Let’s be honest: Sleeping on the ground in a cold tent is not everyone’s idea of a good time. There’s the weather, mosquitoes, curious critters, and the difficulty of virtually everything. When pitching a tent by flashlight gets old, it’s time to consider a camper. We’re not talking about the oversized dorky ones festooned with silly graphics that crowd RV parks. We’re talking about the cool, retro-inspired trailers and mobile tents, small and light enough to easily tow into the outback with a car. And unlike all-in-one motorhomes (ugh), you can always leave these campers behind at base camp when you need make a beer run. The choices have never been better, and for gear nerds, you’ll never run out of new stuff to buy. Now, you just need something to hitch these to, so check out the best high-performance sports wagons you can buy.
Dangerously cute, especially with its hot dog stand side window. Reconfiguring is a cinch with a modular system that swaps out components to create a variety of living spaces from a bedroom to dirt bike hauler in minutes. The ultra-lightweight, all-fiberglass HC1 weighs only 1,100 pounds. And we have more great gear to crush your camping game here.
Base price $18,950. www.happiercamper.com
For just the basics, you can’t beat the no frills XTR, a rugged 1,500-pound teardrop. Its reinforced frame sits atop more than five inches of suspension on independent A-arms with adjustable shocks, like a dual-suspension mountain bike with storage. Available rooftop tent, awning, a sink with hot water, propane heat, toilet, solar panels, and generator makes a complete kit for your outdoor adventures. Now if you prefer your vehicles to stay firmly on-road, check out these luxury sedans.
Starting at $16,500, www.moby1trailers.com
An economy of means best describes this lightweight backroad teardrop. Easily towable at just 1500-pounds, it features adjustable air springs and 32-inch tires for 17 inches of ground clearance. It sleeps two on a queen sized 7 inch mattress along with space for cooking and storage. Comes equipped with a solar array, electric outlets, and a pressurized water system. And if the Venture OHV is more camper than you need, North Carolina-based Inka Outdoor builds other models. Or they’ll make one just for you. You should also check out these great trucks you can use to haul your ranger.
Prices for the Venture start around $18,000, www.inkaoutdoor.com
Krawler’s are built for serious off-road escapades with 10” electric brakes and 9-way adjustable shocks. The trailer tongue accommodates a front storage box and two 5-gallon gas/water can holders. Wheel hubs are spec’d to match your vehicle’s wheels and tires for maximum capability and visual synergy with your vintage ride. You can also match the Krawler’s fenders to your ’36 Ford hot rod. Just saying. The reinforced, ribbed cabin construction resists the torsional forces of driving over uneven, rocky terrain. Standard galley includes a sliding drawer-mounted 2-burner propane stove and other basics, with optional gear available.
Starts at $17,725, www.socalteardrops.com
As the name implies, the Outback is made for serious outdoorsmen, one of two models with five available floor plans. The rear panel opens to reveal a nifty outdoor kitchen dubbed the Exterior Galley, with pass-through cabinets to the inside and complete with a sink, 2-burner stove and 12-volt fridge. Plus a 19-inch TV with exterior speakers. Bring it on! And be sure to check out these great SUVs that will serve you well in the great outdoors.
Prices vary, expect to pay north of $25k for the Outback, www.tab.nucamprv.com
This cool, little, tent on wheels weighs in at a lithe 1450 pounds. It’s clever origami concept comes courtesy of former NASA habitation module designer, and company founder, Garrett Finney, who specialized in small spaces aboard the International Space Station. Sleeping space for two (plus two kids) and equipped with integrated plumbing and electrical systems wired for optional solar panels for many blissful days off the grid.
$27,868 MSRP, www.taxaoutdoors.com
Brilliantly exploiting America’s enduring affection for vintage VWs, the Dub Box line can be outfitted to spec or, if you’re the handy sort, purchased as an empty shell to configure on your own. Furnished models start at $19,500 without toilet, stove, shower, etc. The roof pops up just like the real ones, which the company assures us were not harmed in the making. If you enjoy being a spectacle, this is just the ticket. Bring one to your next tailgate party and let the good times roll.
Available in full-scale Adventure Camper or pint-sized Dinky Dub, www.dub-box-usa.com
This slick camper folds flat for travel and inflates to a 13.5 foot tent at your destination in just 90 seconds. Winner of Australia’s coveted Good Design Award in the Automotive and Transport category, the Air Opus redefines the compact, foldable camper with five berths and built-in roll-out stove. Beyond that the options for custom configurations are endless.
Priced at $19,290 for the basic trailer, www.opuscamper.us/air-opus
Conceived by Nissan Design and built by the legendary trailer company, the aluminum-sheathed Basecamp looks the bomb, a mobile man-cave of the first order. It’s also one of the larger options on our list, tipping the scales at a hefty 2,585 lbs and capable of another 915 lbs of gear and water for a max 3,500-lb capacity. And still compact enough to fit most garages. Equipped with shower and flush toilet, a two-burner propane cooktop, refrigerator, stainless steel sink, and lots more, living well on the lam just got easier. At only sixteen by 7 feet and 2,585 pounds it’s light enough to tow with a Subaru Outback.
Starting at $35,900, www.airstream.com
Despite its Mad Max, post-apocalyptic bearing, the Australian built EXP-6 is downright luxurious once inside. Engineered for the brutal outback, its airtight construction includes a snorkel system for fording rivers, a must-have for your next expedition. Other features include adjustable, in-motion ride height via smartphone app, an on-board air compressor, and a water filtration system—in addition to accommodations rivaling the best hotels. With a kitchen accessible both inside and out, and an expandable roof, the Bruder EXP-6 is the ultimate off-road trailer.
Prices start at $68,000, www.bruderx.com
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