Our new teardrop trailer made its trade show debut at Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim earlier this month, and it was a huge hit there. But I hadn't had the chance to actually camp in it yet, so when I took the Scouts up to Crystal Hot Springs in Honeyville this last weekend, I decided to give it a try.
This trailer is made by Little Guy Worldwide, and it is a 2010 "Silver Shadow" 5x8' model, with the standard galley. It doesn't have the optional built-in stove or sink, just nice Baltic birch cabinets and interior made by Amish craftsmen, from what I hear. It has LED lighting and its own deep-cycle marine battery and inverter, so electrically, it has everything you need. I just pack a cooler, propane bottle, lantern, and a stove to cook on. The whole trailer only weighs about 800 lbs empty, so it is really easy to hitch up and go.
I have a friend who built his own teardrop trailer, and he he takes it to classic car shows behind his '50 Plymouth. Will and I were originally going to build our own custom teardrop trailer for the booth, so we had downloaded lots of ideas and plans from the internet, and had actually started building it, though we weren't very far along. But my wife Carol found this one used on KSL.com, a local classified ads site. We had seen several others too, but they weren't a good fit for the booth. This one was perfect for our show needs, so I bought it for $5800 and we saved a lot of time and work. Good thing too, because we've been really busy lately, and it's getting really hard to find time for projects.
Anyway, I hooked up the trailer up to my Chevy Avalanche, left the stock camper mattress behind, and loaded the inside tightly with Scout troop gear. That left plenty of extra room in the back of the truck bed for the boys' personal gear, which made the packing pretty easy. We left my house in Sandy about 4:30 pm on Friday and got to Honeyville by about 6, even with rush hour traffic. We had things unpacked within minutes, and had a nice fire going, since there was a little bit of snow in the air and the temperature was starting to drop below freezing.
The boys always want to spend as much time as possible at the pool and waterslide, which are both fed by the hot springs, and drained every night after 10 pm. With spring break there were a lot of people there, and the line for the waterslide was longer than usual. Although the path to the top of the slide is (mostly) covered from any weather, it can still be pretty chilly if you have to wait very long. And without enough foam sliding pads to quite go around (the pads make the waterslide really fast and fun), one trip down the slide was enough for me, I'm afraid.
The pool was also pretty crowded, but it still felt really good to soak your bones in the hot mineral water for a few hours. As cold and still as it was outside, and with all the people milling around and talking (shouting, laughing, etc), the steam rising from the pool dropped the visibility to about ten feet near the surface of the pool, and played whispy muffling tricks with the sound too, so it was a pretty surreal experience. When we were all water-wrinkled and pruny, it was time to go have some dinner: beef stew, rolls, hot chocolate, and a few marshmallows roasted over the fire. And then, it was time for bed.
I teach my Scouts to bring two sleeping bags when winter camping, and to put one inside the other. The Scouts sleep a lot better that way, since sleeping bag manufacturers seem to overstate their temperature ratings by at least 10-20 degrees, and Scouts don't carry the extra internal insulation that I have developed over the years. I also teach them to use a good sleeping pad, because sleeping bag insulation compresses under you, leaving you with almost nothing between you and the cold winter ground. There is nothing worse than feeling the cold winter ground through your bag all night. Well, almost nothing.
Until this trip, I have usually slept in the bed of the Avalanche on these kinds of camps. The back seats fold down, and the midgate then opens and folds down flat over them, or at least nearly flat, so you have about 8' of space between the back of the front seats, and the tailgate, all fully enclosed from the elements (and mosquitoes). I usually put the head of my sleeping bag behind the front seats in this flat area, with my feet extending out into the bed. Plenty of room, even for a big guy like me (I am 6'5" tall).
But I have noticed over the years that in extremely cold weather, it is actually warmer to sleep in a tent on the ground, than in a truck. After all, steel doesn't insulate well, and a cold breeze (say in the 20s or 10s) can blow all the way around and under a truck, while a tent is snuggled down against the snow (usually 32 degrees) or the hard ground (sometimes as warm as 40-50 degrees). So the sleeping pad idea applies with even more force in a vehicle. I use a Therm-a-rest ultralite extra-long backpacking pad that I have had for 15+ years, and it works in all but the very coldest weather (like below 5 or 10 degrees), where I will sometimes throw an extra wool blanket or something over it for a little more warmth underneath.
That said, this plywood-sheathed teardrop trailer has about 3" of insulating airspace in a small storage compartment under the bed. And it does sleep much warmer than a truck bed, though the frost still collects on the windows. It got down to about 22 degrees that night (not that cold for Utah), and it didn't snow near as much in Honeyville, as it did at my house in Sandy. So with two sleeping bags rated at 0 degrees, the mummy bag inside the flannel-lined bag, and my Therm-a-rest pad, I was plenty warm. Nice! And it was nice to have the overhead light to arrange my sleeping bags, and to read for a few minutes before dropping off to sleep.
This little teardrop is actually a little short for me. Although it is described as having a queen-size bed, the actual bed size is 58x75"-- or about 2" narrower and 5" shorter than a proper queen bed of 60x80". Since I am 77" long when lying on my back (or longer when I sleep as I usually do, on my stomach with my toes pointed and one arm extended past my head) I obviously can't lay out straight in the usual way. Sleeping diagonally, I was comfortable, although that makes it essentially a one-man trailer. I wish it did have a full-size queen, at least in the length. When I build my own teardrop someday...
One of the other Scout leaders slept in my truck this time. I never bothered to uncouple the trailer, block the wheels, or drop the tongue wheel of the trailer, so the trailer was connected to the truck all night by the tongue and hitch ball, just as it was while driving down the freeway. So as I was getting situated in bed, the trailer would wiggle. I noticed the wiggle every time he rolled over in the truck, and he noticed it every time I rolled over in the trailer. But I only noticed when I was awake, which didn't last very long. The wiggling never woke me up, but it might be good to know, if you are a really light sleeper. It wouldn't take even 5 minutes to uncouple the trailer if it was an issue. But I was already in bed.
In the morning it was biting cold, still 22 degrees on the thermometer, but with a brisk wind that made you reach for your down jacket, gloves, and fuzzy fleece pants. We had a quick breakfast (including oatmeal and more hot chocolate), packed the gear again, and were on the road by the 10 am checkout. The trip back was uneventful, and the trailer towed just as nicely as on the trip up, but without the rush hour traffic.
All in all, this little teardrop trailer made a quick camping trip easy, fun, and comfortable. It was everything I had hoped for, and then some. I highly recommend it!