On this week’s show I am continuing my exploration of all the available trailer types out there for Girl Campers and everyone else and this time it’s my personal favorite, the Teardrop trailer. Born in the 1930’s as a mobile shelter for the Great Depression nomads traveling from job to job, they’ve evolved and steadily held the public’s interest for close to 90 years. From the 1940’s dreamer reading the plans under covers by flashlight in Mechanix Magazine to today’s dreamers clicking away on line at all the different options, the teardrop remains an American classic, a symbol of bold spirits and a means for just about anybody to hit the road and see America the Beautiful.
The first Teardrops were made in the 1930’s and served mostly utilitarian purposes for the Great Depression era job seekers traveling from town to town. They were sparce, offering a bed and a rear camp kitchen to store a propane cooking stove and coffee pot. They were made from salvaged materials and used old car tires. In the 1940’s they were made from WWII scrap materials and were projects for the home mechanic. A 1947 article in Mechanix Illustrated contained the plans for a homebuilt trailer and set off a wave of enthusiasts building them for recreational purposes. In 1945 the Kit Kamper Company was formed in California and is still in operation today. They quickly discovered that there was a market for already built trailers and not just the kits. They made a few prototypes and at their first exhibition took over 500 orders.
The teardrop trailer is still popular today and is experiencing a bit of a boom. The trailers resonate with those who wish to travel lightly, cost effectively and without the necessity of a large tow vehicle. Below is my list of the pros and cons of teardrop trailers.
- Fits in a garage. Many people have HOA restrictions that do not allow a trailer to be parked in their driveway, A garagable teardop is a good solution for those who want their trailer accessible and don;t want to pay additional storage fees. It also protects it from the weather saving the cost of building an outdoor cover or purchasing an expensive cover for it.
- Towable by most vehicles. There are teardrop trailers available that are as light as 1K pounds. If you have a vehicle that you are attached to and don’t want to own a large tow vehicle you can find a teardrop to fit that car. Being able to travel lightly and not have a separate tow vehicle is a big plus to teardrop owners.
- Price. The teardrop comes in a wide range of prices. There are many national teardrop manufacturers as well as many small privately owned builders who can custom build a teardrop to your size, specifications and budget. Of all the available trailer types out there, the teardrop is the most budget friendly.
- Easy to tow and maneuver. Because of its light weight the teardrop is easily towed and maneuvered. It’s much less intimidating to the new RVer. Among the Girl Campers it’s often referred to as the starter trailer. Many newbies start out with a teardrop and once they feel comfortable towing move up to something larger. It’s also much easier get around in a teardrop. Getting gas, backing into campsites and hitching up are all easier with a small trailer.
- Beats a tent any day of the week. The statistics show that the top buyers of teardrop trailers are those graduating from tent camping. There’s comes a time when even the most die hard minimalist just wants a real bed to sleep in off the ground. A teardrop allows you to keep your gear stored for quick weekend getaways and still allows you to enjoy the outdoors without TV’s. holding tanks, generators and all the accouterments that come with large RV’s.
- Add on options. Teardrops have great add on options that maximize and expand the available space. Big awnings, visors, tents and shade rooms can be added to make even a tiny teardrop accommodate four or more people. Rather than spending thousands of dollars more on a larger trailer and possibly having to upgrade your tow vehicle for under 1K dollars you can have a custom tent made to sleep kids or guests and to use as a changing or storage room.
- Truer to “real” camping. When you look back to the roots of camping it was all about the outdoor meal, the campfire, and time in the great outdoors. Because teardrops are so small the camping experience in them is truer to what many view as real camping. It’s a warm bed and a place to make a meal from while enjoying nature. It’s not a version of your home amenities on wheels.
- Community. Many of those attached to a certain brand will tell you that they love their community of fellow XYZ trailer owners but teardrop owners extend past manufacturers and particular models and enjoy a sense of belonging and fellowship that includes ALL of teardrop land. They have online chat groups, help centers, Facebook communities and rallies where they come together to share ideas, hacks and trailer modifications. The power of community is big!
- Cuteness factor. Teardrops are just cute. When you see one rolling down the road you can’t help but want to get a closer look. They are way cuter than the average box RV with predictable swooshes appliqued to the exterior. So many teardrop owners customize and personalize their tiny trailers to reflect their personality or love for a particular thing. There are sunflower trailers and Yeungling beer tears and those painted the exact color of a sporty tow vehicle. If you own one you hace to expect and accept that you are going to spend a certain amount of time talking to people about it.
- Minimalism personified. A teardrop can be a simple way to stay warm at night and have a place to brew a cup of coffee in the morning or you can get one fully loaded. You can’t order a Class C with none of the amenities but if you want a teardrop to just sleep off the ground in you can get that. If you don’t want to winterize, deal with holding tanks or have propane heat or hot water, you can do that. You can get a teardrop that is basically a hard shelled tent with built in storage. You can KISS it – Keep It Simple Silly.
- They’re small. The very thing that makes them a plus for so many people, makes them a deal breaker for some. You cannot stand up in most teardrops so you can’t easily change your clothes in them. They have very limited storage inside. Purchasing an add on room can solve some of that but is not ideal for travel involving single night stops.
- Limited storage. So many tiny trailer owners are also tiny consumers and they’ve whittled down their gear to the bare necessities and that’s good because the storage is very limited. If you have lots of fishing gear or enjoy cast iron cooking and like to bring all the tools of your trade with you plan on doing some clever packing and having to move things around in order to sleep in the bed at night. A lot of that can be overcome over time with the use of dual purpose gear, after market modifications and using your tow vehicle for some gear.
- No bathroom. A real deal breaker for some. Tiny teardrops that you can’t stand up in also don’t have a bathroom. That may not be a big deal during the day but in the middle of the night in bear country, it can be a bigger deal. You can buy an inexpensive pop up shower and potty room and set up your own private bath facilities in case you don’t want to walk up to the camp bathroom at night or in bad weather.
- No indoor kitchen. I grew up tent camping so it was the norm to be outside cooking and eating all meals so if you are one of those graduating from tents to a small teardrop this may not bother you at all. If you roll out of bed and want to plug in a coffee pot the minute your eyes sense light you are likely not going to like this. Most teardrop trailers have a clam shell back that opens and contains all of the camp kitchen gear. If you want coffee you have to go outside no matter what the weather and make it. If the weather is lousy you have to eat in your car, under a canopy or sitting up in the trailer with a plate on your lap. Most campsites offer a picnic table and you can always put up a shade or rain cover but dealing with the elements comes with the territory when you have a tiny teardrop.
The teardrop is a great trailer for so many different people in the RV community. It’s a great trailer for newbies just learning to tow and maneuver a trailer. It’s a great choice for a young couple with a small budget and small car. It’s a great way for the tent camper to continue enjoying the parts of camping and nature that they love while giving their backs a break. It’s even a good trailer for a small family that wants to keep it simple by adding a sleeping addition or a roof top tent to accommodate a few more people. I think the teardrop will be around luring people to the outdoors for decades more to come.