Lately, I’ve been looking at the campers that you can buy without dragging a bank to the dealership with you. Massive million-dollar Class A buses are great, sure, but there are lots of Americans who can only dream of owning rigs like those. So, let’s take a look at another camper that’s lightweight and shouldn’t make you broke.
This is the Coachmen Clipper Express 9.0TD, a tiny 1,418-pound camper that sells for around $14,000 and thanks to its partial pop-up tent, offers a little bit of standing room.
The last inexpensive camper we looked at was the Coleman Rubicon 1200RK, a little trailer that has an MSRP of $19,062 but sells for around $15,000. That camper offered a punch for less than the price of a Nissan Versa. It has a roof capable of carrying bicycles or canoes, a camp kitchen hanging off of the back, and a full hard-sided body with heat and air-conditioning coming standard. The 13 feet, 5 inches long, 7 feet tall, and 1,682-pound camper fits in many garages and could be towed by a wide variety of vehicles. However, its compact size means no standing room.
If hard walls aren’t as important to you, or you want to shave off a couple of hundred pounds, the folks at Coachmen have an attractive offering that’s even cheaper. The Coachmen Clipper Express 9.0TD can be had for just $14,000 or less. It weighs less, too, and you can stand up in a portion of it.
The Coachmen Clipper Express 9.0TD
Something fantastic about the Florida RV SuperShow is that all of the major brands are all in one place. When I went to Indiana last year for the RV Open House, I wasn’t able to get access to Forest River, which had its display offsite. Such a limitation wasn’t a thing in Florida, so I got to see campers that I’d never seen before.
Coachmen is a brand under the Forest River corporate umbrella and it has a long history of building affordable trailers and motorhomes.
Coachmen applies the Clipper name to a line of hard-sided travel trailers and to its line of pop-up tent campers. The company says that a primary feature of a Clipper tent-camper is the ease of setup. Meanwhile, the hard-sided travel trailers are meant to be an upgrade out of a tent or tent camper. The Clipper Express is a hybrid, taking attributes from both the tent camper and the hard-sided travel trailer, then packaging it into something tiny.
Like the Coleman Rubicon 1200RK, the Coachmen Clipper Express 9.0TD is roughly the size of a small teardrop, but with a shape closer to that of a typical travel trailer. The portion of the roof that doesn’t move also has a rack for a bicycle or other gear. That’s pretty much where the similarities between the two end because the Clipper takes a different approach to the same formula.
Moving around the exterior, I do like this use of materials. While the Coleman Rubicon 1200RK had a metal plate up front to shrug off rocks and other road debris, the rest of it uses typical fiberglass siding. This camper has the same metal plate to deflect rocks, but the siding here is metal. Coachmen sees these campers doing some light off-roading and while they don’t have any real off-road protection, it seems that the metal siding should at least takes little scrapes and bumps slightly better than a typical trailer wall.
By the way, here’s what I mean by a lack of protection:
RV manufacturers have been outfitting their campers with knobby tires, lift kits, and pitching their trailers as being able to do some off-roading. Now, I see no reason why this couldn’t be taken down something like a fire road. Just don’t get too extreme because this isn’t really built to get dragged around.
Moving inside, the biggest differences between this and the Coleman camper are immediately apparent. Thanks to a pop-up tent portion of the roof, you get a small standing room. I wasn’t able to measure this opening, but it seems like more than enough room for a 6-foot-tall person to stand in there without having to crouch.
Located under the tent portion is a small galley kitchen. Interior goodies include a sink, a refrigerator/freezer unit, a furnace, dark ash cabinetry, a water heater, linoleum flooring, a laminate counter surface, and a 54-inch by 74-inch bed. An air-conditioner, cassette toilet, and outdoor grill are options. Given the countertop, it shouldn’t be hard to add in a camp stove. Other features include a Bluetooth stereo and a system to add tent rooms onto the camper.
The holding tank situation is a little weird. You get 16 gallons for fresh water, but no other tanks to put it in. Water either drains out of a fitting on a trailer and into the sewage connection at your campsite or into a gray tank that you add yourself.
I tried to get a shot of what the headroom is like using myself standing next to the bed as an example:
This camper is truly tiny. Its box is just 10.17-feet-long and it comes in at 13-long total. With the roof closed, it sits at a low 6 feet, 5 inches tall, and unloaded, it’s just 1,418 pounds. That makes it even more compact than the Coleman camper.
If you want a little more space, Coachmen does sell the Clipper 12.0TD, which adds two more feet of interior room, a two-burner stove, and the option for a wet bath.
As far as interior quality goes, the Coachmen Clipper Express 9.0TD doesn’t feel quite on the level as the Coleman Rubicon 1200RK. It doesn’t feel like it’s going to fall apart on the drive home, but it does feel like the cheapest possible materials were used for everything, which is disappointing.
Then again, I’ve done some searching and you can get one of these with the very few options offered for just $14,000. Some dealers are selling them for close to the $12,000 mark. The larger 12.0TD can be found for between $17,000 and $20,000. That is some aggressive pricing for the smaller one. You can’t even get a new Scamp fiberglass camper for that.
I can see the Coachmen Clipper Express 9.0TD being a fine camper for a DIYer or perhaps someone towing with a smaller vehicle. Tow it behind your Subaru and hit up some fire roads before sawing some logs in the bed of this camper.
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Well i did ask for cheap so i shouldnt complain, but 15 grand for this??Are there any motorhome related products that arent overpriced?
Making your own seems to be the only sane option these days. Or do a tiny home on wheels -again DIY because those are somewhat overpriced too
I saw this same trailer last year. My thoughts exactly. $15k for something not much larger than the footprint of plywood. Incredibly spartan and meh materials. And it doesn’t even include A/C!
What a world where a cheaply-built (no gray tank, really?) $14k popup is considered affordable. I wonder how much trouble this is going to cause at campgrounds since you are emphatically not supposed to dump gray water at your site (at least without a sewer hookup), but this basically encourages you to dump it on the ground.
I guess I’m going to have to recalibrate my RV price-o-meter. Even early in the pandemic when everyone and their brother was buying trailers you could get a full travel trailer with a bathroom, kitchen, dinette, and bed for this (or less). Now it gets you a glorified popup teardrop.
I wonder if the RV industry is going to go through the same kind of correction that I hear the bike world is right now. Prices and availability were astronomically bad for a few years, but now that everyone who wanted a bike has already bought one suddenly there’s no demand for an absurdly expensive bike and companies are stuck with inventory they can’t sell.
I think it’s not just a function of us old farts getting old and seeing just how little a dollar will buy anymore, but also the fact that you, Mercedes, grew up in a family where big-ass RV camping was a priority for the family finances, so yeah, compared to a low-six-figure semi-luxury RV, this one at least dips back within telescope view of affordability. But David’s idea of “dirt cheap” sure seems like a more realistic version of “dirt cheap.” If inflation means that vehicles cost twice what they did thirty years ago, I’ll buy that idea. The only new vehicle I ever bought was a 1994 base-model Hilux, bought from Toyota of El Cajon in October 1994, one week before the new ’95 Tacomas came out. They were unloading their ’94 base-model trucks and Tercels for a mere $7500. (Mine was $7650 because of the metallic blue paint.) So yeah, thirty years later if it sold for $15K, it would still be a realistically-priced Screaming Deal. But if I were spending $7500 on a travel trailer in 1994, I feel pretty confident that it would have been substantially larger and possibly better-equipped than this. Or maybe not, I wasn’t in the market back then. At any rate, I also don’t have the means to buy and keep (or insure) over two dozen vehicles, and I’m kinda mad at myself because even though I’ve been working on high-profile TV shows for over twenty-five years now, I still have no idea how so many millions of people can afford $60,000+ pickup trucks as a matter of course like it ain’t no thing, let alone $200,000 motor homes.
I bought a used 2021 version of the larger size last year. Its great for my family of 3 plus 2 dogs. I pull it with my 2015 Sienna without trouble. Its a lot easier to setup than a pop up, but you do lose interior space. The larger version comes with screen room that attached off the back to extend the ‘living’ space.
I agree that the materials are cheap, but everything is simple, so there isn’t much to go wrong with it.
I really appreciate this series. Lots of interesting trailers I didn’t know about. I especially appreciate the emphasis on the under 6,000 pound group, that’s what most big SUVs can tow and it seems like only bigger trailers get love elsewhere.
It’s not for everyone, but if you are handy and can do a good inspection, there are so many nice vintage trailers out there for these prices. They will weigh about the same, but you will be the envy of the campground and probably just as comfortable. There’s ways to add AC using the portable indoor units, but other than that you are getting nearly all the same amenities in a much cuter package. These don’t depreciate if you take care of them too. Check out the classifieds at Tin Can Tourists. For example…
Okay, for some non-jocular thoughts.
This looks like a brilliant basic design. Both functional and highly efficient. Fuels costs cannot be easily dismissed these days, so any way you can cheat the wind with a lower profile pays off handsomely for longer trips.
If build quality is at least serviceable, then the prices seem eminently reasonable and quite competitive.
(Sorry, I’m having a tough day and just couldn’t resist – it’s actually a quite reasonable price).
Last I checked even the best dirt didn’t cost $14,000.
I don’t understand the draw of a tent on wheels.
Why not just get a good tent?
I have a very nice canvas tent with awning that I (6’3”) can stand straight up in. It cost about $600, fits in a large duffel bag in my trunk and can accommodate many more creatures comforts than this thing.
I understand it’s not marketed to people like myself who like to save money and storage space, but I don’t understand who it’s for.
Last time I went group camping some friends came along in their Sprinter and a Westfalia.
Guess who got the best spot closest to the beach and camp fire? The tent.
Guess were we all escaped a nasty downpour to play cards? The tent.
Guess who’s camping gear all fits in a tiny closet? This guy’s.
Just throwing it out there in case anyone is actually seeking car camping comfort at actual bargain prices.
Get a good canvas tent.
I desert camp and sometimes you get insane winds at night. Tents are unbearable to sleep in. With this you could put the tent part down and sleep. Also less noise if you get close to someone blasting music – I drove way into the mojave and a bunch of loud idiots setup right next to me and started blasting pop country in the middle of the night because I was sitting on their GPS meetup point. I confronted them and got them to shut it off but it pissed me off.
I can see how a tent would suck in those conditions. One year up in Boundary Waters (Northeast Minnesota), we got hit with a 5″ thunderstorm through an entire late-September night. I have a very compact Columbia that has a full fly, and it survived the storm with zero leaks, while my companions in lesser tents were miserable.
We were the only group left out on the lakes. When we canoed back to the pickup point, the outfitter staff told us they had a pool going as to whether we would make the rendezvous or would have to be rescued/recovered.
In the era of middle class people buying $80,000 SUVs on 96-month loans and taking out 30-year mortgages on poorly built trailers that cost as much as a house (and have as much square footage as one, with the slide-outs extended), I know we’re all supposed to see being up to the eyeballs in debt all the time as perfectly normal and commendable – but, its nice to see someone out there taking a stand for sanity.
Now, we just need someone to hit the market with an $11,000 hatchback
All your tax dollars, I mean PPP “loans” got turned into side-by-sides, diesel trucks and 5th-wheels.
I figure most of it ended up buffering the stock positions of CEOs, but yeah the small fish definitely bought them some toys
I’m an infrequent tent camper, but calling a $14,000 trailer dirt cheap is shocking to me. I get that I may not be the target audience, but this helps explain why the “kids” are doing the van life routine if “cheap” trailers are this expensive.
Van life is generally at least as expensive, if not moreso. Buying and converting a van is not a cheap proposition.
As for price of this thing? No idea how old you are, but $14,000 in December 2022 dollars (the first 2023 reports haven’t come out yet) was worth about half that in 1995.
Kei cars, yes!
Kei trailers, no!
I’m in the same boat. I think I’m $1500 into my setup, camp is up and running in 15-20 minutes, and it all fits in the back of my Yukon, with space for two dogs. Everybody I camp with has issues with their trailers on every single trip and they just seem like so much pain for the dollar. I’ll stick with tents.
No offense but this is isn’t a cheap, lightweight, or “tiny” camper. Best case this is only 600lbs lighter than a new Mitsubishi Mirage.
Since someone would be sleeping sideways in this trailer there’s no need for it to have a 10.17ft long box. I guarantee if you put one of your smart cars next to the trailer it would look massive, because this trailer isn’t “tiny”.
There’s only really 1 thing this camper and campers like it actually do: Act as a bedroom. Literally all you need is room for your bed. If it had a toilet and shower I could understand having all that extra space but even then a shower and toilet doesn’t take up much space, especially if it’s a wet “bath” setup.
For a trailer that only needs to haul around a bed for the most part it is overweight and oversized, both are something you don’t want for a trailer designed to be pulled by the lowest powered tow rated vehicles on the market.
It’s tiny compared to the vast majority of towables sold in this country. 13 feet tongue to rear bumper is roughly as small as you’ll see without getting a motorcycle camper. And at under five feet longer than my Smarts, I’m not so sure I’d agree about it looking massive next to one. My taller U-Haul certainly doesn’t look huge next to a Smart. But I apologize if “tiny” was misleading in some way.
The kind of camper you speak of does exist. It’s called the Little Guy MyPod. It weighs just 760 pounds, is about 11 feet long from tongue to rear door, and its interior just a bed, television, a power outlet, and an air-conditioner. The extra length is for a little bit of storage and the tongue. Sadly, the compact size doesn’t mean less money, as a new MyPod runs about $15,000. So, less space for more money.
That I agree with but that’s the same logic people use to call the Ford Maverick compact and small when in reality it is neither, it’s just less fat than the other fat pickups on the market today, but it’s still a fat pickup.
You have nothing to apologize for, I’m a sour old coot in a young-ish body who is nostalgic about vehicles that are older than I am. If this site was nothing but talking about how automakers and trailer companies won’t do X while you would have a lot of content it would get pretty boring after a while, so keep on keeping on!
I appreciate the Trailer recommendation, most of the properly tiny new campers one can find for cars are made in Europe and so it’s quite refreshing to see one made in the US that appears to be high quality.
Honestly I think the extreme lower end the lower your tow rating is the more expensive your trailer will be because it needs to be lightweight, compact, AND aerodynamic to make up for the lack of horsepower and torque, though smaller cars with e-CVTs can compensate for that quite a bit.
I saw an old S10 next to a newish Ram the other day. Christ.
The new “compact” Ford Maverick pickup with 5 seats and a 54″ bed is 6.6 inches longer and 5.9 inches wider than my 1994 Toyota Pickup that also seats 5 BUT IT HAS A 75″ BED AS WELL!
I’ve never driven my Toyota and felt like it was “compact” or small, it just felt reasonably sized, and that I wouldn’t want to be in anything larger than it.
I’m 6’3″ and routinely find myself staring at the door badge of a truck while traversing the parking lot. Just, like, no.
I dont see these tiny telephone booths working for me. But i am sure they work for many. But consider 4 campers going on a trip. It rains or you are eating or sleeping? I bet 4 people are too much. Considering a good used horse trailer built for 6 1,000 pound animals. Built tough easy wiring, plumbing, furnishing for 10 grand all in.
Never thought of that an it seems brilliant. Now down oh yet another inter web rabbit hole