April 08, 2019

Why a camper?

userBy Gwen Dildine user0 Comment

Before I profess my love and borderline obsession with our Lance 850 camper, it is important to reflect on our decision making journey. I call it a journey because it spanned almost five years, involved multiple emotional roller coasters, and at times felt as if our circular arguments for and against some form of recreational vehicle were in fact circular and therefore never ending. The punch line is we love it and have grand plans of being the crazy old people posted up in our camper in the mountains in our golden years.

In our inaugural year campering, we spent over two months as a family of four traveling five states visiting national forests, monuments, and parks. We actually spent most of our time in our geographic backyard, the Blue Mountains. The only reason we were able to do this is because we chose a camper over other forms of recreational vehicles.

Initially, in a galaxy far, far away, we were thinking about a really big travel trailer, like Montana big to give you a hint. We don’t have a fireplace in our home, but were seriously considering the necessity of one in our trailer. After the initial admiration for use of space and amenities, we quickly realized that it didn’t check off one major checklist item: lifestyle.

We like remote locations. We wanted access to all the places we like to camp but, admittedly, with a few conveniences revolving around temperature and food storage. I also listen to every single twig snap and leaf blow when trying to sleep in a tent despite the German Shepherd on watch–I just can’t get my irrational fear of being eaten go. With that fear resolved, I’ve moved on to worrying about forest fires and emergency brake failure. That being said, our plan to act like a hermit crab in the woods is panning out quite well. The truck and camper fits everywhere we want to go. We are warm, dry, and well fed.

Surprisingly, what we thought we would miss in space and amenities with a trailer option, we have since discovered floor space is overrated and we didn’t really sacrifice any amenities. The point of the camper was not to hang out and play Twister, but rather act as a large suitcase and refrigerator to call home as we hop around the Pacific Northwest and someday beyond (right now there just isn’t enough Pirate Booty in the world to allow for longer trips).

When we are cooking, we send the kids up to the bed area over the truck to play with toys, look at books, and, yes, watch a show. We can all gather around the table to eat and play games. The table area that converts to a bed offers another great space to stretch out. The storage rivals Mary Poppins purse–we spent ten days touring around and had plenty of room to store all the food for the entire trip and pack clothes for various conditions for four people. I still had an open cabinet that I used to put the backpack just so something was in it. We also didn’t utilize the storage above the table as we take advantage of the convertible bunk bed.

The efficiency of the space is truly amazing. We looked at many different floor plans and many different manufacturers. The Lance 850 just flows so well. We don’t miss a slide out. We actually purposely chose not to pursue that option for hauling purposes that we will explore in greater detail later. We also predicted that we would grab lunch in a parking lot or squeeze into a camping spot. And the thought did cross our mind to just avoid points of entry for water or snow given our plan for heavy usage. Every time I step into the camper, I’m floored by its perfection in design and quality. Told you I was obsessed.

Photo Credit: Steve Dildine

Enjoying blue skies in the Blue Mountains, there are multiple spots on Chase Mountain to pitch a tent or pull over with an RV and a few friends. Enjoy an evening of star gazing. Remember, leave no trace to help keep our Umatilla National Forest healthy.

Back to the quality, living in the Pacific Northwest and wanting to adventure four seasons a year requires some engineering. Another major reason we chose this brand is due to its four season rating. That means block foam insulation, insulated hatch covers, dual pane windows, ducted heating system, and a water heater bypass. All this means it is really cold on the outside and you are really warm on the inside. It also means campering can happen twelve months a year. Sign me up!

We’ve also been really impressed with how solid it is. We drive some fairly rugged, mountain roads and everything stays in place and doesn’t jar loose or open in transit. It also withstands the wear and tear of two kids under six which is no small feat for anyone or anything. The only thing that didn’t survive the year was the curtain between the cab over and lower living area. Guessing the engineers didn’t plan for Tarzan-like dismounts to the kitchen below. We just removed that feature from the camper for the next fifteen years.

Another huge advantage to the camper over tent camping is the bathroom. I’ll admit that I wasn’t entirely sure how it would go or how I would go if we are being totally honest. After a quick lesson and a little practice, it becomes no big deal. Sometimes it is funny to think of all that is happening in the back of your truck. It actually took me a little while to commit to showering in the camper. When I finally figured out my plan to act swiftly and conserve water, I went for it. It was actually a really pleasant experience thanks to the fact that they duct heat into the bathroom. Just as I was settling into my tiny spa experience, Steve started yelling through the door that the water tank was almost empty. The water tank was not empty and he jumped in after me and took his sweet time. Payback seems like an easy feat in a camper, and his day will come.

If memory serves, there are options for a dry bath in some models of campers. We obviously went with the wet bath as we have one of the smaller models. My uninformed logic about a wet bath is that there is less maintenance, likely easier to keep clean, and you can stand outside and spray a kiddo down on the inside without making a giant mess. It really does serve its purpose well and doesn’t take up a millimeter more space than necessary.

With regard to kitchen usage, we tend to cook quite a bit ahead of time–breakfast sausages, my famous almond meal chicken nuggets fried in coconut oil, hamburger patties, and hard-boiled eggs. That way it is easier to assemble a salad, have some fruit or open up a can of camping beans, as our son refers to them, and dinner is done. Breakfast is typically a yogurt parfait and a hard-boiled egg, and lunch is usually a sandwich and fruit. Even on multi-day or week-long trips, we can easily store in either the cabinets or the refrigerator all the food we could possibly need. Again, truly a masterful use of space.

So after at least five years of debate starting with one of the biggest travel trailers, we ended up with likely one of the smaller truck campers. We didn’t compromise any access to some of the more remote areas we like to camp, and, in fact, we extended our camping season so that we can enjoy the outdoors year-round. We’ve joked that it’s our retirement home, but I could definitely commit to a campground hopping lifestyle. My plan is to talk Steve into writing a similar article on the technical aspects of the camper–he is basically a walking manual at this point. Design and quality are icing on the cake to the overall lifestyle a truck camper affords those who love to spend time outdoors with a pinch of home comforts sprinkled on top.