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March 28, 2010

News & Features

Car campers: Travel trailers are getting smaller, cooler and more multifunctional

Special to NWautos

The T@B by Thor Industries

The T@B by Thor Industries

If you think of travel trailers as mobile motels for the retired set, think again. Their popularity is surging among families and adventurers wanting to make the most of the road-trip destinations available in our vast and beautiful backyard.

They are cheaper than RVs, far greener, can go pretty much anywhere, and can be towed by nearly any truck or SUV and, in some cases, even small cars. This new generation of trailers is hipper, lighter and more agile than ever before. Here are four models to check out.

SylvanSport GO
This Swiss Army Knife of trailers can be configured to carry boats, bikes, luggage racks and ATVs. And at only 800 pounds, you don't need anything bigger than a Volkswagen Beetle to tow it.

Once out in the wild blue yonder, it transforms into a spacious tent, complete with a self-inflating air mattress on a raised, insulated bed platform. At mealtime, the platform converts to a table. With a 13-inch ground clearance and high-flotation tires, it can go almost anywhere you can.

Prices start at $6,195; available at sylvansport.com

Sylvan Sport GO's tent

The SylvanSport GO's tent folds into its lid and the body can be configured to carry an array of sporting equipment.

Compact Camping Concepts Explorer Box Trailer
This plucky little unit isn't fancy, but is perfect for DIYers on a budget. Compact Camping Concepts provides the tent, specialty parts and instruction manual; you provide the lumber and basic woodworking skills. The result is a tent-topped camping trailer personalized to your tastes.

The 400-pound unit provides 32 cubic feet of compartmentalized storage space with room for bikes and boats on top, while a front kitchen has shelved storage and counter space. A self-erecting tent pulls open on top without the hassle of stakes or poles.
Prices start at $1,400; available at compactcampingconcepts.com

Thor Industries T@B
Its teardrop shape is retro-cool, but everything else about this 15-foot trailer is thoroughly modern. The lightweight body -- which can be pulled by most SUVs, small trucks and some cars -- is made from Alufiber, an aluminum, fiberglass and resin composite.

No tents are necessary here; the sofa inside converts to a large bed. The galley comes equipped with a sink and two-burner stovetop. Refrigerators, microwaves, TV/DVD sets, AC, awnings and bike racks are all available. Just don't hit the road with it unless you plan on making friends -- everyone is going to want a peek inside.

Prices start at $20,000, tab-rv.com; available at Poulsbo RV, poulsborv.com

True North Freelance Outdoor Support Vehicle
Designed for the true outdoor enthusiast, this brand-new trailer is meant to enhance your experience, not shield you from it (though when you're out there in bear country, its fiberglass walls are a good thing).

The fold-out galley is built on the exterior so the cook can hang outside with everyone else. Stereo speakers play outside as well as inside, and Thule RV utility pods allow for attachments such as an outside tabletop, a trash bin and a large hook for drying out wet gear.

Tracks atop the vehicle can be fitted with racks for bikes, kayaks, surfboards and other items. The sofa inside folds out into a bed. Sidewall storage, cup holders, electric sockets and utility lights are everywhere you'd want them, not to mention built-in D-hooks to strap down -- you guessed it -- more outdoor gear.

Prices start at $9,000, truenorth.me; available at Sumner RV, sumnerrv.com

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