Frontcountry camp options for the western hunter

 

Headed home with elk in back of the truck
Photo credit: Stephen Spurlock

With the offseason upon us, it’s time to start deciding what changes are needed for the 2016 season. Your camp might be something you are considering upgrading (or downgrading) and your camp choice depends, to a large degree, on the type of units you plan on hunting. In the article below, we will discuss camp options for units with road access. Wilderness or backpack camps are another conversation!

There are a number of options out there with varying costs and varying functions. Below we will examine some of the options out there, the associated cost, and some of the pros and cons of each camp type.

break_even_point_for_camp_options

The break even point is taking minimal yearly maintenance into affect for each option. The hotel option is based on an average of 14 days per year. The Jumping Jack four year price increase is due to new tires. The Toy Hauler yearly price increase is due to winterization and the four year price increase is due to new tires.

Hotel "camping"

As you will see below, camp options can get pricey. Depending on your budget, there are options out there to fit us all. That being said, the alternative to camping is the hotel/motel option. If you are able to do all your hunts from home you are extremely lucky. Hunting close to home just isn’t a reality for most of us.

Motel cost in rural hunting areas range from $40 to $120 per night. Depending on your unit, population centers, and availability, I think peak season for many of these venues is hunting season, which seems to drive prices up. Depending on how many nights a year you spend, this cost can vary greatly.

Days hunting
per year

Motel costs
per season

Motel cost over
five year period

5 to 7 $200 to $700 $1,000 to $3,500
7 to 10 $240 to $1,000 $1,680 to $5,000
10 to 14 $400 to $1,400 $2,000 to $7,000

 

With this in mind, some of these camp options may become more affordable. Other factors to consider when using local motels are the distance to your hunting area, quality of hunt (driving two hours every morning and evening can deteriorate camp morale), and the fuel cost of driving vast distances to and from the hunting area to a motel. When looking at the options below, keep in mind the break-even cost of camping. The break-even costs may surprise you.

The wall tent camp

Wall tent while hunting for elk

Nothing says hunting season better than a wall tent. Available in a large array of shapes and sizes, wall tents are comfortable, relatively small to pack in a truck, and provide great protection from the elements.

Pros

Cons

Easy to pack in a truck bed (requires no trailer). Hot in the early season.
Doesn’t limit mobility (heavy to pack but easy to haul around in truck/with horses). Carrying cooking and additional supplies needed.
Can accommodate large group comfortably. Wood stoves for winter heat can be heavy and add some expense.
Easy to store and maintain. Overall bulk to pack any great distance.
Packable with the use of horses or a large group. May limit bed space for hauling ATVs or other camp gear.


Wall tents come in a number of configurations and sizes. Prices vary accordingly. 

Model

Size

Price

Cabela's Outfitter Wall Tent
(Sewn by Montana Canvas)
12x17x5 (75 lbs) $1,129.99
Cabela's Outfitter Wall Tent
(Sewn by Montana Canvas)
10x12x6 (61 lbs) $969.99
Davis Wall Tents 12x14
(does not include poles)
$773.62
Alaska Tent & Tarp
Canvas Wall Tent
12x14x4 (38 lbs)
(does not include
floor or poles)
$405.00

 

The wall tent option obviously does not include cooking devices, internal tent structure (beds, chairs, etc) or climate control (heater, stove etc). There are number of options here ranging from wood stoves to portable grills. Stove prices range from $150 to $400.

Cots are priced around $70 each. Camp chairs typically range from $15 to $30. Tables and other items that come in handy for camping range in cost from $35 to $150. With the other necessities, a wall tent camp will cost an additional $500 to $700 to set it up just right.

Continued below.

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The Jumping Jack

Jumping Jack trailer on a mule deer hunt

Jumping Jack trailers have become very popular with western hunters. These trailers come in a variety of shapes and sizes. The unique fold out design of the Jumping Jack Trailer allows you to use the trailer to transport ATVs, side by sides, and other gear.

Jumping Jack camp option for hunting

Pros

Cons

Trailer serves as storage in transportand as housing once you get to set up. Trailer can limit access to some hard to get to areas (decent roads needed).
Maneuverable trailers won’t limit campsite selection terribly. Non-climate controlled (can be hot in the early season).
Accommodates three to four adults comfortably depending on model.  
Small dining space available in most models.  
Ample storage.  
Can be hauled with a half ton truck or smaller.  


Jumping Jack trailers come in several sizes and at several price points.

Model

Size

Price

Standard 6x8 $5,995
Mid 6x12
with 8’ tent
$7,995
Jumbo 6x17
with 12’ tent
$9,895

 

As with the wall tent option, the Jumping Jack comes without some necessities. The Jumping Jacks have a table and sleeping surface inside. A cooking surface, lights, heaters, etc., are all still required. The cost of these items will range from $400 to $700 (similar to the cost of the additional items needed with the wall tent).

As with the toy hauler/ RV camps, Jumping Jack trailers will require some minimal annual maintenance cost. You will also need to replace the trailer tires every three to four years at a cost of around $500 per new set.

The Toy Hauler

Toy hauler hunting camp option

This is the deluxe climate controlled camp option. Toy haulers provide excellent function and comfort. The premise of the design of the toy hauler is incorporating both the amenities of a travel trailer and the functional ability to haul ATVs and side by sides on a flatbed trailer. This versatile function makes the toy hauler a very popular choice amongst western hunters.

Toy haulers come in a variety of shape, sizes, and price points. The sky's the limit as far as budget, but there are some good affordable options out there.

Pros

Cons

Climate control and comfort. Expensive.
Large amounts of storage. Bulky to store.
Includes shower. Requires easy to access camp location.
Can accommodate a large crowd comfortably.

Yearly maintenance required.

  Repairs can be expensive.
  May require three-quarter ton truck to pull.

 

The toy hauler is available in a number of shapes, sizes, and costs. Some of the options and associated costs are listed below.

Model

Size

Price

Jayco Octane
Superlite 2015
(new)
20’ 8’’ x 8’6’’ $23,381
Dutchmen RV
Rubicon 2100 2015 (new)
26’ 11’’ x 8’6’’ $32,900
Dune Sport 14'
Toy Hauler 2015
(new)
14’ x 8’6’’ $14,795
DRV Luxury Suites
Mobile Suite 36 RS (new)
36’ x 8’6’’ $127,068

 

Toy haulers can be bulky and extremely heavy, requiring a half ton pickup or larger for towing.

As you can see in the table above, toy haulers come in a variety of shapes and sizes. The prices above are on new units. There is a thriving used and preowned market for toy haulers. With a little research, there are some much better deals to be found in the used market.

Toy haulers come with most of the items you will need to get started. The annual maintenance costs associated with toy haulers or RVs; however, is significantly higher than the other options listed above. Some of these costs include four new tires every three to four years ($500), new deep cycle batteries every four to five years ($200), and then annual winterizing which will run around $150 per year. There are other incidental costs that may pop up now and then as well. 

Other options

The three options above are just a few of the mobile camp options available. Below is a list of some other available camp options.

Kodiak Canvas Tents

Kodiak Canvas Flex Bow tent

The Kodiak Canvas Flex-Bow Tent provides a unique blend of size and portability that conventional wall tents do not offer. Ranging in size and price, these tents can serve as both a base camp when hunting roaded units and a mobile camp that can be packed by a group of folks. Prices range from $399 to around $1,200.

The Kifaru Tent Tipi
 

Elk camp in the backcountry
Photo credit: Jason Phelps

The Kifaru Tipi is another product that can both serve as a base camp in roaded units and a mobile camp on wilderness hunts. Available in a variety of shapes and configurations, Kifaru Tipi can accommodate groups from four to 12. Pricing on these products ranges from $850 to $2,900.

Conclusions

Camp options are endless. I hope the options provided above give you some food for thought for the 2016 offseason. Please leave comments below with your camp of choice and any suggestions!

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