site stats
Compact campers |

Compact campers

As the fishing kayak turbocharged the boating industry, so has the off-road camper excited backcountry adventurers.

This group includes nonconsumptive adventurers such as mountain bikers, hikers and whitewater enthusiasts, but it increasingly includes kayak anglers and hunters who demand light camper trailers that can traverse rugged, undeveloped roads behind small vehicles powered by 4-cylinder motors.

The simplest of this camper class is essentially a hard-framed tent with amenities. It comfortably sleeps two and offers a place to prepare meals. From there, optional comfort upgrades are myriad.

Some compact campers masquerade as off-road models with aggressive graphics and accessories, but they might not be able to sustain the abuse of off-road camping. Dedicated models have, in addition to overall sturdy construction, heavy-duty suspension, full-size off-road tires, metal fender covers, diamond plate front guards and thick metal skin on the underside of the frame.

Here is a quick look at a few campers that meet that description.

Little Guy Teardrop

As its name suggests, Little Guy campers look like oversize teardrops.

Little Guys come in several configurations, including the 5-Wide, a model I’ve owned since 2016. It features a one-piece fiberglass body, metal underskin, heavy axle and full-size off-road tires. It has a metal rack on the front that spans the width of the body and holds my kitchen tote, a 55-quart cooler and other gear. A hitch receiver on the back will accept another luggage rack or a bike carrier.

Above the front grate are two ducts for an optional 5,000-btu Climate Right heating and air unit made especially for this trailer. It runs on 110-volt power, either from a 30-amp hookup or a 2,500-watt generator/inverter. The removable ductwork comes with the trailer and rides in the galley when not in use. A ceiling fan flows air in or out and eliminates the need for air conditioning except in extremely hot weather.

A car battery rides in a box near the tongue and solar panel plug. I bought a 15-watt panel and a charge regulator to keep the battery charged at all times.

Instead of a traditional ball hitch, my 5-Wide has an optional pintle hitch that does not torque at extreme angles the way a ball hitch does. It stays connected to the tow vehicle regardless of the terrain. The tongue weight is only 90 pounds.

Two LEDs supply bright interior lighting. Two LED strips on both sides provide bright exterior lighting. LEDs — light emitting diodes — are energy efficient and draw scant battery power. The taillights and license plate light are also LED.

Inside, two twin mattresses pressed side by side form a very comfortable full-size sleeping surface. Cabinetry toward the stern provides an impressive amount of storage space, but there is no hardware to secure items while underway.

The entire back of the camper lifts on hydraulic struts to expose a large galley area that holds a sink and propane stove on equipped models. Mine does not have the kitchen accessories. I use a dual burner Coleman propane stove. An LED in the hatch provides lighting, and there is also a 110-volt outlet.

Access is through two large doors on the sides. The doors are well sealed and have very dark, tinted glass. The bottom pane slides upward to provide ventilation. Each door locks, and blinds conceal the interior entirely from curious eyes. Folding cupholders are beside each door.

The Little Guy is quite a conversation piece. People ask to see inside everywhere I go.

Best of all, it is simple to set up. If I get tired while driving, I can pull into a rest area or parking lot, pull down the shades, lock the doors and nap securely.


Some of the best conceived and designed new campers are the No Boundaries (No-Bo) models by Forest River. There are several models ranging from 10½ feet long to 19 feet, 7 inches, but the NoBo 10.5 conforms to the parameters of this article. There are two configurations. One offers a fold-down back panel that exposes the interior and allows you to use the camper as a toy hauler.

Like Little Guy, the NoBo 10.5 is an authentic off-road trailer with one-piece construction, aluminum frame, heavy duty axles and tires, and metal underskin.

Instead of two mattresses, it comes with square cushions that form a bed, sofa or chairs. This arrangement allows you to sit upright and is more versatile than Little Guy. A spacious storage in the back has restraints to keep items stationary. A flip-up table and cupholder are on the wall.

Under the mattresses is a trap door that accesses a storage area beneath the floor.

The exterior galley is ingenious. It contains a refrigerator/freezer, a two-burner propane stove, and wash pan on a slide that retracts into the body and locks when not in use. It also has a strut to stabilize the slide when extended. A spray hose attaches to a fitting on the side to wash dishes.

Inside the galley compartment is a monitor panel, light switches and a lockbox. The galley door also is lockable.

A 30-amp electric receptacle, solar plug-in and city water receptacle are conveniently located.

A low-profile, 13,500-btu Dometic air conditioner is mounted on top.

A really nice feature is a wraparound awning that tucks into a side-mounted pouch when not in use.

The NoBo 10.5 also comes with a 30-gallon fresh water tank. The hitch weight of the two models is 198 pounds and 210 pounds, respectively.

The standard Discoverer Package comes with an integral JBL FLIP 4 bluetooth speaker with cradle mount, complete interior and exterior lighting, and Xtreme Ply roof material.

The optional Overlander Package includes a Rhino rack system, Vortex bars and a Rhino J-Cradle system for your kayaks, and also a wheel step.

The graphics are distinctive and very attractive.

Flagstaff E-Pro

Squarely between the Little Guy and NoBo is Flagstaff’s contribution to this genre, the E-Pro 12RK Ultralight. At 12 feet, it is a little longer and taller than the NoBo and Little Guy, but it is also considerably less expensive than the other comparable models.

The E-Pro weighs 1,150 pounds empty, and its tongue weight is 153 pounds. Like Little Guy, the interior is for sleeping only and contains a single heated queen mattress. Storage areas fore and aft do not impinge on headroom or legroom.

There is an interior speaker, AM-FM, CD, DVD and bluetooth player, TV hookup, directional TV antenna and a Wi-Fi range booster.

The camper comes with a two-way vent fan, but you can also get an optional 11,000-btu low-profile, roof-mount air conditioner.

Like Little Guy, the E-pro has a large galley in the back that contains a microwave oven, refrigerator and sink. The fridge runs on a 300-watt inverter that comes with the unit. Also in the galley is a monitor panel that shows you the battery status and water storage levels. The fresh water tank holds 20 gallons.

A retractable platform on the side holds a two burner cooktop and prep table that store in the galley when not in use.

Like the NoBo, it has a city water hookup, and also a cable TV hookup.

Its graphics are attractive.

The author’s Little Guy 5-Wide Rough Rider is designed for off-road camping but is also at home in developed campgrounds. With its pintle hitch, enclo…

The author’s Little Guy 5-Wide Rough Rider is designed for off-road camping but is also at home in developed campgrounds. With its pintle hitch, enclo…

Sports on 08/05/2018

Category: Accessories  Tags: ,  Comments off
You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

Comments are closed.