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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(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.)

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