We were recently feature in the Minneapolis StarTribune, You can read the article here or visit the the StarTrib to see a video of the Vistabule & Bert in action.
When it comes to camping, one size doesn’t fit all.
Options range from a sparse tent to a spacious 42-foot luxury motorhome with kitchen and big-screen TV — and everything in between.
On that scale, Bert Taylor’s tiny teardrop-shaped Vistabule camper trailers are at the minuscule end. Exactly where he wants to be.
His rig, in fact, might be the smallest recreational vehicle at the Minneapolis-St. Paul RV, Vacation & Camping Show, which opens Thursday at the Minneapolis Convention Center.
At only 10 feet long and 5 feet wide, several would fit inside some large RVs. But beauty — like practicality and affordability — is in the eye of the beholder.
“Some RVers want to take the comforts of home with them, but a teardropper wants to leave the clutter of home behind,’’ said Taylor, 62, of Minneapolis, who launched Minnesota Teardrop Trailer LLC three years ago.
“It’s little on the outside, but big on the inside.’’
Small has its advantages. The Vistabule weighs about 1,200 pounds, meaning it can be towed with just about any vehicle. It’s easy to trailer, and doesn’t take up much space. And the cost — about $14,000 to $18,000, depending on amenities — is a fraction of a big RV.
Taylor, a longtime woodworker and furniture designer, decided he could improve on the basic teardrop trailer, created in the 1930s and ’40s as a build-it-yourself camper and still manufactured by several companies (including Camp-Inn in Wisconsin and Little Guy in Ohio).
“A typical teardrop is a step up from a tent. It tends to be cozy but claustrophobic,’’ said Taylor, taking a break from assembling trailers in his northeast Minneapolis shop. “I wanted mine to be open to the outside.’’
So he added large windows and doors, a sofa that folds down into a queen-sized bed and a kitchenette in the rear, complete with stove and running water. The interior is maple and birch, the outside shiny aluminum.
Room with a view
The name, Vistabule, is a play off the word vestibule.
“A vestibule is a little room on the front of your house. This is a room on the front of the world,’’ Taylor said. “It’s a room with a view that you can take anywhere.’’
The windows have shades for privacy, but they are a key part of his design.
“It’s a stage for observing nature instead of a hideout,’’ he said.
After building and testing a prototype, Taylor brought his Vistabule to last year’s Minneapolis RV show to begin marketing it. Nestled in a show with much larger RVs, he wasn’t sure what to expect.
“We sold eight at the show, and another four or five after our website [www.vistabule.com] kicked in,’’ he said.
He’s now sold 20 and is adding more employees to keep up with demand.
Typical buyers are empty-nesters, either retired or approaching retirement. “They have a sense their time is limited, and if they are going to check things off their bucket list, they’d better do it now,’’ he said.
Just the right size
Steve and Susan Mayer of Minneapolis bought a Vistabule last year and trailered it 14,000 miles behind their six-cylinder Toyota Rav4 SUV on three trips around the country over six months. This year they’re heading to Alaska.
“It’s sweet,’’ said Steve Mayer, 69, who is semi-retired. “You don’t even know it’s back there. It’s designed really well. My wife loves it as much as I do.’’
The Mayers have done a lot of camping, and they want to continue.
“We got tired of pitching tents in the rain,’’ he said. “It was the right size for us. We didn’t want a humongous RV.’’
On last year’s trips, they used campground restrooms and showers, and occasionally stayed in a motel.
“It’s a big step up from tenting. And we didn’t have to give up sitting around a campfire.’’