We look at many camping trailers throughout the year at events like Overland Expo and the Düsseldorf Caravan Salon. One place we did not expect to see a single camping trailer on show was CES. But that's not how it played out, as a collaboration between BMW Designworks and The North Face brought the collapsible Futurelight teardrop trailer to Las Vegas. The concept highlights TNF's rugged, new ultra-breathable fabric and features a unique design with a tent-style canopy, non-pneumatic tires and staggered beds.
To create the unique Futurelight trailer, Designworks and TNF looked closely at the 2008 BMW GINA Light Visionary Model, a shapeshifting concept roadster skinned in stretch fabric. Using that versatile skin and a movable substructure, the GINA could change its shape, either in response to driving conditions or at the command of the driver.
The Futurelight concept trailer doesn't feature the shapeshifting capability of the GINA, but it does have a fabric skin with integrated stretch supported by an exoskeleton frame. We'd imagine that skin will be louder and less stable in high wind than the average hard-sided trailer body, but it also promises to cut weight and allow the body to collapse down like a tent for easier towing and storage.
Though The North Face says that response to the trailer has been strong, we can't say we're anticipating a TNF/BMW-badged production trailer. Instead, the concept serves as an attention-grabbing way of relating the story about TNF's Futurelight fabric, which debuted at CES and will launch in waterproof-breathable outerwear later this year. Starting in 2020, the fabric will also find use in TNF tent construction, moving closer to its role on the concept trailer.
We'll be diving into Futurelight fabric and its advanced-breathing apparel applications in a future article and also testing it in the field, but in terms of advantages for tent design, the hyper-breathability of the fabric means that The North Face will be able to use a single-wall construction (rather than a separate tent wall/rainfly) to save weight while still ensuring that the tent doesn't get stuffy or collect condensation, problems common with single-wall tents. The North Face also promises that Futurelight delivers full waterproofing and plenty of toughness.
The trailer is still in the very early rendering-only stages, but a prototype will be coming later this year, possibly at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market. We'll see how closely that prototype follows the renderings, but for now, the Futurelight trailer rides on wheels that look similar to the airless tires from Polaris or Michelin. Instead of a single mattress, the two-person interior includes a floor-level single bed up front and a raised rear single bed that doubles as a sofa.
The fabric design eliminates the tailgate galley commonly seen on teardrop trailers, but perhaps the designers could integrate a little kitchen box onto the front or rear of the chassis. Or maybe they'll just keep it light and simple, letting hypothetical Futurelight travelers bring their own portable stoves and coolers.
At CES, the Futurelight trailer was but a handful of digital renderings, a nicely illuminated fabric model and a fun virtual reality tour. We look forward to taking a closer look once it's an actual prototype we can knock knuckles on.
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