Living large in a tiny trailer

Tiny Trailer Main with Blur
The modern travel trailer has all the comforts of home in a micro package that is easy to set up and break down to move on. How fun is that? Very! Just ask John of Vancouver, B.C., who was camping at Pearrygin Lake State Park with his dog Penny.

April 6, 2017

There’s a little revolution going on.

Tiny is big in the modern mindset, and it’s finding its way into everything—from the way we eat, to the way we live—and even the way we recreate .

Tiny travel trailers, once fixtures of post-WWII American summers, are making a significant comeback. While larger motorhomes and fifth-wheel trailers are still popular with many a seasonal (or even full-time) nomad, the tiny life is attracting more and more new recruits.

Trailer couple blurr
Small trailers are a great fit for couples. Rick and Diana of Carnation, WA, like their "Little Guy" trailer— so light it can even "go where it's towed to" behind a motorcycle. They bring it to Pearrygin Lake State Park every year for a fishing vacation.

So why go small? Well first, there’s cost. Big RVs are neat too, and have all the comforts of home. But prudence may steer the tighter of budget toward a more compact, more fuel-efficient choice. Some folks in the glamping movement like to buy vintage or “retro” trailers for a song and restore them. Even new, a fully equipped teardrop-style travel trailer costs a fraction of what larger RVs do, not to mention the significant fuel-cost savings.

You’ll find lots of ways to roll. Small trailers come in hundreds of styles from pop-up tent trailers to micro trailers that serve as simply a bed and storage.  Some handy do-it-yourselfers are even making their own versions!

For many, the appeal also lies in the simplicity of it, say Valerie and Jessi, who are now living full-time and traveling across the country in a small teardrop-shaped trailer. Tired of an overly busy west-coast urban lifestyle, they gave up most of their worldly goods and started living and working from the road in a small, modern teardrop-style trailer. They also write a blog to share tips and tricks for living small and mobile.

“The tiny thing was a happy accident,” Valerie says. “But then all of a sudden we didn’t know if we could live any other way.”

“We actually realized we could feel wealthier with less stuff,” Jessi adds.

Weekend warriors and members of outdoor recreation clubs such as Sisters on the Fly, also love tiny trailers of all kinds. Easier to store and maintain than a large RV yet more comfortable for some than a tent, it’s a great all-season vacation in a ready-to-go package!

“Roughing it is fun, but it’s just so nice to be able to just pick up and go!” Jessi adds.

Their tiny trailer also is lockable and dry, and set up is super easy.

So what are the cons?

Well there is the slow going on long grades and…

“I hit my head. A lot,” Jessi jokes. “I have had to learn to do yoga just to keep from hitting the walls.”

The Basics
2017-04-05 Screenshot-Reservation page
You've got options! Plan your stay at a Washington State Park on our online reservations site. Use the tabs on the left to select your amenities you need, then choose from available (green) sites in the yellow map area to find your favorite campsite. Yes, it's just that easy!

Yes, small trailers are…well…small. Living in a compact environment requires some adjustment. That’s why your Washington state parks make such great destinations when planning your tiny trailer adventure. State parks have amenities and necessities suited to trailers of all ilks and beautiful, intriguing places to enjoy them in!

Trailer travel is easy from the portability standpoint but requires a little forethought to accommodate needs of the compact traveler.  Got your street-legal tiny trailer all hooked up?  All equipped with just the bare essentials for light travel? Here’s how to get the most out of traveling tiny  at state parks!

If you are not sure of your park pick, first choose a region from our online  reservations map. When you reach the “site requirements” section, select your equipment based on trailer size.  Note that the smaller the equipment and the fewer needs, the higher the selection of “green” or open sites will be.  However, if you need water, sewer and/or electrical hook ups, be sure to select those as well.  Clicking the green site spot on the map brings up that spot’s amenities in a handy stats box, which often includes a picture of the site. Neat, eh?

Other things to consider when you are making a reservation: proximity of the park to grocery stores, as smaller trailers naturally have smaller food storage. Pick a camp site close to bathrooms. A small teardrop may have a commode, but it rarely offers more than a basic (and cramped) experience. Don’t forget to bring quarters or buy shower tokens in parks that require them and money for your dump station fees, if you require that service.

Tiny Retro Trailer
Restoring and revamping classic or "retro" travel trailers also is gaining in popularity. Some trailer clubs even have major "meet-ups" and events at state parks, such as Riverside State Park. Photo by terrybone.

Looking for some great parks with all the right amenities for trailer life and some great adventures too? Here are just a few!

Sequim Bay State Park

At Sequim Bay you’ll find lovely, semi-wooded spots close to bathrooms and the bay at the park’s Hook-up Loop.  Flat and graveled, these ample sites are easy to get in and out of and include picnic tables, a fire pit and 50-amp electrical. Willing to forgo the utilities? The park’s Lower Loop has more sheltered sites that will accommodate a small trailer. Need supplies? Just a seven-minute ride up US 101 will get you into Sequim—it’s even on the bus route! Enjoy a restful stay by the quiet bay waters while you enjoy beachcombing, sports courts, hiking, interpretive opportunities and even clamming or crabbing!

Seaquest State Park

Seaquest sure is swell! A nice, old-fashioned camping park in the midst of classic Pacific Northwest fern-and-moss-covered forest. Like Sequim, Seaquest has spots galore for both the utility (in the T loop) and non-utility trailer denizen. Electrical is 30 amps. You’ll find lovely hikes and bike rides and fun for the kids at the park’s playground. Have dinner “out “at one of the kitchen shelters!  Supplies are just 12 minutes away in Castle Rock. Bonus: Seaquest is right across the road from the Mount  St. Helens Visitor’s Center! Take a short walk through the pedestrian tunnel wand discover the fascinating history of the 1980 eruption and 30-plus-year recovery of the land surrounding the volcano! Note: this is a POPULAR park. Reserve early!

Wenatchee Confluence State Park

Talk about convenience! Wenatchee Confluence offers not only great recreation and wonderful walks through the wetlands at the confluence of the Wenatchee and Columbia Rivers, but walking-distance access to the city’s historic downtown. Enjoy the wide-open lawns and access to ball courts and playground for kids. Take a stroll or a bike ride on the Apple Capitol Loop Trail. For camping, you’ll find ample sites, and they are generously sized with a restroom and shower in the center. Some of the sites are even pull-through—no difficult backing up. A convenient trailer dump station is located near the camp sites. Dump station fees will apply.

Potholes State Park

Don’t worry—the potholes are part of the fun! Make a trailer travel pilgrimage to Potholes State Park, and you won’t be sorry! This is an ideal park for RVs of any size! With 60 sites arranged in circles, access is easy. Electrical is 50 amps, so you’ll have no problem with power. Supplies are just a half-hour’s drive away in Royal City. This is a premier freshwater sports park. Bring a float or a kayak, and have some fun on the water—either fishing or just taking in the unique landscape carved by the Ice-Age Floods. If big blue skies, green lawns and water adventure are your bag, you can’t beat Potholes!

Retro Tiny Trailer 1956 brochure
      Everything old is new again. Trailers, like this one pictured in a 1956 Washington State Parks brochure, are back on the road again!

The tiny trailer lifestyle may well date back to whenever humankind figured out how to push, pull or drag their worldly belongings from place to place. From nomadic peoples using travois sleds to the elegant Romani vardo that roamed the British Isles in the 1800s, from Conestoga wagons to the modern motorhome, life on the road has attracted many a loyal follower.

The advent of the automobile sparked a revolution in the road-trip recreation lifestyle. Cars carrying canvas tents and creative homemade RVs cropped up at camps in the 1920s. Dubbed, “tin can tourists” they formed social groups and events, particularly in the American south.  By the 1930s and 1940s, small, stylish travel trailers appeared behind sedans leading the way to the heyday of trailer camping in the 1950s and 1960s.

While RV and motorhomes sizes grew steadily, small trailers dropped out of vogue for a while. But now they are back and cooler than ever!

Learn more and share!

Looking for a handy online site for all things RV-ing no matter what you tow? 
Washington RV Camping is your one-stop shop!

Do you have stories or photos from the road and the parks?
Tell us about your trailer travel stories and upload your stories here!