Craft Culture: Fresh views on camping at Vistabule Teardrop Trailers

A Vistabule Teardrop Trailer // Photo by Tj Turner

There’s a timeless nostalgia and sense of adventure in the very shape of a teardrop camping trailer. The petite, two-person campers weigh around 1,200 pounds and can be hauled by most station wagons or small trucks. They were popularized in the 1930s, but the internet age renewed them into fashion. Now a handful of entrepreneurs have helped usher them out of a dark and clunky past and into a new era of smart design. Enter Vistabule Teardrop Trailers.

One of the defining features of a Vistabule trailer is the rectangular window that occupies most of the back slope. Another is the bed converts to a couch, with the aid of a handle and a spring-assisted mechanism. There are even ergonomic foot rests that slant 45 degrees and a small table for eating or piling books. Buyers can customize where they want the table in the trailer—right, left, or center. Sitting in one, with the padded futon mattress and wide window, feels more comfortable than most home dining tables.

“One of the first things my customers do is touch the wood inside,” Bert Taylor, owner and president of Vistabule, says, pointing to a pastel green trailer nearing completion. The rivulets of the blonde-hued Baltic birch stand out against darker grain waves. Book lights, hidden storage compartments under the mattress, backlit storage shelves, furnace, air conditioner—every nook is maximized. A trunk door opens high to reveal a kitchen with sleek sliding drawers, a refrigerator, a two-burner propane stove, and a sink. Fully-loaded, it’s easy to imagine that this is a better (and roomier) setup than most New York City apartments.

One of the defining features of a Vistabule trailer is the rectangular window that occupies most of the back slope // Photo by Tj Turner

Taylor loved the concept of a teardrop trailer: light little affairs you can plop down at a campsite that don’t require much maintenance or set up. But he found that simplicity is often eclipsed by poor design. “You climb in any one of those old aluminum trailers and they’re so claustrophobic and cave-like. The only thing you want to do in them is sleep.” When Taylor set out to design his own version, he envisioned something “you could enjoy all day. Have some lunch and maybe some wine and watch the stars.”

Taylor introduces his team. “Lily and Steve and Cheryl—” a red-nosed pit bull waggles up to the group, “—and this is Rocco.”

Vistabule employees (left to right) Devin Tacheny, Lily Taylor, David Shomion, and Jeff Bolser // Photo by Tj Turner

Taylor continues calling over his employees. Within seconds, we’re all standing in a circle, laughing, and he’s riffing: “The Growlers are here,” and, “these guys brought growlers,” and, “come get your growlers, guys.”

Smiles light up the circle. It feels like a Midwestern family reunion, minus the Lit’l Smokies. Pleasantries abound. Plans to get a beer at BlackStack Brewery next door are floated. One thing is clear from the get-go: Vistabule is a fun place to work.

“Everyone does everything,” says Jeff Bolser, one of Vistabule’s 10 employees. Bolser bought a trailer a few years back and “sort of hung around,” eventually becoming an official employee.

Behind a roll-up door in the showroom, a few employees return to a trailer set to ship the next day, huddling to test lights and give it one last quality check. One rolls underneath on a floor dolly. At the other corner, two employees fiddle with an axle and talk in relaxed murmurs. The occasional clank and bang reverberate through the warehouse, but mostly, jovial yukking, friendly banter, and genial conversation dominate the space.

Taylor points to a cordoned off nook, the only portion of the warehouse sprinkled with sawdust. “That’s our meager workshop. We use it for prototyping.” A smattering of tools, including a vacuum press, a planer, sanders, a table saw, and a VacuForm are haphazardly arranged in a loose rectangle.

Next page: Building a trailer

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