Camping Caravans: The Teardrop Rides Again

Much like Jack London’s canine protagonist Buck, I have always felt the Call of the Wild. Well before I was even partially financially stable (I think I’m maybe halfway there now?), I was continually hitting up every neighborhood park for my fix of green grass, blue skies, and wise trees—but I constantly dreamed of the future, calculating vehicle cost-effectiveness and fuel efficiencies in my mind’s eye.

I envisioned road trips that spanned between the coasts of the Northwest and the canyons of the Southwest in a customized camping setup: now, I’ve made those dreams a reality, and escape to the great outdoors as often as I can with my partner and our dog. Read on for a few of the vehicles and setups that I used to dream about, and learn which option I eventually settled on as the perfect rig for my finances and family.

The Icon: Wild Wrangler 

The first time I saw a Jeep racing down the highway with nothing but a plastic cover for a windshield, I was sold: it was a steel-framed picture of total freedom, of wild days, and wilder nights. And when that Wrangler’s driver topped it off by waving at that dumbstruck little girl stuck in her family’s boring sedan, I wanted nothing more than to own one of my own one day.

When it came time to look for the “perfect camping car” for my little family and me, I took a long look at several used models of Wrangler. I also checked out some newer models at dealerships, specifically to explore Jeep’s endless customization options. With its rugged frame and world-renowned durability, a Wrangler is trail-ready right off of the lot, and I knew we could “run away” with it the second after we’d parked it in our driveway.

Those rugged good looks, too, just beckoned me to climb aboard and feel like a bonafide adventurer. Of all the “camping cars” on the market today, The Wrangler’s iconic image as a mud-covered, unstoppable beast might be the most publicly recognizable. The Wrangler does have one drawback, however: a lack of cargo space—-especially in older models. Although newer models are addressing this issue, ultimately, my partner and I agreed that we’d need a camping setup that maximized our storage space in order to make the most of our (mostly impromptu) weekend getaways.

Bigger is better, right?

After passing on the wild and rugged Wrangler, I started researching my other big—-and I do mean, big—childhood camping dream: The RV. I began researching, knowing that an RV setup would be a huge investment for us: any RV setup—-even one on the smaller end—-would require us to purchase a vehicle with enough horsepower to tow it.

I started asking myself difficult questions. As glamorous as it appeared to me to sail away towards our favorite camping spots with a massive RV attached to a fancy, gas-guzzling truck, was that an investment we should make, even if cost hadn’t been a factor (sidenote: the cost was a factor)? Was all the space of an RV—-with its luxurious sleeping quarters, full kitchen, dining area, and shower—-worth the exorbitant cost?

We extensively researched the classic Airstream: a true icon of getaway travel. For more than eight decades, the Airstream has been a symbol of outdoor life. I was particularly drawn by the Bambi model: with a customizable length between 16 and 22 feet, and a setup that could comfortably sleep up to four, I was intrigued. However, I felt that (at least for now), the classic Airstream was a bit too cost-prohibitive for my partner and me.

Classic Quality, Modern Affordability

I was off again on my search. I loved the classic airstream look and wanted to find a setup that also captured that classic look—a rig that would remind me of the storied days of epic camping that my grandfather had enjoyed, traversing the National Parks by towing nary but a little two-person sleeper with his station-wagon.

That’s when it finally became clear: I wanted a rig that my everyday commuter could pull. I’d only need to invest in quality tires and general vehicle maintenance, and wouldn’t need to bother with purchasing a vehicle to specifically tow a heavy trailer. I’d seen plenty of used teardrop camper trailers for sale, but none of them boasted the kind of quality construction that I wanted to invest in; I wanted a camper trailer that would last.

While several companies boasted some high-quality products, nothing appealed to me more than the Utah-based Bean’s classic teardrop camper: I’m definitely a sucker for the romantic, and nothing’s more romantic than a retro-design that combines nostalgia for the “good ol’ days” of camping with modern materials and advanced construction techniques. Plus, compared to the storied Airstream, the modern Bean-brand camper is in an affordability class all its own.

Into the Sunset: The Teardrop Rides Again

My partner and I decided to invest in a small, maneuverable teardrop trailer. We went with an ultra-lite model that maximizes fuel efficiency, and tow it with our shared family vehicle. Now, whenever the fancy strikes us, we strike out together across the highways and byways of days past. The camper trailer makes setting up our camp a breeze: we just have to park it, and make our home-away-from-home wherever we want it to be.

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