Saturday, May 9, 2020

Jeeps and Tiny Trailers--of Course!

"Our VRV Eco Flyer did amazing on some pretty technical trails!"
(Photo Matt McClellan, 2018, Teardrop Camper Adventures FB group)

I've discovered that a mechanical "symbiosis" exists in the camping community--that of Jeeps and tiny trailers. And, for me, researching this newfound topic resulted in a lot of camping eye candy. Even though I have been researching and writing articles for this blog about tiny trailer camping, I didn't put two and two together until just now that there's this Jeep/teardrop connection. Sure, I've seen photos of nice rig set-ups all along, but didn't realize there's a movement or widespread Jeep/tiny trailer lifestyle that I just wasn't aware of.

Looking back, though, I realize some of the tiny trailer owners I've tried to persuade to provide this blog information for  profiles and expeditions were also Jeep owners. Usually, though, they were too busy boondocking and rock climbing to send me information.

One Jeep and tiny trailer owner that caught my eye early on was Matt McClellan of Arkansas. He took his rig out West in 2018 and found some majestic country to travel and camp in. He wasn't afraid to bring his VRV Eco Flyer along, either.

Mineral Creek area, Colorado, 2018.

Off-road camp, Colorado, 2018.

In 2019, Matt and his wife traveled out West again, this time with a Jeeping group for off-roading. They did a lot of Jeep rock crawling out there, which produced many awesome photos, and I'm sure even more awesome memories. Since I haven't lined Matt up yet for an in-depth article of his adventures, I don't know the whole story about his Jeep/tiny trailer travels. 

Metal Masher, Moab, Utah, 2919.

Sunset at camp, Moab, Utah, 2019.

Drone shot of camp, Moab, Utah, 2019.

Recently, Matt and his family also manage to camp with his family during this time of the coronavirus, spending a relaxing weekend at the first of May in the Ozarks.

"Love my two-story camper." Ozarks, 2020.

"Bird's-eye view of camp," Ozarks, 2020.

Another Jeep camper enthusiast that has popped up during research is an Arizona guy named Shawn Belver. The first photo that I remember seeing is a night shot of his boondocking off-the-grid campsite. He had framed the shot so that a huge boulder arc, looking like the curve of the moon, was captured along with his camper. I commented on the photo, saying the frame made his camper look like a spacecraft, "Teardrop 1."

"Off the grid." Arizona, (Photo Shawn Belver, 2019, Teardrop Camper Adventures FB group. 

Shawn hasn't been a Jeep/tiny trailer owner for long, buying his T@G last year, but the Arizona climate allows for year-round camping. He says, "Can't wait to customize [his 2016 T@G]. Pulling it with my 2014 Jeep Rubicon with 6.2 L V8--can't even feel the little guy."

2016 T@G teardrop, pulled with a 2014 Jeep Rubicon.

March 2020. Verde River "String of Pearls."

It would be lazy of me as a researcher, though, to not provide a few classic photos. Even the new rigs are "classic" in the sense that Jeeps, camping, rock crawling are iconic to our American outdoors enthusiasm. However, the real "classic" also provides us with a better look at our wild and wooly past.

For instance, there's Bradley Ethington and his beautiful tow vehicle and trailer, both classics: a 1947 Kamper and a 1949 Willys. Brad and I were all set to write an owner profile when the coronavirus hit and communications broke down. We can still share his beautiful labor of love, though!

1949 Willys Jeep with a 1947 Kamper teardrop. (Photo Bradley Ethington, TCA FB group)

One reaction on the TCA group FB post to Bradley's post was from a group of vintage Jeep campers/tenters who organized a group Jeep trip to Alaska, called the "Alaska or Rust" trip, for which they created a Facebook page. The page's "About" information reads: "In 2017, to celebrate its 75th anniversary, a group of travelers from across the United States drove the entire Alaska Highway in vintage Jeeps. The trip, ‘Alaska Or Rust,’ spanned 5 days and covered over 1,500 miles. Follow along for more adventures!"

"The crew spent a good portion of the day exploring the Cabot Trail [on a later trip]."

"Alaska or Rust" traveler Bill Reiss constructed his teardrop on a military Jeep trailer frame (1966 Stevens M416). "My first trip was from Pennsylvania to Alaska in 2017, then Pennsylvania to Newfoundland & PEI this year. It’s very simple, but gets the job done. Tow Jeep is a 1965 CJ-5." 

Bill Reiss, 2019. (Teardrop Camper Group)
Then there was the posting on the Teardrop Camper Adventures FB group by Tony Mckinney, who said, "Let's see those Jeeps and teardrops! Here is mine . . . " The post received 115 comments with photos, and 161 likes.

Tony Mckinney photo

Mike Whitehead photo

Laurie Caldwell Kinney photo

Rusty Rice photo

"Still have the jeep, 2002 and going strong!" (Jessy Stevenson photo)

The photos go on and on, so enjoyable to see. If you go to the group section of Facebook and search "jeeps and tiny trailers," you'll find many groups that cater to the Jeep camping crowd. One smaller public group was Jeeps, Tents, Teardrops, & Tiny Campers. Even though a smaller group, it was an active one, providing lots of information and interaction. Many of the groups are private and cater only to Jeep owners. There is even one group, JeepHERS, that is only for female Jeep enthusiasts. There are 38.5K members. Jeep enthusiasts for Iowa or Alaska? You got it! Finally, RV Jeepers brings a new wrinkle to the Jeep and camping scene--owning a big rig and pulling a Jeep for a second vehicle, not exactly tiny trailer camping, but I wanted to explore the whole spectrum!

Mike Keen photo

Russ Lawton's rig. Russ is part of the Alaska or Rust expeditions group

These photos reveal that the Jeep is a versatile vehicle and the tiny trailer is a versatile accommodation. Together, they add up to adventure! It seems Jeeps and tiny trailer owners share common values--a desire for comfort yet a close connection with the natural world, a capacity to get into the boondocks, and the frontier spirit to explore. Whether a classic rig or a new set-up, the Jeep/tiny trailer combination provides many options for travelers and campers. So the next time you see an intrepid Jeep owner pulling a tiny trailer, honk and wave at those trailblazers!

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  1. I have a feeling I've seen the blue and white pair belonging to Bill Reiss - maybe it was in Nfld in 2019?

    1. Yes, the group did recently organize a trip in the Newfoundland area. Seems like a great group!