Life on the road: a constant blur of scenery, a colorful string of people to cross your way, and beautiful wilderness and breathtaking views surrounding you everywhere you turn.
Humans have been enticed with the wondrous air of travel and exploration for as long as they can remember: to set out unbound and roll into the road is a challenging venture that’s ultimately rewarding.
But just as nature calls, so do all the complications and demands of just setting out for the unknown.
There are many questions to consider, especially ones of comfort and stability. We’re here to help you navigate the small market of micro campers and help you realize the magic of its practicality.
A “camper” can often be too general of a term. There are all kinds of confusing words out there: campervan, motorhomes, caravans—it’s a very long list.
To put it shortly, campers are considered trailers that can be towed by your MVP.
Catering to the nature-loving and outdoorsy audience, those types of vehicles have been in manufacturing for a long time.
Why Should You Look for a Micro Camper?
If you’re not naturally inclined towards the outdoors, it’s understandable why campers, in general, can evoke indifference.
After all, they seemingly serve the same purpose of motels, lodges, or any other accommodation facility.
However, campers are cost-efficient in the long-term, and buying the right one can guarantee you a place to stay almost anywhere: in the middle of the woods, at the beach, and even amidst rocky mountains.
It’s not a stretch to say that by using a micro camper you begin to carry your permanent motel room everywhere with you.
One doesn’t have to be an outdoorsman to see the appeal in camping as an activity itself. The stress-relieving nature of outdoor camping and childish joy you find in the exploration of the natural world is enough to lure you in.
Against rain and unpredictable weather conditions, camping tents won’t hold up; most campers are made to be durable to handle violent weather changes and to keep its occupants safe and satisfied.
Camping offers you a chance to disconnect and focus on your wellbeing for a short time. Campers exist to make that opportunity easier and within reach.
If you want all the magic of camping but none of its unconventional nature, campers are perfect.
History of Campers
The history of campers stretches back to the days when people like the nomadic Romanis channeled their love of easy and efficient travel into horse-drawn caravans.
It was originally meant to be a way of transportation, not an avenue for homely leisure.
In fact, caravans like the Vardo with their beautiful gilded designs and carpeted lush interior were often made especially for newlyweds by heavily skilled coach makers.
Nowadays, the intricately made Vardo is a popular symbol of Romani culture, with those associated referring affectionately to the heyday of the caravan where it was customary and common for Romanis to own one as wagon-time.
However, showmen and those constantly on the road quickly took advantage of caravans for maximum cost-effectiveness.
This frequent usage of non-Romani showmen and circus troupes had popularized the traditional wagon as living accommodation and a domicile rather than just mere transportation.
As the entrance of the twentieth-century loomed around the corner, caravanning had become a popular activity for those interested in camping and touring as a pastime.
A transformation was underway: the classic horse-drawn caravan had begun to morph into the modern travel trailer.
It started to gain momentum in the United States in the 1920s and quickly became associated with tourists and those who are foreign.
Around that same time, travel trailers were dubbed as “the tin cans” due to their close resemblance and restricted space.
As the years unfolded, campers started becoming more and more commercial and accessible, trickling into American popular culture and public consciousness.
Trends started to roll in, as they often do with all things popular, and the industry split and branched to fit all kinds of different needs to maximize profit.
The one defining trend of the 20th century was the teardrop travel trailer. Having peaked in popularity in the 1930s, those trailers hosted limited spaces in teardrop-shaped exteriors from which they derived their names.
Nowadays considered a classic, many independent sellers and manufacturers adopt the teardrop design to capitalize on nostalgic aesthetics recalling a rosy past.
Since modern campers have sprung into a variety of kinds to bend to every type of demand out there, it is more than understandable that all those different names can induce some intense head-scratching from the ordinary individual.
What Are Micro Campers?
They’re small trailers that can fit into your MVP—mini-campers, for lack of a better word. They include the most important aspects of travel trailers and campers except they’re cheaper, smaller, and easier to maintain. For those who can’t suffer the full commitment, they’re a perfect fit.
A small market, micro camper can be custom-made by independent sellers, although there are quite a few manufacturers out there that offer you plenty of options to explore.
Why Buy a Micro Camper?
Why downsize? The general gripe is campers are quite an investment. They require high-maintenance, storage space, and most importantly money.
Most nature enthusiasts are on a budget and actively look for the best deal to satisfy their desire. Financing the sustenance of another vehicle on top of an everyday car is simply no easy task.
When purchasing micro campers, you sacrifice room for practicality. Is the tradeoff worth it? That mostly depends on your needs.
Buying a Micro Camper: What to Look for?
Amenities are some of the most important aspects to look into of any micro camper: beds, electricity, showers, toilets, etc.
Since you have to compromise space, many micro campers feature several floor plans that cater to various needs.
Showers and Toilets
Most micro campers tend unfortunately never includes both a shower and toilet at once due to the limited space and the importance of other amenities.
However, it’s not impossible to find a micro camper that features either a native shower or a toilet.
For those that don’t, a van dweller is often expected to stock up on portable showers and bathroom tents to maintain top-notch hygiene.
Another common stable of micro campers is stoves and refrigerators. Although not all campers feature both, there are multiple that do.
Gas or electric power is used for these appliances—propane stoves are a concrete aspect of most micro campers.
When sacrificing the dining area including the stove for a built-in bathroom, you could gear up and make sure to bring a portable tent stove.
Shape and Weight
An aspect not many think of immediately is that the shape of a micro camper does play a large factor in its use.
One of the main reasons people prefer micro camper is due to their lightness. With an ultra-light micro camper, you don’t need to bother with an SUV, as your regular car could easily tow it.
Purchasing a micro camper on the heavier side won’t only cost you more, but will force you to abandon your car as well.
Buying a micro camper on top of an everyday-use vehicle is a costly task for some; buying an SUV to tow your newly-bought micro camper is a costly task for most.
When choosing a micro camper, opt for lighter options. Not only they’ll be cheaper, but easier to tow.
Many micro camper manufacturers choose fiberglass as a material from which they produce these micro campers due to its lightness.
Shape is another thing to consider. Micro campers nowadays come in various shapes and sizes, but many sellers emphasize smooth edge-free aerodynamic exteriors with sleek side panels and tails.
These micro campers cater to aerodynamics which decreases road sway and road drag, causing driving to be smoother and easier, and saving gas mileage.
Sporting aerodynamic shells indicative of their nature, these micro campers are marked by fiberglass-made low profiles, smooth edges, sloped walls, and sometimes a V-nose front.
A do-it-yourself camper is nothing unheard of before. However, it’s somewhat of a feat to those who aren’t interested in camping gear and road travel as most DIY micro campers are fashioned from used or newly-bought travel trailers.
Using either a gutted travel trailer or a trailer frame, it’s more than doable to build your dream micro camper, using reclaimed wood and other materials.
The process, although not complicated, requires patience and discipline. For maximum cost efficiency, use a travel trailer frame as the core skeleton of the DIY micro camper. Many manufacturers provide frames that are easy to use with clear instructions.
However, whether you use a 50-year-old cargo trailer as the base or a recently bought travel trailer frame, make sure to lay plywood or any other material that’s sturdy and concrete in nature for rock-solid firmness.
Next, you frame the walls using plywood skin and 2×3 studs, then install them.
The next step would be to build a roof and install it using a rafter system and an OSB piece.
Sheeting the walls is an easy and straightforward task, but make sure to keep in mind all the electrical outlets.
To shield your new DIY micro camper and cement it as waterproof, install an aluminum trim with a double bend connection and cover your plywood sheeting. Add a tin roof to keep the weight down.
You could then install gutters over the windows and doors. Adding reused windows from an old camper is also a possibility.
Sheet the interior. Run electrical wires for the outlets. Make sure you have done at least two coats of painting by then.
Trim the windows and install final the final electrical work. You could add all the extra luxuries: LED lights, fenders, whatever you need.
Finish it up by installing the windows, doors, and lights. Finally, polish it off with one final shiny coat of paint.
Micro Campers as an Innovative Endeavor
In recent years, micro campers have become a niche channel for creativity and innovation.
More and more companies have left the traditional frame in which they dutifully operated in for years for futuristic state-of-the-art models that attract fellow wanderers and camping enthusiasts.
TAXA outdoors, a micro camper manufacturer company, is owned by Garrett Finney, an ex-NASA engineer and Yale architecture graduate.
Finney, originally an architect, mixed the two disciplines of architecture and engineering with his love of camping to produce a line of aesthetically dystopian pop-up micro campers that offer an impressive range of amenities and come with several floorplans.
Keeping in mind aerodynamics as well, these micro campers are accentuated by their unique and smart shape.
EGOE, a Czech furniture company, decided to employ its knowledge of design and focus it on camping.
Forgoing the commitment to manufacture a whole new micro camper, EGOE introduced the Next Box, a micro camper kit featuring a hydrophobic mattress, sleeping grate, and several storage compartments including ones for water and a fridge that can all fit comfortably in the back of your van.
Designed to be a quick storage set up, the Nest Box is a practical and easy solution made unique by its smart utilization of limited space.
Angel Irlanda—artist, author, and founder of Earth Traveler Teardrop Trailers LLC—found no micro camper that could be towed by his nimble car, so he took on the challenge of building one.
With his deep knowledge of engineering and design, Irlanda made this micro camper out of a lightweight composite that satisfies aerodynamics with a round-edged symmetrical teardrop shape that’s said to have been inspired by “avian structures.”
Launching two different models, Earth Traveler has split to include two different options for material: full-carbon fiber or a feather-based composite made from feathers and resin.
An incredible feat in itself, Earth Traveler’s models weigh under 500 pounds. To put this in context: most micro campers, when considered light, weigh under 2000 pounds.
Whether you’re a hot-blooded adventurer, a mellow explorer, or a person made gleeful by exploring the outdoors’ unknown wonders, micro campers are the ultimate products of convention and practicality made to be accustomed to your every need.
Prioritizing easy travel even for those who aren’t zealous outdoorsmen, micro campers’ manufacturers have found a way to present innovative solutions in a passionate intersection of design and outdoors camping where the rewards outweigh the challenges for the ordinary individual.