For all the glitz of pricey camper van conversions, there’s something to be said for a compact trailer. A camping trailer provides all of the essentials—shelter, a bed, and a cooking space—in a small and affordable package. It also means that unlike a camper van, you can still have a normal commuter vehicle and only pull the trailer when you need it. Love campers and trailers? Come join our community group.
But for many people who don’t want to buy a gas-guzzling, giant truck, the key to buying a trailer is to keep it lightweight. Lightweight trailers can be towed by many types of cars—think small SUVs, wagons, and the like. But bear with us for a second, because even if a manufacturer claims that their trailer is lightweight, that’s not necessarily true.
The advertised weight of most trailers is the weight of the camper itself with no water or gear. The gross vehicle weight is the maximum amount that the trailer could possibly weigh thanks to the addition of water tanks and an average load of gear. When you’re thinking about how much your vehicle can tow, you don’t want to max out your towing capacity—it’s better to tow about 80% of the total weight your vehicle says it can tow to keep things safe and your transmission running.
With that in mind, today we’ve focused on trailers that have a gross weight—remember, that includes water and gear—of less than 2,000 pounds, which means most vehicles with a capacity of at least 2,600 pounds can tow them (of course, please check your vehicle’s tow rating before you buy). Many of our picks are even lighter than that.
That’s a lot of info to throw at you, but it’s crucial when figuring out which trailer to buy. In the past, we’ve written about the best camper vans, which trailers—big and small—we love, and even our favorite DIY van conversion kits. Today, we break down five trailers that are both very cool and lightweight to boot—with the numbers to prove it.
Cost: Prices range from $12,500 for the smaller versions to $16,500 for the largest
Dry weight: Smallest is 600 pounds, largest is 900 pounds
Gross weight: 1000-1,300 pounds
Details: Created by Britton Purser, a design-school graduate and former carpenter, the campers aimto combine “an appreciation for art and design and the romance of vintage travel.” Featuring a welded steel frame, anodized aluminum exterior, and an interior made from Baltic birch wood, Purser and his team pay homage to Danish design with a healthy does of Colorado charm.
The company has three models and two different sizes of teardrop campers, with the largest model boasting a queen memory foam mattress, bug screen, and a pull-out writing desk. See more photos, here.
Cost: Starting at $24,950
Dry weight: 1,100 pounds
Gross weight: 1,500 pounds
Details: Inspired by vintage trailers, the lightweight HC1 combines classic design elements reminiscent of Volkswagen’s Microbus with modern amenities to create a flexible—and affordable—camper with a plethora of configurations.
Basic features include a modular interior by Adaptiv that sleeps up to five people, a large rear hatch, cute wide-entry door with port window, panoramic windows, contoured solar panel, and a 100% bonded fiberglass construction. The camper also comes in a ton of different playful color combinations. Read more, over here.
Cost: MSRP is $22,000
Dry weight: 900 pounds
Gross weight: 1,300 pounds
Details: The Tigermoth sleeps two adults and comes equipped with a 120-volt connection for charging LED lights inside the cabin, as well as a compact pull-out kitchen for whipping up meals.
As design-minded outdoors lovers, it helps, too, that the trailer has a cool look: an angular hatch opens vertically to allow access. The design of the rooftop toolbox and bicycle racks also impresses. See more photos, over here.
Cost: Starts at $11,750
Dry weight: 1,025 pounds
Gross weight: 1,500 pounds
Details: Made by Colorado-based Timberleaf Trailers, the Pika is a about 1⁄3smaller than a standard teardrop, making it perfect for one or two people. The length clocks in at just under 12 feet, and it’s the smallest of the trailers sold by Timberleaf. Even though it’s compact, you still get about 36 inches of headspace and a skylight that helps the interior feel larger.
The sleeping space also features LED reading lights, a multi-speed fan, dual USB ports, and cargo-net storage. The best part might be the dual-access door and two extra sliding windows; the Pika might be small on space but its thoughtful, airy design means that you won’t feel cramped. Read more, over here.
Cost: Starts at $17,820
Dry weight: 1,000 pounds
Gross weight: Can load gear up to 2,000 pounds
Details: This lightweight unit can be towed by almost any 4-cylinder car and it can even fit in a standard garage. The interior features a dinette and seating area that transforms into a roller system bed that sleeps two comfortably.
There’s storage underneath each of the cushions, and the kitchen boasts wood cabinetry, an icebox, sink, and a 120-volt electrical system. The top of the Meerkat pops open for more head room, and there’s even a hanging closet for your clothes. See more, this way.