Tiny touring; seeing the USA with a small, comfy travel trailer!

Touring in a tiny trailer; seeing the USA with a small, comfy travel trailer…

Our '58 Scotty teardrop with Mt. Saint Helens, WA in background.

Last summer, Susan and I spent nine weeks crossing Canada on the Trans-Canada Highway to their Maritime Provinces, turned south down the New England coast to Maryland and headed back across the USA on historic Highway 50. We toured with a small auto and an 8 foot long teardrop travel trailer, camping 42 nights and staying with friends, family or in motels the balance.

Susan, reading inside Scotty.

It was a voyage of discovery; we had the time and the desire to see many off-the-beaten-track sights many will never see.  We also saw every stripe of travel trailer and fifth wheel imaginable. Towing our little trailer weighing less than 900 pounds, we managed 26 miles per gallon – about 4 times better than those travelers towing big trailers. Hence, our travel budget went that much further.

With camping season fast approaching, many have asked for more inspiration, hence, the little trailers, below!  They make me wonder why folks would ever purchase and navigate huge motorhomes or giant fifth wheel trailers.

These little trailers share common attributes; small, easy to tow with a four or six-cylinder vehicle, easy on gas, simple to store and all quite comfortable.  Best of all, they are relatively inexpensive to purchase, and if bought wisely, can be sold years later for nearly what you paid for the little camper.  Not everyone is cut out for a teardrop trailer and we saw a number of somewhat larger campers with more elbow room and creature comforts. Here are highlights of the smallest to larger trailers.

Our little Scotty teardrop, a reproduction ’58 model, is the prototypical teardrop – 8 feet long, 4 foot tall and wide, weighing under 1,000 pounds. Scotty offers convenient storage for all our camping and clothing needs, and a sleeping compartment with most of the comforts. We added an awning to extend shaded/rain-proof living space.

A T@B trailer, retaining teardrop style, sleeps four.

We spied our share of newer, somewhat larger teardrops like the T@G and Little Guy tears. These come in both five and 6 foot widths, and nine or 10 foot length, and sport many of the creature comforts of much larger trailers (like AC, sinks, microwaves). They remain lightweight, easy to store and offer good gas mileage for their smaller towing vehicles.

A step up in size, but retaining slick, aerodynamic lines are trailers like T@B, Casita, R-pods and Burros (we’ve chatted with scores of owners who swear by these manufacturers). By moving up to trailers like these, you get full standup room, usually a bathroom, shower, dinette seating and sleeping for 4 to 6 people. These trailers remain small enough to be easy to tow, maneuver and store when not in use and nice used versions can be found on-line.

An aerodynamic Casita, towed with a small pickup truck.

Refurbished, classic trailers from the 60s and 70s are increasingly popular. They are well-built, aerodynamic and stop traffic in campgrounds from those who want to see these cool retro trailers. Scores of old manufactured trailers can be found; popular are Scotty, Shasta, Airstream and more.

A word of caution – be particularly nosy when buying. I’ve had a cute, ’64 Scotty jammed in my garage for four years; I am slowly reaching the end of a frame-up rebuild. Little did I know the dry rot I spotted when purchased was about 10 times more dramatic. Better had I spent more and gotten a truly refurbished classic.

A classic Airstream Caravelle, with retro tow vehicle.

Modern versions of old tent-trailers also offer aerodynamic lines and low-cost of towing and ownership. New models like A-liners offer hard-sided shells – so the spouse doesn’t worry about bears and the like in national parks.

Owners of these little trailers are just as comfortable (well, almost) as neighboring couples in 25 to 38 foot motorhomes and fifth-wheels; the air, sunshine, views and campfires are identical!

On our cross-Canada/US trip, we cruised 13,000 miles, paid about $1,100 for gasoline, and averaged $12/night for camping (in US national parks, Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management campgrounds, get half-off with a federal ‘America the Beautiful’ senior pass, just $10 for life!). For more efficient and scenic travel, camping in a small, maneuverable trailer is truly hard to beat.

An A-Liner, a hard-sided pop-up camp trailer.

For more info: For good resources for purchasing used, small campers, see Craigslist or eBay (put up a daily search for “teardrop” or “classic trailer”). Local dealers like Pan Pacific Trailers in French Camp carry tent-trailers, the R-Pod and smaller tear-drop trailers (several dealers in Sacramento offer more choices). If thinking of a classic trailer, consult group sites like that for Serro Scotty owners, nationalserroscotty.org (Shasta, Airstream and other retro trailer owners have similar group sites). Camping can be booked in national parks and federal campgrounds through www.recreation.gov, 877.444.6777.

Read more from Tim Viall’s travel blog, follow him on Facebook or Twitter; or, email him at tviall@msn.com. Happy travels in your world!

This entry was posted in Canada, Eastern, Canada, Western, Central California, East Coast US, Midwest US, Mountain West (Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado), Northern California, Pacific Northwest USA (Oregon, Washington, Idaho), Sacramento/Capitol region, San Francisco Bay Area, Sierra Nevada, Southeast US, Southern California, Southwest USA (Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas), Stockton/San Joaquin County, Teardrop and tiny travel trailers, Uncategorized, United States beyond! and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment

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    Tim Viall

    Viall is a local travel writer who retired in late 2012 after 10 years as executive director of Stockton, CA's, Emergency Food Bank and six years with the Downtown Stockton Alliance. Previously, a 21-year career in daily newspapers helped shape his ... Read Full
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