I grabbed a couple of days at Gamble Rogers State Recreation Area that came open thanks to an unrelenting 36 hour rain, and was pleasantly surprised to see three other Roadtreks already here when I arrived yesterday. By coincidence, all were late 1990s 190 Dodge Versatiles, far from their frozen homes (Ontario, Ontario, and Ohio, respectively), and two of them had these neat tents/canopies set up, which had allowed them to endure the earlier rain much better than their neighbors. I took a look at each tent/canopy to investigate this possibility of adding to my camping experience.
I don't really know what to call these things – they aren't tents in the typical camping sense. You don't sleep in them. But they aren't just canopies either – they have screen and sometimes solid waterproof walls to keep bugs and rain out. It's a nice addition to a Class B camper because it provides you shelter outdoors to lounge and see the sights, but you go back inside your camper at night to cook, sleep, etc. These tent canopies are more like a portable pavilion.
One of the Ontario couples had a Swiss Gear 10 by 10 foot canopy with all the bells and whistles – screens and waterproof walls. They set it up over their park-provided picnic table, and had a grand time while everyone else was hiding indoors during the rain. These are relatively pricey, and the walls are an option, but it's a large, solid, wind-resistant shelter that will serve you well in inclement weather. They say it folds up into an approximately four or five cubic foot package which they put under the bed. I already have a bunch of junk under my bed, so I'd definitely have to rearrange things to do this.
For a smaller, more affordable option, the Ohio couple had a Coleman screened shelter. It had sloping screen walls, and the 13 by 15 foot size is the floor, not the canopy part, but they had a hammock, a chair, and two big dogs all underneath with room to spare. Probably not as much all-weather capability as the Swiss Gear setup, but at $110ish on Amazon it's definitely more affordable, and with a folded-up size of about ten inches round by four feet long it fits under the bed with ease. The couple raved about this shelter- they had their dogs trained to stay inside it, so they could leave the door open, the dogs could be outside the camper where the action is, and everyone could relax and enjoy the scenery. They say it's a five minute job to set up or take down, and weighs very little.
I'm not sure where I stand yet on having a tent/canopy – it will be one more thing to carry, and one more thing to set up. But they sure look appealing when the weather's not ideal, and you want to be outdoors anyway. Hmmm…