Teardrop Camping — RVing at its Most Basic

Just how rugged can a camper be, but still be considered as a Recreational Vehicle? For decades now, many people think of teardrop trailers as RVs, even if they contain simple accommodations. Along with fold-down tent trailers, a teardrop is the means by which many campers make the jump from a tent to the RV world.

The new Freelance trailer is an updated version of the teardrop that may prove useful for outdoor enthusiasts looking for a rig with very special features relating to their activity interests.

The Freelance 15D, which the company calls an Outdoor Support Vehicle (OSV), is built by the True North division of Northwood Manufacturing Incorporated (http://truenorth.me). Northwood has built outdoorsmen-friendly RVs for decades and that tradition has carried through to the Freelance.

True North is closely tied in to Thule, manufacturer of all manner of racks, pods, carriers and other accessories that are useful to RVers and outdoorsmen. As such, the Freelance is equipped with a variety of Thule components and has an extensive laundry list of extra available features, some of which are packaged in option groups that can be customized to suit the buyers’ needs.

In effect, the Freelance is a teardrop on steroids. Up front, accessed by two doors, it has a single open room with a sofa that converts to a bed. The floor includes recessed tie down rings, some elastic cargo pouch nets are appropriately positioned, a stereo is built into the aft wall and a few small storage cubbyholes are placed near the bed. That’s it for livability features. You need to bring your own portable heater, porta-potty and any other amenities.

An exterior hatch in the angled rear roof opens to reveal a kitchenette with a two-burner propane stove, a sink with hand-operated water pump, and a bit of clear counter area. A 10-gallon tank supplies fresh water, but you need to use your own pail, optional grey water bucket or other container to catch the grey water via a garden-hose exterior coupling.
A lower-rear-wall hatch covers a slide-out storage tray and another smaller such tray is in a right-side compartment. There’s also a cross-trailer storage compartment that can hold fishing poles and other long items.

Our test unit weighed 2,060 pounds loaded down with factory-supplied options and no personal cargo or fluids. Its hitch weighed 440 pounds. Given the far-aft location of its axle, most cargo you add to the trailer will be forward, adding hitch weight, so you’ll need to pay attention to your tow rig’s hitch weight ratings if you really pile it on the Freelance.

We towed the trailer with a Toyota Tacoma Access Cab 4WD with the manual transmission and 4.0-L V-6 engine. The truck had more than enough tow rating for the Freelance and it did a great job on the flat, in the hills, pretty much everywhere. The 6-speed transmission ensured we always had the right gear available for the situation.

Standard-equipment Thule attachment points are ready to support the optional four-bar roof rack and other features like the removable side-mounted Thule exterior table that’s nicely protected by the optional Thule rack-mounted awning. In simplest form the trailer ($9,900) includes the Base Camp components, and that hardware can be augmented with the Ascent Pack ($1,475) or the Summit Pack ($3,050). Details about these packages can be found on the manufacturer’s web site.

If you have an interest in surfing, sail boarding, kayaking, skiing, bicycling, rock climbing, then chances are good Thule has a component to help store and transport your gear, and the Freelance trailer can accommodate that equipment.
Self-containment is one measure of what constitutes an RV, but as the Freelance has the requisite stove, sink, sleeping quarters and such, it’s also an RV.
It’s clear the Freelance is meant to be lived around, much as is a tent, but this rig is a great leap up from a tent.

We prefer outdoor cooking so working with a tripod over the fire, the portable exterior table, an ice chest and the kitchenette were second nature to us. Irregular rainfall made kitchenette use a bit iffy, but we could have set up the 10 x 10-foot Easy-Up galley shade for weather protection.

The lack of indoor RV appointments didn’t bug us. We ate in clean-air comfort and hung out by the fire after dark. By day we explored the local area, including historic Fort Stevens State Park near Astoria, Ore., and at bedtime the Freelance was cozy and comfortable. The foam pad bed cushion was surprisingly cushy and we slept well. Is the Freelance 15D a real RV? It sure felt that way to us. — Jeff Johnston, (7/10/2010)

Photos: The Freelance 15D Outdoor Support Vehicle can be towed by many smaller family vehicles like this Toyota Tacoma pickup. The Freelance is designed to be lived “around” and that suited us just fine. Its facilities, such as small kitchenette, provided food and hardware storage and the awning was convenient when the drizzly rain set in.
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