Our Teardrop Trailer | Introducing Wilma…

What is the perfect Adventure Travel rig?

There is no real answer to that question, not in the general sense. The answer to that is different for every person and for every adventure. Since we started looking several years ago, there have been dozens of new companies making teardrop trailers and the designs all vary on the central and classic theme of the iconic “teardrop” design. The idea is to stay light, fast and agile as you travel and the teardrop trailer offers that. It may not be perfect for all things, but the teardrop trailer is damn near perfect for us, for most adventures.

In the Beginning…

My wife and I got married in late 2012. In 2013, as we began taking trips together across the southwest, the conversations about camping began to take on a new tone. What would we need to make longer trips easier and more comfortable? My wife was tiring of sleeping in a tent on an air mattress that refused to stay inflated throughout the night. As much as I love camping and roughing it, my nearly 40-year-old body was telling me that sleeping on the ground for extended periods of time might not be in my future either. So we started exploring the options. For my wife’s birthday that year, we decided to rent a teardrop trailer and head up to the Grand Canyon for about a week. It took a little adjustment but, ultimately, went incredibly well. On the way home from that trip we began scheming about how we could get a teardrop of our own.

My wife made a new hobby out of shopping for trailers. New, used, antique, state-of-the-art, big, small…all were in consideration. It led to extended talks about our future. How would we use the trailer? Would we take the dogs? Would we ever have more than two dogs? Would we have kids? How long would our longest trips be? What vehicles would we be towing with? What kind of camping did we want to do? How self-contained should we be?

TC Teardrops at Overland Expo

The rabbit-hole was deep and the research went on and on. We’d been looking for a couple years when I talked my wife into coming to Overland Expo with me in 2015. Maybe we’d find something there that would suit our purposes. If nothing else, it would allow her to get a real-world idea of how these trailers could work for different purposes. That’s when we stumbled on to TC Teardrops. After some discussion with Carol at TC Teardrops about options and pricing, my wife and I settled on our trailer order decision with the options we thought we’d want/need. We placed the order and the custom build began. By October of 2015 we had our trailer.

The Naming of a Teardrop…

We couldn’t wait to take our new toy out for a spin. But first we had to get things set up. We got the battery hooked up, tossed in some bedding, outfitted the storage box with some basic gear, stocked the kitchen and made sure we had everything in working order. We wanted to squeeze as many nights into our first trip as possible so I loaded the trailer on the back of the Subaru that evening, picked my wife up from work and we headed north as the sun disappeared. A couple hours later, in the dark, I awkwardly backed the trailer into a spot at Dead Horse Campground in Cottonwood for our first night with the new teardrop. We were both grinning from ear to ear under the very impressive Foxwing Awning, sipping on steaming mugs of some tasty adult beverage. It rained that night. It rained hard. We slept like babies.

first night with trailer at dead horse state park

It was still raining the next morning, but there was no wet tent to put away, no muddy tent footprint or soggy rain fly, no damp sleeping bags…it was nice. Close the doors, stash the chairs and fold up the Foxwing and we were ready to hit the road. It rained off and on that day as we headed further north and east into the high country. We made a couple of muddy stops for photos and snacks.

teardrop trailer camp

teardrop trailer kitchen

teardrop trailer

My wife has named all of her cars, including the new Subaru. So it was not a shock when she started asking what we should name the teardrop. After tossing around both boy and girl names, we decided quickly enough that it was a girl. This narrowed the playing field. Our initial teardrop trip, the one that started the whole thought process, started out with a slightly creepy night in Bedrock City. This inspired some Flinstones-themed name options for our new trailer. Dino and Bam-Bam were in the lead before we decided she was a girl. One of us suggested Wilma. It immediately seemed to fit. It had a classic, throw-back feel to it…like the teardrop trailer itself. We agreed, she would now be called Wilma.

We visited, and stayed in, three separate state parks on that first trip in November with Wilma. We added two more on another trip later into southern Arizona. We have also taken her on a few short, bumpy, muddy trips into the backcountry and a fast-paced 5000+ mile cross country tour through 14 different states. Plenty of time to figure out what works and what doesn’t and make some adjustments.

teardrop at Homolovi state park

Our cattle dogs have become very fond of Wilma. They both know that when we start packing Wilma, a trip is coming. The older of the two dogs, Wiley, has a special relationship with Wilma. It’s her favorite place to be, it’s her home away from home, her happy place. I’m pretty sure she’d rather hang out in Wilma than anyplace else. She’s the first one asking to go in at camp and the last one up in the morning. We often joke that Wilma is the most expensive dog-house we’ve ever seen.

Wiley's favorite spot in the teardrop

Wiley's happy place

Getting Dialed In…

Now that we’ve had Wilma on the road off and on for the better part of a year, we made some adjustments and improvements to the set up. You can read about the initial build order here.

Since we’ve started traveling with Wilma, there are a few things that we thought were pretty important additions to the original build. Our original setup had no water storage. We would routinely buy a couple of two gallon water containers on our way out of town and use the melted ice from the cooler as wash water. It wasn’t ideal. So we started looking at storage solutions and settled on the low-profile Rotopax cans that we could mount directly to the side of the trailer. We now have three 2-gallon containers of water and one 2-gallon container of extra fuel mounted to the side of the trailer. Though a little pricey, I like the way they are stowed out of the way and well secured while traveling. I also appreciated that the mounts were not difficult to install. TC Teardrops is a Rotopax dealer and can install them if you order it when they build out your trailer.

rotopax mounted on trailer

We are also storing an extra 5 gallons of water in our Road-Shower mounted to the roof rack. The road shower is extra water storage AND can be pressurized allowing us to use the attached hose and nozzle to shower, hose off the dogs or spray gear clean. The black, powder-coated tube heats the water inside during the day when the sun is on it. I’ve seen the temperature of the water get into the high 90s which is plenty warm enough for a decent backcountry hose-down before bed.

Road Shower on trailer

After the first couple of nights in the trailer, my wife wanted a little more privacy. She picked up some material from a craft store and after much swearing and cursing (and the purchase of a new sewing machine) created curtains and door covers for the trailer. I installed the rods and now we have an easy and attractive way to get a little privacy when our camp neighbors are a little too curious.

The Foxwing Awning is one of my favorite parts of our setup. I absolutely love how fast and easy it is to use. It’s out and set up in seconds and it doesn’t take much longer to put it away. In fact, we recently got caught taking down camp in a crazy rain storm and I really gained an appreciation for just how quickly the Foxwing gets put away. Rino-Rack (which makes Foxwing in collaberation with Oztent) also makes a floor covering cut to match the “winged” design of the awning. We saw TC Teadrops using one at their display for Overland Expo 2016 and decided it was much better than the cheap outdoor rug we’d been using, so we ordered one. The Foxwing is also open on all sides (as you can see from the pictures) which is fantastic except when the wind is up and I’m working in the kitchen. So we also ordered one of the removable sidewalls for the Foxwing so we can close off any one of the sides if we want to. We figure this could help as a wind block, a rain block or simply to create a little more privacy. It can also be used as an extension of the awning, offering a little extra shade.

Relaxing in the backcountryThe next things on the list are mostly little items that will help make our trips run a little smoother. I will be installing a couple of floor mounts in the galley so I can strap down the cooler while we’re driving. Right now it’s loose and has a tendency to bounce and shift when the roads aren’t perfect. I’d also really like to figure out a way to drain the cooler as the ice melts without lifting the entire thing out of the galley.

We are also looking for new camp chairs. The ones we have are OK and they pack up nicely, but they are very poorly made and started falling apart pretty quickly after we bought them. I like the design, I just wish they were built better.

We’ve toyed with lighting options, but in reality, we don’t need much. We like to let it get dark and enjoy the night. Headlamps work for getting around outside and there’s plenty of light inside. I wouldn’t mind a little more light at the galley when I’m cooking late (or making late night cocktails) but it’s not necessary.

I’m also very much considering another stove option that would give me some more cooking flexibility. I like to cook. I cook a lot at home and I like to have fun cooking on the road as well. The little Camp Chef stove works well for basic stuff, but I want something that will allow me to do some fancier cooking. I’ve got my eye on the Skottle from Tembo Tusk. They’ve been at Overland Expo the last few years and I’ve seen the cooktop in action. I think the skottle would be a nice kitchen addition.

If you have any more questions about our trailer setup, TC Teardrops or any of the accessories please leave me a comment and I’ll try to answer what I can. If you have a teardrop, or are ordering a teardrop, feel free to comment and let us know what you’ve done to dial in your trailer. 

 

The Teardrop Trailer Decision…

teardrop trailer camping

Two years ago today my wife and I were setting out to spend our first night of her birthday trip to Grand Canyon in a rented Teardrop Trailer. It was a small, bare-bones Little Guy trailer rented from a local guy who is no longer in business. The trip lasted 6 days and we had plenty of time with the teardrop to determine that we wanted one.

We’ve done plenty of camping together, sleeping in the car, sleeping in tents and couch surfing but we had just come back from a weekend at Overland Expo and the Teardrops had sparked our interest. We have looked at dozens of different trailer configurations and designs, some more “classic teardrop” than others. All had pros and cons that we discussed at length. Like, unreasonable amounts of conversation about this…you have no idea.

Domestic travel in the US has increased significantly in the last 5 years so it’s no surprise that campers, trailers and RVs are selling like crazy. Teardrop Trailers seem to be especially popular with their compact, efficient, lightweight design and nostalgic throw-back sensibility. With barely enough room for sleep space and storage, the teardrops encourage “outside camping” unlike the larger trailers with couches, chairs and TVs. The teardrop is a nice, seamless bridge between car camping RV camping.

It suits our style of travel.

Two years ago the process started. The idea was seeded in our imaginations and we fostered it diligently, letting it blossom into determination. This May we spent a cold, soggy, muddy weekend at  Overland Expo West meeting folks and checking out the newest Teardrops and compact trailers for more ideas and inspiration. The unseasonably cold weather and ankle deep mud turned some folks away as the Expo pushed on. Vendors huddled under their canopies and fought back the mud and rain to engage with the thinning crowd of outdoorsmen and travel enthusiasts. On our second or third pass through the vendors (likely on our way to get coffee) my wife spotted a teardrop vendor we hadn’t met yet and we stopped to say hi.

TC Teardrop booth - photo by Exploring Elements

TC Teardrop booth at OX2015 – photo by Exploring Elements

TC Teardrops had made the trek all the way from Wisconsin to show their products at Overland Expo West. They’ve been hand-building custom teardrop trailers since 2008 in a small shop in Wausau. Each teardrop is made to order, though they do occasionally have pre-loaded trailers for sale. The trailer we got to see at the Expo was nice, appeared to be well made, had all the amenities we had been looking for and none of the excessive stuff we didn’t need. It’s not the biggest, baddest trailer in town but it’s no bare-bones weakling either. The more we looked, the more we thought this might be a good option to consider so we asked about pricing. With base models starting out around $5k they are very reasonable and allow you to customize your way into something to fit almost any budget.

We left the Expo and my wife started doing her research.

Today, we put a down payment on our new Teardrop. TC Teardrops should fit us into one of their build slots later this year. I hope to keep everyone updated on the progress of the build, the options we chose and why. We are really excited about this new move. The trailer should allow us greater travel freedom and the ability/desire to extend our trips.

2016 will be the Year of the Teardrop.

Click here for an update on how things are going with the trailer now that we have been using it a while.

Feeling Alive in Death Valley…

I just got back from an amazing first trip to Death Valley National Park with some amazing people and I desperately want to go back.

Death Valley Sunset

Twitter has been amazing for a lot of reasons, but mostly for it’s role in allowing a community to come together that would otherwise probably never have any contact.  The weekly twitter chat #ATQA (Adventure Travel Question & Answer) has introduced me to a group of incredible people online and I’ve had the great fortune to meet quite a few of them in person.  So when #ATQA host and Adventure Travel Aficionado J. Brandon started talking about a group meet up in Death Valley, I was in without hesitation.

#ATQA is a pretty big community online and the weekly chats bring in a lot of participation.  But when it comes down to planning a trip, very few people can make it happen.  I have found this to be pretty typical with most group trip planning: lots of interest, little actual participation.  Not that that’s a bad thing, fewer people is often better and easier to manage, more flexible…and fewer people to drink my whiskey!

Mosaic Canyon ATQA- Death Valley

Three of us made it out to Death Valley and I could ‘t have spent my time in Death Valley with two better people.  Val said it best, “…an amazing confluence of travel, people, and place”.  It’s the trifecta of happiness!  I have always loved to travel and I’m not the cruise-ship-resort-tourist type of traveler.  I find real bliss traveling in dirty places, off the map, encountering real people and I generally enjoy the company of the people I find there.  Even though we were in the California desert only a couple of hours from Las Vegas, this felt like real travel.  Long bumpy drives on lonely dirt roads to obscure sign posts in the desert had something to do with that, but this really did have more to do with the people.  I haven’t had this sense of ease and understanding on a trip since traveling South America with my dad.

I think it’s easy to feel at home anywhere in the world, it’s rarely a “place” that makes me feel more comfortable and at ease.  Although there are places that call to me, like canyons and rivers, feeling at home is much more about the people you share that place with.  Those interactions and relationships are what shape an experience more so than the water, rock and sky.  Traveling solo is sort of a cheat, you can be comfortable in your community of ONE.  But traveling in a group, and feeling a definite sense of community and understanding is much harder to find.

I have to thank Val and J for making Death Valley one of my new favorite places and I can’t wait to go back for more.

 

Teakettle Junction- Death Valley

Images from this trip are available on my gallery at WildernessDave.Photoshelter.com.

Test Run with a Teardrop Trailer…

The Wilderness Wife and I like to travel.  We talk a lot about trips we’d like to take and places we’d like to see.  I like to run pretty lean when it’s just me, but the wife likes just a little creature comfort when we’re out road-tripping and camping for multiple days.  A few years ago we saw a couple pull into a camp ground hauling a small teardrop trailer from T@B.  That began our obsession with teardrop trailers.

This past May we took a few days off and drove to the Overland Expo outside of Flagstaff, mostly to see friends, but with the secondary motive of checking out the trailer options for overlanding.  The Expo proved fruitful and we came home with a stack of brochures for all the trailer and gear options.  There were a few stand-outs that we really liked.

The Moby1 Teardrop Trailer…

teardrop trailers- Moby1 trailerOne of the first trailers we saw that we really liked was from Moby1 Expedition Trailers, LLC.  We liked that it was light, clean and simple with high clearance and plenty of options.  A very versatile trailer that we could take anywhere and probably tow with any vehicle.  They have a variety of configurations ranging from super light, bare bones trailers to heavy duty, cross country, off-road trailers with tons of amenities.  A viable option, but we wanted to see more…

 

So-Cal Teardrops…

teardrop trailers- so-cal trailers

We looked around and saw a few others, most of which just didn’t fit us.  Then we found the setup from So-Cal Teardrops and really liked what we saw.  These teardrops were pretty sweet and have a TON of optional upgrades (more than we could ever afford).  They fit most of what we were looking for – off-road capability, solar options, water storage and pumping options, kitchen setup, optional bike racks, awnings, etc.  As with most of this kind of equipment, there is some sticker shock when you start asking.

Even so, we had the bug after the expo and just couldn’t let it go.  The wife was shopping for used trailers looking for deals.  I wasn’t sure if she’d really be as comfortable as she thought in one of these.  I mean, they look like they could be stuffy and cramped…it’s a tin can in the desert, what’s comfortable about that?

So we had to try one.  That was that.

When my foot injury kept me from flying off to California to tough out two weeks on the JMT, we decided to spend her birthday camping.  We settled on the Grand Canyon and it seemed like the perfect opportunity to try out a teardrop trailer and see if it was something we really thought we would use.  Luckily, she found a local outfit renting Little Guy Trailers under the name Old School Teardrop (they no longer exist).

Old School Teardrop Trailers…

Old School Trailer- teardrop trailer

I contacted Old School Teardrop via email after checking out their site and Facebook Page.  The wife had pretty much decided already that she wanted to try to rent one from them if it was available…and it was her birthday so I had to see what I could do.  Jose, the owner of Old School Teardrop, got back to me and we slowly hammered out the details via email.  Jose was very accommodating and actually let us pick the trailer up the night before our rental so we could get an early start with it.  He has two trailers he rents out and has plans to get another one.  Both trailers are kept very clean and he has rules against allowing pets or smokers use the trailers.

Teardrop trailers - Old School Teardrop

My giant truck barely knew the trailer was there.  The one we rented was pretty light weight and stripped down.  Jose had it outfitted with a bed, storage pockets on one wall and a set of old-school metal lunchboxes on the other wall for storage (pretty cool!).  We got the trailer up north and made our first night’s stop at Bedrock City.  The trailer was still holding some of the heat from the valley and took a while to cool off inside.  Even with the roof vent wide open, the two side windows open and the back left wide open all night it was still a little stuffy until about 4 in the morning.

Old School Trailer- teardrop trailer

After that first night though, it stayed cooler and was much more comfortable.  We spent three more nights camping at the Desert View Campground in Grand Canyon National Park.  The trailer gave us a nice spot to chill out, nap, crash at night, change clothes in privacy and a secure place to stash our stuff while we were out exploring.  The most important part: After 4 days on the road and camping the wife was not ready to go home!  WIN!  Four days in and she was ready to keep going and a lot of that had to do with the trailer.

Teardrop trailers - Old School Teardrop

So, it sounds like a trailer of some kind is in our future.  It’s just a matter of figuring out what we can afford vs. what we need to make it worth while.  Renting the trailer was a great learning experience and gave us a lot of information to work with in making a decision.  I also think Old School Teardrop will continue to be a great resource for us until we find one of our own.  Jose seemed pretty excited about having Wilderness Dave take one of his trailers out.   We’ve already talked about renting one again for an extended trip out to Joshua Tree National Park in the near future.

 

When I mentioned online that we had rented a teardrop for our trip I had a TON of responses from people on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram asking about the trailer and what I thought of it.  The teardrops seem to be really popular right now.  If anyone has any questions about the trailer or our experience that I didn’t cover here, just hit me up in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer.

UPDATE 2015: We have made our decision to get a Teardrop Trailer. We are having one built to our specifications and should have it by the end of the year. Read more about our Teardrop decision here. And check out our builder TCTeardrops.

New Orleans: An Unexpected Journey…

It started out simple enough…

I was in Houston for Christmas and Merelyn had a couple of days off for New Years.  We hadn’t really made plans for anything so we decided to head to Galveston for some quick beach time and then head home for a quiet New Year’s Eve together.  Then, about a half an hour into our drive, Merelyn said, “You know…we could just drive to New Orleans for New Year’s.”

Now, she’s mentioned driving to New Orleans before.  It’s only about 6 hours away and neither of us have been there.  It could be fun, but every time we’ve looked into it we’ve decided not to go.  I knew it was something she wanted to do before leaving Houston.  So when she threw the suggestion out there (half joking I’m sure), I took the bait.

“Is there any reason why we couldn’t go right now?”

We went through the list: No clothes, no toothbrush, the cats didn’t have enough food, etc.  None of those reasons, I argued, would be a problem in the next 24 to 36 hours.  We could drive to New Orleans, be there in time for dinner and hang out for New Year’s, maybe spend the night then drive home.  No problem.  Merelyn seemed a little surprised and scared that I was actually accepting her challenge but I thought it would be FUN!

As quick as that, we changed our plans from a few hours in Galveston to an overnight trip to New Orleans.  We made a quick stop at the Johnson Space Center then headed East.

We were both so excited to be on this spontaneous adventure that the drive was easy.  Merelyn was excited to be exploring and I was excited to get out of Texas and see some of Louisiana.  We usually have a good time on road trips, laughing and talking and exploring the sights.  This was no different and the added excitement of just going, without a plan, made it all that much better.

Action in the French Quarter - New Orleans

beautiful New OrleansAbout an hour outside of New Orleans we started looking for a hotel (we found none for a reasonable price) and a bank so we could grab some cash.  We found a bank next to a grocery store, so we grabbed some cash and did a quick run for some essentials (toothbrushes and beer).  Then we were off to explore the French Quarter!

We parked in the sketchiest of sketchy parking garages where they were packing cars in like it was a contest.  I was convinced they were going to keep piling cars in until the rickety, rust-bucket structure collapsed.  We paid our $20 and high-tailed it to Bourbon Street, right in the heart of the French Quarter, where the action was just picking up steam.

Even through the thick, drunken crowds of Bourbon Street, New Orleans’ historic French Quarter is charming.  We grabbed a beer and walked up and down the streets and alleyways checking out the architecture and looking through the windows of the shops and galleries.  We got away from the crowds a little bit and took our time sight-seeing.  We walked down to the waterfront and walked along the river for a while.  Then ventured back into the rabble and checked out a few bars and pubs, had a couple more drinks and a snack.

Getting ready for Midnight -  New OrleansCloser to midnight we headed back down to the riverfront park and waited for the big fireworks show.  It was cold and I had offered up my jacket to keep my wife from getting chilled.  We hung out on a grassy rise, looking out over the Mississippi, holding each other close to stay warm.  It’s been difficult these past couple years spending so much time apart.  So when midnight came, there was a sweet and simple triumph in getting to kiss my wife at the ringing in of the New Year while fireworks painted the night sky…in New Orleans.

Spur of the moment adventures can be full of magic and excitement.  There’s nothing better than ending your day in a totally unexpected and amazing way.  That morning, we had a modest plan and no expectations and we ended our night with a magical moment in a new city.  I can only hope that throughout our marriage we make time for many more spontaneous adventures together.

New Year's Fireworks - New Orleans

I loved our New Orleans adventure, does anyone else have any awesome, unexpected, spontaneous adventures they can share?