Composite camping trailers blur the line between backcountry lodge and toy-hauling garage
The cold industrial metal box that carries your dirt bikes to and from the trail head doesn't necessarily make the coziest home-away-from-home. Similarly, you might not want to haul those bikes inside the living room of your fully equipped luxury caravan. But New York-based trailer startup Trail Marker cleverly blends the worlds of comfy compact camping and effortless toy hauling. Its Sequoia trailer relies on a power-lift bed and full-size rear cargo door to turn a rustic, lodge-inspired interior into an effective toy garage on the road.
Many of the large trailers and fifth wheels we saw at the recent Off-Road Expo had toy-hauling capabilities, but the convertible garages/living areas didn't necessarily radiate residential levels of warmth or comfort. They felt every bit as cold as a garage fitted with a corner kitchen and flip-away couches sounds.
Trail Marker offers something different: smaller, more manageable caravans with interiors that transform from roomy cargo hauler to warm, cozy mini-lodge. The company is the brainchild of JP Ross, a materials specialist with experience in composites and semiconductors who has been applying that experience to his eponymous fly fishing rod company for just over two decades and has now branched out into building a special breed of adventure trailer.
After settling down with a family, Ross was on the lookout for a way of escaping into the wilderness with his wife, son, black lab ... and a few favorite adventure toys. He searched around the bustling adventure trailer market but was unable to find something with the right mix of lightweight construction, toy-hauling utility and pricing/features. So, he went to work building his own dream rig and developed it out into the first Trail Marker last year, launching the company a few months later.
Trail Marker focuses heavily on custom-spec builds and has a scroll of options that buyers can choose from, but it also offers several comprehensive packages that serve as individual models. Those range from the simple, 1,000-lb (454-kg) Olympic base model to the impressively configured Sequoia flagship. It was the latter that initially caught our attention with features like the available acacia wood interior and power-lift queen bed.
If you look at a JP Ross fly fishing rod, what you'll find is a mix of modern composites like carbon silica and classic materials like real wood. Ross uses his experience in resins, epoxies, laminates and metallurgy to develop and purpose-fit new materials and techniques to fishing rods.
Ross brings the same strategy to his trailer lineup, fitting gel-coated fiberglass honeycomb composite shells with rustic wood or laminate interiors that look like miniaturized log cabins or ski lodges. The natural wood of the interior gets further warmed by the light flooding through the 30 x 60-in (76 x 152-cm) skylight.
The light, aesthetically pleasing 6 x 12 x 6-foot (1.8 x 3.7 x 1.8-m) trailer box gets secured to an aluminum frame, and the whole kit rides on Goodyear Wrangler tires bolted to a 3,500-lb (1,588-kg)-rated Dexter axle with torsion suspension.
The Sequoia's cabin maintains cargo trailer utility thanks to the power-lift bed – lift it up out of the way and you can store bikes, tools, camping gear or whatever you need down below. That lift is fully adjustable, so you can set the bed to whatever height you like. The Sequoia floor includes built-in aircraft tie-down track, and Trail Marker offers a motorcycle wheel chock optionally.
As pretty and homey as the Sequoia interior is, Trail Marker makes no attempt to carbon-copy the equipment and technologies list of a home. In fact, the trailer doesn't even include a standard kitchen, instead giving buyers outdoor worktops for working a portable camp stove or grill. In place of a kitchen, the interior includes a wide, multipurpose aluminum counter with a cork backsplash and lower cabinets.
Trail Marker blogger Mark Usyk sums up the minimalist strategy nicely in a post: "I don't want a refrigerator. I don't want a stove. I don't want a bathroom. I don't want a TV. I want to keep my food in a cooler. I want to cook over a fire or at the very most over the little gas grill tucked in the storage space in the front of the trailer. I want to camp. I don't want all the comforts of what I left behind. That's kind of the point."
That all might sound a bit strange to Class A motorhome or luxury caravan buyers, but Trail Marker trailers are optimized for a different buyer set, the dedicated outdoorsmen and women who have grown up tent camping or backpacking but eventually found they can no longer get properly restful nights of sleep on the hard, bumpy ground. These folks don't necessarily want to go "full RV," giving up cooking, eating and living primitively under the open sky, but do prefer to retire to a soft mattress with four solid walls between them and the bears, critters and gusting winds outside.
That doesn't mean Trail Marker's most well-equipped model doesn't include some luxuries. A standard Propex heater keeps things warm when nighttime temperatures drop, and dual 12-V fans and screen rear and side door coverings keep things cool during hotter stretches. The full electrical system with 100-W solar panel keeps the lights on and devices charged up. A portable toilet and pop-up shower tent also come standard, as does a shovel that could be used for that very same purpose. An axe hangs next to the shovel on the wall, contributing to the rustic-chic look.
The Sequoia's exterior also comes standard with plenty of utility. Buyers choose either a drop-down ramp door that doubles as a raised platform or a lift-gate that doubles as a rear awning. Each side is equipped with an awning, one of which includes a tent room for extra interior space. Those that prefer to have a dedicated kitchen need only ask and Trail Marker will add one.
With no hard-plumbed bathroom or standard kitchen sink to worry about, the Sequoia does away with the inbuilt tanks often found on trailers, replacing them with four Rotopax water canisters. A Road Shower can be added optionally.
Trail Marker considers the Sequoia a light off-roader, weighing in at approximately 1,600 lb (726 kg), and prices start at US$26,194. Trail Marker's manufacturing partner Rolling Star Manufacturing, which has more than 20 years of experience building trailers for commercial, military and local government applications, builds each trailer to order in upstate NY.
Source: Trail Marker