Travel trailers have become a popular choice for RV-based holidays as they offer so much versatility when it comes to style, features, and budget. Travel trailers are ideal for campers who don’t want to spend a fortune on a huge RV or are looking for an RV-style trailer that can be towed by a vehicle. Even if a life of spontaneous adventure isn’t necessarily your thing, an RV-based holiday or a camping trip with a small travel trailer can be a memorable one.
Travel trailers are ideal for campers who don’t want to spend a fortune on a huge RV.
What is a Travel Trailer?
A travel trailer is a type of RV that is towed from the back of a truck or SUV. Also sometimes known as “bumper pulls,” travel trailers can vary greatly in size, shape, features, and weight, and come with bedrooms, kitchens, and living spaces.
Small travel trailers are super convenient and easy to tow and can provide all comforts of home while traveling. While small travel trailers don’t come with state-of-the-art luxuries found in high-end travel trailers, they offer a safe space in which to sleep, store gear, and prepare food.
Small travel trailers are super convenient and easy to tow.
Buyers Guide to Small Travel Trailers
If you are in the market for a small travel trailer, there are plenty of things to consider from the size and weight of the trailer to the towing limitations of your vehicle and what type of tow hitch you will need. Whether you are a novice camper or an experienced backcountry explorer, here are a few things you want to think about before shopping around for your new home on wheels.
Most small travel trailers are designed for two adults or two adults and two small children. Even the smaller travel trailers vary in size so it’s a good idea to also take into consideration the amount of luggage you will be carrying and whether there is enough storage space for it all.
Before you buy your trailer, you need to make sure that the vehicle you’ll be towing it with is strong enough to do so. The larger and more high-tech your travel trailer, the more it will weigh. Always check the camper trailer’s weight against your tow vehicle’s towing capacity and aim to leave a little leeway rather than choosing something that hits the maximum weight limit.
The type of tow hitch will depend on the size and model of your tow vehicle. Check whether the travel trailer you like comes with a standard 50mm tow ball or whether it has an articulating hitch. You also need to make sure the brake lights and indicators function correctly when connected.
While you can’t predict what type of terrain you might come across on some of your trips, standard travel trailers have all the essentials for road trips. If you are an off-road adventurer and plan on heading into the backcountry, there are small travel trailers that are specifically designed for off-road trips.
Travel trailers need tanks to store water for drinking, washing, and wastewater (sewerage), and these are defined as Freshwater, Grey, and Black tanks. The fresh water tank is the tank that holds all of the freshwater that comes from the taps in the vehicle and this water is potable (drinkable). The gray water tank holds the dirty water that comes from your shower and kitchen sink. The black water tank holds all of the wastewater from your toilets.
Decide whether you want a travel trailer with all these tanks or one that just uses freshwater. Keep in mind that a travel trailer with too small of a water tank means lots of refilling.
The interior features and amenities of a travel trailer will depend on your needs. If you prefer basic camping and getting in touch with nature, you’ll need a small travel trailer with a comfortable bed and some living space. If you are a digital nomad and plan on working while in the great outback, a travel trailer with some form of office space is a good idea.
If you want a home-away-from-home on wheels with all the bells and whistles, head for the luxury travel trailer department, but be prepared to dig deep. Having an onboard toilet is always a good idea to avoid having to brave freezing temperatures and nocturnal creatures in the middle of the night if nature calls.
Batteries and Charging
There is nothing worse than losing power in the middle of nowhere or when you need it, so always thoroughly check how to power your travel trailer. Many trailers nowadays include solar-powered or other energy-efficient methods but can also be hooked up to an electricity grid. You can also carry external batteries as an additional or emergency source of power.
Before you buy your trailer, you need to make sure that the vehicle you’ll be towing it with is strong enough to do so.
Best Small Travel Trailer
Before deciding on what type of small travel trailer to buy, it’s best to do some research on the kinds of travel trailers there are on the market, floor plan styles, extra features, and of course, price. We checked out some of the top travel trailer brands on the market and came up with this list of the best homes-away-from-homes on wheels.
Best Small Pop-Up Travel Trailer: Taxa Outdoors Mantis Pop-Up Camper
The Taxa Outdoors Mantis Pop-Up Camper takes you back to basics and the simple joys of camping in the great wild yonder. If you are looking for an authentic, laid-back, small travel trailer, then this one is a great option. This little travel trailer comes with everything you need for a relaxing camping trip, including its outdoor seating area.
Designed by a former NASA architect, the Taxa Outdoors Mantis Pop-Up Camper has a pop-up roof for extra sleeping space and ventilation, as well as a rear ladder to make accessing the roof storage easier. There are three beds onboard: one full-sized bed and an optional bunk bed that also serves as a folding couch.
The trailer also includes a birch plywood-accented kitchen that includes a two-burner stove, sink, and fridge, a dining table, and an optional bathroom with a shower and a cassette toilet. There’s a water heater, a 20-gallon freshwater tank, and a 22-gallon gray water tank.
Other features on the Mantis include a furnace, a 110-volt, 6,000 BTU air conditioner, and multiple 12-volt accessory outlets and USB outlets. An eight-foot exterior awning provides shade, while the windows are insulated and come with screens and shades. The Mantis can sleep at least four people and seat six adults depending on the configuration.
- Sleeps: Up to four people
- Dry Weight: 2972 lbs (1348 kg)
- GVWR: 4200 lbs (1905 kg)
Best for Low Tow Weight Travel Trailer: Forest River R-Pod Travel Trailer
The Forest River R-Pod Travel Trailer is a small travel trailer that packs a big punch when it comes to features. The R-Pod Travel Trailer has the lowest tow weight in its class and has a unique shape and construction that reflects “form following function.”
The Forest River R-Pod Travel Trailer comes in 15 different models with a variety of floor plans and varies in length between 18 and 22 feet. It boasts a queen-size bed with storage space, a bathroom with a shower, and a small kitchenette, pantry, and dinette.
Features include a six-gallon gas and electric water heater, a 13.5K BTU air conditioner, a 28-inch 12V LED TV, and a power awning with an LED lighting strip. The kitchenette has a double refrigerator, a two-burner recessed cooktop with a flush mount glass cover, and a convection microwave oven. There is also a four-speed MaxxAir® Fan, a 20,000 BTU furnace, a 12V demand water pump, and several USB charging ports.
- Sleeps: two people
- Dry Weight: 2,400 – 3,600 pounds
- Length: 18 – 22 feet
Best Teardrop Travel Trailer: Timberleaf Classic Teardrop Trailer
Boasting quality craftsmanship, fine woodworking, and a vibrant choice of colors, Timberleaf’s Classic Teardrop Trailer is a charming and cute little teardrop-shaped travel trailer for two. Small and sturdy, this travel trailer is available in three different suspension packages: Standard, All-Road, and Off-Road, each of which comes with its specific details, like a fully insulated cabin and special wheels designed for rugged terrain.
The Standard travel has standard trailer tires on a torsion axle, and retro-inspired round fenders, and is ideal for primarily paved road trips. The All-Road option is better for highways and forest service roads and offers aluminum mod-style wheels, Timbren Axle-less suspension with electric brakes, and diamond plate Jeep-style fenders. The Offroad package is best for rough terrain with All-Terrain tires, rock armor, a four-inch lift, electric brakes, and Max Coupler articulating hitch.
Weighing in at 1500-pounds dry, and 150-pound tongue weight, Timberleaf’s Classic Teardrop Trailer has a spacious skylight and a lovely galley with a slide-out Partner Steel two-burner cookstove, a built-in sink with folding faucet, a locking pull out tray for cooler/fridge, and ample storage for water.
A fully insulated cabin features a custom-made Colorado Queen mattress that can comfortably sleep two people and there are USB ports and a GFCI outlet at the foot of the bed.
- Sleeps: Up to two people
- Dry Weight: 1500 lbs (680 kg)
- GVWR: 3500 lbs (1587 kg)
Best Teardrop Travel Trailer with a Bathroom: Homegrown Timberline Trailer
The Homegrown Timberline Trailer is another fantastic little travel trailer with all of the essentials for comfort, including a built-in bathroom. Designed for the energy conscious, this travel trailer is made from sustainable materials and makes use of energy-efficient methods.
Powered by either electricity or solar energy, the Timberline has a spacious kitchen, a dinette that converts into bunk beds, and an energy-efficient under-the-counter fridge. It has optional air-conditioning and heating, multiple 120V and USB power outlets, an external gray water tank, and large windows for airflow and light.
- Sleeps: Up to four people
- Dry Weight: 4250 lbs (1927 kg)
- GVWR: 5000 lbs (2268 kg)
Best Lightweight Travel Trailer: Happier Camper
The Happier Camper is a super lightweight, neat, and sturdy little travel trailer that is fully equipped for all kinds of backcountry adventures. Boasting two dedicated living spaces that convert into an office using the brand’s Adaptiv technology, as well as an integrated bathroom and kitchenette, this travel trailer is ideal for a couple wanting to hit the road and explore.
Weighing in at just 5,000 pounds, the retro-modern Happier Camper has a 100% fiberglass double hull shell and an Adaptiv™ interior with a honeycomb floor grid and modular components, large panoramic windows, a wide entry door, and a large rear hatch for alfresco dining.
The Happier Camper is equipped with a five-gallon freshwater and gray-water tank and a dry flush toilet with disposable waste bags.
- Sleeps: Up to two people
- Dry Weight: 1800 lbs (816 kg)
- GVWR: 2500 lbs (1133 kg)
The Happier Camper is a super lightweight, neat, and sturdy little travel trailer that is fully equipped for all kinds of backcountry adventures.
Best Off-Road Camping Trailer: Forest River Rockwood ESP (Extreme Sports Package)
Designed for off-road adventures through the countryside and forests, the Forest River Rockwood ESP is a tough and durable expedition travel trailer that is built for off-the-beaten-track trips. Seamlessly blending inside and outside living, the Forest River Rockwood ESP is extremely versatile with a range of features.
Ranging in length from 12’1″ to 30’8″ (depending on the model selected), this sturdy off-road travel trailer can sleep up to four people and has a slide-out two-way kitchen with a portable induction cooktop, ample storage, and two beds/sleeping areas.
- Sleeps: Up to four people
- Dry Weight: 1,722 pounds to 3,377 pounds (depending on the model selected)
Best Off-Road Lightweight Teardrop Travel Trailer: Overland Vintage Lawrence
Built for serious off-road travel, this beautifully made teardrop travel trailer is super lightweight and can be towed by almost any vehicle. Hand-built in Grand Junction, Colorado, the Overland Vintage Lawrence measures just 12 feet including the tongue, and weighs in at only 900 pounds.
The little travel trailer has a queen-size memory foam mattress, extra LED lighting, a bug screen, a large multi-purpose storage boot that can fit a large amount of gear and food supplies, and extra space for storage. There is also a rear hatch with double doors that can be opened to make space for food preparation.
Additional features include a UV aluminum exterior, a beautiful hardwood interior, an exterior utility light, a solar panel, a goal zero generator, a torsion axle, powder-coated frames and fenders, a rear receiver hitch, vintage-style tail lights, baby moon hubcaps, a vent, and a fan, a tinted window with a screen, and LED lights both inside and out.
- Sleeps: Up to two people
- Dry Weight: 900 pounds
Best Small Travel Trailer: Polydrops P17A Travel Trailer
Good things come in small packages and if you are new to camping and want to get the hang of it before committing to buying a large travel trailer or RV then the Polydrops P17A camping trailer is just for you! Small in size but packed with everything you need, this all-electric trailer is highly engineered and has all the essentials needed for a hassle-free holiday on the road.
Designed in a futuristic space-capsule style with gullwing entry doors, the eco-friendly Polydrops P17A trailer is equipped with solar panels, LiFePO4 batteries, and air-conditioning for ultimate comfort. The trailer has a lightweight aluminum frame and an exterior with an anodized aluminum finish, while interiors are finished in Baltic birch and boast a cozy kitchen with an induction cooktop and a 20-liter fridge, a comfy sleeping compartment and toilet, and a micro closet for storage.
Measuring 13 feet seven inches long, six feet wide, and five feet three inches tall, and weighing in at 1,200 pounds, the trailer is very easy to tow due to its aerodynamic design, so it’s ideal for new-to-camping campers or lesser-experienced drivers.
- Sleeps: Up to six people
- Dry Weight: 1200 lbs (544 kg)
- GVWR: 2000 lbs (907 kg)
Notable Mention: TAB S-Teardrop Camper
The TAB S-Teardrop Camper is lightweight and easy to tow, making it the perfect option for campers wanting to hit the open road without towing a large RV. Offering all the creature comforts of home, this little trailer has a warm and cozy interior and a well-equipped rear galley for preparing meals.
A large window is perfect for stargazing and standard features include a queen-size bed with a comfortable mattress, a central fan, air-conditioning, and heating, a solar panel, and a wet bath, and you can customize the trailer with a range of colors for the trim and exterior.
Additional features include custom Ohio-Amish cabinetry, LED lights, plenty of under-bed storage, a composite floor, electric brakes, alloy wheels, a power roof fan, an exterior shower, and Bluetooth® speakers.
- Sleeps: Two people
- Dry Weight: 1,908 pounds
Best Short Travel Trailer: Escapod
The Escapod is a tough little travel trailer that measures just over 12 feet in length. Built on a hand-welded frame of powder-coated USA steel for full protection from the elements, the Escapod has exterior walls made of lightweight, corrosion-resistant aluminum and is designed to handle the most rugged terrain.
This compact travel trailer comes equipped with Thule crossbars to haul gear and a ROAM awning to provide shade and shelter from the rain in inclement weather. A waterproof HDPE galley becomes an open-air kitchen while you are on the road and features a stainless-steel countertop, LED lighting, two drawers, and rear cabinets to store cooking essentials. There is also a storage area for a YETI Tundra 65 (cooler included) with a locking slide-out drawer for easy access and ample counter space for food prep.
The interior has a nine by 41-inch, double-paneled stargazer window that lights the interior during the day and is ideal for “sleeping under the stars” at night. The trailer comes with a five-inch custom memory foam Utah queen mattress that promises a good night’s rest and the Escapod teardrop trailers have two doors for easy entry and exit without having to crawl over your camping partner. A four-speed exhaust fan provides climate control and insulated walls, ceiling, and floor allows for all-season adventures!
There is plenty of storage space in this little camper with four cabinets, two cubbies and a closed compartment behind the bed and recessed warm LED lighting and two dual USB chargers on either side of the bed add an extra touch.
- Sleeps: Two people
- Dry Weight: 1,600 pounds
Patriot Campers X1
The Australian-made Patriot Campers X1 is a tough and durable camper with an exceptional array of features. This sturdy off-road trailer measures just 11 feet in length and is designed to be packed, prepped, and ready to go. It takes less than 10 minutes to set up and has a special room for children.
Patriot Campers X1 has two tent setup options: it can convert into a change room only where the main tent and the change room are connected or a children’s room with a zipper. Standard features include a kitchen that has been manufactured with functionality with an L-shaped design, scratch-proof stainless steel fold-down benches where food can be prepped, and a twin burner gas stove and grill.
The X1 is easy to tow and has several premium features such as X-Cruise Coil 1.60T dual shock suspension, stud pattern 10″ electric drum brakes, and PCOR 16” wheels in 33” mud terrain tires and the trailer is short enough to fit into most garages where you can keep your trailer on a charge, packed and ready to go.
- Sleeps: Two – eight people
- Dry Weight: 2,070 pounds
Travel trailers are versatile and can make camping an unforgettable experience. Teardrop Base Camp near Leavenworth, WA by Steve Cyr.
Frequently Asked Questions
- What is the difference between a trailer and an RV?
There is no difference between a travel trailer and an RV. Standing for “recreation vehicle,” RV is simply a generic word for a motor vehicle or trailer which includes living quarters. A travel trailer is an RV that you attach to your vehicle by a trailer hitch. With this kind of unit, you have the option to disconnect it from your vehicle once you are parked. They are the most cost-effective if you are looking for a basic mobile living space.
- What are gray and black tanks?
Travel trailers need tanks to store water for drinking, washing, and wastewater (sewerage), and these are defined as Freshwater, Gray, and Black tanks.
The freshwater tank is the tank that holds all of the freshwater that comes from the taps in the vehicle and this water is potable (drinkable). The gray water tank holds the dirty water that comes from your shower and kitchen sink. The black water tank holds all of the wastewater from your toilets.
- Do I need separate insurance for my travel trailer?
Yes. Car insurance and insurance for your travel trailer are different and you will need to insure both vehicles. There are specialized insurance policies made for RVs specifically that could cover things such as a full-time liability, emergencies, limited warranty on total loss replacement, campsite liability, higher liability limits, etc. It is important to note that not every company will offer the same coverages and they may word things differently.
- What are GVW, GVWR, and GCWR?
These are abbreviations of the three weights most commonly given by dealerships.
GVW–Gross Vehicle Weight—the complete weight of a fully-loaded RV including cargo, fluids, people, and some equipment
GVWR–Gross Vehicle Weight Rating— totally allowed weight or max weight of the RV
GCWR– Gross Combination Weight Rating—the total allowed weight of any towing vehicles plus towed ones.
- What are some additional costs I should keep in mind when looking for a travel trailer?
1) Insurance: Cost varies per provider.
2) Sales tax, delivery, etc.: Depends on where you are purchasing from.
3) Parts and accessories: Including special packages, break systems, waste dumping parts, sanitation chemicals, etc.
4) Maintenance: This may include routine care and emergency repairs.
- Can I use my regular hitch to tow my fifth wheel?
No, the fifth wheel connects to a truck by a special type of hitch. It is similar to a ball hitch, but these are heavier duty and they go into the bed of the truck. The hitch uses a kingpin, a downward-facing pin, unlike the ball hitch which has an upward one. Then the kingpin slides into the hitch plate on the truck.
- How do I know if my truck can tow an RV?
You need to look at the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) then look at your truck’s tow limit. Your truck’s tow limit will be its GVWR. It is typically on the sticker inside your driver’s side door.
- Where can I have my RV serviced?
You can get your RV serviced at any dealership as long as they are a part of the manufacturer’s network. Something you should know is that many dealers give priority service to customers who purchased their RV from them.