Camping Trailers for Small to Midsize Cars

The Lightest Camping Trailers

If you want to tow a large camping trailer, you'll need a truck or one of the bigger SUVs, but if a small to midsize car will do for all of your other needs, many models can tow a smaller trailer and will save thousands of gallons of fuel, cost less to buy, typically handle better, and park in more spaces than a bigger vehicle. Trucks and SUVs hold the topmost spots among the most popular vehicles in the US, but small to midsize cars place well. In 2020, for example, according to Edmunds, the Toyota Camry, Honda Civic, and Honda Accord were in the top ten. All three are typically listed as having a towing capacity of 1000 pounds.

Most experts recommend towing no more than 80% of your vehicle's towing capacity, which would be 800 pounds for the Camry, Civic, and Accord. Camping Trailers by Weight lists 11 camping trailers that make that cut. None of them have plumbing or built-in appliances, not surprisingly, and only the heaviest of the 11, the MyPod, has an air conditioner, but they do have room for sleeping comfortably, and some have room for a portable toilet and a fair to large (in the BYOPUCT) amount of storage. Most of the other 16 camping trailers listed, which weigh up to almost 1500 pounds, can be towed by small SUVs and crossovers like the Subaru Forester. Some have a sink, air conditioning, and heat.

Camping Trailers by Price illustrates that weight and price vary pretty independently. The lightest trailer, the Earth T250LX, is the second most expensive. The sixth lightest, the BYOPUCT, is the least expensive by far. The heaviest trailer in the list, the Coachmen Clipper Express, with a sink and furnace, costs less than 17 lighter models. Advanced materials and engineering can make achieving low weight expensive, but weight can also be reduced by using soft, tent-like materials for walls and a roof.

Towing a heavy trailer isn't the only purpose buyers of a truck or large SUV have in mind, of course. Many want these vehicles for hauling equipment, building materials, appliances, etc. If such tasks are fairly infrequent though, a smaller car pulling a utility trailer can act, to a large extent, as if it were a truck. Two of the camping trailers listed on the Camping Trailers by Price and Camping Trailers by Weight pages can be converted to utility trailers. The SylvanSport GO has a 4' x 7' gear deck, and the BYOPUCT can be quickly converted into a walled 4' x 8' x 2'-high cargo trailer or a 4' x 8' flatbed for hauling plywood and other building materials that wouldn't quite fit otherwise.

Lack of a shower may seem like a deal-breaker for some who are considering a small camping trailer, but you can buy a highly portable camping shower and set it up with a privacy enclosure and a tub or pan to catch the gray water for less than $200. The shower unit and the privacy enclosure take up very little space when packed away. A mortar tub or water heater drain pan can't be collapsed, but their interior volumes can hold other stuff, so they need not waste much space with clever packing. You can put blocks inside the tub to stand above the water, and a small, battery-operated submersible pump can drain the gray water into a container for proper disposal.