Outdoors

Exploring the best camping trailers of 2016

New Atlas looks at the top 10 camping trailers we saw in 2016
New Atlas looks at the top 10 camping trailers we saw in 2016
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This Timberleaf trailer has a refrigerator instead of the wood cooler
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This Timberleaf trailer has a refrigerator instead of the wood cooler
Timberleaf Trailers at Overland Expo West 2016
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Timberleaf Trailers at Overland Expo West 2016
Backcountry Box Base Camp trailer at Overland Expo West 2016
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Backcountry Box Base Camp trailer at Overland Expo West 2016
What attracted us to the Backcountry Box was the integration of the versatile Camp Chef stove/grill/griddle
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What attracted us to the Backcountry Box was the integration of the versatile Camp Chef stove/grill/griddle
The grill and griddle remove to reveal a standard two-burner stove
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The grill and griddle remove to reveal a standard two-burner stove
As the "Backcountry Box" company name implies, the Base Camp is a simple, rugged trailer, which the buyer can customize with a variety of options
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As the "Backcountry Box" company name implies, the Base Camp is a simple, rugged trailer, which the buyer can customize with a variety of options
Backcountry Box Base Camp
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Backcountry Box Base Camp
Another off-road camping trailer with a grill option, the Inka Venture OHV has an optional folding grill arm
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Another off-road camping trailer with a grill option, the Inka Venture OHV has an optional folding grill arm
The Inka OHV offers a bit more structural outdoor shelter than other teardrops
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The Inka OHV offers a bit more structural outdoor shelter than other teardrops
The gullwing doors give the Venture OHV a distinct look
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The gullwing doors give the Venture OHV a distinct look
The Inka Venture OHV includes a versatile kitchen space
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The Inka Venture OHV includes a versatile kitchen space
The Inka Venture OHV is designed for off-road use
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The Inka Venture OHV is designed for off-road use
The Inka Venture OHV is designed for off-road use
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The Inka Venture OHV is designed for off-road use
Inka Venture OHV trailer
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Inka Venture OHV trailer
The UGOAT Scout modular off-road "multi-trailer"
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The UGOAT Scout modular off-road "multi-trailer"
UGOAT buyers can add one or two boxes atop the base cargo bed for added space and organization
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UGOAT buyers can add one or two boxes atop the base cargo bed for added space and organization
The UGOAT Scout equipped as a toy-hauler with roof-top tent
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The UGOAT Scout equipped as a toy-hauler with roof-top tent
UGOAT Scout at camp
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UGOAT Scout at camp
The lifting tent platform/roof rack adjusts around the set-up and cargo below
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The lifting tent platform/roof rack adjusts around the set-up and cargo below
UGOAT Scout
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UGOAT Scout
A peek inside the Transformis Inspire trailerable houseboat
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A peek inside the Transformis Inspire trailerable houseboat
The Transformis Inspire borrows its slide-out design from the RV industry, allowing for a roomier interior 
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The Transformis Inspire borrows its slide-out design from the RV industry, allowing for a roomier interior 
The side slide-outs increase interior space, and the pontoons move with them to keep things stable on the water
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The side slide-outs increase interior space, and the pontoons move with them to keep things stable on the water
Transformis Inspire
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Transformis Inspire
Transformis Inspire
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Transformis Inspire
Transformis Inspire
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Transformis Inspire
The Transformis atop its trailer
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The Transformis atop its trailer
The Bruder EXP-6's indoor/outdoor cooktop
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The Bruder EXP-6's indoor/outdoor cooktop
Inside the Bruder EXP-6 trailer
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Inside the Bruder EXP-6 trailer
The Bruder EXP-6 is designed to travel far beyond the road
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The Bruder EXP-6 is designed to travel far beyond the road
The Bruder EXP-6 is built for expeditions of all kinds and sizes
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The Bruder EXP-6 is built for expeditions of all kinds and sizes
The Bruder EXP-6's filtration system prevents the interior air from becoming dusty
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The Bruder EXP-6's filtration system prevents the interior air from becoming dusty
The Bruder EXP-6 gets wet and wild 
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The Bruder EXP-6 gets wet and wild 
The Bruder EXP-6 kitchen area
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The Bruder EXP-6 kitchen area
The Bruder EXP-6's smartphone-activated hatch opens up access to the door
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The Bruder EXP-6's smartphone-activated hatch opens up access to the door
You wouldn't want to do this with just any trailer
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You wouldn't want to do this with just any trailer
The Bruder EXP-6 is a burly block of adventure outside, a comfy living area with TV, heat and other amenities inside
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The Bruder EXP-6 is a burly block of adventure outside, a comfy living area with TV, heat and other amenities inside
Bruder's adjustable air suspension is a cornerstone of the versatile, off-road-ready design. It can also be raised and lowered at camp as needed
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Bruder's adjustable air suspension is a cornerstone of the versatile, off-road-ready design. It can also be raised and lowered at camp as needed
Out in the wild with the Homegrown trailer
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Out in the wild with the Homegrown trailer
The Homegrown trailer includes an induction cooktop
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The Homegrown trailer includes an induction cooktop
Homegrown offers its trailer with buyer's choice of 400- or 800-watt solar panel arrays
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Homegrown offers its trailer with buyer's choice of 400- or 800-watt solar panel arrays
Homegrown Trailers
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Homegrown Trailers
Homegrown's pop-up roof increases headroom
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Homegrown's pop-up roof increases headroom
The Homegrown trailer sleeps four people on a combination of bunks and pull-out couch bed
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The Homegrown trailer sleeps four people on a combination of bunks and pull-out couch bed
The Homegrown's extended teardrop construction creates a roomy interior complete with toilet room
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The Homegrown's extended teardrop construction creates a roomy interior complete with toilet room
BorderLand Trailers is a spinoff of Utah's Mobilight International
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BorderLand Trailers is a spinoff of Utah's Mobilight International
Mobilight moves from worksites to campsites with the BorderLand Trailers line
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Mobilight moves from worksites to campsites with the BorderLand Trailers line
BorderLand's exterior shower package offers a private place to clean up
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BorderLand's exterior shower package offers a private place to clean up
Electronics case option in BorderLand trailer
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Electronics case option in BorderLand trailer
A drop-down gun case in the BorderLand trailer
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A drop-down gun case in the BorderLand trailer
The BorderLand trailer from Mobilight can be anything from a basic cargo-hauling box trailer to a fully equipped expedition trailer
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The BorderLand trailer from Mobilight can be anything from a basic cargo-hauling box trailer to a fully equipped expedition trailer
BorderLand's extensive list of options includes a roof-top tent, exterior shower package, power package, built-in cases for guns and communications equipment, and a water filtration system
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BorderLand's extensive list of options includes a roof-top tent, exterior shower package, power package, built-in cases for guns and communications equipment, and a water filtration system
The available roll-out kitchen brings an organized food prep area to the BorderLand trailer
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The available roll-out kitchen brings an organized food prep area to the BorderLand trailer
The BorderLand trailer from Mobilight offers one of the most customizable platforms we saw this year
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The BorderLand trailer from Mobilight offers one of the most customizable platforms we saw this year
Timberleaf puts its own fingerprint on the teardrop shape
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Timberleaf puts its own fingerprint on the teardrop shape
Timberleaf galley area
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Timberleaf galley area
Timberleaf offers a custom wooden cooler with leather handle
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Timberleaf offers a custom wooden cooler with leather handle
Timberleaf Trailers
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Timberleaf Trailers
Timberleaf Trailers
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Timberleaf Trailers
Timberleaf's team has experience in interior remodeling, and it shows
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Timberleaf's team has experience in interior remodeling, and it shows
The Timberleaf teardrop trailer includes a skylight with retractable shade
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The Timberleaf teardrop trailer includes a skylight with retractable shade
Taxa Outdoors is known for its oddly shaped camping trailers
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Taxa Outdoors is known for its oddly shaped camping trailers
The Taxa TigerMoth weighs around 900 lb (408 kg) dry
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The Taxa TigerMoth weighs around 900 lb (408 kg) dry
The Taxa TigerMoth kitchen slides out the rear and stores under the convertible couch
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The Taxa TigerMoth kitchen slides out the rear and stores under the convertible couch
The Taxa TigerMoth offers a side hatch and rear door
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The Taxa TigerMoth offers a side hatch and rear door
Bowlus calls the new Lithium+ the most technologically advanced travel trailer in the world
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Bowlus calls the new Lithium+ the most technologically advanced travel trailer in the world
The new Lithium+ package for the Bowlus Road Chief includes a variety of upgrades, most notably its high-capacity electrical system
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The new Lithium+ package for the Bowlus Road Chief includes a variety of upgrades, most notably its high-capacity electrical system
Inside the Bowlus Road Chief Lithium+
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Inside the Bowlus Road Chief Lithium+
With its 4 kWh lithium battery, the Lithium+ can stay off the grid and online for up to 7 days, according to Bowlus
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With its 4 kWh lithium battery, the Lithium+ can stay off the grid and online for up to 7 days, according to Bowlus
Meteorological gauges inside the Bowlus Lithium+
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Meteorological gauges inside the Bowlus Lithium+
The Bowlus Road Chief Lithium+ package includes skylights standard
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The Bowlus Road Chief Lithium+ package includes skylights standard
Bowlus Road Chief Lithium+
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Bowlus Road Chief Lithium+
The Bowlus Road Chief Lithium+ edition comes with a doggy bed
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The Bowlus Road Chief Lithium+ edition comes with a doggy bed
Timberleaf's custom handmade wood cooler
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Timberleaf's custom handmade wood cooler
Timberleaf first introduced its road-going teardrop, then followed up with a more rugged off-road model
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Timberleaf first introduced its road-going teardrop, then followed up with a more rugged off-road model
New Atlas looks at the top 10 camping trailers we saw in 2016
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New Atlas looks at the top 10 camping trailers we saw in 2016

For the past three years, we've been doing a year-end round-up of the year's most interesting motorhomes and camping trailers. This year, we're splitting those categories up because we've witnessed such an explosion of interesting new trailers. From ruggedized, off-road adventure trailers to super-chic museum-worthy pieces tough enough to survive roadway voyages, 2016 brought new caravans for campers and travelers of all types and income brackets.

Taxa Outdoors TigerMoth

Taxa Outdoors, best known for its Cricket trailer, had a busy 2016, giving its original NASA-inspired caravan two very different stablemates, the TigerMoth and the WoollyBear. The TigerMoth was one of the first trailers we covered back when 2016 was still a cooing infant, and it still stands as one of the most visually arresting we saw all year.

The Taxa TigerMoth offers a side hatch and rear door
The Taxa TigerMoth offers a side hatch and rear door

A mash-up of shapes and angles, the 12-footer (3.7-m) equips two people for journeys off the grid and into the forest, desert or wherever. It has both a rear door and an upswinging side hatch, making for easier loading and breezier camping. Other interesting features include a slide-out kitchen that stores under the convertible couch, NASA-inspired lash points for versatile storage, and an electrical system that Taxa advertises as robust enough for weeklong trips away from hookups. Taxa offers several different TigerMoth packages with various equipment levels.

Mobilight BorderLand (Base Camp) Trailers

Mobilight International has extensive expertise in designing rugged trailers built to carry work lights to oil fields, mines and other faraway job sites. So naturally, when it turned its designers loose on a camping trailer, they came up with a rugged, go-anywhere trailer that leaves the destination completely open to the camper's imagination. It originally called this trailer Base Camp, but perhaps realizing that Base Camp was the most popular, generic camping trailer name of 2016 (we also saw the Airstream Basecamp, the UGOAT Basecamp and one other we'll detail below), it later switched up to BorderLand, which definitely stands out more effectively in the crowd.

BorderLand's extensive list of options includes a roof-top tent, exterior shower package, power package, built-in cases for guns and communications equipment, and a water filtration system
BorderLand's extensive list of options includes a roof-top tent, exterior shower package, power package, built-in cases for guns and communications equipment, and a water filtration system

The tubular steel frame and steel body ensure that BorderLand trailers get to the roughest destinations in one piece, and a long options list ensures that they treat campers right while there. In addition to familiar options like a roof-top tent, roll-out kitchen and power package, Mobilight offers extras like an electric water filtration system, gun boxes and its own powerful field lights. This one quite clearly takes home the unofficial 2016 "Swiss Army knife award, off-road trailer category."

Homegrown Trailers

One of the cool things about new trailers this year is that they came in all kinds of distinctive materials, from shiny polished aluminum, to colorful fiberglass, to the knotty cedar of Homegrown Trailers. More than just pretty timber, the roomy teardrops can be equipped with a beefy 800-W solar system and 6,000-Wh lithium-ion battery for supplying power without constant hookup. The 94-sq ft (8.7-sq m) cabin inside the 19-footer (5.8-m) doesn't look anything like the mattress + cabinets/tailgate kitchen of smaller teardrops, offering a four-person layout with bunk beds, a pullout couch, a "cook's kitchen" with induction cooktop and fridge, and even a toilet room.

Homegrown Trailers
Homegrown Trailers

Indiegogo proved an awkward fit for Homegrown, but the company now offers sales and rentals directly. It advertises two different trailer packages, along with a number of options.

Timberleaf Trailers

Timberleaf Trailers
Timberleaf Trailers

More traditionally teardrop-packaged than the Homegrown, but no less stylish, the Timberleaf Trailer is another teardrop flaunting homey design. Timberleaf's day job is home remodeling, and its expertise in interior design and fine woodworking shines through in its teardrop trailer. Design points like the large skylight, custom wood-paneled ice box, and interior wood trim make this particular teardrop stand out from the myriad others out there. Buyers can upgrade the basic trailer with comforts like heating, air conditioning and solar power. Timberleaf's off-road teardrop followed several months behind the road-going model, adding reinforcements like a Timbren suspension, off-road tires and tough step-on fenders.

Backcountry Box Base Camp

Yep, we promised it and here's that other "Base Camp." Backcountry Box's Base Camp stands out not only among "Base Camps," but also among the many off-road trailers we saw at Overland Expo West 2016. Using a versatile Camp Chef cooking unit, Backcountry Box fits a dual-burner stove, grill and griddle within the limited space of the sliding kitchen area. The grill and griddle drop directly atop the stove burners, providing more cooking versatility. Pull them off and you're back to a standard two-burner stove. Most trailers we've seen have just a two-burner stove, leaving campers on their own if they want to grill, which seems only natural when cooking under the open sky.

Backcountry Box Base Camp trailer at Overland Expo West 2016
Backcountry Box Base Camp trailer at Overland Expo West 2016

The slide-out kitchen is one of many available options on the sleek, customizable Base Camp. The greater list also includes a power system, Kenwood stereo, roof-top tent and water system.

UGOAT Scout

No two adventures are exactly alike, so having an adventure trailer that can transform around different journeys and activities is sure to pay off. Most trailer companies, including UGOAT, offer serious customization through their options lists. But UGOAT goes a step further in designing a modular trailer that can actively transform even after you tow it home.

[image:{u'num': '439720'}]

The heavily military-inspired Scout "multi-trailer" is one of the most versatile off-road trailers we've looked at, relying on optional stackable modules to transform from basic cargo bed to fully organized tent-top camping trailer. Its combination of base cargo bed, dual stackable storage boxes and raisable tent platform adjusts around current trip needs. Overnight sporting trip? Secure the tent platform up high, load the gear in the bed, around the roof tent and/or on a hitch rack, and get going. Longer camping trip? Stack the galley box between the cargo bed and tent platform and now you have organized cooking capabilities. Hauling old odds and ends to the dump? Remove the tent platform, fill up the bed and get to it. You get the idea.

Bowlus Road Chief Lithium+

Out of the backcountry and back onto roadways, the Bowlus Road Chief Lithium+ edition is easily the most stunning combination of aesthetic exterior design, well-furnished interior and off-grid power and computing capability we covered all year. And it has the shocking price tag to match. A new package for the Bowlus Road Chief aluminum trailer revived a few years ago, the Lithium+ earns its name from the robust 4,000-Wh lithium-iron-phosphate battery that's on board. Unlike the usual trailer battery, this one is powerful enough to run the included 8,000 BTU air conditioner and microwave. It'll even get a Tesla going. Occupants can use all that power to keep connected, as there's also a 3G/4G modem and wireless router, a cellular signal booster and a mobile device charging station. A 120-W solar panel helps keep the battery firing.

With its 4 kWh lithium battery, the Lithium+ can stay off the grid and online for up to 7 days, according to Bowlus
With its 4 kWh lithium battery, the Lithium+ can stay off the grid and online for up to 7 days, according to Bowlus

Sure, towing a fully wired $219K aluminum trailer isn't everyone's idea of "camping," but the Lithium+ does look like the perfect way for those with the right combination of career and personal assets to abandon the 9-to-5 commuter swarm and become a part of the nomadic digital tribe. It also looks like a good way to convince the most reluctant of spouses and friends that "roughing it" is something worth doing.

Inka Outdoor Venture OHV

When it's all packed up and rolling behind its tow vehicle, the Inka Outdoor Venture OHV could easily be mistaken for a number of other off-road teardrops, save for its branding. At camp, though, the Venture OHV reveals its personality the minute you open the doors, which rise up in gullwing style instead of swinging out. This gives it a cool, standout look, supplements the galley tailgate in providing a little outdoor overhead protection, and prevents the wind from smashing fingers against the door frame.

[image:{u'num': '439716'}]

Moving back from those gullwings, it's the galley where the Venture OHV really shines, offering a lot of versatility in food prep. In addition to the usual two-burner stove, sink and counter, there's room for a microwave or convection oven and an optional folding arm mount for proper grilling on a Weber Q 1000. There's also a refrigerator/cooler slide-out. The rugged trailer sleeps two on the queen mattress inside the gullwings.

Transformis Inspire caravan houseboat

One of the things that's missing from today's large market of five- and six-figure camping trailers is the DIY ingenuity and elbow grease behind the classic, garage-built teardrop. DIY building is still alive and well, though, and the Transformis Inspire proves it in the coolest way we've seen in a long time.

Transformis Inspire
Transformis Inspire

Part expanding houseboat and part caravan, the Transformis Inspire camps on land and on water. This capability puts it in a very small group of amphibious caravans and motorhomes, and separating it into a field of one is a custom-designed pontoon/interior expansion system that increases interior space and improves on-water stability while keeping the body slim(ish) during towing. The Inspire requires a separate trailer, so it's technically a trailerable houseboat and not a proper "caravan," but designer Claudia Moffat has used it both on land and in water, so her creation does indeed function like a caravan and the expansion slide-outs work on the trailer, as well as water. It's obviously not the solution for every camper or vehicle (it weighs close to 7,000 lb/3,175 kg), but it's an innovative blend of marine and motorhome design that provides a one-of-a-kind experience.

The Inspire was a one-off, personal-use prototype when we covered it a year ago (it came a couple weeks too late for our 2015 best-of list) but is now listed for sale. Transformis also has a new camper in the works, indicating it's moving along from "garage DIY" to full-fledged camper company. We look forward to covering future designs.

Bruder EXP-6

The Bowlus stands as the most luxurious, high-tech trailer we looked at all year, but we don't think you'd want to have it hitched up when wading through a river or climbing a rock garden in your Land Rover Defender. And that's why the Bruder EXP-6 takes the title of most luxurious, techiest off-road caravan of the year. This Aussie-designed trailer combines a bomb shelter-like, off-road-ready structure with a comfy, meticulously equipped cabin space for four to six people.

[image:{u'num': '439751'}]

Highlights include the smartphone-adjustable multi-link air suspension, interior/exterior kitchen, electrical system with 260-W solar panels, and dust filtration/pressurization system keeping the interior air fresh. Options like the satellite communications pack and water filtration system further enhance livability. If you want to venture out to rugged, remote parts of the world and live in comfort when you get there, without spending a likely six figures on a full-blown off-road motorhome, we can think of few better ways to do it than in an EXP-6.

4 comments
Bruce Warren
I do backpacking. And I own a Casita 16 with a 2KW Honda generator. I just do not understand towing a trailer that you cannot stand up inside. Or live inside during bad weather - cooking - bathroom -sleeping. A pull-out kitchen outside in the wind, cold, and bugs is not what I want after dragging a trailer for 1,000 miles across the country. Many of those trailers are no more luxurious than a good tent with a cartridge stove, down mummy bag, and LuxuryLite Cot.
Harap White
@ Bruce Warren: I know where you're coming from. However keep in mind that small teardrops are easy to store in a garage or under-parking. A lot of people just want to escape during weekends with easy to tow alternatives. Casita/Boler/Scamp is a different category which in some cases would not fit in underground parking due to height restriction...Not everyone lives in a house or can afford rv storage
Calson
99% of people who tow trailers will camp at public or private campgrounds to make use of the public restrooms, showers, and toilet facilities. In many places in the western USA it is illegal to camp elsewhere with a trailer that is not fully self-contained (i.e. with toilet and gray and black water tanks). Having trailers for backcountry excursions means having a trailer with a storage platform for a gensat, jerry cans of gas and water, and other items that do not fit inside a Jeep or SUV. The trailer needs to be designed for a specific type of use and only a single individual or a couple with a small car will be interested in a tear drop type trailer with their limitations. Not shown were any of the pop-up campers that are designed for pavement travel and come with soft or hard sides. The hard side models make them practical for 4-season use and some even come with roof top mounted air conditioning units.
Riaanh
@Bruce Warren. It depends where you live, here in South Africa with our perfect weather, it is a sin to sit cramped inside a small box, while you have the big outdoors available. With our older caravans the kitchen was indoors, these days the trend is to move it outdoors. As in Australia rugged off-road trailers are very popular, due to their all terrain capabilities. The equipment becomes very expensive if you want to lug a room with you across the wild. But a rooftop tent is advisable if you want to visit the lions, elephants, rhino, cheeta, hippos etc, in their home!