Why we have a truck camper and travel trailer for full-time travel

A few weeks ago we moved back into our travel trailer after spending 3 months traveling around Mexico in our truck camper. Since we’ve taken a unique approach to full-time travel by alternating between two different rigs, I thought I’d share the details behind the 10 years of experimentation that led us to this choice. I hope you enjoy this peek into our backstory!

Every spring is when we move out of one rig and back into the other.

In 2012 we purchased our Four Wheel Camper Hawk shell and fell fast and hard in love.  It showed us that exploring wild places via backcountry roads was our preferred way of seeing the world.  It only took a few months of going camping any chance we could get before we were dreaming of living on the road full-time.  Since then, we’ve had a Goldilocks experience with trailers, trying out four very different styles before finding our sweet spot. 

Experiment #1:

29’ Avenger travel trailer | We didn’t know what we didn’t know

In 2013 we bought a 29’ travel trailer for our first foray in to full-time RV living.  We figured if we were going to live on the road full-time we’d need way more square footage and amenities than what our truck camper had to offer.  We ended up with a travel trailer so large that we were overwhelmed the moment we drove it off the lot.  

Three months in to living in it full-time we decided the timing wasn’t right and neither was the rig we chose.  So we sold it.

The fact that there are only 3 photos of this trailer proves what a confusing time it was for us.
Why it wasn’t working out:
  • It was too big. Mark no longer enjoyed driving on the secondary highways and dirt roads that we preferred.  And maneuvering in and out of the kind of campsites we loved was next to impossible.  This was a grave misalignment of our rig and our preferred way of traveling.
  • Our Four Wheel Camper now had no purpose.  I will never forget being on a walk with Mark, both of us feeling frustrated that this lifestyle wasn’t clicking, when he said we should probably sell the truck camper since it no longer had a purpose.  I cringed and immediately rejected the idea.  But he was right, it made no sense to have it.  That’s when we realized we’d rather see the trailer go than the truck camper.
  • It didn’t feel like us.  Sure it was nice.  But it wasn’t us.  We wanted to wild camp and this felt like a more domestic rig suited for campgrounds and RV parks.

We learned a valuable lesson when we decided to purchase a brand new RV from a dealership:  It’s impossible to get a sense of scale when there’s nothing on the lot but RVs.  When the deal was done and Mark pulled the truck into the lot to hook it up to the trailer, I was astonished by how giant our brand new home on wheels appeared.  Something to consider when shopping for your RV.

Experiment #2:

12’ utility bed trailer | An unexpected gem

We sold the travel trailer in no time, wiped our hands clean, and were ready to move on.  The only problem was that we needed somewhere to put all of our stuff for the next two months before moving back in to our house in Colorado that we’d rented out for the winter.  That’s when Mark had a random idea.  He said “we need a truck bed trailer with a shell on it”.  Before I could even figure out what he meant he’d found one on Craigslist.  A week later a kind gentleman delivered it to our campsite in Phoenix.  We were stoked.  This thing looked like it could go places and was way more our style.

We ended up moving back in to our house and put our full-time travel dreams on hold for the next 3 years.   Instead, we took the truck camper plus utility trailer combo on 1-2 month trips every winter.  For part-time travel it was perfect.  We could carry more water, more propane, more toys, and more tools in a trailer that had the off-road capability we wanted.  But it still didn’t feel like the right fit for full-timing.

Related post: A tour of our utility trailer.

A bonus of this particular trailer

The utility trailer turned out to be multi-purpose.  We used it twice to move our possessions across the country, it came in handy for home improvement projects, hauling junk to the dump, and hauling water up to our property.  For us, anything multi-purpose is worth hanging on to and for that reason we have yet to sell it.

Experiment #3:

17’ Casita Spirit Deluxe | Full-time travel take 2

In 2017 we were ready to go all in on full-time travel.  We put the house up for sale and decided to go for it with the truck camper and utility trailer.  That was up until a week before we closed escrow.  From following the @mali.mish family on Instagram we got a look at what it might be like to use a small travel trailer in combination with the Four Wheel Camper.  When a Casita came up for sale locally, we decided to go for it.  We ended up living comfortably in this setup for a year using the truck camper as our bedroom and the Casita as our living area.  

What we loved about this configuration
  • The truck camper was put to use unlike our first full-time attempt.
  • Having two separate spaces was awesome, allowing us the opportunity to live on different schedules.
  • The Casita was excellent shelter from inclement weather.  (This is a pain point for us with the truck camper.)
  • The three rear windows in the Casita made for a bright and scenic dinette seating area.
  • We could cook inside.  (Our FWC is a shell, we cook outside)
  • We could access the kind of desirable campsites that we couldn’t with the 29 footer.
What we didn’t love
  • Having to pack up the truck camper any time we wanted to run an errand or go out for an activity.  This was the downside of using it as a bedroom.
  • Mark & I couldn’t really maneuver around inside the Casita at the same time, the hallway was too narrow.  Between that and the low ceilings, after a year I was feeling the desire for something more spacious.
  • There was a dinette but no couch.  We were beginning to crave a more comfortable place to relax.

Related post: A look inside our Casita

Why we returned to a solid foundation in 2018

The entire year that we lived in the Casita, there was a standing job offer on the table for Mark in Idaho.  Though it never felt entirely like the right fit for us, we couldn’t shake the idea.  In 2018, we bought a house, sold the Casita, and gave an entirely new lifestyle, centered around aviation, a shot.

Related post: This is why we moved to Idaho

Experiment #4

21’ Desert Fox Toy Hauler | Finally, the perfect fit

In 2020, after 2 months in lockdown from the pandemic, our hearts were pulling us back on to the road and we already knew what kind of trailer we wanted to try next.

I’ll start by saying, the thing we really didn’t like about RVs was how they all felt so closed off from the outdoors.  We wanted something that would better integrate nature with our living space.  The perfect fit turned out to be a toy hauler.  For those of you that don’t know, a toy hauler is a travel trailer built to carry an all-terrain vehicle inside, such as a quad.  The entire back of the trailer opens and the door becomes a ramp.  Though, that would not be how we would use it.  Instead of a ramp, our door became a deck and the installation of a full-size residential screen door meant we had the option to bring the outdoors in.  This was a game changer.

By this time we had also learned that we needed to slow down if we wanted to avoid burnout.  Moving every few days is exhausting, expensive, and time-consuming.  This time around we would stay in places for 1-2 weeks at a time and this trailer had carrying tanks large enough for us to do that.

How we’ve been able to get this seemingly large trailer to so many awesome spots

If the first trailer was our We Don’t Know What We Don’t Know phase, than this phase was the We Know What We Know phase.  By the time we bought the toy hauler and set off for our third round of full-time RVing, we’d logged some 700 nights in our truck camper.  Our knowledge of this lifestyle had grown substantially and our catalog of places to camp was extensive.  This gave Mark the confidence to take this trailer far more places than he ever would have taken the first trailer.

Related post: Our new travel style – living life two weeks at a time.

How the Four Wheel Camper would factor in this time around

This time we wouldn’t use the FWC while we were living in the toy hauler.  Instead we would put the toy hauler in storage when the desire for a truck camper trip arose.  The first time we put this idea into practice we were excited to learn that it wasn’t that difficult to do.

An unexpected benefit: When we’re living in the toy hauler the truck camper is available as guest accommodations. This has been an awesome way to have friends and family come visit and experience our way of life.

When all the pieces fell in to place

Hello Baja

For years we’d dreamt of a camping trip to Baja California; and that entire time we’d speculated that the truck camper/utility trailer combo would be the perfect rig for exploring Baja’s beaches and backcountry.  In preparation, we relocated the utility trailer to a storage lot in Arizona and in 2022 set off for our first ever Baja road trip.  As predicted, it was the perfect rig for the mission.  In 2023 and 2024, swapping trailers in and out of storage became standard practice at the start and end of every winter.  

Related post: 82 days camping in Baja – a recap

Why we love alternating between two different setups

It’s the best of both worlds.  Living in a tiny truck camper vs. a spacious travel trailer are two very different ways of experiencing life on the road.  In our truck camper we explore endlessly, we venture deep into the backcountry, we move around at our heart’s desire, and turn down any road that piques our interest.  In the travel trailer we slow down and stay at the same place for weeks at a time.  This allows us the time and freedom to get to know an area, spend time on work and projects rather than solely devoting our time to travel.

What the truck camper provides that the toy hauler does not
  • Off-road capability allowing us to access hard to reach places that often require high-clearance and 4wd.
  • Easy mobility on narrow streets, shoulderless highways, and around parking lots.
  • Easy set up and tear down.
  • Less things that can break or need to be maintained.
  • A sense of adventure that you can only get from a home on wheels that is small enough and capable enough to go practically anywhere your heart desires.
What the toy hauler provides that the truck camper does not
  • Comfortable respite from inclement weather.  When traveling in our truck camper, weather is what dictates where we go and when because hiding out inside of it for long periods of time is not very comfortable.  
  • Storage tanks that allow for a longer period between needing to dump and refill. 
  • A full kitchen and full bathroom.
  • A comfortable working space.  Our photography business is busiest in the summer months requiring 8 hour days, 5 days a week at a computer.   The Four Wheel Camper is too small for two people to work full days, cook and clean all while staying sane.   

We’ve been on the road full-time with our toy hauler and truck camper since 2020 and have no plans to return to a solid foundation anytime soon. 

Two primary reasons for our success this time around
  • Slowing down and spending 1-2 weeks at every camp for 3/4s of the year.
  • Keeping our truck camper so that we can enjoy an entirely different style of travel for the other 1/4 of the year. 

Those two things keep us interested and engaged, comfortable and satisfied.  There are many ways to go about living on the road full-time and we ultimately decided that we didn’t want to commit to just one.  We hope our experimentation has helped get your wheels turning as to what may be the style that best suits your dreams and desires for full-time travel.

If you enjoy the stories we share, you can support our travels by shopping on Amazon via this link or the links to the products above. At no additional cost to you, we will earn a commission if you purchase through the links provided. Thank you for being here!

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We’re Mark & Michele, modern-day nomads perfecting the art of slow, full-time travel.  Our tiny home on wheels and slow-paced travel style allows us to minimize our expenses while maximizing our freedom.  May our unconventional way of life inspire you to design a life that you love.


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