I grew up camping with my family, so it’s still something I’m interested in to this day. We started in a tent, but quickly moved to a travel trailer when I was a kid. Throughout my childhood up through my teenage years, we continued camping all over, but mainly in Michigan. The trailers came and went as my parents continued upgrading and ultimately moved to a 5th-wheel. One of our favorite places to go every year was the Mackinaw Mill Creek Campground in Mackinaw City, MI. We would go over Labor Day with my grandparents (on my dad’s side). Even when I was older, and the family camping stopped, I managed to go to this campground with my grandparents the very last time they went. There are a lot of great memories there for sure. The picture below however, is not one of them. This is a picture of teenage me in my apparent self-described “badass” look, sitting outside with my grandparents, eating something while wearing an Outback coat. Cool huh? 😂
That’s my Ford Ranger in the background there next to my grandpa’s truck. Dig the “pee guy” on the back window? Did I mention I was a teenager here?
For most of my 20’s I did no camping at all. If I traveled, including to Mackinaw City, I stayed in hotel rooms. By my late 20’s though, I started having an interest in camping again. I ended up purchasing the Coleman tent you see below.
This tent provided many years of shelter while camping. When I used it last in 2018, it became apparent that it was time for something new. The seams were no longer holding up, and while there weren’t major leaks when it rained, water was definitely starting to find its way into the tent. And besides, while this size tent is great for 2 people, it’s not exactly large enough to handle a baby and everything that comes with that. With Riley on the way, we needed something new.
Before camping season in 2019, I picked up a Coleman Hampton 9-person tent.
This tent didn’t offer the covered screened “porch” area of the previous tent, but the inside is mammoth and offered all of the room we would need. Before Riley was 3-months old, we took our first camping trip in the new tent, this time staying at the Jellystone Campground in Frankenmuth, MI. The tent worked out great, but the weather did now. While there wasn’t any rain during our trip, the sun, heat and humidity were intense when standing outside, now magnify that by the enclosed structure of a tent, and it made for a miserable experience. We even purchased a box fan to stick inside the tent to help cool us, but that didn’t provide much relief. It got so bad that we ended our trip early and just came home.
That was the last time we went tent camping. Later that year, and then last year during the Pandemic, we stayed in a cabin at the Mackinaw Mill Creek Campground. Great way to “camp”, but depending on time of the year, the cabins either get booked up quickly, or the prices to rent them skyrocket. While people like to think the pandemic is over, it’s very much not. Because of that, we”re less inclined to travel and stay in hotels, and with a daughter that we are trying to toilet train, and who would be a hassle to try and wash in a public campground shower house, we’ve made the decision to move forward with a camping trailer of our own.
On June 11, 2021, I turned in my 2018 Ford Escape (a lease). The Ford Escape has been my go-to vehicle for years now, having had three. The Escape however doesn’t have the power or towing capacity for a trailer the size we were looking at. So on that note, I moved back to a truck – a 2021 Ford Ranger. Now you might be thinking, “A Ranger? Aren’t they small?”. Good question. They USED to be small…like in the picture at the top of this post. you can see it in comparison with my grandpa’s F-250. Ford eventually stopped production of the Ranger brand here in the US when SUV’s and cars were the hot selling thing, but with cars on the outs, and SUV’s and trucks now the thing, Ford brought the Ranger brand back (something they had actually kept overseas). The Ranger, now a mid-sized truck and not a baby truck like before, has the capability to tow up to 7,500lbs – perfect for the camper size we are looking at. So I opted to get a 2021 Ford Ranger, as shown below.
Now this vehicle includes a bunch of options and features I would have opted NOT to get (chrome door handles, really!?), and I’m not a big fan of glossy black (I like the dull matte black of my motorcycle), but because the pandemic has caused a severe shortage in semiconductor chips, and dealership lots are practically empty of any and all inventory, my pickings were slim. I was actually lucky to get this one. This truck included the tow-package, which includes a factory pre-installed hitch receiver and electrical connections for towing, I just needed to buy the hitch and I’d be good to go.
As for the trailer…
We started looking at different trailer brands and models. We came across a floor plan we liked, that seemed to be shared across 3 or 4 different brands (my guess is there’s a single manufacturer and they are just rebranded). I started looking at dealerships across the state. Each of these dealerships have a very similar website design, and a form to contact them. After filling out numerous forms, I only ever heard back from one dealership…who refused to give me a price and stopped communicating with me. Wow, what customer service. I ended up finding another dealership who is only about 15-20 minutes from our house, located in the DeWitt area, and their website said they had a trailer in stock. I reached out to them and thankfully heard back within an hour. I was told that the model on their lot had been sold, but another (identical in every way) had been ordered and had a finished build date of 7/23. We hopped in my truck that weekend and took a drive to the lot to at least see the sold trailer from outside.
And there it is, a Cherokee Wolf Pup 16BHS. So what do those numbers and letters mean? Essentially this is a 16′ Bunkhouse model, with the full length being around 20′. We were pretty happy with how it looked, and the features we were able to see. We also found out that aside from a few features, which are more “nice to have” rather than “essentials”, this thing comes fully loaded with 4 different option packages. Here is the floorplan:
If you’re interested in a 3D walk-through of it, you can check that out here – https://forestriverinc.com/rvs/travel-trailers/wolf-pup/16BHS/1330
I’ve reserved the trailer currently being built, and should be hearing from the dealership by the end of this month or early August once it comes in to their lot. Still working out exactly where this will be stored when it’s not camping season, but we have a large enough yard (1 1/3 acres), I’m sure we can come up with something.
It’s exciting times, though I’m sure it will be a bit nerve wracking the first few times camping. I’ve towed some tool and flatbed trailers before, but I don’t have much experience in backing them up, so there is definitely going to be a learning curve there. I already have a plan to take this thing to a wide open parking lot just down the road from the dealership after I pick it up to practice. If you see me out there looking like a fool, just smile and wave!
I’m not sure how much we will be able to use it this year, we still have a number of things we have to purchase before we can go camping (hoses, sewer hose, water filter, surge protector, etc.), but at the very least we are hoping to take this to Mackinaw after Labor Day in September. Here’s to fun camping times ahead, and a lot more blog posts on the subject I’m sure.