We retired our Outfitter teardrop (for sale to a good home) and got a Clipper Express just in time for Al’s birthday weekend at Lost Lake.

The Clipper is an interesting hybrid design: The front area, with the bed, is low: You can sit up on the edge of the bed, but don’t have a ton of headroom. The rear area has a galley (two-burner gas stove, sink, refrigerator, counter space) + a bench that converts to a small second bed. The back half of the roof is a popup on pistons: You unclip the hard top, give it a shove, and the tent-top deploys, so you’ve got standing room for cooking, changing, etc. and it feels a little less boxed in than a standard ham can.

At around 2100 pounds dry, it just fits in the 3500 pound towing limit of our Subaru Outback loaded. A sway bar and brake controller help.

Out of the factory, there’s plenty of cabinet and storage space, shelves, and a small wardrobe. It has a large-ish full mattress (maybe an “RV queen?") with room to put your feet on the floor on the side of the bed next to a small “bike door” you can use to get into the unit with the roof down.

We also had it outfitted with solar panels and a lithium battery. They provide enough capacity for odd device charging, lights, the water pump, and the heater blower. On pleasant, sunny September days among the pines, with the panels pointed southwest, I didn’t see the battery lose a bar. We do not usually do anything off the grid during November-March, preferring to go to state campgrounds with hookups near towns we can explore, so I think the setup we have will be good for everything but refrigeration. I’d like to look at upgrading the fridge to a 3-way that can run off propane, but that means adding another propane tank, so for now we’ve got the Yeti for off-grid trips like this past weekend.

This is the first of our three trailers that lets us leave it loaded with everything. The side door lets us toss in groceries and backpacks before we head out, and if we need to check supplies we can go in through that door and move around inside to go through the cabinets.

Doing an on-site speed-run, it took about ten minutes from hitting the site to getting the top popped, the on-site door put in place, and the stabilizers dropped.

So … we’re pretty excited.

We loved the Outfitter, but it was basically a queen bed on wheels. You could sit up in it, but not stand. Changing was hard, and there wasn’t room for much stuff in the trailer itself. On the weekends we ended up getting rained on we either had to take a long a hex tent or just hang out in that little box. The galley in the back was okay for prep but not ideal for cooking, especially if the weather was bad. If we took the hex tent along, it was something else to towel off and air out after every trip.

I think this will extend our camping season by two months in the late fall and early spring. It’s a small but tangible pleasure to put the kettle on and make our morning coffee without having to go outside. It’s nice to have room for two people to spread out a little inside. It’s nice having enough solar power to not have battery anxiety. For late fall/early winter trips out to the coast it’ll be a civilized basecamp for hanging around Manzanita, Astoria, or Newport. For spring and summer trips, wow do I wish we’d had this thing when we went to Priest Hole two years ago.

Oh, the weekend: It was pretty great! Ben came along for the whole trip. He’s headed back down to Eugene next weekend, so it was good to hang out and talk about the new school year and his new place. We got two little hikes in, one around the lake and one up to the butte that looks out on Mt. Hood. The campground wasn’t even full, so it was relatively quiet.

Two people standing in front of a new travel trailer. A teenage boy sitting on a rock, looking out over a valley to Mt. Hood. A travel trailer in the late afternoon light. Mt. Hood seen from across Lost Lake.