Trailer Intro
Design, Travel, Adventures

Happy Camper

Ryan and I came dangerously close to purchasing a trailer yesterday and by some power unknown to us, we somehow managed to talk ourselves out of it…for now. Let’s back up a bit. We attended the giant Manufacturer’s RV Show that is held every year at the Alameda Fairgrounds. We’ve been before and they’re fun to check out and to see all the behemoth trailers I will never buy nor will I ever know someone who will. I have a small obsession with Airstreams and thought at least I could check them out and see if they had anything new. We walked through them and as much as I love them, they just don’t work very well for a family of four and they’re ridiculously expensive.


Airstreams are pretty cute though

We continued our trek through the show when we stumbled upon an A-frame pop-up camper. We took a step inside and thought, hmm, this could actually work for us. We’re pretty over the tent situation and as much as I love listening to Ryan spit obscenities and throw tent poles, I think we’re ready for the next step up. We camp enough that it would make sense for us to seriously think about upgrading.

I camped in a tent trailer when I was a child and they are indeed better than a tent but because of the soft sides, you do still wake up wet if you’re too close to the side. They’re also pretty damn cold at night so I knew I didn’t want a soft-sided pop-up. Looking at this A-frame pop-up, it checked off all the boxes for us: hard-sided, sleeps four people, it can be parked in the garage, they’re reasonably priced (less expensive than a small car!) and is light enough to be towed by our Pilot. The only thing that doesn’t have me screaming up and down with excitement is the interior. Good Lord, the interior of these trailers is abysmal. All of these trailers look like they’re designed by the set designer of the Brady Bunch and all of the other major 70’s sitcoms. I seriously think these companies sit around and say, ok, let’s find all the shades of brown that remind us of depression and feces and let’s throw in a dusty rose flower pattern and bam, that’s a winner!  I’m not saying I need top-of-the-line appliances or granite countertops but would it kill these people to pick a pattern from this decade or a color that can’t be found in a toilet?!

We left the show with a thought that maybe we could make this work–maybe the interior will grow on us. So we started doing a lot of research. Basically, if either myself or Ryan were in front of a computer this past week, we were researching these campers. Even if you follow me on Pinterest, I’m sure you’ve noticed the increase in camping pins. We discovered that the two top brands of A-frame campers are Aliner and Chalet.






These are your more expensive a-frame campers and they have a pretty strong following. A lot of forums I read claim they’re more expensive because they’re built better. I like affordability, so we researched a little more and discovered Rockwood and Flagstaff.





If these two look even more similar, it’s because the two are sister brands and the only difference is the amazing 80’s swoosh on the body and the different shades of brown offered in the trailer. We learned through our research that Aliner and Chalet are the original creators of this style and they’re still very small companies. The company that owns Rockwood and Flagstaff are the big boys–the Walmart of A-frame pop-up campers. They came in after seeing the success of the other two companies and built a product that might be a little less quality driven but because of their size, is able to drive down the costs of the units making them a lot more inexpensive.

The person within me who loves design is screaming not to do it but then again, it’s camping. How design-worthy does it need to be if it meets every other criteria? Apparently it’s enough of a problem that Ryan and I started doing additional research on how to update the inside and we found so many resources and blogs that give tutorials on how to do this. One such blog that grabbed my attention was The Pop Up Princess. She explains everything from painting the cabinets to redoing the floor to even removing the awesome 80’s swoosh on the exterior!

trailer before & after

One of the many makeovers

Suddenly I’m thinking that maybe there’s hope in the debbie downer design department. But then the more research I did and the more pictures I saw of trailers gutted during the renovations, I started to question whether spending all that money for something new only to turn right around and take it apart, seemed ridiculous.

I continued my search online to find something, anything, that could possibly work and didn’t have the interior of a mortuary. I discovered that there are wonderfully designed trailers out there but they only sleep two people:



This T@B Microlite Travel Trailer is an example of a smaller unit. (Photo by Lance Wynn)

T@B Microtrailer

Happier Camper

Happier Camper

I threw my hands up in frustration and screamed to Ryan, WHY CAN’T WE FIND SOMETHING LIKE THIS:



We ultimately decided that we weren’t ready to make such a decision yet. I’m still hopeful that we’ll find a happy middle because I do love the idea of bidding adieu to the tent-life and embracing more family time on the road. I hope in the interim as we continue to do our research, big companies will realize that design matters and some of us are allergic to poor design. I’m serious, I sneeze and dry-heave when I stare at ugly design. Do you know what cures it? BY DESIGNING SOMETHING THAT ISN’T UGLY! Perhaps I will embrace the interiors and value quality time with my family over aesthetics or perhaps I’ll make my children sleep in a tent so I can enjoy the luxuriousness of one of the above two-person gems. Yes, the latter seems much more likely.

What are your thoughts? Have you researched trailers? Is there a brand of trailer you love? Will you judge me if I make my children sleep in a cold damp tent so I can have my dream trailer?

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  • Reply Michelle January 19, 2016 at 11:18 pm

    Hi, I don’t know you, but your link popped up on my FB feed from a friend liking it and the subject interested me. Three years ago we bought a late 1970s pop up for $500. We had never owned a trailer and didn’t want to spend a lot trying it. Best purchase! I got fun colored fabric and recovered all the cushions, and sewed (quickly and not perfect) curtains. The fabrics made such a difference! I hope to get a hard sided trailer soon but we have the problem of still not wanting to spend a lot, needing it to sleep 6 and be light enough to go behind our van. In the meantime we thoroughly enjoy our trailer! We have a $20 electric heater that we use with hook ups and keeps it hot enough to sleep in a t shirt while it’s 40 degrees out.

    • Reply Jennifer January 19, 2016 at 11:28 pm

      Welcome and thanks for the info! I love older trailers but the idea of renovating them seems overwhelming. I can see how just changing the fabric would make such a huge difference since there is such an abundance. There is something definitely appealing about renovating and making the space yours. Really appreciate the comment – thanks again!

  • Reply Stephanie July 26, 2016 at 1:41 am

    Hi there! Did you ever decide on a camper? My husband (Ryan, incidentally!) and I just bought a Flagstaff A Frame and we are head over heals in love with it. We have a back packing/tent camping history but now that we’re getting older and the kids have moved on, we’re opting for comfort and ease of set up/tear down/storage. I was also in love with the old designs but completely intimidated with remodeling one. Just curious if you ever decided to pull the trigger on one!

    • Reply Jennifer July 26, 2016 at 5:00 am

      Hi! I’m so happy to hear you love your Flagstaff! That is actually the brand we’re interested in. We haven’t pulled the trigger yet because we’re waiting for the rv show that runs at our county fair in January. We can get pretty great deals if we wait towards the end of the show. I’m very excited and hearing how much you love yours, is making me even more excited to get mine! Thanks for reaching out!

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