Friday, August 30, 2019

What's the Perfect Tiny Trailer Camping Trip?


First off, yes, I know that the "perfect" camping trip isn't possible without being flexible and allowing things to occasionally move in unexpected directions. Given that, my wife and I have reserved ten nights at our favorite spot at a local state park, and I'm going to dream a bit about what will make it perfect. Follow along and dream with me. At some point, I'm sure, your dream will take a left turn and take off on its own. That's the way dreams are.

A Good View

Indian Lake, Farmington, Iowa

One main reason why I camp is to get out of the house and by extension to leave behind man's mark on the world. If I were a purist about this need, then I'd be backpacking in wilderness areas. Right now? I like to at least have a campsite with a good view. Sometimes our view of untrammeled nature is in small scale--when the trail drops down into a hollow or when I look in the direction of the woods and not the highway. Sometimes the weather paints a new face on a familiar scene, as in the photo above, where I woke up to a couple of inches of snow and a whole different dawn, the trees coated with ice. I try to find the older style campgrounds that were created for smaller rigs without full sewer hook-up. Those usually provide more space, a more organic layout of campsites, rather than the chevron patterns often seen, especially in full hook-up areas, and more older trees and shade.

The Pastoral Midwest

Howell Station Campground, Lake Red Rock, Iowa

Much of Iowa is farmland--corn, beans, and pasture. The campgrounds fit into this Midwest landscape, often pockets of woods tucked among the fields. It's not uncommon to wake up at dawn to the lowing of cattle in the (not so far) distance. It's kind of peaceful; certainly, it's part of the Midwest experience. Having been raised camping in the Sierra Nevadas, Midwest campgrounds with beautiful lawns, deciduous trees, and lightning bugs was a new experience. Over time, I've come to discover the quiet beauty of the Midwest camping experience. To use words from my English literature background, it's bucolic or pastoral. It's easy to imagine the life rhythms of 150 years ago--fewer machine sounds (and no handheld electronics), potato salad and watermelon, a picnic blanket or a fishing pole. A second quality of camping I've come to cherish is that quiet hush of nature amid the busy, varied sounds of nature. There's a silence beneath the bustle of nature, a silence that somehow gets lost in the buzz of modern life. That peaceful coexistence is something I find on Rails to Trails bike rides, out in my garden, but especially in the quiet, mid-week hush of a county or state park at sunrise or sunset.

An Abundance of Water

Dawn, Lake Sugema, SE Iowa

An abundance of water landscapes, river or stream, lake or sea, can never grow dull, can it? I would love to camp by the ocean, but most ocean expanses we have to share with a million other people. People pollution is a relative term, I suppose. Some people like or at least don't even notice the company. I am reminded of the austere and uncompromising poet Robinson Jeffers, who lived on Carmel Bay in California, building a forty-foot stone tower on the coast for his sanctuary. In his poem "Hurt Hawks," he writes: "I’d sooner, except the penalties, kill a man than a hawk," his unflinching and shocking affirmation of the unboundedness of the spirit (rather than any advocacy for murder). In a more mild manner, I can say that for me, water and space have a
healing, nurturing influence on me. A perfect camping trip would have to include some time immersed in the sights, sounds, and smells--the full sensual experience of water.

Embrace the Unexpected

1st Place, bacon-wrapped, stuffed pork loin

Although routine and familiar vistas are a big part of why people find camping relaxing, too much of the same thing can become tedious. Every kid will tell you that even the most serene pond needs a pebble tossed in once and a while, and for camping, the unexpected and surreptitious can send ripples of enjoyment through our quiet, outdoors idylls. For my wife and me, one such experience occurred when we were camping at a county park. Camping from midweek to midweek, we discovered that on the weekend a Dutch oven bake-off was scheduled. We knew the campground would be full, yet that weekend we met two other teardrop trailer owners who had come to compete in the bake-off. That Saturday we spent the morning watching the dozen or so teams cooking and spent a wonderful time learning all about Dutch oven cooking while interacting with all the contestants ("The Tear Droppin' Ladies at the Dutch Oven Cookoff"). As campers, we have to be open for such moments, finding beauty in the unexpected. Including the great variety of the world into our private lives enriches us.

Get Active

Hiking at Jefferson County Park, Iowa

Finally, a perfect camping trip would include a chance for me to be active. Hiking and bicycling are the two main activities that I have engaged in so far. Some folks I know canoe or kayak, and I'm not disallowing those pursuits, but I'm not the "otter in the water" kind of guy that some folks are--or my wife is, for that matter. Also, in Iowa, the agricultural practices have polluted many of the waters, so swimming areas are posted with signs stating that water is tested once a week for E. coli--not a real incentive for me. Last winter when the temperatures were below freezing, my wife and I took long walks in our local county park. It was a joy--the exercise and fresh air, the good company, the lack of biting bugs. We hope to hike a lot more this fall.

There are many "perfect" possibilities that I've left out, of course. I've posted so many inspiring photographs from others on this blog. This is such a beautiful world we live in. I hope someday to be able to just take off and to visit many wonderful places and to camp in awe-inspiring settings. Until then, though, I'll discover and enjoy all the backyard beauty that I can, sometimes alone and sometimes with my wonderful partner. Also, the added satisfaction that the drive is no more than half a day's journey is an added pleasure. My dad was an old trucker who found long drives relaxing. Myself, I find short arrivals relaxing--but I'm willing to experience the alternative and see  what it's like. Here's to perfect campsites and to the knowledge that "perfect" really comes from inside, that seeing harmony outside us requires possessing harmony within us--yet . . . what better place to find harmony within ourselves than within the cosmic harmony of nature? Maybe "glamping," in the deepest sense, is the beauty within us that we radiate into our camping world. Lights and bangles optional.

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(Note: As the content for Green Goddess Glamping evolves, sometimes content focus will dictate that articles will be posted on some Facebook groups and not others. Articles on Dutch oven cooking, portable toilets, or bicycle day rides, for instance, could find posts in different groups. The best way to ensure that you are receiving all articles is to subscribe to follow this blog by email notifications.)

Monday, August 26, 2019

Review: Yeti Tundra 45 Hard Cooler

Like most folks who camp, my wife and I don't want to have to change out our ice too often when camping. An efficient food cooler is an important component of camping convenience. We've found this season that the Yeti 45-quart cooler is an excellent, "tiny trailer-sized" choice for our particular camping needs, for several reasons.

Our first choice of a Yeti was the 75-quart cooler. We were tent camping then, and it really worked well, keeping our food cold and containing enough space to meet our needs. However, we discovered that the unit was just too heavy for us to manage easily. My wife's wrists were strained when carrying it. More importantly, though, I found that it was too heavy for me to easily maneuver by myself. That especially became a problem when I camped by myself. Not only was it difficult to pick up and pack by myself, it was also ungainly getting it into the camper due to its length. Our daughter needed a large cooler for her Costco trips, so rather than selling the unit, we gave the large Yeti to her.

Then we bought two Yeti 45s and are really happy with this combination. The 45s are easier to fit into the SUV or into our tiny trailer when on the road. Although all Yetis are heavier than other coolers of comparable size, the 45s are manageable by me alone. Even the cooler we fill with all the dairy products, which is usually the heavier of our two when loaded, is fine for me to pack out of the kitchen and house, down our outside steps, and into our camper.

We need two coolers because we cook with a lot of fresh vegetables and fruits. In our last trip, the "veggie" cooler was packed with pre-washed and cut vegetables and also containers of watermelon that we had pre-cut for our trip. Between the vegetables, melon, grapes, and a couple of bottles, that fills the cooler. The second cooler is for our dairy products, macaroni and/or potato salads, and the more perishable materials.

We have a small freezer unit downstairs in our home, so I freeze plastic storage containers with lids that I bought from WalMart that are around 14 x 8 x 5 inches in size. Leaving enough room for expansion with freezing, I have a nice block of ice to add to the cooler when camping. I keep the ice in the container so that the inside stays drier. In addition, I add a few re-freezable cooler bricks, depending on the temperatures and how many groceries we have.

During our last trip, temperatures were in the mid-80s. We kept our coolers mostly in the shade, and after five days of camping, there was still ice--a pretty good chunk for the dairy cooler and a smaller chunk for the veggie cooler. I'm not sure about why there was a variance, whether it was because one was opened more than the other, cooler placement regarding sunlight, or variability in the two coolers. If we had been considering camping for a longer period, we would have added ice to the dairy cooler probably a day earlier. As it was, the coolers did a good job.

We've used older and less expensive coolers, and they work if the stay is for fewer days and if you're willing to buy and add ice during the camping trip. One thing I'm interested in for the fall season is how well the Yetis work when it is cold out. Last year when the camping temperatures dropped into the teens, I was using my old coolers to keep my vegetables fresh yet also as insulation at night to keep them from freezing. With my old cooler (over 35 years old), some of my vegetables were ruined by frost with only broccoli and kale getting by. I should add that we also took our old cooler once this summer with us with the Yetis, and the ice in the older cooler lasted about half the time as in the Yetis.

Yetis are expensive but seem durable. They definitely do keep cold longer than the inexpensive coolers I've bought. I think that even if someday we own a tiny trailer with a refrigerator, we will still take one Yeti along on our trips for fruits and vegetables. Considering I've owned my old metal-sided Coleman since I was in my 20s, I'm sure these Yetis will hold out for as long as I continue to camp, although I wouldn't mind living and camping long enough to wear them out!

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Friday, August 23, 2019

Buying a Tiny Teardrop Camp Trailer? Newbie Considerations and Needs


I'm heading down memory lane today as I write about a recent Facebook tiny trailer group posting:
I am so excited - I’m shopping for my first teardrop trailer. What are your best suggestions for a first time buyer (brand, size, places to look)? They can get so pricey, so I want to make sure I know my stuff.
Many tiny trailer owners buy multiple rigs over the years--and a variety--but can you remember that first buy, the look of that first rig you bought, seen in your rearview mirror, or the beauty of that sweet little thing sitting in your driveway or at the campground?

The Green Goddess, a priceless memory.

The responses to the above newbie's group post were varied: providing advice on trailer types and builders, and some providing advice on how to go about making a choice. Although always interested in the eye-candy of new tiny trailer models, I found the comments most interesting were those advising on what to consider prior to a tiny trailer purchase.

Consider the Possibilities

The first comment was, "Without knowing your needs (requirements), it's difficult to make a recommendation." The advice was to browse the tiny trailer groups and to find out what's available. The prospective owner responded, "I’m big into camping and used to live in Africa, so I’m used to roughing it. But as I get older and I’m a solo traveler, the security of a teardrop is what I’m looking for. And . . . having a bed is pretty nice!" The response addressed two reasons why many people move from tents to tiny trailers: security and comfort. 

Another important consideration for choice was that the camper was planning to go solo. The group administrator, who had happened to have been that first commenter, added, "More than anything, your camping style has a big effect. We started with a 4x8 and quickly realized, for long months on the road it was not for us. Need a bit more room. However, for weekends, it was fine." 

When considering possibilities, "how many and how long" are important considerations. The responding administrator, Mark Busha, now owns a Prolite Cool, 13-foot tiny "standy" trailer that has a bed at the back and a small table in the front, providing more space for one or two campers. He has added a small, portable propane stove inside for a kitchen. Becky Schade, though, a full-time RVer who travels solo, decided over time to move from a Casita standy to a tiny Hiker Trailer, a teardrop (or "squaredrop") that meets her needs. It is possible for a couple to enjoy traveling in a tiny trailer, though. Consider Jo and John Fesler, who travel the country every camping season in their little teardrop, an RTTC Papa Bear.

Tiny trailer owner: "Keep it simple and add what you need. I need everything because we are in it 4-6 weeks. All showers, cooking and every night we sleep in the Teardrop. Also camp free most of the time!"

Thinking about your camping style and needs is a big first step when choosing which tiny trailer to buy. Another aspect to consider which may not be immediately obvious but is important is your tow vehicle. Do you want to tow with your current vehicle, or are you willing to buy a new one? The very smallest tiny trailers can be pulled by almost any vehicle, but it's important to match your tow vehicle and trailer. Check your owner's manual, and if you are a complete newbie, check with your local mechanic. The local automotive shop I use provided me with useful information when I asked.

Explore the Lifestyle

Even though I had grown up heading out with my parents in a variety of travel trailers and truck campers, owning my standy tiny trailer, the Green Goddess, has been a revelation. My wife and I did take the time to research and consider our possibilities. Even choosing our little trailer was a cautious step--a used trailer for $7,000 was for us jumping in with both feet, but in shallow water.

Tiny trailer owner: "My wife and I almost made the mistake of buying something we hadn't even seen in person, luckily someone beat us to it before we could continue. That experience made us slow down and really think about what we wanted."

One bit of advice from tiny trailer owners was to try out the camping experience by renting a trailer. "Rent one," was one man's advice. "We rented one first. We quickly learned what was important to us." A woman camper added, "Yes! Rent first if you can. Find out what you like, want, and need, or don’t. For example, I preferred more counter space than having a small sink." Whether you rent a tiny trailer or not, in-person interaction is important. "Sit in, lie down in, and walk around as many styles and brands as you can find! We had decided on a teardrop, but they were all very expensive and ridiculously heavy. We had decided on a bare bones TD, but the manufacturer took too long to get back to us and we fell in love with the 'square drop' style. So that's what we bought."

Some of this interaction can be "virtual," in that photos and narratives can be experienced online--not as concrete as in-the-flesh interactions, but useful nevertheless. I suggested that the looker read some of Green Goddess Glamping's owner profiles and travelogues to get a feel of what it's like to live and travel in a tiny trailer. The prospective buyer responded, "Tom Kepler great! These links are super helpful!" 
In a follow-up query a few days later about how the prospective tiny trailer buyer was doing, the response was the following: "It’s going really well actually!! This feed has been super helpful with tons of information for me to create a list of requirements, dream items, and also some great brand recommendations." Then some details were supplied. "I’ve realized that I really am looking for a teardrop that could work two fold - one for camping and having fun in the wild wild lands of North America but also for work." Deploying and working multiple times a year to national natural disasters, she is forced to live in "large shared sleeping spaces" with one hundred or more other disaster relief workers. Now she'll have the option to drive to the location and "bring this new treat with me so I can have my own little pod and get some real rest while I’m deployed for 2-3 weeks. So - because of that I’ve added more to my list of 'ideal' items, such as solar panels." This is a perfect example of how research and consideration can provide much more utility and pleasure down the road.

Tiny trailer owner: "I have a microwave and electric fridge plus counter and storage space. For one person, it works out good. I usually stay at KOAs for the power and showers."

Regarding lifestyle, one important suggestion was geographic, specifically if campsites will be primitive boondocking or more developed campgrounds. Matching your needs, the camper, and the campground can help in decision making. For instance, my wife and I take an induction burner for cooking in developed campgrounds, but it would be useless when boondocking, as would a built-in microwave that some trailers have. If you plan to be a boondocker, then good suspension and clearance are important issues. One FB group member explained this viewpoint.
"I suggest you make two lists. (1) Decide what kind of camping you like and intend to do for the short term and long term. (2) Make a list of features you absolutely need and those that are nice to have. Come up with a budget; rank and prioritize those features. Be sure to include everything, including tow-vehicle + insurance. This will help narrow your focus."

A Deep Desire for Tiny

At some point, having interacted with a number of trailer options, the question of what you really want and need has to be forthrightly considered. Yes, that's right--forthrightly: in a manner "free from ambiguity or evasiveness, going straight to the point," according to Merriam-Webster. One experienced teardropper summed it up well.
"It’s really important to think about how you want to camp, and proceed with that in mind. Teardrops and tiny trailers vary widely. Some people want to truly glamp and have sort of miniaturized 'regular' trailers with TVs, stoves, sinks, et al. Others want a step up from tent camping--what my husband calls a 'bed in a box'--with many activities like cooking and cleaning being done outside the camper. Once you know how you want to camp, it will be quicker to determine which brands and options do and don’t fit."
Just like the philosophy of living in tiny homes, there is also an idea framework that is structured within the choice of owning a tiny trailer--a choice that is becoming more and more popular. I've considered the idea of why I own a tiny trailer, and I've interviewed other owners to also consider why. Out of my research, Green Goddess Glamping has published enough articles on the subject that I've established a page to aggregate those articles, which number six at this time. The articles range from thoughts on solo camping (and Henry David Thoreau), to tiny camping challenges and joys, and on to interviews with other tiny trailer owners. The link for those articles is below.
If you're interested in tiny trailers, don't be shy about asking on FB. Tiny trailer owners in the appropriate groups will proudly post photos, URLs, and will talk your leg off. It's a great way to begin your search. You can even limit the discussion to region.

Whatever your final decision as to what kind, size, and brand of trailer to buy, it may literally pay to take your time. Here's an experience of one tiny trailer owner. "We've had four campers in the last two years. The first one was too big, then the next one was too small." The couple then bought a third trailer, "but since I'm tall, the bathroom was awkward and the bed was too short and it didn't have an outdoor kitchen which I really like." They ended up buying a fourth camper, driving through several states to pick it up, and are happy with that final decision. "Well worth the drive, so make sure to look around."

Our new owner's first rig: "And here it is!! My first teardrop!"

So many tiny trailers, so little time . . .

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Monday, August 19, 2019

An RTTC Kodiak to Remember

"Beautiful sunny and breezy morning here on The Outer Banks. Nice difference from what greeted us yesterday when Cape Hatteras lived up to its reputation with last night’s violent storm. But the Kodiak held up like a champ! Guess I’ll keep her lol! — at Cape Hatteras National Seashore."
Inspiration and design are two attributes of a dynamic individual, and I think I've met a tiny trailer owner who is about as dynamic as you can get. Rustic Trails Teardrop Camper owner Lynn Keel was active on the RTTC Facebook groups even before she bought her RTTC Kodiak trailer. She read comments, asked clarifying questions, and started at some point jotting down information that would help her provide the RTTC company all the information it would need when its employees began building her rig.

Now she owns her Kodiak, and keeping with Lynn's dynamic approach to tiny trailer camping, she has systematically continued to improve and personalize her little home away from home. Let's let Lynn speak about how her little home-on-wheels project is progressing.
"Completed Phase Three of camper optimization project. (Note: The first phase was insulating the cabin and installing the initial air conditioner air flow improvements. Phase Two involved enhancing trailer stability via permanent stabilizers in the front of the trailer)." [See article "How to Weatherize Your RTTC Camper"]
Before checking out photos of Lynn's inside beautification of her Kodiak, below is a photo of the stock interior. It's a nice, neat and clean look, but lacking the "Home Sweet Home" touches that only a proud owner can give.

Factory stock interior

Lynn's Phase Three Objectives
  1. "Continued improvement to air circulation by adding low voltage USB-powered fans to the rear of the camper."
  2. "Bed optimization, allowing for the set up and take down in less than 30 seconds."
  3. "Installing redesigned seat cushions with back support that have a dual purpose of serving as part of the bed mattress setup. There is also an additional benefit of no longer having to store cushions at night, which equals more available space in the cabin."
  4. "Keeping the Lagun table up whether in eating / working mode or when shifting to the bed conversion. Again, saving storage space."
  5. "Mounting a shelf on the rear wall for fans, storing eyewear, phones, books, etc., at night.
The above is a long list, involving three weeks of designing, construction and installation work, which finally led to Lynn's trailer looking so spiffy. She thought up all the modifications during a recent camping trip. Now Lynn wants the photos to do the talking.

USB-port electric fans. The USB plug-ins were added by the factory builders at buyer's request.

The sleep-ready bed, the table swiveled out of the way, the seat cushions folded out.

Custom seat cushions, the back cushion folds down as part of the mattress.

Lagun table, the camper set up as a work station.

Rear shelf--the "Open House" display.

It's no surprise that Lynn is "very happy with the results," saying she's now "setting my sights on Phase Four. Let the 'tweaks' continue lol."

Even if you don't own an RTTC trailer, it's a joy to see how a little TLC can elevate a functional design into a work of art. I don't know about everyone else, but I'm looking forward to seeing what Lynn's Phase Four brings!

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Friday, August 16, 2019

Five Bellringer Tiny (or at Least Small) Trailers

Riverside Retro 155XL, recommended by RVingPlanet. 
I recently read the online article "Top 5 Best Travel Trailers Under 2,000 lbs" at RVingPlanet, enjoying the article yet finding myself thinking, "I would have compiled a different list."

Nate Morse, the author of the article, it seemed to me, was too ambitious (or unfocused) in the article, compiling too many possibilities in one list. Here is his listed criteria for creating his list:
"What puts an RV on the list: It’s always a task to make a top 5 list since there are so many good choices, even when you narrow the list down to something very specific such as ones that are under 2,000 pounds. The ones that made it have a good build quality, critic reviews, user reviews and are the latest variants available so you get the state-of-the-art features along with good support!"
However, the five trailers on the list actually included a spectrum of an entire line. Let me provide an example, using the first off the article's list, the Riverside Retro travel trailer. The trailer options have 18 floorplans, running from 1,937-6,100 lbs, sleeping 2-6, and having a length of 13-32 feet. Photos include several floorplans, and the video is for a teardrop/back-galley tiny trailer. I did really like the Riverside Retro 155XL, which is just under 16 feet (at about $19,000). My question is "Which is the best of the Riverside options?" Good trailers and brands were included, but the article adopts a more a shotgun approach. I get it--some folks think 16-17 feet is tiny rather than small. One of the article's choices will also appear on my list, the Geo Pro. In all fairness, I think it's important that, even though not listed as a criterion, price was also a factor in determining Morse's final list.

Although I liked some of the five (actually about 30) trailers chosen, such as the Riverside Retro 155XL, my list will be compiled taking into account communication I've had with trailer owners. They will be more expensive than the trailer I own now, and they will include some shower/toilet and kitchen arrangements inside the trailer. They will be trailers my wife and I have looked at, both online and in person. The 1-5 listing will not be a gradation judgment; rather, I'll list the trailers based on how much interaction I've had with the trailers, companies, owners, and trailer brochures and online material.

TAB 320 from Nucamp

#1. T@B 320

My wife and I looked very hard at the T@B 320 as a possible tiny trailer for us; it is just a bit larger than the trailer we now have. It comes with the option of a shower/toilet (or shoilet!), a kitchen, and is a really nice set-up. Nucamp's 400 model is bigger than we wanted, and I think the larger size lessens the classy look that the 320 has. The 320's length is just under 16 ft and weight just over 1,900 lbs, pricing out at around $20,000 from Nucamp. The deal-breaker for us was that it only slept two; my wife and I want the option for taking our grandchildren every now and then. We still really like the unit, though, and I've interacted online with several happy owners.

* * *

Air Stream Basecamp

#2. Airstream Basecamp

When my wife and I first learned about the existence of the Basecamp, we pretty much flipped at its space age/retro "silver bullet" look. It's one of those designs that just looks so elegant. We spent quite a bit of time researching online, and then I wrote a profile of the Tails of Wanderlust blog Basecamp owner. The base price for the Basecamp is around $37,000, not including the Xtreme version or extras such as solar. It's a hefty price but  . . . ! The length is a little over 16 feet, and the dry weight is 2,635, over 2,000 lbs. There are a lot of particulars to like about the Basecamp, but we especially liked the openness that the windows provide. However, it is built to sleep two, and didn't quite meet our needs. For that price tag, we expect a perfect fit.

* * *

Safari Condo Alto

#3. Safari Condo Alto

The Alto with the retractable roof comes in two models, one with a toilet (R-1713) and one with a shower / toilet (1723). This is a Canadian trailer, made in Quebec. The US dollars price is around $29,000-30,000. The weight for the standard dry version is 1,825-1,867 lbs. The trailer is a little over 17 feet in length. 

Alto, top retracted for travel

When traveling, the top retracts, which reduces wind resistance 76%, according to the builder. It sleeps 3-4 depending on whether one opts for a bunk bed. The toilet/shower utilizes a curtain for the top half, which could be a deal-breaker for some. This trailer fits my wish to have a smaller trailer that we can pull with our SUV and which is not too cumbersome. It fits my wife's desire to be able to take the grandchildren along. It also has that Jetson-yet-retro look to it, which adds swank. Of course, for the price, it should produce more of an OMG reaction than a "that's nice."

* * *

Rockwood Geo Pro G15TB

#4. Rockwood Geo Pro

My wife and I met some new owners of the Rockwood Geo Pro, the 15-foot model, I believe. The G15TB model has an overall length of just short of 16 feet. It's dry weight is 2,483 lbs. The base price is around $25,500. We liked this trailer, although it strongly resembles the mainstream look of larger units, a look we're not enthusiastic about in either large or small versions. The owners were comfortable in it, yet the sleeping capacity was two people. Larger than the T@B 320 yet with fewer windows than the Basecamp or Alto, this is a traditional, smaller American trailer. I'm glad big American travel trailer companies are beginning to manufacture smaller units, and if we decide to buy a trailer with the boxier look American trailers possess, then this would be the first on our list.

* * *

Prolite Cool

#5. Prolite 

Prolite is another Canadian company that sells a line of very light trailers. One tiny trailer owner profile that I wrote about owns a Prolite Cool. He is the administrator of the Facebook group Teardrop Camper Adventures, and travels and lives for long periods in his camper. The Prolite Cool is almost 14 feet in length and sleeps four with front and back beds. It's very light, only 995 lbs. However, it has no toilet or shower or kitchen, making it not much different than our current RTTC Polar Bear, except for the extra length. The owner has added a portable toilet and propane stove. It's a nice rig, but not that different than what I already own. Although I'm not familiar with Prolite's Plus S model, it does have a kitchen, outside shower option, and cassette toilet. It's fifteen feet in length and weighs 1,390 lbs. The Cool costs in USD about $17,000 and the Plus S averages around $21,500 among distributors.

I'm glad I read RVingPlanet's article on what it considers the top 5 small trailers, mostly because I'm glad some of the mass RV builders are beginning to consider and are building smaller rigs--compared to what they have been building. However, there are other builders out there that are mid-level builders, not family businesses but not yet the massive companies. These builders are constructing some wonderful products--some expensive, some less so. I'm sure there are other good small trailers out there they I'm not acquainted with. Leave a comment on this blog post if you know one that builds a small trailer with a shower/toilet and kitchen that sleeps 3-4.

If my wife and I choose to buy a small trailer rather than a tiny trailer, we want it to be a jaw-dropper that fits our needs perfectly. If the trailer just mostly fits our needs, then why buy it? We have a trailer that we paid $7,000 for that now meets quite a few of our needs. After careful consideration, we may spring for a more expensive trailer . . . or a much more expensive trailer. Time will tell. We'll keep you posted. In the meantime, we're enjoying the process.

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Monday, August 12, 2019

A Year of Tiny Trailer Know-How

A blog is a sluggish version of an Internet social page in that articles and information get buried over time. It's always the new post that gets the attention. This week Green Goddess Glamping celebrates one year of tiny trailer reportage, and with over seventy articles posted, I'm concerned that good information and interesting stories will be lost to viewers as more articles keep piling up over time.

I have a solution, though, one that needed a year of articles to put to work. To celebrate a year of tiny camper research and writing, new page tabs have been created to aggregate many of those articles into categories that can be easily accessed. Besides the Home page, over the last year four other tabs were added below the header: Owner ProfilesTom Kepler Books, Tom's Blogs, and About. Eleven profiles of happy tiny trailer owners were published over the first year, along with pages to provide more information about me.

Now four new pages have been added to the blog to simplify access to good information and stories. Links are provided below or, if you are on a computer and not a phone app, on the tab links below the header. Not every article is listed, although all articles can be referenced through the sidebar's Label gadget or from the Archives gadget. Also, searching the blog might pull up some unexpected resources. However, the tabbed pages are a great and easy source for quite a bit of Green Goddess Glamping's content.


  • Why Tiny Trailers? Over this last year, it has been impossible to write about people camping in tiny trailers without asking the simple question of "Why?" Responses to that question are from me, tiny trailer owners, folks in the tiny home movement, and even the American Transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau.
  • Tiny Trailer Travelogues Many owners of tiny campers take awesome, epic trips. It has been my good fortune to chronicle them, often taking all the data from a dozen Facebook posts and many comments on photographs and organizing those comments into a coherent, unified essay. Quite honestly, the result impresses even those adventurous souls who made the journey. "Wow! That was quite a trip, wasn't it!"
  • Green Goddess Expeditions Sometimes my modest adventures in the Green Goddess get lost among all the technical discussions and continent-wide travels of others. Therefore, I've compiled the modest yet mighty adventures of the Green Goddess under a tab page, providing easy access to personal exploits in some mighty fine SE Iowa campgrounds.
  • How-To As I learn, I write. Actually, the process of researching and writing helps me learn, so writing how-to articles increases my knowledge and competency; then I pay it forward to the readers. Trailer stability, security, heating and ac, cooking--the list goes on. I guess I'm just a lifelong learner, and I'm totally willing to share my reference library with readers. Often I feel while searching online that I'm collecting data that will be buried and lost on social media, snippets from a handful of sources, and I'm making it more readily available. 
  • Reviews I'm being deliberate with my reviews, not writing about a product until I've used it often enough to have a good knowledge of how well it works and its durability. Often I've also encountered comments on a product by other users, and I take those comments into consideration.
Feel like browsing? How about tiny trailer owners speaking out about why they travel light? How about a solo tiny trailer journey from Virginia to Newfoundland? How about a camping trip as sweet as honey, or a  knowledgeable article on tiny trailers and condensation? 

It's all there--or here. Yes, it's been a good year. With almost 50,000 page views and almost 100 email subscribers, I thank Green Goddess Glamping's readers, contributors, and the wonderful administrators of the Facebook tiny trailer and camping groups that feel my articles have merit. Year Two, here we come!

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(Note: As the content for Green Goddess Glamping evolves, sometimes content focus will dictate that articles will be posted on some Facebook groups and not others. Articles on Dutch oven cooking, portable toilets, or bicycle day rides, for instance, could find posts in different groups. The best way to ensure that you are receiving all articles is to subscribe to follow this blog by email notifications.)

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Bend in the River Tiny Trailer Basecamp

bicycle day rides, Lacey Keosauqua State Park

Have you ever had one of those camping excursions where everything went well? No matter which aspect of camping you considered, the final analysis was, "Yes, couldn't ask for more!" Camping at Lacey Keosauqua State Park in SE Iowa was that experience for my wife and me. Early morning walks around the lake, new equipment, great food, mild summer weather--everything went well. We could have stayed there comfortably for a very long time. It wasn't that things usually go wrong on our camping trips or that we tend to focus on the negative. It was more that during this trip we were in the zone--comfortable and competent.

My wife Sandy likes to wake up in the morning and exercise before going to work. She especially likes the camping experience of having nature right outside the door and not needing to get in the car and drive to a scenic hiking spot. Lacey Keosauqua State Park has a hiking trail around the lake that's a touch over two miles in length, and Sandy and I hiked it in the early mornings.

We did put on bug repellent for chiggers and flying critters. I even was bitten this trip and joked to Sandy that these wild chiggers were much more aggressive than those city chiggers. Usually I'm not the target of bug attacks, but I guess it is August, and the insects all experienced in their people skills by now.

This introduces the next addition to our camp life: the Clam Quick Set Escape Shelter. Lacey was closed last year for repairs, so when we visited a few weeks ago to determine if the park was still the way we liked it, we met a couple who had a bright red Clam shelter. Sandy fell in love with it, so we bought one--brown, not red. Setting it up was easy (and so was breaking it down), and Sandy established her office in the shelter. Before, she had worked all day inside the tiny trailer, and even with a window and screen door open, there was still a real sense of being inside a small space. The Clam allowed Sandy to work outside and not feel isolated. She worked every day in her outside mobile office.

bicycle day rides, Lacey Keosauqua State Park

I also set up the kitchen in the shelter, which was a new experience that required arranging our cooking equipment somewhat differently, but worked well. At first, I was entering and leaving the shelter many times to get a spice from the camper or something from an ice box. Finally, everything was moved into the shelter so that I could work inside, surrounded by everything I needed. The shelter became an extra room, allowing us to be outside yet also allowing us protection from the sun and insects.

bicycle day rides, Lacey Keosauqua State Park

One of the reasons people choose to camp with tiny trailers is that more time is spent outside instead of inside. Adding a large shelter to our camp gear helped us on this trip to enjoy the summer experience of camping yet still have some respite from the bugs and sun. I think if we camp with our grandkids, it would be easy for me to set up a cot in the tent for sleeping at nights. Since we set the shelter up on the gravel instead of the grass, I think it was easier to manage the insect problem.

I brought my bicycle along this trip and was able to explore the park better. While Sandy was working, I took rides, discovering trails and side roads that I'd never been on before. When Sandy and I return to camp at Lacey again, we'll be able to vary our hiking or bicycling destinations, especially in the fall when the colors will be so beautiful.

bicycle day rides, Lacey Keosauqua State Park

The trips for me this time were short, all around 2-6 miles, but there is also a loop route I can take some time that travels through the park, out of the park through the back gate to the town of Keosauqua, and back to camp via the main entrance of the park, probably around twelve miles. This is part of my focus this year on using our tiny trailer as a basecamp for bicycle day rides. Although my rides this trip were "day rides" only in the technical sense that they weren't multi-day (or night rides), Sandy and I are starting to establish a new rhythm for our camping that accommodates our individual needs and interests.

Lacey Keosauqua State Park, tiny trailer camping

My two-mile excursion was one of the more fun ones. Leaving the campground, the paved road to the historic Mormon crossing of the Des Moines River is only a mile away--all steeply downhill to river level. It's a nice ride, coasting that whole mile, except for that thought in the back of the mind, "Uphill all the way home!" It was, too! But I just geared down and enjoyed the quiet exercise. It's easy to see why that spot on the river was chosen as a ford. Ely Creek empties into the river at that spot. There are no bluffs, and the river is wide with a more gentle current. Along the river both upstream and downstream from the park at the crossing site, a hiking trail follows the winding river. Even though it will take a mile ride in the car to get to the park, it does provide an additional hiking route for Sandy and me.

I really feel that Sandy and I are beginning to establish a camping lifestyle that allows us to work, play, and be near family while camping. We plan to camp again at Lacey soon. It's quiet during the weekdays, close to the grandkids, has adequate cellphone receptivity for Sandy's work (with a signal booster), and has a diversity of activities for us to enjoy. We're feeling right at home in our home away from home.

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(Note: As the content for Green Goddess Glamping evolves, sometimes content focus will dictate that articles will be posted on some Facebook groups and not others. Articles on Dutch oven cooking, portable toilets, or bicycle day rides, for instance, could find posts in different groups. The best way to ensure that you are receiving all articles is to subscribe to follow this blog by email notifications.)

Monday, August 5, 2019

How to Weatherize Your RTTC Camper

I recently wrote an article, "How To Beat the Heat in Your Tiny Trailer," on managing the heat in my RTTC Polar Bear--focusing on the particular challenge the Green Goddess has of off-gassing a chemical smell if the trailer is too heated. The results of my efforts were mixed. I discovered that direct sunlight on the camper in significant heat (mid 90s) created a situation where I could not find a "sweet spot" where both the heat and off-gassing were managed. Solution? Don't camp when it's too hot, or make sure the trailer is in deep enough shade to ensure that the sun does not bake the unit. Then I can close up the trailer enough with the air conditioner on to sufficiently cool the unit.

Lynn Keel also owns an RTTC trailer, a Kodiak. She recently put up a couple of extended FB posts on the Rustic Trail Teardrops Camper Owners Group about how she sealed her Kodiak to keep the ac cool air inside during a hot day. Now, Lynn is thorough in her description and procedures, so this post is pretty close to being guest authored, except for my introduction and ending remarks.

Lynn's Procedures:

My recent trip provided me with a list of things that I want to correct / upgrade in the Kodiak. Today I turned my attention to cooling the camper (and by default, what should also aid in heating the camper this winter).

Door insulation

First step: Limit the area being cooled in the summer or heated in the winter. That meant sealing as many “air leaks” as possible. I placed rubber insulation around the door and A/C, all which had major gaps and / or thin spots. Also placed a piece of Reflectix to close off the storage area under the bed.

AC cavity insulation

AC insulation

Reflectix

Second step: Bought an Air Wing Fin to channel air from the A/C more effectively into the cabin, that is, up in the air rather than just the floor. (Thanks to Karen Landon and Tom Kepler for this idea!) Amazon delivered it only 12 hours after ordering.

AC air flow deflector

Third step: Vacuum clean the ceiling fan and A/C plus carefully remove, wash, and reinsert the A/C air filter. Both were quite dirty from traveling down dirt roads and camping at sandy campgrounds.

(GGG's note: The filter removal is on the right hand side of the unit, but the wall is close to the ac filter removal slide-out. Lynn removed the filter in the following manner. "The filter holder is slightly flexible, so I very slowly pulled it out a third of the way, then began to curve it until it came out. I curved it to put it back in." A different owner's solution was the remove the front piece's screw [Phillips] on the lower right and then the top screw in order to remove the entire front piece of the unit. To do this, an offset screwdriver is necessary.)

Results: The interior was at 78 percent humidity and 86 degrees at the start of the test. Twenty-five minutes later, these numbers dropped to 50 percent humidity and 64 degrees. Outdoor temperature was 86 (a cool day since it rained a lot today). There was excellent interior air flow and cooling improvement over what we experienced during our recent trek.

Satisfied.

Lynn's Day 2 Update

This is an update to yesterday’s post on cooling the camper. Please read that first to see what I did to my all black with silver roof Kodiak to help keep it cooler in the summer (and by default, warmer in the winter).

The external temperature at 2:54 pm during today’s test: 93 degrees with heat index of 108.
Internal temperature in Kodiak parked in no shade on concrete driveway: 104.4 degree (not a typo), at 52 percent humidity.

Recorded after turning on A/C at 2:54 pm to high with ceiling fan (vent closed) on number 2 setting:
  • 3:24 pm - 77.4 degrees at 44 percent humidity
  • 3:30 pm - 75.6 degrees at 45 percent humidity
  • 3:39 pm - 73.6 degrees at 44 percent humidity
  • 3:47 pm - 72.1 degrees at 47 percent humidity
  • 3:54 pm - 72.2 degrees at 47 percent humidity
The exterior temperature during this one hour test remained at 93 degrees with the heat index dropping to 106 degrees. I did move the thermostat toward the rear of the camper where the temperature registered around 78 degrees. Then I moved it back to the front, where it recorded 70.7 degrees. It was comfortable throughout the cabin, but I'll seek ways to further improve the front-to-rear air flow. I hope that these two posts aid you in your quest for inside the cabin comfort.

Lynn clearly reveals that sealing the air leaks in your tiny trailer can have a significant effect on your air conditioning (or heating) efficiency. No different than your house, folks. It should be noted that Lynn was able to close all her windows and vents in this test of her trailer's cooling capacity. She stated that she either does not have significant off-gassing in the heat or that she is not sensitive to the smell.

This narrative is how one tiny trailer owner--an RTTC owner--significantly improved the efficiency of her air conditioning. Although her suggestions are specific to a particular trailer builder's products, the general idea and general checklist of activities applies to anyone who wants to have a more effective ac/heating solution for their trailer.

So now how many of your are heading to the local hardware store for a few basic supplies?

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(Note: As the content for Green Goddess Glamping evolves, sometimes content focus will dictate that articles will be posted on some Facebook groups and not others. Articles on Dutch oven cooking, portable toilets, or bicycle day rides, for instance, could find posts in different groups. The best way to ensure that you are receiving all articles is to subscribe to follow this blog by email notifications.)