Why did you decided to build wooden campers and trailers? How did you become interested in them in particular?
I grew up camping with my family in a pop-up tent camper—and I always enjoyed the small, cozy atmosphere it created. I never owned a truck camper before starting this venture, but I always loved the idea of having a little cabin on the back of the truck. Once I learned how to build and engineer with wood, I figured it was time to try building my own. The prototype came together well, and once it gained enough interest, I though it'd make nice little business.
Designing and building small trailers was really a reaction to the amount of interest I received from folks around the country. I've really been enjoying the trailers though, as its a little more flexible when you're not dealing with the bed of a truck.
Can you tell me a little about the building process of the Hatchling and the Terrapin? What do you think is important to include?
I start by designing a trailer frame that's appropriate to the cabin I'll be building for it—crossmember spacing, axle, suspension, etc. I tend to err on the side of overbuilding, while always keeping overall weight in mind. I typically build the cabin to about 80% completion before mounting it to the trailer frame. The framing and cedar siding goes up pretty quickly, then comes the roof deck...
Without a doubt, the domed roof is the most difficult element of my designs. The two-way arch makes building the roof deck tricky and time consuming, but it makes for a very strong, unique roof. I adhere a single-ply TPO roofing membrane to the deck, thermally weld the seams, and trim it about the edge with a custom aluminum termination bar.
When designing my campers, I like to include as many windows as is practical. Not only does it help keep fresh air moving around the cabin, but it goes a very long way to making such a small space seem more open and comfortable. I also like to leave enough roof overhang to send dripping rain past open windows.
In some ways, I think what you leave out of a camper is as important as what you include. I've had a lot of people who've owned small camper for years tell me that they never use their sink, stove, furnace. Obviously, there are plenty of folks who do, but if its not something you're going to use, I think it makes a lot of sense to leave it out in the first place.
What do you think is the appeal of smaller trailers?
I think there are a lot of folks out there to whom being in their camper isn't necessarily the most important part of their trips. Having a comfortable bed to sleep on is huge—but having a full kitchen, living room, closets, etc., we're all not interested in hauling that around. It's nice having such a nimble little trailer that is easy to hook up, pull around town, navigate campgrounds and backroads. Not needing to have a Ford F350 is nice too!
Do you have experience camping in a teardrop trailer? If so, what do you think are the pros and cons of them?
I never have spent any real time in a teardrop, but I definitely like them. As you can tell from my designs, I'm a big fan of simplicity and I think teardrops are great examples of how smallness, simplicity, and comfort can very easily go hand-in-hand. Plus, they're so damn cute, you can't help but smile when you see one rolling down the road.
I know there are some great manufacturers out there, but it seems like there are some awfully under-built models, too. Especially when it comes to the actual trailer, axle, and wheels. I just don't think it pays to skimp on these. The only other issue I have with most teardrops, is they often seem to be lacking in windows. With such a tiny space, I think windows are crucial to making a comfortable, little cabin.
Where do you like to go camping?
The vast majority of my camping has taken place in northern Minnesota. Obviously, here in Colorado the camping opportunities are endless. One place my wife and I have had some good trips is in North Park, Colorado. It's not a super well-known area for recreation, but there are miles of lonely Forest Service roads, lots of backcountry campsites, and more moose than anywhere I've ever been. The little area around Gould, CO holds some special memories for me.
What are some of your favorite camping items?
There's nothing better than a seriously comfortable camp chair, if you ask me. It makes everything better, from sitting around a fire, eating a good meal, drinking good beer(s). We also like to bring some prepared foods when we go. Grabbing something we can eat around the fire on our way out of town makes that first dinner real easy. We're also not opposed to having a DVD queued up on the laptop in cases of bad weather.
Photos by Casual Turtle Campers