Monday, November 30, 2020

Finding Happiness in a "Small" Rather Than a "Tiny" Trailer--One Couple's Experience with the T@B 320s

Redstreak Campground, Radium Hot Springs, BC

What prompts a happy tiny trailer camper to move to a small camper (that is, nonetheless, larger than the tiny camper)? That was the question I asked myself when I saw that a couple who owned a tiny trailer, whom I had profiled in 2019, had decided they needed a slightly larger travel trailer. 

Jennifer Tipping and Scott Jevons owned and happily camped in their Little Guy 5-Wide tiny trailer, enjoying the simplicity of the rig but also the sense of security for sleeping in the bear country around Banff, Canada. Their move to a T@B 320s, perhaps the smallest, most packed and self-contained small travel trailer around, was a deliberate choice, based on their experiences with their Little Guy. "We loved our LG," Jennifer says, "and we recognize that it offered us some grand adventures and we have no regrets making that 900-pound purchase. The problem for us living where we do is our season can be short. Fall can turn into winter overnight, and now that we have the T@B 320s, it’s just allowed us to have a longer camping season. To play outdoors and explore, knowing we have a beautiful, comfortable and well-crafted (my neighbours always tease us by saying it was built by NASA) home away from home waiting for us. We live, work and play in the mountains . . . I’m not sure it can get any better than that!?"

"Waiting for Spring," Lake Louise, Alberta

Jennifer and Scott thoroughly researched their new trailer purchase choice, including some walk-throughs of a 320 that shared a campground with them. When they still had their Little Guy, Jennifer was camped beside someone with a 320cs model, which has a rear kitchen with no wet bath. The owner was gracious enough to allow her multiple tours, since the T@B was on her list of possible next trailers. "It gave me an opportunity to really assess its footprint and 'kick the tires' so to speak," Jennifer said. "I observed how the owner used it, and I paid attention to what worked for her and what didn’t." One "hidden advantage" for Jennifer was that she is 5' 1" tall, so while the owner's nearly six feet height made for some hunching in spots when inside, Jennifer was free to fully stand. "It became quite clear to me that my love for the T@B was undeniable. There was no question that our next trailer would offer us a wet bath as well and an inside kitchen, and how we would use an inside kitchen was still yet to be played out. Living in Alberta, I had spent many early fall mornings in the dark, ankles in the snow, making my first cup of tea for the day at the rear galley area of our LG while seeing my breath and listening for a bear in the rustling of the bushes. Those days were the clincher, those defining moments that help you make the best decision for how we would love to be camping. Because of our LG and our rear galley, our camping season was shorter . . . again I’ll blame Alberta."

Banff, Alberta, Canada

Buying a larger camper trailer did necessitate buying a bigger tow vehicle, from a Kia Soul to a Toyota Rav4, which they picked up about two weeks before getting their trailer.  Their new Toyota came with the Adventure Trail Package. "We loved the idea of having one vehicle to take us out for adventure while not soaking at the pumps with fuel costs for the 80% of the time we aren’t towing. It handles really well both with or without the trailer. (Mind you I do give it a pep talk while heading through the mountains!)"

Feeling they needed a getaway vacation, Jennifer and Scott drove to Ontario to pick up their new 2019 320s T@B, saving thousands of dollars by picking it up themselves. For their new trailer, though, they did not choose the solar package, having some solid reasons, they say, for their decision, cost being an important factor. "Alberta can and does get hail and we were concerned about the potential of hail damage should we be hit with an unexpected storm. We also camp exclusively in both national parks as well as provincial parks. Both of those options offer very well-treed sites with little sun to generate any source of power. Should we decide to invest in a solar option, we would most likely purchase a suitcase model so we could chase the ever-moving sun on our site."

A peek inside while E@RL is winterized

Moving from a tiny trailer camper to a larger one means that the trailer has more options and is, therefore, a more complex unit, providing both more opportunities and challenges. Jennifer did mention that it's a "real treat" when she hangs her towel on the line after having showered in her T@B 320. Neighbors first get curious looks on their faces, then questions are asked, and finally . . . a tour of the camper! Jennifer and Scott also feel they are more prepared to deal with pandemic needs because their camper is self-contained. People are surprised that such a "wee camping unit" has a bathroom with a shower. Finally, the black tank sewage duties have been an easy learning curve for them. "I must admit that there was some nervous energy around the first few times, but we’ve got it and it’s a non issue for us. I operate the valves on the trailer while Scott plays lead role of 'vulnerable camper.' I’ll leave it at that. Communication is critical!"

T@B interior

During their first season of camping with the T@B 320, Jennifer and Scott have camped in both electric and non-electric sites (or "modern" and "boondocking" sites). They've found that during the off-seasons in the spring and fall, sites with electricity are better because of the more extreme temperatures in the Banff, Canada, area. "April, May and even into June the temperatures at night can drop to below zero, and having power just makes camping a little bit more comfortable. July and August we do not have power and rely on our battery and propane. September and October can offer snow and again cold nights, so we choose to find our way back to the powered sites. Now, with that said, we recognize that we live and camp in a very popular area that the world flocks to (pre-covid), so there are camping trips where you don’t have a choice and you just find gratitude for whatever site you can find! We enjoy our camping experience both with or without power. Scott and I have camped our entire lives so it’s really second nature to us, and plugging in the kettle for a much anticipated cup of a warm London Fog tea is nothing less than glorious! It’s a win-win!"

Jennifer was kind enough to describe some camping experiences with their new trailer--which, of course, took place during this time of the coronavirus pandemic. As one can imagine, the natural beauty of the Banff area remained the same, but the new camper and the reality of fewer people camping did change things some.

Banff National Park
"We are blessed to live 20(ish) minutes from Tunnel Mountain in Banff National Park. What that means for us is I’m able to camp while Scott commutes back to his home office. It’s a reasonable distance to ask him to drive back and forth. We’ve made good use of this option this summer. I’ve spent many days and weeks enjoying some beautiful sites, meeting people from a safe distance and allowing them to peek in our windows as the new way to 'tour.' I’ve seen more wildlife this season than any other. A mama elk was nursing her new babe only two sites away from mine. Moose appeared often in the most unexpected places. Bears were seen along the usual roadways. Owls woke us during a deep July slumber. Loons dipped below the water's surface to feed their hungry young fluff balls. It seemed there was always a feast for the eyes, soul and heart watching the wild being just that - wild. 

"We also were fortunate to take advantage of our ample camping opportunities and slip out of town for an extended two-week vacation together with no twenty-minute commute. Those moments are always a wonderful tease as we look forward to Scott's retirement. We were able to escape up to Jasper National Park via the Icefields Parkway. If you’ve not had the pleasure of that road trip, I highly recommend it. It wows us every single time, and as I drive through the valley bottom and along the grand mountainous landscape, I look over at Scott to see his eyes the size of dinner plates, even after thirty years of park life. It all just adds to the magic. Our unserviced site along the Athabasca River was gorgeous, and as the trees lulled us to sleep after a day of exploration so did the water. The trailer (that goes by the name of E@RL) sat nestled in and amongst the trees so beautifully. We actually camped that week with the woman (who has become a dear friend of ours) who purchased our LG, so it was fun to camp with both of my trailers!"

There was a minor glitch with the camper's screen door this first season--fixed with tape--but Jennifer's good news is that her interaction with the manufacturer was easy and a success. "Sadly, our screen door broke this season. The strings that allow it all to retract into itself broke, so it’s now held snug in place with some tape. I was disappointed because this happened beyond our warranty date. I contacted our dealership in Ontario and shared our experience with them. They immediately contacted NuCamp (the makers of our T@B trailer) on our behalf, and E@RL will be getting a brand new screen door. We couldn’t be happier. The communication was second to none and this was all past warranty, really a high measure of good faith. It really does feel like we’ve bought into an extended family."

For their first travel trailer (as described in the 2019 profile), the Little Guy was, for Jennifer and Scott, "a coming-together of two different camping styles, one minimal and the other closer to glamping. They found a tiny trailer the perfect sweet spot between large and small, the backpack and the RV." Can it be that the slightly larger yet still small T@B 320 is somehow even sweeter? Jennifer explains it like this: "I have to be completely honest when I say that there hasn’t been one single time I wished I had the LG. While I loved it at the time, I’m really recognizing that having E@RL has just made our camping experiences so much easier, grander without much more effort.  Maybe it’s our age now, but we really appreciate the quality and comfort it has offered us. Scott and I manage really very well in the T@B. We have plenty of room for our necessities and have found places for the few personal items that have made it feel like home for us. It really feels like an extension of our home. The air flow has been a wonderful surprise! The multiple ways you can adjust both windows and coverings is brilliant. The heating system is silent as is the fridge. It all adds to our experience of being comfortable."

"A go-to for us all year round." Emerald Lake, Yoho National Park, British Columbia

What makes an ideal camping experience is different for everyone, and as Jennifer described, needs can also change as one's life changes--one's age or the addition of children to the family being two common examples. Camping can be a backpacking experience, a bicycle touring experience, tent camping, tiny trailer camping, van camping or single-axle trailer camping, and on up in size to the larger travel trailers and RVs. The T@B 320 does fill that in-between niche of camper builds that don't need a big tow vehicle yet still provide what some might call "glamping" amenities. Our thanks to Jennifer and Scott for sharing their new adventure with us, and congratulations for E@RL, the new addition to their camping family. May the good times roll!

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