cherie Jones are outdoor writers who live in High Point. They’re members of the Southeastern Outdoor Press Association and hunt, fish and shoot. They can speak to your group or emcee you events. You can reach them at offtheporch52@yahoo,com/.