Even our towable trailers are getting smart. With innovative aerodynamic designs, rugged suspension systems, and wide-open skylights, these four high-tech trailers—from modest to totally excessive—are ready for the open road.
2014 Airstream Sport 22FB Travel Trailer ($48,891)
Airstream assembled this towable trailer like an airplane, using riveted aluminum panels. The Sport 22FB has a low center of gravity and an aerodynamic shape—the company estimates a fuel savings of up to 30 percent compared to other travel trailers. Perks include a glass plate that covers the cookstove and a convection microwave. Plus, all the exterior and interior parts are recyclable.
New this summer, this fiberglass pull-behind camper is a durable, streamlined sleeping compartment. The Micro Minnie uses a tankless water heater, and the dual-axle design means if you blow a tire, you can keep towing until you get to the repair shop.
This teardrop trailer is designed for rugged off-roading. You can adjust the suspension to handle smooth roads or rocky terrain in the foothills. There’s also an option to add a tent to the roof ($2,400) to increase the total sleeping capacity to seven, and another option to add solar panels ($350 each).
This massive 32-foot travel trailer features some of the most advanced trailer tech on the market. The powered awning has a row of LED lights for nighttime cookouts, there’s a skylight on the roof for stargazing, and the sink includes a pull-out sprayer (all part of the new Elite package). When you tow, a unique stabilizer system reduces rattling and smooths out the ride.
The exterior channels all the retro appeal of the old-school vans, but inside, you’ll find more luxuries than you'll know what to do with. The campers each come with a dining area that can comfortably seat four adults, a convertible double bed, and a kitchenette with enough storage for a few days on the road.
Then there are the add-ons, which include: a stovetop; a fridge; a toilet; an outdoor shower, an awning; a weather curtain; and a Bluetooth-capable sound system.
For me, a backcountry cabins should offer simple, modern luxury. Take this family countryside getaway in Spain, which takes advantage of its surroundings while still offering all the comforts you’d expect in the city.
The house itself—more like a covered pass than a true cabin—is nothing but an enormous room with sliding glass walls facing east and west. It’s wrapped in yellow wood planks, and connects seamlessly to timber decks outside.
There’s a tiny built-in kitchen on one side of the room with a contemporary fireplace on the opposite wall. Bedrooms flank both ends of the cottage (one of these wood-covered nooks has only a sky window to let in light). Tucked into the hillside, there’s also a full-length playroom and library for browsing on lazy summer nights.
After adopting the Declaration of Independence that fateful July day, our Founding Fathers opened their saddle bags and started kicking back ice-cold pints of ale. While Ben Franklin shredded summer tunes on his glass armonica, Thomas Jefferson challenged Alexander Hamilton to a game of corn hole.
Hey, it could have happened, right?
And even if it didn’t, there’s no reason you shouldn’t tailgate, car camp, or throw a backyard barbecue this Fourth of July. Here are seven pieces of made-in-America gear guaranteed to help get you in the summer spirit.
Ventura, California-based Iron and Resin made these sturdy vinyl-coated foam coozies in a glossy red, white, and blue specifically for the Fourth. An interior plastic liner snugly holds a 12-ounce can. Plus, the Kool Kan floats, a major bonus if you plan to celebrate Independence Day near a large body of water.
Not only are Yeti cooler’s damn near indestructible, they also keep food cold for days thanks to a double-walled, rotomolded exterior and about twice as much insulation as most of their competitors. For tailgating, I suggest the Tundra 50, which can accommodate 32 beers.
Yeti manufactures coolers in Iowa, Illinois, Ohio, and the Philippines. Want one of the coolers made in the U.S.? The company has a number you can call (512-394-9384) to make it happen.
The key to safely drinking a lot of beer this Fourth? Drink a lot of water, too. Yakima, Washington-based Liberty Bottle Works produces made-in-America metal water bottles, made from 100 percent recycled materials.
Grooves in the cap coupled with knobs on top of the bottle make an easy-to-use lid that won’t leak. This aluminum stars-and-stripes water bottle was light enough to use in a hiking kit, but study enough to handle getting dropped on the ground.
Yes, Budweiser has American Flag specialty cans, but who wants to drink the beer inside of them?
Boulder, Colorado-based Upslope Brewing rounded out its patriotic can colors—the red-canned Pale Ale is crisp and flavorful, while the blue-canned IPA is tongue-meltingly hoppy—with a 7.5 percent ABV limited release Belgian-style pale in a white can.
The Juice CS4 has 15 tools to help fix any tailgating emergency, including: opening a beer; cutting a lime; or fixing your stereo.
At 5.6 ounces, it's heavy to take into the backcountry, but it's easy to slip into a shorts pocket for a day on the beach. We found the ridged aluminum exterior increased our grip dramatically when we used the 2.27-inch stainless steel knife, and like all Leatherman products, the multi-tool is made in Portland, Oregon.
Inflatable gear is nothing new. You probably even have a Therm-a-Rest or blow-up raft stored in your gear shed as you read this.
Now, designers are getting more creative with their inflatable designs. Stand-up paddleboards, tents, and even snowshoes can be set up with an air pump—or some powerful lungs. That means lighter, more portable gear for you.
Black Diamond Halo Jetforce Avalanche Airbag ($1,275)
Few inflatable products have drawn as much buzz as Black Diamond's new avalanche-safety bag. The Halo Jetforce revolutionizes the airbag pack, making it more versatile and practical for most backcountry skiers.
Jetforce technology uses a battery-powered fan instead of a compressed-gas cylinder, so you deploy can the airbag multiple times on a single trip. You'll also save money since canisters are good only once before they have to be refilled, which can be expensive. They're also difficult to travel with because of TSA restrictions.
If there's an inflatable revolution, expect Klymit to lead the charge. The company has developed a seam-welding technology that allows it to produce products like ultralight cutout sleeping pads and inflatable pack rafts. It's even trying to replace old rigid backpack frames with air-filled ones.
The company's most impressive product to date has been its inflatable clothing, which was initially funded through Kickstarter. Both the Ulaar jacket and Double Diamond vest allow the wearer to dial in the amount of insulation using argon gas. The weightless compound provides better insulation than fibrous materials because it won't get wet and weigh you down.
Inflatable tents are no longer reserved for carnivals and used-car lots. Hamburg, Germany–based Heimplanet has developed expedition-worthy air-pole shelters.
Stefan Clauss and Stefan Schulze Dieckhoff founded the company in 2010 because they wanted a tent that was quick and easy to pitch even in bad weather or at night. They created the Cave, a geodesic structure of air chambers that can be inflated from a single point.
If a frame section fails, a built-in safety system allows the user to separate the chambers. (You likely don't have to worry about this, however: Videos show the tent holding up to 60 mph gusts.) As a bonus, the tent looks like something out of Battlestar Galactica.
Swedish company Hövding set out to develop a bike helmet that acts like the airbag in your car. Dozens of sensors in the helmet monitor the cyclist's movement. At the first sign of an abnormality (read: a crash), the helmet inflates and covers the rider's head and neck. Crash tests show the helmet inflating in less than a second, well before the cyclist hits the ground.
Worn around the neck, the uninflated helmet looks more like a bulky scarf than a typical lid. Take note: This helmet isn't designed for mountain biking. "Since it's based on movements from people cycling normally in the city, it could be 'oversensitive' while cycling downhill or jumping," says company spokesperson Maria Persson.
Inflatable stand-up paddleboards make a lot of sense in environments from whitewater rivers to high alpine lakes. They're easier to transport, harder to damage, and lighter than their fiberglass counterparts.
If you're looking for a casual-float board, check out NRS's Baron line. At six inches thick and 358 liters of volume, the board could almost accommodate the whole family next time you take to the river.
Like many inflatable SUPs, the Baron inflates to 15 psi, which keeps the board rigid and helps it glide smoothly. The triple-fin setup is versatile enough for rivers, lakes, or even catching a few waves.
In the meantime, other companies began to follow suit. Patagonia developed the Portable Self-Inflation (or PSI) vest, and big-wave pioneer Jeff Clark helped come up with the Quatic Inflatable Surf Vest. Few of the products are available to the public yet, but expect to see more prototypes this year and next.