High Camp Trailers: Portland designer turns teardrop camping trailers into smiles

Hardwoods and high quality plywood is used to build the kitchen, which features a slide-out camp stove and slide-out cooler. (Stuart Tomlinson/KATU)

A Portland designer has taken an old idea and made it new again by building high quality teardrop camping trailers.

After a somewhat uncomfortable cross-country camping trip with his wife 15 years ago, Dennis Caron began building his own small trailers. Last year, he built and sold 13 High Camp trailers in a modest, small shop in a southeast Portland warehouse. He expects to nearly double that number this year.

Caron is building comfort camping one trailer at a time, with an emphasis on design, craft and accessibility--and to erase that memory of discomfort on that trip 15 years ago.

“Teardrops showed up in the early 40s, and they were only around five to seven years,” Caron said. “I immediately recognized that this would have been the perfect trailer for that trip and also for the camping that we were doing around the Pacific Northwest at the time.”

Caron said teardrops made a comeback in the early 2000s. People found old plans and built them in their garages. Commercial builders also made them cheaply.

“What they universally lacked was a sense of design and really high quality components,” he said. “I saw a lot of cheap plastic RV parts and linoleum, laminates and cheap plywood.”

Caron focused his design chops on marine-grade plywood and hardwoods, custom cabinetry, LED lighting, and a kitchen that an outdoors or indoor cook could be proud of. The kitchen features a slide-out, 3-burner stovetop, a slide-out cooler, tons of storage and a gate opens up and covers the kitchen surface. Add your own portable pop-up shelter to stay completely out of the weather.

“We have really high standards when it comes to buying a car or a piece of furniture, and I said, why can’t we apply those same standards to a camping trailer?” he explained.

Add in propane heat and a battery that lasts 2 to 3 weeks without a recharge. The trailer's light weight also makes it easy to tow with just about any vehicle.

“It really gives you all the essential comforts that you get out of a travel trailer,” Caron said. “You have a dry, comfortable bed, you’ve got a place to cook a real meal – you can even have heat or air conditioning.”

Caron says he and his one-man crew can build a High Camp trailer in about two weeks at a cost of just under $16,000.

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