Camper Van OR Tent? Learn Which One Is Best For You

Tent camping beside a camper van

If you are interested in camping or getting out into the great outdoors, a tent is usually a good place to start for shelter. However, a camper van is also a popular solution to use as a shelter when camping. These have a few similarities since they are both small but they are vastly different in many ways.

With the obvious difference being that one is a motorhome and the other is not. With a camper van, you can drive to your location which makes it very convenient. However, many people do not consider this camping since it resembles living in a home.

This is subjective and depends upon your way of thinking. I consider traveling and staying in a camper van to be camping just as much as tent camping is. When I drive my camper van out into an off-grid location, I am living a lifestyle that would be similar to what I would be living by popping a tent.

I have stayed in tents as well as motorhomes and I regularly stay in my camper van. The lifestyle is similar and you must simplify and live a more primitive lifestyle in both cases.

Which one may be better for you depends upon your situation and preference. It can also be said that there are different times and places to do each type of camping. Just because I own a camper van doesn’t mean that I can’t also enjoy camping in a tent.

I often sleep in a tent rather than my camper van, especially on nice nights in scenic locations. There’s just something special about sleeping in a tent that makes you feel more at one with nature.

If you are wondering which type of camping may be best for you, I have come up with some reasons that one or the other may be better. When comparing one to the other, there will always be things that are good and things that are not so good for each. Consider the experience that you want to have when you go camping and which one will fit your lifestyle the best.

One way doesn’t always work for everybody. We all enjoy doing things differently and we will all disagree on this subject as well. I hope the following reasons will help you narrow down the style of camping that you may be interested in.

6 Reasons A Camper Van Is Better Than A Tent

Side door open on camper van

1) More protection from the elements

When staying in a camper van versus a tent, you are more protected from the elements. This could be very important during a torrential downpour or a stormy, windy night. Sleeping in a tent during bad weather situations can be dangerous and sometimes scary.

Sleeping in a camper van or any type of RV during a time like this will not be so bad. You are well protected by the hard, outer shell of the van and probably won’t have to worry about the dangers like you would if you were staying in a tent.

Lightning storms, bear attacks and other events that may happen out in nature become less of an issue when you have the protection of a camper van.

2) More convenient

With a camper van, you pull up to your location, park and then you are all set up. Comparing this to a tent, which takes a little while to set up camp, it’s much more convenient. Setting up a tent can be a fun part of the process and an important part of the experience. However, if you are looking for convenience and don’t want to have to fool with the set up of the campsite, a van will be your best bet.

Depending on the tent you have, some can be challenging and time-consuming to set up. When it’s time to leave, they can be just as time-consuming to tear down.

3) More like home

Staying in a van is more like staying at home. This is true with my van since I set it up to be similar to a house. Most van conversions or class B manufactured vans are well thought out and include all of the essentials and necessary components that you would expect and can be compared to a tiny house.

They are often complete with the essentials as well as comforting decor that can make your stay feel like you are staying at your home. It may not even require that you change anything from your normal routine of life.

Compare this to a tent in which you must change nearly everything that you do. A tent doesn’t give you running water or convenient lighting or ventilation that you would have in a van.

4) Easier to do normal tasks

Just doing normal tasks can be much easier in a van. Cooking meals, washing dishes are two that come to mind. Everything is usually set up in a camper van to make it easy for you to work with. Whether you have a stove built-in or you use a camping stove, it’s easy to set these things up and use them in the comfort of your van.

In a tent situation, you may be cooking with your grill on the ground and washing your hands by using a water jug. Although doable, it’s much different than the experience you would have with these things built into the living space of a van.

5) More comfortable

Have you ever tried to sleep on the ground? In a tent, you are often sleeping in an uncomfortable position. If you don’t have an air mattress of some type, you may end up with a rock, pinecone or something else on the forest floor poking into your back. Although you can try to eliminate this before putting your tent up, it doesn’t always work out.

In contrast, sleeping in a camper van is like sleeping in luxury compared to what a tent has to offer. My memory foam mattress in my camper van is nearly as comfortable as the one I have in my home. I am always in comfort when I am out on the road in my camper van.

On top of that, I have fans and other ways of staying cool in my van whereas this may not be available in tents.

6) Safety

With a camper van, not only do you have protection from inclement weather, but you are also safer from other problems that may arise. If anyone were to try and harm you, it would be more difficult for them to get into your van without you driving off.

As long as you are parked in a position where you can easily leave the scene, staying in a camper van gives you a safer feeling in sketchy situations.

If you were in a tent, you may not be able to leave very quickly as you would need to tear down camp before you could move. A tent isn’t safe from someone coming inside it so if there is an issue and the situation gets sketchy, you may be less safe in your tent.

6 Reasons A Tent Is Better Than A Camper Van

Open tent in pine forest

1) It’s cheaper

A tent is obviously going to be cheaper than a camper van would. You can purchase a tent for less than $100 and take off on your camping adventure without spending much more than that. Only a few items are needed and all of them can be purchased for much less than what you would spend on a camper van.

A tent is great for someone who doesn’t want to spend much money on camping but still wants a good experience. Staying in a tent is a great way to enjoy the outdoors without sinking a bunch of money into it.

You also do not have to worry about paying insurance or yearly registration fees on a tent. With a camper van, you are obligated to pay various yearly fees just as you would on a passenger car.

Once you purchase your tent, you are done. You can simply enjoy it without having to be held hostage to additional taxes and fees.

2) You can set up camp in more remote locations

With a tent, you can pack it into your backpack and head out into the wilderness. You are able to stay in remote locations that you could only get to on foot. Camper vans are great for getting you to drivable places but to go any further, you’ll have to find other methods.

When you head off into the wilderness on foot, a tent gives you a great little home to stay in. In this way, a tent would be a better option for those looking to camp in locations that are in the middle of nowhere with no access via drivable roads.

3) A tent gets you closer to nature

There is no better way to get acquainted with nature than camping in a tent. When you camp in a tent, you are bedding down right on the Earth’s surface. There are no comforts of home when you are in a tent.

Beyond a camping mattress and a cooking stove, there isn’t much more to enjoy the comforts of life when you are staying in a tent. In this way, you are forced to be at one with nature. When you stay in a van, you are still living in nature but you also have the comforts of home with you.

At least in my van, I am comfortable in my memory foam mattress rather than laying on the ground in a tent. It’s a much different experience than it would be in a tent. Some people may argue that there is no other way to camp than with a tent. Tent camping is the ultimate experience for purists and those who want to be as close to nature as possible.

4) A tent is better for the environment

If you are concerned with your impact on the environment, a tent is going to be less than what a camper van will be. Driving a camper van around has an impact since it uses fuel and you are likely to drive the van more.

Even using a tent will have an impact since you will need to drive to a location using a vehicle. However, someone camping in a tent usually sets up camp and stays for a few days. Compare this to a person staying in a camper van. This person may stay the night and then drive somewhere else the next day or use their van to go places and then come back.

It’s all about doing the least amount of harm that you can and in this situation, a tent is a minimal way of camping so it has a smaller footprint and does less damage to the environment in the long run.

5) A tent stores easily when not in use

When you aren’t using your tent, you don’t have to worry about it sitting in your driveway. Instead, you can easily pack it up and store it in your closet in your house. A tent packs away into a very small space so even people that live in small areas can store a tent out of the way.

When it is time to hit the trail and enjoy nature in your tent, you can simply grab it and go. It’s as easy to set up as it is to tear down so there isn’t much fussing and inconvenience.

If you had a camper van, you would need to have a place to be able to park it. Although a small van doesn’t take up a lot of space, people don’t often have a lot of extra parking space at their residence. This is something to consider if you would like to have a van but have a very limited area in which to park it.

6) It’s a challenging adventure

Staying in a tent out in the wilderness is much more of an adventure than staying in a cozy and comfortable camper van. It takes more work to set up camp when you have a tent and it also is more of a challenge to do even the simplest of tasks.

With a tent, you may be digging holes in the woods to relieve yourself rather than using the portable toilet installed in your van. Your van may even be equipped with a shower, making it convenient to stay clean. Chances are, you won’t be able to take a shower when tent camping unless you are staying in a campground that has shower facilities or you have a mobile shower solution.

It can be a challenge but a fun one when you decide to camp in a tent. It’s the adventure that makes it fun. Everyone needs an occasional adventure in their lives and tent camping is a great choice for making it happen.

Tent and hammock beside lake

Final Thoughts

Whether you choose a camper van or a tent, you can never go wrong when you choose to venture out into the great outdoors. Camping is a great way to get away from the burdens of life and relax. Some people will prefer the cozy and safe shelter of the van while others want to be up close and personal with nature.

Some people believe that only a tent can give you the proper camping experience. However, I believe that camping can be done however you want it to be done. You should go camping the way that you can afford and the way that excites you the most. Whether you sleep in an RV or a tent, it doesn’t matter as long as you enjoy the experience.

I prefer to have both options available because sometimes I want the comforts of my van and other times I want the experience that tent camping provides.

Dan Collins

I consider myself an outdoor enthusiast. I love to travel and go to places that most people don't get a chance to go. I want to see it all and live life to the fullest while I'm alive. My camper van is helping me to do just that. I write about my experiences to help inspire others to do the same.

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