Tent and car campers; moving up to small trailer camping!

Our 58 Scotty Junior reproduction teardrop, on Oklahoma's old Route 66.

The “after” photo of our 64 Scotty Sportsman; two years of on-again, off-again work to rebuild from the frame up.
A “before” photo of our 64 Scotty Sportsman, after the aluminum skins were removed; extensive dryrot, from leaking roof seams, made this little trailer a BIG project. Word to the wise when shopping vintage trailers, “for all the water damage you can find, multiply by 10”.
A new “retro” Shasta Airflyte, just reissued; where old is new!
A sleek new T@B trailer, owned by our friends Christine and Steve Lewis.
A classic Airstream Caravelle, and equally classic tow vehicle, at Fallen Leaf Lake a year ago.
A newer A-liner is a hard-sided trailer that folds flat for easy towing and storage.

Moving from tent and car camping to small trailer camping…

Many folks have been back-packing fans or car campers over the years, enjoying the joys of unfettered camping, ease of packing, set-up and leaving a small carbon footprint with their travels. But, with advancing age, more folks consider modest upsizing and potential comfort-gains that can be found with small travel trailers. Here is a short primer on some of the options if you are thinking of small trailering:

Teardrop trailers: Teardrops are light-weight (800 to 950 pounds), easy to tow (we get 26+ miles per gallon behind our four-cylinder car), stow in the garage or behind a fence and are easy to maneuver into the tiniest of campground spaces. They’re comfortable and allow rear hatch storage of camping gear – making it easy to go at a moment’s notice. Downside (at only 4 to 5 feet wide, 4 feet tall, 8-10 feet long): no standup room, not a lot of fun if you get caught on a rainy weekend and no inside cooking or bathroom facilities. Small makes them inexpensive, going from about $5,000 up to about $10,000; cheaper for used models.

Small trailers: These include modern hard-sided tent trailers in a variety of formats, and some very cool camping trailers. New trailers include the A-liner, T@B, Casita, R-pod, Airstream and other trailers – offering standup room, sleeping for four adults, inside cooking/eating facilities, and often a bathroom and/or shower. Downside: they’re more expensive, in the $15,000-25,000+ range (new), won’t fit in a garage and a larger tow vehicle is required (resulting in reduced miles per gallon). Shasta Airflyte and Terry trailers are out with new, retro models designed to look like classics from the 60s. And, a wide array of slightly used small trailers can be found at big discounts over buying new.

Small, vintage trailers: Classic trailers are increasingly popular, as vintage rallies have proliferated across the West and the US. If purchased wisely, a vintage trailer allows the owner to enjoy them for a number of years, and, if sold years later, get about the same price paid, or even more. The cool classics also make you the talk of most campgrounds, allow entry into classic trailer rallies and you bask in the glory of enjoying a recycled product! Prices for good reconditioned trailers range from $6,000 to over $25,000. Downside, if not purchased wisely, can be extensive rebuilding expense and time investment.

As an example, six years ago, I found “a deal” on our small ‘64 Scotty Sportsman, at $900. However, after discovering hidden dryrot necessitating a total rebuild, I invested about 500 hours and $5,500 into the trailer rebuild. I would shop harder for a fully reconditioned classic, if I were to do it again!

If shopping for a used trailer, or an older vintage model, be prepared for some serious inspection. Take a friend who knows woodworking and trailers for your inspection. Also, a flashlight to look into all hidden corners and underneath the trailer – you’re looking for any signs of water damage, either at the base of the walls, the floor, around the interior windows and roof seams. A rule of thumb: “whatever water damage you can find, multiply by 10”!

Here’s a sampling of newer and small classics we’ve seen in recent years, offering quality, collectability and proper “coolness quotient”, starting with newer trailers. T@B, R-pod, Casita and Airstream are popular choices, and friends and family own and love the first two mentioned.

If shopping vintage trailers, these are popular in the west:

Airstream: These aluminum trailers offer the iconic shape, starting with the tiny Bambi and offering a number of slightly larger trailers that can be towed with mid-size vehicles. They can be buffed to a high sheen and are often the talk of a campground; they are also the most expensive to purchase.

Shasta trailers: These classic “canned hams” were originally made in southern California, so you’ll find lots of them spread around the west. They sprouted the cute Shasta wings in 1958, continuing through the mid-80s. The new Shasta Airflyte was just “re-issued”, as well.

Serro Scotty trailers: Made in the late ’50s to the ’80s with basic construction (making them easiest to rebuild), our 64 Scotty Sportsman provides room for two, with double bed in back, small dinette seating for four that converts to another bed, and center cooking area with small sink and two-burner stove.

Other popular vintage choices include Boler, Little Caesar, Corvette, Kenskill, Starcraft, Aristocrat and Mobile Glide. They range in size from about 13 to 25 feet in length, and a good reconditioned trailer costs anywhere from $6,000 to about $25,000 depending upon make and model. Bought wisely and well cared for, one can recoup the investment years later, perhaps seeing some appreciation in value.

Then there are new trailers I define as “classics”; classic design, small and cute. They include Shasta (which recently released a retro-model, the Shasta Airflyte), Terry and T@B trailers, all with the old-fashioned teardrop shape.

For more information: Web sites offer insights into buying or rebuilding, including Tin Can Tourists, tincantourists.com; Airstream, airstreamclassifieds.com; Serro Scotty, nationalserroscotty.org; Shasta, vintageshasta.net. Pick a classic and find an owner’s group! To purchase slightly used or vintage trailers, regularly scan Craigslist and eBay.

Contact Tim at tviall@msn.com, follow at recordnet.com/travelblog. Happy travels in your world!

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