This elegant little teardrop caravan has a sculptural design built upon stitch-and-glue boatbuilding techniques. It provides a surprisingly luxurious internal space in a compact exterior and can be towed behind a small car.
Teardrop campers have existed since the 1930s and are named after their streamlined shape. As cars are becoming smaller, there is a growing appreciation for these compact and efficient campers. As a fan of small boats and small cars, designer John C. Harris of Chesapeake Light Craft couldn't resist the concept of a stitch-and-glue teardrop camper kit. ‘Think of it as a big step up from a tent in terms of comfort and utility. But it's so compact and light that I could tow it behind my Mini Cooper’.
It's a lot more elegant than the common ‘tinned ham’ teardrop designs. Drawn around a 1.5 × 2 m (5′ × 6′ 8″) air mattress, this little camper is small on the outside but surprisingly roomy on the inside. Two adults up to 6′ 6″ (198 cm) can stretch out in great luxury. Large doors on both sides and a 380 mm (15″) square hatch on the roof provide easy access and copious ventilation. There's room for a 12-volt electrical system to run lights, fans, a stereo and charging plugs for devices.
The doors have locking latches that clamp the doors tight against gaskets to prevent leaks. They can be locked from the inside or outside.
A large galley occupies the locker in the rear of the trailer. While this space could be customised in many different ways, there is a separate galley module available as an option that provides a convenient drop-in shelving unit.
One great advantage over a tent when travelling is that you won't have to spend time pitching a tent in the rain: just park, climb in and go to sleep. Likewise, you can just drive off in the morning.
Sheldon Kerr, a professional mountain guide, towed her completed prototype teardrop camper from Vermont to her home in Colorado, reporting that even after the long drive ‘it was still so much fun that we slept in the camper on the street in front of the house’. There were no leaks during the rainy road trip and the doors and hatch stayed tight and leak-free.
My dad and I finished mine about 10 days ago and I think I've spent 5 out of the last 7 nights bunked in it. It's like having a treehouse on wheels.
The roof has been reinforced for carrying kayaks or bicycles on a roof-rack. The rack towers are high enough to allow the roof hatch to open at least partially when the roof rack is loaded. An optional lockable storage box, sized to fit a 45 litre cooler, mounts forward of the camper on the trailer tongue.
While a trailer isn't be included in the kit package, one of the key features of the design is that it can fitted on nearly any trailer, including an old boat trailer or the cheapest and most basic flatbed trailer.
The CLC Teardrop Camper is designed as a major upgrade from tent-camping. Rather than counting all the things that a big caravan offers that are missing in a teardrop trailer, note all of the conveniences you're gaining over a tent: excellent on-the-road gear storage; the ability to be out of the weather and asleep in minutes; no fooling around with ground sheets and tent pegs and a convenient cooking setup.
The shell itself measures 2.45 m (96¼″) long, 1.67 m (65⅞″) wide and 1.14 m (44⅞″) tall. The actual height off the ground will vary a lot depending on your trailer choice, but expect between 1.57–1.72 m (62″–68″).
The interior floor measures 1.5 × 2 m (5′ × 6′ 8″). Headroom is about 1.12 m (44″): that's loads of headroom for people up to about 6′ 5″ (195 cm). Hanging out inside on a rainy day is a lot more comfortable than in the typical tent!
The Teardrop Camper weighs about 115 kg fully outfitted and accessorised. The basic shell and galley weigh about 80 kg. Trailer weight will vary wildly; the total weight will probably be about 230–270 kg with typical outfitting.
There are many options for ventilation. Mushroom vents can be installed on each corner; these can be opened while stationary for passive cross-ventilation, even in the rain. A large roof hatch can be installed, perhaps with an integral 12-volt fan, which will exhaust a lot of air. Additional fans can be fitted inside the camper for air circulation. It's hard to arrange for much more ventilation than that.
One option for really hot and wet weather is to carry an inexpensive pop-up tent with screened sides. This could be set up over the Teardrop Camper in minutes, allowing you to sleep with the big side doors open and access the galley out of the rain.
Both prototypes were given a foam-backed liner inside to eliminate the annoyance of interior condensation. It looks nice, too.
Construction of the CLC Teardrop will be familiar to anyone who's built a stitch-and-glue kayak or small boat. Starting from a kit, computer-cut marine plywood panels are bent into a simple slot-together female mould (included with the kit) and assembled with temporary wire stitches. The seams are reinforced with epoxy and fibreglass tape. Then the streamlined, sculptural shell is flipped over, removed from the mould and sheathed in tough fibreglass on the outside for strength and durability.
All surfaces inside and out are sealed with epoxy; this will make the camper absolutely waterproof and give it longevity to rival any fibreglass or aluminium body. Built as directed and given reasonable care, the camper will outlive you. The doors and hatches are cut out following the marks engraved by the computer cutter. Then the shell is sanded, finished and fitted out.
Every step of building the teardrop camper has been documented with carefully staged and lit photos and video, to create an extensively-detailed start-to-finish instruction manual and how-to video.
The kit is suitable for first-time builders, but builders working from plans should have built a stitch-and-glue boat or two first.
The Teardrop Camper kit will be shipped on a pallet. For added protection the parts will be left tabbed into their plywood sheets by the CNC machine. To build the teardrop camper, you'll need a clear space at least 2.5 × 3 m (8′ × 10′); twice that size would be better.
It will take about 250 hours to build the teardrop camper. Basic assembly goes very quickly and most builders will have the shell complete after a few weeks of evenings and weekends. Coating, sanding and finishing are straightforward but moderately time-consuming. How long it will take to fit out depends on your choices for the galley, electrical system, internal liner and so on: some builders will keep it really simple, others will tailor it to their needs. That's part of the fun of doing it yourself!
The base kit includes everything you need to build the basic camper:
The trailer itself is not included. Whether you get your trailer from us or elsewhere, you'll be providing the wheels and frame that hitch to the tow vehicle.
Also sold separately will be the roof hatch (you'll be able to choose from many styles), the mushroom vents, galley cabinet module, electrical system, interior liner, roof racks and tongue storage box. You'll be able to order these items together with the base kit, or add them later as desired – or fabricate or source them yourself.
While you'll be supplied with plenty of epoxy to coat and seal the Teardrop Camper, the necessary final finish – varnish and/or paint – is sold separately.
This option contains only the building manual and pre-cut wooden parts for the Teardrop Camper. This option is for those wanting to obtain the other materials from other sources. It includes:
These study plans are intended to give you an overview of the construction of the Teardrop Camper. They are in PDF format that can be viewed using Adobe Reader. There are six pages and they measure 279 × 216 mm (11″ × 8½″). They can be printed for carrying around.
After credit card authorisation the plans will be sent to the email address put on the order form.
This 212-litre storage box kit is constructed from the same wood as the Teardrop Camper and bolts onto the trailer tongue in front of the camper. It's a good place to carry a cool-box or any other gear. It's self-draining and comes with a sturdy hasp so you can padlock it.
The storage box kit includes:
Epoxy is not included because most builders will have enough left over from the Teardrop Camper to complete the storage box as well.
The galley module is an assembly of shelves and compartments that may be added to the Teardrop Camper's galley. The galley module kit is built separately on the bench and bolted in at or near completion of the Teardrop Camper. Epoxied together from marine plywood, the galley module is as strong and durable as the rest of the Teardrop Camper.
The galley module has compartments for a 12-volt battery, an electrical panel and a pair of stereo speakers (none of which are included).
The face piece is made from dark red Sapele marine plywood, to contrast elegantly with the lighter Okoume plywood.
The galley module kit includes:
Epoxy is not included because most builders will have enough left over from the Teardrop Camper to complete the galley module as well. It doesn't use much more than a litre.