Turtleback Trailer feeds, cleans and shelters you off grid
By C.C. Weiss
June 18, 2014
We saw dozens of camping trailers at last month's Overland Expo. Some, like the Moby1, we've covered in the past, but there were also a number of new models. One of our favorites was the Turtleback Trailer, which packs many of the comforts of home in a rugged body that's ready to climb and claw its way through the desert, mountains and forest.
Turtleback founder Dave Munsterman had a sort of perfect storm of life experiences that led to his trailer design. As a kid growing up in the 60s and 70s, he watched his dad build a Ford Econoline van camper and enjoyed a three-month adventure trip with his family.
His passion for vehicle-powered adventure grew as he reached adulthood and built and raced a number of Jeeps and dune buggies. After some work in the RV industry, Munsterman had the hunger for adventure, years of in-field camping experience and industry experience that inspired him to get to work on his own trailer.
"I had always dreamed of being able to go real remote on my camping in my Jeep so I built a roof rack for my JK and gave it a run," Munsterman tells us. "I like to take some of the creature comforts when I camp, so by the time I loaded up my rig there was hardly room for the family. Plus it took better than a half-hour to unload and set up. I scrapped that idea of camping from my vehicle and pursued my dream of the ultimate camp trailer. I worked in the RV industry back in the ‘90s and took that experience to develop the Turtleback Trailer."
The trailer starts with a tubular steel frame that Turtleback calls the "foundation of a good experience." The welded frame uses a combination of thick and thin tubing and a central "backbone" with hitches on both ends. The front hitch, of course, is to hook it up to the tow vehicle, and the rear hitch is designed to accommodate a bike rack, cooler rack or small motorcycle.
"For the past couple of years, I’ve studied each aspect of the construction process, looked at the norm of what’s out there and asked, 'how can I do this better?'," explains Munsterman. "This starts at the CAD-designed, fixture-built chassis – it’s super-strong and light and topped with our laser-cut modular floor section. Then we use a three-process coating on the entire metal foundation that has a rust inhibitor, an epoxy coating and a polyurea top coat for trail tough durability."
That chassis is affixed to 15-in steel wheels by way of rubber torsion axles. The trailer includes 10-in electric brakes.
The Turtleback Trailer's personality really kicks in up above the chassis. It has a boxy, powder-coated aluminum body that houses everything you need for living on (or off) the road. The interior is accessed by doors on either side, but unlike in teardrop designs like the aforementioned Moby1 or T@b OffRoad camper, the small cabin is designated for holding gear, not sleepy travelers.
Integral in the Turtleback design is the 42-gallon (129-L) water tank that's mounted above and just in front of the axles. With plenty of experiences running out of water during past camping trips, Munsterman made water capacity a priority. After finding a 30-gallon (114-L) prototype inadequate on a three-man trip, Turtleback reworked the spacing and upgraded to the 42-gallon tank. The water is heated by way of the standard Atwood 6-gal (22.7-L) direct spark ignition water heater or available tankless water heater, and distributed with a 12-volt pump. It supplies both the kitchen sink and the outdoor shower.
Out back, the Turtleback houses a slide-out plywood kitchen area. The kitchen has a Wedgewood stainless steel dual-burner stove on one side and a stainless steel sink on the other, with two large drawers below. There's also an upper pantry pull-out. The propane tank is mounted to the outer corner with a stainless steel bracket.
Both the kitchen and interior cargo area have LED lighting for use after dark. The onboard electrical system packs power in a 24-AGM marine battery and has Blue Sea Systems marine-grade electrical components and sealed wiring. Campers have access to a 12-volt outlet and two USB outlets.
Turtleback started production last year with prices starting at US$9,995, which includes all the previously mentioned equipment, along with a roof rack. That rack can be used to secure gear or it can be used for mounting one of the optional tents. Turtleback lists several fold-out tent options from Cascadia Vehicle Tents, starting just under $1,000, and it plans to offer Howling Moon, Air Top and Smittybilt tents direct from its factory starting in August. Buyers can also choose their own tent options.
Other options include additional cargo boxes, awning systems and a solar power system. The company told us that the model as equipped at Overland Expo would run between $13K and $14K.
Source: Turtleback Trailers