The BIG Debate: Tent Camping versus RV Camping

tent versus rv camping

Choose Your Way: Tent Camping or RV Camping?

Camping is a popular holidaying activity for many. In fact, over 40 million in the US partake on this exercise each year.

Camping as it were involved roughing it up in the outdoors, exposed to weather elements and the beauty and hostility of nature. However, today’s camping breaks into several niches such as tent camping, backpacking/hiking, RV camping, Glamping, canoe or kayak camping and survivalist camping.

The most distinct types of camping are RV camping and tent camping.

With the many advancements in RVs, tent campers and RV campers can’t seem to settle on which of the two is real camping.

Tent campers argue that real camping should be about enjoying nature with the least distractions or intrusions while RVers argue that you don’t have to forgo life’s conveniences to enjoy the great outdoors.

The RV movement seems to be growing at quite a considerable rate with many national parks and campgrounds being occupied by more RVers than tent campers. RV campers bring along a lot of things with them like TVs and generators, which can bring about conflicts with tent campers who want a quieter camping experience.

Before making your own opinions on either, get to know about each of these camping styles and their differences and similarities.

What is Tent Camping?

what is tent camping

This is the oldest and most basic form of camping. Tent camping involves pitching tent in the countryside and spending a couple of nights there. You can stay in the woods, on the beach, on a campsite or any other good spot available.

Tent camping focuses on strengthening family bonds, foster a collaborative spirit and is essential for team building. This is more so thanks to hands-on activities like cooking over open fires, exploring nature and so much more.

As it were, tent camping will require essential gear like a tent, tent setup tools, a cooler, food, cooking gear, camping gear, beddings and personal items. Having a checklist for the essentials can save you a headache or two when setting up camp.

For a getaway filled with fun activities and comfort, it all starts with getting the right tent for your needs and picking the perfect spot to pitch your tent.

Where to Pitch a Tent

Picking a good place to set up a tent can be an uphill task keeping in mind that it will impact on the comfort and overall safety of your stay at the campsite.

A common practice among tent campers is to do practice-run (pitching the tent in your backyard to get the basics of the whole process) before heading out to the campsite.

A few pointers to help you in choosing a perfect spot to pitch tent include the following:

Go for a Flat Ground

The ground will be acting as a bed frame and thus it must be flat and without rocks or roots.

While most campsites maintain a level ground, you can use a rake to brush away rocks, sticks or anything that can poke you while you are asleep. A step further would be testing out the spot for comfort by laying your sleeping bag or camping mattress on it.

Camping in the valley will put you at risks of being swept away by flash floods or waking up in a puddle of water. Again, to stay warm while camping, it is advisable that you avoild the low-lying areas at all costs.

Avoid pitching a tent on a hill by all means. If it is the last resort, always sleep with your feet pointed downhill and head on the uphill slope.

Forests are very popular campsites for RVers and tent campers alike. Luckily, most campsites in these areas are well-developed and flat with tent camping in mind.

It is important to acquaint yourself with the many different types of soils present in the site as forests have many varying soil types. Some soil types can be hard to penetrate with stakes while others can’t even hold the stakes in place.

Water Concerns

While camping near a water source may be desired for easy refilling of water, it is not advisable to do so. It is a very dangerous spot to have close proximity to in the event of flash floods.

Such proximity also poses the risk of contaminating the water source. Most campsites have their water supplies about 100 to 200 feet away for this reason. Ensure to bring enough water bottles to refill and for on-the-go use.

Rain and Wind Considerations

The flow of water on the ground if it rains is another consideration. Avoid hollows and marshy grounds at all costs.

Tenting under the shade of a tree may seem like a good idea at first but when it rains, the grass will be unusually soggy and water will continue dripping from the tree’s branches long after the rain has stopped.

In the same light, avoid pitching tent near ponds, lakes or rivers as water might flow through your tent to the water body. If you survive that, mosquitos and other bugs near the water sources will be on your case.

Waterproof your tent by using a rainfly or by sealing the seams and patching any holes in the tent to keep the rain out.

A campsite with a natural windbreak is most recommended. Hedges or other structures can also work as windbreakers. To counter any other wind effects, position your tent-door away from the wind for protection and better insulation.

Think of Sun Exposure

A shaded spot is always preferred as tents won’t effectively shield you from direct sunlight. Some tents may get damaged or age prematurely due to exposure to sun’s harmful rays.

Always follow the tent care instructions specified by the manufacturer for effective use of the product.

Camping in the Snow

Avoid bowls and scopes in mountainous terrains as they are more prone to avalanches.

Pitching a tent near trees laden with heavy snow is also very risky. A four-season tent offers protection against high winds and snow in open tent sites. Pack the necessary winter gear required if you opt for winter camping.

Other Considerations

Camping near high traffic locations like near the restroom and play areas may be ideal for you only if they are a priority. Otherwise, expect lots of noise from kids playing and a lot of movement around your tent at any time.

Space invasion is also another concern that can affect your camping experience as well as other neighboring campers. Always camp a considerable distance away from other campers if possible.

In campsites with dedicated campfire areas, a basic fire safety practice is to pitch your tent a bit farther away to avoid it catching fire.

Arriving early at the campground and setting up while there’s still daylight will help you identify and address any issues with the tent.

Remember to air out your tent before storing to avoid mildew and mold growth which can damage it.

Types of Tents

Today, tents come in all manner of shapes and sizes be it for solo camping or family-sized ones. Some common types of tents include the following:

The type of tent you pick will be dependent on your family size, campsite/event being attended and budget among other factors.

Tents like cabin, tunnel, dome and bell tents are spacious and sturdy enough for family camping. Quick setup tents would be ideal for high traffic events like festivals where comfort can be slightly compromised.

Pros of Tent Camping

Cons of Tent Camping

What is RV Camping?

what is rv camping

RV camping brings together the thrills of camping outside and the mobility and comfort of having a home on wheels.

While it is criticized by most tent campers as not being "real camping", camping in an RV is perfect for people who like a little luxury when they do camp. It is especially popular with retirees. Still, most campers start out with tent camping and eventually go the RVing way.

Regular maintenance of the RV, balancing the load inside the RV, preparing for any weather changes and knowing the basic information about your RV will be essential for easier, safer transport and a more wholesome camping experience. Meaning you will have to acquaint yourself with these RV camping hacks to be utterly prepared.

How to Pick the Right RV Park for Camping

Boondocking or disperse camping offers a “free” camping option to remote areas off RV parks and their related fees. However, with this kind of camping, you will have to manage your power supply, water storage/supply and sewer system.

On the other hand, RV parks offer the necessary facilities and services to make your outdoor living worthwhile. This includes providing hookups, water, electricity and sewer, and other services like community centers, shower and toilet facilities and so on.

National parks, wildlife reserves and private campgrounds are a few options to explore when choosing the ideal park for you. Other factors include the following:

Level Ground

Setting up a trailer on even ground is less stressful. Levelling your RV using levelling blocks and stabilizer jacks will be much easier on a flat ground as compared to on hills or slanted grounds.

Always place wheel chocks on your trailer wheels at all times to keep it in place.

Campsite Parking Styles

Some parks allow for specific ways to park your RV in your preferred spot. These include pull-thru and back-in styles. Pull-thru sites are usually easier to get into but it will all depend on what you are comfortable with.

The Size of the RV

The length and general size of the rig must also be put into consideration. The rig must comfortably fit in the given space for easy entry and exit.

Make sure to not inconvenience your neighbors by encroaching on too much space with your rig. If possible, ask for measurements of available spots in the campground to help you decide which will be a good fit.


Parks that offer full hookups will be much better for your camping trip. Full hookups will attract more fees so you can prioritize what hookup you need most. In fact, some parks specialize in dry camping, which means zero hookups are available on the site.


Do you prefer a place with many trees surrounding the area, a view of the lake or a spot closest to facilities? The location of the spot is also another factor that can greatly influence your camping experience.

Additional Features

Some RV parks are a travel destination in their own right with extras like entertainment centers, archaeological/historic sites, wildlife reserves, convenience stores, hiking trails, playgrounds, free Wi-Fi and so much more. It is upon you to determine what you want out of your camping trip.

Pros of Camping in an RV

Cons of Camping in an RV

The BIG Debate: Choosing Between RV and Tent Camping

coosing between rv and tent camping

Tenting or RVing?

Camping enthusiasts have for the longest time debated on which of the two is the best camping style. The decision for either will certainly be subjective, but perhaps it may be helpful to juxtapose the two camping types and evaluate how they fair on the major elements of camping.


Personal finances are a huge priority to consider when planning out your camping trip. Ideally, you want a camping style that is enjoyable and cost-effective.

Tent camping is the perfect option if you are working with a tight budget. There are many different types of tents in the market for every budget and family size.

In comparison, a cheap RV will still cost more than tent camping owing to the high initial buying costs and long-term recurrent expenses. However, as a travelling option, RVs can save you money on airline tickets and hotel expenses.

RV camping with a moderate budget and a preference for a little comfort in the outdoors can get you a pop-up trailer RV. The RV will provide the bare minimum amenities and offer an affordable mobility in your camping experience.

For RV camping in style, coaches, fifth wheel trailers and toterhomes are the most luxurious. They include features like solar power installation, two-story structuring and other over-the-top designs.

Glamping, a fusion of glamour and camping, is also a trendy approach to deluxe tent camping. It entails hotel-like tents, like yurts, with lavish features and amenities and a focus on nature.

The Setup and Takedown

This refers to the time taken and ease of setting up and taking down the camping gear in a campsite.

Motorhomes will be set to go as the vehicle is self-contained and only a few items need to be unloaded. Trailers on the other hand may require unhitching and levelling at the campsite, which can be a lengthy and technical process.

For temporary stays, all you need is to level the trailer, adjust the stabilizer jacks and wheel chocks as needed without unhooking the rig from the tow vehicle.

Tent camping, on the other hand, needs less time to set up and take down. The setup may include packing of tent camping essentials and their transportation to the site. Pitching the tent is also not very time-consuming with practice.

Packing for tent camping requires more scrutiny as missing a piece of tenting equipment can be a make or break for your camping.

Camping Comfort versus Camping Relaxation

Sleeping on the ground in only a sleeping bag or a lightweight mattress is definitely the closest to nature you will get. However, this is at the expense of overall comfort.

RVs house beds, indoor kitchen, heating and cooling systems, showers with hot water, dining room and flush toilets. Since camping comfort will determine how long you can camp out, RVs have excelled in making it possible to camp early in the year and stay longer into the fall. RVs offer the most camping comfort possible owing to the included amenities and luxurious features.

RVing offers the best camping comfort but with which comes worries about maintaining the facilities in operational condition. This means figuring out where to get hookups (water, sewer, electricity), regular RV service and fuel expenses.

Tent camping doesn’t carry as much of a burden thus it is arguably more relaxing.

Most nuisances in a campground may seem to be caused by RVs. However, it is clear that you can suffer from loud inconsiderate neighbors in tent camp or noises from generators and AC units from an RV.

It all boils down to respect and individual conduct. Properly insulated RVs and silenced generators can help reduce the noise. Luckily, most campgrounds have designated spots for tent campers and RVers to reduce these strains.

Safety and Protection

RVs shield you completely from the outside while most tents have fabric or nylon as the only barrier from animals and other harms. Unlike tents, RVs protect you from cold and other weather elements for a safer place to sleep.

While RVs aren’t 100% harm-proof, they do reduce the risks as compared to tents. Proper hygiene, proper disposal of waste and longer storage of food is possible and easier to maintain in an RV as opposed to tent camping.

Shelter Requirements

RVs offer the best shelter for any weather as compared to tents. In case of rains, everyone gets back to their tents while an RV can comfortably accommodate a couple of your friends and family for more social activities.

With proper insulation and AC units, RVs provide a cozy living space with minimal heat loss and low risk of hypothermia in cases of cold weathers.

Tent camping requires through vetting in determining the perfect spot to pitch tent. Tents as shelters from harsh weather, high winds, rainfall or snow, perform very poorly.

You risk having your sleeping bag flooded with rain water or tent being blown away by high winds. Tent camping is only favorable in shaded campsites and preferably in warm seasons like summer.

Pets are also a consideration here. RVs have enough space for you to accommodate your cats and dogs onboard while tents may be limited in space or may pose other risks to pets. Tent camping with dogs may result in you tying them up at the campsite or being with them at all times.

RVs also include a variety of amenities like bathrooms, kitchens and bedrooms. Tents guarantee a place to sleep without offering much else to improve your camping experience.

The “Real Camping” Factor

The primary goal of most camping trips is to get away from daily routine. An RV contains all the conveniences present in your home, probably even more. From TVs, Wi-Fi, electricity to so much more. Tenting entails sleeping on the ground, cooking food over open fires and being closer to nature.

Definitely, tent camping is the most effective form of camping if your main goal is to experience "real camping".

It is perfect for families, couples and friends to spend quality time with each other and strengthen bonds. The limited room in tents will also encourage participation on more outdoor activities including camping games.


Tent camping offers an escapist form of camping while RV camping gives a modern comfy approach to the activity. Most RVers started off with tent camping and some campers practice both forms of camping.

Undoubtedly, opting for either of these camping styles will be determined by your needs and budget. So whatever it’ll be just make sure to enjoy your camping trip!

Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below:

Written By Daniel Msanii

When he's not camping or adventuring the outdoors, you'll find him grinding hard on his keyboard to put up some super-awesome content on Starting off on camping escapades back in 2011, he has grown fond of the activity over the years. His exposure to a myriad of different camping terrains, gear and the outdoor atmosphere has hitherto changed his perception of the entire outdoor life. He enjoys sharing the experiences of his adventures and gear reviews with the awesome camping community on this platform. Read more about us.


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user icon Denise

We tent camp comfortably. One of the ways that my husband and I avoid the discomfort of sleeping on the ground is by using disc-o-bed bunk cots. Our 5 year old son has a twin sized blow up mattress. All of this fits well with plenty of room to spare in our 6 person 4-season tent. We use a tent fan in the summer and a tent heater in the late fall/winter. We have disposable unisex portable urinals, which are awesome and incredibly convenient in the middle of the night, especially in the late fall/early winter. We set up our camp kitchen next to our shelter. It gives us a nice place to cook and wash dishes. The shelter gives us a place to hang out and eat, play cards and games. Overall, it is a lot of gear, but we don't have to pay for extra insurance, storage, or fees. And we enjoy it.

user icon Daniel @CampingManiacs

Evidently many reasons why tent camping is the cheaper alternative to RV camping.

user icon Dan

This article was obviously written by someone with a bias against tent camping. My take: I am in my 60s now and have camped almost every summer since my parents first took me before I could walk. Over the years, I have owned and camped in the full spectrum of available possibilities: tent, pop-up, 30’ trailer, and class C (Not a class A ever). After much experience I have come to the conclusion that my preference is TENT camping. Here are my reasons: Let’s start with the obvious: An RV can run anywhere from $40,000 to $500,000. A good tent can go from anywhere between $100-200. I like to use a 10x10’ tent so that we have plenty of room. With a queen air mattress with built-in pump there is plenty of room for a family. This tent even has a built in wall for privacy. Add an additional 10x10’ outdoor canopy for an extra room like I like to do (kitchen, seating arrangements, dining, etc..) and you have a virtual apartment. I can have my tent and campsite set up in just a little bit more time than it takes to prep an RV at a site – including all the leveling and hookups. RV means to me reverberation. Pulling a pop-up is not a big deal, and runs a close 2nd to tent camping. But pulling a camping trailer of 27’ or more, along with driving a Class C truck, has not been comfortable, ever. It rocks, it pulls, it strains, it bounces. It is not comfortable. It is a misconception that passengers can ride in an RV free to move around, go to the bathroom, make a snack, read a book, take a nap, etc.. These are all wrong. Once you stand up in a moving RV, you are like a ball in a pin-ball game. Hanging on for dear life. You may also expect to get less than 10 miles per gallon in an RV. Not at all cheap. At your typical RV campgrounds and resorts, the RV spots are all lined up like tomato cans on a grocery shelf. You have no space on your left side except for all the hook-ups, and on your right, you have a picnic table, and about 10’ of space – concrete, patio, dirt, or (if you’re lucky) grass. And when the generators come on, it sounds like a non-stop steel mill at full production. Instead, camping spots for tents are wonderful. Full, big green spaces located in the woods, or by a creek or river, all with lots of room not found at the RV areas. There is almost no limit to where you can pitch a tent, and in all the hundreds of days/nights over my life I have tent camped, I cannot remember a bad site. I only stay at campgrounds with top notch bathroom facilities. Many of these lavatories are on par with hotel accommodations. It’s interesting to note that many RV patrons use these facilities instead of their RV. However, if you really want a toilet while camping, portable toilets are also available for tents - cheap. The only major downside to tent camping is when the weather goes sour. Over 60 years, this has happened fewer times than I can count on one hand. The solution to this problem is to retreat to my vehicle. Problem solved. Lack of air-conditioning has never been a problem with me, but even so, I now see at discount stores portable air-conditioners for sale if you really need that. My idea of camping is the outdoors. In the evening, I can’t see camping as locking everyone up in a metal box to play with your phones, watch movies, or go deaf listening to air-conditioning. Now, this is my opinion based on over 50 years of actual experience, not supposition. I know many people think camping is all about RVs, but not me. The poor people who have not experienced a hot cup of coffee on a crisp June morning while stepping out of their tent is just missing what camping is all about.

user icon Daniel @CampingManiacs

Hey Dan. Great contribution. All your sentiments point out the reason why some think RVing isn't actual camping. And for the same reasons, we tend to agree.

user icon Skyler Williams

Thank you for your tip to always place wheel chocks on your trailer wheels so it doesn't roll away. My brother has been thinking about going camping in his RV and he wasn't sure where he wanted to go. I'll pass this tip along to him before he finds a place to camp.