Trailer Life: What does it cost to go camping?
You’ve seen them out on the open road -- trailers being towed to some faraway or local destination. Whether it’s the beach or the mountains, the idea of getting away from it all and setting up camp is a romantic fantasy for those who haven’t done it and the only way to get in touch with nature with those who have.
While the big fifth-wheel trailers with slide-outs and huge Class A motorhomes are the noticeable mobile McMansions of the genre, there are plenty of other fun, less costly options to make regular camping a part of your lifestyle.
Recently Nissan hosted us on a program that showed a wide range of vehicle and trailer options that can make the great outdoors more accessible and affordable than you might think.
Light- to medium towing
Entry-level funky fun
The least expensive and lightest combo put together by Nissan featured a 2019 Nissan Murano coupled to a Happier Camper HC1 trailer. This fiberglass-bodied retro-styled trailer weighs in at a feather-light 1,100 pounds and yet has room to sleep up to five depending on configuration. The trailer is only 13 feet long, and its cabin shell is 10 feet long with an interior that offers up to 42 square feet of walkable space.
There’s a side door and a rear hatch that has a 55-by-54-inch opening. Los Angeles-based Happier Camper boasts what it calls the Adaptiv modular interior system that allows the interior to be reconfigured in hundreds of ways, with several bed arrangements including a bunk setup. Flexible modules including a bathroom, removable kitchenette and furniture that functions both inside and outside the trailer are also available. Pricing starts at $24,950.
The 2-row, 5-passenger Nissan Murano, which recently underwent a facelift, starts at $31,270 for the base S front-drive model (AWD is $1,600 extra). Equipped with a 260-horsepower, 3.5-liter V6 making 240 lb-ft of torque, the Murano is more than a match for the feather weight Happier Camper HC1. Driving around on local roads, it was easy to forget we were pulling a trailer. We’d probably opt for the higher-trim SV ($33,440), which adds power seats and blind spot monitor, or even an SL ($39,230) which would include navigation, heated seats and premium Bose audio, all good items to have on a road trip. Add in the basic HC1 and the sticker for this camping combo is around $65,000.
Adventure in aluminum
Stepping up into the least expensive Airstream trailer results in an aluminum-bodied Basecamp hanging onto your trailer hitch. The Basecamp has a smooth, futuristic bullet shape with large panoramic windows that wrap around the nose of this beauty. Measuring just over 16 feet long and 7 feet wide, Basecamp has a side door and a rear hatch for access, the latter coming in handy when using it to haul toys like bikes, kayaks, paddleboards and additional outdoor accoutrement.
In the nose is a small kitchen with sink, fridge and, to one side, a wet bath that includes shower, sink and toilet. The main cabin area includes facing benches that can seat up to five, with a pair of removable tables. This area converts into a bed for two. The sleek Basecamp X starts at $37,400.
Nissan chose its 2019 Pathfinder Rock Creek Edition as its tow vehicle for this combo. Introduced earlier this year at the Chicago Auto Show, the Rock Creek Edition features dark 18-inch alloy wheels, black mesh grille and blacked-out trim including wheel arch extensions and the front and rear fascias. Inside, the treatment includes two-tone seats, contrast stitching and premium metallic trim. A trailer package is standard to take advantage of the vehicle’s 6,000-pound towing capacity. There’s plenty of power to provide that ease of pulling thanks to its 3.5-liter V6, which makes 284 horsepower and 259 lb-ft of torque. On the $34,270 Pathfinder SV, the Rock Creek package is an additional $995, while with the $37,920 SL, the package costs $2,110 because it also includes a panoramic moonroof and 13-speaker Bose audio system. So if you opt for the Rock Creek Edition on the Nissan Pathfinder SL, expect to pay about the same for both vehicle and trailer for a combined total of about $75,000.
A glamping we will go
The image of camping has undergone a transformation. These days, getting back to nature doesn’t mean giving up the good life. As a result, high style is almost as important as functionality. This is where the Airstream Nest embodies this latest wrinkle in outdoor living. Priced from $45,900, the Nest shares the same 16-foot length as the Basecamp but offers more room thanks to its more upright design. Airstream can keep the price of Nest closer to Basecamp by opting for a fiberglass shell construction as opposed to the brand’s signature aluminum skin.
The fiberglass body gives the Nest a sleek, contemporary look. That modern approach carries over inside where the appearance and materials are fresh, clean and uncluttered. The Nest sleeps two and has two floorplans, one with a U-shaped seating area around a table in the nose of the trailer, or one with a full bed in that space. Other amenities include a small closet, kitchenette and wet bath.
It may seem incongruous pairing the people-moving 2019 Nissan NV3500 HD passenger van with the compact Nest. First, the NV Passenger Van is about as old-school as it gets, with its engine out front design and body-on-frame construction. In base form, the NV is powered by a 261-horsepower, 4.0-liter V6 with a 375-horsepower, 5.6-liter V8 optional. With four rows of seats, the NV can carry up to 12 passengers and Nissan says the split-folding arrangement has up to 324 configurations. With a tow rating starting at 6,200 pounds, the NV is well-equipped to pull the Nest, which tips the scales at 3,400 pounds.
The 2019 Nissan NV starts at $35,760 plus $1,395 destination. The base model comes with features like a touchscreen infotainment system with navigation. Adding a tow package and mirrors will cost about $1,200, bringing the total to almost $38,500. Total cost of an NV with a Nest is just under $85,000.
While these smaller campers may be growing in popularity, the ultimate statement in traditional trailering is the classic aluminum-skinned Airstreams offered in 23- to 30-foot lengths. Nissan brought two versions, the Flying Cloud and the International Signature. Both are similar in appearance and share the same lengths, frame and construction. The big difference is the range and quality of interior trims and design. The Flying Cloud is about $10,000 less than the International Signature and as a result, there are more of the former on the road as opposed to the latter. Nissan paired the Flying Cloud with a 2019 Armada SUV, while the International Signature in our test was pulled by a 2019 Nissan Titan XD with the Cummins V8 turbodiesel.
Because these large trailers are pulled by traditional bumper-height hitches, Airstream trailers have a lower ride height and are easy to step up into. In the 30-foot lengths, both the Flying Cloud and International Signature have a variety of floorplans that can sleep six to eight people and both weigh around 6,500 pounds.
Towing the Flying Cloud
The 2019 Nissan Armada Platinum features a 390-horsepower, 5.6-liter V8 with 594 lb-ft of torque. The vehicle also has part-time 4WD with low range and a 7-speed automatic transmission. This stout powertrain, which contributes to an 8,500-pound tow rating, has no problem pulling the Flying Cloud. The Platinum package adds $3,000 to the already loaded Armada’s base price of $62,690 and includes primarily appearance items like 20-inch dark chrome alloy wheels and exterior trim and a premium two-tone leather upholstery. A second-row captain’s chair option adds $450 and carpeted floor and cargo mats are $315 extra. Including $1,395 destination, the 2019 Armada stickers at $67,850. The least expensive Flying Cloud starts at $76,900 for a 23-footer, while the most expensive 30-foot model is $100,400, which means the price of this combo starts at about $140,000 and climbs to just under $170,000.
Titan XD and the International Signature
Nissan’s 2019 Titan XD is powered by a 310-horsepower, 5.0-liter Cummins V8 turbodiesel that puts out 555 lb-ft of torque. The XD technically is still a half-ton pickup but provides strong pulling power and load-carrying capability that’s closer to that of a heavy-duty three-quarter ton unit. It has a tow rating of more than 11,000 pounds. The crew cab layout has plenty of room for five, and when equipped with the Pro-X Utility, Convenience and Premium packages, the Nissan Titan XD PRO-4X has the kind of luxury amenities that give the Armada a run for its money. In addition, the four-wheel-drive capability means the Titan would be great to take on off-road adventures when unhitched from the trailer. With all its options, this particular truck is actually about $5,000 less than the Armada at $62,590, plus it offers the utility of having a cargo bed. When paired with the costlier International Signature series, which ranges from $84,400 for a 23-foot model up to $109,900 for the 30-foot flagship, this combination is a bit pricier, starting at just under $147,000 and topping out at just over $172,000.