Vanlife has its perks, as does the resurgent RV craze of the last decade. But both also have a lot of drawbacks. When your portable vacation home is also the vehicle you take to get there, anything that happens to it mechanically takes you out of business.
That’s why we still have a soft spot for camper trailers. You can tow them behind any appropriately-rated vehicle, then park in a great spot while you go off exploring. Plus, you don’t have to worry about whether it’ll start the next time you spontaneously decide to get away.
Our favorites have sleek, modern looks, cool amenities and lots of smart details that make your time on the road all fun, with no hassle. Most importantly, they’re all renowned for their high build quality. (Pro tip: Stay away from “white box” trailers and RVs, which tend to last only about as long as your payments.)
Of course, these particular models are suited for use on pavement or the occasional dirt road. If you want to go way off the beaten path, you’d be better served checking out our roundup of overland-capable models. Otherwise, load up, practice your trailer-reversing skills, –and head out.
Built to Last: Bowlus Road Chief Endless Highways
The Bowlus brand dates back to 1934, when aircraft engineer and builder Hawly Bowlus decided to build a lightweight travel trailer for transporting aviation crews to remote locations. (He helped create Charles Lindbergh’s famous airplane, The Spirit of St. Louis.)
Today, their trailers are the ultimate in luxury and quality, with high-grade materials and construction and lots of high-tech features, including lithium battery power, built-in charging stations for gear, a cellular data booster — even heated floors. Its wide front door allows you to put long or oversized gear in easily, while the polished-aluminum design will look great for decades. That said, for a starting price of $185,000, it had better.
Most Stylish: Happier Camper HC1 Ultralight
These sleek, retro-modern fiberglass trailers weigh just 1,500 pounds loaded, and thus can be towed behind many regular cars, making them excellent for spontaneous retreats from city life. The insulated, 10-foot-long cabin can sleep up to five, and is designed to be modular and adaptable — by the owner — to any adventure. This includes complete removal of the cube-based interior fittings, including tables, seats and kitchen hardware, to make room for bikes, kayaks and other gear.
Options include loading ramps for motorcycles, solar panels, propane heaters, and dry-flush toilets — even a lift option that raises the trailer three inches for better ground clearance and includes off-road tires. Bonus: it’ll fit in most garages, ensuring it could last decades, not years. These campers start at $24,950.
Best Home Away from Home: Home Grown Timberline
If you have an SUV or pickup capable of towing more than 5,000 pounds, this spacious and fully appointed 23-foot trailer — as much a tiny house as a camper — will make you happy for weeks on the road. (Or off the grid, if you opt for the sola- power-and-lithium-battery option.) Starting at $49,995, this wood-paneled rig has seven-foot ceilings, a spacious kitchen, and sleeping for five between bunks and a bed. It’s weather-tight, and built from renewable materials.
Coziest: Nest by Airstream
Though well-known for its iconic silver aluminum trailers, Airstream recently began exploring fiberglass options as well. The Nest, starting at $42,900, is a compact yet robustly-designed trailer with many of the amenities you’d expect in their bigger models.
These include LED lighting throughout, a full-size propane tank for electricity and cooking, and a microwave and refrigerator — as well as comfortable chairs and bedding systems. The most striking feature, though, is the panoramic window, which infuses a bit of the soul of the Airstream brand.
Most Eco-Friendly Design and Materials: Safari Condo Alto R-Series
The brilliant retractable aluminum roof on this trailer adds 20 inches of headroom when pushed up, but cuts aerodynamic drag by 75 percent when closed for transport. Starting at $28,400, it’s also made from lightweight materials, which makes for even more efficient (and economical) transport, and many of its components are recyclable for the sad day when it’s time to say goodbye. Until then, you’ll have a full-featured trailer with a kitchenette, ample dining space and a bathroom.