No Tear for Me

When I first saw a teardrop trailer on the highway, I did a double-take.  It was so small that I couldn’t imagine how an average-sized person from Wisconsin could even get through the door.  Once inside, how could anyone do anything other than lay down prone on the bed?

Later, while we were on vacation up north, a general store was giving one away in a contest.  That was my first opportunity to look inside a teardrop.  My impression didn’t improve when I couldn’t figure out how to close the clamshell to the kitchen.  Defeated, I went inside and asked the clerk to show me how.

That’s about the time I got online and started researching what else was available.  Surely, there were bigger ones with more amenities.  Soon, I found Little Guy Trailers, a seller of beefed up, bigger teardrops that would definitely be an improvement over a tent.  Interestingly, these teardrops  were built by Amish workers in Indiana by a company called nuCamp.  Recently, Little Guy and nuCamp went separate ways. I’m not quite sure what that means for the future.

The smaller ones are called T@gs and have the clamshell design.  Underneath the clamshell is the outdoor kitchen.

From the floor plan, you can see that almost the entire interior is taken up by an admittedly spacious bed.  Other than some storage, there isn’t much we could do with that space on a rainy day, except sleep.  And if it rains, cooking outside under the clamshell and optional tarp t doesn’t seem very appealing to us.  This is the perfect minimalist small camper trailer, but we aren’t that hardcore at this point.

Then we discovered the T@b.  The T@b takes teardrops to an entirely different level.

This is the T@b Outback S.  There is plenty of room to sit at the table and read a book. You can see from the diagram that it includes an indoor kitchen and a tiny bathroom with a shower.  A person 5′ 9″ or smaller can even stand up in this version. The Outback can be outfitted for going deep into the backcountry with pitched axles, off-road tires/wheels, roof rack and cargo basket, and diamond plate tongue box.

We had an opportunity to tour the T@b Outback S at a local dealer in Madison.  I have to admit that I was very impressed by the modern design and amenities.  Properly equipped, the T@b Outback includes an innovative heating/hot water system, air conditioning, stereo system, propane burner stove, and refrigerator.

What were the cons?  First, the price.  With all of these amenities, the asking price was pushing 25k or higher.  Second, I’m just under six feet tall, and I can’t stand up straight inside the T@b.  In fact, I would probably have to sit on the toilet to take a shower. Third, the table and the bed are the same.  To set up the bed, the table has to come down.  To set up the table, one has to break down the bed.  Not necessarily a deal killer, but something to consider.  Finally, I had concerns about its aluminum construction (potential for leaks) and inside condensation.

The manufacturer is releasing a new model, the T@b 400, which addresses some of my concerns.  It will have a separate bed and table, along with increased interior height, European design, and additional amenities, including a solar power option.  However, these new features come with an increased cost and added weight, putting it in competition with the smaller Airstream models.  If I am going to pay in excess of $35,000 for an aluminum, heavier trailer, I would probably pick the Airstream Basecamp or Airstream Bambi 16.

Both models have a classic look that is appealing and lots of windows. Airstream has an excellent reputation for build quality. However, the cost, weight, and aluminum materials have us leaning in still another direction.

If not aluminum, then what?  What trailer is less expensive, lighter, and made of materials less likely to leak?  The short answer is a molded fiberglass trailer and the subject of the next post.