The open road is never so open as when you haul your own shelter along for the ride. With a roof to sleep under, a warm bed to sleep on and a kitchen to prepare breakfast in the morning, your travel options are virtually limitless. Gizmag spent a good chunk of the year exploring shows like the Dusseldorf Caravan Salon to find the most interesting rolling field shelters – from camper vans, to camping trailers, to roof tents and more. These are our favorite tools for traveling the ends of the Earth and everything in between.
Teal Tail Feather
Two of the biggest factors that push many potential camper owners into tent camping are the high price of campers and the large amount of space they take up. One of the best solutions for these two issues is the Teal Tail Feather, which went on sale earlier this year.
Instead of a large, solid trailer, the Tail Feather is a trailer kit that assembles and disassembles with some very simple hardware. When broken down, the panels nest inside each other to save space, leaving an empty utility trailer (sold separately) behind for other jobs, so no more big, boxy camper sitting idly in your garage or driveway for the better part of the year.
The kits currently start at just over US$4,500 for the shell only and just under $8,000 for a fully insulated camper with electrical hook-ups, water system and furniture.
QUQUQ camper box
Those that travel lightly by themselves or with one other person may question the need for a camping trailer or RV at all. You already have a vehicle with a perfectly good roof and enough room for two people to lay down in, why spend thousands on a separate vessel?
The QUQUQ turns your car into more than just a roof. It makes it a compact camper solution, adding a flat, foam bed, a kitchen unit and organized storage. All that hardware is packed into a box that is easy to install and remove.
It lacks some of the amenities of a more complete camper, including running water and a toilet, but it's a comparatively inexpensive, simple solution for those that already have compatible vehicles. It retails for €2,190 ($3,000).
Some campers love to build and hack solutions themselves, but others just want to get out into the wilderness and relax. Pop-up tent campers are an easy, but still economical, camping solution for those latter folks. The Opus Camper is the roomiest, coziest pop-up tent trailer that we saw during the year.
The Opus interior looks more like what you'd expect to find in a camper van and less like the eat/sleep/get outside quarters you might expect in a pop-up tent. It includes a living area with couch; a kitchen with glass-topped stove, stainless steel sink and work space; and an optional toilet room. It sleeps four to six people, providing enough space for the family. For transit, the living quarters fold into the trailer box, leaving a universal rack system to secure things like bikes and boats to.
At £10,999 ($18,000), the Opus Camper isn't particularly cheap, but it's an interesting option for those that want a little extra comfort with the advantages of a pop-up design.
2014 Kimberley Kamper
The Kimberley Kamper combines a rugged, off-road-specific structure with what appear to be high-quality amenities and components. The interior of the easy-set-up tent doesn't look quite as clean as the Opus Camper, but the greater trailer layout – with slide-out stainless steel kitchen equipment, hot and cold running water with 120-L tank, and 140 Ah deep-cycle AGM batteries with 25W trickle-charging solar panel – adds some serious functionality for the backcountry.
For the 2014 model year, Kimberley did a full audit of the features that its customers were actually using, focusing on the most important ones while making lesser-used features optional to give customers more bang for their buck. At 35,000 AUD (US$31,000) for the entry-level Classic, it's a lot of buck, but Kimberley claims that the price is lower than competitor models with similar specs.
Kimberley offers several Kamper trailer models right up to the 56,000 AUD Platinum edition, which gets a new air suspension and Smart Touch energy and water monitoring system for 2014.
AutoGraph Land Cruiser Troopy Camper
In September 2012, UK/South Africa-based AutoGraph 4x4 revealed its Toyota Land Cruiser Troopy Camper, the result of the quest to build the "ultimate overland vehicle for two people." That quest started when AutoGraph chief Andrew St. Pierre White found himself staring longingly at his Land Cruiser on a trip in Namibia, wishing for a full camper set-up.
With the help of some partners, AutoGraph attacked that goal from both 4x4 and camping angles, outfitting the base Land Cruiser 4.2D 78 wagon with upgraded suspension, improved braking, dual fuel tanks, a snorkel and protective plating, among many other mods. With its front and rear differential locks, the beast was ready to drive anywhere. After AutoGraph threw in a customized camping kit designed to set-up within five minutes, the Troopy Campy was also ready to sleep anywhere.
The Troopy Camper is available as a conversion package, and the original demo vehicle is advertised on Autograph's website for £48,000 ($78,500).
VW SpaceCamper TH5
We saw plenty of great Volkswagen camper vans this year, but the one that really held our attention was the SpaceCamper TH5, billed as the world's fastest camper. A 542-hp Porsche driveline helps it earn that title with a 174 mph (280 km/h) top speed. We're not sure why you'd want to drop pedal to 170+ with camping gear rattling around in back, but it's sure nice to know you can. And the company needs to offer a little more than just a bed to demand €250,000 ($341,000).
We appreciate campers because they're almost always functional and often innovative, but the one thing that they very rarely are is aesthetic. There's really nothing pretty about a boxy hunk of aluminum jutting out of a pickup bed or rattling around behind the main vehicle.
Dutch outfit Tonke Campers is one manufacturer that offers the rare "sexy" camper. It hand-builds retro-inspired wood campers atop modern Mercedes Sprinter platforms. Tonke's €89K/$121K + prices (with vehicle) are about what you might fear when you hear terms like "real wood" and "hand built," but the campers are sure to stand out from the other bed-buses and fifth wheels at the KOA.
In 2010, XPCamper launched a camper it called the first all-composite monocoque pop-up. At this year's Overland Expo, it added the smaller V2, aimed at pickups like the Toyota Tacoma. The V2 uses the same carbon fiber-reinforced construction as its older, larger brother, but it has a unique clamshell roof. The camper mounts to the truck frame via a flat bed that replaces the truck's pickup bed, providing more space for living and storage.
Inside, the V2 packs such amenities as a diesel cooktop, Spinflo Kitchen Centre, water system with diesel water heater and shower, power system with 160-watt solar panel, and cassette toilet. It includes stainless steel hardware and mahogany trim.
XP plans to start V2 deliveries in January. The model retails for $37,725 with the flatbed.
Looking at the small, wheeled peanut that Pino Caravan calls the Pi2010, you might suspect that it has little more than a pair of chairs inside. However, Pino manages to jam in the full spectrum of overnighting equipment – bed, table, stove and sink. The 772-lb (350-kg) Pi2010 starts at €8,900 ($12,100) and is also available in an off-road version.
Caravisio camper conceptCaravisio camper concept at the Dusseldorf Caravan Salon, but we did appreciate the vision. Knaus Tabbert worked with partners for two years to bring a vision of the future caravan to life.
The styling isn't all that radically different from what caravans are today, but it is rounded out for better aerodynamics. It's more bullet train, less trailer box. Intriguing elements of the concept include the yacht-inspired rear deck, V-shaped bed in the nose, integrated pedelec bike storage and induction charging, and smartphone-controlled equipment.
The Caravisio itself does not appear to have a production future, but we do anticipate that some of the styling and technology elements will appear on the market in the future.