During a 2014 camping trip, Angel Irlanda faced a conundrum. His tent was proving to be unusable in the New Mexico desert, so he looked for a small camper to tow behind his Fiat 500. As you might imagine, no such RV existed—until now. Irlanda ended up designing and building the tiny trailer he and his family of four needed on that trip and has now made it available to the public. Though designed for small cars, at just 298 pounds, even a motorcycle can tow it.
How can something so roomy also be so lightweight? Surprisingly, the answer is actual feathers. Parts of the Earth Traveler, as it the camper is called, are made of resin-reinforced chicken feathers, resulting in a lightweight and more cost-effective structure than regular carbon fiber. This isn't just some bird-brained idea, either. Irlanda worked with the Los Alamos National Laboratory—yes, the same one that invented the atomic bomb—on the design of this material.
Gallery: Earth Traveler Teardrop
The result is a surprisingly lightweight trailer that any small car can tow, as well as some motorcycles. It is a combination of a teardrop and pop-up design, making it quite aerodynamic when stowed for travel. When parked and fully deployed, it provides over seven feet of head clearance and sleeps four people comfortably. There are storage compartments under the floor to keep a low center of gravity for better handling. It's an extremely modular and highly customizable design with numerous available add-ons. The list includes everything from trailer jacks to electrical systems (solar or shore power) to a built-in shower.
The only disadvantage of the Earth Traveler campers is the price. The T250LX is made entirely of carbon fiber and you pay for the privilege—$30,000 to be exact. The T300 features the feather composite construction, which trims the price down to $10,000. It's not cheap, but it has me questioning whether I'm going in the wrong direction with my camper van motorcycle hauler project.