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Guide to Renting, Buying a Camper

Posted at 08/07/2020 12:00 PM by Pat O'Connor

camper rvs denver

Photo courtesy of @tejasoverland

The Great Outdoors has become even greater during COVID-19.

Everywhere, people are seeking solace, recreation and an escape from the stress of the pandemic. Being outdoors has been proven as one of the safest and most popular places to be, and Colorado’s open spaces have seen record number enjoying what nature has to offer.

From urban parks to the highest peaks, reservoirs to remote mountain streams, residents of the Centennial state are getting reacquainted with nature in droves. For some, it may go beyond day trips and include bringing the “accommodations” along with them. 

The camper craze has hit Colorado big time. Interested buyers of some new rigs are facing backlogs into 2021.

RV, Camper rentals and sales explode during COVID-19 pandemic

Whether you’re considering renting or owning an RV, camper van, camping trailer or “fifth wheel,” it’s become a whole lot easier (and popular) to vacation and sleep outside. According to a recent article by Denver’s Channel 7,  many people are renting RVs for the first time. Outdoorsy, the “Airbnb” of RV and travel trailer rentals, said in May and June, 93% of their bookings were first timers. Furthermore, Outdoorsy says that it saw its bookings grow by 2,645% in April and May.

In a recent article by CNBC, experts indicate there’s been a massive spike in RV sales and rentals. The article includes comments by Craig Kirby, president of the RV Industry Association, who says that a new survey showed that 13% of Americans plan to rent an RV in the next 12 months. “This is in line with what we are seeing from RV rental companies across the country who are reporting not only significant increases in rentals, but also increases in the length of the rental trips,” says Kirby.

People are discovering RV, camper and camping trailer rentals are not only a more affordable way of vacationing but allow more freedom of movement. Depending on the size of vehicle, length and amenities and time of year you’re planning to travel will dictate the rental fees. Typical price range varies from $55 a night to over $200. 

An RV/camper vacation for a group of four can cost 21% to 64% less than the cost of a regular trip with airfare, hotels and car rental, according to a 2018 study commissioned by the RV Industry Association and marketing group Go RVing.

Usaj Realty broker Megan Ivy and her family recently decided to give camping a try. Desperate to get out and travel without having to worry about crowds and COVID-19, they turned to Outdoorsy and located their desired rig at the Mountain West RV Rentals in Gypsum. Since they were already planning to travel to Manti-La Sal National Forest in Utah, it proved to be an easy pickup and departure from Gypsum. 

Here are some of Megan’s experiences and thoughts on vehicle-assist camping:

Describe your experience with renting a camper? Where did you rent and what was your destination? What were some of the highlights/lowlights?

Renting a camper was an entirely new experience to us. Not only have I never slept inside of an RV or camper before, I have never towed anything in my life. Being stuck at home for months will certainly push you beyond your standard comfort levels! We found the camper we wanted to rent initially on Outdoorsy. As it turns out, the camper was privately owned, but rented out by a third party management company called Mountain West RV Rentals in Gypsum, CO. Since we planned to head outside of Moab to the Monti La Sal National Forest with it, we decided that we would simply pick it up on our way out of town. We had to stop for about an hour to be oriented to the unit, but it was quite smooth and we were able to get back on the road quickly.  

Highlights of the trip: How luxurious it was to have SPACE while camping. With three kids and a dog, we are accustomed to squeezing into a tent together. The unit we rented was an Opus OP4 trailer and had room for us all with plenty to spare!  Also, being able to roll into camp and spend 15 minutes to get fully set up with a 4 burner kitchen, running water and three separate sleeping areas was incredible. 

Lowlights: Given that the camper did not belong to us, we had to unpack and clean the entire thing when leaving. It made us realize how amazing it would be to be able to leave most of your things inside of a camper instead of having to pack and unpack every time.

Megan Ivy | Colorado CampingPhoto by Megan Ivy

Why did you explore the idea of renting a camper?

We explored this idea because, due to COVID times, we are so limited in our ability to travel and get out right now. We typically take some kind of family trip to somewhere new at least a couple of times a year. We already love to camp, so we felt like this was the perfect middle ground between a true vacation and our day-to-day camp trip.  Additionally, we had been toying with the idea of purchasing some kind of camper for a while and this provided us a trial run opportunity to test the waters.

What advice would you give to a newbie thinking about renting a camper?

Do it!  Ask a lot of questions regarding what is included, what you need to bring, and what kind of hookups and towing capacity you will need on your vehicle. Also, if you know what kind of camper you plan to rent, watch videos about it on YouTube. I spent a ridiculous amount of time trolling YouTube videos and honestly, by the time we got the unit, I already felt well-oriented to it which helped me feel more confident with towing, setup and takedown.

Why did you decide to purchase a camper? How did you decide on the brand? What features were important to you?

After this trip, we decided that if we were to choose something that fit our needs, we would get ample use out of it. The trick was assuring that we chose something that fit those needs. If you’ve ever explored this path, you realize that it is very easy to get caught up in the slippery slope of camper amenities! As you slide down that slope, you also quickly see the price grows exponentially. After some long conversations about what we really needed, what was a bonus and what was definitely too much for us, we settled on the following criteria in order of priority:  

1)  Space: Ample, well organized storage space for all of our gear.  

2)  The Kitchen: Outdoor kitchen with good layout/storage and the ability to add a portable fridge. (The fridge was a game changer for us on the rental!)

3)  Parking: Small footprint and lower weight. We have converted our garage to livable space and have no driveway. Therefore, either we needed to purchase something that would fit in our alley space or would have to take into account the monthly cost to store it.

4)  Sleep Room: Ability to sleep our entire family (3 kids + 2 adults + dog) OR none of us.  

The brands that caught our eye were OPUS (the unit we rented) and Taxa. Taxa is a company started by a NASA engineer and their units are particularly light and utilitarian with minimal “extra features” which, to us, means less maintenance. In the end we decided on a Taxa Woolly Bear that we plan to adorn with a 23Zero Rooftop Tent that can sleep 5!  It hit all the right spots: minimalist, great storage, fits in our alley, awesome kitchen and capacity to hold a portable fridge (solar prewired!), and can either be a simple expedition trailer or can sleep our entire family in the tent and the pup in the tent annex below. We can’t wait!  (Check out the following instagram accounts to see what this kind of setup looks like: @tejas.overland, @mrsoutboundoverland)  

Where do you intend to go in the near future?

EVERYWHERE! That’s wishful thinking. Who knows!  We have discussed possibly taking an extended road trip across the southern portion of the US once my work slows a bit, but mostly we will likely continue to explore this amazing state we have. There are still so many places in Colorado we haven’t visited. 

Any other tidbits you’d like to share?

Do lots of research!!! Most brands have communities of owners on Facebook who are more than willing to answer questions and talk about the realities of owning one of these. Ask about common problems, things they wish they would have known and what they might do differently the next time around. I even asked a community member if I could come see her unit in-person in Castle Rock and she welcomed me with open arms! Owning a camper is definitely a commitment and there is a lot you need to know before taking the plunge. Happy trails!

Learn More about  Megan Ivy

Posted by Pat O'Connor

Pat O’Connor has dual citizenship in both Wisconsin and Colorado, having been born and raised in Wisconsin Dells, but later adopted by the Centennial State. A graduate of the University of Colorado (B.S. Journalism, 1980), O’Connor began her career as a sportswriter at the Boulder Daily Camera under the tutelage of the venerable Dan Creedon. Her experience also includes stints in public relations at Aspen Highlands Ski Area, the Colorado Trial Lawyers and the Colorado Division of Wildlife. When she isn’t piecing together sentences, the self-proclaimed “Cheesehead” enjoys hanging out with her three kids and assortment of family pets, running, playing golf, hiking 14ers, horseback riding and skiing. As a mother to two (at one time three) competitive swimmers, her favorite fragrance is eau de chlorine. During football season, she can be found cheering for the Buffs on Saturdays and screaming when the Packers score on Sundays. She loves talking sports and giving recommendations on cheese curds.

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Topics: Things to Do in Denver