Camping The Coast: Teardrops, Canned Hams & Pop Ups

Photo supplied by Marilyn Harris Marshall

Photo supplied by Marilyn Harris Marshall

Recently on the squidknot Facebook page, I asked the innocent question: “Have you toured the coast in a Teardrop Trailer?”

That simple request led us into a wonderful world, not just of the retro-hip teardrop-style tow-behind campers, but of a larger community who turned us on to other vintage camping rigs, like the “canned ham” style, some ultra-light pop-ups, and more.

What sparked my interest was a photo in Sunset magazine that showed a small camper by a lake. I thought, “what a perfect way to see the coast.”

Yeah, these rigs aren’t for everyone, way too small, no full kitchen, and so on. But what I like is that it’s a great compromise if you don’t want to go tent camping and aren’t interested in full-bore RV-ing. Plus, the teardrops have a cool vibe and leave a small footprint, both in terms of what it requires for support at the campsite and how much gas you burn up getting there.

If the point is to spend time outdoors on your camping trip, these small guys force you into the outdoors because there’s just not much room on the inside.

ScottsPicScott Chaney in Salem makes products even smaller and lighter than the teardrops. He runs Compact Camping Concepts, check him out at He posted this picture on our Facebook page and makes a great case for his product: “Has a smaller footprint for easy towing and storage and bigger sleeping quarters.”  The pop-ups are available at DIY kits or he’ll assemble them to the level you want. “Most people build an Explorer Box themselves following the construction manual I wrote. I can also build them to various levels of completion.”

The problem with any kind of camping on the coast is obvious: the weather is often lousy from Brooking to the San Juans. Welcome to our Northwest reality; a cautionary note provided by Jennifer and Kate who have been enthusiasts since they caught the bug in 2007. Their website is called Teardrop Trails.

If you want an exceptional tour of some of the prime spots they’ve visited, check out the photo galleries. By clicking on one of the sites between Beverly Beach near Newport, all the way south to Eel Point not far from Coos Bay, you can see what site might be best for you. Start here to begin the tour.

Kate and Jennifer were great hosts last night at Champoeg State Heritage Area, an Oregon State Park, near St. Paul OR. They’d just rolled in from Eugene for a weekend of camping, biking, and fishing.

Signs at the park entrance let visitors know they were “Full” for the weekend so be sure to reserve online in advance.

We met Kate and Jennifer at a “Sisters on the Fly” gathering to see their teardrop, and some other amazing vintage campers. Originally made by manufacturers Scotty, Williams Craft, Shasta, and others, you can tell these campers were restored with sweat and love in equal measure.

Looks like a follow-up article, or maybe a whole series, is in order. Here are a few comments we received on Facebook. Please leave more comments below.

From Amy: “I own a homebuilt Teardrop and my dad has an original 1946 Marville Dwyer Teardrop trailer and we use them as much as possible. We go to Gatherings with a group called TOW (Teardroppers of Oregon & Washington). We also have a Newsletter and website.” Thanks, Amy. The website is a great resource. We are reposting some of the information regarding their Gatherings on the coast our our events page.

From Rob: “I have an old one, home made. Great fun and so much fun. Everyone in the campgrounds asks what it is and wants a “tour”. The biggest surprise is always “you sleep in there?”

From Mark:  “I built our teardrop about 3 years ago and have taken it on a number of gatherings. They come in quite a variety of shapes and sizes. Check out the forum www.tnttt.comfor tons of information.

From Eric:  “I’ve camped all over, up and down the coast. My favorite campground near where I live is Cape Lookout State Park. Sure, weather can be a factor. You just need a canopy and a good rain coat.”

From Marilyn:  “Have a 1940 Nitey Mite that towed behind a 40 Ford from Washington to Florida. It was a blast!”

From Matt:  There is a great gathering at Ocean City. We have also done the Rain Forest, Seaquest and down the coast to Newport. We normally stick to the Cascades.”

Also hearing from lots of DIY folks. Manufacturing is happening all around the Northwest. We are a hotbed for this kind of camping.

What else to you love about camping? We’d love to hear from you. To be continued.

Teardrop Trails:
Link to the April 2013 issue of Cool Tears magazine here. Jim Bailey talks teardrops in the feature article.
Jim’s story starts on page 16.