Home » You Can Now Buy A Blacked-Out Bug-Themed Camper To Remind You Of The Eclipse For Years To Come

You Can Now Buy A Blacked-Out Bug-Themed Camper To Remind You Of The Eclipse For Years To Come

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If you somehow didn’t notice, America was quite obsessed with the solar eclipse that happened earlier this week. People took road trips to see the eclipse and the internet lit up with all sorts of photos. Eclipse madness is still going on too. Apparently, eight babies were born in a Chicago hospital in the path of totality. If you cannot get enough of the moon blocking the sun, Taxa, a maker of funky off-road habitat campers, has announced a limited edition version of its most popular trailer that’s inspired by the eclipse. The Taxa Mantis is an unforgettable and frankly weird trailer, and for the next five days, you can buy the Dark Sky Mantis, a special edition for those who love eclipses.

Taxa is one of the brands I have personal experience with. My first ever RV review was over two years ago when I slept in a Mantis Overland for almost a week during King of the Hammers. Matt Hardigree might get to experience a Taxa Mantis later this year, so we should take a look at what he could be sleeping in.

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There are perhaps countless trailer manufacturers with a focus on off-roading and overlanding. Taxa has been one of the more unique brands with NASA-inspired trailers with bug themes. The company also has unconventional solutions to common trailer parts, but we’ll get there in a moment.

Wait, NASA?

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Houston, Texas-based Taxa Outdoors is the invention of Garrett Finney, and he brought an impressive resume into the RV space. Before Taxa, Finney earned a BA and an MA in architecture from Yale University. In 1994, Finney also scored a Rome Prize in Architecture. Perhaps his biggest bullet point is a decade stint at NASA where he served as a senior architect for the Habitability Design Center. There, he had a hand in designing the habitats inside of the International Space Station with a goal of making living in the station easier.

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During Finney’s off time from NASA, he became a traveling design professor. He began exploring the idea of what a 21st-century National Park campground might look like and the RVs that would show up. Finney, like many Americans, wasn’t interested in the gargantuan houses on wheels that make up the majority of the RV industry.

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As someone who camps in a typical travel trailer can tell you, the typical camper doesn’t really connect you to nature so much as isolates you from it. Travel trailers and motorhomes entice you to stay inside with their large television screens, plush carpets, and better amenities than a studio apartment. On the other hand, a lot of people want something more substantial than the camping experience offered by a tent but still want to be connected to the outdoors.

Finney wanted to create a trailer that brought the outside inside while also correcting the faults of the RV industry. His campers wouldn’t be outrageously heavy beasts that fall apart and rust on the dealership floor.

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Finney started his adventure by pitching his ideas to Airstream, the historic provider of astronaut vehicles for NASA. Reportedly, the RV manufacturer was not interested. Frustrated, Finney started designing what would become known as the Cricket (above).

Trailers from Taxa Outdoors stand out in a few ways. The trailers have otherworldly, insect-inspired themes, and true to his word, Finney’s Taxa trailers are built to take a greater beating than the typical trailer. This means aluminum composite panels for walls and aluminum or steel structural skeletons. Taxa trailers aren’t conventionally pretty the way an Airstream is, but you shouldn’t run into a wall splitting in half due to water damage.

Today, Taxa Outdoors announced that it was acquired by adventure van builder Storyteller Overland. Taxa joins forces with Storyteller Overland and Global Expedition Vehicles to create a large lineup of various adventure campers. The companies expect to share each other’s strengths, including Taxa’s engineering and Storyteller’s sales and service network. In the past, owners complained about sometimes poor customer service from Taxa, so this may further improve on that.

The Mantis

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Taxa Outdoors sells trailers from as small as the Wooly Bear, which is an off-road utility trailer with a roof tent, to the 15-foot Cricket, the compact off-road trailer that easily fits in an American garage.

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Taxa Outdoors says its most popular trailer is the Mantis, a 19-foot trailer that weighs 3,115 pounds and also stores in a garage so long as the garage is long enough. The Mantis starts life as a powder-coated steel frame. A steel skeleton is built on top of that and Kynar-painted aluminum composite panels make up the walls.

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Kynar is a resin-based coating advertised as being able to withstand the kinds of torture an off-road trailer would face. Along with sunlight and UV exposure resistance, the coating offers some resistance to fire and some resistance to abrasion. That’s bonded to an aluminum alloy with a two-pound closed-cell foam core. This adds both insulation and strength while keeping weight down.

The Mantis comes in two versions. The Standard Mantis has a torsion axle and 15-inch alloy wheels with all-terrain tires. You also get a standard ball hitch. The upgraded Mantis build is the Mantis Overland, and you get a Timbren axle-less suspension and 16-inch wheels with all-terrain tires. The Timbren suspension is built around a pivot arm and uses rubber for compression and rebound. A Mantis Overland weighs 3,486 pounds dry while measuring 19 feet long, 7 feet tall, and 7 feet, 6 inches wide.

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Mercedes Streeter

In addition to the fancy suspension, the tongue changes from the standard ball to a Lock ‘N’ Roll hitch, which allows rotation of 360 degrees on three axes. The Mantis’ tongue moves on a vertical axis and the rest of the movement comes from the special hitch that you slide into the tow vehicle.

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Inside, you begin to understand Finney’s original mission to make a trailer that brought the outdoors in. There isn’t a bit of luxury in there. Your countertops are Wilsonart high-pressure laminate and your floor is a 1-inch plywood deck with HDPE laminate. Storage? You’ll be putting your stuff into plastic milk crates secured with bungee cords.

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Intuitive Storage Systems

As I noted before, I got to test one of these trailers for almost a week and had an unforgettable experience. I loved the fact that Taxa trailers are function over form. The trailer has lots of LED lighting all over and all of it is exposed. If you need to replace something, you don’t need to become an RV mechanic, but just take a piece apart right where you sit. In a Taxa Mantis, what you see is literally what you get. For example, the 110V 8,000 BTU air-conditioner is an off-the-shelf window unit shoved into a frame behind a panel that can be opened. Should it ever fail, you could just replace it with another window unit.

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During my time with the Mantis, I felt as if most repairs could be done by a DIYer with basic tools. You feel powerful when you can repair your own RV. Taxa has made slight interior changes since I last tested a Mantis:

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Other equipment includes a Truma Combi Eco Furnace & Water Heater System, a sink, a two-burner stove, and a pop-up roof featuring a tent made out of recycled polyester. There’s also a wet bath featuring a shower and a cassette toilet. It’s right next to the stove, so you could make breakfast while on the throne. While we’re on that subject, you get 20 gallons for fresh water, 22 gallons for grey water, and that toilet has its own tank.

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In terms of power, the Mantis has space for a pair of group 24 batteries or equivalents. There’s also a port for solar power. A Victron 75/15 SmartSolar Bluetooth Charge Controller handles those functions.

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To me, the Mantis has a party trick and it isn’t its minimalist exterior. The trailer has six acrylic windows and a giant hatch in the rear. These windows swing out wide, as does the hatch. When you have the trailer exploded open, it really does feel like you’re a part of the outdoors, but with your own habitat. The 7’10” of max headroom with the roof popped open is great, too. From my review in 2022:

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Mercedes Streeter

The Taxa Mantis Overland is $49,950, which shocked some when I first wrote about it and will likely to continue to shock people here, too. I mean, for halfway to six figures, you get to throw your gear into milk crates and slam your head into a door frame. For the same price you could buy a 40-foot travel trailer that has three slides and looks nicer than many houses do. That same price gives you something that could actually work as a house.

However, the Mantis gives you an experience that those campers can’t: the ability to remain connected to nature. A 40-foot, 9,000-pound travel trailer is like taking a Sheraton hotel with you. Meanwhile, a Mantis is for someone who hates tents but still wants to enjoy the outdoor experience offered by a tent. The Mantis Overland is rolling proof that you don’t need recliners, televisions and big outdoor entertainment modules to have fun camping. All you need is some air, yourself and time to relax.

The icing on the cake is that this trailer isn’t just durable, but I believe that just about anyone could work on it. Campers are sometimes like boats, where the best days of ownership are the days that you bought them and the days that you sold them. My parents are experiencing this right now as a luan wall failure has caused a massive leak, itself causing horrible floor damage. The damage is bad enough that the repairs will cost nearly the value of the trailer. Taxa’s bare bones simplicity should mean that the owner of a Mantis spends more time making memories and less time making repairs.

As of writing, a standard Mantis will run you $45,750, or $48,400 if you want the Mantis Overland with its axle-less suspension, 360-degree hitch, and 14 inches of ground clearance. As you see above, that’s ever so slightly cheaper than the trailer I tested over two years ago. The Mantis also sleeps up to four, but I’d say it’s best as a nice couple’s space.

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For the next five days, you can get your Mantis Overland in a blacked-out limited edition trim (above) inspired by the eclipse. The Dark Sky Mantis is the same Mantis Overland I got to play with, but now with a black wrap, limited edition graphics, and black wheels. Taxa doesn’t say what this costs, but you have until April 15 to place an order. After that, the Mantis reverts back to its aluminum look.

Still, some people may feel that’s too much coin, especially for a trailer where your storage solution is a bunch of milk crates secured with bungee cords. I have written about other trailers that give you more for less. Hopefully, as Taxa grows, we might see lower prices. With that said, the people who do buy these trailers seem to love them and they don’t look like anything else you can sleep in.

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Stay tuned because you may see a Taxa Outdoors trailer review from Matt Hardigree this summer.

[Ed note: Would you rather read a review of a Mantis or a Wooly Bear? I was originally thinking a Mantis or a Cricket, but I do like the idea of something smaller and easier to tow. – MH]

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(Images: Taxa Outdoors)

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MiniDave
MiniDave
2 months ago

I would rather have a 70’s shorty van, a double mattress in the back, add in the rest of what you need and hit the road. That way you’re not towing anything, and if you open the sliding side door, you’re in nature as much as you want. Plus it’ll fit in your garage, and your HOA can’t say anything about it when it’s parked in your driveway.

Bring back the 70’s!!!!

Last edited 2 months ago by MiniDave
James Walker
James Walker
2 months ago

Love these trailers. More interested in the wooly bear review from Matt. I’m too cheap to consider purchasing a Mantis, but I might be able to convince myself to take up a garage space with the WB.

Manwich Sandwich
Manwich Sandwich
2 months ago

They should put this picture somewhere on the black one…
https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/3/3b/Dark_Side_of_the_Moon.png

Greensoul
Greensoul
2 months ago

Interesting. This rig would be miserable in the full sun exposure. That dark body will absorb the suns rays and heat like crazy. Hope it’s available with a 30,000 btu a/c unit!

Pointy Deity
Pointy Deity
2 months ago
Reply to  Greensoul

That was my first thought seeing this. Wouldn’t it be extremely hot?

Austin Vail
Austin Vail
2 months ago

Why do I feel like the only appropriate tow vehicle for this is an Aston Martin Lagonda?

TheDrunkenWrench
TheDrunkenWrench
2 months ago
Reply to  Austin Vail

I see your Aston and raise you a Rambo Lambo. The LM002 would match it perfectly.

Austin Vail
Austin Vail
2 months ago

I’ll allow it. Mostly because I want to see an LM002 used as a camping rig. Or used at all really.

First Last
First Last
2 months ago

This is a cool looking camper I hadn’t seen before. I kind of want to check one out! That said, if you want a genuine outdoors experience with the comforts of a camper, I don’t understand the advantage of something like this over a traditional pop-up, especially if you have to pop this thing up anyway to stand up in it.

Since the beds in a traditional pop-up slide all the way out, you get all that useful floor space back, and the experience of sleeping on a big queen bed extended out, unzipped on all sides if you want, is as close to sleeping in nature as you’re going to get. Plus it takes up less space in your garage, is easier to tow, and a really nice one costs a lot less than this. I have yet to see a trailer that improves on the OG tent trailer formula.

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