At its most basic, an RV is a place to sleep. But when a person sets out to purchase an RV, that camper often has to do much more than provide a bed—it needs to be adventure-ready. Love campers and trailers? Come join our community group.
RV enthusiasts today are asking for camper vans and trailers that are smaller and more affordable, yet able to haul bikes, pack in a kitchen, and sleep a family.
These demands might seem near impossible to some manufacturers, but a new class of companies—think ModVans, SylvanSport, Happier Camper, Taxa Outdoors—have taken up the charge, disrupting an industry that has long been known for boring, uninspired design.
Are these new models flash-in-the-pan concepts that fall flat in the real world? Or do they hold up in real-life camping conditions? I decided to find out.
Earlier this summer, I spent a weekend with the Happier Camper HC1 to see how the trailer compares to more traditional designs. I usually camp in my converted sprinter van, and prefer not having to tow a camper. But the HC1 intrigued me from the get-go.
First, there’s the vintage style. The fiberglass trailer is cute-as-a-button with a large rear hatch, wide entry door, and classic fender design. Available in a plethora of colors (like Pacific blue, Bishop red, Topanga turquoise, and Mojave sage), the two-tone paint job only adds to the adorableness of the camper, as does a port window on the door. It’s a trailer that makes people stop and do a double take, and a welcome break from the tired swoopy graphics found on most RVs.
The HC1 is easy to tow and weighs only 1,100 pounds dry, meaning it can be towed by most vehicles (but always check your own vehicle’s tow weight). Mounted leveling jacks make setting up camp easy, and our family of two adults and two kids spent more than a few minutes exploring the trailer, ohhing and ahhing over the various components.
Immediately, we liked the large windows (blinds included) and the sleek styling of the interior fiberglass shell. My kiddos opened and closed the upper storage cabinets, flicked the LED lights on and off, and examined every cubby hole they could find. But what everyone was most excited about were the cubes.
It’s hard to explain the HC1’s modular concept without a visual, so check out the video above. The Adaptiv system created by Happier Camper lets you customize the trailer on-the-go, creating different layouts easily. As an organization junky who has to constantly pack and unpack for a family, this was the aspect that I was most excited to try out.
Each standard cube is 16 inches tall, 20 inches deep, and 20 inches wide, and the camper starts with a base of six cubes. These cubes nest into the floor, a bit like Legos, and are made from lightweight, weather-resistant plastic. The floors also come with table inserts in multiple places, D-ring tie-downs, and a front drain.
Happier Camper has a bunch of different cube components, but the camper we tried came with the bench cubes and a taller kitchenette cube with a five-gallon water tank, sink, two flip-up counter extensions on either side, and storage underneath. We messed around with the cubes in different places, trying out the kitchenette in the front of the camper and also in the rear.
The cubes feature form-fitting cushions in weather-resistant fabrics, so you can use them outside as well. The kitchen cube is a bit heavier to move but it can also be lifted outside for outdoor cooking. While I still prefer my camp chairs in terms of comfort, it’s a nice perk to not have to bring extra chairs on shorter trips and instead use the cubes.
By far my favorite part of the cubes is that they can stack and serve as storage. We threw items in them a bit haphazardly, but if we owned an HC1, I would organize the cubes (and likely buy extra) so that we could just take what we needed for each trip—sometimes bringing the cube with bike supplies and sometimes not. Each cube can hold a surprising amount of things, and I loved that you didn’t have to see all your stuff; pack everything in the cubes and the main cabin stays organized.
When it came time to sleep, we moved the cubes to form one large, queen-sized bed in the rear of the cabin that had plenty of room for two adults. Our kids slept on a bunk bed setup that’s available as an add-on. To do this, a sofa-like section flipped up to create an upper bunk that supports up to 120 pounds. The lower bunk was a bit tight for an adult, but worked great for a child.
Overall, the 72-square-foot trailer was surprisingly spacious for our family of four. Rain prevented us from leaving the rear hatch door open (although we could keep the Jalousie windows open) and unfortunately we couldn’t test out the exterior bar table that attaches under the window.
One drawback became clear during a break in the rain over the stormy weekend. Despite the blinds, the white interior of the camper means that once sunrise hits, you’re up. We prefer the dark sleeping cave we have in our van, and this was reaffirmed at 6:05 a.m. when our kids decided the bright sun meant it was time to rise and shine.
Beyond this small complaint, the HC1 lived up to the hype. The modular system created by Happier Camper means that the trailer is infinitely customizable. For example, I wasn’t convinced that I loved the countertop extensions on the kitchenette as it limited where that cube could go in the camper. When I brought this up to Happier Camper, they reassured me that the kitchenette can be made without those extensions.
A long list of add-ons makes the camper feel more like a custom build than anything else at this price point (the camper starts at $24,950). There are different types of cushions, a cooler icebox, a closet, a dry flush toilet, a rear-hatch privacy screen, a concession window, TV mounts—the list goes on and on, allowing you to configure the camper just the way you like it.
Want to sleep five? Use 15 cubes to form a mega-bed in the HC1. Need to haul a kayak or motorbike? Remove the cubes and use the D-rings and tie-downs to get where you need to go, gear included. Looking to create a roving, tiny office or a mobile store? Happier Camper can do that, too.
Despite its vintage roots, the HC1 is a camper for the 21st century, not bound by fixed layouts or expectations. Although I was first lured by Happier Camper’s cute style and inviting colors, I’m sold on the brand thanks to its innovative, modular system.
That, to me, is the key. Class B camper vans have gained in popularity in large part because they can be used in so many ways: as a daily driver, an adventure rig, and a truck to haul things. The HC1 is the camper van’s travel trailer counterpart, a glimpse into where the industry is headed. In my opinion, that future is more versatile and more functional, with a clear emphasis on design. In these ways, Happier Camper checks all the boxes.