Over the past decade, caravans have been getting smaller, influenced by the increasing popularity of small engined cars and electric vehicles.
With fuel prices rising sharply, lots of people are forgoing the behemoth twin axle caravans of yesteryear in favour of compact, lightweight options that are easier on the wallet and far less hassle to maintain and store.
Teardrop campers & trailers are now more popular than ever, and for good reason. If you're willing to make slight compromises on the facilities available in your leisure vehicle, a teardrop could be an excellent choice for you - and save you a lot of money in the process.
Origins of the teardrop camper
The teardrop camper, like so many other leisure vehicles, can trace its humble origins to the garages of hobbyists. They first became popular in the 1930's, when DIY magazines in the USA (such as Mechanix Illustrated) published blueprints for their readers to work from.
They enjoyed considerable popularity until the mid 1960's, when they vanished in favour of early versions of the gargantuan RVs that dominate the US leisure vehicle industry today.
However, from the mid 1990's, DIY plans became available on the internet and sparked somewhat of a resurgence, though they still aren't considered mainstream across the pond.
It wasn't long before ambitious and forward thinking caravan manufacturers in the UK & EU adopted the teardrop, and they've since exploded in popularity to become one of the best-selling forms of small caravans available on the market.
The early versions of teardrop caravans consisted of standard 4x8 sheets of plywood, bolted together to form a shell. They've come a long way in the years since, with the classic 'teardrop shape' now synonymous with the name, but there are quite a few variations around.
The CUB teardrop camper
The CUB is a modern take on the teardrop camper, with a one-piece fibreglass shell that massively reduces the overall weight, compared to a traditional teardrop with separate panels. It's packed full of features despite its small size, and you'll be surprised to find that it has many of the accessories you would find in a traditional touring caravan.
Outside, there's an external kitchen typical of teardrop campers, complete with a sink, gas hob, fridge/freezer and lots of storage. The CUB includes an airbeam awning that can be positioned over the kitchen to provide cover from the elements, or over one of the side doors to create a 'porch area' for getting dressed.
In the cabin, there's a fixed double bed with memory foam mattress and a fully upholstered headboard - perfect for watching the stars through the full length panoramic window!
If stargazing isn't your thing or it's overcast outside, don't worry - there's a 19 inch smart TV mounted at the foot end of the cabin, pre-loaded with your favourite streaming apps!
There's also a Webasto diesel heating system to keep you cosy on colder nights, and a pair of LED reading lamps if you'd prefer to put your feet up and dive into your favourite novel instead.
No more compromising on comfort with teardrop campers - the CUB has it all.
Can I tow a teardrop camper?
One of the main benefits of teardrop campers, and a reason behind their meteoric rise in popularity in recent years, is that they have very low requirements for towing in comparison to caravans.
The vast majority weigh in at under 750kg, making them perfect for towing with small cars and electric vehicles. Their aerodynamic design reduces wind resistance and snaking, which any seasoned caravanner will have numerous horror stories of - from caravans upturning on the motorway to others decoupling in transit and potentially causing huge collisions.
The low overall weight also has another benefit in vastly reducing fuel consumption while towing, an often overlooked aspect when shopping for caravans but one that is now more important than ever with fuel costs rising at the fastest rate in recorded history.
So, how can you work out if your vehicle is suitable for towing a teardrop camper? Well, there's a couple of things you'll need to check first...
Braked Towing Allowance
The first thing to check is the braked towing allowance of your vehicle, referred to as the 'Technical permissible maximum towable mass of trailer' in your V5C document. You can find it on the first inside page, around two thirds of the way down.
You'll see two figures under the heading, braked and unbraked. The braked figure is the one we'll be looking at here, as the vast majority of teardrop campers are fully braked. The braked towing allowance figure must match or exceed the MTPLM* (Maximum Technically Permissible Laden Mass) rating of the teardrop camper.
You can also use an online tool to find the towing capacity of your vehicle, though you should always check the V5C to be sure.
The above button links to an external source - www.towingcapacity.co.uk - and Lion Caravans cannot verify or ensure the accuracy of data displayed on that website. Ensuring correct towing compliance is your responsibility.
* MTPLM, or Maximum Technically Permissible Laden Mass, is a figure set by the manufacturer of a caravan, camper or trailer that dictates the maximum permissible weight of a trailer when fully laden.
Tow bars & electrics
So you've checked your V5C document and confirmed that your braked towing allowance matches or exceeds the MTPLM of the teardrop. Now you'll need to make sure that there are tow bars available for your vehicle (if you haven't already had one fitted).
There are multiple aftermarket tow bars available for the majority of vehicles these days, but it can take a couple of years for options to appear for newer vehicles. It's worth having a shop around to make sure you're getting the best price, but if you're having trouble finding any tow bars for your vehicle, you should contact a dealer to ask if there are OEM options available.
When it comes to fitting, lots of our customers opt for mobile towbar fitters - they can charge considerably less than garages and fitters with fixed locations, as they have less overheads to cover - and they'll usually fit your towbar on your driveway, which is convenient.
50mm tow balls are standard in the UK and required to hitch to a CUB teardrop. You'll find there are a few different types of tow bars available for your vehicle - fixed flanged, fixed swan neck and detachable. Fixed tow bars are mounted to the chassis in one piece, swan neck tow bars can swing underneath the vehicle via a hinge, and detachable tow bars allow you to remove the entire tow ball. Each have their benefits, but you'll likely find fixed tow bars to be the cheapest and they're by far the most common.
You'll need to have 13-pin tow electrics fitted to ensure that your vehicles alternator is providing charge to the teardrops leisure battery while also powering the driving lights. 7-pin tow electrics will only power the driving lights, and you may require an adaptor.
Storing a teardrop camper
Being so compact, teardrop campers fit nicely in the typical UK garage with room to spare. This can save hundreds of £s in storage fees each year compared to traditional caravans, and also means that you can get away at a moments notice if the mood catches you!
Most garages in newly built houses are a standardised size these days, but there can be a lot of variation between garages in older houses and those that were built as an addition after the house itself. You should carefully measure your garage and check against the dimensions of the teardrop that you would like to store.
Maintenance of a teardrop camper
Teardrop campers typically require a lot less maintenance than a touring caravan, and even less still with a CUB teardrop. Its one-piece (monobloc) shell eliminates the risk of water ingress, as is so often an issue with traditional style caravans and teardrops built with separate panels, so you don't need to worry about annually resealing any seams.
Caravan workshops will likely be delighted to service your CUB, as they'll recognise that it requires a lot less work than they are used to! As with any leisure vehicle, the critical safety components will need to be checked and lubricated, the electrics tested and chassis integrity ensured.
We offer a free first-year service with the purchase of any new CUB teardrop, which will save you money that you can put towards another holiday!
The CUB teardrop camper is available now via www.lioncaravans.com. We'll be exhibiting at the Caravan, Camping & Motorhome show at the Birmingham NEC in February 2023.