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Old 06-14-2021, 12:50 PM   #1
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Default camping with teens

HI all! We have been tent camping a lot, but are ready to buy our 1st RV for a much bigger trip across the country for about 1 month. Our big question is do we need to buy one with AC in throughout or not? Camping in the month of August.
Really hoping to make this a good experience for everyone, including 2 teenagers. TIA
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Old 06-14-2021, 02:17 PM   #2
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Two teens here, and I’d say yes, mainly for sleeping at night (unless you’re okay with your camper smelling like a locker room ). A wide swath of the country is hot and humid in August. Depending on your heat tolerance, you might manage in a pop-top style van with a loft bed, good bug screens on the cargo doors, and a couple of 12V fans. Without AC, good ventilation is essential. I grew up criss-crossing the country in summer in a tent trailer without AC. It was a case of not missing what you’ve never had. Nowadays, we’ve become pretty accustomed to AC.

Not a lot of Class B’s have safe seating and sleeping suitable for 4 adult-sized people. What model(s) are you thinking?

If your family vehicle can tow at least 3500#, you might also consider a smallish towable RV: tent trailer, A-frame, or a small travel trailer. You can see the small window AC unit in this one.
2014 Roadtrek 190 Popular
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Old 06-14-2021, 02:24 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by campingwithteens View Post
HI all! We have been tent camping a lot, but are ready to buy our 1st RV for a much bigger trip across the country for about 1 month. Our big question is do we need to buy one with AC in throughout or not? Camping in the month of August.
Really hoping to make this a good experience for everyone, including 2 teenagers. TIA
Welcome to the forum campingwithteens!

Yes, yes, yes to airconditioning in August if it were me. This would require electric hookups, however. But if you've tent camped in Summer before and can tolerate heat, then a working ceiling vent fan (like a Maxxfan or Fantastic Fan) will keep the inside fairly close to ambient temperatures at night. A 12v fan or two to circulate air inside are also desirable.

More concerning perhaps is the "camping with teens" in a class b. Unless you have a pop-top model with a large upper bunk, it would be miserable for all involved due to lack of bed space. For that reason, I suggest you consider a class c.
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Old 06-15-2021, 02:09 AM   #4
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AC ?

Living in PHX we try to go where we don't need AC

big trips during summer in years past are Canada or the Pacific NW, we'll be heading for oregon in a couple of weeks and into BC if the border opens

our camper van only seats 2 ( that was a choice) and teh van ac cools the van just fine while driving

we have almost never used the AC on the rooftop

get a vehicle which will safely carry 4, use a tent for the kids when camped- you'll want the space and privacy

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Old 06-20-2021, 10:06 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by campingwithteens View Post
HI all! We have been tent camping a lot, but are ready to buy our 1st RV for a much bigger trip across the country for about 1 month. Our big question is do we need to buy one with AC in throughout or not? Camping in the month of August.
Really hoping to make this a good experience for everyone, including 2 teenagers. TIA
Speaking from experience with 2 teens now grown & with their own families .... and before we get to the AC or no-AC question -

First - if you're only going to use it for camping once or twice up to maybe 4-5x a year, then you'll probably be better off renting a Class C or B - especially if you're not sure of which size, type, plan/layout best suits you, &/or if you're not sure how well your teens will take to the family camping, particularly as they get older.

However, buy one if you're going to use a Class B a lot as a daily driver (DD) &/or camper, &/or if you & your spouse will continue to camp after the teens are off to college, on their own, or just not interested in doing boring stuff with parents, etc.

So be mindful of size vs. your accommodations needs & layout/plan - because many roads that you'll want to go off XC driving & camping will have length limits (often only 20-22' L, such as California's PCH SR1 north of San Francisco to Big Sur, Sequoyah Natl Park, many areas in the Smokies near you, etc.

Also, both the length & height will matter for DD use, if you plan to use it for that too - and most RV ACs are roof mounted. For that DD use you'll need to somewhat easily park it, maneuver city/suburban streets & narrow rural roads, etc. - as well as to occasionally park in a parking structure with limited heights (often only 7' or less) that may or may not have a ground level high-bay area for trucks & taller vehicles with open spaces.

For that reason the AC will affect your overall height.

Second - you may not always have access to electricity to hook-up & run the AC, so then you'll have to either have a built-in generator or lug around a portable generator, & extra fuel in order to run the AC anywhere without hook-ups, at rest stops along the way, etc.

Of course you DO definitely want the automotive AC option for when driving, if it's not an option for some reason on a particular Class B, such as with some imports & older models.

Pretty much August anywhere in the USA's Lower 48 & lower Canadian Provinces will have hot days, & humidity in everywhere except "usually" the interior West, Southwest & CA Coast. But forget that heat index & "but it's a dry heat" BS - "Hot is hot, dry or not!" & the Mojave Desert/Death Valley was 130+ a week ago, and many are running 100-110+ all summer! They call it "Furnace Creek" for a reason!

Nights may be cooler, but I can tell you that you'll want/need AC during the day, and maybe not if it cools down enough to get by on fans at night (12v fans can run off your house battery).

As a kid in Pittsburgh in the 1950s-early-60's we traveled & camped from PGH to VA, NC, FL etc. every summer, then after we moved to San Diego in 1963 on we camped & drove XC back to PGH etc every summer in July or August - without any AC in the cars/campers or at night at all! They just weren't commonly around back then, & 12v fans, ice blocks/bags & Dairy Queen was your only respite. Even in 2011 I drove my son's non-AC 1988 Honda Civic Hatachback back to him at his first posting at Ft Drum NY, through the Southwest Desert via OK, IN, PGH family visit stops with only a 12v fan!

When we had our kids in the late 1980s, we got a 1988 VW Vanagon CamperGL Westfalia pop-top full camper (Westy), and it served as both my wife's DD to/from work at the Hospital etc., as well as for both weekend camping & trips, as well as at least 1-2 long 2-4+ week XC trips back to OK, AR, IN, PGH, etc & up to NoCal, OR, WA, BC, etc. to visit family, camping along the way.

However, the Westy's pop-top tent sides are not conducive to effective AC use (nor are tent campers), but there are several accessory & jury-rigged solutions mounting home window ACs to the Westfalia & other pop-top or high-roof Class B Camper Vans. So that is also a solution - if you can find a place to carry the AC, & then use it when you have hook-ups &/or with a small generator (also needs space to carry).

We've never done that AC kluge/hack, & has just gotten by with 12v/120v fans & small space heater, which works fine for us in CA & where we go. We still have and DD & Camp with our Westy, as well as tow with it as covered below.

Unfortunately VW no longer imports their Van Campers to the US since the Winnebago Eurovan campers up to 1995-03, but they made the Westies in the 1960s "Splitty" Bus, 1970s "Bay Window" Bus, & 1980-92 Vanagon (in both 2WD & 4WD "Synchro" versions) based , then the 1995-03 Winnebago Eurovan based ones which are being restored/renovated & used today.

But they were always very limited production low volume sub-models, and are still very popular - so they're still very pricey today. Expect to pay in the high-$20K's to $40k for a well sorted average driver 1980s Westy 2WD & up from there for restored, re-engined with larger cc VW or Subaru motors, for Synchros up to north of $100K for #3-5 cars, & $100-200K for the collectable older 1960s Classic Splitty Westies, & $20-100K also for Bay Window Westies - but they've all held or increased in value since 2000 - even with 9/11, recessions, COVID, etc.

The newer 1995-2002 Winnebago VW Eurovan Cargo Van Based Pop-top (longer than the standard Eurovan & its pop-top "Weekender" not full camper van), & their 1995-2005/06 Winnebago VW Eurovan based Rialta Class B/C campers are in the high-teens to $30-40K+ - with the newer & better VR6 powered ones of both with low miles pushing that top end if really clean & low miles with no issues.

That's both/all about what you'll pay for a new or newer-used pop-top or high-top Class B noted below.

Stick with the later VR6 Eurovan versions, & with the later 1986-92 2.1L Flat-4 Vanagon Westies if possible (unless you prefer the earlier aircooled 1980-83.5 Vanagons &/or 1960s-70s Buses) for better power, reliability, & utility. The GoWesty & Pop-top Heaven/Rialta Heaven websites have good write-ups on the comparative virtues of the various VW based options.

Additionally, there are nowadays several other pop-top campers using other vehicle makes as platforms - as well as a number of other hard/Hi-top Class B camper vans. The pop-tops will give you lower height for DD use, as well as for somewhat better gas mileage, although even the older flat-4 cylinder VWs don't get great mpg when loaded with 4+ & luggage for camping, as we'd get only about 12-18 mpg depending on grades & headwinds.

There are others on here to speak to the modern High Top Class B campers out there, but most probably don't also use them for DD use, although they're top drawer for camping comfort & niceties, and all the goodies, bells & whistles. Several makers have dropped away, such as Roadtrek since Thor bought them out, then closed their factory in Canada (Thor also now owns Hymer-Eriba, Airstream & man other Trailer/RV brands).

And as a note to yourselves for future camping when your kids are grown, & you have Grandkids - later on you can also get & tow a tent camper or small fiberglass, pop-up hard-sided, or other new, retro or vintage small Canned-Ham, Airstream (AS) or other Silver Twinkie trailer. AS still makes several lightweight 16-22 "Sport" versions, & there were many AS competitors up to the 1980s who made <20' campers weighing in at 4500 lbs or less.

So you may want to pick your Class B now, with towing capability in mind, even if at first you just use it to haul cargo or use it for yard/home jobs with a utility trailer. Note that - because trailers are "articulated" with the tow vehicle - the maximum 20-22' vehicle length road limits noted above usually does not include the overall combined length, but they may have a maximum trailer &/or overall length.

Our 1988 Westy is rated to tow up to 2200 lbs & 200 lbs HW, and since we're into the Vintage Trailer/RV Rally scene since 2012 with our 1960 Avion T20 (20' & 2680 lbs base/dry/empty & about 3000-3500 wet/loaded/options) using other larger TVs - we also got a far smaller 1970 Eriba Puck (660 lbs dry/empty - 1000 lbs max) which we tow with the Westy for 4 + 2-3 sleeping capacity with kids/grandkids (the Avion only sleeps 4 in beds).

Meerkat from San Diego is a reverse engineered & updated Eriba Puck (Eriba still makes a similar Puck-Familia based "Touring & Touring GT for EU/UK markets), as well as Scamp, Casita & other small FG trailers would be modern options - and many would be options to the pop-up tent camper suggested above, which would be towable by any vehicle with 3500-4500 lbs tow rating, which many cars/vans/CUVs can do today - perhaps your own car.

The advantage to the trailer option with your current family car, van or CUV/SUV - si that the trailer stays home when not needed, therefore it can be used for many more years without rebuilding engines/ transmissions, etc. - and last through several changes of family vehicles. So it's a real option to the Class B (see the sister FG trailer forum to this one), and most can be equipped with AC, generator, full bath (shower), full galley, etc. to sleep your 4 or a bit more. They're well worth considering - especially if you have space at home to store it on-site, without paying for a storage off-site.

Now we're all spoiled & AC is a necessity in most cases, or at least a fan or two. So with the height & use caveats I listed above, you probably should think about getting AC, & look for a low profile rooftop unit.

This is our Westy & Puck FYI -

Camper Curbside & Interior with Galley 2.6 cf 3-way fridge, 2-burner LP Cooktop & Sink with 10 Gal Fresh Water Tank & City Water, Rear Seat Folds down into Bed for 2 & upper Bunk Folds-out for 2 with pop-top up, no toilet, but we carry a Porta-potty in a Factory Repro Removable Storage Box/Seat behind the front passenger seat (not in photo):


Westy Streetside with 120v, City Water & Water Tank Filler Hook-ups & LP Tank below, & I've just added a Grey Water tank for the Sink in front of the LP Tank - with our 1960 Avion T20 in the background:


Westy + Puck - Puck also has Pop-top at Front/Galley with 2-burner Cooktop, 3.5 cf Icebox, Sink & 10 gal Fresh Water Tank & hand pump faucet (also available with fridge & city water hook-up options, & dinette which converts to a full width Bed to Sleep 2-3 - so about doubling the Westy Capacities, ergo the "Repetitively Redundant" moniker:

> with hook-ups ----v

> without hook-ups ----v

We could add a small portable or window AC for use with either or both the Westy &/or Puck, but chose not to, & generally are fine without AC at nights - just using our 12v or 120v fans, and we are mostly out-&-about during the day.

Whenever we go to a known hot location where it will be 80-90+, then we'll usually take the Avion with it's AC.

If you choose to go without AC - or even if you do - it's also a good idea to bring along your tent camping LP stove so you can do at least some of your daytime cooking outside, and not add that cooking heat inside the Camper Van &/or Trailer.

Also - in the past few years Coleman, Dometic, & the other RV AC makers have come out with Heat Pump based units which will give you both heat & cool out of the same roof-top unit. Our experience is that their AC optional "Heat Strips" are totally useless.

A small $20-30 household box space heater/fan works better, and there are portable Olympic LP Catalytic Heaters available too, if you can access the LP line or use the small cookstove/lantern LP bottles - but you need to be very careful with adequate venting for fresh outside air ventilation with them. Or else use the built-in LP or Electric Heater for heat, if the Van or Trailer is so equipped.

Hopefully this both answers your AC question with a range of HVAC ideas - as well as with your options for long term camping trips with a couple of teens!

Good Luck!
1988 VW Westfalia Vanagon CamperGL, orig owner
1985 BMW 325e E30 Coupe, orig owner
1973 Porsche 914-2.0 "914S", 2nd owner since 1975
1970 Eriba Puck, +/- 5th owner since 2018
1960 Avion T20, +/- 4th owner since 2012
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