An Inside Outside Plan

Five ways to camp this summer

By David Gladish August 9, 2023

Van camping at the beach

This article originally appeared in the July/August 2023 issue of Seattle magazine.

Summer is the best time to go camping in the Pacific Northwest. The endless blue skies, sunny days, and perfect temperatures, combined with an amazing variety of places to discover, make it easy to get out the door and explore. Figuring out the ultimate setup for sleeping, cooking, storing gear, and traveling while camping can feel daunting.

There is no perfect solution for everyone. A family of four will need more flexibility than a solo traveler. Dog owners must factor in their pets, and elderly couples may have to think about mobility. There are many ways to enjoy camping this summer, and there is still plenty of time left! Find your ideal camping setup as we walk you through the pros and cons of these five ways to go camping.

The Tent

Pros: Ah, the tent. It’s so simple and basic. Inexpensive and low maintenance, tent camping allows you to truly experience nature. You can carry a tent on a backpacking trip, buy an XL tent to fit a large group of people, or keep it minimal and fit a tent where a vehicle won’t go. It’s easier to relax in a tent. Setting one up is quick and doesn’t require heavy equipment or towing capacity. MSR, a Seattle-based company, is a high-quality tent manufacturer, making tents that last long, without breaking the bank.

Cons: Tent camping is essentially sleeping on the ground. While air mattresses have come a long way, they aren’t as comfortable as a real bed. You’ll inevitably get dirty and come face to face with bugs and mosquitoes. You are subject to natural elements such as rain, wind, snow, and cold temperatures, meaning learning to be comfortable takes experience, trial, and error.

Camping with a tent

Photo by Ty Finck / Unsplash

Rooftop tent camping

Photo by Jorgen Hendriksen / Unsplash




















Rooftop Tent

Pros: It’s hard to go a day driving on the roads of Seattle without seeing a rooftop tent strapped onto a vehicle’s rack system on the car roof. The popularity of this method of camping has exploded in recent years. Having a rooftop tent means you are ready to go camping anytime. It is very easy to set up, and you don’t need to worry about roots, rocks, or uneven ground as you do with a tent pitched on the ground. iKamper, a rooftop tent maker, just opened a showroom in Kent, providing a perfect space to try one for yourself.

Cons: Rooftop tents add weight to the car and result in lower gas mileage, much like a roof rack. They aren’t the best for young kids, as they are high off the ground, which also makes them subject to blowing around on windy nights. They aren’t ideal for dogs, either, because they require a ladder to climb in and out.

Teardrop Trailer

Pros: They are so darn cute! You can pull a teardrop trailer — a compact, lightweight caravan — without having a powerful car or truck. You can make one yourself or have one custom built by a local Northwest company like Teardrops NW, based in Salem, Ore. Teardrop trailers are simple and convenient, making it easy to sleep comfortably and often come with a built-in, open-air kitchen.

Cons: You’re starting to spend quite a bit of money if you go with a teardrop trailer; think $10,000 or more. While relatively lightweight, they demand more fuel and careful driving. You can’t go on bumpy off-road trails as easily, and they are usually pretty small and basic.

Teardrop trailer

Photo by Waldemar / Unsplash


Pros: #Vanlife has more than 14 million posts on Instagram and essentially started a whole movement dedicated to turning vans, trucks, cars, and all types of vehicles into a home on wheels. The reason: Containing a bed, kitchen, and even a shower or bathroom into a vehicle makes camping really easy. You can camp anywhere your vehicle can go, and your camping gear is ready without needing a garage to store equipment. You can build out a vehicle, while saving money, with some DIY know-how or go through a company such as Rydawell Builds based in Seattle.

Cons: A basic truck with a canopy and a mattress will suffice, but to be truly comfortable, you will have to spend a lot of money, particularly if you want to go the ever-popular route of converting a Mercedes Sprinter van into a house on wheels. If you have kids, it’s hard to find a vehicle that can sleep everyone and have enough seats to match safety standards while driving. A van conversion will either be very time-consuming to build, or very costly to be comfortable and worthwhile.


Pros: Of all the ways to camp, an RV is the most like home. There are recreational vehicles that you can drive or pull, the latter being more cost effective. The beauty of an RV is you can bring all your creature comforts into the woods with you and use the RV as a base camp to explore the outdoors. You don’t have to sacrifice the comforts of a normal bed, find a public shower, or give up Netflix. Poulsbo RV has five locations in Washington and is the largest RV dealer in the state.

Cons: Cost, cost, cost. A high-end RV may require a loan similar to a house mortgage. The gas required to drive or pull an RV is not cheap either, or good for the environment. You’ll need a lot of space to park an RV while camping, and the fees for an RV site are expensive. In short, there is a high price to pay for the ultimate in luxury camping.

Simply put, there’s no right or wrong here. It just depends on your comfort level. Most important, just get out and enjoy the outdoors!

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