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The camper as bike trailer – is that even possible?

Aug 13, 2021

Camping is on trend. So is cycling. So if you want to stand out from the crowd, you combine the two. To be really on trend, you hook up a small caravan behind your bike and cycle off on holiday. It’s called bike camping, and it’s only been around in this format for a few years. Whether it offers greater comfort than a tent is in the eye of the beholder. But it’s definitely exciting.

“You always had plenty of people going past to chat to.” The camping trailer is not for holidaymakers looking for a bit of peace on their campsite. On that point, Ronja and Lennard are agreed. They tested out a mini-caravan for the bike for the German broadcaster WDR, and their assessment ranges from positive to having some reservations. But at least the appearance of their trailer didn’t put either of them off.

It’s only e-bikes that make bike camping possible

Bike campers or mini-caravans appear to be a new, fashionable niche product which has been attracting increasing attention recently. Several factors are playing a part in this: Many people are holidaying at home, getting on their bikes and discovering their immediate local area. But it is really the increased popularity of e-bikes that is making bike camping possible. That’s because the trailers are fairly heavy and bulky, a criticism also voiced by the test couple, Ronja and Lennard: Definitely not recommended for crossing the Alps! Shorter tours up to 40 km over flat country are the terrain for bike-campers. And it’s also worth bearing in mind that models like the innovative “Wide Path Camper” are 1.75 meters tall and act like a brake parachute, particularly when the wind is against you. And roots and uneven paths also demand a lot of skill from the rider.

What do bike campers cost?

When unfolded, the “Wide Path Camper” is very spacious and tall inside. It is nearly three meters long, and two adults can easily sit and eat at the small table inside. For sleeping, the table is folded up, creating a 90 x 200 cm bed. The “Wide Path Camper” is by the Danish inventor Thomas Møller Pedersen, it costs EUR 4,000 and is one of the bigger mini-caravans.

Wide Path Camper

Other models are more compact, but similarly expensive: The “Mody” is available in various finishes, from EUR 5,000. The “Mody Tourer” is for good road surfaces, and is probably best-suited to holidaying in Holland. “Mody Trekking” and “Mody Outdoor” are more rugged, and suitable for field and forest paths. Each of the three versions is also available in carbon-fiber, but at prices from EUR 7,000. No trifling sum, but then camping holidays could always be expensive.

Unlike its Danish competitor, the “Mody” would perform superbly in a wind-tunnel. It has a streamlined design and is teardrop-shaped. But bike-campers need to be supple: You crawl into it via a small side door, like entering a cave.

Mody

Luxury tent in a bike trailer

For maximum space and minimum wind resistance, the B-Turtle is probably the best choice. However, this Austrian invention is not a mini-caravan, but a tent in a bike-trailer box. The white aluminum box looks like a conventional luggage trailer, and can be attached to the back wheel using a coupling.  In just a few moves, the box turns into a luxury tent with a comfortable 130 x 200 cm sleeping area and a spacious canopy. The B-Turtle is wind- and water-resistant and is claimed to stand up to gusting winds. This reveals the advantage over bike-packing with a tent: More comfort, more space, and yet bike-riders aren’t over-encumbered.  But the B-Turtle isn’t cheap either: Prices start from EUR 3,000.

Mini-caravan in wood

If the bike campers shown here are too expensive, you can also “easily” build your own caravan for the bike yourself. That said, you will definitely need to be skilled with your hands and technically-minded. But the wide variety of options DIY-ers are posting on the internet shows that it is feasible. The most attractive and innovative example was built by the California-based artist Jay Nelson. His camper, named “Golden Gate”, was built using components from a bicycle, but it is powered by a small electric motor similar to those on e-bikes. Nelson’s vehicle looks as if he has stuck a wooden cocoon onto a cargo bike. On the inside, the camper reveals itself as a spatial miracle, with large windows letting in plenty of light.. Unfortunately, you can’t order the camper at Nelson’s web-shop. But it’s an exciting concept, all the same. So the suspicion is that there will be more new ideas for camping holidays in future. Much in line with the slogan: Anyone can go camping.

(Stage photo: © Wide Path Camper)

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