The popularity of teardrop campers is reaching new heights in the 21st century. Whether they’re as basic as their 1930s vintage ancestors or technologically complex, they make up a significant portion of the RV community.
If you’re considering purchasing one, we’ll show you what you should look for. We’ll also point out standard features, examples of what we believe are the best ones, and other criteria to prepare you for your buying experience.
What Is a Teardrop Camper?
Teardrop trailers are ultra-lightweight RVs that can be pulled by almost any vehicle. The category’s name comes from the traditional waterdrop shape design. The wide aerodynamic front tapers to a point in the rear.
The interior has enough room for two people to sleep comfortably on a mattress. The rear hatch opens, giving the RVers access to kitchen features. As technology advances, RV makers are finding new ways to add creature comforts. You’ll discover multi-media systems, TVs, climate control, cabinetry, and other amenities found in travel trailers.
The Teardrop camper began in the 1930s during the depression. People would publish teardrop trailer plans in Popular Mechanics and Mechanix Illustrated Magazines. Do-it-yourself (D.I.Y.) folks would use scrap plywood, sheet metal, or other materials to build these small RVs themselves.
One of the most famous people to submit a design to Popular Mechanics was Wally Byam. You wouldn’t recognize his wood-framed submission from the 1930s if you compared it to the “Silver Bullets” of today. People loved his design so much; they started asking him to build his RV for them. That’s why he began Airstream.
Once the boys returned home from World War II, they started building teardrop campers from these published plans. If you look up pictures of vintage teardrop campers, you’ll see many of the surplus Jeeps, aircraft, and other military equipment ended up becoming parts for these D.I.Y. teardrop trailer kits.
Once these veterans settled into their family life, their RV passions evolved into bigger family-family travel trailer units. The surge led to the “canned ham” travel trailer popularity, leaving teardrops to sink into near obscurity by the mid-1960s. It would take another 30 years for the RV community to open their hearts and minds to the possibilities of teardrop camping.
Traditionally Shaped Teardrops
Teardrop-shaped campers, as mentioned above, will have a rounded, aerodynamic front wall. The rounded shape continues to the back bumper, where it meets the bottom shell at a point. People not only enjoy the nostalgic look, but it also reduces drag to help with fuel-efficiency.
Traditionally shaped campers will have fiberglass shells with wood or aluminum interior framing. Of the three categories, this version will generally be lighter.
Non-Traditionally Shaped Teardrops
Within the last 20 years, teardrop RV manufacturers have stepped away from the traditional shape for a more utility-oriented box-shape. It gives more interior space and variety to features. The flat roof and sidewalls allow adventure toy racks. Rear doors allow long items to be stored inside while traveling.
If the teardrop has kitchen features, they pull out in a drawer at the RV front. Designers create different floorplans with the non-traditional shapes that focus on efficiency and utility.
Self-contained teardrops are full of controversy. They have the traditional shape, but all features, including the kitchen, are inside the RV. One side of the debate describes them as small travel trailers with a teardrop shape. The other side calls them teardrops with additional features.
Some of these campers allow you to stand up inside, have beds that convert into dinettes, have bathrooms, and other amenities. Their specifications keep them close enough to standard teardrop camper specs that it’s challenging to make the call either way.
Teardrop Camper Specification Ranges
Every category of RV has a weight factor called the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR). Industry authorities require manufacturers to publish this weight limit on every model they produce for the general public’s use. It tells RVers what the absolute maximum amount of weight the RV can hold safely.
The weight ratings include the weight of the vehicle itself (dry weight), the weight of the liquid in the holding tanks, everything you’ve packed in storage, and the people inside of the unit.
RVs also have a weight factor called the Axle Weight. This measurement tells you how much each axle can safely support. Teardrop trailers use the Gross Axle Weight Rating (GAWR) instead of the GVWR. In this case, teardrops are single axle travel trailers. The axle holds the weight of the RV and what’s inside.
RVs with double axles and motorhomes can distribute weight on multiple axles. In this situation, the big-picture total weight would rely on the GVWR. Going overweight is a bad idea, but dual axles will have some leeway if you must. Teardrop camper weights leave little room for error.
|QUESTION ABOUT TEARDROP CAMPERS||ANSWER|
|What is its length?||8-13 feet|
|How many people does it sleep?||2 people|
|Dry Weight (empty weight of the RV)?||300- 4,000 pounds|
|Axle Weight Rating?||500- 3,200 pounds|
Ideal Tow Vehicles for Teardrop Campers
When you’re matching a tow vehicle to a travel trailer, you need to know its towing capacity. You can find this number in your owner’s manual or talk to your auto dealer. If you look it up online, make sure you know the exact model of your vehicle. Many automakers have multiple versions of the same model, so you want to get the right information.
You also want to make sure your vehicle has a pre-installed tow package. When your car is towing, the trailer puts additional stress on many essential parts. Parts like the chassis, suspension, and brakes need to be correctly supported. The engine and transmission need superior radiators to keep them from overheating since they’re working harder than average.
Finally, never max out your towing capacity. You’ll want to have enough horsepower after the total weight of the RV, gear weight, and passenger weight to handle the road. You’ll need acceleration power, hill-climbing power, and the ability to handle road conditions. Generally, save about 1,000-1,500 pounds of towing capacity after the dry weight for everything else.
If you’re looking to buy a new tow vehicle or aren’t sure if your SUV can tow a teardrop, here are ten popular examples:
|Audi Q5||4,400 lbs|
|BMW X3||4,400 lbs|
|Chevrolet Trax||3,267 lbs|
|Chrysler Pacifica||3,600 lbs|
|Ford Bronco||3,500 lbs|
|GMC Acadia||4,000 lbs|
|Honda Pilot||3,500 lbs|
|Jeep Wrangler||3,500 lbs|
|Subaru Outback||3,500 lbs|
|Toyota RAV4 Off-Road||3,500 lbs|
Popular RV Manufacturers of Teardrop Campers
When the RV industry jumped back into the teardrop category, the Big-Box Brands had a hard time balancing production costs and the low-profit margin that comes with teardrop campers. The new consumer interest in teardrop campers in the 1990s opened a warehouse-sized door for independent RV companies to get into the market.
Big brands that have teardrop models only recently entered the market. Their products fall into the non-traditional subcategory and are apart of a multi-floorplan line up of a travel trailer line. For example, Forest River’s Flagstaff E-Pro series has two teardrop models (E12RK and E12SRK) and 11 self-contained travel trailers. Brand marketing focuses on travel trailers.
Over the past 20 plus years, many independent teardrop camper manufacturers have developed their company into what they are today because the big-name brands left this category wide open. nuCamp is leading the industry in their teardrops. Their success introduced a truck camper a few years ago and a 28-foot travel trailer for 2020.
|Forest River- Forest River Inc.||Forest River Inc.|
|Little Guy||Xtreme Outdoors|
|United Recreational Vehicles||Foreign-Owned|
Features You Can Expect In a Teardrop Camper
When it comes to standard features in a teardrop camper trailer, you’ll be amazed at what you’ll find. If you use a free D.I.Y. teardrop camper kit like the Wyoming Woody Kit, you’ll get the plans to construct the frame off of a pre-made chassis of your choice. Many of these plans allow you to add as much optional equipment you can fit in.
Many independent manufacturers that build their products to order, like Timberleaf, start with a basic design. The customer chooses what features they want to add in the kitchen hatch, interior, and overall exterior. Direct order companies create packages of popular features that save their customers money.
The more prominent independents like nuCamp and inTech, have many of the amenities pre-installed during construction. In our discussion below, we’ll point out the standard features these companies add that line up with the popular features the smaller brands typically option-in for their customers.
As a significant component, the kitchens in the rear hatches can be very developed. You’ll find a single basin sink, two-burner propane stovetop, and refrigerator. The fridge is either a dorm-size version or the newer cooler-style. Some customers and RV dealers will order a small microwave in the higher-end teardrops.
You can find models out there with walls in the kitchen that have TV mount prep with all necessary connections. When paired with outdoor speakers, you can have the ultimate outdoor experience.
The interior cabin has a mattress on the floor. It’s usually a memory foam or upgraded thick foam pad that gives you a good night’s rest. Some big-name brand models have a jackknife sofa that lets you sit up during the day or a convertible dinette.
The teardrop with a bathroom concept is still new. nuCamp was the first to introduce it in their Tab 400 self-contained model. It’s a combination shower/commode wet bath with plenty of space to prepare for the day. Those that want a more rustic or more spartan teardrop camper may bring a portable cassette toilet with them.
Teardrops with sinks will have small freshwater and grey tanks. The Tab 400 teardrop camper by nuCamp will have a 12-gallon black tank. If you’re going on an extended RV trip, expect to change over your tanks often since they are relatively small.
The larger teardrop campers will have storage cabinets in the cabin. All of them will have storage in the kitchen hatch. Don’t expect to have room to store everything. Expect to store the majority of your gear in your vehicle.
Your clothing and personal items will take up the cabinet space inside the cabin. The priority for the kitchen should be your food and cookware. As you travel, you can use the cabin for your chairs and other outdoor furniture, as long as you keep your eye on the axle weight.
Power and Propane
Almost every RV in the market now comes ready for alternative power sources. Teardrop trailers have 30 amp service. It’s not hard to find gas or solar generators that can fulfill your power needs. Some RV makers offer solar panel systems that attach to the roof of their teardrop travel trailers.
Small teardrop campers may come with onboard propane tanks, but don’t expect hot water. The LP tanks will supply the cooking gas for the stove, have a quick connect line for barbecues, and supply furnaces (if they’re not electric). Expect the tanks to be 20 pounds or less.
Rainy days and nights don’t have to be boring. Multimedia systems and TVs are becoming standard issue on teardrops. LED lighting is an industry-standard in every category.
Awnings are still manual, but some manufactures offer choices. Besides the standard, there’s the batwing that covers the side and rear. Another option is an attachable tent or screen room that gives you additional interior space for sleeping, dining, or whatever else you want to do.
Smaller manufacturers will offer climate control features as options only to keep costs down. Others will only offer heaters as standard amenities. The big independents and big-name RV makers offer air conditioners as rooftop units or side-mounted (side mounts are the same products you see in residential windows).
Even the best teardrop campers have limited space. That’s why designers will sacrifice internal temperature comfort for added storage or other features. Unlike other categories, teardrop trailer enthusiasts usually have different camping requirements than those with bigger RV categories.
Best Teardrop Campers by Category
|Smallest Teardrop Camper||Earth Traveler Earth T250LX|
|Cheapest Teardrop Camper||Braxton Creek Bushwacker 10SS|
|Best Luxury Teardrop Camper||nuCamp TAB 400 Teardrop Camper|
|Best Pop-Up Teardrop Camper||Sylvansport GO|
|Best Used Teardrop Camper With a Slide Out||Gidget Retro Teardrop Camper (no longer in production)|
|Best Motorcycle Teardrop Camper||Aspen Classic Mini Teardrop Camper|
|Best Off-Road Teardrop Camper||Taxa Outdoors Tiger Moth|
Factors That Determine if a Teardrop Camper Is Right for You
Positive Teardrop Camper Reviews and Ratings: (Pros)
Those that enjoy outdoor adventuring, budget-friendly camping, and weekend trips will find this category most ideal. The second-largest RV audience, millennials, are scooping these campers up to cool down from their daily routines. They are drawn more to public parks and public lands than private campgrounds to take in the many wonders nature offers.
Due to modernization restrictions, the best size for RVs in national parks is 27 feet. The longest self-contained teardrop travel trailer maxes out at 18 feet, so this category is perfect for Yellowstone National Park (Bridge Bay Campground- 40 feet limit), Badlands National Park (Sage Creek Campground- 18 feet limit), and others.
RV makers quickly honed into this generation’s needs and wants. Many have optional off-road packages with raised suspensions, specialized tires, and upgraded frames to tackle the rough-and-tumble punishment that comes with finding new roads to explore.
Even though young couples or two friends are traveling away from the things of man, most teardrops have connections to wire up a cell phone or data booster to keep you connected to your digital world. You can share all of your experiences through social media or catch up on everything while you enjoy everything around you.
When the camping season is over, teardrop trailers are the easiest to store. If they have plumbing, a bottle or two of winterization antifreeze will keep the pipes in good shape. You can store your coach in any indoor RV storage garage, outdoor RV storage place like your back yard, or rent a covered RV storage slip.
Are Teardrop Campers Worth It?
Teardrop camping isn’t for everyone. RV manufacturers that produce RVs in this category provide features to enhance the camping experience, but the RV lifestyle’s fundamental principles are still the same. Teardrop campers offer a place to sleep and amenities to prepare meals.
The outer shell uses fiberglass or fiberglass composites for its strength and insulating properties. The advantage of the hardshell allows the RV the same insulation materials as other categories of towable RVs. You won’t find any cold-weather models, but those who want to push the camping season limits can still sleep comfortably at night.
If you’re looking for a teardrop camper that sleeps 4, you’ll want to weigh the pros and cons. In any RV, every square inch is valuable. By using that space for one purpose, how big of a sacrifice is it for something else. If the interior cabin has sleeping for a young family, how does that affect the kitchen hatch, axle weight, and other components?
In the scenario above, you may want to consider a small travel trailer. Traditional travel trailers offer more interior space and storage. If it boils down to a financial issue, there are many excellent used travel trailers less than five years old that would fall within a similar price range.
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Are You Ready To Hitch Up?
If you feel that teardrops are the best RV category for you, check out our walkthroughs on the best RV brands’ latest models. We always recommend trying them out through a peer-to-peer rental company first.
When you experience a teardrop RV rental through Outdoorsy or RVshare, you gain firsthand knowledge and experience. You can try traditional, non-traditional, and self-contained teardrops with different features to determine which suits you best.
Between your rental experience and the walkthroughs we provide, you can walk into your buying experience fully prepared to find your favorite RV and save money.
"Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore."
-- Andre Gide