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Former NASA designer creates another out-of-this-world camper

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October 30, 2013

A Photoshopped rendering of the Firefly in beautiful Joshua Tree National Park

A Photoshopped rendering of the Firefly in beautiful Joshua Tree National Park

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After successfully putting his NASA design skills to work on the Cricket Trailer, Garrett Finney has started on an even smaller field shelter. Similar in purpose to the Teal Tail Feather and other small campers, the new Firefly is designed to split the difference between gear hauler and camper. It can be mounted to a pickup truck bed, towed on a utility trailer or choppered in to remote locations.

Finney and his team at Taxa LP have come up with a small, lightweight camper pod that slides into the smallest pickup trucks on the market and fits in a 5 x 8-foot (1.5 x 2.4-m) utility trailer. Thanks to compact, lightweight aluminum construction (an aluminum shell insulated with aluminum-composite panels) the Firefly weighs in at 600 lb (272 kg), making it possible to tow it with vehicles as small as a Mini Clubman, according to Taxa.

"The patent application basically says, there's lots of luggage racks out there, and there's lots of gear racks, and there's lots of campers and little habitats, but this is really supposed to be right in between those," Finney told us.

Finney went on to describe the Firefly as a "toolbox that you can sleep in," and it is stripped to the bare essentials inside. The design is still being developed, but so far, we see a fold-down, two-person bed and numerous straps and attachment points for securing gear. A series of windows provide ventilation and light, and customers will be able to select from one- and two-door options.

That open, minimalist interior gives the Firefly plenty of room to haul gear. Finney said it can fit a dirt bike, possibly two. Of course, it can also fit various tools, boards, bikes, etc. The bed flips up against the sides, clearing out storage space during transit.

In addition to its bed, the interior has a variety of straps and lash points

Just because the basic Firefly is simple doesn't mean that it has to lack other amenities. The customer will be able to fit-out the camper with choice of equipment, such as power and lighting systems. The ribbed exterior structure is designed for bolting, and it can be used to mount things that would usually be on the inside – things like a kitchen counter and water system. Finney also mentioned mounting tools and sports equipment to the exterior.

Beyond offering campers and adventurers a lightweight shelter and gear box, Finney imagines the Firefly being useful for all kinds of professional applications, including as temporary shelter for disaster relief. It includes a set of legs so that it can stand outside of a pickup bed or trailer.

"They are their own shipping crates, and they go places and provide a basic but very malleable, or adaptable usage, given that you can bring whatever you want attached to the outside of them," Finney explains. "So I like the idea of ecotourism, or that someone's getting married and they rent 12 of them and put them in a big circle with a campfire in the middle of them, or that they're part of a forest ranger outfit."

Inside, the Firefly sleeps two or hauls two dirt bikes

Taxa LP has built the first prototype and is currently fine-tuning the design and working on other ideas and accessories. One of those ideas is expanding the pictured sunshade into a full room extension that could serve as a weatherproof dining/living area. It hopes to bring the trailer to market by June with a price under US$9,000.

Source: Taxa Firefly

About the Author
C.C. Weiss Upon graduating college with a poli sci degree, Chris toiled in the political world for several years. Realizing he was better off making cynical comments from afar than actually getting involved in all that mess, he turned away from matters of government and news to cover the things that really matter: outdoor recreation, cool cars, technology, wild gadgets and all forms of other toys. He's happily following the wisdom of his father who told him that if you find something you love to do, it won't really be work.   All articles by C.C. Weiss
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16 Comments

I like how simple it is yet so versatile. It is really nice.

BigGoofyGuy
30th October, 2013 @ 07:22 pm PDT

My tent only cost about 50 bucks and doesn't affect my Prius gas mileage.

Really do not see the utility of this thing at all. Where is the stove, fridge, toilet?? How is this a camper. I could just as easily throw an air mattress in the back of a truck with a cheap shell over the bed and it would be just as good as this thing.

Buellrider
31st October, 2013 @ 07:37 am PDT

Buellrider you're right if I were to load this on my Ford Ranger all it would do is take up room. $9,000? You've got to be kidding.

W John Young
31st October, 2013 @ 09:21 am PDT

What am I missing? It looks to be an ill fitting box camper without any amenities. It's rigid construction allows to use of stantions, but otherwise what? The awning and roof should have solar cells to provide some basic power.

Rick Tabar
31st October, 2013 @ 09:46 am PDT

Buellrider, W John Young, totally agreed. This seems to lack any advantages over existing products, seems incredibly hard to handle, and is very expensive. I see why he's an ex-NASA engineer.

William James McCluskey
31st October, 2013 @ 09:48 am PDT

buellrider,

I agree. And you have to have a pickup truck and camp where it can go only. The idea of walking a few miles or more into wilderness, maybe high up into rocky crags, then sleeping in the open on the ground, or in a light hammock is a foreign one to most. Beginners should start with a tent, which can be rented at REI.

The appeal of campers is that you can take your house with you. But houses are only boxes of air. Still, unlike tents, or my preference, nothing at all, they have metal walls which are difficult for vicious critters, hockey mask wearers and zombies to penetrate.

I've been to the pictured Joshua Tree NP many times and walked in with just a light pack and water jug picked out of my car trunk at a trail head. Could include a mountain bike off a car rack but I'm too old for that and really prefer silent, easy walking at my own pace.

Not to knock what is likely a very clever design for those that want a large metal box they have to find a place to store, the handicap that comes with campers, boats, planes, and it's not a small one.

toddf
31st October, 2013 @ 09:54 am PDT

As a truck camper this design provides nothing new and costs 3-4 times as much as ones already in production. The sunshade is impractical as even a light breeze is going to tear it apart.

Little in the way of windows or provision for ventilation makes this a real sweat box that could only be used in the dead of winter - except with no ventilcation there is no way to use a space heater.

The sleeping platform is poorly designed with the center supports that block access to the area below. All that is needed are two side cleats and one can use 1" plywood to create a platform that supports two adults and leaves the bottom space completely open.

Looks like the guy is reinventing the wheel only making it square. Excellent illustration of how not to think inside or outside the box.

Calson
31st October, 2013 @ 10:24 am PDT

legs should have been more towards the corners, to give it that lunar lander look and better stability. Oh.. and a solar powered beer cooler would be required !

Jay Finke
31st October, 2013 @ 10:48 am PDT

There are some things I like about this camper. I like the materials that go into the construction and the apparent robustness and flexibility of the camper. What bothers me almost immediately is the overall shape of the camper. It has flat surfaced panels which do not do well in high wind situations and are structurally inferior to curved surfaces. Sharp corners tend to leak heat. I like the idea that it looks symmetrical and can be loaded in either direction. I also like that apparently the tailgate can be closed to provide more security from theft or intrusion. Why is there so much room on either side of the pickup box? That just makes the interior of the camper smaller. I'm wondering if the company will make 6-foot and 8-foot models to take advantage of different pickup truck configurations. I don't see any effort to make a wind deflector over the cab of the truck as part of the design thereby incorporating more interior space. In general, it seems clear the designer could put more thought and creativity into the design, especially considering his NASA background. Did he design this unit so they could be joined together to make a long enclosure? Whole thing leaves me mystified.

coverturtle
31st October, 2013 @ 11:23 am PDT

Once again,

it is always easier to criticize than it is to perform.

First of all,

this is FREE-STANDING-

it is a self-contained rugged structure that will survive harsh conditions.

A camper shell is just a pretty flimsy uninsulated cover for the truck bed that uses the truck for its foundation as well half its shape.

This can be shipped to

(or left secure) as a complete unit on very remote sites....

alone.

It could even go on a pontoon boat,etc.

The thing is,what else can you find like it-

at any price?

This is a good value compared with anything else new that is even remotely similar.

It's all a function of durability&quality.

I'd much rather get this than a typical "disposable" slide-in camper unit that just falls apart with time.

On a different note,

with a name like Firefly I cannot help but wonder if they are Browncoats....

Griffin
31st October, 2013 @ 11:33 am PDT

i followed this guys previous mini shelter pursuits, i think he finally wisened up and figured out how to market a practical product , and then designed it and built it.

his prior cricket idea was just radically expensive for what it was and the intended market.

zevulon
31st October, 2013 @ 11:38 am PDT

$9000!! Pleeeeeaze! This is a shell with few seats. A tear drop camper is a better solution than this and for less money and has storage and cooking space included.

JohnMc
31st October, 2013 @ 11:58 am PDT

Still way too dear for what is virtually an insulated box with a door at one end. If you have to factor in the prices for a minimal kitchen, toilet, heating/cooling etc, it add up to a lot extra!

The comment above that one could load it facing either way is strange, facing the rear at least you could open the tailgate and then the door without off-loading.

With that in mind, squaring the door end (and door) to fit the tailgate opening as far as the wheel-arches would be more efficient use of space.

For making that end into a 'room' one could then have a 'square' door inside the first one, hinged on opposite side, with a rigid roof panel to lock into place?

The Skud
31st October, 2013 @ 06:05 pm PDT

Building these fit all type add ons don't seem to work that well. If the camper was built to fit a specific truck it would work and look so much better. I've gotton away from campers and pull a trailer with tents, generator heater and every piece of gear I need. Under 4K can sleep 10 in total comfort. Forgot to mention the inflatable queen bed with goose down comforter and of course hot running water! You could also load what I have in the back of your 4x4 and save another grand on the trailer.

Rehab
1st November, 2013 @ 07:38 am PDT

What a beautifully engineered and constructed answer

to a question no-one ever asked...

dodgy
1st November, 2013 @ 11:38 pm PDT

Mighty expensive aluminum box with a very fragile sun shade. My 5 x 10 cargo trailer with a ramp door on the back and an RV style side door works better for hauling two small or one large motorcycle or ATV with enough room for an air mattress,small table, some folding chairs, a porta-potty , small gas grill, and some large water jugs. Using a 400 watt inverter off the vehicle cigarette lighter runs an air pump built into the air mattress, small fan or any other short term electric appliance. A large tarp will work for a sun shade but we usually look for a big tree to camp under. More versatile, much easier to use with more room and about $6000 cheaper than this thing. My only disadvantage is no windows but I could have one added for about $600.

Bob
26th August, 2014 @ 06:13 am PDT
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