It started as a simple search on Craigslist for a kayak and ended up as a minor obsession. Four years after seeing that first teardrop trailer (in the background of the picture of the kayak on Craigslist) I still don't own a kayak, but I am the proud owner of my own teardrop trailer.

Maybe my first introduction to these little trailers wouldn't have been so fascinating to me had my wife and I not spent three long months living out of the back of our pickup truck and sleeping in a tent during a cross country road trip in 2000. With that experience - at times comfortable, but often damp, dirty, cramped, hot, or some combination of these- I was on the lookout for a solution to some of that discomfort for future road trips. For the record, I would never even entertain owning a "modern" RV, trailer, tent trailer, or toyhauler- they're too big, too ugly and generally intrude on the whole concept of staying small and mobile to get off the beaten path while on a road trip. We even looked at Volkswagon Vanagons, a conversion van, and even a minivan or two, but like most things, they did most everthing, but did nothing very well. To get what we wanted, we knew that you had to be able to seperate the vehicle from the living quarters, so that each could do its respective thing and then go back to their corner when the bell rang.

Fast forward - I find two main "manufacturers" of teardrop trailers and settled on one (Camp-Inn trailers in Wisconsin) and started budgeting with my wife to buy one and somewhere in the conversation I uttered the always very dangerous phrase, "you know, I could probably built that for half what it costs to buy it" - insert here: air raid siren, flashing STOP light, old video footage of trains coliding head on, etc... And my wife DID NOT STOP ME RIGHT THEN AND THERE.

I found a great online forum of people who had built teardrop trailers (www.mikenchell.com/forums) and digested as much as I could. I even purchased plans from the sole purveyor (at that time) of homebuilt teardrop plans (www.kuffelcreek.com/teardrops) However, I wasn't crazy about the size, shape, or construction methods for the trailer featured in the plans. So I shelved the plans and decided that I would reverse engineer the trailer that my wife and I had been considering buying and just build a close replica of it (http://www.tinycamper.com/). What I figured would be a 6 month project took 18 months and adding in the rent on my workshop and my time (even at minimum wage) probably cost me as much as buying the thing new, but I had a ball building it (Ok- maybe not the emergency room trip when I removed half of my index fingernail with a box cutter). So enough about the What and Why; lets get to the tour....


So how about a quick tour...?

The finished trailer weighs around 1,100 pounds and is towed by our Nissan Pathfinder, though any non-compact car could pull it just fine. It has its own electric brakes that are activated in-synch with the car's brakes, as well as an emergency breakaway switch that activates the brakes on the trailer if it were ever to come uncoupled from the car's hitch while driving. Its overall dimensions are approximately 7 feet wide (including the fenders), 5 feet tall, and 12 feet long (from tail to coupler).

The trailer is essentially two compartments: the first being the sleeping area (i.e.- the "cabin"), while the second opens up the cooking area (i.e.- the "galley").

The Cabin
The sleeping area of the trailer has a standard queen size foam bed. Of the 80" length of the bed, approximately 22" at the bottom extends cubby-hole fashion under what makes up the countertop in the galley. Even for someone over 6 feet, there is ample room for feet and knees. The rest of the cabin enjoys the full height of the trailer body at roughly four feet. There is approximately 12 cubic feet of storage space shared between the cabinets that are mounted in the cabin and the cabinet that extends from the front of the trailer onto the trailer tongue (the little hump in the front). These spaces are usually used for storing clothes, toiletries, and books, with the tongue storage area usually holding our portable shower tent and extra blankets.

For movie night, there is a small 7 inch portable LCD DVD player that runs on batteries or can plug into a 12v outlet - its not big enough to tempt you into watching the Godfather, but is great for watching an episode of The Office or Weeds before going to sleep.

Also located in the cabin is a electronic thermostat that registers the temperature inside the cabin, as well as outside via a small wire that is routed outside through the roof vent.

The roof vent itself has an integrated 12 volt fan that runs on the trailer's battery system and is micro-adjustable and feaures a rain sensor that will automatically close the vent top and stop the fan if it starts to rain while you are away. The roof vent is operated via a remote control mounted between the bed's pillows.

So you are headed to the desert southwest or Baja Mexico and are worried about cooking to death if the nightime temperature is 90 degrees? Not in this trailer. On either side of the roof vent are clear "portholes" that serve as the intake and exhaust valves for the trailer's outboard air conditioning system. The two portholes are actually deck plates that are used on yachts for ventilating below-deck cabins. In this case, I unscrew the clear portion of the deck plate and then screw in a 4 inch wide flexible hose into each fitting and then attach the ends of those 2 hoses to the AC unit that sits just outside the trailer's door and viola- an AC system that recirculates the cabin's air to about 20 degrees below the outside ambient air temp! The AC system only runs on 120volt household current (not the trailer's 12volt batteries) so it can only be used in an established campground that has an electricity hookup. We haven't used it yet, but I know the day we do, it'll be worth the extra effort - I've slept in enough hot and stuffy tents to tide me over.

Rounding out the ammenities in the cabin are 2 halogen reading lights on the walls above the pillows. Oh, both doors also have fully operable sliding screen windows for added ventilation and cross-breeze. That about wraps that up...now around back to the galley....

The Galley

The galley is located under the hatch at the back of the trailer. It is essentially the kitchen for this trailer (though it also houses the onboard battery system). Facing the galley, in the center is a stainless steel cooler that is mounted on drawer slides to make accessing it easier. Surprisingly, the cooler will maintain ice for about three days before it needs to be drained and repacked, so it works for all our trips (including recent 10-day and 7-day trips on Vancouver Island, Canada and along Highway 101 in California. To the right of the cooler is a storage cabinet that we mostly use for food. To the left of the cooler is another cabinet that holds our pots and dishes and bowls. Below that is the cookstove. The cookstove is also mounted on drawer slides and when opened reveals a 3 burner stainless steel propane cooktop big enough to cook a serious dinner on the road. Currently, the stove is connected to a small disposable propane tank and regulator located at the top left of the galley. Plans are to mount a standard sized propane tank on the tongue of the trailer and route a propane line back to the galley to service this cookstove - that should cover our propane needs for more than a year of use.

The galley counter has 3 doors that access cubbies located below the countertop. The cubby on the left houses the onboard battery system, which incorporates a 100 amp-hour deep-cycle battery and a 3-stage converter that charges the battery when plugged into an electrical outlet, while at the same time running the lights, fan, and 12 volt appliances. The cubby in the center is the largest at 2 feet wide by 18 inches deep and houses the sink and hotwater heater. Due to the significant space requirements to install a sink directly into the galley countertop, I opted to build a outboard sink that would be stowed in the large cubby and could be setup and knocked down in just a few minutes. The need for a sink really became apparent once we progressed beyond Mac 'n Cheese and hotdog dinners and started cooking on the road the way we do at home...that means way better food and fewer restaraunts, but also means more dishes. Being able to clean up with hot water puts scrubbing a greasy pan under ice cold water at a campsite faucet to shame. Our sink system drains into 5 gallon Jerry cans, so there's no dirty dish water on the ground in our campsite to attract pests and we can dump it in the proper place when we leave - unlike the old "dump it in the restroom toilet 'cause its a half mile through camp with a pot full of soapy water to where you're supposed to dump it".

Lighting in the galley is currently served by three battery operated LED light pucks, however, plans are to swap these with permanent hardwired halogen lights.

The "Pet Pod"

Yes, I know, sounds ridiculous, but when you've got a nice warm queen size bed to bunk down in after a day of hiking or paddling, why share it with a dog that likes to stretch out as far as his joints will allow? So I built the Pet Pod- a detachable, snap-on addition that fits into the door frame on the "driver's side" of the trailer. It is insulated and weatherstripped and of course skinned in mill finish aluminum. In its current form, it is carried in the Pathfinder with us and then set up at camp. Future plans call for rebuilding it so that it collapses for easier storage (like those collapsible/telescoping plastic camping cups). I am also going to replace the door hinges with ones that will allow for the removal of the door when the Pet Pod is attached so that the door can be safely stowed in a dry spot.