Outdoors

Hitchin' a ride: The camping trailers and toy haulers of Overland Expo East

Hitchin' a ride: The camping t...
Trailers on display at Overland Expo East 2016
Trailers on display at Overland Expo East 2016
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A bit of rain at the Cascadia Vehicle Tents booth
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A bit of rain at the Cascadia Vehicle Tents booth
Conqueror's UEV lineup of expedition trailers pop, flip and slide into camping mode
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Conqueror's UEV lineup of expedition trailers pop, flip and slide into camping mode
Conqueror's UEV-490 Extreme at Overland Expo East 2016
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Conqueror's UEV-490 Extreme at Overland Expo East 2016
The UEV-440 comes standard with an L-shaped awning and side walls with access doors and windows
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The UEV-440 comes standard with an L-shaped awning and side walls with access doors and windows
This cabinet works as a pantry/storage area and worktop
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This cabinet works as a pantry/storage area and worktop
Jerry cans and jerry can holders come standard on the American-spec Conqueror models, as does the electroplated BBQ grid mounted outside the spare wheel
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Jerry cans and jerry can holders come standard on the American-spec Conqueror models, as does the electroplated BBQ grid mounted outside the spare wheel
The Conqueror UEV-490 has a fold-down bed area in front and a pop-up roof
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The Conqueror UEV-490 has a fold-down bed area in front and a pop-up roof
The Conqueror UEV-490's slide-out modular kitchen area with dual-burner stove, wash basins and 90L fridge/freezer
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The Conqueror UEV-490's slide-out modular kitchen area with dual-burner stove, wash basins and 90L fridge/freezer
The Conqueror UEV-490 also has drawers on its kitchen slideout
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The Conqueror UEV-490 also has drawers on its kitchen slideout
Conqueror's UEV-490 includes a convertible dinette/bed
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Conqueror's UEV-490 includes a convertible dinette/bed
The fold-out bed in the Conqueror UEV-490 Extreme
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The fold-out bed in the Conqueror UEV-490 Extreme
Conqueror UEV-490 and 440 trailers come standard with a power management system with smartphone app
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Conqueror UEV-490 and 440 trailers come standard with a power management system with smartphone app
The more compact Conqueror UEV-440 has a slightly different kitchen layout
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The more compact Conqueror UEV-440 has a slightly different kitchen layout
Conqueror brings the UEV-440 Extreme to the US market
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Conqueror brings the UEV-440 Extreme to the US market
Conqueror UEV-440
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Conqueror UEV-440
Conqueror UEV-440 kitchen slide-out
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Conqueror UEV-440 kitchen slide-out
In place of a dinette bed, the UEV-440 has a second fold-out double, sleeping up to four people total
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In place of a dinette bed, the UEV-440 has a second fold-out double, sleeping up to four people total
Conqueror's awning options with sides create roomy covered spaces outside
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Conqueror's awning options with sides create roomy covered spaces outside
Each Conqueror model comes standard with some form of privacy cubicle around the outdoor shower
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Each Conqueror model comes standard with some form of privacy cubicle around the outdoor shower
Back when we looked at Dub Box trailers in 2012, they were offered with a fixed roof and a small pop-up was in the works. Now there's a full-length pop-top on the standard $22K model
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Back when we looked at Dub Box trailers in 2012, they were offered with a fixed roof and a small pop-up was in the works. Now there's a full-length pop-top on the standard $22K model
Few things yell "fun on the road" like a bright-orange, Microbus-inspired pop-top trailer with surfboard on top.
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Few things yell "fun on the road" like a bright-orange, Microbus-inspired pop-top trailer with surfboard on top.
The Dub Box stove looks like it'd be great for indoor/outdoor cooking thanks to the window placement, but its lid is hinged with indoor cooking in mind. Shouldn't be too hard to work around, though
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The Dub Box stove looks like it'd be great for indoor/outdoor cooking thanks to the window placement, but its lid is hinged with indoor cooking in mind. Shouldn't be too hard to work around, though
This little trailer from InTech RV caught our eye with its topographical look and outdoor speaker system
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This little trailer from InTech RV caught our eye with its topographical look and outdoor speaker system
InTech RV trailer at Overland Expo East 2016
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InTech RV trailer at Overland Expo East 2016
InTech RV offers an "add a room" tent option on its XLT Flyer and Max Flyer camping trailers
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InTech RV offers an "add a room" tent option on its XLT Flyer and Max Flyer camping trailers
The InTech RV XLT Flyer Mini Camper is a very simple trailer weighing in around 900 lb (408 kg)
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The InTech RV XLT Flyer Mini Camper is a very simple trailer weighing in around 900 lb (408 kg)
InTech RV frame
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InTech RV frame
The Wee Roll MPV was the simplest trailer we saw on display at Overland Expo East, starting at $3,995 for this size and $2,995 for the smallest model
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The Wee Roll MPV was the simplest trailer we saw on display at Overland Expo East, starting at $3,995 for this size and $2,995 for the smallest model
The air conditioner and Shaw flooring come standard on the Wee Roll MPV, but the front shelf and futon are just there to dress up the show model
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The air conditioner and Shaw flooring come standard on the Wee Roll MPV, but the front shelf and futon are just there to dress up the show model
The Wee Roll MPV includes windows and a side entry door, making it possible to build it into a small camping trailer or leave it a double-door enclosed cargo hauler
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The Wee Roll MPV includes windows and a side entry door, making it possible to build it into a small camping trailer or leave it a double-door enclosed cargo hauler
A little Wee Roll branding
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A little Wee Roll branding
We spotted this Runaway Campers trailer out in the parking lot, unattended, but a little Web research reveals Runaway is another company specializing in basic, affordable camping trailers similar to the Wee Roll MPV. The $2,495 "BaseCamp" model is an empty shell with door and tinted windows, and other models add some basic equipment and price. Pictured here is the $3,495 Navigator model, which includes an air conditioner, LED taillights, front cargo rack, bottom mounted spare tire and a few other upgraded components 
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We spotted this Runaway Campers trailer out in the parking lot, unattended, but a little Web research reveals Runaway is another company specializing in basic, affordable camping trailers similar to the Wee Roll MPV. The $2,495 "BaseCamp" model is an empty shell with door and tinted windows, and other models add some basic equipment and price. Pictured here is the $3,495 Navigator model, which includes an air conditioner, LED taillights, front cargo rack, bottom mounted spare tire and a few other upgraded components 
Runaway says the Navigator is its best-selling mini camper
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Runaway says the Navigator is its best-selling mini camper
T@B teardrops always catch the eye, with or without a hot air balloon graphics package
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T@B teardrops always catch the eye, with or without a hot air balloon graphics package
Camping and cargo trailers of Overland Expo East 2016
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Camping and cargo trailers of Overland Expo East 2016
Camping and cargo trailers of Overland Expo East 2016
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Camping and cargo trailers of Overland Expo East 2016
The Blue Ridge Expedition Trailers BRX1 Overland show model includes an optional Frigidaire air conditioner
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The Blue Ridge Expedition Trailers BRX1 Overland show model includes an optional Frigidaire air conditioner
Look inside the cabin of the Blue Ridge BRX1
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Look inside the cabin of the Blue Ridge BRX1
Light switches in the cabin of the Blue Ridge BRX1 teardrop trailer
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Light switches in the cabin of the Blue Ridge BRX1 teardrop trailer
Tailgate-mounted kitchen light on the Blue Ridge BRX1 trailer
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Tailgate-mounted kitchen light on the Blue Ridge BRX1 trailer
A little different from more basic front boxes, this BRX1's includes a top section and a lower section with slide-out
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A little different from more basic front boxes, this BRX1's includes a top section and a lower section with slide-out
The generator is non-standard equipment for the BRX1 trailer
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The generator is non-standard equipment for the BRX1 trailer
Inside the upper part of the BRX1 front cargo box
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Inside the upper part of the BRX1 front cargo box
The BRX1 show model equipped with a Camp Chef Triton exterior water heater/shower
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The BRX1 show model equipped with a Camp Chef Triton exterior water heater/shower
In place of a more hard-wired kitchen, Blue Ridge adds room for a portable stove and cooler
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In place of a more hard-wired kitchen, Blue Ridge adds room for a portable stove and cooler
Blue Ridge Expedition Trailers shows the BRX1 at Overland Expo East 2016
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Blue Ridge Expedition Trailers shows the BRX1 at Overland Expo East 2016
The BRX1 comes standard with 18-in wheels and 275/65 tires
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The BRX1 comes standard with 18-in wheels and 275/65 tires
Blue Ridge equips the BRX1 with a Tepui tent optionally
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Blue Ridge equips the BRX1 with a Tepui tent optionally
Imagine brings more than 15 years of trailer experience to the US market
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Imagine brings more than 15 years of trailer experience to the US market
The Imagine Trailvan rides with a small footprint on the road and dirt and expands at camp with two fold-outs and a pop-top
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The Imagine Trailvan rides with a small footprint on the road and dirt and expands at camp with two fold-outs and a pop-top
The Trailvan kitchen area includes a large cabinet and two equipment slide-outs
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The Trailvan kitchen area includes a large cabinet and two equipment slide-outs
This fiberglass pullout houses the two-burner stove and sink
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This fiberglass pullout houses the two-burner stove and sink
Imagine Trailvan kitchen area
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Imagine Trailvan kitchen area
Imagine Trailvan fridge slide-out
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Imagine Trailvan fridge slide-out
Imagine offers a standard awning on the Trailvan but sells the side walls separately
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Imagine offers a standard awning on the Trailvan but sells the side walls separately
In addition to the basic standard awning, Imagine offers a "bat wing" with larger coverage area
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In addition to the basic standard awning, Imagine offers a "bat wing" with larger coverage area
The Imagine Trailvan comes to the United States at Overland Expo East
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The Imagine Trailvan comes to the United States at Overland Expo East
This model sleeps three, and Imagine also offers a four-berth 
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This model sleeps three, and Imagine also offers a four-berth 
With its 550-lb dry weight, the HEO T3 was among the lightest camping trailers at Overland Expo East
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With its 550-lb dry weight, the HEO T3 was among the lightest camping trailers at Overland Expo East
HEO tops its trailer with its own roof tent
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HEO tops its trailer with its own roof tent
The T3 also includes a storage box with lockable tailgate
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The T3 also includes a storage box with lockable tailgate
HEO T3 camping trailer
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HEO T3 camping trailer
Hiker Trailer was among the brands we looked at during Overland Expo West earlier this year
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Hiker Trailer was among the brands we looked at during Overland Expo West earlier this year
Another trailer company we've seen at Overland Expo West, To Extreme offers a light, simple off-road cargo + roof-top tent design
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Another trailer company we've seen at Overland Expo West, To Extreme offers a light, simple off-road cargo + roof-top tent design
Turtleback Trailers at Overland Expo East 2016
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Turtleback Trailers at Overland Expo East 2016
A boat trailer company dating back to 1947, Tennessee Trailers has more recently followed the trend of lighter, more affordable watercraft into the kayak hauler/camper market
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A boat trailer company dating back to 1947, Tennessee Trailers has more recently followed the trend of lighter, more affordable watercraft into the kayak hauler/camper market
Tennessee Trailers shows a gear hauler with roof-top tent and says that it can build it with an adjustable roof rack or the fixed one, as shown
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Tennessee Trailers shows a gear hauler with roof-top tent and says that it can build it with an adjustable roof rack or the fixed one, as shown
Tennessee Trailers shows another version of a simple trailer designed to get you out into the outdoors and give you a place to stay overnight
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Tennessee Trailers shows another version of a simple trailer designed to get you out into the outdoors and give you a place to stay overnight
Tennessee Trailers offers customizable trailers built around the buyer's needs
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Tennessee Trailers offers customizable trailers built around the buyer's needs
Manley ORV is an established name in the gear hauler/camping trailer market. Its Explore model with roof tent, 31-in A/T tires, removable aluminum lid and storage box starts at $9,395
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Manley ORV is an established name in the gear hauler/camping trailer market. Its Explore model with roof tent, 31-in A/T tires, removable aluminum lid and storage box starts at $9,395
Camping and cargo trailers of Overland Expo East 2016
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Camping and cargo trailers of Overland Expo East 2016
We spotted this "punishing" trailer in the camping area/parking lot
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We spotted this "punishing" trailer in the camping area/parking lot
We spotted this "punishing" trailer in the camping area/parking lot
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We spotted this "punishing" trailer in the camping area/parking lot
TC Teardrops at Overland Expo East 2016
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TC Teardrops at Overland Expo East 2016
Nuthouse Industries had some of the most eye-catching trailers of the show. This is its small aluminum expedition trailer, the Peanut
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Nuthouse Industries had some of the most eye-catching trailers of the show. This is its small aluminum expedition trailer, the Peanut
InTech RV's Cerwin-Vega outdoor entertainment system
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InTech RV's Cerwin-Vega outdoor entertainment system
We featured the car-hauling, overnighting Nuthouse Acorn in a full article
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We featured the car-hauling, overnighting Nuthouse Acorn in a full article
Inside the Nuthouse Peanut's storage box
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Inside the Nuthouse Peanut's storage box
The Nuthouse Peanut comes standard with a fixed-height roof rack, and Nuthouse offers manual and electric height adjustment systems
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The Nuthouse Peanut comes standard with a fixed-height roof rack, and Nuthouse offers manual and electric height adjustment systems
In contrast to Nuthouse's large car-hauling models, the Peanut is a simpler, more traditional camping trailer designed for "a campground or the outback"
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In contrast to Nuthouse's large car-hauling models, the Peanut is a simpler, more traditional camping trailer designed for "a campground or the outback"
The Peanut is listed online for a sale base price of $8,725 and equipment like roof-top tent, stove and electrical package are available as options. Note tires and wheels are selected separately and not included in the base price so customers can match them to their tow vehicle
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The Peanut is listed online for a sale base price of $8,725 and equipment like roof-top tent, stove and electrical package are available as options. Note tires and wheels are selected separately and not included in the base price so customers can match them to their tow vehicle
FJ Cruiser with matching trailer
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FJ Cruiser with matching trailer
Trailers on display at Overland Expo East 2016
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Trailers on display at Overland Expo East 2016
View gallery - 83 images

Trailers were really the story at this year's Overland Expo West show back in May, and we found things were much the same on our first-time trip to Overland Expo East. If anything, the wide trailer field was a bit more diverse out in North Carolina, encompassing the usual rugged, expedition-ready teardrops, boxes and beds we were expecting, but also including affordable, barebones street trailers left to the buyer's imagination, well-established imports launching in the US market, and even the car-hauling Nuthouse Acorn. It appears the US trailer industry is doing just fine, from the purple mountains, through the plains, onward to the Atlantic Coast.

Overland (and sea) from South Africa

One of the interesting trends we noticed at the show was tried-and-true gear from overseas markets making its American debut. Places like South Africa and Australia are known for building some of the most rugged off-road trailers and campers available, but many of those models and makes don't have much, if any, presence in the US market. That's changing, at least for a few notable brands ... and the marketing for "safari-" and "outback-" proven trailers all but writes itself.

The two trailer imports we looked at were from Conqueror and Imagine, both South African companies showing some of their first models to roll onto the American market. Both companies' trailers are compact polygonal blocks that blow up into generously sized outdoor living spaces via slide-outs, pop-ups, fold-downs and awnings. Bringing them over to the States hasn't been just a matter of dropping them onto a ship and carving out a piece of the market: each trailer had to be thoroughly reengineered around US-market specs and governmental regulations. For example, the electrics had to be changed over to 110V, and Imagine also mentioned having to add an extra safety component to the propane system to meet US regs.

Conqueror Urban Escape Vehicles

Jerry cans and jerry can holders come standard on the American-spec Conqueror models, as does the electroplated BBQ grid mounted outside the spare wheel
Jerry cans and jerry can holders come standard on the American-spec Conqueror models, as does the electroplated BBQ grid mounted outside the spare wheel

Conqueror's UEV models were the first trailers we looked at at the whole show, and they remained among the most impressive throughout. Conqueror is actively getting its lineup to the US as we type, offering the UEV-310 Extreme, UEV-390 Extreme, UEV-440 Extreme and UEV-490 Extreme. The models follow the Australian-market naming convention, not the South African, and the three largest models' numbers line up with their approximate lengths (tongue all the way back to outside of the spare tire) in centimeters. The UEV-310 actually measures 370 cm (12.1 ft), as diagrammed on Conqueror's US website. At OX East, the company had both a 490 and 440 on display.

The 4 to 5 berth 490 is the Conqueror flagship. The distinctive shape of the electro-galvanized steel body shell stands out amongst the boxes and teardrops more common on the American market and offers an optimized departure angle via the sliced lower rear. It rides on an independent suspension system with Tough Dog heavy-duty shocks.

The Conqueror UEV-490's slide-out modular kitchen area with dual-burner stove, wash basins and 90L fridge/freezer
The Conqueror UEV-490's slide-out modular kitchen area with dual-burner stove, wash basins and 90L fridge/freezer

The pop-top interior lies behind two entry doors with fold-out steps, housing a dinette that converts into a two-person bed (it can also work as dual single beds) and a front fold-out double bed. The included "rally tent" with side walls and available wraparound bat wing awning offer more sheltered space outside the trailer shell, including over the kitchen, where a modular slide-out with 90-liter National Luna refrigerator, Dometic stainless steel two-burner cooktop and wash basins combines with side cupboards, drop-down worktops and included cutlery and crockery to prep, make and clean up meals. There's also an electro-plated BBQ grid mounted to the spare tire.

Other standard features include a cabin pressurization system to prevent dust leaks, fold-out shower tent and 130-liter water tank. Options include diesel and propane heaters, air conditioning, solar power, lithium battery, portable toilet and bunk bed for use in the tent area.

While we said South Africa is known for tough off-road trailers, we didn't say it is necessarily known for cheap ones. The UEV-490 Extreme starts at US$42,650 before optional extras, while the UEV-440 lists at $38,750, the 390 at $27,750, and the 310 at $17,820. The company's North American operations are based out of Ohio and can be found online here.

Imagine Trailvan

The Imagine Trailvan comes to the United States at Overland Expo East
The Imagine Trailvan comes to the United States at Overland Expo East

Another impressive, little wheeled lockbox from the southern tip of Africa, the Imagine Trailvan is a compact off-road caravan, measuring in at 12.5 ft (3,820 mm). Thanks to two fold-outs and a full pop-top, it can accommodate three or four within its modest footprint. The four-adult model simply swaps out some wardrobe space for a two-person bed in the side fold-out. Both models include a primary two-person bed in the separate front fold-out, and the three-person (two adults and a child) model, which was the one Imagine showed at Overland Expo, has a single bench bed located in front of the side fold-out.

The Trailvan has two individual kitchen pull-outs. The long, horizontal one includes a sink, dual-burner stove, worktop lids and drawer, and the second holds a refrigerator. There's also a cabinet above the stove/sink area with sliding drawers, swing-out shelving units, foam inserts to keep breakables in place when rolling over bumpy terrain, and a flip-up cover.

Imagine Trailvan kitchen area
Imagine Trailvan kitchen area

Trailvan standards include an 85-liter water tank with pump, 102-Ah deep cycle battery with charger, LED lighting, aluminum camping table, awning and front load box. It rides on a hot-dipped galvanized steel chassis and leaf spring suspension with shock absorbers.

The model on display at Overland Expo East, which included extras like the awning side walls, was quoted at US$24,000. Other pricing is available upon request through Imagine's US import logistics partner, PA-based D.T. Gruelle Company Group, which can be found here.

Highland Expedition Outfitters T3

HEO tops its trailer with its own roof tent
HEO tops its trailer with its own roof tent

One of the lightest, simplest off-road expedition trailers of the show, the T3 from Tennessee's Highland Expedition Outfitters packs a HEO roof-top tent over top a lockable storage box. The aluminum-framed trailer weighs just 550 lb (249 kg) dry and comes standard with the 56-in tent, LED lighting, tongue box, and 31-in tires around steel wheels. It offers 32 cu ft (906 L) of storage capacity, so you can load it up with camping gear and roll out to your destination without adding too much weight or complexity behind your bumper. Options include awnings, Rotopax gas and water containers, a solar power package and Timbren Axle-Less suspension. Base price is $7,995. Contact HEO here.

Wee Roll MPV

The Wee Roll MPV was the simplest trailer we saw on display at Overland Expo East, starting at $3,995 for this size and $2,995 for the smallest model
The Wee Roll MPV was the simplest trailer we saw on display at Overland Expo East, starting at $3,995 for this size and $2,995 for the smallest model

The HEO T3 may have been the simplest, most affordable off-road camping trailer we spotted, but it wasn't the simplest, most affordable trailer. That would be the Wee Roll MPV, a tough but basic double-door trailer with an open interior that can be used to haul toys through the outdoors, move furniture, carry work equipment, sleep in or do whatever else you might do with a 4 x 8 x 4-ft+ (1.2 x 2.4 x 1.2-m+) trailer.

Florida-based Wee Roll bills the MPV as a "shark cage on wheels," highlighting its tough construction, which includes a 2 x 3 steel tube frame, welded steel backer plate, welded axle hanger between the leaf springs and frame to reduce stress on the frame itself, and diamond plate stone guards. The roof and sides are insulated, and a 5,000-BTU Frigidaire air conditioner comes standard.

Buyers also get interior/exterior lighting, their choice of Shaw Stainmaster wood-look flooring, a roof vent, side windows, a side door in addition to the double rear load doors, power outlets and TV wiring, a smoke/CO detector, 15-in wheels/tires and rear stabilizers. Beyond that, the MPV is a blank canvas – fill it with furniture, worktops and camping gear to use it as a camper or leave it empty and haul cargo. It appears plenty tough, but Wee Roll's lineup doesn't include an off-road-specific model ... yet. After making a last-minute decision to attend the off-road-focused Overland Expo, Wee Roll's Tom Cafaro seemed to be actively scoping out the other off-road trailers of the show and mentally planning his own super-tough version.

The air conditioner and Shaw flooring come standard on the Wee Roll MPV, but the front shelf and futon are just there to dress up the show model
The air conditioner and Shaw flooring come standard on the Wee Roll MPV, but the front shelf and futon are just there to dress up the show model

Prices for Wee Roll's three models range from $2,995 for the 4 x 8 x 4-ft model to $4,995 for the 6 x 8 x 5.5 ft (1.8 x 2.4 x 1.7 m), and financing is available. Weeroll can be found here.

Blue Ridge Expedition BRX1

Blue Ridge equips the BRX1 with a Tepui tent optionally
Blue Ridge equips the BRX1 with a Tepui tent optionally

A trailer in the much-loved off-road teardrop style, the BRX1 from Blue Ridge Expedition Trailers is a steel-framed, aluminum-skinned off-road "teardrop on steroids." It has the familiar layout of (queen) mattress-filled cabin and rear tailgate galley, though it goes about some things a little differently. Instead of hard-plumbing a stove into its trailer, Blue Ridge offers a slide-out drawer/worktop designed to accommodate a portable camping stove. That isn't so much to cut costs but to add more flexibility, allowing campers to use the stove at different angles, move it out of the way completely, etc.

Other standard equipment includes interior cabinetry, LED galley/cabin lighting, charging ports, a front gear box, 12V battery and ventilation fan. The trailer rides on Timbren Axle-Less suspension and 18-in wheels. Options shown on the display model include the cabin air conditioner, roof-top tent and Camp Chef exterior wall-mounted shower.

In place of a more hard-wired kitchen, Blue Ridge adds room for a portable stove and cooler
In place of a more hard-wired kitchen, Blue Ridge adds room for a portable stove and cooler

BRX1 pricing starts at $15,900 before options, and the Overland Expo East model was quoted at $24,900. Like many trailer companies, Blue Ridge also works with the customer to custom-build a trailer around his or her needs. Blue Ridge Expedition Trailers can be found here.

Check out our full photo gallery for all the exterior and interior angles we were able to photograph of the above trailers and the others around OX East.

View gallery - 83 images
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