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Our Camping Evolution

White fiberglass Escape 21NE travel trailer behind a white Toyota Tundra pickup truck. A dog stands in front of the picture, on her leash.

From tents

We have been tent camping since we first started dating, 20+ years ago when we were young and foolish. To be fair, we were in the California Bay Area and camping was fairly mild there. Our excursions would frequent Big Sur, the Santa Cruz mountains, and the North Bay. The most fearsome creature we dealt with were raccoons and the occasional fox, and we might have some light showers throughout our stay.

When we moved to North Carolina, we were in for a surprise. On our first trip out with our young toddler, our tent flooded from one of the frequent summer downpours. Just when we had gotten everything dry, it rained again, and we discovered our inexpensive tent wasn’t going to cut it in North Carolina’s summer season. We invested in the REI Kingdom tent and lived happily ever… oh, my aching back!

We embraced the glamping life as we were then upping our camping game to account for our two young children, wanting more comfort as our bodies were aging (think cots, bathrooms, etc), and as our packing space became limited. We were never backpackers, and our camping gear kept growing. We didn’t want to have to take two vehicles on every camping trip to accommodate ourselves, our kids, and our dog. It was time to start looking into camper options.

To our Mini

Living in a suburb, we had some restrictions as to what we could store on our property. We needed something small, but also light as we were driving a 4Runner at the time. Our primary requirements were to have a camper that could sleep 4 comfortably, and store the bulk of our camping ‘necessities’ to make trips as self-sufficient as possible. We didn’t want to constantly have to pack or dig through supplies for our normal weekend getaways. We are very lucky to live by several local state parks and recreation areas, including several lakes where we could setup after work on a Friday, and be back on Sunday afternoon.

Having relocated from California over 10 years ago, I also wanted a bit more shelter from the summer storms that come through, as we would often just hunker down in our vehicle or under a pop-up shelter. We began the search for our perfect camper.

The biggest factors in our search were size (both for storage and how many people it could comfortably accommodate), weight, and cost. After a ton of research, ever-expanding spreadsheets documenting features, and diving into the internet rabbit hole of every type of small travel trailer we could scrounge up (nuCamp, LittleGuy, and so many more), we settled on the French Canadian company, Roulottes Prolite. The camper fit all of our requirements: it would fit within our garage (we had a slightly larger than average opening), it was lightweight and would easily be towable by our 4Runner, and it could sleep 4 by converting the dinette area into a bed for the kids.

After scouring the web and calling dealers, we lucked out and were able to have it delivered to us in the January 2020. We had some amazing adventures in our Prolite Mini, but we soon realized that we were ready to go to the next stage of campers…

To Puffins Escape

In our initial search of campers, my eye had been caught by fiberglass campers such as those by Scamp and Boler. I loved the look of these hardshell campers, and the durability that comes as a result of their manufacturing process: one to two pieces sealed together vs. stick-built which can have multiple panels and materials that may corrode over time. They were a little heavier than our current Mini, and often had a size to price ratio that was out of our budget. I started following Escape Trailers, also made in Canada, and joined several fiberglass camper pages on social media.

There are a handful of prominent players in the fiberglass trailer space: primarily Escape, Scamp, BigFoot, Oliver, Casita. Casita and Scamp were limited in sizing though their price was generally right, and BigFoot and Oliver were on the steeper end with less alignment to our ability to sleep 4 and also have a bathroom (a new requirement I decided we needed after some longer trips in our Mini). Escape offered multiple sizes and a vast amount of customization options. We bit the bullet and put our name into the queue.

We were lucky enough to have our production date bumped up from the initial 12 month estimate, and in November 2022, we picked up our Escape 21NE from one of their local delivery hubs. We had recently sold our Mini to some fellow camping friends, so we get to see her regularly when we’re camping with them. During the wait for our Escape, we planned our next big road trip adventure for the summer of 2023 with our good friends who also love to camp. Moving to the Escape, we did end up trading in our 4Runner for the new Toyota Tundra hybrid. The extended cab provided even more space for passengers (the kids) than the 4Runner offered, and we wouldn’t be encroaching on the tow limit for the Escape.

We put Puffin to the test this June with a 3 week cross-country road trip out west. We couldn’t be happier with our decision to upgrade for our longer trips alone, though I still leave the parking of the trailer to James.

If you haven’t already, check out our About page to learn more about us.

I’ll share more on the features of Puffin in the near future, but what other details would you like to know in future posts?

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