Ultralight carbon teardrop utility camper tows via EV or motorcycle
Carbon fiber is the type of material we'd love to see more of in camper design, but we usually only see it on large, extraordinarily expensive luxury camper rigs like the Earthroamer XV-LTi or Darc Mono. Washington startup Carbon Lite Trailers is looking to bring carbon construction to the tiny end of the spectrum, using it to create a simple utility-cum-camping teardrop so lightweight it can be pulled by a motorcycle as well as a humble electric car. Called the Rift, the trailer easily shifts between cargo hauling and camping via a lightweight removable galley wall, offering seven-day-a-week utility. Crisp edges, gullwing doors, glossy gelcoat carbon fiber and striking graphics combine to create a trailer that looks straight out of the motorsport market and rides like it isn't even in the rear-view.
A family business started up by seemingly just the right family, Carbon Lite was founded by Chris Durham. Looking to build on his 35 years of experience in product design and manufacturing in the aerospace, automotive and action sports segments, Durham set his sights on disrupting the camping trailer market with a new breed of ultralight trailer. He didn't have to look far for good help, bringing on his wife Nancy, a business and finance guru, and his son Matthew, who brought along 20 years of composite manufacturing know-how of his own.
We've seen some lightweight trailers before, including the chicken-feather-composite Earth Traveler T300 that now lists at 400 lb (181 kg) and the 500-lb (227-kg) German-built Kleox Shelter, so we have to take issue with Carbon Lite's claim that its trailer is half the weight of the nearest competitor (the Kleox isn't its competition, but the US-built Earth Traveler is). However, Carbon Lite's Rift is very light, with a base weight that comes in at 450 lb (204 lb) for the basic road-going model or 660 lb (300 kg) for the more fully equipped and rugged variant.
That light dry weight is no coincidence, of course, owing primarily to Carbon Lite's specific formula of pre-impregnated fiberglass and carbon fiber. It's crafted a monocoque for a signature blend of low weight, high strength and long-lasting durability. The roof, sidewall and floor panels all include foam core insulation.
Like any other traditional teardrop, the Rift has a sleeper interior and a rear galley separated by a wall. This particular sub-10-lb (4.5-kg) wall removes rather easily, however, turning the teardrop camper into a utility trailer with easy-loading tailgate hatch.
A teardrop isn't quite as ideal as a flatbed or box when it comes to hauling things behind the vehicle, but the Rift's open interior should be able to handle home improvement supplies, tools, refuse and more. We suppose owners will want to be careful not to load it up with anything too dirty or pungent, so as not to taint their weekend camping experience, but the dual-use design helps ensure the trailer spends more time earning its keep and less time sitting idly in a garage or under a tarp.
The Rift's carbon monocoque comes coupled to a powder-coated aluminum chassis for further weight savings. A 1,200-lb (544-kg) Timbren Axle-Less suspension cushions the 15-in aluminum wheels.
Saving weight in the strictest sense also means paring down standard equipment. So the base-level US$29,000 Rift Utility Camper comes as a largely empty shell with a few essential add-ons thrown in to get the buyer out adventuring with less fuss. A pair of Yakima crossbars adds integrated gear-carrying; a roof hatch keeps the interior breathing; a GoalZero Yeti 150 serves as a 14-Ah onboard power supply; and a Sub Z cooler provides cold food & bev storage. There's also interior and exterior lighting. In place of the fixed or folding foam mattress common in teardrops, Carbon Lite goes light and simple once again with an inflatable double. Owners can store their own cooking gear and dishes in the galley and have a road-trip-worthy trailer ready to go.
Those looking for a dirt-ready Rift build with additional equipment can slide upmarket to the $39K 660-lb (300-kg) Rift Adventure Trailer. Ride upgrades include a 2,000-lb (907-kg) Timbren suspension, off-road tires, running boards with carbon inserts, and a protective nerf bar around the edges. This variant comes with a fridge, slide-out stove and sink in the galley, a power pack upgrade, and a folding mattress/sofa. A front cargo box is also available and melds quite seamlessly with the tear body.
Carbon fiber construction isn't cheap, even when you shrink it down to teardrop size. Those looking for a more semi-budget option can do their their own finishing with the $19,000 Finish it Yourself model, which includes the body and chassis, suspension, wheels and tires, roof hatch, doors and windows.
While all those prices are certainly intimidating for a small, basic teardrop trailer, we do like seeing someone experimenting with carbon fiber tiny camper design. As more and more vehicles go electric, finding ways to lighten tow loads is going to be critical.
After moving into a new larger production facility, Carbon Lite announced Rift availability on Tuesday. More info is available at the website linked below.
Source: Carbon Lite