If you’re curious about the camping lifestyle, you may have to decide between tent and RV camping. Tent camping requires less gear and is more affordable. But RV camping provides a feeling of a home away from home. Let’s examine a few ways tent camping is better than RV camping, and you can decide which option is best for you. Let’s dive in!
What’s the Difference Between Tent Camping and RV Camping?
Generally, tent camping is pitching a tent and sleeping in it overnight. Sometimes people tent camp in developed campgrounds with sites specifically for tents. There are amenities like bathhouses, laundry facilities, swimming pools, camp stores, and more to make the overnight stay more enjoyable and comfortable.
Other people camp in remote areas like the backcountry of a National Park or the woods of a National Forest. Typically, there are no amenities in these locations. It’s only you and your tent.
On the other hand, RV camping offers more convenience and luxury. However, RVers still camp differently. Some prefer the amenities of developed campgrounds and resorts with full hook-ups to electricity, water, and sewer. Others choose dispersed camping. They don’t need the services of electricity, water, or sewer and want to camp in locations off the beaten path.
Regardless of where they camp, RVers are self-sufficient. They have fresh water tanks to give them water and holding tanks to keep their waste from spilling onto the ground. RVers also need power sources like solar panels, batteries, and generators. They can cook, watch TV, take showers, and more inside the RV.
Pro Tip: Can you guess how many types of tent options you have? The answer may surprise you! Find out How Many Types of Tents Are There & How to Choose.
What Are Different Types of Tent Camping?
Tent campers don’t all camp the same way, as there are actually over a dozen types of camping. This is part of the beauty of the camping lifestyle. If you want to hike the Appalachian Trail, you can enjoy backpacking. If you’re going to bike through Europe, you can try bikepacking. People who like luxurious accommodations with stunning views can enjoy glamping. Let’s learn more!
Developed Campground Camping
Developed campground camping means arriving at a campground, usually with reservations for a tent site. These campgrounds can also accommodate RVs, so you’ll see many campers here. Guests have access to all the amenities at the campground, from the hot tub and the mini golf course to the catch-and-release fishing pond. This is the most luxurious type of tent camping other than glamping.
Many campers also know primitive camping as backcountry camping. You’re isolated from other campers, providing a deeper connection with nature and a more “unplugged” experience. There are no bathhouses or running water. You’re on your own. Sometimes you need a permit for this type of camping.
Backpacking is similar to primitive camping. There are no amenities or conveniences. It would be best if you were self-reliant. Typically, backpackers hike a several-day trail. This could be the North Kaibab Trail at the Grand Canyon or the Wonderland Trail at Mount Rainier. Because you’re walking for several days, you carry everything, including your tent, on your back. At dusk, you’ll find a place to set up camp for the night, then pack up and continue your journey in the morning.
Bikepacking is like backpacking; except instead of hiking, you’re biking. You carry your gear on your bike and hit the road or trail. This type of tent camping allows you to travel farther in a day than backpacking. You can explore off-grid and off-road locations that you would otherwise be unable to reach. When you’re tired or want to stop for the day, pitch your tent and enjoy a restful night’s sleep.
Glamping is as close to RVing as you can get without staying in an RV. These luxurious tent accommodations vary by location. Some offer the conveniences of a home, like a stove, refrigerator, bathroom, and bed. Most glamping locations offer breathtaking views. This is the main draw. You must make reservations with the company providing the glamping accommodations. Sometimes you can add packages like a bottle of wine or a s’mores kit.
7 Ways Tent Camping Is Better Than RV Camping
We’ve been full-time RVers for years, so it may come as a surprise to be reading this opinion article on our blog. But many people start their camping careers in tents, and so did we! We still occasionally tent camp when the situation calls for it.
When deciding if tent or RV camping is better for you, it’s easy to consider the advantages of RVing. You’re in an enclosed space with air conditioning or heat. There’s a kitchen with at least some appliances. You have running water and electricity.
However, tent camping has its perks, too. From getting closer to nature and location variety, to cost savings and simplicity, you may actually realize tent camping is better than RV camping in a lot of ways. Die-hard tent campers may even claim that RV camping isn’t real camping. Let’s dive in!
There Are More Off-Road Possibilities
RVs have limitations. Generally, most RVs aren’t for off-roading. The ones with such capabilities are usually costly. So tent camping provides access to places you wouldn’t visit in an RV. Imagine waking up in the backcountry of Theodore Roosevelt National Park with bison, elk, and pronghorn outside your door. For some tent campers, this is the type of experience they desire, not waking up parked next to another RV.
You Don’t Need a Heavy-Duty Vehicle
No matter what tent camping you choose, you don’t need to spend money on a heavy-duty vehicle to get there. You can travel in whatever car you have to reach your destination. Then you can even hike to your campsite. You don’t have to worry about finding a tow vehicle before you can enjoy the tent camping life.
RVers who choose a travel trailer or fifth wheel have to ensure they have a vehicle with a towing and payload capacity exceeding the weight of their RV.
You Don’t Need Hookups
Although hookups make camping more convenient, not everyone wants these amenities. Tent campers enjoy being off-grid without relying on electricity or water. They can go practically anywhere instead of staying confined to developed campgrounds.
You Don’t Pack As Much Stuff
RVs are tiny spaces compared to houses. But compared to tents, they’re huge. RVers can pack much gear in their rigs, from camping chairs and Solo stoves to Blackstone grills. Sometimes, you even end up bringing a lot of gear you simply don’t need. It can be overwhelming thinking about all the equipment you need for a weekend camping trip.
But tent camping requires very little gear. You’ll have a tent, a sleeping bag, a sleeping pad, some food and water, perhaps a tiny camp stove, and very little else. This makes packing and heading out much easier and quicker than loading an RV.
You Don’t Have to Maintain an RV
One of the biggest advantages tent camping has over RV camping is maintenance. RVs break. They constantly need repairs. Owners have monthly, quarterly, and yearly checklists for maintenance to prevent damage. Honestly, that’s why we have an entire section of this blog dedicated to RV repairs and maintenance!
Tent campers don’t really have to worry about any of this. If your tent rips and it’s too broad to fix, you spend a few hundred dollars to get a new one. If your RV needs a new roof or has to repair a slide, you’re spending thousands, not hundreds, of dollars.
Tent camping is cheaper in many ways. First, tents are much cheaper than the cost of an RV. Even if you go bikepacking, the cost of making the proper modifications or purchasing a specialized bike won’t compare to the cost of buying an RV. Add in the cost of insurance, registration, and maintenance and you may just be convinced to splurge on a really nice, big tent for all the savings you’ll have. Second, tent campsites or backcountry permits are usually much cheaper than larger RV sites.
Pro Tip: Make camping with friends or family a relaxing experience with one of these 6 Best Two Room Tents.
Is RV Camping Really Camping?
Depending on who you ask, you may find some people don’t believe RV camping is real camping at all. Tent camping gets you further into nature, and requires you to understand weather, know basic survival skills, and be mindful of each piece of gear you pack.
RV camping, even off-grid, can be very cozy and comfy regardless of weather conditions. You have plenty of gear with you and can spend the entire weekend watching the TV if you want. RV resorts can be pavement paradises with pools and golf courses instead of nature.
Tent camping, even in the front country or in a campground, forces campers to engage with the present moment, environment, and weather.
What to Look for When Buying a Tent
When it’s time to buy a tent, there are a few things to consider. First, know the sleeping capacity. Are you tent camping with your three kids? Are you bringing your dog? Choose a size that fits your needs.
Then consider the seasons. Do you need a four season tent? Most tent campers don’t go camping during the winter. It’s not necessary to spend more money on such a tent if you only want to camp for a few weekends in the spring and fall.
You also want to think about the ease of set-up. If you’re tent camping out of a car, you may not want to fiddle with challenging tent poles, instead opting for a heavier, instant setup tent that is heavier and less ideal for backpacking. Pay attention to user reviews and not the manufacturer. They’ll be more honest about how easy the tent is to set up.
Finally, the material of the tent needs to be durable and waterproof. Many tents come with a rain fly for additional weather protection. Read reviews and choose a tent that will last for several camping seasons. Sunlight will slowly deteriorate nylon and polyester, but these materials are lightweight and waterproof. Canvas tents are more expensive because of their heavy-duty material and durability, but they can be heavy when wet.
Is Tent Camping Right for You?
RV camping may be the best option if you want to stay at developed campgrounds with many amenities. If you want the comforts of home, tent camping isn’t for you. But if you want to explore nature, travel off-road, and spend less money, tent camping may be the best option. It’s a beautiful way to connect with nature and your traveling companions.
Is tent camping right for you? Tell us your thoughts in the comments!
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Saturday 18th of March 2023
We tent camped for over 36 years ... no children then 3 children then none. We went from a 4 person Eureka timberline to a three room LL bean then back to a REI half dome ... then at 60 sleeping on the ground .. well pads and top of the line down bags we decided to look at a teardrop camper ... which is a queen bed on wheels ... no frills ... little to maintain ... easy to tow with a mini van ... we love it ... we had all the cook gear from camping so small made sense
Mortons on the Move
Sunday 19th of March 2023
Simple is the right choice many times. That sounds like a great solution!