Why buy a Teardrop Camper?
To be honest I like staying in motels but on a trip to Darwin the costs became prohibitive. This trip of just under 5 weeks cost $1000 in fuel but $3000 in accommodation. I have spent longer travelling through several Asian countries including air fares for far less money.
In past years my family would go on camping holidays and it has been my habit for many years to carry a tent while travelling and which has come in very useful when travelling in FIFO mining areas where the only vacant motel fees started at $200 a night.
My problem now is that I find crawling in and out of a tent more and more difficult as I get older but I really cannot justify buying a mobile home or a caravan because, for the same price, I could probably stay in a motel every night for the rest of my life 😉
Anyway to cut a long story short I started looking for a covered trailer in which to mount a bed after seeing the box trailer my daughter’s friend used to carry their motor bikes about in. One thing led to another and after a little investigation ended up buying this teardrop trailer from a firm in Sydney. I liked it because not only was it relatively cheap but you can stop and immediately use it yet it is small and easy to tow. There is no setting up which seems to me to be the main inconvenience of camper trailers; there is always some set up required but this thing you can just open the door and get in.
Most campers I have seen require two people to set them up which takes a fair time, they are fairly heavy to tow and really they are just like camping in a tent but with a really posh kitchen (probably not fair but that is just my opinion).
The interior is basically a double bed, a light, a vent and a shelf, I am 183cm tall but can lie out straight in it so I find it very comfortable.
At the rear of the camper there is a kitchen area and below the kitchen bench is a 60Ah deep cycle battery and originally it was here I kept an Esky. The battery is really only sufficient to provide lighting, power the roof extraction fan and the small amount of power required to charge a phone for example. It is charged by a 40 watt solar panel mounted on the tool box at the front of the camper.
Anyway the camper I bought was very basic to keep down the cost. It had a 12v battery, a solar panel, two LED lights, a mattress and that was about it so I set about adding to it.
First up a mains 15amp power inlet was installed together with some power points to run a TV in the cabin, a microwave and small appliances such as a kettle and toaster in the small kitchen at the rear.
The power for the camper is dealt with in more detail >>>Here<<<
The Wheel Arch Table
A feature of this camper that proved more useful than intended was the wheel arches. Constructed of aluminium they have a flat top surface which is great to use as a small table, even the portable gas stove fits on here. The new external power point was installed near the wheel arch to make better use of these convenient tables.
I bought a detachable aerial for the side of the camper, it was necessary to shorten the mast to fit it in the box on the towbar while travelling but it seems quite tall enough for most places. In the cabin a cheap 19” TV with a DVD player was mounted but in the event the DVD player has not been used yet because a portable hard disk with recorded TV programs has proved its worth when no TV signal was available.
Ventilation was not normally a problem, the doors split into a lockable security and fly screen door while the outer glass part can be folded back and secured, this is normally how I have them when I sleep. Combined with the roof ventilation the interior of the cabin is never hot or steamy even after being shut up in the hottest sun it only takes 10 minutes of running the fan in the evening to cool it down.
This was all good unless it was raining when, unfortunately, the screen door allows rain to blow in and wet the bedding. Under these conditions the outer glass section has to be shut so the only ventilation is the roof vent which means that there little opportunity for air to circulate however adding an external vent would be problematical because of dust ingress while travelling on dirt roads.
My solution has been to add ventilation between the cabin and the kitchen just above the ‘foot’ recess.
Then, rather than shutting the kitchen hatch completely, it can be left slightly unlatched as illustrated below. This allows air to enter the kitchen between the door and the seal and then via the new vents into the cabin but the hatch is closed enough to stop any rainwater entering the kitchen area.
On my trip around Australia the Esky was the bane of my life, situated under the kitchen bench it was probably the worst feature of my camper (entirely my own fault – I installed it there). Because of its location right at the back, on bumpy roads, it sloshed water and jumped about, even worse was the daily task of resupplying it with ice. A back of the envelope calculation showed that I used $300 worth of ice to preserve $40 worth of food (some of which was ruined by the resultant water anyway). It had to go.
I fitted a 120Ah auxiliary battery in the back of the car and bought a small 50L Waeco Fridge. What a difference that made – no more wet and soggy small goods – it was not cheap but it made all the difference to travelling.
In place of the Esky I was able to fix a much lighter storage box and keep plastic buckets and bowls below the bench area. What a big improvement that was! I now have much more storage space than I need.
Originally the camper was fitted with a 20 watt solar panel but I have increased that to 40 watts and added 100 watts to the roof of the car. Since then I have never had to power the fridge with mains power when travelling.
Two Minor Improvements
All the other changes were very minor; basically adding hooks and some grab handles each side of the cabin. The latter to help us old folks get up and out.
More 12 Volt Sockets
The camper was supplied with a double 12 volt cigarette lighter socket in the cabin but when I added my clock the USB power for it took up one socket. To overcome this I bought a four socket mount intended for a four wheel drive to replace the existing one. I was able to add a couple of dedicated USB sockets each containing a 1 amp and a 2amp USB outlet and still have two free 12volt outlets. That should be more than enough.
A cheap eBay voltmeter was also added to give some idea of the battery state without having to look at the charge controller under the shelf in the kitchen area.
Bedding for all Temperatures
I carry bedding for all weathers – from a freezing Canberra winter to a tropical summer. The foam mattress itself has a fleecy protector covered with a fitted double bedsheet. On top of this, in order from the mattress up are: a winter doona, a summer doona and a double sheet. Originally I had thought of using a sleeping bag but the doonas have proved to be the perfect combination.
As the nights get cooler one merely gets under a lower layer – the advantage of this is that there is no storage problem because all the bedding is carried on the bed ready for use.
In the cabin is stored a small 240v fans and a hot water bottle just in case though I have never needed to use them.
The last photo is a bit old I only use one plastic box in the cabin now, it fits neatly below the new 12v sockets.
For day to day use in the caravan parks I carry a cheap plastic Bunnings chair and a small folding table in the back of the car with the gazebo. There is a folding camping chair too but I rarely use it; apart from anything else it is too low at the table. Also a small set of Bunnings plastic steps is there just in case I need to climb in the back of the car or reach the roof(?).
The gazebo provides shelter from the rain and shade from the sun. Usually only erected when staying more than one night it makes life pretty comfortable. It takes me about 10 minutes to erect it by myself which I don’t think is too bad and dismantling it takes about the same length of time.
The Good and Bad
- The camper is very quick and easy to set up and equally easy to prepare for travel. Erecting or dismantling the TV is the slowest part but generally it only takes no more than fifteen minutes to set up or be hitched and ready to leave.
- It is very easy to tow and has only a small effect on fuel consumption. Even a small car could tow it.
- The kitchen works well for me. I often eat out at a local club or restaurant but the microwave is a handy back up and I can always make tea, coffee, toast or a sandwich. I do have pots and pans and a gas stove but frankly I hardly use them.
- The gazebo provides good shelter and shade though I only tend to put it up when staying for more than one night.
- The camper is comfortable and warm in all conditions.
- The camper is short which means that, like a box trailer, it can be tricky to reverse.
- Towing anything can restrict where you can go or park.
- Prolonged bad weather would be a pain but as yet that has not happened to me. I have only experienced one day of heavy rain which stopped as I arrived at a campground otherwise I have only experienced couple of nights when it rained briefly. Being mobile it is possible to chase the good weather.
The camper suits me very well, I am very pleased with the changes I made which, in the main, have evolved from actually using the camper and the more I use it the more I like it. There are probably few more changes to make or at least any I do make will be very minor. It is good that I can hitch and unhitch it by myself and it is easy to tow. I am 183cm (6ft) tall and can lie straight in the full size bed with a couple of cm to spare. I have thought about replacing the double mattress with a single one and using the space for storage but I don’t think that would have any advantage and would possibly make the camper less usable – one thing I am not short of is storage space.