By Janet Wight
Like many other prototypes, the first Vistabule Teardrop Trailer was built in a garage.
Founder and owner Bert Taylor always admired campers with a vintage flair. With the help of his brother Dave, Bert combined his skills in doing interior design and furniture making and attempted to develop a better trailer design in the garage of his Lake Harriet home, according to Vistabule Chief Administrative Officer Lily Taylor.
The first Vistabule trailer was built in 2011.
Formerly based in northeast Minneapolis, Vistabule is now located in the back of the Prior Works building on Prior Avenue. For the past seven years its custom-built trailers have been assembled in this spacious, sun-drenched manufacturing facility, currently at a rate of about 12 per month, with a staff of 15.
Vistabule trailers are celebrated in the camping community for having several unusual features, Taylor explained. Each camper includes a futon that can be used either as a comfortable lounge or as a bed. A spacious rear outdoor kitchen features several options including a two-burner propane cooktop and room for a cooler or portable refrigerator. Although similar trailers have few windows, Vistabules have six including a large one in front, she added.
All of the handcrafted wood pieces are cut in Scandia at Great River Woodworking. Many of these pieces are curved and all of the edges are sanded, which makes these trailers a favorite of carpenters and engineers, Taylor said.
The base price for each Teardrop trailer is $23,995 and increases depending on whatever other options are chosen.
Although there is currently an 11-month wait for delivery, Vistabule recently hired a consultant to help the company determine how to reduce its lead time. Still, pandemic-induced supply chain issues continue to impact production, she added.
Weighing 1,600 pounds, these trailers can be towed by an SUV or minivan. The compact styling leads to a reduced carbon footprint; and the diminutive size of these trailers makes them attractive to city residents with small garages. Most of the components are made in America, although a few parts are imported from other countries including China and Australia.
Off-grid camping, also known as boondocking or dry camping, is definitely feasible with a Vistabule. With a 130-watt rooftop solar panel, the average camper can spend about four days without hookups.
Alternatively, these trailers are equipped with 15-amp service which can be used for shore power when staying overnight in a campground.
Empty nesters and young adults are Vistabule’s primary customers along with seasoned tent campers who have grown tired of sleeping on the ground, Taylor explained.
David Jahnke, a St. Anthony Park resident, said he has enjoyed his Vistabule trailer since buying it in 2018. He has taken it to the North Shore of Lake Superior multiple times, staying in both state parks and private campgrounds.
“The quality of the device is excellent,” David said. “Sleeping above ground, in a waterproof ‘tent’ that keeps you warm even in October nights on the North Shore, this is the way to go.”
A meet-up of 60 Vistabule owners was held earlier this year in Minnesota’s Whitewater State Park. Next year, more than 100 customers from near and far are expected to participate in a larger gathering at Itasca State Park, a sign of the tight-knit community enjoyed by Vistabule enthusiasts.
Vistabule is a family business that “wants to make people’s dreams come true,” Taylor said. Anyone interested in learning more about these unique, locally built campers can tour the St. Paul facility on weekdays with an advance reservation. For additional information or to request an appointment visit vistabule.com.
Janet Wight lives in Como Park and is a regular freelance writer for the Bugle.