Guide to Choosing the Best Small Travel Trailer

Guide to Choosing the Best Small Travel Trailer

When most people hear “travel trailer,” they typically think of something big and bulky. Maybe not quite an RV (more about the difference here), but a vehicle meant for families, groups, or those looking to brave a camping trip via mobile home. While most travel trailers fit this description, many modern trailers have gone in a different direction.

A new focus on functionality has created a niche in the trailer market specifically designed for one or two people. As a result, the small (also referred to as “two-person”) travel trailer has emerged as an exciting option for adventurers leaning into minimalism and flexibility.

What is Considered a Small Travel Trailer?

Unsurprisingly, the definition of “small” can vary pretty widely. The general cutoff criteria you’ll see around these trailers is less than 20 feet long and lighter than 5,000 pounds fully loaded. While even our largest habitat, Mantis, falls into this category, our TigerMoth and Cricket (as well as their overlanding editions) are more “true” small trailers at 12 feet and 15 feet long, respectively. TigerMoth has a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating, or maximum weight it’s able to carry (including the trailer’s own weight), of 2,200 lbs, while Cricket’s GVWR is 2,700 lbs.

One important note on these two is that TigerMoth has capacity for two adults like most small travel trailers, but our Cricket habitat has additional capacity for two kids as well. This essentially gives you extra space in the same footprint and weight as many other “two-person” trailers.

Pros & Cons of Small Travel Trailers

Now that we have an idea of what small travel trailers are, we should discuss some of their benefits and drawbacks to understand why they’re so popular.

Small Travel Trailer Advantages

Starting with the positives, there’s a lot to love. While there are countless benefits to having a small trailer depending on who you ask, we’ve distilled the major selling points down to three factors:

Compact

The smaller size of these two-person travel trailers means that they’re almost always driveway- and garage-friendly. Less bulk also tends to yield better fuel economy for your tow vehicle and diminished power requirements for the trailer itself.

Versatile

This savings in size leads to more options in practical use. For instance, a smaller trailer has a much easier time navigating windy or uneven paths than a larger one. While some adventurers have found ways to overland using larger vehicles, compact travel trailers primarily occupy this niche.

Beyond their rugged capabilities, some two-person travel trailers have options or built-in engineering to expand the number of beds, storage, or accessories included. By maintaining their original size but transcending the attached limitations, they offer the best of both the small and large vehicle worlds in many cases.

Immersive

Less internal space inevitably forces adventurers to spend more time outside the trailer. This idea might be intimidating to some — however, at TAXA we believe that “out is in.” In other words, the purpose of a travel trailer should be to connect adventurers with the outside world rather than create separation. Thus, the advantage of these smaller trailers is a guarantee of this reward.

Small Travel Trailer Downsides

On the downside, some of these positives can also be seen as negatives in certain situations. Of course, this will also depend on the person in question, but there are limitations from traditional campers, trailers, and RVs that have to be sacrificed for the smaller size:

Less Space

While smaller space can be a positive (especially in our eyes), it can be viewed as a detractor to some. This means fewer beds, limited storage, and minimal living room. If you foresee having more robust needs in any of those categories, it might be worth looking into mid- to large-sized trailers and campers. A great option here is our Mantis habitat, which is still small enough to fit in your garage but offers more space than TigerMoth and Cricket.

Fewer Amenities

While on an expedition, adventurers typically want to leave the comforts of home behind to some extent. They embrace the idea of entering the natural world and playing by its rules. On the other hand, some find these challenges distracting or impractical. Certain contexts demand the efficiencies of a bathroom, shower, and full kitchen. While some smaller trailers creatively engineer these features into the footprint (look no further than the TAXA Cricket), many do without completely.

2021 TigerMoth Counter Top Space

What to Look for in a Small Adventure Trailer

That being said, there’s a reason that this category has been seeing so much growth. At increasing rates, travelers seem to prefer the small trailer’s efficient use of space, thoughtful layout, and impressive durability. However, all models are not created equal. If you’re thinking about investing in a small trailer, here’s a checklist of considerations to help find a habitat that meets your needs:

Essentials

Space

How many beds does the trailer offer? Is this number flexible at all? Will the storage capacity house all potential essentials along with supplementary gear?

  • Number of beds
  • Cargo capacity
  • Accessory rack

All of our habitats can sleep anywhere from 2 to 4+ adults.

Bathroom

Most small adventure vehicles lack traditional bathrooms. However, some include makeshift options. If a trailer lacks bathrooms, think about any extra equipment/storage needed to provide a solution.

  • Shower, toilet, sink
  • Hot and cold water

Mantis features a cassette toilet, and Cricket offers a portable toilet option.

Kitchen

More and more, small trailers are offering some kind of cooking space. These can vary significantly, though. Some manufacturers include a small stove while others flaunt full galley kitchens.

  • Stovetop, sink, counter space
  • Cold storage options

Mantis and Cricket both feature impressive baltic-birch plywood kitchens, while TigerMoth offers an efficient pull-out kitchen.

Power

While most modern adventure vehicles include a temporary power solution of some kind, consider the length of your expedition and the amount of power you will need. Are built-in options sufficient, or will supplementary devices become necessary? Beyond this, are power outlets conveniently located where needed?

  • Trailer battery capacity
  • Solar power input included or available
  • Power outlet type, quantity, and location

Every TAXA Habitat model is equipped with a range of power solutions that enable you to safely extend your adventuring.

Size

Dimensions

Check the height, length, and width of the vehicle. Upon doing so, make sure you have a suitable place to store it when not being used.

Think about some potential destinations that you might care to visit. Will the size of the vehicle help or hinder the expedition? Generally speaking, limiting size leads to more options. For instance, smaller trailers typically have an easier time overlanding or meeting campground requirements.

Weight

Can your car safely tow the weight of the trailer with cargo included? To be safe, reference the trailer’s GVWR and measure against your car’s tow capacity. Here’s a helpful tow rating database if you need to check the latter.

TAXA Habitats range in size from Woolly Bear, the go-anywhere basecamp that weighs only 1,270 lbs., to Mantis Overland, our most spacious model enhanced for overlanding and weighs 3,486 lbs.

Design

Lighting and Ventilation

In any indoor space, lighting dramatically affects mood and usability. With that said, how well does the trailer incorporate natural light through windows? At nighttime, does the trailer include a lighting arrangement, or will you need to bring something extra?

Alongside lighting, ventilation generally defines the comfort of a room. Once more, do the windows help in this process? Does the trailer offer climate control devices to supplement standard airflow?

Flow and Accessibility

A skillful layout can make all the difference in accomplishing flow. In order to evaluate this, study the floor plan or listen to others’ experiences. Does the trailer feature storage compartments or appliances in intuitive places? How well does the vehicle merge inside spaces with the outdoors?

For TAXA Outdoors habitats, our design is inspired through working for NASA’s Habitability Design Center. This taught us to think about how we use and share physical space in very human terms, while still being as functional as possible.

Build Quality

Rugged Specifications

While not vital to some, trailers designed for rugged environments typically stand the test of time better than most. As a result, take a look at the suspension design, hitch mobility, vehicle weight, and tire diameter. Generally speaking, trailers that minimize load tension while maximizing support are the ones to trust.

For example, the Cricket Overland features a Timbren 3500lbs Axle-Less trailer suspension with a 4″ lift. This supplements already robust Cooper Discoverer AT3 LT tires to provide excellent ground clearance and sturdy engineering suitable for a multitude of destinations over the trailer’s lifetime.

Construction and Materials

Aside from build design, execution matters just as much if not more so. Research the materials (more about trailer materials here) on display and how the manufacturer constructed them. TAXA habitats boast handcrafted steel and aluminum frames, which you can learn more about here.

Find the Perfect Small Adventure Trailer

While this checklist and guide is by no means exhaustive, it should serve as a basic rundown of things to consider before making a decision. Two-person travel trailers may lack the bulk of living space or domestic comforts that traditional models employ, but they offer more practical solutions for storing and hauling. This size also frequently provides options for supplementary beds or accessories when needed, and encourages adventurers to actually adventure and to get outside and explore.

If you’re looking for a vehicle with this philosophy at the center, be sure to look at TigerMoth, Cricket, or even Woolly Bear if you want to get really compact. If you have more questions, schedule a call with a habitat expert here!