This Portland-Made Trailer Will Make Your Glamping Dreams Come True

It's got a boat for a roof. Repeat: It's got a boat for a roof.

By Sarah Hopwood January 11, 2016

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Image: Daniel Evans

If you’re like us, you’re already champing at the bit for the first signs of warmer weather, hoping for that early spring camping trip. But let's be real: We have months of snow and gray weather to go.

Not to fret—this just means you've got few more months to save up for your next camping toy. Why not put those pennies (at least $9,000 worth) toward the American Dream Trailer? The 1961 teardrop trailer replica comes complete with a rowboat that attaches as a secondary roof for compactness and convenience. The camper sleeps two (although it’s too small to stand up in) and the mattress easily converts into a couch. The trailer-and-boat combo weighs only 650 pounds, so virtually any car can tow it. The geniuses behind the idea? Two 30-something Portlanders, Paul and Tyla Dahlman.

In 2009, the couple came across a 30-second clip of a Trailorboat while watching a travel TV show. The tiny camper quickly became an obsession. "The boat was super appealing," says Paul, who likes to fish. “The idea that we could have this thing just sitting in the backyard, ready to go anytime that we were, seemed perfect.” The Dahlmans got to work tracking down an original 1961 Trailorboat and, with the aid of the ever-helpful interwebs, found one nearby in Blaine, Washington.

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Image: Daniel Evans

They saved up all summer, sending the owner monthly updates. Once they got their hands on the vintage trailer, they took it to Laurance Lake, on the backside of Mount Hood. Just as they’d been imagining, they were able to pull the Trailorboat up to the edge of the lake and go fishing on the attachable rowboat.

"The next morning, we opened the door and we saw fish jumping on the lake while we laid in bed," Paul says. "You couldn’t tell what year it was—it was just like you were camping in 1961.”

Soon after that first trip, they started hunting for the original molds of the Trailorboat to start making their own. In the six years since, the Dahlmans have made 11 trailers: one for themselves and 10 for customers who wanted their own modern-retro vehicle for OG glamping.

There are only 44 original Trailorboats still in existence, so Paul has worked to ensure that their new version stays true to its roots. He found a metalsmith to make the same glass windows as the original, and he hired a local fiberglass company to make all of the molds. The building process takes five to six weeks. “We really wanted to find out if it is still possible to start your own business, keep it local, and be able to compete in the market," Paul says. "That’s a big part of the American dream.”

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Image: Daniel Evans

At this point, the Dahlmans remain in their full-time jobs—Tyla is an apparel designer and Paul works in advertising world. “I would love to do this full-time, but for now it’s just a hobby that I absolutely love," Paul says.

Visit americandreamtrailer.com for more info. 

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