Monday, October 27, 2014

Review: Little Sun Light

I don't normally tout the benefits of certain products on the Tiny Yellow Teardrop, but we just purchased the Little Sun light for the Sunflower and I'm really impressed how it works—and what it does for others.


If you camp, you know how dark it can get at night. I can't count how many times I've banged my shins on picnic tables or tumbled over camp chairs while walking around in the pitch black. We have lights in the teardrop, but wanted a really good light for the picnic table, for emergencies and for taking to the pit toilets. I saw this little lamp shaped like a sun and thought it would be perfect for the my sunflower themed teardrop trailer.


It turns out that Little Sun is not only solar powered and super bright, but proceeds of the sales of the lights go to countries that are primarily "off grid". Nearly 1.2 billion people live in areas of the world without electricity, and Little Sun lights are being distributed to families in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia. Access to renewable light allows children to study, people to start business and families to eat around their tables—after the sun goes down.


We actually just used the Little Sun as a great flashlight while attempting to fix our broken washing machine. Even after just an hour in the sun, the light was so bright. Little Sun features two light levels, and five hours of charging in the sun produces 10 hours of soft light or four hours of bright light. It also has a little strap on the back so you can hang it from a camp shelter or the roof of your trailer.

Photos courtesy of Little Sun

Friday, October 24, 2014

Friday Teardop Photo


 Look what came in the mail the other day. A service reminder from Toyota featured not a Toyota vehicle, but a bright red teardrop trailer at a campground. The teardrop tentacles run deep.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Towing a Teardrop Trailer with a Prius

The appeal of the Prius is irrefutable. The hybrid car from Toyota can get over 50 miles to the gallon and does it with style and roominess. However, Toyota does not rate any of its Prius vehicles capable of towing any weight. That doesn't stop some intrepid Prius owners from giving it a shot.


Pat and his wife Judy tow their 500 lb. homemade wood teardrop trailer with their Prius.

"I think it is workable so long as the trailer is small (4x8) and light (400 to 600 lbs.)," Pat said. "You can't drive very fast—60 to 65 mph on the freeways, but we got 36 mpg on a 2,700 mile trip from Redding, CA to Tucson, AZ, and 38 mpg on a trip to the coast over hilly Highway 36. This is down from 47 mpg without the teardrop."


 Pat and Judy's teardrop was built to go with the Prius and Pat used a technique called "stitch and glue" which is used to build strong, but lightweight, plywood boats.

"It is 48" x 96" x 42" high above the Harbor Freight trailer," Pat said. "The amenities are basic—just storage for all the stuff we used to take car camping. I added roll-out shelves for the ice chest and pantry box under the kitchen counter."

The couple do have to care a little more for their tow vehicle when using it for camping.

"Our Prius has 100,000 miles on it," Pat said. "I changed the transmission fluid, and will do so again in a couple years if I continue to pull a trailer on long trips now and then. The manual recommends against towing anything with the Prius, but there are pre-drilled and threaded holes in the frame to attach an aftermarket hitch to. You have to add trailer wiring off of a tail light in the trunk."

Pat warned that there could be warranty issues if a Prius owner has transmission problems after towing anything with their vehicle since the manual recommends against towing.

"Our Prius has over 100,000 miles on it and is no longer under warranty as far as I know," Pat said. "We haven't had any problems."


The couple save a lot of money on gas, lodging and food while traveling in their Prius/teardrop combo and Pat now has the itch to build another trailer.

"This one will be for solo travel—smaller, lighter, and simpler," he said. "I hope it comes in around 350 lbs."


A thread on the PriusChat forum discusses the options for towing a teardrop trailer with the fuel saving vehicle. One argument is that if a larger motorcycle can tow a teardrop—so can a Prius.


Photos by PriusChat, Outdoor Adventure USA and Christina Nellemann

Friday, October 17, 2014

Friday Teardrop Photo


I received this photo from Gary Hardy, a teardrop trailer owner in Australia. During an outing to the Little Desert National Park in Victoria, Gary's wife nearly had to share the camp shower with a local emu. Gary was inspired by my teardrop trailer shower post and the couple now have their own nifty shower setup—complete with a prep table.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Featured Teardrop: O-rama! Teardrop Trailers

While I was at the International Redwood Gathering in northern California, I noticed a custom made teardrop owned by a woman named Tracy. She was a tall person and I noticed that her trailer fit her height perfectly—especially the beautiful galley and hatch. The name of the custom trailer also caught my eye—O-rama! What the heck?


It turns out that the O-rama! Teardrop Trailer company is owned by Mike LaCroix of Washington, who has worked in RV design and construction in the past. The name of his company is defined as "an act, event, situation, or place that is remarkable, extraordinary, or extreme."



"I have always been a goof and tacked “Orama” to peoples names, for as long as I can remember," Mike said.  "But I love the obscure definition of it. With teardrops being a “retro” kind of thing, Orama fits in perfectly with its meaning and the fact that back in the 50’s-60’s, a lot of businesses used it in their name. Essentially, it means more than enough of a good thing."

Mike was kind to give me some more information on his custom designs and beautiful details.



How and why did you get into building teardrop trailers?  

I have always been a mechanical guy. This especially translated into RV’s, a vehicle (or cabin on wheels) you take to wonderful outdoor places. I love the fact that an RV is a rolling mechanical piece of wonderland! I love all the aspects that go into an RV build: electrical, plumbing, woodworking, heating, cooling etc. For this reason I thought it would be fun to randomly build or restore my own.

The biggest problem I had with this idea was a lack of space and a tall covered structure in which to do it, especially with the weather here in Washington. With my idea stymied, and while doing research, I came across a teardrop trailer. I have heard of them, but don’t ever remember seeing one in all of my many camping adventures. Instantly I fell in love with them and liked the idea that I could just build one from the ground up in my garage. I wasn’t even going to build it for myself. I just wanted to build one for the fun then sell it. Well, building my first teardrop was the best project I have ever worked on, and I have done a lot of fun projects. When it was time to sell it I couldn’t believe the response! It sold the first day.

After that, out of curiosity, I built another one. It also sold within days. At that point I thought why not keep building them? It was a perfect scenario. I love building teardrops and people loved buying them! A match made in heaven! So here I am today.


 What do you think makes your teardrops unique?

I believe what makes my teardrops unique is my wood work and cabinetry. I would never say I am an expert cabinet maker, but my mixture of light colored wood (pine and maple), hidden hinges, nickel hardware, and recessed doors really looks nice together. The light colored woods also make the interior feel more spacious. Everyone who sees my trailers for the first time loves them and comments on my woodworking. I like to think of my cabinetry as a big notch above the ordinary.


 Can you tell us a little about the custom building process? 

I like to keep it simple. I have decided against building custom ground up “however you want it” teardrops for many reasons. So the custom building process is very simple for customers. First you start with the entry level trailer that includes all of the nice woodwork. From there, a customer can choose a galley package with stove and sink (or they can have just one or the other), electrical package that includes a very complete 12 volt and 120v system, radio, DVD/TV, etc. Other exterior aluminum colors are also available. What makes customizing my trailers so easy is the fact that I include so many things in the entry level trailer that there isn’t all that nickel and dime stuff to add. Building a fully loaded trailer, customized with every option takes me about 4-6 weeks to build.


How did you get into teardrop camping and what do you like the most and least about teardrop camping? 

Early in my fledgling business, I obviously needed one for advertisement purposes and as a “model” trailer. But mostly, It was the best excuse in the world to build my own to camp in! After downsizing from a travel trailer, I loved the fact that I could pull my teardrop with any car I wanted. The small size of a teardrop just makes it fun to tow and easy to maneuver.  Then, on top of that, throw in the fact that even in such a small package, you have all the modern conveniences you need, including a kitchen and a place to sleep! Amazing! The least favorite thing about teardrop camping is that I don’t get to do it enough! I love every aspect of camping in my teardrop! Seriously!




 What are some of your favorite teardrop or camping products or gear? 

My two favorite pieces of equipment for teardrop camping are my portable 80 watt solar system and my ARB fridge/freezer. The solar is wonderful for keeping the battery charged when you are somewhere without hookups. You don’t even need direct sun all day for it to really do a good job keeping the battery topped off.

The ARB fridge/freezer may not be for everyone because of its high cost, but there is so much about it that makes it worth it. It uses a real compressor just like your fridge at home. Therefore it can keep things as cold as you want them, or even frozen. The current it uses to do this is so little that I can leave it plugged in for an entire trip as long as I have some solar charging capabilities. It will also run off both 12v DC and 120v AC. In addition, it has an adjustable voltage setting so that it will stop running before it drains your battery completely.  I also love the fact that I can plug it in while it's in the tow vehicle for the travel time to and from the campground. I just love it. No more ice for me!


Where are your favorite places to go camping? 

My favorite campground hands down is Kalaloch in the Olympic National Park. It sits on a small bluff right at the ocean. The beach is beautiful to hike on, especially during low tide.  This part of Washington’s coast is beautiful and preserved because it is within a national park. A close second is anywhere in Washington and Oregon along the Columbia River Gorge. I love the diversity the gorge offers.


Photos courtesy of Mike LaCroix/O-rama! Teardrop Trailers

Friday, October 10, 2014

Friday Teardrop Photo


 This summer went way too fast. It's already starting to get cold where we live, but we're hoping to do one last teardrop camp before the snow starts. In the meantime, I will dream of camping near a beach.

Monday, October 6, 2014

HipCamp

While the website, Hipcamp, is currently only available for the state of California, they plan on expanding to 20 new states by next summer—just in time for teardrop camping. Hipcamp is a new website and team focusing on not only campgrounds and campsites, but the amenities that surround them. The site covers everything from campgrounds near the best wineries and stargazing to the best rock climbing and surfing.


I spoke to Eric Bach and Alyssa Ravasio, the owners of the site and avid campers. Alyssa's frustration with finding campsites online was the catalyst for the creation of Hipcamp. Eric is a world traveler, backpacker and a member of the purple-clad trio, the "Modern Gypsies", who won ABC's "Expedition Impossible". They both wanted a better search system online. They are also big fans of teardrop trailers and plan on having their own Hipcamp wrapped and branded teardrop soon.


Tell us a little about how HipCamp came about. What do you want users to get from it?

Hipcamp was born out of the frustration to discover and book campsites. The process seemed extremely fragmented. We'd have to go one place for official government information, another for photos, another for reviews, and then another place to book. We thought it could be done better and thus enable more people to get outside.

The goal is to give users a single source in which they can do everything they need to in order to make a camping trip happen. We want the users to have a simple, engaging, and fun experience while doing so. 

What has been the response to the site?

We've had a great response to the site! People are excited to move to new states and so are we. Our goal is to get to 20 more states in the U.S. by next summer. We'll also be adding in features such as user reviews, user uploaded photos, and new opportunities for our community (or tribe as we like to call it) to engage.

Which campgrounds seem to get the most traffic? What amenities are people interested in?

Some of the campgrounds that get the most traffic are Bullfrog Pond (in Austin Creek), Wildcat Campground (in Point Reyes), Bothe-Napa Valley Campground (in Bothe-Napa), Steep Ravine Cabins & Campground (in Mt. Tam), Pfeiffer Big Sur Campground (in Pfeiffer Big Sur), and of course Upper Pines Campground (in Yosemite). 

I think people are really interested in our activities, amenities, and features filters. That's one of the coolest things about Hipcamp, is that you can use the filters to get the exact type of campground you want. It's very personal.

Can you think of any California campgrounds for people who lean toward teardrops and tiny trailers?

Hmm...well some of my favorites are Huckleberry Campground at Big Basin Redwoods, Andrew Molera Campground, Steep Ravine Cabins, and Borrego Palm Canyon Campground.

Have either of you had any experience with teardrop trailers?

I've had experience with trailers in general, but not teardrops yet. However, it is our dream to own a Hipcamp teardrop trailer. It would be so cool to have one that is Hipcamp branded, but still feels natural and vintage.

We'll all keep an eye out for you on the road, Hipcamp!