Questions and Answers About Tadpole Teardrop Trailers

A teardrop from TADPOLE TRAILERS INC.

Are you sick of feeling like you need to take out a loan every time you fill up the gas tank when camping with your travel trailer, 5th wheel, or Class A, B, or C motor home? Maybe it’s time to think about a more streamlined type of camper that is easy to tow, easy on gas mileage, has a distinctive shape, and has a storied history – the teardrop trailer.

Yes, a teardrop trailer does look like a teardrop, one that’s tipped on its side. Its origins are found in the last century. The first ones are said to have been built in the 1930’s but their popularity didn’t soar until after World War II when soldiers were home from the war and wanted to hook a camper up to the family vehicle and head out on vacation. tadpole trailer picture

Teardrops were a popular project for do-it-yourselfers who used leftover scrap materials from the war to build their teardrops, with jeep tires finding new life as the wheels and the plane wings from bombers leaving the skies and instead becoming the shiny metal exterior of teardrops.

By the 1960’s the popularity of teardrop trailers waned as people wanted larger RV’s, but they are now once again gaining in popularity with the advent of high gas prices and a desire by some people to camp in a more simple and earth friendly way. tadpole trailer picture

One company that is currently manufacturing teardrop trailers is Tadpole Trailers Inc. in Brighton, Ontario, Canada. They have been building teardrop trailers since 1998. Sylvia Doherty from Tadpole Trailers Inc., generously agreed to answer all my questions about Tadpole Trailers and supplied me with pictures so you can learn more about them too.

Here are the questions and Sylvia’s answers: What is a teardrop trailer? Basically it's a "Bed in a Box" that often, but not always, has a kitchen in the rear that you can tow behind a vehicle and have a place to sleep at the end of the day. The name of course was derived from the shape of the body.

What is a Tadpole Trailer? Is it a Teardrop Trailer? A Tadpole Trailer is a refinement of the original teardrop design. It is very hard to improve on a great design and the original teardrops certainly met all the needs of the day. We started with the same basic needs, a clean sheet of paper and sixty years of technological and materials advances that were not available back then and a decade of continuous improvements.

How did Tadpole Trailers get started? Where did the idea originate? Terry and I have been "camping nuts" for the last mmmm years (don't want to date ourselves). We did the "pup tent" thing before the kids came along, then the "circus tent" thing with the kids (and dog). We stuffed the Suburban and filled a cargo trailer, then we had a couple of years with a fully loaded 26 ft class C motorhome!

This is when we realized that we were campers not Rv’ers.

Campers spend enjoyable weeks in constant contact with the environment whatever it may be. Rv’ers turn up the AC when it gets too warm.

Campers sleep with the gentle fragrance of pine needles all around them, RV’ers sweep the concrete pad clean so as to avoid trailing all that dirt into the RV.

Campers sit by the crackling campfire and feel the heat on their faces while your butt is freezing. RV’ers adjust the satellite dish to see if they can get the next Packers game on HDTV.

Enough of that (draggin' the whole house around with us)! tadpole trailer picture

So we went back to tents and camping.... and started building various camping trailers, some with pop up kitchens. Being fortunate to own our own business that specialized in CNC machining, materials and prototype development we had the technology and ability to produce whatever we could dream up, each summer the trailers got more elaborate and sophisticated. We suddenly realised we were closing in on the RV thing again….OOOOOhhhhh Noooooooo!

Eventually the "Kids" became "Teens" and didn't want to camp with Mummy and Daddy anymore....so we were back to "us two!" The Suburban was getting too costly with the mileage we did every summer so we downsized to a Honda Civic which finally drove home the point that less is often better. Not having the huge space of the Suburban we could no longer "bring it just in case." The only remaining issue was sleeping on the ground....uh uh no can do no more!!! So Terry started building trailers with permanent beds in them. One by one the trailers got smaller and more lightweight as the beds got larger.

The next thing to go was the sleeping bags to be replaced with genuine pillows, sheets and a matching duvet. This step led to us standardising the bed sizes to match those of readily available bedding. When a trip is finished the sheets are stripped from the bed and thrown in the laundry and ready for the next trip all fresh and clean. Try that with a sleeping bag! I can’t even get the thing out of the washer when it's wet.

At the end of each summer we sold each trailer we produced to another dedicated camper. This allowed us to work unfettered on the next trailer for the next trip since we then had no "investment" to protect and we could design the next trailer with no compromises. Finally the smallest and lightest design... the round windows in the doors, the queen size bed, the ice box, the easiest to tow, the kitchen in the rear,…..then one day I looked at the trailers and it dawned upon me ………"Oh my god we’ve got a teardrop!’

The "downside" if there was one was that everybody loved the trailer and it allowed us to meet hundreds of great people all over the continent. To be truthful, we quite enjoyed the "celebrity" status at the campgrounds and the constant offers to buy the teardrops. These experiences had me thinking "here I am standing in a beautiful campsite on a beautiful beach wearing my favourite bathing suit drinking my favourite beverage explaining that we couldn’t sell them this trailer because it was the only one we had". Teeeeeerrrrrrrrrrrrrrryy! Let’s build some trailers!

Teardrop Trailers is a generic term and although our trailers look like the others we feel that we are offering a very different and distinctive product and that the name should reflect this. For weeks, we tried various names and hokey combinations but nothing really inspired us until one day we were having a coffee and looking at the trailer in the driveway. I commented on how the windows looked like a huge eyeball and Terry said if that was an eyeball then the body would have to be the head. It dawned on us then it looked like a giant tadpole and the deal was sealed. Tadpole Trailers Inc. was born.

Where are Tadpole Trailers available? We've been selling directly to campers at the campgrounds we’ve been to and through our Website www.tadpoletrailers.com. As of this Fall, we'll be expanding distribution in Ontario through RV dealers who belong to the Ontario Recreational Vehicle Dealers Association in Ontario.

We are also setting up a distributor/dealership in Massachusetts to cover the North Eastern United States in the coming months as well with more to come as interest grows. The thing that really surprised us is how far people will travel to see a Tadpole Trailer in person and this interest has compelled us to find a way of making more Tadpoles available for public scrutiny. The answer, we feel, lies in being present at the Winter RV shows and we promise we will be at as many as we can in the coming months. tadpole trailer picture

Is there more than one size/model of Tadpole Trailers? For 2008 we have had 3 sizes based on standard mattress sizes: Twin, Double and Queen (easy to find sheets) The length never changes, just the width.

For the 2009 Model year which begins production this October, we'll just be producing 2 sizes only. The twin size for singles and/or motorcycles and the queen size, luxuriously roomy for two! There just was no demand for the Double and customers who did order a Double said later that they wished that they had taken a Queen instead. We agree. tadpole trailer picture

What are the standard features? Standard mattress sizes; lockable headboard with storage and lockable upper storage for clothes and towels etc... 12V power with LED lighting- add the optional solar panel and you'll have more than enough power with the deep cycle battery and its charger!

A standard kitchen in the tailgate consists of three drawers, an ice box, one Tailgator awning to shield a door from bad weather (additional Tailgators add so much more living space); a door on each side, each with a large round window that opens and a roof vent. tadpole trailer picture I mentioned an ice box-this is the old fashioned style of refrigerator from the 1920’s before the advent of modern refrigeration. These devices work by placing the blocks of ice in the top half in a metal bin along with your beverage of choice, and the dry food goes in the lower half. The metal bin allows the cold to transfer to the bottom chamber where the food stays nice and dry away from contact with the ice and melted water, unlike a regular cooler where everything gets soggy as the ice melts. tadpole trailer picture

The circular window on the Tadpole looks distinctive. How does it work? Terry designed the windows to swivel around so they would be fully adjustable from fully open to fully closed. The best way to understand the concept is to look at a grated cheese container like what parmesan cheese comes in. One half is fixed in position and the other half pivots around a centerpoint. The circular shape allows the maximum amount of light and fresh air for the weight. Each window includes a full bug screen and is constructed from unbreakable and lightweight Lexan. This material was chosen because of the proximity of the windows to the road when travelling. Yes it may scratch and yes it may get yellow in a decade or so but you never have to worry about arriving at your dream campsite after working all year to find that the window has been shattered.

They work great, and with the roof vent there is ample ventilation. The "Taddy" is well insulated so we've never been cold and with the roof vent and windows it's sooooo comfortable to wake up in the morning (First Hand Experience)!

Are there optional features? There are a few optional features although "Taddy" is pretty complete to start with. While one Tailgator is included with every package, additional Tailgators really expand your living area (one over each door and one over the tailgate kitchen is great). tadpole trailer picture

A solar panel is great to maintain the charge in your battery We have run all the lights inside and outside plus a fan and the laptop and never run out of juice! The cord for the solar panel is a good length, but you can purchase an extension cord in case the sunspot is a bit further from where Taddy is parked. By using a camping chair we can chase the sun with the solar panel and keep the battery topped up.

The one option we push is the optional electric brakes. Taddy can be pulled easily by anything including a ten speed bicycle but the smaller the tow vehicle the more braking is an issue. Like the seat belts and airbags in your car, the trailer brakes are pretty much useless until something unexpected happens, then they can become a lifesaver.

And for the real "Car Nuts" like Terry we have a Retro Package that includes Cragar SS mag wheels with Ford Vicky style fenders, shipped in grey epoxy primer so the trailer can easily be painted to match your tow vehicle. Far away the coolest!

What if I want a kitchen in my Tadpole? Every Tadpole Trailer has a basic kitchen in the tailgate. It has a counter top with storage that has sliding doors for easy access to supplies and on top you can put all your spices and condiments etc... There are also 3 drawers below for pots and pans, dishes, cutlery, cloth pegs yada yada yada.... and also the "old fashioned" ice box as mentioned before! tadpole trailer picture

The Taddy does not come with any propane appliances due to the varying regulations from province to province and state to state, however, customers, if they wish, can go to their local RV dealer and have them installed. Oh and custom kitchens are do-able as well!

I don’t see an option for air conditioning in the Tadpole? Does the interior stay cool for sleeping in hot summer weather? tadpole trailer picture No we don't offer an option for A/C, as I said previously about the windows, they let in ample air along with the roof vent. With the R-10 insulation in the ceilings, walls and floor there is a long time delay in internal temperature changes when compared to the outside air. We recently had a string of calm hot August nights, and our 12V oscillating fan that we clip to the upper drawer and aim upwards kept us quite comfortable because the air flow follows the curvature of the ceiling and circulates beautifully without blasting directly on us. tadpole trailer picture

As the heat rises out the roof vent it draws in fresh cooler air. All this being said, if we were to camp often in a desert location like Death Valley this might be something we would consider adding but gratefully our climate is a little less severe.

What can you tell me about the construction process and materials used? The composite panels that make up the Tadpole are very similar to those used in aircraft and high performance boats. They are expensive to produce and machine but they offer such high strength to weight ratios that it is not realistically possible to make the Tadpole body any lighter without using this technology. All Taddy's composites are created by us in-house using advanced resin-moulding technologies and machined using CNC technology. These panels are not commercially available and we produce them only for our production needs. For this very reason DIY kits are not available and even if we did offer them the process of joining the parts together to make a completed trailer is beyond the scope of most "home builders".

tadpole trailer picture If everything on the Tadpole is high tech materials how come you still use a steel chassis? We used a steel chassis because it is simply the best material for this product and its end user. It is possible to bolt our Flexiride suspension units directly to the body of the Tadpole because the strength is there to do so. This is the advantage of using composites. Also it would be very easy to mount a simple steel tongue with a coupling onto the front of the body and call it done for the same reasons. These two changes would allow us to drop the trailer weight by almost another 100 lbs. with no change in functionality. tadpole trailer picture

We used a steel chassis because we are human. Anyone who has watched a Formula One race knows that as high tech as these cars are and as close to the pinnacle of being the ultimate in automotive technology, they are extremely unforgiving and fragile. Campers are human. We drive into places that no vehicle has a right to be. We back into trees. We drive through roads that can best be described as cattle trails and we park the trailer in a spot you would have trouble pitching a pup tent on. With a steel chassis you can sustain damage and still not destroy the entire vehicle and when you drag her home again there is something left to repair. We traded off bragging rights and a hundred pounds so that your Tadpole will live to be abused all over again.

What are the towing weights of each model? "Well , all Taddys can be towed by a 10 speed bike don't cha know...." Seriously though, all models are approximately in the 700 +/- lbs. The variation in weights comes from the creature comforts added and weight of the electric brakes option (Highly recommended). Most of this weight is close to the ground, which really helps stability when towing.

What is it like to tow a Tadpole Trailer? Well this all depends on how much towing you have done. The more towing you have done the more comfortable you will be. That being said; good trailer design can make towing an enjoyable experience and bad design can get you killed. A "drive to survive" is not the way to start your vacation because at the end of two weeks you have to get that beast back home again and that trip alone can ruin your whole vacation. There are certain rules of thumb everyone should keep in mind when considering any trailer and towing. They are: The longer the distance from the ball on the hitch of your vehicle to the centreline of your rear axles the more stable the trailer will be at highway speeds. This also makes backing up much easier. The larger the diameter of the wheels and tires on your trailer the more resistant they are to road defects and variations. The lower the center of gravity is in the trailers, the more stable the platform and more resistance to exterior disturbances like wind and drafts from passing Semi-Trailers. These reasons are why we designed and build our own chassis. Safety, Enjoyment, Safety, Enjoyment, Safety, Enjoyment, Safety, Enjoyment, Safety, Enjoyment. tadpole trailer picture

How much does towing the Tadpole affect gas mileage? At most I would say about 10% maximum decrease depending on the height of your vehicle. The higher your vehicle is, the more it diverts the wind over the trailer and the less the drag penalty is (better MPG). We tow our Taddy with a Hyundai Tiburon 2 seat sports car (not supposed to tow with it really but..…). On one average trip this summer we traveled 2000 KM (1200 Miles) and it cost us less than $180. in gas; which is about the same as we get without towing the Taddy! Sometimes we have to watch the speedo though……….Terry tends to forget the trailer is there sometimes and……..well ……you know the saying about boys and their toys.

How long does it take to get a Tadpole set up once I get to my campsite, and what about takedown once it’s time to head home or to the next campsite? I have a popup camper and hate the 60-90 minutes I have to spend on setup and takedown every time I use it. Set up doesn't exist! Let’s say you arrive late Friday evening in the dark and are really tired from working all day then driving hours to get to the campground. Provided you're on reasonably level ground, you don't even have to disconnect from your car! Just crawl inside and go to sleep! It's that easy! Now if you're going to be in the same site for a few days of course you would disconnect from your car and level Taddy using the jack (maybe 5 minutes at the most!!!) Then at your leisure you can set up your Tailgator or Tailgators which takes about 5 minutes each. That's it! I think it is awesome...... park it, open the rear hatch and break out the beer/wine/soda whatever; you're done That's it!

tadpole trailer picture Is there a warranty? There is a one year limited warranty against manufacturers defects. Sorry, but backing into a tree or post does not constitute a manufacturers defect. Don’t laugh, we had one customer claim that the tailgate just fell apart. Since Terry takes all this stuff very seriously he drove 20 hours to the customers home with a replacement tailgate and upon his arrival it was hard to tell who was most surprised, the customer or Terry.

He said the tree bark was most definitely from a pine tree and although he couldn’t be 100% sure he would be betting from the smell of the sap still stuck to the part that it was a yellow pine. I should say we do have spare parts readily available should they be needed and can be shipped overnight in most cases.

What type of maintenance does a Tadpole Trailer need? NONE - Tadpole Trailers are designed to spend 52 weeks of the year outside no matter what the weather. No seams, no exposed wood. Of course you could wash Taddy periodically if you wanted like you do with your car!

Are you in the planning stages for any new models or features? ALWAYS! The current Taddy has evolved over the last 5 years to arrive at its current state and as we camp, travel and learn the improvements are always incorporated into the next trailer on the line. In our travels with Taddy we take care to always listen to ideas and comments from the great people we meet and take them into consideration. New ideas are always welcome!

tadpole trailer picture Where can I see a Tadpole? As we said before we have plans to expand distribution and the best way to keep up to date is to check our Website at tadpoletrailers.com. The fact is often we don’t even have a new trailer that you can look at in Brighton; other than our own TaddyOne. Every Tadpole we produce has been to an order and as soon as the paint is dry the trailer is gone. The owners just can’t wait…… And we don’t blame them in the least. Next year we are hoping to have a get together of all the owners and if we can put it together we will announce it on our Website and anyone can come and check out a whole herd(?) of Tadpoles.

How can I find out more information about the Tadpole? Check out our website: www.tadpoletrailers.com for any and all information about Taddy.

Current prices are listing on the package pricing page on our website.

If you have specific questions you can go to "contact us" page on the website. We're always happy to answer any questions and meet new Tadpole ooops teardrop enthusiasts...(must be the Kleenex/ tissue slip of the tongue)! tadpole trailer picture

Thanks to Dorrie and CampingEarth for letting us tell you all about our Taddy!! Cheers... Sylvia & Terry Doherty Tadpole Trailers Inc. A Modern Teardrop For Modern Times

From Dorrie: I want to send a big thank you back to Sylvia and Terry Doherty for generously taking the time to answer all the questions I threw at them without blinking an eye (and you can tell I asked a lot of questions!), for their in-depth and candid answers, and for sharing the great pictures of the Taddys with us.

Happy Camping Everyone!

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