We have affectionately named her Magellan, or Gelly for short!
So how did we end up choosing this camper over all the other options – tents, RVs, fifth wheels? Camping and roadtripping continues to grow in popularity, so there are lots of options to choose from, but when we focused on our budget, our must have features, where we would be traveling and what kind of experience we were looking for, the Treeline Teardrop Camper was the perfect option for us. Here’s why and how we came to the decision.
When we decided that we were going to take some time off to travel, and ultimately decided on a road trip rather than traveling around the world (see here and here for some thoughts on our decision), we had to figure out just exactly how we were going to do this road trip. Originally I thought we’d just take our tent and tent camp around the west. And we certainly could have done that, but Ryan thought that having a camper would be a better idea – more efficient, easier and more comfortable for such a long time and covering such a large area. If we had to pop the tent every morning or two and take it down, packing and unpacking each time we moved, it would get old pretty quickly and might hinder our enjoyment on the trip. So we decided on a camper and started to research the many, many different options, costs and other considerations.
We already had our Subaru Outback and didn’t particularly want to take on the extra cost of buying a new truck, so we started to search for lighter and smaller options that we could pull with our Outback. This led us to looking at teardrop trailers, a somewhat uncommon category of camper that looked like it would be just right for our purposes. There aren’t too many companies that make the teardrops. They are perfect if you want something compact, efficient and easy, but if you have more than a couple people, you want somewhere to sit up and hang out inside, or you need lots of storage, teardrops will quickly be crossed off the list. Lucky for us, it’s exactly what we were looking for: small and light, efficient and easy, and something that we could leave behind during the day for exploring areas nearby in just the car.
There were no manufacturers near us in San Francisco for the few teardrop companies that we knew of, so we couldn’t go look at them in person. Lucky for us, Ryan found the Treeline Teardrops company based in Petaluma, and we contacted Tom, the owner, to see if we could make an appointment and check it out. We drove up to Petaluma, to Tom and his wife Patti’s lovely home where they also run the business, and his teardrop trailer was parked in the driveway for us to check out. And it was PERFECT. Tom builds the campers in his garage that he’s converted into a workshop, so we could see the process of building the camper, which was an added bonus.
I was pretty immediately sold on buying a Treeline teardrop – they are made so well, right there in Petaluma, and Tom really knows his campers. He works with a company based in San Diego, SoCal Teardrops, and they manufacture the components – do the welding of the trailer base, etc. – and then send them up to Tom so that he can build the trailers right there at his workshop. He walked us through the camper, explaining in detail each of the parts of the campers that he builds with such love and craftsmanship. He also uses his own camper all the time, so we chatted for probably a few hours about the camper and great camping spots around the country, and also about our plans for this trip.
*Guard dog not included in base model
We left the meeting with Tom pretty much decided that we were going to go for it, but we’d scheduled an appointment for the next weekend to see a teardrop trailer that was being sold near Sacramento, which was used but not very old, and was much less expensive than buying a brand new one. We thought we should at least go check it out. And after checking it out, realizing that it was not nearly as well made as the Treeline camper, we emailed Tom and put in an order for him to start building our own!
He is only able to build about 1-2 a month, so we placed the order in late summer, expecting to have the camper sometime in November or so. We met with Tom once more before he started building the camper, so that we could give him specifics on what we wanted the camper to look like – length and width (we went with the Sierra model), add ons and extras.
First night in the camper!
We opted for bigger, hardier tires since we knew we’d be taking the trailer off road a bit, and in particular up to Alaska where many of the roads are unpaved and rough. We also asked Tom to install awnings on both sides of the camper – something that he recommended from his own personal use of his camper. We opted for a longer tongue so that we could have extra storage for the spare tire and some water cans, a diamond plate storage box on the front of the trailer.
We already had a 75L YETI cooler that I’d gotten for Ryan as an anniversary gift the previous year so we asked Tom to make a cooler slide that would fit the cooler. You can get a refrigerator that plugs into the 12V battery for the camper, but we thought we’d give the cooler a try and save a bit of money – it would also force us to buy fresh food more often. The YETI coolers are pretty darn good (I was skeptical at first but am now a believer) – we can go 5-7 days between refilling the ice in the cooler. The camper came with a camp stove already, so we were all set there, but we also purchased a few canvas storage baskets that Tom recommended for the kitchen in the back of the camper.
SoCal Teardrops had a bit of a delay in getting the trailer base completed (the welder broke his arm!), so Tom was not able to finish it until the end of December, but that worked out pretty perfectly for us because we actually didn’t have anywhere to store it – we lived in the middle of San Francisco in an apartment with no garage or extra storage areas. So we picked up the camper on New Year’s Eve, drove immediately to Yosemite for a weekend of camping to test it out and welcome the new year in our new camper, and fell in love. It’s perfect for our trip and now that we have gotten most of our systems down, it’s so easy and efficient.
We can simply hook it up to the car, take down whatever personal items we have on the inside shelves, and lock the doors and hatchback, and roll away without having to pack anything up as we would have to with a tent. It’s much roomier inside than it looks like from the outside, with just enough room for us to cozy up and get some great sleep. The mattress is about 4 inches thick, and I added on top of it the foam topper from our bed at home, and that made the bed a bit softer, which I like. The mattress is between a full and a queen bed, which actually makes it bigger than our bed in our apartment. We use our sheets and pillows from our home and it’s a perfectly comfortable, cozy little space. Ryan is 6 feet tall and can lay out fully in the bed, though just barely, so if he was even slightly taller we probably would have gone with a longer camper, which is an option with Treeline.
Taking a quick afternoon snooze!
Peek inside the camper at night – so cozy!
It does not have a bathroom or running water (which probably makes this a no go for many people who can’t imagine not having a bathroom along with them), but we don’t need those things. We are perfectly happy to use the camping facilities, or just use mother nature, and we have figured out a pretty decent system for doing the dishes and cooking and the other things we’d need running water for. We seek out places with showers every few days and use baby wipes and face cleaning cloths to keep tidy in between full water showers. And we really only sleep in the camper – it is not big enough to hang out inside – this was an important thing for us. We did not want to have a bigger camper with a kitchen table where we feared that we’d just sit inside, keeping to ourselves and not spending time outside meeting people, taking in the views and enjoying the great outdoors.
Of course when it rains, that can be a bit trying, or when it’s very cold, but we have canvas walls that we can install on one of the awnings to create an extra little room on the side of the camper, which comes in handy when it’s rainy but not too windy. And on the very cold nights, we have a heating pad that warms us up as we are drifting off to sleep, and of course our sleeping bags add some extra warmth if we need them.
Sometimes you’ve got to stop, pull everything out and reorganize the camper!
We are as cozy as can be. We’ve got our bedding from home, beautiful pillows with our darling fur baby Coconut on them (thanks to my Mom who surprised us with them – she made them herself! So crafty!), and just about everything we could need.
We are asked about the camper almost every single day – it is unique and people are so curious about it. They want to see inside of it, they want us to open the back to show them the “kitchen”, they want to know how much these things cost. It is a conversation starter, for sure, though sometimes we just need to get out of the gas station parking lot and back on the road but can’t quite get away from everyone who wants to ask about it! Tough problem to have, no? We love the camper, and have affectionately named it Magellan. Like the great explorer who first circumnavigated the globe, our little Magellan is taking us on grand adventures. Also known as Gelly, for short!
Enjoying the sunset and some wine from the teardrop camper
Plenty of space for Ryan, me and of course the Queen Bee Coconut
BLOGGED FROM Emigrant Lake, Ashland, Oregon