Monday, March 17, 2014

Featured Teardrop: Overland Trailer

While researching the Teardrop Camping with Children article, I was charmed by the beautiful photographs shot by Mark Janke of Overland Trailer. His company designs and builds custom teardrop trailers, and his photos capture the beautiful places he and his family have camped in their own off-road jPod teardrop. The Overland Trailers were featured in the August 2013 Cool Tears Magazine and because Mark is a teacher and wanted others to learn more about teardrop trailers, he made a documentary on the history of the teardrop trailer and historic camping. Mark was kind enough to chat with me about his trailer, his favorite camp spots and and some great tips for newbie teardroppers.


How did you get into building and camping in teardrop trailers?

I built my first teardrop (the prototype on the Overland site) after buying a Jeep. My original plan was to get a roof top tent and rack (we like to camp out in the wilderness and a rooftop tent can keep big furry creatures at a distance). My friend Nathan (now business partner at Overland trailer) had one and I really liked it. However, my wife wanted to have children and didn't want to have to pack them up and down a ladder at night. Her wisdom prevailed.

I started searching for other solutions. Google spit out this result on a forum somewhere and I was suddenly taken with it. I'd seen teardrops before (in photos from my grandparents) but hadn't seen one for off-road use. So I modified the design, drew up some plans and worked on logistics for four months before actually spending a penny.

The way our business started was pretty much accidental. I was blogging about the entire prototype build so my dad (who was riding his bicycle across the the U.S. from Pacific to Atlantic to raise funds for American Lung) could keep up with my progress. One of my blog posts got picked up by Consumer Reports and traffic boomed. Then I made the documentary film to use in my classroom. From that film, I was recognized by our first customers while I was at a concert.  They practically demanded I make them a trailer.  I caught their passion, called Nathan, and I started a total overhaul of my previous design. That was our first sale.

The 58 Heald Model is named after our first customers!  I'm very happy to have named that line after them.  I'm also glad that their name wasn't Przbyszewski or something like that. That's a pretty tough marketing deal there!


What makes your teardrops unique or special?

We build with love! LOL! That's true, but often doesn't get someone to like our product any more than than another company's!

No, really there are a few things. We are the only company to skin our trailers with stainless steel. It is much more durable and doesn't tarnish while adding minimal weight over that of aluminum (about 30 lbs). We also have done some custom cabinetry (something that you can't get with a big box manufacturer). We offer a solid slide out bunk in the 8 foot trailer that our customers really like. We've also custom painted items like a camp stove to match the trailer.  Our overall idea is to be pretty true to the past while providing those things that people want in a teardrop camper today.

One last feature we have for our customers is a private photo gallery of their trailer being built. We also do live video streaming  and archived video footage of their trailer being built too. This way they can watch us paint the color they chose, install the custom cabinet they requested, and literally watch their idea and dream come to life.  Plus it is just fun for us to do!  I am a film maker, film teacher, and geek after all!


What do you like the most about teardrop camping?

In a practical sense: Small Mobility. I can take the Jeep and trailer out to 9,000 feet on a two track trail and still sleep on a flat mattress and eat fresh cinnamon rolls. Within five minutes of being parked, I'm set up and enjoying the scenery. I really like tent camping too but there is something to be said for the convenience of not having to find a level spot of ground, clear it, and spend 1/2 an hour setting up camp.

In an actual sense: Camping with my family. A teardrop is a good way to stay close with your family. My wife and I plus our two kids all sleep together in there and it is a great bonding experience. Those are the best memories. Plus, it is so convenient that camping with a five week old baby isn't a big deal (as you found on my site).


 What do you like the least about teardrop camping?

Having to go home. Seriously, I can't think of anything.  I've camped in 15 to 100 degree weather in many types of climates. We've traveled the U.S. and Canada in the trailer and plan to always do that. No big RV for us. Simple is less stressful.



What are some of your favorite camping supplies?

1. 10" Dutch oven
2. 10" Lodge Cast Iron Skillet
3. Engle Refrigerator
4. Camp Chef Outdoor Camp Oven
5. Welding gloves (for cooking and for use with hot dogs or marshmallows over a fire).
6. A box of ratchet straps (for tarps, clothes lines, hammocks, and to hold an axle on if it breaks.)
7. An Italian coffee maker
8. A camera or five
9. A shovel (to dig the jeep out and for Nature's calls when we're roughing it).


Where are your favorite places to go camping?

1. Glacier National Park is a favorite.  It's typical campground camping but the hiking and raw beauty is spectacular.

2. Lolo Motorway in the Nez Perce National Forest. It's a trail dating back to before Lewis and Clark and they actually used that trail. It is high altitude rough camping. There are people out there but it's pretty rare to see them. The unique part of that trail is that you can take a teardrop up to places that usually only backpackers can reach. Here's a video of our first trip out there.

3. Tahoe National Park. Recently I've been making some trips into Tahoe. Again, raw beauty jagged mountains, some burly hiking.

4. Banff National Park (Canada). Some great wildlife to be found there. Mostly private camping if you pick the right places.

5. Eldorado National Forest. I haven't camped here yet but this place is made for rough teardrop camping. There are thousands of dirt roads and trails.  I have all of the maps for the forest (six of them) and they cover my entire living room floor. Each map is covered with backcountry trails that are accessible by jeep and trailer. Fees? $10 per year for a camp fire...if you want one. I have a friend who was inspired to build his own teardrop after seeing mine and he's camped there a lot and likes it.

6. I also know of those secret back country areas on private land and have arrangements with owners or businesses to camp there. These are pretty great too!


What's your advice for first time tear-droppers?

Space in a teardrop is precious. This means you should pack efficiently. Before heading out on your first trip, stop at an office supply store and buy a pad of paper, a pen, and some little stickers. Everything you use in the trailer, on that first trip, gets a sticker. Write down any supplies that you wish you had packed. Then when you return home, remove all items without a sticker from the trailer. You may keep a few that you'll want in special circumstances (rain ponchos, etc). Then go to the store and buy those supplies that were on you list.  I'd start with backpacking supplies. Those supplies will often be compact, collapsible, and light.  Sometimes, though, they are a bit flimsy so shop with wisdom.

Also, take some mints for stinky breath (it is a small space after all).  I suppose if foot odors are also a problem, take care of that too. Most of all on the first trip, it's wise to leave the media devices at home. This will force you to really explore how the trailer works on a camping trip.  You will also be more "present" making observations. For my family, we've been camping like this for years and we do it to get away from all of the media and buzz.


Photos courtesy of Overland Trailer

2 comments:

  1. great article Mark and love the photo of family. hope you are doing well in your new home. miss having you nearby. let me know when you are able to get up this way to camp; we still owe it to do the teardrop thing together. fondly, deb

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  2. Featuring on an teardrop overland means you really did a good time while you are in the camp.

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