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Week 6 Big Ten Power Poll: Campers

Sorry for what I said when we were trying to park the camper.

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1950s Car Attached To Rv Tr... Photo by J M Price/ClassicStock /Getty Images

In a fit of madness, I’ve acquired a dilapidated travel trailer from my uncle, who hauled it out of a Missouri field - and yes, it’s exactly in the shape you’re picturing with that backstory. It’s a 13-foot 1967 Serro Scotty, and I’ve spent the past two years researching and planning how to carry out this rebuilding endeavor. Through the power of YouTube, the trailer will one day be an adorable evocation of a mid-century Northwoods cabin! Or, it will be a miserable failure and a pile of rotted wood in my garage and I’ll sell the salvageable parts on eBay. Anything is possible!

Say, this is all starting to sound a lot like some Big Ten football teams, isn’t it? We’re far enough into the season that the cracks are starting to show, and the shoddy construction is evident for several teams. Some fanbases are eagerly anticipating better times and a complete renaissance, and others are trying to make their peace with the knowledge that they are Indiana they might not even be good enough to be a parts trailer.

With that similarity in mind, read on to find out where your team falls in the wonderful world of campers!

1. Michigan - #vanlife

First Place Votes: 10 High: 1 Low: 3 Last Week: 1

It may well be that my Millennial is showing by picking #vanlife for Michigan rather than the well-appointed comforts of a Class A Motorhome that the #1 team in our prestigious poll might otherwise expect. Nevertheless, I stand by this choice. For the uninitiated, #vanlife is an Instagram-famous lifestyle that exploded in popularity with the pandemic, though it had been picking up steam well before that. While #vanlife sounds simple, and perhaps evokes minibuses of yore, it has become a Lifestyle and an Aesthetic, and a suitable van + conversion will likely cost over $100,000. Typical vanlifers are a young outdoorsy couple, or even an outdoorsy family, whose white van and white furnishings perfectly match their very white take on camping. Posts include lots of joy about getting off the grid and getting away from it all, while still finding time to post and maybe hold a giveaway for a JetBoil or something. #ad #sponsor

#vanlife is at its core deeply aspirational - the dream of getting away from work and responsibility and zooming around to various forested locales, all with a spouse we don’t hate, and kids who don’t fight, in a vehicle that signifies we have six-figure disposable income. Michigan football right now, though we hate them, is deeply aspirational for most of the rest of us. We dream of crushing a team 52-10, of doubling the Ferentz Line, of not considering every remaining game on the schedule a “could definitely lose.” But just as #vanlife is only practiced by a minority, Michigan’s dominance is a ride the rest of us only get to watch.

Self converted campervan Photo by Hauke-Christian Dittrich/picture alliance via Getty Images

2. Ohio State - Class A Motorhome

FPV: 1 H: 1 L: 3 LW: 2

What’s a Class A Motorhome? I’m glad you asked:

“Class A motorhomes are spacious, luxurious and made to take any family on long trips. Built with the same framing and construction as commercial trucks and buses, Class A motorhomes are some of the largest vehicles on the road. From spacious sleeping and lounging areas to full kitchens and upscale bathrooms, Class A RVs take features and amenities to a new level.” (Thor Industries)

In other words, they’re massive, vulgar, and extra in all the ways people with too much money love. This is the choice of the financially secure Baby Boomer–let’s call him Chuck– who doesn’t believe in climate change and also doesn’t care about it, who can afford to get five miles to the gallon and doesn’t care who knows it. He hangs out in “luxury RV parks” where campers over ten years old are prohibited so that his camping experience isn’t sullied by icky poors. It’s a triple-axel middle finger to everyone else.

While OSU has been “down” this year (according to our treasured OSU posters… like, sure, I guess), the Class A motorhome remains a fitting analogy to the Buckeyes. A team so rich in talent that it could fuck around for three quarters against a decent team and still manage to not only avoid finding out, but to still cover the spread. Ryan Day is apparently a poor play caller, but that’s like Chuck being salty that his RV’s fourth TV is only 22”.

So, OSU’s “struggles” will continue to concern their spoiled base, and Chuck will continue to winter in Arizona in his half-a-mil coach while trying his damndest to destroy democracy and bitching about how the younger generations are lazy. Sunrise, sunset.

Preview Day of the fair “Caravan Salon Photo by David Young/picture alliance via Getty Images

3. Penn State - Airstream

FPV: 3 H: 1 L: 3 LW: 3

The Airstream is arguably the most iconic American travel trailer - long, silver, and gloriously mid-century in design - the Airstream has seen a massive resurgence in popularity. While renovated vintage Airstreams are not unheard of, the majority of the trailers that you see streaking down the interstate are modern-produced versions, distinguishable by their much-larger front window. Though evocative of “Simpler Times,” the Airstream is clearly targeting a wealthy, bougie consumer - the full-sized trailers will run you $100,000-200,000 brand new, and there’s an ongoing partnership with Pottery Barn. Glamping indeed.

Penn State revels in its classic look, arguably to the point of tedium, but so far, the team has been everything the modern football consumer could want - namely, undefeated. An ongoing partnership with James Franklin (who I guess is Pottery Barn in this analogy? Alright.) has made PSU a rare bastion of stability within the conference, and the results seem to be paying off. Though often overshadowed by the glitz of Michigan and OSU, the reliability of Penn State means they’re always a significant campground conference presence.

1970s SILVER ALUMINUM. Photo by H. Armstrong Roberts/ClassicStock/Getty Images

4. Maryland - VW Bus

H: 4 L: 5 LW: 4

The first icon of van life, the VW Bus in its many iterations is certainly iconic. Volkswagen’s second auto (the first being the Beetle) during its post-war rebirth, the “Type 2” debuted in 1950. However, in the US, it really came into its own during the 1960s and 70s as a symbol of the counterculture, sometimes simply being called a “hippie van.” The Bus had many variations, including a raisable roof and an attachable side tent to increase the spaciousness of the van camping experience.

Maryland also caught everyone’s eye in the leadup to the Ohio State game. True, this was in part due to the groovy color scheme they continue to insist upon, but it was also the result of a longer-than-average September Maryland period. Alas, October dawned with the Buckeyes, and though the Terps hung around for the better part of three quarters, the fourth saw them crumple like one of the Bus’ side tents in a strong wind.

Volkswagen Jim Heimann Collection/Getty Images

5. Wisconsin - Teardrop Trailer

H: 4 L: 8 LW: 5

One of the oldest styles of travel trailer, the teardrop exploded in popularity in the 1930s and 1940s. Lightweight, affordable, cleverly designed, and even buildable at home, the teardrop was an ideal step up from tent camping. Most of a teardrop is taken up by the bed, while opening the back hatch usually reveals a small camp kitchen–everything you need and nothing you don’t. After falling out of favor in the 1970s, 80s, and 90s, the teardrop is once again on the upswing for the same reasons it was initially popular.

This season, Wisconsin hasn’t made much noise (unless you consider the chatter from their hilariously slow starts in their first few games of the season), but they’ve quietly done most of what they’ve needed to do. Next week’s showdown– likely an unwarrantedly dramatic word for what this game will be– with Iowa is likely for the division title, given the underwhelming nature of the rest of the West. Like the humble teardrop trailer enduring through the decades, Wisconsin has kept its head down and done what it needed to do to put itself in position to win yet another division title.

Houston Chronicle James Nielsen/Houston Chronicle via Getty Images

6. Iowa - Vintage Canned Ham

H: 5 L: 7 LW: 7

First, let me say how much I hate when I have to give Iowa something that I personally like. My own project trailer falls into this category, so I am naturally partial to them and loathe to give them to Iowa. However, I am a professional, and realize that for Iowa, the Canned Ham was truly the best choice.

“Canned Ham” trailers describe a group of campers manufactured mostly in the 1950s and 1960s, featuring a tiny size and a rounded profile resembling, you’ve got it, canned ham. Intended to be lightweight, affordable, and towable by the family car, the canned hams proliferated across the country. Two of the most popular brands were Shasta and Serro, both of which retain large numbers of enthusiasts today. Besides being completely adorable, these are popular choices for hobbyist restorations, as their construction was quite simple.

Aside from being adorable, which Iowa decidedly is not, the Hawkeyes have a lot in common with the canned hams. Eschewing modernity like a Serro Scotty eschews head room, Kirk Ferentz’s teams stick to an old-school, defense-first philosophy that has the unfortunate side effect of complete unwatchability. Like these trailers, Iowa’s construction is also very simple: strong defense, solid special teams, and an absolutely appalling offense. It could be replicated by any idiot with some space in the garage and moron son to place in charge of the offense. However, in spite of these potential drawbacks, like the vintage canned hams, Iowa has displayed surprising durability, persisting year after year in spite of substantial rot under the seams/Brian Ferentz.

Small Travel Trailer Photo by Found Image Holdings/Corbis via Getty Images

7. Rutgers - Pop-up Camper

H: 6 L: 9 LW: 6

Ah, ye olde pop-up. A staple of campgrounds across the country, and the starter camper for scads of outdoor enthusiasts, the humble pop-up promises an enticing mix of features: towability, storability, and a surprising amount of sleeping space. Like the teardrop, the pop-up is another old standby - nearly as soon as there were cars, people were devising ways to attach tents to them. (This site has an impressive collection of historical advertisements for pop-ups - the 1910s are especially fun to look through!)

But does the pop-up live up to its promise? Well… not always. Combining the worst features of tents (drying, wind sturdiness) and tiny trailers (set up fiddliness, space), the pop-up is not without drawbacks. Likewise, Rutgers seemed to hold a fair bit of promise this year – could they actually be… decent? An underwhelming performance against Wisconsin signals that perhaps the promise was greater than the actual experience.

1970s FAMILY OF FIVE... Photo by Photo Media/ClassicStock/Getty Images

8. Purdue - Truck Camper

H: 6 L: 9 LW: 8

The truck camper is a true feat of engineering - perfectly shaped and sized to slide into the bed of a pickup truck, this camper promises true versatility. While far from spacious, your camper can easily go wherever you go, all in the comfort of your F-250! However, there’s one major drawback - loading the damn thing onto the pickup truck. While the method for doing this has come a long way (now, you can adjust the jacks with remote control) it still calls for quite a bit of precision backing, and often, some tense moments/broken relationships.

Purdue can certainly appreciate clever engineering, but the football team has landed somewhere short of that mark this season. It’s Ryan Walters’ first HC gig, and his first year at Purdue, so hiccups are to be expected, and indeed, the Boilermakers’ performances this year have been inconsistent. The good news is most of the games so far have seemed winnable. The bad news is that most of the games so far have not been won (at least, not by Purdue.)

1959 Chevrolet Pickup - Globe Campmaster Photo by Pat Brollier/The Enthusiast Network via Getty Images/Getty Images

9. Nebraska - Cruise America RV

H: 7 L: 12 LW: 13

Living as I do near I-80, one of the nation’s foremost east-west thoroughfares, I see tons of Cruise America RVs in the summer months. Taking their decorating cue from U-Haul, the campers are festooned with large pictures of mountains, lakes, and golden retrievers. Garishness aside, this seems like a great idea, right? All the convenience of an RV, with none of the maintenance or commitment.

But like most things that sound too good to be true, a rental RV can often be added to that list. Mechanical problems, hefty deposits, signs of previous sloppy/careless/drunk renters, and a lack of included supplies are a few of the problems you might find with such a service, if Google Reviews are to be believed.

Similarly, the Husker experience this season has been a mixed bag. While realistically no one expected a flawless time this season, a strong defense has been betrayed by an extremely limited offense. The result is thrilling goal line stands, and an offense that does its utmost to completely devalue that effort– giving the Huskers a disappointing two stars on their season to this point.

Heavy Rains Arrive in Wine Country Photo by George Rose/Getty Images

10. Michigan State - Spartan

Last Place Votes: 1 H: 8 L: 14 LW: 10

I’ll admit something - this analogy is based on nothing more than the name. You see, Spartan campers, gleaming, mid-century beauts that they are, were the Cadillac of travel trailers. Their stated goal was “to produce the best product found in the market.” Their interiors were luxurious and innovative (just peep this curved living room!) They even have an interesting history - Spartan first made aircraft, but successfully pivoted to travel trailers after the war. If money were no object, this is probably the vintage trailer I’d buy - I think they’re just gorgeous.

Obviously, this has nothing to do with MSU football, which is not gleaming, luxurious, innovative, or gorgeous at the present moment. But I don’t think they’re going to have many nice moments this season, so here you go Sparty fans - you’re one of the nicest trailers on the list. I’m sure that will make up for the football.

11. Minnesota - Eagle V Winnebago

H: 7 L: 12 LW: 9

Spaceballs is the 1987 parody of the Star Wars franchise, as conceived by the inimitable Mel Brooks (aka Yogurt and President Skroob). The film centers on an intergalactic battle for clean air, with protagonists and antagonists battling to master “the Schwartz.” Our hero, Lone Starr, and his sidekick, Barf, soar through the galaxies in the Eagle V, a 1986 Winnebago Chieftain 33 (with wings, obviously.) A vision in beige, the Eagle V featured a television in the cockpit, which probably seemed wild in 1987 but feels a lot more normal now.

Minnesota, currently a parody of a successful football team, finds itself in a tricky situation headed into an expanded Big Ten. The Promise of Peej has faded, and that meltdown to Northwestern this season is going to be a tough bit of lore to forget. Peej’s handle on The Schwartz ain’t what it used to be, and arguably, the Eagle V is way too good for Minnesota. If PJ and the Gophers can’t find a solution with ludicrous speed, all the wisdom (and merch) of Yogurt may not be enough to save Fleck’s bacon.

Drivers Compete In Home Made Carts For The 2015 Red Bull Billy Cart Race
Ludicrous Speed!
Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

12. Northwestern - Cousin Eddie’s RV

LPV: 2 H: 10 L: 14 LW: 11

Given their druthers, Northwestern would far prefer to be hanging with Frank Shirley over on Melody Lane with all of the other rich people, but that’s not what the holiday bonus envelope has in store for them this season. No, after struggling to a 3-point win over Howard (HOWARD), you are instead the camper of HOA nightmares: Cousin Eddie’s RV.

The “tenement on wheels” that Eddie swapped his house for is actually a 1973 Ford Condor II, most notable prior to its star turn in Hollywood for its uniquely slanted windshield. But Cousin Eddie, clad in a bathrobe and improperly handling a sewer hose, gave the Condor everlasting infamy with the iconic line “Shitter was full!” And indeed, the Wildcats are… shitty. David Braun is doing his best with a less-than-ideal situation, but make no mistake– it seems that Northwestern is at the threshold of hell!

13. Indiana - Tent Next to a Camper

LPV: 1 H: 11 L: 14 LW: 14

Unless you’re piloting a Class A, one of the most common features of campers is that they never have quite enough space - particularly for sleeping. In vintage campers, there were often wild claims of sleeping 4-5 in a 13’ camper, ostensibly through solutions like hilariously tiny canvas hammocks or shoving a kid in a cubbyhole under the sink. (Perhaps these camping experiences are why Baby Boomers are so vindictive?) But in reality, the easiest solution is to pop a tent just outside the camper for additional sleeping space.

Perfect for children, farters, and snorers, the tent next to the camper is obviously not a camper at all. It’s camper adjacent. It’s here for the party, but only out of necessity. Indiana football is much the same. Nobody is really happy to have Indiana football in its present form playing in the Big Ten East week after week (least of all Hoosier fans). At times, they don’t even look like a Big Ten East football team - simply B1G East-adjacent, playing something that’s kind of like football, but not quite.

Fire Island Camper Photo by Morse Collection/Gado/Getty Images

14. Illinois - Abandoned camper in a field, possibly a meth lab

LPV: 10 H: 11 L: 14 LW: 12

If there’s one thing campers are great for, aside from camping, it’s being abandoned in fields and farms and left to rot. This is the sad fate of thousands of campers across the country, once the fun family times have ended, and nothing remains but wood rot and resident rodents.

Is it fair to say that Illinois has fallen quite as far as this? Maybe not - but their stadium did manage to catch on fire last week, which sounds a lot like an abandoned camper being used as a meth lab (analogy only, don’t come after me, U of I.) Bert has been in the coaching biz a long time, and it’s possible he can pull this camper out of the muck and fix the leaks - but for now, the Bielema Experience in Champaign is looking dangerously capable of collapse.


What’s your ideal camping situation?

This poll is closed

  • 8%
    (25 votes)
  • 9%
    Big, new, fancy camper
    (27 votes)
  • 6%
    Restored vintage camper
    (20 votes)
  • 2%
    Pop-up camper
    (8 votes)
  • 4%
    Teardrop camper
    (12 votes)
  • 19%
    I’m a tent person, myself
    (57 votes)
  • 3%
    Designer yurt
    (10 votes)
  • 45%
    Lol, I’ll be in a hotel with a working shower and no mosquitos
    (135 votes)
294 votes total Vote Now