Tiny trailers; touring the west in a small, cozy travel trailer

Touring the west in a small, cozy travel trailer, how to do it…

Most of us are sheltering at home and thinking future travels – now is a good time to consider making small travel trailers a part of your future treks. We moved from tent and car camping to tiny trailers about 15 years ago, first with two tiny, teardrop travel trailers, then on to a slightly larger, classic 13 foot Scotty trailer.

We thoroughly enjoyed the two tear-drops, each 4 feet wide, 8 feet long, 4 feet tall. They offered cozy sleeping for two, a tiny kitchenette in the hatch-back area and ability to tow with a four-cylinder auto and get 27 miles per gallon towing. We still own our 58 Scotty teardrop, which took us across the US and Canada, three times. It’s under a tarp beside our house; I occasionally suggest to my spouse a six-week trip up to Alaska – though she isn’t buying the idea.

Our 58 Serro Scotty teardrop, a fine reproduction model, trying to one-up a huge fifth wheel.

But, we longed for something a bit larger; a few years ago, I found a vintage 1964 Serro Scotty in Southern California. I paid only $900, thinking it needed some modest repairs in the back of the trailer. Upon getting it home and looking more closely, discovered lots of dry rot precipitated by years of leaky roof seems, necessitating a down-to-the-frame rebuild.  After about 500 hours and another $4,000, we had a totally rebuilt, cute little Scotty. 

The Scotty features a front dinette for four, making into a bed large enough for two grandkids, a small cabinet with sink and two burner stove and wardrobe in middle, and a full double bed in the back. It’s comfy, turns heads in campgrounds, and remains, at 1200 pounds, light enough to tow with a four-cylinder Ford Escape and fit into the smallest of campground-sites.

Our 64 Serro Scotty, rebuilt from frame-up, with spouse Susan,
in the June Lakes area, Eastern Sierra, April, 2019.

If you’re thinking vintage travel trailers, be prepared to pay good money, $6,000 to low-teens, for completely rebuilt trailers. A benefit, should you make a wise purchase and use the trailer for a number of years, it will be worth as much upon resale as you paid for it. Classic trailers prized in the west include Scotty, Shasta, Airstream, Little Caesar, DeVille, Terry – most have Internet and Facebook owner sites with lots of advice about both purchase and refurbishment.

Should you seek a more modern trailer, you have the choice of purchasing brand new, or finding a nice slightly-used model. Favorites we’ve seen include T@B, R-Pod, Casita and A-liner trailers; the first three range in length from about 17 to 20 feet, while the A-liner is a hard sided pop-up that fits easily in most garages.

An almost new T@B trailer, owned by our friends the Lewises, in Carmichael, CA.
A small and very classic Airstream trailer, and equally impressive tow vehicle.

Smaller trailers share common attributes; small, easy to maneuver into tight campsites, towable with many four and most six cylinder vehicles (delivering decent gas mileage) and creature comforts for up to a family of four. For retiree couples like us – plenty of room to spare!

Purchased new, these trailers cost from the high-teens to upper-$20,000 range, depending on length and options. Most have inside bathrooms, with showers and inside-kitchens. Search online and find used versions of these trailers at 25 to 40% discount compared to buying new; with the pandemic, it should be a buyer’s market for the next six months.

A popular R-Pod, owned by my cousin Anne Linton of Bend, OR.

T@B trailers have been around for almost 20 years, and are favorites in campgrounds, based on their retro look and positive owner comments. Friends Steve and Christine Lewis of Carmichael, CA, travel as a twosome with one 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 saw this one and fell for it, just the right size, we thought. We purchased from a Folsom RV dealer and liked the idea of a new trailer”. 

Casita trailers are sleek fiberglass trailers, looking a much 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. Small

A nicely rebuilt 1955 DeVille trailer.

Airstream trailers are top-of-the-line, and the most expensive to purchase. Hard-sided pop-up  trailers like the A-liner have grown in favor – with owners noting that they fit handily into their garages when not in use.

A Vintage, rebuilt Shasta, built in Los Angeles, seen at Trailerfest at Tower Park Marina.

R-pod trailers (built by Forest River) are another favorite, offering the additional space amenity of slide-outs. My cousin Anne Linton and husband, Bend, OR, travel both in sunny summertime and cold seasons with pets.  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; we absolutely love it as a four-season trailer!”.

A vintage Terry cab-over trailer, seen at Tower Park Marina at last year’s Trailerfest.

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 vehicle is rated at 3,000 lbs. tow capability, and your trailer weighs 2,500 pounds, when its loaded with camp goods and you pile two adults and additional camp items in the car – you’ll exceed the car’s tow abilities.

Where to find a trailer: Most can be found locally; do a web search for favored models; vintage and used versions can be found on Craigslist or eBay; put up a daily search for “vintage trailer”. For more insight into classic trailers, see Tin Can Tourists fine site, tincantourists.com; for info on particular trailers, search the Internet where you will find owner’s sites like the National Serro Scotty site, nationalserroscotty.org.

Contact Tim at tviall@msn.com, find more photos at recordnet.com/travelblogHappy travels in your world!

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