The Sunflower on Faircompanies

The amazing filmmaker, Kirsten Dirksen of Faircompanies, recently wrapped up a video of me and the Sunflower. From some random footage and soundbites, she created a wonderful little vignette about teardrop trailers. I've been a huge fan of Kirsten's work for several years now and it's an honor that she wanted to do a video on my tiny yellow trailer.

If you are interested in this video, check out her video on Kyle and Jeannie's Homemade Spaceship. They built a very interesting teardrop that they lived in for about a year before settling down in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. I think it's one of my favorite videos on the Web.

Five Best Teardrop Beds

There are really only two main living parts to a teardrop trailer: the galley and the bed. The bed is where you can really create a special look for your teardrop trailer as well as the place you want to make soft and comfortable. It's also the place where you are most likely going to be storing your clothes, personal and bath items, books and other entertainment. Organization in the bed area is key so that you don't find yourself sleeping with your clothes, books, iPad or hiking gear.

Here are the five best teardrop trailer beds I have found over the years that utilize both beauty and functionality in a darn small space.

This darling bed was in the teardrop formerly owned by my friend, Kay (Kayperkay on TNTTT). Her teardrop was so wide that the bed ran along the short edge of the teardrop.  She was actually able to have room inside her bedroom for a closet. I always loved the boudoir look of her bed.

This is the bed of the L'il Bear rental teardrop by Vacations in a Can.
I especially love the adjustable, personal reading lights.

The Big Woody Teardrop company has some great styling with their teardrop beds. Their storage cabinets are huge and you can even fit a small child in a bunk bed at the foot of the bed.

The beautiful new Vistabule teardrop by the Minnesota Teardrop Trailer company has one of the most functional interiors I've seen in such a tiny trailer. The bed can be folded up into a couch and you can eat inside the bed area. There is tons of storage and some great windows.

This is a screen shot from a news piece on the teardrop trailer built by Mary and Myron of North Dakota. Their bed area is small, but has always been one of my favorites: from the handmade quilt to the beautiful, custom cabinetry, this teardrop deserves the attention is got.

Friday Teardrop Photo

The Sunflower and Stargazers teardrops at the Glory Hole (unfortunate name) campground 
near Angel's Camp in Central California.

How do you keep your food cold?

Most teardrop trailers do not have the luxury of a full refrigerator. With limited galley space, most teardroppers rely on ice coolers and sometimes 12-volt portable coolers to keep their beer and steaks cold. There are several different ways to keep your food cold if you own a teardrop trailer and there are advantages and disadvantages to both of them.

So far, my husband and I have only used a regular cooler filled with ice to keep our food cold. We previously had a Coleman, but we've since upgraded to a "bear proof" and lockable cooler since we tend to camp in hungry bear territory. The advantages of this way of storing cold food is that these coolers don't use power and keep ice cold for at least 2-3 days depending on the outside air temperature. The disadvantages are that every 2-3 days we have to go hunting for ice which can sometimes run about $3-$7 a bag. On our next big trip, we are going to try to use dry ice. Another disadvantage to our particular teardrop design is that the galley does not have space for the cooler, so we have to keep it outside of the teardrop, and in bear territory, that means having to pack it away in the car at night or when we leave our site. All that lifting is hard on the back.

One thing that we have done with our cooler to keep melted ice from mixing with our food is to separate the food from the ice with a clear, plastic storage bin. We bring the bin into the house and fill it with our food and then carry it out to the cooler, place it inside and then pack the ice around it. The ice and the food stay separate and we can also use that clean ice for our margaritas.

Another tip I've seen from teardroppers is to line the sides and the top of your cooler with a reflective, insulation. These are sometimes called radiant barriers or bubble foil and are sold in rolls that you can cut to the size of your cooler.

Some teardroppers are lucky to have enough space in their galley to hold a small 12-volt cooler. These types of coolers can run off the teardrop or car battery or can be hooked up to a solar panel on the roof of the trailer. There is no need to buy ice and the cooler keeps food at a consistently 36 degree temperature. The disadvantage is that these types of coolers are pretty small (about 15-17 liters) and some food will need to be frozen or cooled before putting them into the 12-volt cooler. Also, if you are camping for a long time, you may need to have access to campground power to make sure your battery does not get drained.

Big Summer Teardrop Trip

This August the Sunflower will be heading up to Yellowstone on her first trip through Idaho and into Wyoming. We actually snagged a spot at the Madison Campground near West Yellowstone and will be camping there for about a week with two of our friends from Florida. We will also be spending a night or two in Grand Teton National Park.

I would love to hear where other teardroppers will be going for their summer camping trips and in the meantime, I do get a kick out of watching the Yellowstone videos by Airstream owners, Sean and Kristy:

Friday Teardrop Photo

Harry cooking up some marinated chicken in the back of the Sunflower.
Taken at Convict Lake, California (can you guess now that it's one of our favorite spots?)

Featured Teardrop: La Tortuga

I ran across Steve's (Reddiver on the TNTT forum) pirate ship themed teardrop trailer, La Tortuga, over the summer at a teardrop gathering in central Nevada. My husband and I are fans of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, so we were drawn to this design right away. It's one of the most fun I've ever seen. Steve answered a few of my questions about his hand built design.

 I love your teardrop design. Why a pirate ship?

I think I always wanted to build a boat. I knew that wasn't practical so when I decided to build the teardrop I went with a nautical theme (I was in the Navy). Next I decided to put in portholes — before I cut the holes inside I made the portholes to make sure I could make them. Once I had them the nautical theme was set. The nautical theme eventually evolved into a pirate theme during the next Christmas when my daughter bought me a Captain Morgan sign. The rest is history.

You built your teardrop yourself, correct? How long did it take you and what advice to do you have for other DIYers out there?

I did build it myself. Woodworking is a passion of mine. I bought the frame from Red Trailers, did some adjusting, cutting and welding and built the body. From the time they dropped the trailer in my driveway until the first camping trip was almost two years. I didn't work on it every day and the journey was great. I still work on it but miss the project now that it's complete.
I think my advice would be to enjoy the build. Don't try to buy all your parts at one time because plans and ideas will change. Buy the best parts you can afford — you won't miss the money at the finish line.

What is your favorite part about your pirate theme?

I think the pirate chest toolbox and the portholes are my favorite parts. But once the pirate theme took hold I was receiving pirate stuff from a lot of friends, so the pirate theme includes many gifts from many friends.

What do you like best about teardrop camping? What do you like the least?

I think what I like best is about teardrops is that in NO time you will meet everybody in the campground. You can sit back and have a cold beer and meet all your neighbors. I can't think of anything I don't like...well maybe getting up to pee in the middle of the night but that's an old guy thing, not a teardrop thing.

 Where are your favorite places to camp?

I'm a huge fan of the national parks. Some years ago, before I built the teardrop, my dog and I went on the road for two months and traveled across the country stopping at national parks and state parks all the way there and back. I haven't been able to do that with La Tortuga because of obligations at home but I am truly looking forward to the chance to get back on the road. I want to see Gettysburg.

Photos by Reddiver, Christina Nellemann and the The Flirty Blog

Teardrop Trailer Food

When teardrop camping, we have a tendency to bring along the same types of food. This is really because we have limited storage space and usually we want to spend our time outside hiking, kayaking or enjoying other outdoor sports. We don't want to spend our time figuring out new recipes. So we have gotten into the habit of bringing along our favorite things every time we head into the hills.

Most of our dinners are cooked in a dutch oven which goes hand-in-hand with teardrop camping, and which I will cover in a future post. However, a lot of our meals are also cooked over the propane stove or over the campfire, and because we've been out and about all day our favorite foods and drinks tend to be high in calories.

Our camping standbys are:


Bagels (toasted on the stove or over the fire) and cream cheese
Orange juice
Eggs (sometimes mixed with cheese or sweet peppers)
Pancake mix and syrup

Lunch (usually eaten on a trail or on a kayak beach)

Tortillas (we love quesadillas with turkey or ham)
Bread and cold cuts
Tunafish salad
Apples and oranges

Happy Hour 

Tortilla chips and salsa
Hummus and veggies
Crackers and goat cheese

Pre-mixed margaritas (and a few limes)
Beer with twist caps
Wine with twist caps


Various dutch oven meals (stews or pizza are our favorites)
BBQ Chicken
Steamed veggies in aluminum foil on the fire
Grilled veggies 


Jiffy Pop popcorn
Roasted Marshmallows or S'mores
Hot Chocolate
Dutch oven brownies or upside down pineapple/peach cake

No matter what we bring, it always tastes much better out in the fresh air.

Teardrop Trailer Simplicity

I found this photo, taken by another teardropper, a few years ago and thought it epitomized the simplicity of teardrop camping. Most tent campers don't really deal with this much stuff, but over the years I've unfortunately seen many ladies of the camp having to pack up her family's tent camping "necessities".

Featured Teardrop: U.S. Route 89 Pod

James Cowlin, a nature and landscape photographer, and his partner Barbara Kemp Cowlin, a painter, are partial to teardrop camping on U.S. Route 89. The couple run the website, U.S. Route and the U.S. Route 89 Appreciation Society and they camp out of a custom 4x8 teardrop they've named the Pod. U.S. Route 89 runs down the western U.S. from Mexico to Canada: from Nogales, Ariz. in the south up to Glacier National Park in the north, and the Cowlin's journeys have taken them to various sites in Arizona, Utah, Idaho, Wyoming and Montana.

The 700 lb. Pod was built by Preston of Teardrop72 in Utah and has a double bed with a 4-inch foam pad, shelving with IKEA plastic bins for storage, a skylight, a galley with a work surface and a storage box on the front that holds a 5-gallon water bottle, a charcoal grill, a couple of camp chairs and a Mr. Heater, a small propane heater that warms the teardrop on colder nights. It originally had birch siding, but the couple has since had the sides of the trailer covered with aluminum. I asked James and Barbara a few questions about their teardrop trailer:

Why did you decide to see Highway 89 in a teardrop trailer?

For our first couple of long trips on US Route 89 we tent camped. We had been tent camping for many years on family vacations. What we realized was that the amount of time wasted in setting up camp and taking it down was really slowing us down. Also, there is nothing worse than breaking camp in the rain and having to deal with wet equipment.

On the other hand, we wanted to be able move fast and light and not be slowed down and restricted by an RV or a large trailer. Many years ago I had seen a teardrop in a campground at Zion National Park and it had stuck with me. I did a bunch of research on the web and discovered Teardrop72 in Logan, Utah. The teardrops that Preston builds are a good design and reasonably priced. Also, Logan is on US 89 so it was a perfect fit.

What do you like best and least about traveling in a teardrop trailer?

What we like best is that our bedroom and kitchen are right there ready to be used whenever we are ready. No set up required and it keeps us dry and warm no matter what the weather. Also, because the trailer is light it is easy to tow and it has little impact on our gas milage.

I suppose that downside is the lack of a toilet and shower. In that sense it is the same as tent camping. Consequently, after three or four nights in the teardrop, we will check into a motel and have a nice hot shower.

 If you had to have another one designed, what would you change or keep the same?

The one thing I would like to add is a solar power panel and storage battery hooked up to lights inside and in the galley. We could also use it for power for computers and phones and for a small electric heater to take the chill off at night. I’d also like more counter space for food preparation, maybe some sort of swing out table.

 What has been the reaction from other people on the road?

People come up to us whenever we stop at a gas station and in campgrounds to ask about our teardrop. Usually the first question is, “Do you sleep in there?” I gladly give people a guided tour, which takes about a minute and half, to show them how comfortable and practical it is.

Our teardrop is a great conversation starter and gives us the opportunity to talk to people about traveling on US Route 89. It is part of our message about driving the slow roads of America and enjoying the journey as much as the destination.

 Where are your favorite places to camp?

We look for the smaller federal and state park campgrounds whenever we can. They are usually in nice locations and not too crowded. Often we will find a campground central to an area we want to spend time in. We leave the trailer in the campground and day trip to explore and take photographs. It is nice to know that we have a warm bed waiting for us at the end of the day.

What are some of your favorite pieces of gear that you find invaluable on the road?

For many years I struggled to make the perfect cup of coffee while camping. I tried everything from an old fashioned percolator to a French press. Then a friend turned me on to the AeroPress. It is the perfect system for making a great cup of coffee and it is a snap to clean up. I wrote about the AeroPress on the our blog.

We have also developed a two cooler system for keeping food and beverages. We have cooler that plugs into the power outlet in the back of our Honda Element. I keeps perishables reasonably cold unless the weather is really hot. We keep an ice chest behind the front seat with cold beverages and snacks. Doing it that way cuts down on the amount of ice required and makes sure that there is a nice cold brew for the end of the day.

Note: Members of the U.S. Route 89 Appreciation Society get a 5% discount when they purchase a trailer from Teardrop72.

Photos courtesy of James and Barbara Cowlin

How do you change your clothes in a teardrop?

One of the biggest issues that teardrop campers have is changing clothes in a teardrop trailer. I've been slightly successful at putting on my underwear and tops while inside the trailer, but pants are more of a struggle. I usually wiggle into my jeans while lying down on the bed and then open up the door, step out to pull them up the rest of the way and zip up my zipper. It's not the most elegant way to put on pants, and some camping neighbors have gotten a nice view of my undies early in the morning.

Over the years, I've seen an interesting variety of screens and changing rooms made or purchased by other teardroppers. Some are attached to the top of the teardrop trailer and some are freestanding. It's most efficient and convenient to have a changing area right outside a teardrop door.

Here are a few ideas from the T&TTT forum and around the interwebs on how to get a little privacy while dressing and camping in a teardrop trailer:

A simple shower curtain on a rod can work if there is no wind. (Photo by boomboomtulum)

This awning is attached with bolts to the top of the trailer. (Photo by gage)

This could be great for changing clothes, hiding a porta-potty or as a dog house. (Photo by Tiny Camper) 

If you are interested in this type of teardrop trailer awning, you can visit the website of Marti Domyancic and her husband Bob. They make custom fabric awnings and shades for new and vintage trailers at their company in Northern California. (Photo by gage)

I've sometimes used our shower pop-up tent to change clothes. (Photo by oasismaker)

This is a brilliant, little setup using PVC pipe. (Photo by oklahomajewel)

This changing area creates wonderful shade. (Photo by toypusher)

Top photo by Wood  N' Mirror

Friday Teardrop Photo

Taken at the "Shoe Tree" on Highway 50 just outside of Fallon, NV. 
Unfortunately the tree was chopped down by vandals a few months later.