Tiny trailering; see the country in small, cozy travel trailer!

Friends Christine and Steve Lewis and dog Alice with their T@B trailer.

Tiny trailering; see the country in small, cozy travel trailer!

Our classic ’64 Serro Scotty in Yosemite; these other trailers are just a bit larger and heavier than our trailer.

My spouse and I have spent the last 10 years or so crossing the US and Canada using three tiny travel trailers – two of them the tiniest, teardrop trailers – and more recently, a 13 foot ‘64 Scotty classic trailer. As we’ve grown older, we tired of the hassle of tent camping compounded by my wife’s fear of bears tearing through the side of the tent. Small hard-sided trailers solved both those problems; our trailers are packed and ready to go but for tossing a few food items on board, and it would take a pretty crazed bear to be able to break into either of them.

With spring fast approaching, here are some suggestions for newer tiny trailers that fill the bill on comfort, coolness, frugal trailering and relatively inexpensive purchase prices. All of them are available locally and used versions can be found on Craigslist or eBay.

Favorites, from discussions with fellow campers in campgrounds and several friends or family who own them, include T@B, R-pod, Casita and A-liner trailers. The first three trailers range in length from about 17 to 20 feet, while the A-liner is a hard-sided pop-up trailer.

Spouse Tim, married to my cousin Anne, relaxes by their R-pod by Forest River.

These tiny trailers share common attributes; they are small, easy to maneuver into tight campsites, can be towed with many four and most six cylinder vehicles (yielding pretty fair gas mileage) and offer creature comforts for up to a family of four. For retiree couples like us – plenty of room to spare!

If purchased new, these trailers cost from the high-teens to mid-$20,000 range, depending on length and options. Most have inside bathrooms, with showers and inside-kitchens. If you’re willing to search online, you can find used versions of these trailers at 25 to 40% discount compared to buying new.

T@B trailers have been around for well over 10 years, and are one of our favorites in campgrounds, both based on their retro look and lots of positive owner comments. Friends Steve and Christine Lewis of Carmichael, CA, travel as a twosome with one big dog in a T@B trailer towed with a six-cylinder Toyota SUV. I asked Steve how they came to purchase their trailer a year ago. Steve notes, “We’ve been kicking tires on trailers for years; we just saw this one and kind of fell for it, just the right size, we thought. We purchased from Folsom Lake RV and liked the idea of a new trailer”.

Another R-pod trailer, spotted in Bryce Canyon National Park.

He added, “It’s cute and gets lots of looks in campgrounds. We like the size of 18 feet which is the maximum for a lot of special camp sites like DL Bliss on Lake Tahoe. We both thought this was the smallest self-contained trailer that actually is practical. Lastly and really important is we can park it alongside our house in not all that big a space”.

A newer Casita fiberglas trailer, with an Airstream profile, spotted in the Lake Tahoe area.

R-pod trailers (built by Forest River) are also a favorite, and offer the additional space amenity of slide-outs. My cousin Anne Linton and husband Tim of Bend, OR, travel both in sunny summertime and cold seasons with several dogs.  Anne notes, “We went to an RV show and really loved the R-pod 179 with slideout (at almost 18 feet, the slideout gives them even more internal room). We have found the R-pod light and easy to transport. We also wanted a kitchen and bathroom inside so the really small trailers were not enough. When we bought it we had two dogs so needed a little extra space; we absolutely love it as a four-season trailer!”.

Casita trailers are new fiberglass trailers, looking a bit like the classic Airstream shape.  Several owners have raved about their Casitas, including Bill Palmer, happy to show off his trailer in Bryce Canyon National Park, noting he tows with a six-cylinder Toyota Tacoma pickup. Likewise, we have met owners delighted with hard-sided pop=ups like the A-liner – most of them also noting that they fit handily into their garages when not in use.

A newer A-Liner Ranger model, a hard-sided pop-up trailer, spotted in Death Valley National Park. Nice thing about these trailers – they fit in your garage!

Before purchasing a new or used trailer, be sure your intended tow vehicle can handle the weight of both trailer and the contents of the tow vehicle.  As example, if your Suburu is rated at 2500 lbs. tow capability, and your trailer weighs 1800 pounds, when its loaded with camp goods and you pile two adults and additional camp items in the car – you may exceed the car’s tow abilities.

Like our 13 foot classic Scotty, all of these trailers fit easily into national park and national forest campgrounds, often built 50 or more years ago when most trailers were no longer than 20-some feet. Hence, the big modern behemoths can’t get into some of the nicest spots. I’ve always been aghast to see a huge pick-up pulling a 36 foot fifth wheel arrive, disgorging two adults no larger than the two of us. I always wonder what in the world they need all that extra room for? And, the smaller trailers allow close to 20 miles per gallon from the tow vehicles, while the giants get – maybe – 6 to 8 MPG.

For more info: Local dealers like Pan Pacific Trailers in French Camp carry the R-Pod, tent-trailers and smaller tear-drop trailers; several dealers in Sacramento like Folsom Lake RV offer more choices including the T@B and Casita lines. For purchasing used, small campers, see Craigslist or eBay (put up a daily search for “classic trailer”).

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

This entry was posted in Alaska, Canada, Eastern, Canada, Western, Central California, East Coast US, Europe, Hawaii, 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 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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