Expanding Australian camping trailer pops, folds and swings to family size
Usually a camping trailer tongue box will carry a battery and maybe some tools, but the innovators at Australia's HUTrv have managed to pack an entire kitchen and bathroom into their caravan's upsized tongue box. Called the Dekpod, the expandable module packs neatly away as if it's part of the main trailer body, swinging open at camp to reveal a fully equipped kitchen and wet bath. This leaves the main cabin free to sleep four to five people, allowing the caravan to live well larger than it tows.
HUTrv stands for Hybrid Utility Trailer recreational vehicle. So in true Australian fashion, we're going to shorten that right up and stick with HUTrv. The 4,100-lb (1,860-kg) trailer earns its "hybrid" status by using hard-sided and fabric construction to keep tow size down to 18.7 x 6.6 ft (5.7 x 2 m, L x W), before lengthening and widening into a more roomy space at camp.
Rather than the type of power system used on fancy French expanders like the Beauer 3X Plus or Tipoon, HUTrv keeps expansion basic and manual with what it calls the Dekpod. The shell closes tight against the front of the main trailer body, front deck swinging up against it during driving. At camp, the deck drops down and the shell swings open 90 degrees past the righthand driver-side trailer wall. The awning-style roof pulls up into place, and fabric sidewalls connect deck to roof, completing the expansion room. The main trailer also includes a pop-up roof to further expand interior volume.
For the proof-of-concept trailer it built with Wilmax Aluminum Fabrications, HUTrv filled out the Dekpod with a full kitchen and wet bath. The kitchen includes a dual-burner stove with hinged top, fridge, microwave, slide-out sink, long worktop and plenty of drawer and shelf space. The wet bathroom has a simple layout with toilet and shower.
By building the kitchen and bathroom into a separate expansion pod, HUTrv was able to make the entire main body a dedicated sleeping and living area. This cabin includes a raised double bed and two single beds that double as benches on the sides of a slide-out tabletop.
One thing we like about this particular Dekpod design is that it includes a door between the main cabin and the pod kitchen/bathroom area, which makes the kitchen and deck an indoor/outdoor space that can be left open without exposing the living area to critters. Those that prefer cooking outdoors could use the kitchen with just the awning overhead or even open to the sky. Or they could pull up a couple of chairs and enjoy a sit on the outdoor deck.
On the other hand, we don't really like how HUTrv's first Dekpod design violates a very literal reading of the age-old adage "don't shit where you eat." We apply that standard just as much to where we store and prepare what we eat, and we prefer not to have that area packaged in a tiny expansion pod with the toilet. But we suppose that's the type of unnatural union that's fairly inevitable in a compact camper – and it's not like a portable toilet stashed in a drawer in the wardrobe or kitchen block is much more elegant.
And while HUTrv does say that a production trailer is in the works, it seems to believe the real market will lie in licensing out the Dekpod to existing camper manufacturers who can design their own trailers around it. So perhaps the pod will find use for purposes other than a kitchen/bathroom space.
One application that would be interesting to see is a removable bedroom pod with two or more bunks. The main trailer could house the master bedroom/kitchen/bathroom, and the removable Dekpod would offer extra sleeping space on demand, good for grandparents who occasionally camp with their grandchildren, couples who invite friends along, etc. Instead of just packing a ground tent, owners could bolt the Dekpod on when bringing extra people along and leave it home when venturing out as a couple.
HUTrv says the Dekpod is easily scalable to different sizes and imagines it finding use in all types of trailers, from pop-ups and teardrops to cargo boxes and toy haulers. We hope to see some commercial trailers implement it in the future.
In the meantime, you can take a closer look at how the Dekpod comes to life in the quick video clip below.