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Recognizing RV Camper Types From Camping Trailers to Class-A Motorhomes

Don has been an avid traveler and motorhome owner for most of his life and he shares his experiences along with valuable tips for RV owners.

My first Class A motorhome, a 1996 Pace Arrow Vision.

My first Class A motorhome, a 1996 Pace Arrow Vision.

A Camping Lifestyle

My wife and I started out like so many young couples, vacationing with a cheap used tent and a few bucks. For our entertainment, we had our very young kids.

Our first actual RV was an 18-foot teardrop-shaped SHASTA camper that we found in someone's backyard. After applying some gunk on the roof to stop leaks, and adding two new tires, we were officially campers, with a real camper to stay in.

Since those early years, we have owned a variety of camping trailers, fifth wheelers, and motorhomes, and learned a lot about the world of camping. At one point in our lives, my wife and I spent over ten years with a houseboat, which in itself is a great experience, and not unlike RVing on water. But we eventually went back to camping.

In this article, I am listing for your reference the major varieties of campers that are used. Each presents its own advantages and challenges for traveling and camping.

This is an outline of a typical Class-A motorhome

This is an outline of a typical Class-A motorhome

Class A Motorhome

The Class A motorhome is very popular and is also referred to as a coach, a bus or sometimes, a big rig.

Today a Class A is manufactured and built on a special frame and has the shape of a bus, which makes sense, as many of the first motorhomes were made by modifying coach buses.

Probably the biggest reason for the popularity of Class A motorhomes is the way the driver and passengers operate the vehicle in comfort from within the coach and are able to use its amenities while camping and while on the road.

No hitching and unhitching with these babies: you just pull into your campsite, and either run your generator for power or connect to the campsite power, and there you are, with all of the conveniences of home.

A typical Class-B Camper outline. These RVs are built by customizing vans.

A typical Class-B Camper outline. These RVs are built by customizing vans.

Class-B Motorhome

The Class-B motorhome is actually a customized van with certain camping appliances and sleeping facilities built into the van for the traveler's comfort.

Most have a raised roof to facilitate walking around, and AC and ventilation systems. They are smaller than Class As, and obviously easier and cheaper to drive.

These once-simple campers can now be as full of accessories and amenities as a Class A. In fact, some of these Class B campers have evolved into such complex machines, with multiple slides and high-tech amenities, that they are labeled as Class B-Plus campers.

They are popular with campers who need very little living room and value fuel economy and driving convenience. Many owners of Class B campers use them for shorter periods at campgrounds than other campers do.

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Outline of a Class C Motorhome, built using the chassis and drive train of a "delivery style" truck.

Outline of a Class C Motorhome, built using the chassis and drive train of a "delivery style" truck.

Class C Motorhome

The Class C Motorhome is basically a camper mounted on the frame and chassis of a small- to mid-sized truck.

The front end or cabin of the camper has very few differences from the design of the truck's front end and cabin.

The area behind the driver's seat opens into the camper body where there are the same amenities as in a larger Class A motorhome.

Class C is very popular with some campers as it can include a lot of the coach options of more expensive campers but at a much lower price.

Of course, the size and weight limitations of the truck chassis keep these Class C campers a little smaller than Class A motorhomes. But with advances in truck technology and drivetrains, there are Class C motorhomes that are over 40 feet long.

The distinct shape of a typical fifth-wheel camper.

The distinct shape of a typical fifth-wheel camper.

Fifth Wheel Camper

A fifth wheeler is a towed camper with a large-connector hitch system similar to that used on a tractor-trailer rig.

These campers are generally pulled by pickup trucks, with the special hitch mounted in the bed of the truck. This type of hitch system provides more towing stability than the smaller ball-type hitch used on smaller and lighter trailer campers.

The fifth wheelers or “fivers” on the market today can be luxurious campers for many people. They can include multiple slides, air conditioning, high-tech entertainment systems, and many options found on more expensive units.

Many people will purchase a fifth wheeler because they already have or can get a pickup truck to tow the camper. One advantage of this choice is that they can use their pickup truck for many years, and not just for camping.

Towable travel-trailer style of camper, sometimes referred to as a mobile home.

Towable travel-trailer style of camper, sometimes referred to as a mobile home.

Travel Trailer

The travel trailer style of camper has been around for decades.

Simply put, it is a hard-body trailer with a hitch that connects to a “ball hitch” on the vehicle that pulls the trailer down the road.

Today’s travel trailers can also have multiple slides and some very exotic accessories, but generally, they are built and priced for the camper who wants to make only a moderate investment in their camping enjoyment.

A popup camper is popular for its low cost and basic camping provisions.

A popup camper is popular for its low cost and basic camping provisions.

The original popup campers were not much more than a fold-away tent built onto the chassis of a trailer. The tent part had a hard roof and could be folded away easily and quickly.

Popups provided the camper with room for storage of accessories and for sleeping. They had simple fold-away beds, and some even had a small icebox/fridge, a dinette table, and even a "portable toilet."

Today, popups can be loaded up with better options such as a roof AC, a propane heater, TV connections, and more.

What Is a Toy Hauler?

Toy haulers, which appeared on the RV scene in the past decade, may be travel trailers, fifth wheels, Class Cs, or even Class As; the difference is that they have a rear section designed to carry a vehicle, a motorcycle, a golf car, or other specialized equipment.

The advantage of these is that they provide a single vehicle for you to camp and live in, while at the same time having your other vehicles and peripheral equipment stored with you for use at your destination. And you do not have to deal with exotic towing solutions.

Typically, these are popular with people who use motorcycles or ATVs that they enjoy operating in the wild.

Other Camper Styles

One should never underestimate the ingenuity of people, especially campers. You would not believe some of the interesting designs that have been custom-built: bus conversions, hybrids, park models, van conversions,

There are enough varieties of campers to fill almost anyone's needs; you simply have to look for what suits you.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers

Question: Does a pop-up RV require a title in Florida?

Answer: Yes.

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