Knaus Travelino envisages a clean, light camper of the future

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The Knaus Tabbert Travelino is a lightweight caravan concept

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Last year, German camper specialist Knaus Tabbert used the Düsseldorf Caravan Salon to present its vision of the future camping trailer. The yacht-inspired Caravisio was a large, luxurious home-on-wheels with some careful aerodynamic treatments. This year, Knaus went small, light and simple, presenting the Travelino concept, a compact trailer outfitted with space- and weight-saving features.

Strangely, Knaus appears to have abandoned all the aerodynamic headway it made with the Caravisio. Not only is the Travelino much broader and less streamlined than last year's concept, it appears less aerodynamic than a lot of existing production teardrops. The curved trapezoidal prism is broad from every angle and looks ill-equipped for head or crosswinds.

The focus of the Travelino is clearly not on the aero-efficient shape of the shell, but on the equipment, layout and materials. The walls of the trailer are built from a lightweight, XPS foam-core material that helps the trailer maintain a base weight below 1,433 lb (650 kg). Similarly, Knaus saves weight on the interior fixtures and furnishings through the use of a paper-based honeycomb board.

The 1,433-lb curb weight doesn't necessarily sound impressive when compared to the 400- to 1,000-lb (181 to 454 kg) weights of production trailers like the Teal Tail Feather, EcoTrek and myriad other small trailers. However, at over 13 ft (4 m), the Travelino is a few feet longer than either the Tail Feather or the EcoTrek and nearly double the size of a diminutive teardrop like the Pino Pi2010. Its mix of onboard amenities is also more extensive than any of those others, combining an indoor kitchen, dining area, double bed, bathroom and outdoor kitchen.

While the structural materials provide the basis of weight savings, it's the arrangement of fixtures and equipment that provides space-saving versatility, most notably in the bathroom design. The bathroom is one of the larger dilemmas facing compact camping trailer designers. Some consumers don't even want to consider a camper without a proper bathroom, but a dedicated bathroom takes up a lot of precious space and some small campers just don't have the room. Many trailers are designed without bathrooms, leaving occupants to their own devices.

The Travelino offers a smart bathroom compromise in the form of a fold-out, multi-panel wall that creates an on-demand bathroom space and folds away when not in use. This provides the privacy of a built-in bathroom without permanently eating up a lot of interior space. The bathroom includes a built-in sink and a pull-out cassette toilet that hides away in a dedicated compartment. A sliding wardrobe over the bed slides into the bathroom at night, opening up more space on the bed.

The bathroom isn't the only example of flexible, tuck-away hardware. The Travelino features a slide-out refrigerator next to the kitchen counter, providing easy access to food while moving out of the way when not needed. An exterior door next to the pull-out outdoor kitchen area also provides refrigerator access from outside. Instead of built-in cooktops, the two kitchen areas share a portable camping stove. The slide-out outdoor kitchen stows neatly under the bed when not in use.

One aspect of the Travelino design that we find a little odd is its inclusion of indoor and outdoor kitchens. It seems that a design so intent on saving weight and space would opt for one or the other, as production trailers like the ADAK do. While the outdoor kitchen area is little more than a sliding counter top designed to accommodate a dual-burner camping stove and a non-plumbed wash basin, Knaus could still save space and weight by eliminating this element in favor of an open cargo compartment. Then, campers could use it to store their own stove and outdoor cooking equipment or for something else entirely. Eliminating the indoor kitchen, on the other hand, would measurably increase living space.

The Travelino has a dinette set on one end and a double bed on the other. The dinette does not appear designed to convert into a bed, nor does Knaus say anything about such a feature. If the Travelino ever inspires a production model, we'd imagine it could be equipped with the very common feature of a convertible dinette/bed, allowing it to sleep three or four people, instead of two. Of course, Knaus does not mention any production plans, so the Travelino seems likely to remain a design study for now.

While the Travelino won't be showing up at RV parks in the near future, the greater Knaus Tabbert group showed another interesting camping trailer that will. We saw one camper from the group's T@b brand, the T@b OffRoad, at last year's Düsseldorf show, and for the 2015 model year, T@b adds a new "Woody" option. This retro, wood-paneled teardrop looks like it should be permanently parked on the sand in front of a world-class surf break.

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