Teardrop trailer dream
Our first lesson in our 16-month search for the perfect trailer – you are limited by the tow vehicles at your disposal. If you’re new to camper life, towing with an existing vehicle you already own would be ideal. For us, that would be our 2018 Subaru Outback 2.5i 4-cyl with a 200 lbs hitch weight and 2,700 lbs towing capacity.
You see, we were new empty-nesters. We were starting to travel more and camping sans kids was starting to sound fabulous. And those YouTube videos of small teardrop campers, RV and van life sucked us right in. For the Subie, those small teardrops were looking just about perfect. We could be spontaneous, get off work, get on the road, arrive at a campground late at night with minimal set up to hop right in to sleep (little did we know).
During this time, the bulk of Trey’s gear was kiteboarding-related. Pop up the back of the Outback after a session and you had shade and waterproof mats to sit on while taking a break and hydrating before the next session (or having a beer and shooting the breeze). Literally, the Subie was the perfect vehicle for him. All was good. Talks of a teardrop camper continued as we researched options that fit within the Outback limitations.
New hobbies equal new toys
Then along came the paragliding bug (thanks a lot Aaron). An extra wing, harness, helmet…no big deal. Plenty of room in the Outback. But, we live in central Oklahoma. It’s pretty damn flat. It’s at least a 3-hour drive to the Kiamichi and Ouachita Mountains.
So naturally, once he caught the flying bug, he started playing with paramotors so he could fly at home. Don’t need to launch off a mountain if you can strap on backpack butt fan.
And still the Subaru met the challenge. He bought one of those cargo carrier baskets from Harbor Freight and popped it onto the tow hitch, strapped in the paramotor with cage and harness and he was good to go.
The limitation? Sometimes you have to go out of state to participate in events like the Endless Foot Drag. This brings in the possibility of inclement weather. A little sprinkle no big deal. Anything bigger and it’s time to turn around to keep that expensive equipment nice and dry. We’ve heard horror stories of driving on the highway with the motor covers turning into wind sails so… nah. The winds do come sweeping down the plains. Better safe than sorry.
The size of his new toy has made the search for the perfect tiny camper even more limiting. With his new hobby in mind, teardrops were no longer feasible. So the search began for a small toy hauler.
The downside to searching for smaller travel trailer campers in Oklahoma is that none of the RV dealerships seem to carry the small stuff. After researching all the different key words we could come up with to try and identify a small camper/toy hauler, we narrowed our search to the Intech Flyer. A few dealerships in Texas had them in stock so I emailed the dealership to verify if one or two were available for viewing. This is when we learned that the Subaru tongue weight capacity of 200 lbs was a no-go for the Explorer. We would need a class 3 hitch. Crap.
Does anyone make lightweight toy haulers?
We researched class 3 hitches. We researched DIY utility trailer conversions and DIY plans and by now it’s spring 2019. We continued our search for the perfect trailer that could haul our toys. We started considering van conversions. We looked at custom teardrop builds. Maybe instead of a kitchen galley in the back it could hold the motor. We went to RV shows. We started thinking about getting a used truck.
All we needed was a trailer with an opening that could fit a 49″x 49″ toy, has some sort of sleeping option and a rack up top. None of the small teardrop campers had wide enough doors or floor space. We loved the idea of the Happier Camper, but it just wasn’t affordable. And the the Sylvan Sport didn’t offer enough weather coverage when on the road.
And then it happened. The research rabbit hole somehow referenced Forest River’s new 2019 No Boundaries line-up. Could this be it? We stayed up late that night trying to find anything about the 10.6 model – a 14′ toy hauler camper. Prices looked okay, interior size looked good. It even had an optional roof rack tent or batwing awning. Would we have to drive to Ohio or Missouri to go see one? Where was the closest dealer?
Jackpot! There was one in Claremore, OK. We emailed the dealer. They had three in stock! We then sent off an email to Forest River asking for specific inside dimensions and whether they thought it could hold the paramotor. Forest River was quite responsive, even providing dimensions for the AC drop down area that was just short of the height we needed. BUT the space on each side of the A/C drop down should work.
Our camper newbie dreams came true.
The NoBo 10.6 has a ramp, four tie downs, a solid floor that was just big enough to hold a queen mattress, a pull out kitchen, a 30 gallon fresh water tank, and a cool batwing awning. Hitch weight came in at 198 lbs and had a dry weight of 1,606 lbs. Plus, it was just narrow enough to fit in the space on the side of our house. Perfect!
Let the adventures begin!
Update: 18 months later
We still love our little NoBo. We’ve made modifications to make it more dry-camping friendly, but overall it’s perfect…for now.
- Small footprint – easy to haul and easy to store.
- Can hold a lot of small toys – kayak, paddleboard, two bikes, paramotor equipment, kiteboarding equipment, bedding, clothing, firewood, etc.
- The batwing awning is awesome.
- The 30-gallon, pressurized water tank is great for dry camping.
- Back ramp can be modified to be used as a deck.
- The ramp opening can be a giant screened window with a view.
- It fits a queen-sized air mattress.
- Kitchen with stove and Dometic cooler/freezer works great.
- A/C is a plus when camping in the summer with shore power.
- Ground clearance is awesome, especially when camping on USFS or BLM land.
- Provides great shelter during rainstorms.
- Factory battery averaged 36 hours with the cooler running.
- Rhino batwing is fragile and the hinges easily break at the pivot point.
- The Dometic air conditioner is 13,500 BTUs and overkill for the trailer size. We don’t think the Bluetti AC200 will be able to handle it when we receive in October 2020.
- Wi-fi antenna just adds to the battery drain and is actually quite useless.
- Build materials are a cheap, hence affordable (is that a pro or con?). However, some items are easy enough to mod and upgrade.
- Solar-ready wiring is less than ideal. We’ve already replaced.
- It’s really too big for the Outback to haul on long road trips. so we finally bought a truck.
Overall, this little toy hauler is perfect for us… and Trey’s toys. We do see ourselves upgrading in the future if we take longer road trips. Although we’ve supplemented our gear with a truckbed tent to make it easier to overnight without having to unload the trailer. Being able to self-contain for overnight stays (parking lots, casinos, etc) would definitely be convenient.
2 thoughts on “The search for the perfect tiny camper”
How’s your outback holding up with the Nobo 10.6? The specs on it seem to push all the ratings for outback tow capacities but I’m. Also interested in it.
Oops! Totally missed this comment. Apologies. You are absolutely right that it pushed the limits. Although we were comfortable using the Outback for towing around in the flatlands, once we decided it was time to take the NoBo to Colorado and Utah, we knew we would need a truck. We picked a used F-150 in 2020 and it’s been a much needed upgrade.