If you want to go camping with a really small car, there’s a surprising number of campers out there that can be pulled by cars like the Mitsubishi Mirage, Smart Fortwo, or Fiat 500. But the vast majority of these campers are more or less tents that pack into tiny trailers. If you like to sleep inside of hard walls, I’ve found one of the very few campers that are light enough to be hauled by a tiny car without pitching a tent. This is the Runaway CoolCamp, and it’s a 580-pound camper that starts at just $5,995.
Some of my favorite campers are ones that weigh 1,000 pounds, give or take a few hundred. These rigs are your U-Haul CT13s, Scamp 13s, and MeerKats. Many of these trailers weigh just low enough that you can tow them with pretty much any car on sale today. That’s great! But what if you have a vehicle that’s really small or slow? What if your ride is something like a Smart Fortwo, Scion iQ, or heck, a Honda Gold Wing?
I can tell you from experience that something like a Smart Fortwo will happily tow a motorcycle, but a Scamp would make the little car sweat.
Tiny Campers For Tiny Vehicles
I’ve seen many small cars hauling tiny campers like the 385-pound Time Out Trailer Deluxe. In fact, the Time Out Trailer used to be so popular within Smart communities in America that Smart owners bought them and color-matched their trailer to their adorable cars. Take a look at this cute little camping rig:
Those little Time Outs are basically just tents packed into a trailer. There are a lot of tiny tent campers like these out there and a number of them are targeting motorcyclists and small car owners. If you want hard walls with the same amount of weight, the market is really thin. There used to be something called the Easy Rider Camper, which was a baby teardrop targeted at motorcyclists, but that company doesn’t appear to exist anymore:
There’s also the Little Guy MyPod, also favored by some motorcyclists, but some dealers want $21,000 or more for these things:
The Runaway CoolCamp
That’s where the Runaway CoolCamp comes in. It’s one of the seemingly few hard-sided campers that weigh well under 1,000 pounds.
Runaway Trailers was started in Summerfield, Florida in 2012 by Stephen Shives and his father-in-law, Robert Lane. The men’s mission, among building an enthusiastic community, is to provide the best possible value to their customers. Runaway Trailers’ tagline is “America’s most affordable mini-camper,” and at least on the surface, I’m seeing no lies detected. The company’s most expensive camper is the $11,945 Venturist mini overland trailer, below:
This little guy comes with 33-inch tires, has 20 inches of ground clearance, a Timbren axle-less suspension, and weighs just 1,050 pounds at its heaviest. Today, we’re going to take a look at Runaway’s smallest, cheapest, and most popular unit, the $5,995 CoolCamp.
The CoolCamp is an 11-foot, 4-inch long trailer with a 4-foot by 8-foot box. The interior takes up that aforementioned 4×8 space and has a ceiling about 3.8 feet tall at its peak.
In other words, this has the footprint of a small teardrop trailer, but it’s shaped like a cube. Runaway says that the CoolCamp rides on a welded tube steel frame and features solid wall construction. Those walls are protected with fiberglass skin and aluminum trim.
There isn’t a ton to talk about inside the CoolCamp. Campers in this small class tend to be light on features and this one is no different. On the front wall are a 5,000 BTU air-conditioner and a 110V power strip with six outlets. There is no carpet, no wallpaper, or pretty much anything else. There are two windows and a bed, that’s it.
The CoolCamp does have a pretty neat options list. You can fill the interior with additional shelving, put a roof rack and baskets on top, add an extra window or door, and even get an awning. Other options include a propane tank holder, aluminum wheels, an outdoor shower, and holders for extra fuel for your tow vehicle. These accessories are actually pretty affordable; fully loaded, you’re looking at paying $10,000.
Campers like these aren’t supposed to be luxurious, but low weight and cheap. Think of them as a direct step up from a tent. They’re also a blank canvas, so you can easily add bits like cooking equipment, heating, and a cassette toilet. One of the only other hard campers in this space is the Little Guy MyPod, which costs twice as much, weighs 260 pounds more, and the only things it has that the CoolCamp doesn’t is a stereo and a house battery.
The empty weight for the CoolCamp is just 580 pounds, which means it can be towed by just about anything with a tow hitch. And at just 5.4 feet tall, it could follow behind something like a Fiat 500 without being a major drag. The Runaway CoolCamp starts at $5,995. Yes, you could probably build one of these yourself for much cheaper, but if you aren’t that handy, this seems to be a fair price.
I’m not sure if Runaway Trailers actually sells America’s most affordable mini campers, but the company does sell campers small and cheap enough to allow more people to camp, and that’s something I’m always for.
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Personally, I would find sleeping in a tent to be a more pleasant experience, and it would cost roughly 1/15th as much as this trailer, and you wouldn’t have to tow anything.
Hmm. Something our CX-5 can tow? This looks very interesting!
Now this is what I’m talking about.
We’re not quite there yet, but with the van I forsee myself wanting another sleeping space for the kids. Something like this seems reasonable. I don’t need or want to tow around an apartment on vacation; there are hotels and airbnb’s for that.
Yes, there are some very lightweight trailers in the USA. To me they are all too small, at least for our demands. These things are like bread boxes on wheels. I have been taking trips to Europe for over 40 years and I am always in awe of the RVs I see. Very, very lightweight, but outfitted with the stuff I want. Trailers, camper vans, and class C motorhomes. When I was younger I had big ass travel trailers and class A Motorhomes. Fuel was cheap and the 460 Fords and 454 Chevys ruled the road. Times have changed. Why don’t we have at least a few lightweight RVs like those in Europe?
I love the concept and the price, but that AC unit isn’t the best choice. They should at least provide a cover for the condenser coils as standard equipment, otherwise that’s going to die quickly from insect and road debris strikes.
When the time comes, I’ll definitely be looking at these.
Hard to tell if this is a step up or step down from sleeping in the car.
Hey, why the hate for the Crosstrek? I can accelerate faster than almost every bicycle out there.
Oh goddamn it Mercedes, just when I think I’m out on finding something small and simple for my camping adventures with my emasculate but trusty Crosstrek, you go and completely grenade the shit out of that sullen mindset and drag my dumb ass right back in. How the fuck does that A/C work? Auxiliary battery?? Regardless, super rad find! Thanks for putting a new monkey on back, or a new dragon to chase that won’t kill me
The AC works on “shore” power. Plug in at the campsite. Or bring a generator of your own.
This could be a good choice. I am tempted. It’s a bit nicer than a tent, could store my camping gear in it, and doesn’t have a bunch of stuff I won’t use.
I can see forking out for one of these, the light weight, reasonable price, ease of drop and go, it starts making sense.
Absolutely brilliant! I love the idea and the implementation. The price being right puts it way over the top. The power strip cracks me up. Great find Mercedes.
(Gentle reminder: Transit bus double exhaust)
And basically nothing obnoxious/expensive to go wrong. Considering recent qc trends in the camper world, bare bones sounds even better.
Thank you Mercedes. Finally something that feels affordable. And can be built out as your own pace and finances allow. Now I am reconsidering doing my own box truck build. Maybe we can have nice things if we wait long enough?
Thats pretty neat. I sorta dig their Venturist and the price isn’t outrageous. Still high for what is a box and some wheels, but its in-line with reality at least.
I agree 100%, in none of these campers will you end up pitching a tent.
I would, every morning.
I like it. Big RVs are nice, but I’m mostly interested in a bedroom on wheels that has reliable air conditioning. I’m not sure how much I would a use a camper, but I might be willing to try one for that price.
A nice update to the pop up trailers. Granted I need more than a tent on wheels but I can see the appeal.
I was very close to pulling the trigger on one of these, but bought a used A-Liner Alite 400 instead, because I figured if I was already getting something too big to store inside a garden shed, I’d might as well go for the headroom. But, the Runaway definitely appeals as a drop and go option with essentially zero setup time, and it does have more ceiling height than the typical teardrop
How do you like the A-Liner 400?
I’ll be camping in it for the first time next weekend, but have set it up a few times to clean it and get it ready, and initial impressions are good.
I have a Ranger 12 that’s definitely larger. The headroom is really nice moving around the center part of the camper. Aliners in general are pretty well thought out. They’re also fairly easy to DIY on since there’s not much there. I’ve had mine for three years now and have quite enjoyed it. If the particular combination of hard walls and folding up are desired they’re quite good.