Tears of Joy or Regret after Purchasing a Teardrop Trailer?
April 20, 2017 9:53 AM   Subscribe

My husband and I are thinking about purchasing a teardrop trailer to tow behind our Subaru Outback, primarily to allow more weekend outdoor adventuring with our baby. We've never done the trailer thing before. Good idea or bad idea?

Prior to living the baby life, my husband and I spent about two weekends every month outdoors, either rock climbing or backpacking. We'd load up the car, drive out from the Bay Area on Friday night, get to Yosemite or Tahoe by 11 pm or so, sleep by the car in a dispersed camping spot, up with then sun, and then spend the whole day outside on Saturday. Repeat for Sunday until early afternoon, then head home.

Post baby life.... well, we've done some car camping (including a week long trip around South Utah a earlier this month), but we're moving a LOT slower now (naturally). It takes 1.5-2 hours to get camp set up, and then another 1.5 - 2 hours for teardown (one person is just hanging out with the baby). Which doesn't leave as much time as we'd like for actually enjoying the outdoors - plus it requires a reserved campsite or some significant space in a dispersed camping area.

So we're thinking about purchasing a ~1,000 pound teardrop trailer to tow behind our Outback - one with a small kitchen that we can keep fully stocked, as well as queen sized bed that we sleep in with the kiddo. Idea being that we can head out on Friday nights like before, pull up to a dispersed camping spot just like before, and then just jump in the trailer for the night in a bed that's already made. Next morning we already have a kitchen ready to go for breakfast, and then we're off to the outdoors just like before. With a bonus being that we can retreat to the trailer for nap time as well. We're hoping that this set up would allow for a lot more adventuring with our 10-month-old than we're currently doing.

Other details:
- we're smallish people, so no worries about fitting into the trailer - and one of us can always sleep outside if the baby morphs into a space-hogging kid
- we're of the ultralight backpacking/minimalist camping school of thought, but struggling to balance that with all of the gear it seems a baby needs, even while camping
- we've also though campervan/sprinter conversion, but 1) those are way more expensive 2) doesn't seem to give much more space. But maybe there are other pluses that make it a better choice for us?
- we're specifically thinking of getting a T@G Max trailer
- we aren't thinking of hooking up to RV electrical & water hookups as a regular thing at all - e.g. we'd be "boondocking" almost all of the time

Thoughts? What are the things we should be thinking about for pros/cons but aren't?
posted by Jaclyn to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (14 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
To me, this sounds like a great idea, but why not rent a trailer and try it out before you buy? Here's one place, but searching "teardrop trailer rentals san francisco" brought up many options.
posted by hydra77 at 10:05 AM on April 20, 2017 [9 favorites]

I think it's an awesome idea.
posted by COD at 10:24 AM on April 20, 2017

I love the idea. Half the pain is packing and unpacking. Add a screen/shade tent like this which we really love. Its a great lounging, reading, playing with toys, napping area.
Even if your family grows it's perfect coupled with a tent.
posted by beccaj at 10:34 AM on April 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

I think a teardrop is a great idea. My wife and I only took a few trips in our campervan before deciding to upgrade to a travel trailer (ours is a 16ft Casita, but the principle is the same). The main disadvantage to a class B RV is you're driving your campsite around -- if you setup camp and then realize you need to run into town to get supplies, you have to stow everything, tear down your canopy, etc.
posted by bradf at 10:40 AM on April 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

One of my very good friend has exactly what you are talking about and you'll love it. May I suggest that you look into the tent attachment that you can get as an add-on. Adds a huge amount of dry, usable space for those rainy evenings/mornings.

As an aside, we're getting ready to buy a 40' Class A RV to retire full-time into. I can't wait to get a photo of that rig, with my F150 towed behind it, next to my buddy with his tiny trailer.
posted by jeporter99 at 11:20 AM on April 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

We had a VW Eurovan camper for a decade for exactly that reason - camping with 3 kids was easy even with an infant with that set up for exactly the reasons you describe. We are thinking about a teardrop or another camper van as a retirement vehicle in a few years too. Having a dry containable spot for naps and simplicity of packing/unpacking was a big win. Renting first to see what works well for you sounds like a good plan.
posted by leslies at 11:30 AM on April 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

There are teardrop trailers that have a little perpendicular bunk in them. Might not be right for a baby, but perfect for toddler and all the way to early elementary school age.

n'thing rent one first (maybe even twice). Make sure you are comfortable driving with it and gas millage doesn't degrade too much etc. Also you will need to get a towing hitch installed on your car.

Maybe try finding a used one? I'm sure there are other families like yours that just outgrew it or are moving away from the area.
posted by TomFoolery at 11:39 AM on April 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

We have similar goals and just recently went the campervan route (only one little trip in it so far, but it was a great success.) Our other vehicle is not built for towing like the Outback so a trailer wasn't an option, but one aspect of the van that I really like is that it can itself tow a trailer, so we can theoretically have a flatbed platform for hauling stuff, a lockable box to stash bikes or other gear at the site while we drive around, or even a teardrop or popup camper for extra living/sleeping space (this last is especially appealing to me since it allows for nappers or late sleepers to snooze undisturbed in the van while I rummage around in the trailer.) A corollary to this is that if you start with the teardrop you can still theoretically upgrade your capacity later by exchanging the tow vehicle for a Sprinter or other van conversion.
posted by contraption at 11:59 AM on April 20, 2017

We did basically this. It is AWESOME. It makes camping with kids so much more fun. Sudden storm blows in with wind and rain? No problem, we go in the camper and cook a snack and talk.

I sometimes gleefully announce, "We have an entire portable dwelling that we can take wherever we want!"
posted by medusa at 12:05 PM on April 20, 2017 [2 favorites]

It's a great idea. I've been shopping teardrops, and you should definitely do a rental, but I'm sure it will suit you guys well.

Make sure you shop around - Little Guys make good trailers. So, too SoCal Teardrops, which is what I've been leaning towards. I know the people who own Vintage Overland, and those are nice, but spendy. Oregon Trail'r has got the best woodworking I've seen. My wife really likes these Timberleaf Trailers.

Two things I think are must haves - an attached awning with removable walls (example) and a refrigerator, or room for one.

I've got this, which is actually a bit too large for just me and my wife, but it is sooooo awesome not needing/dealing with ice. They're 12/120v so you can power them from a car battery/solar array or use shore power when it is available. Efficiency rates will vary, but I usually get 3-4 days in 80 degree temps before needed to charge the battery - with a sufficient solar system, it would be indefinite. It's probably the single best car-camping purchase I have made.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 12:07 PM on April 20, 2017 [2 favorites]

We did a campervan trip in Utah last year and have been researching tent alternatives ever since. Teardrops are so cute but you can't stand up in the one you're looking at - that makes all the difference for us. We ended up with a Jayco a-frame popup (not that one but you get the idea). It sets up in a minute by one person and we don't even notice it behind us when driving, no sway or anything. And as kiddo gets older, or if grandma tags along, the dinette converts to a second bed.
posted by headnsouth at 1:09 PM on April 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

We tented with family until the girls were born, then upgraded to a 21 1/2 ft Prowler Lynx fifth-wheel and a pickup (Ford F150 / Toyota Tundra). Once the girls were in high school, it was easier to take the vehicle and stay at hotels unless we were camping and fishing.
Now my husband and I are more likely to use a tent or a hotel -- too much distance between where we want to visit and where we can unhitch the trailer, fuel costs, and the inconvenience of towing a trailer in cities. Annual maintenance and storage are also factors.

So, yes, once the babies were mobile it made more sense to have a locked solid structure out in the woods. We camped in state and federal parks close to the restrooms. Later we used a screen tent over the picnic table for meals and storage of our scuba gear. We also had a hitch on the back of the trailer for a large lock box to house folding chairs, fishing gear and other things not convenient inside the living quarters.
Usually we paid for electric and water hookups, but not sewer.

Bathroom: The toilet was for emergencies like dark-thirty at night / pouring rain / too far from the restroom / someone was sick / older girls needed privacy during their periods. Otherwise it was used to keep gear out of our way. We used plastic shelving in the shower.

Kitchen: We used the refrigerator and stove a lot. Fire pits were for hotdogs and marshmallows. We wiped out food particles before washing the dishes in the sink, and used household kitchenware. We also brought a Coleman ice chest for bagged ice and drinks, rather than constantly opening the fridge.

Living room / bedroom: Sleeping indoors with the toddlers was a relief. Having a screen tent or regular tent was fine, until the hail and lightning started. Some children prefer an enclosure in rough weather. Also, it extended the camping season into spring and fall school breaks.
A few book bags of clothes and toys kept the mess in check.

Storage and annual maintenance: Relatives let us store our trailer under a shed. We winterized the plumbing each fall and checked for wasps and mice each spring. Good tires are a must.
posted by TrishaU at 2:29 PM on April 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

A few more ideas:
We decided against a Class A bus / Class B van / Class C cab-over design because once you are unhitched, you don't want to move. You may lose your parking space if you go to town. The person left at the camp may be caught in a rainstorm.

Also your transportation and hotel room are joined, so if one goes out the whole system is out of commission. With separate units you can update size and luxury as needed.

On the other hand, you can enjoy the inside of the motorized RV during travel. More room to relax, more seat belts, the non-drivers can enjoy a DVD or a meal.
I wouldn't cook or have a coffeepot going while traveling, but I've napped in the trailer while my husband drove us to the lake. This is before cell phones so we used walkies-talkies to stay in touch with each other and with other family members in our convoy. Riding in the trailer is legal in some states.

Another motorized unit advantage is the ability to move without getting out of the vehicle, as long as you have not used jacks or chocks (tire blocks) to level the motorhome.
Most trips we stayed overnight at Walmart or a well-lit highway parking area. One adult stayed in the trailer and slept with the kids while the other napped in the driver's seat.

And as mentioned elsewhere, a motorized unit may have towing capacity for a boat or a small tent trailer. My brother-in-law had one parent with the trailer and the other with the boat, and the kids taking turns with different family members.
posted by TrishaU at 6:40 PM on April 20, 2017

Thanks for the thoughts & advice, all!
posted by Jaclyn at 10:02 AM on April 26, 2017

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