Photography Trek and Adventure: Should You Get a Traditional Tent or a Trailer?
In case you missed it, we're embarking on a new series called Photography Trek and Adventure.
You can read all about it here, but the summary of this project is to share tips for getting out there, exploring new areas, taking great photos, and providing advice on everything from overlanding to cooking to reviewing gear that will help you get the job done. In this new era of social distancing, what better way to pursue your photography passion than by getting way off-road away from everyone?!
If you're planning a photography trek and adventure, one of the first things you'll need to invest in is a place to sleep. That begs the question, do you get a traditional tent or something beefier, like a trailer?
Let's dive in!
Option 1: Hardshell Tent and Trailer
The first option I'd like to discuss is the one I opted for.
I have a Turtleback Expedition Series trailer with a Torro Offroad SkyLux hardshell tent, shown above.
While this might seem like overkill for some, I wanted a setup that allows me to get way off the beaten path but still be comfortable while I'm out adventuring.
One of my must-haves for an adventuring trailer and tent was the ability to be up off the ground.
I'll be visiting all sorts of landscapes and have to consider the wildlife I might encounter - bears, snakes, scorpions, and so forth. By being elevated off the ground, I don't have to worry about such things.
A second factor that might make a hardshell tent and trailer combination the right option for you is the fact that you have so much storage.
The Turtleback Expedition trailer has 55 cubic feet of storage space for all sorts of gear - my cooking stuff, food, photography gear, and even a traditional tent if you prefer to have that instead of a lofted tent.
Keeping things neat, tidy, and organized can be tough to do in a traditional tent, but with a trailer that has storage space, you can minimize the chances of your gear getting dirty, broken, or lost.
I don't know about you, but I enjoy some creature comforts when I'm out adventuring.
Again, my Turtleback Expedition and Torro Offroad SkyLux tent afford me some comforts of home.
The TurtleBack has a kitchen with a sink, a refrigerator, a 10,000 BTU stove, two fold-down tables, and cupboards for my cooking utensils.
Additionally, there's a 42-gallon water tank, a 6-gallon water heater, and an external shower so I can easily wash my dishes (and myself!).
The Torro Offroad SkyLux tent also offers the advantage of being insulated, so when winter rolls around I can still head out for these treks without worrying about freezing to death.
This tent is also super easy to set up - it takes just a few minutes to setup the trailer and the tent, which is a huge advantage.
When I go on these adventures, time is my greatest commodity. I don't want to be messing around with a complicated trailer setup or dealing with tent poles. I want to deploy everything, hop on my bike, and seek out photo opportunities around my campsite.
I spent eight years in the military and one of the worst things about tent camping was that you can't always find a flat place for your tent.
This is another reason why I chose to get an elevated hardshell tent and trailer. Once I level the trailer, my sleeping quarters are level too! And with the king-size mattress inside the tent, I don't have to worry about rocks or roots under my back.
I fully admit that this is more of a glamping setup than many people would need. But as I said earlier, I want to be comfortable when I'm out adventuring, and having these creature comforts will do the trick.
It's important to note that just because this is what I chose for my photography adventures, doesn't mean this would be the best setup for you.
In fact, I'll be testing many other types of traditional tents, so stay tuned for those upcoming tent reviews.
Option 2: Softshell Tent
Photo by ianmcdonnell via iStock
Another option to consider is having a softshell tent (like this one) with a trailer or putting the softshell tent on top of your vehicle.
But what is the difference between a hardshell and softshell tent?
For starters, a softshell tent will be more affordable than a hardshell. Typically, hardshell tents are insulated, are easier to setup and take down, and are made of more durable materials. This isn't to say that softshell tents aren't durable, but they tend to be more of an entry-level tent designed for camping in less harsh conditions.
Photo by Oleksandr Filon via iStock
If you're adventuring in a warm climate, a softshell tent might be all you need to stay comfortable.
Additionally, hardshell tents are much lighter than their hardshell counterparts, so you'll have less weight to tow. If you have a smaller vehicle to tow the trailer, cutting weight will not only make the trailer easier to tow, but it will help your fuel economy as well.
Softshell tents often require you to setup poles, so there is the time factor involved in getting it setup. If you want to get setup in minutes and get shooting photos, a hardshell tent will be faster.
Photo by sshepard via iStock
There's also the ability to put a softshell tent in the bed of your truck, as shown above.
I've slept in many cars over the years, and it's not a comfortable situation.
If you're wanting something that's quick and easy to setup, gets you off the ground a bit, and offers you room to actually stretch out and sleep, a truck bed softshell tent is a good choice.
Additionally, a softshell tent is a great option if you're on a budget or don't want all the fancy features of a hardshell tent (like I wanted).
A word of caution in windy areas, though - hardshell tents can withstand stronger winds, particularly when they're on top of a vehicle or trailer.
I know you can't predict how hard the wind will blow in every place you camp, but it's just something to keep in mind as you weigh your options.
Option 3: a Traditional Tent
Photo by AscentXmedia via iStock
Perhaps the biggest advantage of tent camping is the speed with which you can get it ready.
When you're packing up, you just need to grab your tent and throw it in the back of your vehicle. Once you're at your destination, it might take 10 minutes to set the thing up and be ready for bed!
Photo by swissmediavision via iStock
Additionally, tents are fairly "disposable." That is, if you outgrow your current tent, investing in a new one is relatively cheap when compared to buying a new trailer or a rooftop tent. And with an incredible variety of tents - from small two-person setups to huge canvas-walled tents that sleep ten people - you can easily find a tent that fits your specific needs.
Likewise, tents come in all sorts of varieties for different camping conditions. If you're in the warm climate, you can opt for one with mesh walls that improve airflow. Conversely, if you're adventuring in the winter, a four-season tent with a wind-proof and water-proof fly is the way to go.
Photo by Mumemories via iStock
If you aren't particularly excited about climbing up a ladder to your rooftop tent each night, a traditional tent is the obvious solution.
As I mentioned earlier, I'm not too fond of sleeping on the ground, but I'm also physically fit and still young enough to get myself up a ladder to a rooftop tent. That's just another thing to consider as you think about the right tent for you.
Photo by apomares via iStock
So, tents are easy to setup and take down, and there is a huge variety of options in terms of size, shape, build, and so forth.
But there's another advantage to consider about tents: price.
As I mentioned earlier, tents are relatively cheap. Now, there are certainly very spendy tents you can go for, but at the end of the day, you'll spend less on a tent than you will on a trailer for your adventures. If you're on a budget, it's hard to look past the low prices of tents.
Which Option is For You?
Photo by jeffbergen via iStock
This is obviously not a complete list of every kind of accommodations you might consider for a photography adventure. But for me, these three options make the most sense for most people.
Again, if you want to be able to park, get set up quickly, be off the ground, and have all-weather capabilities, a hardshell tent and trailer is a winning combination.
If you'll be mostly in warmer areas and need to save weight, a softshell tent and trailer is a definite possibility. Likewise, a truckbed tent is a worthy option.
Photo by AscentXmedia via iStock
Of course, traditional tents have their benefits, not the least of which is their low price and ease of bringing along.
Just like you need to plan your photo shoots ahead of time, you also need to plan your photography adventures.
Take some time to consider your needs, wants, and budget, and then start researching what kind of tent or trailer might be the best fit for your photography treks and adventures.