What’s the Difference Between a Trailer Tent and a Folding Camper?

Every camping beginner has thought about the difference between trailer tents and folding campers – it comes with the territory. While both are great, knowing which one will serve you the best comes down to your personal preferences. But to know how your personal preferences align with one or another, you first need to know what exactly they are. Let’s get started

Trailer Tent

A traditional trailer tent
A traditional trailer tent

What’s a Trailer Tent?

A trailer tent, as the name suggests, is a type of camping gear that combines the features of a normal tent with the portability of a trailer.

Most trailer tents are designed to be towed behind a vehicle & attached via a trailer hitch, and when unfolded give rise to a spacious tent, often with extra extensions.

Key Features

  • Portable and Easy to Setup: Most trailer tents are designed to be easy to transport and can normally be set up quickly. They tend to be lighter than folding campers, making them a great candidate for vehicles with lower towing capacities (if your car is a normal car and not a big SUV, trailer tents are a good match)

  • Spacious and Comfortable: Despite their compact size when folded, many trailer tents expand into a large living area, often with separate sleeping compartments

  • Close to Traditional Tent Camping: They offer an experience closer to traditional tent camping but with the extra advantage of being off the ground and having more living space

Pros and Cons

  • Pros:

    • Lighter and often cheaper than folding campers

    • Offers a more authentic camping experience

    • Easier to tow and maneuver

  • Cons:

    • Less protection against harsh weather compared to folding campers

    • Setup can be more difficult than a folding caravan

    • Generally has fewer amenities

Folding Camper

It's easy to see why they're also called folding caravans
It’s easy to see why they’re also called folding caravans

What Are Folding Campers?

Folding campers, also known as folding caravans, offer a middle ground between a caravan and a tent.

They are typically larger than trailer tents when unfolded, have a stronger structure and normally also more amenities.

Key Features

  • Extra Comfort: Folding campers often include built-in beds, kitchenettes, and sometimes even bathrooms, offering more comfort

  • Stronger Construction: They tend to be stronger against strong wind and rain, offering better insulation than a normal tent

  • Easy to Set Up: While they are heavier and require a larger towing vehicle, they are generally easier to set up than many trailer tents (they have an easier unfolding mechanism)

Pros and Cons

  • Pros:

    • More amenities and extra comfort

    • Better for longer stays

    • Better protection in adverse weather

  • Cons:

    • Heavier – you’ll need a stronger towing vehicle

    • More expensive than most trailer tents

    • Less of a ‘traditional’ camping feel

Choosing What’s Right for You

Your Camping Style

What’s your camping style? This is the first question you need to ask yourself:

  • If you prefer a more traditional tent camping experience with some comfort, trailer tents might be the right choice. They provide a closer-to-nature experience while elevating you off the ground and are easier to set up

  • If comfort and convenience are your top priorities, and you don’t mind spending a bit more money for a more luxurious camping experience, folding campers are ideal. They provide more amenities and a larger living space

Towing Capabilities and Budget

Next on the list, you need to consider your vehicle and how much it can effectively tow. If your car isn’t the strongest or biggest, then you should probably go for a trailer tent, as it’s normally lighter and can be towed by smaller vehicles.

Budget? Trailer tents are normally cheaper and folding campers are a bigger investment.

Storage and Maintenance

Folding campers usually require more storage space than trailer tents and their additional amenities mean that they will probably require more maintenance than trailer tents.


Whether you choose a trailer tent or a folding camper depends largely on your camping style, budget, and your towing vehicle. Both offer unique experiences and advantages, so there isnt’ really a wrong choice. Go for the one that matches your personal camping preferences!

Frequently Asked Questions

What Kind of Car Do I Need To Tow a Trailer Tent?

To tow a traditional trailer tent, most medium-sized cars are enough as they are generally lightweight and don’t require a powerful engine or any special modifications. However, you should always check your vehicle’s manual for its towing capacity and to make sure it aligns with the weight of the trailer tent.

Can a Trailer Tent Accommodate a Family With Two Double Beds?

Yes: many trailer tents are designed with families in mind and can comfortably accommodate two double beds. These beds are usually part of the main trailer unit and fold out to provide spacious sleeping areas. Some models also offer more sleeping spaces as under-bed tents or extensions.

How Much Does a New Trailer Tent Cost Compared to a Folding Camper?

A new trailer tent is generally cheaper than a folding camper. Prices change depending on the brand, size, and features, but trailer tents are typically a few thousand dollars cheaper than folding campers. The difference in cost is due to the more complex construction and additional amenities of folding campers.

What Additional Features do Folding Campers Offer That Trailer Tents Don’t?

Built-in kitchenettes, more resistant electrical systems, small bathrooms, and larger dining and living areas.

Are Folding Campers Suitable for Camping in Remote or Rugged Locations?

Folding campers are normally better for established campgrounds rather than remote locations, as you need a solid and relatively level surface to set them up. Trailer tents, lighter and more compact when folded, can be more easily used in more remote camping spots.

Can I Install Air Conditioning or Heating in a Trailer Tent?

This can be difficult due to its fabric construction and the need for power sources. Some high-end models however might have AC, but it’s not as common as in folding campers, which often come with AC or let you easily install it.

What Maintenance Does a Trailer Tent Need?

A trailer tent requires regular maintenance to stay in good condition. This includes checking and treating the canvas for waterproofing, ensuring that the trailer unit has no rust, checking tires, and maintaining the trailer hitch. This process is less intensive than a folding camper but it’s still important.

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