Hiker Trailer Teardrop Camper

This post is several months in development. I’ve been tossing around getting a teardrop camper for several years now. Don’t get me wrong, I love backpacking and bikepacking, but I actually do more car camping. And I’m just not that comfortable sleeping on the ground anymore. Especially now that I’ve found hammocks. For car camping, I often want a bit more, especially for sleeping.

20161006_084429That’s where teardrops come in. They’re a bit more weather-sound as compared to a tent, and you get to have a real bed, most importantly. You can also get them set up with power capability and other options to increase comfort. I found that getting too much (especially something with water tanks and sink and whatnot) added more weight than I really wanted to deal with, since both vehicles in my garage are small.

I had begun researching them, and it seemed the most popular ones, Little Guy, were in the $20,000 vicinity for what I wanted. I began to look at doing a DIY build, and while that looked like a fun project, I realized I was going to wind up spending a LOT more just on tools to be able to do it. Plus, since I’d be learning along the way, it would take even more time. I also did not want to build one onto one of the cheapo bolt-together Harbor Freight trailers that most tend to use. My wife, in particular, didn’t want something that looked or felt cheap. Last summer, a friend of mine wrote a Covet article for Outside Magazine on Hiker Trailer, and their price points really got my attention.

Hiker Trailer 5x10 2016 Brown County EpicA little later, I learned that they had a shop in Indiana, and that they offered rentals to potential customers (and if you bought one, they’d apply the cost of the rental to your purchase). My wife and I liked that idea, so investigated more. Turns out, their Indiana shop was only about 20min from our house. We ended up booking a rental for the weekend of the 2016 Brown County Epic mtb festival.

October 2016 Hiker Trailer Rental

We ended up loving the trailer. Cool nights were so much warmer. We slept infinitely better on the mattress. We didn’t quite have optimal car camping gear, but it was so much more comfy than tenting it.

We ended up deciding before our weeklong rental was finished that we were going to buy one. It took us a little bit of time to decide what we wanted, though. My wife, in particular, liked the extra length on the 5×10 we rented. In addition to the queen-sized mattress, it offered us a little extra cabin storage with a shelf at the foot of the bed that worked well for storing clean clothes as well as extra cubbies above and below.

What was difficult was deciding on everything else. Since each Hiker Trailer is made to order, you get to choose EVERYTHING. Even ideas you might have that are not necessarily available on the order list are possibly available as custom touches.

This is the build list we decided on:

  • 5×10 Deluxe trailer (provides some core options we wanted)
  • Two side doors (one on each side)
  • Large tongue box
  • Fox Wing awning
  • Large side swing rear door (required with Fox Wing)
    Electric brakes (didn’t research the car side of this one enough before including the option – it’s going to take a little time to get the brake controller part figured out, because the Crosstrek is not exactly an easy car to install a brake controller on)
  • Electrical package 1 (12v AGM battery, 40 watt solar panel, interior lighting, and associated controllers and fuses and whatnot)
  • Diamond plate trim (pretty much purely for appearance)
  • Maxx Fan
  • Undermount spare tire
  • Vents for a portable A/C if I want to add one later

The front window on the rental is an option we decided we didn’t want. All it does is add light, but it also means if you want privacy, you need another curtain. Plus, being on the front of the trailer seems to me that it’s more prone to rock chips. Just not things I wanted to mess with, considering the marginal benefit of more sunlight from the front. The two side windows offer plenty for me. I also specifically requested no side access panels to the galley. The ones on the rental were not lockable, and the large side swing door option I got meant I didn’t really need extra openings to access that space.

We placed our order a few weeks after we got home with the rental, and had to wait a few months for it. We had an opportunity to attend the Sedona Mountain Bike Festival (in Sedona, AZ) the weekend of March 4th, so we checked on our trailer build progress before registering. Wes, the builder, was pretty confident he’d have our trailer finished by then, but said if he didn’t, he had a rental we could use. That was enough for us. We booked our spots in the festival and counted on the trip being our inaugural trip in our new camper.

We were fortunate to pick up our 5×10 Deluxe Hiker just under a week before departure. That gave us enough time to get it ready and loaded. I couldn’t have been more pleased by how it turned out.

20170224_145414

20170224_152509

For now, the primary tow vehicle is a Subaru XV Crosstrek. The 5×10 Hiker weighs about 960lbs dry, so I wouldn’t want to pull anything bigger with this Subie and its 1500lb towing capacity. In case you didn’t catch it, the tube on the roof rack is the Foxwing awning (note, the Foxwing has been replaced with the Batwing, which is the same idea, but with some nice functional updates). It’s seriously cool, but is sensitive to high winds, since it’s so big. I haven’t deployed mine yet, since it’s been so windy.

I like the look of the white trailer with silver diamond trim. It looks super sharp. The tongue box was a great add, too. It houses the battery and some of the electrical equipment, but there’s also room in there for basic towing/trailering needs like locks to secure the trailer (both while towing and while parked) as well as chocks, leveling blocks, a toolbox with a few potentially useful tools in it, an extension cord for shore power pedestals, outlet tester, and whatnot. I’m able to keep those things separate from camping supplies I keep in the galley.

I ended up getting a few upgrades and custom tidbits I didn’t ask for. Partly because of availability and partly because Wes, the builder, wanted to try something new out on me. I think they’re all good ones. Structurally to the trailer, I got an A-frame trailer tongue instead of the straight one that was on the rental. The builder had found the straight one could get a little iffy on the 5×10, so he decided to start building all 5×10 trailers with the stronger tongue. I won’t complain about that. He also had a supply issue with 2000lb trailer axles, so he installed a 3500lb axle on mine. Again, definitely not complaining. He also added a light (attached to the 12v system) to the interior of my galley, which I really appreciate.

After a few days of prepping the trailer, we were ready to for our drive to Sedona.

20170228_122855

You can see here that I added roof trays for carrying our mountain bikes. They are 1UP USA roof trays and their fatbike kit allows me to put my Salsa Bucksaw up there. They’re outstanding racks and incredibly easy to use. Compared to the Thule Sidearm trays I had years ago, these are SO MUCH easier to load/unload. A small step stool does help with that, so I’ll be buying one that I can just keep in the trailer all the time.

You can see I’m also bringing my Kuat hitch rack along for the ride. Obviously, there’s not enough room to carry the bikes on it, but there’s really not quite enough room to carry the rack itself. I made it work by being careful, but my turning radius is affected, and so is my ability to enter/exit steep transitions like driveways.

20170226_160446The Kuat extends straight out quite a lot from the receiver, so there’s very little space between the coupler and the bottom of the rack. That sucks. Also, I had to remove the stock tongue jack (which was centered on the tongue just behind the coupler) in order to fit the rack. On the picture above, you can see I had to replace it with a clamp-on type that folded up to keep it out of the way. I plan for this to be a temporary solution. I needed the Kuat on this trip to ferry bikes to trailheads distant from camp. The workstand was nice, too.

Our other problem was related to the electrical hookup to the car. I didn’t research enough before taking the trailer home to realize I was going to need a 7 pin connector on the car AND a brake controller. The only place I could get the car in for the wiring was a local Uhaul, and the installer there was not comfortable installing the 7 pin wiring and brake controller on the car. I think it mostly came down to the fact that it would need to be hard wired in, and he had no easy harness to do so, so it would take him more time. So I bought an adapter that would let me plug my existing 4 flat in, and just wouldn’t give me more than emergency use of the trailer’s brakes. I needed SOMETHING just so I could get the trailer home. The adapter allowed me to do that, but by the time it was time to leave for Sedona, the adapter was dead. I tried all the troubleshooting I could to no avail. I just didn’t have what I needed on hand to pull it off.

Buying local in this case paid off HUGE dividends. I called Wes at Hiker Trailer, hoping he would help me troubleshoot over the phone and give me some direction. After a couple quick checks, he said screw it, and loaded up a toolbox and an employee and DROVE TO MY HOUSE to get me rolling. He ended up wiring in an additional hookup so I could directly plug in my 4 flat connector. Voila, it worked. So now my trailer has both for flexibility.

The trailer tows great. Super stable. Great balance. Had one sketchy incident headed out of St. Louis where we were watching some severe weather that was flirting with the interstate. It was around dusk and severe thunderstorms were just south and west of us, headed close. We kept watching the radar and paying attention to the wind and rain, trying to decide if it would be necessary to pull off and wait things out. There were tornadoes and hail reported as being associated with the storm. Everything looked to be going okay when we were suddenly hammered by a strong crosswind. It sent the trailer swerving behind the car, and I let off the gas and pulled into the shoulder immediately and slowed to a stop. It appeared to be a solitary gust, but to be on the safe side, I pulled off at the exit half a mile down the road and stopped at a gas station to let the storm pass by. Nothing else nasty hit, so I continued.

We spent our first night in our own trailer at a KOA in Joplin, MO. Our delays of the first day meant we didn’t get to the KOA until late. Some jerk was parked in the site we had reserved and paid for. Grrr. We grabbed our late arrival paperwork (at least he didn’t swipe that, too), and the paperwork for a different empty site, and then set up to sleep. The next morning, we were able to let the attendant know about the jerk, and he gave the guy an earful about it. Some more rough storms rolled through during the overnight. There was some pretty heavy rain, and the winds had the camper rocking around a bit. But yay for a warm and dry place to sleep. So far, all we have for supplemental heat is an electric blanket we use at home. So since we don’t have a power inverter on the camper, we can only use it when we’re plugged in to shore power. I intend to add a small 12v heater for boondocking in the cold. Heating the air should also help with condensation when it’s cold out. Running the fan high enough to vent all the condensation makes it pretty chilly in the camper, so it’s a balancing act to find the right spot to be reasonably warm without too much condensation.

Our 2nd day of driving was the longest of the outbound leg of the trip, and had us stopping at some silly and classic Route 66 stops, since our drive followed or paralleled the historic highway. The first of the day was the Blue Whale in Catoosa, OK.

 

20170301_100410That’s a silly Route 66 sight if ever there was one. You used to be able to dive off of it into the pond or use the slides, but the current owners don’t want any of those shenanigans. Can’t blame them. The thing looks like a tetanus trap nowadays. But it is incredibly silly, and that’s the whole reason we stopped to visit it. At least visitors are still allowed to climb up to the 2nd level in its head, where you can peek out of its nostrils. Ha!

20170301_101256I will say this…Interstate 44 from Joplin, MO to Oklahoma City sucks. It’s perfectly scenic, especially north and east of Tulsa. What sucks is how backwards Oklahoma is with toll collections. It’s a bizarre system. The first toll plaza is a few exits into the state. To use any of those early exits, you pay your toll to get off. If you pass them, you pay a larger toll…but then, if you use one of the next few exits, you then get a refund. WTF is that business? There are a few other plazas along the way, but I also noticed that OK’s tolls are MUCH higher than elsewhere I’ve been with toll roads. Granted, I expected higher tolls because of the extra axle on the trailer. But I didn’t expect nearly $20 in tolls for the relatively short distance we were on the road (tolls are NOT collected in the OKC or Tulsa metro areas, either, so the distance we paid tolls for was even shorter). To cap it off, they don’t take plastic. Again, accepting credit cards seems to be pretty standard in most places I’ve been. The new I-65 bridge over the Ohio River between IN and KY even takes a photo of your license plate and mails you your toll. If I ever have need to pass through Oklahoma again, I’m going to take a different toll-free route. Screw Oklahoma.

Our next Route 66 site was the Cadillac Ranch just outside Amarillo, TX. That was pretty fun. It’s hilarious reading online reviews for the place on sites like Tripadvisor and Yelp. Some people think it’s obscene that everything is painted. They don’t get that allowing people to paint it all as they please is the whole point of this public art installation.20170301_180257

I had to add to it all in honor of our mountain bike trip.IMG_20170301_181802_103

Just past Cadillac Ranch, you can see a couple of feedlots right along the interstate. Yeah, seeing (and smelling) places like that really gets you bothered by factory animal husbandry. They make me really glad that I’ve got places like Tyner Pond Farm very close to where I live, where I am welcome to visit and see how the animals I eat are raised, and Smoking Goose, which creates wonderful sausages from farms like Tyner Pond. This is a Google Maps satellite image screenshot of a place tagged as “Quality Beef Producers“. I have serious doubts that any quality beef comes from here, or other places like it.

Unfortunately, because of the long day, it was pretty much dark by the time we got to New Mexico, and we still had a lot of driving to do. A quick stop for food and we had to move on to our overnight spot in Holbrook, AZ. It was dark all the way through NM, so we didn’t get to see much.

We stayed at another KOA in Holbrook. This one was a touch nicer than the one in Joplin, but only a touch. This time, nobody stole the campsite we had reserved, at least. We could afford to sleep in a little bit more this time, because it was a fairly short day from Holbrook to Cottonwood (we had campsite reservations at Dead Horse Ranch State Park). This meant we were up and at it when other visitors were up, so I got to field quite a few questions from other people about our little camper.

20170302_07572020170302_113245We had a couple more fun stops planned for this day. Our first was to Standin’ on a Corner Park in Winslow, AZ. We just HAD to make this stop when we realized we’d be passing so close.

It’s just too much fun for anyone who even remotely enjoys the Eagles. It may not be one of the classic Route 66 sights, but I think it’s an essential stop for a modern Route 66 trip.

Sortof in the same category is Meteor Crater (or, Barringer Crater). It wasn’t REALLY developed into a major tourist stop until relatively recently, but for me being the science nerd that I am, it’s one of those bucket list types of visits because it’s such a well-preserved impact crater. There are plenty of other impact craters on the planet, but none of them look like they could have been pulled from the moon or Mars, and none of them are so easy to visit. If the Blue Whale was my wife’s “must see” stop on this trip, Meteor Crater was mine. I’m thrilled to have seen it, and it absolutely blew my wife’s mind, so I think she’s pretty glad, too.

20170302_122903_001_001One thing that never fails to impress me is the scale of stuff out west. This picture is taken from the top viewing platform above the visitor center/museum on the rim of the crater. In the bottom right, you can see the lower viewing platform cantilevered out over the edge. What you can’t see well in this picture is that at the bottom of the crater in the middle, there’s a chain link fence with remnants of research equipment inside from when the owners were figuring out what caused this crater in the ground. The lower viewing platform has some telescopes fixed on specific objects (like, say, a house-sized boulder on the opposite rim), and one of those is a 6ft tall silhouette of a person against the fence (which looks about 4ft tall). You simply cannot see that silhouette at all without optical assistance. To commemorate the stop, I bought my wife some earrings made from fragments of the nickle-iron meteorite ejected during the impact and found miles from the crater, as well as pieces of turquoise.

20170302_131254The snowcapped mountain in the distance is Humphreys Peak just outside of Flagstaff, where we’re headed, before turning south for Sedona and Cottonwood, where we finish our drive.

The only place I really felt the trailer pushing me downhill was when driving down US 89A into Oak Creek Canyon. That road was steep with some pretty tight switchbacks. Not to mention in pretty poor condition with the potholes. Super scenic, though, and worth the drive down. But I would have liked to have the trailer brakes for that segment of the trip. Stuff like that is the reason I got the optional electric brakes on the trailer, even though the Uhaul place thought I was an idiot for wanting a brake controller on a 4 cylinder car. Of course there’s nowhere in Indiana that such a thing is really worth it for a trailer within the Subie’s towing capabilities. But I’m not driving it exclusively in Indiana, as you can see here.

Dead Horse Ranch State Park is a pretty nice place. It’s clean and well-maintained. We had a site directly across the road from the bathrooms, which was super nice. Warm showers after lots of mountain biking are great. Campsites weren’t packed together quite like at the KOA campgrounds where we stopped. Unfortunately, we spent very little time in camp because of the mountain biking around Sedona we did. We never bothered opening up the Foxwing awning, either. Partly because it was either super early in the morning, or it was after dark when we were in camp. There were also some fairly high winds at times, so it just wasn’t worth it to mess with the awning on this trip.20170303_071347

I will cover the actual mountain biking in another post, as there’s enough to cover for another one. I do wish we had more time on this trip, though, because there was so much we didn’t have time to ride, including the trails right by camp at Dead Horse Ranch.

There’s a few things I still need to work on to get the camper set up to camp efficiently. First, I need a new cooler. The one we have is a good volume, but the wrong dimensions. It’s just simply too tall to fit inside the camper’s galley. For storage, I made use of various bins and such I already had, with milk crates on the bottom. I also added some empty containers down there to prevent stuff from sliding around. Space on the middle shelf also wasn’t used terribly efficiently. I’ll be rigging some straps to hold stuff down and seeking out clear bins with lids that fit better to get everything loaded in the back better.
side-table_tub
I also need a better setup for cleaning up after meals. I think I might be setting up a simple side table with a cutout for a rubbermaid tub, such as like this one. Maybe with two tubs – a wash tub and a rinse tub. Something like this is simple enough to add, though. It doesn’t necessarily even have to attach to the trailer.

I also need to set up a little cover for the electrical controls above the head of the bed. You can see here that there’s a red LED display that shows battery voltage. On either side are little rubber covers for the cigarette adapter (left side) and 2x USB ports (right side). There are blue lights on the USB ports showing that they’re powered, and when you’ve got something plugged in to charge there, all those lights is a bit distracting at night. I’ll probably just make a little fabric mini-curtain to cover it, because I need to make curtains for the side windows, too. In part, those windows need curtains for nighttime privacy, 20170302_214629but also to shade sunlight in the mornings. It’s not too bad in March, but by midsummer it’s going to be getting light SUPER early, and my wife and I are totally not morning people. We don’t want to be getting up at 5am all the time because the sun is shining in.
20170302_214522
I also want to figure out a better way to organize clean clothes inside the trailer. Maybe some plastic drawers will do it. I could use something better than just throwing gym bags onto the shelf. And definitely something that doesn’t block the pass-through to the galley.

Structurally, there are a couple things I’m thinking about. First relates to bringing the hitch rack on long drives, where we’ll need to drive the bikes to trailheads after parking the trailer to camp. I used the adapter because I thought the tongue would be longer and I’d have more space between the tow vehicle and the camper. I also didn’t want to block the galley door with the rack. Kuat does specifically say NOT to use the rack on the back of an RV (I have no plans to carry it loaded behind the trailer, but unloaded should be fine). I just want to be able to get to the cooler and other food while on a long trip. I did just that on this one. Between the vehicles is just a bit too sketchy, though. I think I’m going to be having a receiver added to the rear of the trailer, anyway. I’ll try to measure things up and get it spaced in such a way that I can fold the rack out of the way and still open the door.
20170306_123354
The drive home, we squeezed into 2 looooong days (one night on the road) instead of 2.5d and 2n. It was rough. We left early enough on the first day that we squeezed in a few hours at Petrified Forest National Park, which is just east of Holbrook, AZ. We did the driving tour through the park and saw most of the “big” sights. We did a couple short hikes, and then stopped at most of the overlooks.

This was another place that blew my wife’s mind. She loved this stuff, and I’m glad she agreed to make this stop, too. I wasn’t sure we’d have time to swing it. It did make for a really painful day of driving, though. The scenery in this park is incredible. Painted Desert is no joke. It’s unfortunate that cameras don’t capture the colors all that well. Sunrise/sunset lighting probably does a better job.
20170306_130008
If the winds were high earlier in our trip, they got truly gnarly on this segment. We began to fear for our hats and eventually took them off every time we got out of the car. There’s just simply nothing to block the winds here. The terrain you see in this park is eroded down into a pretty flat plain, so the wind absolutely howls. Apparently, the night before, they were having sustained 60mph winds. These winds I could feel on the car/trailer, but everything handled admirably. I think with them being pretty sustained and not so gusty helped quite a bit to keep everything pointed where I wanted.
20170306_135832
Inside the park, there’s a small memorial to the OLD Route 66 alignment which passed through the park (since replaced by a stretch of Interstate 40). If you look really hard, you can see the old road grade in the brush, but the old car and the pulloff are the best indicators.
20170306_135845
I love the little plaques and historical markers along what remains of Route 66. It’s a bit of a shame that the interstate outright replaced it and that more of the old US highway isn’t left behind. In this other picture, you can see the trucks on the interstate in the distance…so you get an idea of how close the interstate is to the old highway. In places, like near Cadillac Ranch, Route 66 is essentially a frontage road to the interstate. In some (like near the Blue Whale), the old route is still there, though it might be called something else. In so many like this one, the original route has just been obliterated.

The most scenic parts of Petrified Forest National Park are north of the interstate. Most of the actual Petrified Forest is south of it, but the area north is the “Painted Desert” portion and is definitely more picturesque. I took quite a few video panoramas along the way.

20170306_132627There are definitely fewer road miles north of the interstate, though. And the main visitor’s center/gift shop is there. And the food is quite good, too. We ate lunch here, and stopped at the gift shop for souvenirs. Of course, we’d been collecting stickers for our trailer along the route, so we had to add one from this park, too. A friend of ours also texted us when we were at Meteor Crater, asking for a space rock. We obliged, and also picked up some petrified wood for her as a surprise from here, too. And since I like buying my wife earrings at different places we visit (I’ve been doing this for years), I picked out some Zuni-made silver and semiprecious stone butterfly earrings. My friend still doesn’t know about the petrified wood. Ha!
20170307_085156
This stop was really our only fun on the drive home. After this, it was down to business. We had miles to make up. Our plan was to make it roughly to the halfway point, which would put us in western OK for the night. By the time we got to Amarillo, I was seeing warnings about smoke impacting visibility on the interstate to the east. Wonderful. There was nothing about any closures, so I hoped we wouldn’t have too much trouble. I’m not entirely sure where the fires were that generated all the smoke. I suspect they were quite a distance away. The smoke wasn’t terribly thick, but it covered quite an area. It was unpleasant to breathe in the car and I was beginning to wonder if it would be irksome while we tried to sleep whenever we did stop. By the time we got into Oklahoma, it was dissipating. We ended up boondocking at a truckstop for the night. When we got up, there was a thin haze and a definite smoky smell to the air, so the wind must have shifted a touch overnight. Thankfully it wasn’t bad enough to have messed up our sleep.

On this day, we had absolutely zero fun stops. All business to get home. Of course, on the drive home, we lost 2hrs due to crossing time zones, so that sucked. At least it was 1hr each day of driving, so we spread it out. We got home somewhere around 1am. Late, but not horribly so. My wife had enough time to sleep before her night shift the next day, and that’s the important part.

I learned a few more things on the drive itself. I wasn’t able to calculate fuel economy for the drive TO Arizona. I forgot to reset the trip meter, for one. Two gas stations also wouldn’t print receipts, and I just didn’t feel like going in and getting them from the cashier. So I had to satisfy myself with calculating fuel economy for the drive home. We drove a little over 1600mi on the way home (probably about 3500 total for the trip, counting driving between Cottonwood and Sedona every day, and all of our side trips). Our fuel economy for the drive home ended up being a touch over 18mpg. I hoped for better, as our car usually gets 29+mpg highway. I’m sure part of that was due to the bikes on the roof and the extra wind resistance from that.

I think for long drives in the future, I’m going to try carrying the bikes on fork mounts inside the trailer. I got a mattress that folds so I can get it out of the way in case I want to haul cargo inside. I have fork mounts I usually use in my Honda Fit, so I will probably try them out on a longer drive with the trailer to test changes in fuel economy. The Subie definitely wants to push hard going uphill, even though on flat ground, it cruises pretty well with low engine rpms. That sort of engine revving definitely sucks more gas. I found myself using cruise control on the flats, but disengaging it as soon as the road tilted up, so I could let the car slow a bit and keep engine rpms down. Then on the downhill, I’d let the car pick up a bit more speed to help for the next climb (if there was one). I think fuel economy could have been much worse.

On short trips in-state, it probably isn’t worth it to put the bikes inside the trailer. Just toss ’em on the roof and go.  I have been wanting a smaller pickup truck again. I had one for awhile before I ever started this website and I really liked it. I got rid of it due to reliability issues, and I’ve missed it. Now that Chevy is offering a small diesel option for the 2017 Colorado, I find myself REALLY wanting it. A truck like that would be great for long road trips like we just did here. It gets 30mpg highway and has a much higher towing capacity. Which means for this little trailer, the hit to fuel economy will be MUCH smaller. Probably at least 25mpg. The bikes could go in the bed of the truck, which would cut out a lot of complaints I have and improve fuel economy and handling in crosswinds even more. Plus it’d offer a slightly roomier ride for the drive itself. I just have to figure out how to pay for it. Ha! I may wind up with a slightly older used pickup that I can actually afford, though.

Overall, I’m thrilled with the trailer. We have some friends back home in Indy who also enjoy camping and riding and we’re already working on plans for some close-to-home trips together. We will probably also work in a weekend of boondocking and riding on the Sheltowee Trace in Kentucky and possibly a Pisgah trip this year to use the camper. We will also definitely be at the 2017 Brown County Epic with it, and trying to organize a corner of the camping area for teardrops, other small campers, and vans.

16 thoughts on “Hiker Trailer Teardrop Camper

  1. ON the led blue lights on the charging ports we put electrical tape over them. Way to bright for sleeping in a small space.

  2. Thanks for the review of the Hiker 5X10. We are interested in that trailer, can you tell me what the tongue weight of your trailer is? Thank you again.

    1. It’s not perfect, but I’ve got around 220lbs as it sits in my garage, with the tongue box loaded and the galley totally dry (no food, no water, etc). So when loaded for a trip, all the stuff would go into the galley in the back and therefore lighten the tongue weight.

  3. I enjoyed reading about your hiker trailer. Have you added a brake controller on the crosstrek yet? I have the same vehicle and am looking at a wireless brake controller, but I haven’t done any towing with the crosstrek at all yet.

    1. I haven’t added one yet, but I’ve purchased all the parts. A Tekonsha P2 controller along with a bunch of wiring bits. I’m not terribly looking forward to the process. Mostly because of mounting the 7-way RV connector. I think my best option is likely to be drilling a hole in the bumper for it, but because the Ecohitch hides behind the bumper, I may not have the space. It’s going to be an “adventure”. The other part of the wiring I’m not excited about is messing with the brake signal wire from the pedal. Get it wrong, fry the controller. Whee! I plan to run all the wiring through the interior, so that part will be annoying and time consuming, getting behind all the plastic panels and such. But not hard.

      I honestly considered the wireless controller, too. But for me, it came down to the fact that the things that would be most irksome about the install wind up being the same whether the controller is wired or wireless. I even considered a Redarc, which is nice in that the accelerometer has more mounting flexibility, but the control knob still needs to be mounted and you still need a new hole in the dash somewhere.

  4. Great read. Nice trailer. Could you tell me the interior height of the Hiker-trailer by chance. At the highest point would be good. I wish there website had a bit more info. Thanks

    1. Interior max height is right at 44″. For me at 5’8″, I’m able to kneel inside on top of the mattress without vertical clearance issues. The mattress is a 6″ Maillard folding memory foam mattress. You can get thicker or thinner. Mine’s a tri-fold so I can get it completely out of the way if I want. The curve towards the front of the trailer is subtle and while it does take away some vertical space towards the front, I don’t find it to be a problem.

      The builders are a little tight-lipped about some of the details because they’ve been having trouble with other trailer builders outright copying their design. There’s a fair bit of stuff out there that’s “similar” and they don’t generally have an issue with that. But they’ve had a couple ppl outright copy their trailer (not just for themselves, but to sell), so they’re understandably a little protective.

  5. I’m looking at purchasing a hiker trailer 5×8 highway express but concerned about my Subaru Forester’s ability to tow. The vehicle’s tow capacity is 1500lbs and with the added ammenidies (electrical, battery, & foxwing awning) I’m told the trailer will come in between 1200-1300lbs dry. My concern is towing a trailer that will be close to 1500lbs when loaded. I don’t want to burn up the transmission. I see you towed a 5×10 trailer with your Crosstrek. Did you have any problems towing the trailer with your crosstrek? Any suggestions or concerns?

    1. I had zero problems, assuming I kept my driving within reasonable limits. I have not taken my Hiker to a weigh station yet, though I keep meaning to. There’s a truck stop not terribly far away where I should stop to weigh it when I take it out for my next trip.

      Generally, that meant no cruise control. You’re really not supposed to use it at all on any vehicle when towing, so keep that in mind. The car would shift far too often when using cruise, and it would rev crazy high, even without cruise, if I tried to maintain the same speed all the time. So when on a climbing grade, I’d have to let the car slow down a bit. I’d watch engine RPMs and monitor shifting frequency more than I’d watch my speed. If you notice, my first trip involved a 3600mi round trip from Indiana to Arizona and back. IMO, the toughest driving was when crossing Missouri and eastern Oklahoma. The hills were short, but they were certainly steeper, which was a tougher condition. Once I got out west, even into the mountains of NM and AZ, the grades were longer, more consistent, and more gradual, and it was easier to just sit back and relax.

      Stability of towing with the Crosstrek is great, assuming a good load balance. The Crosstrek doesn’t feel like it’s getting wagged around by having the trailer back there. It was pretty windy on my trip, too. Some wind advisories that didn’t do anything except affect my fuel economy a bit. The only wind that caused any problems was a single microburst from a severe storm in MO. It would have caused trouble without the trailer. But having bikes mounted on the roof of my Hiker turned it into even more of a sail for crosswinds. I pulled off and waited out that storm and was fine everywhere else.

      I now live in Western NC and have no trouble pulling the Hiker through the mountains here. My driveway is SUPER steep which makes backing the trailer into the garage a bit of an adventure (the main issue is poor visibility). To minimize the hassle, I think I’m going to just back the trailer down and roughly center it in the driveway, then use my trailer dolley to put it exactly where I want it. Lots of gravel roads around here and the Crosstrek has no trouble getting around.

      I have the parts necessary to install a brake controller on my Crosstrek, since I got brakes on my Hiker. Most of the time, it hasn’t been much trouble with the trailer pushing the Subie around, but the times I have felt it have been on steep mountain switchbacky roads. I have a feeling that if road conditions were even a little slippery, it’d be enough of an issue that without brakes, handling everything would be tough. I will be installing those parts at some point this spring when it warms up enough to work in the garage. It would probably be wise for me to also install a transmission cooler to help out.

      I do want a second tow vehicle, though. I currently drive a Honda Fit, and even though I think it could handle the Hiker for fairly short trips on relatively flat ground (the Euro version is actually rated to tow something as heavy as a Hiker with trailer brakes, though the US version has no tow rating at all), I don’t think it would do nearly as well on mtn roads. I will probably wind up with a midsize pickup of some sort or another, which will also make carrying bikes with the trailer a bit easier to handle. It would also allow for solo trips, because my wife refuses to drive my Honda with a manual transmission if I want to use her Crosstrek for something.

  6. Thanks for the prompt response. Brakes are required in California and I had already considered a transmission cooler. Most of my trips will be relatively short but there are a number of prolonged grades along the coast and would I would like to take some longer trips that might put a load on the trans. My mechanic said he’d keep the loaded weight under 1200lbs which is Limiting but I really like the design and cost of the Hikers. A stripped 5×8 Hwy Express comes in at 896lbs and Hiker feels the trailer will be under 1200lbs when complete (but no promises). There is a rental company out of Las Vegas that I can rent a 5×8 model (Hiker gives a $300 credit toward purchase) which might be a good idea. Thanks for the tip on the brake controller. I’ll look into it. Thanks again for the information.

    1. Renting a Hiker is a great plan if you can do it. I rented a 5×10 for about a week before I ordered one. It helped me decide on a number of options. My build ended up costing a decent bit more as a result of it, but it made things a lot easier for me in the long run. Fewer things to add later, lower cost in the long run, and a better overall camper. Particularly good for me was the addition of all the electrical from the beginning. I was temped to get a fairly stripped and do all that later, but electrical work is one of the things I’m least skilled at. Since I got an electrical package, I can tweak things here and there for my needs with minimal trouble and it fits within my skills better. I have already tweaked a couple of minor electrical things so they work better for me.

      The trailer brakes won’t do anything under normal driving conditions unless you have a brake controller installed. Hiker does install a brake-away that serves emergency duty if your trailer gets detached, but the main point of getting brakes installed on the trailer is so that your braking distance isn’t lengthened by the extra weight of the trailer. The controller lets you choose how much extra braking the trailer itself does to keep things under control. Controllers also have some kind of switch that allows you to brake the trailer only, which is helpful in slippery conditions and the trailer is wanting to jackknife.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *