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Do you find yourself interested in camping or owning a camper trailer, but your truck/car’s towing capacity is way below a conventional camper trailer?
If this sounds like you, then you need an A-frame camper trailer. Read on to find out how these trailers can make the life of a hobby camper much more wholesome.
A-frame campers are not a recent invention but have undergone a lot of evolution into what it is today. Let’s take a quick into the essentials.
What is an A-frame Camper Trailer?
As the name suggests, this is a trailer that resembles the letter ’ once assembled.
Most modern A-frames rarely exceed 2000 pounds and come in various styles and designs.
Despite the small weight, these campers are really spacious and organized once assembled. You could make a tiny home out of the trailer.
Whichever your specific camping need, be sure there is an A-frame ideal for you. Some can sleep up to four persons, while others feature facilities such as wet baths and kitchenettes.
What sets A-frame camper Trailers apart from other trailers?
Looking at RVs in general, there is a considerable difference between the A-frame trailers and the rest of the trailers. The fundamental difference is the construction which gives it the A shape. The trailer usually has a fold-down roof panel. When assembling, these panels pop up to form a peaked shape resembling the letter .’
The one RV that resembles an A-frame to some considerable measure is the pop-up trailer. You still wouldn’t confuse the pop-up with an A-frame.
Unlike the A-shape, the pop-up trailer pops into a cube-shaped structure once assembled. The roof rises, and the two sides fold out to form the box shape. Obviously, this setup has more space than the A-frame trailer.
Also, a pop-up trailer has canvas sides, while the A-frame trailers have an all-hard surface. The design of an A-frame trailer allows for further insulation of the hard sides to suit the camper to cold climates. The canvas-sided pop-ups, on the other hand, can only do so good in warmer climates.
How much do A-frame Travel Trailers cost?
A-frames aren’t just like the ordinary trailers- why?
Look at the prices!
On average, a new A-frame can cost you anywhere between $12000 and $30000. Surprisingly, you’ll hardly find any A-frame for less than $12000. A decent used A-frame should cost you up to $16000. From the figures, it’s clear that these camper trailers retain their value, although they are not motorized.
How much do A-frame Travel Trailers weigh?
We mentioned earlier that A-frame campers are lightweight. Putting it in figures, we are talking about between 1800 and 3800 pounds. The average A-frame will weigh slightly under 2000 pounds.
Due to their lightweight nature, you can tow an A-frame with your family car! This should call for a bit of celebration for daily drivers who love camping- you do not have to break the bank to buy a powerful truck.
However, don’t let the excitement delude you into thinking any car can do. It’s best to check your car’s towing capacity from the supplier’s manual. If you do not have a manual, you could use the VIN number to check your vehicle’s towing capacity online.
Another thing you should be aware of is that the indicated A-frame weight is usually the dry weight, without the essentials to a camper. This means you need to factor in all the load you put in that camper before comparing the total figure with your car’s towing capacity.
How big’ are A-frames?
This is a subjective question. The size and storage capacity depends on the need s of the user and the reason you chose the A-frame in the first place. Here are a few key things to point out to the average size of the trailer
Most A-frames are between 16 and 20 feet long and as wide as your car. Once set up, the length extends up to 26 feet. The resulting space is enough to house two beds and several other facilities. A small family could find an A-frame travel trailer as an ideal option.
The average A-frame is designed to suit a couple, i.e., two people. If you wish to travel as a group of up to four, you could use the larger-sized types.
Just like the pop-ups, A-frames easily fold down a compact size to let you store it in your home garage.
Setup and storage requirements
The average A-frame travel trailer is relatively easy to set up. Basically, the flat rigid panels rise to form the A-shape, and you just have to lock them in place.
Due to their small size when folded, these travel trailers can occupy your basement garage, or you could store them in a dedicated shed.
You must store the trailer away from the elements whenever not in use. It will not only serve you for longer but will still preserve their resale value. So how do these camping trailers depreciate? Let’s see.
How much do A-frames depreciate over time?
As mentioned above, if you store your A-frame away from the elements, you slow down the depreciation. However, you should expect a 20% drop in the initial value within the first three years of buying it.
The premium A-frames will reduce their original value to half within six years or so, while the cheaper ones are more likely to hold their value.
What’s the average lifespan of an A-frame?
The average life expectancy of an A-frame trailer is 10 years. This period is not fixed but rather depends on how you use the trailer. Some users may get up to twice that usage time, while others may have to get a new trailer in less than 10 years.
A-frames are made of either aluminum or rigid fiberglass. Since these materials have their unique advantages in different climates, one can only be better in a given environment. However, due to chemical stability, fiberglass should last longer than aluminum.
A-frame travel trailer maintenance
An A-frame is easier to clean than a pop-up travel trailer. This is because of the rigid roof panels that can be easily wiped clean. Your A-frame will serve you best if you also do the following:
- Check and replace worn-out roof seals and seams
- Check and adjust the trailer’s tire pressure
- Tighten the wheel lug nuts
- Check to ensure the wastewater system is working fine
- Check electrical connections are okay
- Clean the awning particularly, regularly
- Replace the filters
- Inspect, clean, and treat the trailer’s seals
What features and amenities do A-frame travel trailers have?
The small and compact size may be deceiving regarding what an A-frame travel trailer can pack. If you think the camper is insufficient, check out the following features and optional upgrades, as well as customizations that an A-frame can have:
- A sink with an electric pump powered tap
- An electric water heater
- A mobile toilet
- Shower (either internal or external)
- A stovetop and microwave oven
- A fridge/cooler
- Bluetooth surround speakers
- USB outlets
- Mobile phone signal amplifier
- Interior LED lights
- Battery bank
- Larger freshwater tank
- Ventilation fan
- Roof-mounted solar panel
- Propane tank(s)
Most A frame campers do not include air conditioner but one can get a portable AC or alternatively also go for a fan to keep it cool.
High-end features are now available in modern A-frames, with some featuring portable toilets and showers. Although these are not really necessary, they can make a massive difference if you often do camp and travel.
The upside and the downside of an A-frame travel trailer
Pretty much like every other thing, A-frames have their advantages and disadvantages when compared to other travel trailers. We explore the pros and cons next.
1. Hard exterior panels
Compared to other pop-up style campers or a basic tent, the hard surface provides better protection against the elements.
The side panels are also easier to insulate, making them ideal for small families who travel in colder climates. The bonus is that the sloping roof discourages snow build-up so that you do not have to remove the snow manually.
A-frames are usually made of aluminum or fiberglass. These materials have all been applied in the aerospace industry due to their low weight to strength ratio.
When folded down, the trailer stands a few feet tall. The air resistance is thus minimized, giving you better fuel mileage. The reduced trailer size is even easier to tow around.
3. Easy storage
With an A-frame, you do not need to rent out parking space. Once folded, the trailer can utilize smaller storage space, the average size of your garage. If the garage is designated for your car, you’ll still save a lot by making a backyard shed to house the trailer.
4. Low profile
When towing the trailer, you fold it down to a low height. This gives you some space above the trailer where you can carry your kayak or bike or anything that can fit on a car roof rack. The low profile gives you more room to carry your gear.
5. Easy assembly
Because the roof panels require to be lifted when setting up, A-frame trailers come with gas-assisted lifts to raise the panels. Even a total camping noob will have the camper ready in not more than 10 minutes.
6. Slow depreciation
We saw earlier that A-frames are better at retaining value than motorized campers. Generally, the superior storage options for these trailers allow them to stay off the elements whenever stored.
1. Not suitable for larger families
Due to their size, A-frames are only good with smaller families of up to four people.
2. No shelves
The basic design of A-frames doesn’t allow a high-shelving feature. You’re left with the exterior compartments to carry all your gear.
3. Not ideal for rad trips
Due to their small size, A-frames may not have the necessary amenities to suit long road trips.
4. Limited power options
A basic A-frame doesn’t have any electrical functionality. The only way is to carry a generator or invest in a battery bank and a solar panel.
5. No awning
Unlike most other campers, the A-frame isn’t designed to offer a shade under the trailer. You may need to pack a canopy tent for that purpose.
6. Not much comfort
The design of an A-frame entails a table that can be converted into a bed. While this is a great dual function, it doesn’t result in the best sleeping experience.
Best A-frame campers
Are you now looking forward to owning an A-frame camper? Here are a few models you can choose from:
This is one of the high-end A-frame campers measuring 20 feet long and weighing 3757 pounds. It is an ideal one for four people, with a dinette table that converts into a bed.
Other features in this camper include a kitchen and a fridge to make your trip more enjoyable. The exterior compartments are powered by a quick-release mechanism, allowing you to set everything up really fast.
Jayco (J series)
If you’re more attracted to a camper you can easily set up, the Jayco J series offers you that and more. Since there are several models, the dry weight also varies.
Jayco campers come with a wet bath, a kitchenette, and full-size beds. A microwave is also provided, along with a dining table and an outdoor shower. The table is removable, meaning you can use it outside the camper.
A-liner has 11 models, all of which have certain similar features. All the models come with fold-out beds and a pop-up dormer. A sleeper sofa is available in some models, while a sink and a toilet are available in all models.
One striking feature is the outdoor pullout kitchenette that allows you to grill meat. An outdoor bathroom is also included in some models. All the models weigh under 2000 pounds making it ideal for towing with even an SUV.
Forest River produces popular models like Rockwood and Flagstaff. These two designs are pretty similar, and both weigh 2014 pounds. The most outstanding features in the two models include a microwave, a 3-way refrigerator, USB outlets, a mobile toilet, and a TV outlet.
On the outside, speakers and propane tanks make this camper an excellent entertainment hub in the wild.
A-frame travel trailers are an ideal camping option for beginners and anyone looking to experience the essential camping experience. We’ve seen some high-end choices that make the experience much more comfortable and probably memorable. Should you need to buy an A-frame camper, you now understand the advantages and disadvantages, as well as a few models to check out first.