WoollyBear camping trailer treads lightly through the wilderness
With small-living design chops perfected at NASA, Garrett Finney and his company Taxa Outdoors hit the camping trailer scene hard and loud a few years ago with the distinctive Cricket. Since then, the company has been rapidly slimming down and cutting prices, designing the FireFly and TigerMoth. Now it's gone even smaller, lighter and cheaper with the new WoollyBear, a slim cargo trailer purpose-built for light, functional exploring and overnighting. While it doesn't have a cabin, a folding platform up top lifts your two-person tent up off the ground for a comfortable night's sleep.
Over the past few years, we've been watching RV and vehicle camping companies push their way into the consciousness of more traditional tent campers. This trend was on display at this year's Outdoor Retailer Summer Market like never before. Winnebago designed a concept camper van for the show, there were multiple brands of roof-top tent on display throughout the halls and pavilions, and Taxa Outdoors greeted attendees with the WoollyBear, a towable that finds a niche between trailer camping and tent camping. It helps outdoor lovers self-support their greater adventure, whether that's a multi-day biking trip, relaxing paddleboarding getaway or whatever else they can think up.
"WoollyBear" may sound like a mammal-inspired name, but it's actually a continuation of Taxa's insect-derived nomenclature and a clever way of identifying the new trailer's place in the lineup. The woolly bear is the furry caterpillar that eventually blossoms into the Isabella tiger moth, and we're sure Taxa wouldn't mind if young owners of the compact, narrow-bodied WoollyBear trailer eventually evolve into more mature owners of the wing-spreading TigerMoth.
The WoollyBear is one of the most basic utility-cum-camping trailers we've seen. The "rolling toolbox" comes without the built-in kitchen hardware, hard-wired electrical system or plumbing common in more fully equipped towable campers. Instead, it offers a versatile jumping off point with more camping-specific organization than a standard cargo trailer. The upper deck, cabinets and compartments organize recreational and camping gear, letting outdoor enthusiasts reach their destination and establish a functional base camp before getting out and playing all day.
Its dual-box body is made from powder-coated 16-gauge steel and set atop a steel frame. Taxa was inspired by slim bodies of generator trailers when designing those boxes, and each measures just 30 in (762 mm) in width, set inside a 50-in (1,270-mm) wheelbase. A torsion axle suspension cushions the wheels, and there's a foot (305 mm) of clearance between trailer and ground. Up top, a cargo deck with crossbars serves to hold gear like bikes and kayaks. Taxa is aiming to keep weight around 700 lb (318 kg).
The two boxes and middle compartment separating them stretch 84 in (2.1 m) front to back (total length is 90 in/2.2 m) and are focused on cooking and storage. The long driver-side storage compartment at the top of the larger box includes a drop-down hatch that doubles as a counter. The owner can store a propane stove and other cooking tools inside this cabinet, drop down the hatch and have everything ready for cooking in a few minutes. The drawer inside the front box holds a large cooler, finishing off the functional outdoor kitchen space with cold food storage. There's also more storage below the kitchen countertop, and the open "void box" between the two main boxes is sized to fit a combination of two jerry cans and a 20-lb (9-kg) propane tank.
That small build and integrated storage leave no room for any type of built-in sleeping quarters. Finney told us that a roof-top tent is a possibility Taxa's thinking about, but it seems to us that such tents, typically measuring around 47 in+ (1.2 m+) across when packed up, would be an awkward, oversized fit atop that 30-in main body. The trailer really seems better equipped for the configuration we saw on display – a traditional two-person ground tent lifted up off the ground by the fold-out 60 x 90-in (1.5 x 2. 3 m) platform. That platform is perforated, so it looks easy enough to secure the tent down so it doesn't blow away.
Taxa's sleeping solution also fits in with the greater theme of making camping vehicles that appeal to the mainstream, tent-camping outdoor-loving masses. Instead of looking to replace all those tents that were on display just across the street at OR, products that undoubtedly stock virtually every attendee's garage shelving, the WoollyBear plays nicely with them. The trailer gives campers a more traditional tent camping experience, along with better organization than a Subaru Outback stuffed to the roof lining with gear. It also leaves campers the option of going old school and pitching the tent on the ground.
Finney didn't have an exact max weight for the sleeping platform, half of which extends off the side propped up by several supports, but he did say that it's designed to hold two people.
Beyond outdoor adventurers, Taxa sees the WoollyBear as an option for festival goers. It imagines the deck being used for impromptu dance sessions and stargazing, as well as good old sleeping. It's not a super-burly off-road trailer, but it is designed for navigating dirt roads on the way to the trailhead or backcountry fire ring.
The WoollyBear at last week's Outdoor Retailer show was a prototype and the specs Taxa gave us are tentative and subject to change before official launch. Taxa still has a few t's to cross and i's to dot, but it hopes to have the WoollyBear ready within the next couple of months at a base price around US$6,000. In addition to exhibiting, it was also using Outdoor Retailer to look for potential partners for accompanying equipment, such as a cooler.
Source: Taxa Outdoors