Let's Go Camping! A Tour of Trailers and RVs

Ah, summertime, when we want to hit the open road and go camping. We previously looked at little teardrop trailers, but now for something a little bigger and more comfortable: trailers and RVs.

of 12

The KiraVan

credit: Applied Minds

We'll begin with the KiraVan from Applied minds. The designer says he built this rig "to show my daughter seldom visited places of unspoiled natural beauty." Of course after this thing tromps over the seldom visited places, they won't be unspoiled. The consensus in comments was "Why is this on TreeHugger?" and that the author should be fired. "This vehicle is not about communing with nature with your grandchildren. It's about showing the next generation how to, yet again, learn how to NOT be at one with nature." But there are other trailers and RVs that are perhaps a bit more Treehugger correct.

of 12

Jay Nelson's Golden Gate I

credit: Jay Nelson

Perhaps Jay Nelson's little camper is more appropriate for our readers. It's built by the prolific artist and craftsman to carry his surfboard to the beach. It is built out of a couple of electric bikes, plywood and fiberglass and goes ten miles at up to 20 miles per hour. Like the KiraVan, there is room inside for cooking with a sink and stove, a toilet, and a bed. Here is a video of it:

of 12

Living is.be is a dutch dream

credit: Living.is.be

The thing about the bigger RV homes is that they can get really comfortable. One of my favorites was Living is.be, with its popup quilted roof. I am particularly fond of the giant bathtub. In digging around for bigger photos I found more information than I had in the original post, on Core77:

Dutch architects Dries Stevens and Nancy Neukermans have taken the ultimate German utility vehicle and outfitted it with flash amenities like a glowing duvet roof, aluminum skylights, and an over-sized bathtub, creating a contemporary mobile living unit in which they travel around Europe 6 months out of the year.

It's a bit rough around the edges but so comfy.

of 12

The Happier Camper

credit: Happier Camper

If you are not an artist on the road for six months, you might be able to get by in the Happier Camper. It weighs only 1,100 pounds, meaning that it can be pulled by mid-sized cars or station wagons. It has a versatile, 70-square-foot interior that can adapt to different situations, thanks to a series of modular cube components that can be moved around for various configurations.

of 12

Matthew Hoffman's Airstream update

credit: Hoffman Architecture

Airstream updates and conversions are all the rage, and one of the best was this one designed by architect Matthew Hoffman in 2010. He was an early minimalist:

I was at a point in my life where wanted to live with less. Two years ago I moved from a large house. And downsizing has a way of making you consider the value of possessions. I wondered, while looking at the massive truckload of things, how would I feel if this truck ran off a cliff and all was lost? My stuff was beginning to feel like a burden, like luggage. Things that I needed to take around with me wherever I went, a truckload-sized ball and chain.

He has since built a career around trailers; we will be following up on TreeHugger. But this was the one that started it all.

of 12

The Eco-Trailer

credit: ystudiophotography
We are driving towards sustainability one mile at a time. We owned a home. We sold a home. We rented a house that was 1500 s.f. Now we're living in under 200 s.f. We are living on less and living more purposefully.

Oh, and it's powered by solar panels and pulled by a veggie oil-powered diesel truck. Of course, don't forget the composting toilet and rainwater harvester. Cece Reinhardt and Brenda Daugherty have done a nice green design here.

of 12

Chris Deam's Airstream

credit: Airstream

The Airstream company wasn't going to miss this trend and hired a talented designer, Chris Deam, to reinvent and revitalize their product. Deam told the New York Times:

What I found was, you had this great streamlined aerodynamic modern exterior, and then you opened the door and it was like grandma’s kitchen. There was a disconnect between the exterior and the interior. You approached the trailer and there was the magic promise of the future, and you walk in and it was like a log cabin on wheels.

His design is a definite improvement.

of 12

Homegrown trailers

credit: Homegrown Trailers

If you don't like all that aluminum and plastic laminate in the Airstream, there is the HomeGrown Trailer, made of wood and all natural materials.

The Home Grown trailer has a pop-up roof to get more headroom when parked, a “hard-sided component that raises to max 6’5” indoor headroom and drops down for aerodynamic travel; made from sustainably-sourced wood and wool insulation; lifting assistance by high-performance gas struts.
of 12


credit: Cricket Trailer

When you click on the link to the Cricket site on our post from 2011, you are taken to a company called Taxa, which says that the Cricket is "NASA inspired." In fact, it was designed by Garrett Finney, an architect who worked on the living quarters for the International Space Station, so he really knew something about building small and light. He wrote:

A lot of what is 'green' about the Cricket is what is not there. The efficiency of the Cricket is systemic: we're endeavoring to create an overall system with the smallest footprint. We strive for an overarching efficiency. Being lightweight and aerodynamic translates to lower gas usage and ease of use: the same qualities mean you likely already own your tow vehicle. Selling you only what you need furthers that efficiency and, we hope, contributes to even lighter weight in towing. We think you should bring what you need, not bring everything.

It's a really neat design, and still available.

of 12

This moving house

credit: Tim Hall

Another big subset of mobile living is the Sprinter van conversion world, where the classic Mercedes design (now imitated by most car makers) is converted into living space. This makes a lot of sense for people who are not comfortable pulling trailers; they are easy to drive. Keep them anonymous and you can park them in a lot more places; they are basically delivery or work vans. If I ever were to get into this kind of travel, I think a discreet white Sprinter would be my choice of ride. Jack Richens did a lovely conversion and squeezed in sleeping for four, although commenters consider the upper bunks a bit coffin like and suggest that the main double bed would only fit hobbits.

of 12


credit: Cornelius Comanns

Even smaller is German designer Cornelius Comanns' conversion of a Piaggio APE 50 three-wheeled delivery vehicle.

'Bufalino' encourages users to explore the surrounding off beaten tracks. Meanwhile the furnished interior consisting of a bed, two seating units, a cooking zone, a basin, storage space, a water tank and a refrigerator offers the comforts of a home.

It is a great idea, really fuel efficient and a great design. Alas, it's all rendered and was never built. The drawings were so spectactular that I was convinced it was real.

of 12


credit: Axel Enthoven

Pop-up tent trailers are another subset, easy to tow because of their low profile on the road, then opening up. They are perhaps the least popular of all the trailer variants because they are really neither fish nor fowl; if I wanted to sleep in a tent I would stick one in the trunk. But the Opera by Belgian architect Axel Enthoven is such a thing of beauty. It is inspired by the Sidney Opera House, and is more than just a tent:

The Opera allows you to stay in the most beautiful places, but with the luxury of a wine cabinet, warm-air heating, espresso bar and an enclosed teak veranda. This nomadic, contemporary living tent offers the quality of a luxury yacht combined with the outdoor feeling of camping under canvas.

I described it as "seriously high end; you don't see stuff like this in a North American campground. Less has never so looked like more."