By Jared Fiel – 

Chris Ukowich spent his childhood sleeping on the ground when camping. He’s now over it.

“Growing up, we always camped in tents. My parents were in the trailer, and we were in the tent,” says Ukowich who, with his wife, Cari, have now raised two kids of their own. The Milliken couple still enjoy the outdoors but are a few years past wanting to wake up on hard ground. 

More and more folks have discovered a love of the outdoors from the inside of their RV, camper or van. They all have tricks for finding the best spots, the best deals and the best amenities. 

“There are a lot of newbies looking to buy these days,” says Mark Rogers, sales manager at Lazydays RV in Loveland. “New RV registrations went up about 300 percent during COVID, and a lot of people are still doing it.” 

Many of the sales now are for “bunkhouse-style” vehicles that offer more beds for families. Rogers says with 4G and 5G internet hookups, families are hitting the road, and the parents can still work from just about anywhere while the kids can go explore. 

The Rogers’ family camper

Rogers says he still likes to tent camp occasionally. “But I feel more secure in an RV,” he says. “I can have my coffee pot and other amenities, like a bathroom.” 

There are plenty of amenities these days. Rogers says good salespeople will work with customers to find out exactly what they are looking for in a camper-style vehicle. In fact, when Rogers was doing regular sales, he would take his new customers to camp on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land to show them how to use all the features of their new purchase. 

“Ninety percent of the people I sold to are still friends today,” he says, adding that one friend even invited him to camp at the Daytona 500. “RVers are a real niche community. Everyone wants to help others.”

He prefers dispersed camping (choosing a campsite with no amenities available) on BLM land and says he teaches all new owners the importance of picking up all their debris when they leave. 

“The most important part of camping on BLM land is that when I leave, nobody would ever know I was there,” Rogers says.

The Ukowichs used to have a hybrid trailer, but they recently decided to get an outfitted van for their camping trips. The van offers a unique combination of being able to sleep the two of them relatively comfortably, but also allows them to park and camp in places RVs and other big campers can’t. 

“It fits in a normal parking spot,” Chris says of the van that has a heater, sink, portable toilet and the ability to do some light cooking. “But we eat out a lot.” 

He says the van doesn’t have showers but notes that he learned many local gyms allow you to use showers for a day rate. “We have learned a lot of tricks from watching folks on YouTube,” he says. “There are a lot of hacks out there that didn’t exist five or 10 years ago.”

One of the couple’s first trips was through New Mexico. They camped in the driveway of a friend one night, stayed at a campground where they could plug into power another night, then went to California where they were able to stay a night on a beach. After that they went to Nevada where they stayed at another campground and even stayed one night in a Walmart parking lot on the way home in Grand Junction. 

“It was a nice mix of just about everything,” he says, noting they are planning trips to Iowa to see friends and Yellowstone. “Van life can get you to a lot more places.” 

  The Ukowichs’ campervan

Renting vs buying

OK, so you have figured out that blowing up your mattress and hiding from bears in your tent is a game you should have given up with Beanie Babies and boy bands, but where does that leave you when you want to enjoy the outdoors?

If you are in the market for an RV, camper, trailer or other wheeled contraption to help you in the elements, you have to choose between renting and buying. 

Of course, you will need to figure out what kind you want, and what brand, and then there are all kinds of cool accessories and fancy doodads. New vehicles can range from $10,000 for some trailers and campers to more than $600,000 for luxury RVs. There are many used options available as well. 

Many places online offer camping vehicles to rent. According to, in Colorado, on average, you can expect to pay between $75 and $150 per night to rent most small trailers and campervans. Larger trailers and motorhomes could cost $100 to $250 per night. Renting an RV for a longer time can be even more affordable–a week or month-long rental could average out to less than $60 per day.


Finding your spot

Colorado Parks and Wildlife has more than 4,000 campsites and nearly 60 cabins and yurts available throughout the state. The problem, of course, is that everyone else and their mother wants the same one you do for the same weekend. 

Most of these spots sell out fast: they are made available six months ahead of time and sell out within hours or even minutes. 

“So many damn people are trying to get the same spots,” Chris Ukowich says. “It’s like ‘Survivor’ just to get a reservation these days.”

If you want to try, check them out at

Campground amenities at many parks include restrooms, full-electrical hookups and shower facilities. Many parks also offer campsites or cabins for large groups. Almost 300 campsites are ADA accessible. Yurts and cabins offer comfortable, year-round alternatives to traditional camping. Rugged beauty and a variety of outdoor recreation opportunities at State Parks complete the perfect outdoor escape.

However, there are a few other options:

Bureau of Land Management sites:  There are two ways to do this. First, you can make a reservation for developed campsites at Or you can do what is called “dispersed camping,” which means you can plop down wherever you feel like on BLM land but they don’t have any amenities for you.

Harvest Hosts or Overlanders: These are membership groups that charge an annual fee but allow access to nearly 3,000 wineries, breweries, distilleries, farms and other attractions. They do ask members to purchase some of the local wares, but if it is beer, wine or spirits, you know you want to buy some anyway, right?

Plenty of other online groups and YouTube folks: There are a lot of folks who travel around and post stuff about good places to go for free or cheap. Ukowich recommends Kara and Nate, Eamon and Bec, Van Wives and Kinging It.