The enormous majority of off road camper trailers available for purchase today are hard floor campers. Fewer and fewer companies are manufacturing soft floors and far fewer consumers are looking to purchase. Often though, potential camper buyers are torn between the choice of these two styles of camper. In this article we will look at the pros and cons of both hard floor and soft floor camper trailers and why people make the choices they do.
How Many Can You Sleep?
The first question most will consider when choosing a camper is how many people they need to accommodate. Obviously, all campers will accommodate at least two people in comfort but what about larger families?
Currently, the average size family in Australia is 2.53 people. If we base the average on 3 people, most campers will comfortably sleep 3 even if the third is adult size but what if you are a family of six.
Previously the only option for a family of 6 in a camper trailer was a soft floor. Traditionally a soft floor camper main tent was two sections, the main bed, and an adjoining section around 2.1m x 3m. This section could accommodate 3 or 4 kids in close proximity to parents and sleep everyone in the same room.
With the introduction of dual fold camper trailers, the once captive market that soft floor campers held with big families now has to be shared. Dual fold camper trailer also jumped to an advantage as the additional sleeping areas are ready to go very quickly on setup, as the beds can be ready with all linen and blankets when the main area is opened and set up.
Additional sleeping outside of the main bed on a soft floor camper is what you make of it. Camp stretchers, air beds or any form of bedding must be setup and packed up separate from the camper setup and pack up process.
In terms of accommodating a large number, lets score it Soft Floor Campers 1, Hard Floor Camper 1.
Soft Floor Camper Trailers have traditionally, and still to this day, been relatively basic in terms of features. Most include:
– 12 Volt Power and battery
– LED light strips
– Water storage
– Electric water pump
– Kitchen with sink
– Annex & tropical roof
Hard floor camper trailers have a much wider variety of standard inclusions over soft floor campers.
- – Water storage
- – 12 volt system with multiple batteries
- – Fridge slide storage
- – Pole storage
- – Pantry drawers
- – 240 volt input
- – Battery charger
- – Solar power & connection
- – Annex
- – Tropical roof
- – Ensuite attachment
- – Luggage rack
- – 2 spare tyres
- – Independent suspension & coil springs
- – Lockable storage
- – Slide out kitchen with plumbed water and gas
- – Gas cooktop and sink
- – 2nd bed/seating area
Some models also include things like:
- – Built in hot water system
- – Diesel heating
- – Inverter
- – Stereo System
- – Television
When it comes to standard features and available options, hard floor campers are a clear winner over soft floor options. Score 1 for hard floor. Soft floor 1, hard floor 2.
ease of setup
Ease of setup is where hard floors take an enormous leap forward from soft floor camper trailers. A hard floor camper, particularly forward folds, can be set up in as little as 10 minutes. The main tent is partially setup as soon as you open a hardfloor and just a few minutes spent adjusting poles and adding spreaders will have the camper ready to occupy. If you have small children and like to get away early for a Friday evening arrival at your campsite, it’s hard to beat the setup time of a hardfloor.
Soft floor Campers 1, Hard floor campers 3
The majority of a soft floor campers storage volume is beneath the bed inside the box trailer body. Although the volume is large, adding and removing items inside when your camper is setup, can be awkward at best and extremely difficult at worst. Having to lift the mattress or climb inside through the tailgate, retrieving your travel items may be a hassle for most.
Hard floor campers on the other hand have well laid out storage areas that help keep everything easily accessible. With lockable doors, your personal items are also safer. Having a separate storage area for your fridge adds an enormous convenience as you don’t have to travel with the fridge in your car.
Although the overall volume may be a bit less, we have to give hard floor campers the win purely on an enormous convenience lead in this area. Soft floor Campers 1, Hard floor campers 4.
Durability is a big factor when making a large purchase like a camper trailer. With many square metres of canvas, how well the canvas endures has a lot to do with how the design does or doesn’t stress the fabric and mesh screens. When a soft floor camper is packed up, it is basically loaded onto itself and folded at the same time. Poles are placed on top of canvas and can have quite a weight to them. When packed inside the travel cover, much of the tent and poles can move with road bumps and vibration. Unfortunately this arrangement can lend itself to poles rubbing against canvas and screens causing damage.
Hard floor camper internal poles, apart from removable spreaders, are fixed to the camper body itself. When lowered and locked, there is little opportunity for the poles to rub against the canvas. This in itself adds to the longevity of the canvas and reduces the likelihood of repairs or the need for replacement.
Once packed up in its travel cover, a soft floor camper needs to have additional protection from the elements. PVC covers are prone to UV light attack and can degrade over time if left in the sun. PVC covers are also not the greatest protection from moisture and the likelihood of canvas getting wet and becoming affected by mildew is much higher.
When a hard floor camper is in its packed state, the canvas is protected by a metal shell with rubber seals where the folding sections meet. This is excellent protection from moisture and by adding a moisture absorber bucket or two, the canvas is extremely well protected. Combined with cabinet doors with rubber seals and adjustable compression locks, the entire contents of the hard floor camper are better protected.
In durability, the hard floor has to be a clear winner over a soft floor camper. Soft floor campers 1, hard floor campers 5.
value for money
We all have different ideas when it comes to value but for the sake of this evaluation, lets look at cost per night. If your available time to go camping is a trip or two each year on annual leave, then it’s hard to beat the value of a soft floor camper trailer. If your availability is most weekends and annual leave, a hard floor camper may be a clear winner. Because of the nature of a hard floor being far quicker and easier to setup, being able to get away on a Friday night without fear of a long setup upon arrival may add many extra nights to your camping over the years you own the camper. If you have just 10 weekends available each year and a hard floor allows you just 10 extra nights because it was practical to leave on a Friday, you have literally doubled the use per annum from your trailer. Over a 5 year period, that’s 50 extra nights.
Because this is a “horses for courses” type of choice, we’ll call this one a draw with 1 point each making our total soft floor campers 2, hard floor campers 6.
At the end of the day choosing a camper is a personal choice and any decision should be what best suits you and your budget. Hopefully this has helped bring some awareness to the pro’s and con’s of both types of camper.
Check out our range of rear, dual and front folding camper trailers and start escaping with confidence this weekend!