Ultralight campers solve a lot of the problems inherent in RV living, especially if you’re planning to travel a lot. The biggest advantage is, obviously, weight. The less your camper weighs, the farther you can go on a gallon of gas. You can also stick to tow vehicles with less expensive gasoline engines, which also generally cost less to maintain.
The math is pretty easy: Lighter camper + smaller tow vehicle = better gas milage.
Another advantage is that ultralights can camp more places. Remote, hard to reach areas that might only be accessible via dirt trails or logging roads are no problem for most ultralights. It’s probably no surprise that, according to RVBusiness that, at least for Keystone, ultralights are one of their fastest growing sales categories.
It makes sense that materials science has advanced far enough that we can make lighter campers but there are tradeoffs. For one travel trailers in general tend to be a little claustrophobic, especially if you’re tall like me. Some of the newer models with domed ceilings help a lot, but will still feel cramped. You’ll also be limited for storage room, fresh water and how much gray water you can store.
Aside from that…and this may be a bit obvious…but ultralights just feel flimsy. In our minds we tend to equate flimsy with cheap but component decisions in ultralights are made because of weight, not longevity. That’s the tradeoff going light They flex a lot, bounce a lot, bend a lot. Things are going to break. They’re not going to hold up as well to full time living and that’s just a fact. In my mind ultralights are more for full time traveling than full time living.
If traveling is your thing, get an ultralight and live with the limitations. But here’s what’s going to happen: Eventually, you’re going to get tired of traveling. You’re going to wish for a home base, even if it’s only for a month or two. Once you’ve been around the North American circuit a couple times, you’ve seen it. Sooner or later you’ll settle down into a mode where you travel less and that’s where your ultralight will suddenly seem inadequate. You’ll understand why the majority of RV full timers are in either a Class A or a 5th wheel. But let me assure you, traveling a lot in a 5th wheel blows. First you’ll have to own a heavy duty pickup, which cost a lot of money. 5th wheels are heavy to tow, hogs to park and a lot of work to get setup. All that effort to just pack up and go again the next day? Forget it! You’re also not going to get them into many wilderness areas.
Class As are awesome to drive and you can park them anywhere there’s pavement, but you’ll spend a lot of money on diesel and they’re expensive to insure and maintain. Wilderness camping is pretty much a no go and there are even some culverts a big Class could collapse. All that space and luxury has its own price tag.
There you have the trade-offs. Weight, cost, gas mileage, space and convenience. All factors you have to balance crafting your mobile life. Also give yourself room to consider what’s going to happen if your travel preferences change somewhere down the road. I’ve met people who were committed, die-hard travel junkies until, one day, they send me a picture of their new house. What happens when you travel a lot is you find a paradise populated with like-minded people and decide to either cinder-block your lifestyle or trade it for a slab that’s nailed to the ground. That’s all okay. You can’t ever “fail” RV living, you just discover it’s not your cup of tea, your situation changes or you find something you like better.
Just remember that the road will always be there if you ever want to go back.