Home » Here’s What You Get When You Buy A Tiny $6000 Camper

Here’s What You Get When You Buy A Tiny $6000 Camper

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In recent times, a number of small RV manufacturers have decided to cater to a market that the big guys have seemingly left behind. Not everyone can afford to drop $50,000 or over six figures on a camper, leaving open demand for affordable units. Thankfully, cheaper options are increasing at a pleasing rate. Here’s the Hiker Trailer Highway Deluxe; it can be towed by most cars, and it’s so cheap that it’s almost a third of the price of a brand-new Nissan Versa.

Most people think of a travel trailer as something like a home away from home or maybe a rolling hotel room. But not everyone needs their camper to have all of the features of home. Some people, myself included, want something that’s a step up from a tent. This often means something like a teardrop or squaredrop trailer. Sometimes, a set of hard walls, some electricity, and a soft bed can make all of the difference from having a miserable time camping to one you’ll remember as a good time.

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A base model Hiker Trailer is built for these kinds of people. The Highway Deluxe is one of the cheapest ways to get a set of hard walls already mounted to a trailer frame. In 2017, Outside Magazine went as far as to call Hiker Trailers’ old Deluxe model “the World’s Most Affordable Teardrop Trailer.” Even better is that if you want more than just a box to sleep in, Hiker Trailers offers an impressively long list of upgrades that don’t cost a ton of money, let’s take a look.

From Teardrops To Squares

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In the 2000s, electrical engineer Robert Reeve and firefighter Wesley Henry were friends building traditional teardrop trailers. Back then, the men were outdoor hobbyists who ran separate small trailer companies out of garages in Colorado and Indiana, respectively. However, they found a way to streamline their build process and cut costs. Reeve and Henry would buy materials together. That way, they could secure bigger orders with vendors and split the materials between each other.

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In 2010, Reeve designed a new trailer. This trailer wasn’t in the shape that gives teardrop trailers their name but squared off. Today, we call these kinds of trailers “squaredrops.”

Reeve and Henry constructed their first squaredrop in 2012, listing it for sale on Craigslist. Reportedly, this prototype trailer sold in just 10 minutes. Over the next few days, the friends would sell ten more trailers that weren’t even built yet.

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Hiker Trailer was born and from the start, the company catered to the kind of buyer who didn’t want to spend $30,000 or more on a teardrop. In 2018, a base model Hiker Trailer was just $2,895. For that, you got a basic box to sleep in. If you wanted more, Hiker Trailer offered what Reeve called a “sushi menu” of options. So, you could have everything from cooler exterior trim to an air-conditioner.

Reeve believes that offering a bare-bones trailer with tons of options is part of how Hiker Trailer has remained affordable. Hiker Trailer also saves money by ordering excess materials and selling the extras to other companies.

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I got to speak with Bob Bosar, President of Hiker Trailer. He tells me his involvement with Hiker Trailer began about five years ago when Hiker Trailer contracted with the company he was with to build trailer frames. Later, this production would expand to other components.

In 2020, a group of private investors purchased the Indiana portion of the company.  A year later, investors bought up the rest of the company. Now, production operations are run out of a facility in Columbus, Indiana. Today, Hiker Trailer claims to have constructed over 3,500 custom trailers. Bosar tells me the company built around 500 units last year and this year it’s making about 50 units a month, which is putting it on track to build over 4,000 units thus far.

I’m told that there are around 35 to 38 people involved in production and when you include everyone, including those in the Colorado site, you have about 60 people working to create and market the trailers you’re about to see.

The Trailers

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Hiker Trailer sells four basic models. The Highway Deluxe is the roadgoing low-price squaredrop. The Mid Range is a mild off-road trailer while the Mid Range XL is the same trailer but for moderate off-roading. Finally, there’s the Extreme Off-Road model and you won’t be surprised to read that one is supposed to be the most rugged of all four trailers, we’ll get back to that in a moment.

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Hiker Trailer says its trailers start with a welded steel and powder-coated frame. Here is where the workers bolt up the suspension, wheels, and start running wiring as well.

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On top of this frame is a 3″ Rockwool insulated 3/4″ 7-layer white birch wood box that makes up the structure of a Hiker Trailer. The company says that each trailer gets CNC cut shelves, storage compartments, and trim. Then, a worker finishes those wood parts by hand. Each trailer box is then sealed up with aluminum siding and wood joints are lined with seam tape.

Once the structure is complete Hiker Trailer finishes each build by wiring up the trailer, installing your chosen options, and dialing in the finishing touches. Finally, each trailer is inspected multiple times during and after construction to ensure good quality standards. Hiker Trailer doesn’t say how long these trailers should last, but they look well built for the price.

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The Highway Deluxe is probably the trailer most of you would be interested in. Hiker Trailer says it’s not meant for anything more hardcore than a smooth dirt road, but its price is an attractive $5,999.

Paying that money gets you a 13-foot trailer with a 5-foot by 8-foot box. If you want a larger Highway Deluxe, there is a 5-foot by 9-foot model for $6,999 and a 5-foot by 10-foot variation for $7,999. No matter your choice of size, the underlying trailer is the same. Attached to the frame is a 2,000-pound axle with leaf springs. Attached to that axle are a set of 14-inch aluminum wheels with 27-inch tires. Hiker Trailer advertises 9 inches of ground clearance with this trailer.

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The Highway Deluxe is also the lightest of the bunch with base weights around 800 pounds, 900 pounds, and 1,000 pounds, respectively. However, Hiker Trailer expects that you’ll add about a few hundred pounds in options when all is said and done.

Alright, are you ready to hear what this trailer comes with stock? You get one entry door, a rear door for the galley, a manual roof vent, a couple of lights, a 110-volt shore power connector, some storage compartments, USB ports, passthrough doors to the galley, and that’s about it. A base model Hiker Trailer Highway Deluxe is a step up from a tent, offering the most basic of amenities.

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Now, if that’s good enough for you, Hiker Trailer will be happy to build it. However, Hiker Trailer offers seemingly endless options. You can get your Highway Deluxe in a plethora of colors. If you want a more aggressive look, the company offers a few different diamond plating options.

From there, options get granular. You can add a second entry door, a window or a screen to the door, and bungee cables to keep the doors from flying open in wind. Interior options include drawers, shelves, galley size, bunk beds, powered fans, a propane furnace, a roof air-conditioner, lithium power stations, and more. Then there are different awnings, roof racks, optional electric brakes, storage boxes, solar panels, spare tires, an outdoor shower, and even a list of optional roof tents.

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The only options I don’t see are toilets, mattresses, or any cooking gear. But it is impressive how many different options can come with this trailer. If you’re someone who wants to build a DIY camper but doesn’t know how to do certain things, a Hiker Trailer gives you the ability to pick and choose what you want to be installed at the factory so you can handle the rest.

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Sadly, the options do add up fast. Hiker Trailer has a fun configurator tool. I designed a bright green Highway Deluxe with heat, air-conditioning, a power station, electric brakes, hot water, a 110V electrical outlet up front, a roof rack, and an awning. This trailer build came out to $13,197. That’s still pretty affordable, but the price ballooned fast. Hiker Trailer says the average 5-foot by 8-foot Highway Deluxe build comes out to $9,864, so it would appear I like a bit more equipment than the average Hiker Trailer customer.

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Still, even for $13,000, it’s not bad. Remember, that teardrop I configured had air-conditioning, heat, onboard electrical power, and hot water. Toss in a camp stove, a cooler, and a cassette toilet and that sounds like a nice weekend to me.

If you want a little bit more, Hiker Trailer also has the Mid Range (above, and spelled without a hyphen). The trailer is built the same way, but now you get a 3,500-pound torsion axle, 16 inches of ground clearance, a rear receiver hitch, the option for an articulating hitch, and 29 inch tires on 15 inch wheels.

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Additional standard features include fenders you can stand on and stabilizer jacks. The box sizes of this trailer are the same as the Highway Deluxe, but prices are now $8,499, $9,499, and $10,499, respectively.

The long list of options is also the same, plus the addition of a front storage box for a cooler. Base weight goes up to 1,000 pounds, 1,100 pounds, and 1,200 pounds, respectively. Once again, add a few hundred pounds to those numbers for an average list of options.

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Moving to the Mid Range XL (above) nets you 16-inch wheels with 31.5-inch tires, 18 inches of ground clearance, a reinforced tongue, and a two-inch frame lift. The Mid Range XL has the same size boxes as the previous two models and it costs $9,699, $10,699, and $11,699, respectively. In terms of weight, an empty 5-foot by 8-foot Mid Range XL is 1,100 pounds, the 5-foot by 9-foot is 1,200 pounds, and the 5-foot by 10-foot is 1,300 pounds.

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Finally, we arrive at the flagship Extreme Off Road model (also spelled without a hyphen). Hiker Trailer says this one comes with a thicker frame and is meant to be the most off-road capable of the four units. The Extreme Off Road comes in just one box size, 5 feet by 9 feet, and has a starting price of $14,999.

For that price, you do get the most kit. The Extreme Off Road comes with all of the standard features that every Hiker Trailer comes with, plus a second front jack, multiple frame-integrated storage racks, and a box for the tongue. Features exclusive to the Extreme Off Road include the aforementioned frame racks, brush guards, a swinging spare tire, rack, underfloor storage, and optional wheel lug patterns that might match your tow vehicle.

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Weirdly, despite being the beefiest Hiker Trailer, the Extreme Off Road has 14 inches of ground clearance. But it does get 17-inch wheels with 33-inch tires. Another neat difference is that you can equip the 3,500-pound axle of the Extreme Off Road with leaf springs and shocks or an air suspension. Finally, you’re looking at a 1,350-pound dry weight.

Take A Hike

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Of these trailers, I dig the Highway Deluxe the most. Its price makes it one of the cheapest ways out of a tent and into a new hard-sided camper. It’s a good competitor to the Runaway CoolCamp, which costs $4 cheaper, weighs 230 pounds lighter, and gets an air-conditioner standard. On the other hand, the CoolCamp is much smaller and is considered best for solo travelers. So, the best trailer will depend on the buyer.

If you want one of these trailers, Hiker Trailer says you’re looking at a 3-month lead time. So, you would either want to purchase one of the pre-built units for sale or start your custom build soon.

Really, Hiker Trailer and its lineup appear to be another decent entry into the affordable camper space. Sure, you’re not getting much with these trailers and I’m certain the DIYers in our readership could build their own trailers for a fraction of even $6,000. However, not everyone has the skill or time to do that. Buying one of these trailers gets most of the hard work out of the way, and that’s pretty neat.

(Update: Friday April 5: We have updated the story with additional and corrected information about the history of Hiker Trailer.)

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Mike B
Mike B
2 months ago

I kinda like these, bot OTOH I think something like a Go-Fast camper on a pickup would be a more practical option, if one already had the pickup. Like that Gladiator pictured would be better off with the GFC (or similar).

Also, I don’t have a lot of carpentry experience, but I genuinely feel like I could DIY one of these without too much trouble.

And interesting option would be one of these with a flip up roof, like a hardshell RTT, so one could stand inside it.

Taargus Taargus
Taargus Taargus
2 months ago

This is one of the better cheap options for a camping trailer I’ve seen so far. If I decided I want out of the tent life, I could easily have the kids sleep in the van, and my wife and I in something like this. Build quality seems reasonable and the price seems relatively fair for what it is. The van could handle towing this thing no problem, even if we opted to throw a rack on top for carrying kayaks or bikes or whatever.

ADDvanced
ADDvanced
2 months ago

Saw some comments below me; AC is sort of a pipe dream unless you have shore power, but for heat, dudes…. chinese diesel heater. Around $100 online, work GREAT. I survive winters in the rocky mountains with my CDH and it’s awesome.

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
2 months ago

The $2900 of the original trailer is really good, and is exactly what we mean when we say “that’s crazy overpriced, a teardrop shouldn’t be $15k”. The fact that $2900 in 2018 has become $6000 in 2024 tells you a lot about economic factors since then.

In general, I really like the sound of this, with a steel frame and wood box. Although I have no idea why you would want a 3500lb axle under a 1300lb trailer: no way you’re loading 2200lb of junk into a teardrop.

Aidian Holder
Aidian Holder
2 months ago
Reply to  Rust Buckets

$2900 in 2014 would be $3817 dollars in today’s money. The biggest part of that price increase was probably the part where they got bought out by an outside company intent on making a bunch of money for shareholders who don’t add any value. As with most things, rich people intent on getting something for nothing is the problem.

Bendanzig
Bendanzig
2 months ago
Reply to  Aidian Holder

And $2900 in 2018 would only be $3,584 in todays money. I totally agree that the majority of the price increase is from the company being bought out, though.

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
2 months ago
Reply to  Aidian Holder

Well, there has been a little more inflation than that, but when I said economic factors I was kind of referring to that time in 2020 and 2021 when camper prices more than doubled because people were tired of being at home.

Clark B
Clark B
2 months ago

If we ever decide to get a bit more outdoorsy, one of these would be a great starting point. All the options I would really want from them is AC/heat, and maybe a power bank. I could probably fit out anything else I wanted and save a few bucks. But it’s just the right size and weight to tow with my Sportwagen.

Drew
Drew
2 months ago

While the price can get away from you quickly, it would be nice to have the AC and heat installed. As long as you are careful about choosing convenience options, it looks a great start.

Just don’t option up the rooftop tent, propane tank, or other things that you can easily install cheaper. Optioning it the way you ultimately want it is easy, but expensive.

Andrew J Becker
Andrew J Becker
2 months ago

This is why the next gen vehicle comms system is important, so we can get self powered trailers that have lesser towing requirements that I can pull (guide, command, whatevs) with my camry.

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
2 months ago

This only weighs 1000lb for the lighter ones, you can pull that with a Camry.

I’m gonna guess part of the reason that self propelled trailers have not been pursued more is cost: I’m gonna guess that adding a whole drivetrain to a trailer is gonna be more expensive than just upgrading the Camry to something a little more capable, while being worse in most ways than just upgrading the Camry.

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
2 months ago

These seem like a decent deal for those who don’t have the wherewithal or space (or just the desire) to construct their own. And the low weight opens up a range of vehicles: bolt a hitch on your Yugo and away you go!

Ophidia
Ophidia
2 months ago

If I were in the market for a camper, something like this is the way I’d want to go. All I’d need is A/C and heat, and I’m golden. Great article!

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
2 months ago
Reply to  Ophidia

I was just thinking about looking into the smallest available mini-split heat-pump myself—and what size battery it would take to run it for a couple days

Drive By Commenter
Drive By Commenter
2 months ago
Reply to  TOSSABL

Giant would be the battery size. Air conditioning is power hungry. Plus the conversion losses going from likely 12v to 120v for a basic mini split.

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
2 months ago

I know: I work in HVAC. I was thinking I might end up with a sizable battery in the trunk of the car—but then I’d have to do something to level it. Looking into 12v VFD systems is now on my rainy day look-at list

Drive By Commenter
Drive By Commenter
2 months ago
Reply to  TOSSABL

You would indeed know way more about it than I do. A 48v system would definitely help with wiring. A quick search does indicate that there are native 48v inverter systems.

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
2 months ago

I am partial to mini-splits having installed something like 250 of them at remote cell sites. I need to ask some supply house contacts if there are any commercial low-voltage systems available at a reasonable price.
Basically, it helps when you ‘know a guy’ 😉

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