The desire to get away from it all, even as weekend warriors, drives many of us to invest in the most suitable gear for our pursuits, whether it’s a tent that sleeps two or an RV for eight. But for the folks at Homegrown Trailers, a commitment to sustainability goes along with the desire to connect with nature.
The Woodinville, Wash.-based makers of compact travel trailers are hoping travel and outdoor enthusiasts looking for a more comfortable option than sleeping on the ground will do a double-take at their handcrafted, environmentally conscious RVs.
Co-founder and CEO Corey Weathers told GeekWire that he reached a tipping point about 2-1/2 years ago while camping with his young daughters in Eastern Washington.
“My daughter wanted to go home, she didn’t have a bathroom, she wanted to wash her hands and I thought, ‘Ya know, this is not working.'” Weathers said. “So when I got back I started looking at RVs and I didn’t like what I found. I didn’t like the big fiberglass boxes.”
Weathers said he was inspired by the tiny house movement and already had a love for teardrop-style trailers. He started daydreaming about combing the two.
“I really wanted something that had all the features of a tiny house that we could take with us,” Weathers said. “But something that was compact enough to fit in a garage and pull behind a fuel-efficient vehicle. And of course there’s nothing out there. So I started drafting up some designs.”
Weathers is not a designer by training. He has a masters degree in science education and considers himself mechanically inclined. But with friends who work in construction, he started designing and building.
“It kind of emerged organically and took us about nine months to get it functional,” Weathers said. They kept tinkering and focused on sealing it to the weather, insulating it and improving upon the interior finishes. He said his family spent about 36 nights in it last summer.
The Homegrown website bills the trailer as “Your cabin on wheels” and the real wood exterior paneling is clearly the reason why. At 18-feet long, the trailer features a pop top that increases headroom to 6 feet, 5 inches. There’s a full cook’s kitchen, solar power, a deep-cycle battery and a clean composting toilet. The trailer sleeps four with a queen bed and a couple bunks.
While the mission started with a goal of finding a comfortable alternative for his family, Weathers said his own ethics and work as a sustainability consultant immediately became a driving factor for how the trailer would be developed.
Weathers found inspiration in the Living Building Challenge and Seattle’s Bullitt Center — the greenest commercial building in the world. “They’ve really set the bar quite high in terms of materials, in terms of technology, renewable energy, water filtration and all of these things that people have been piecing together but nobody had done in one comprehensive space.”
So Weathers set out to try to meet those “imperatives,” as the Challenge calls them, and get as many of those features as possible into an RV.
“We knew it was feasible in a 5-story office building, so it should definitely be feasible in a 94-square-foot trailer,” Weathers said. The goal is to have the RV be completely self-contained — no need to hook up to energy or sewage sources. Even wind energy is something the makers are toying with.
“Once people make the move to an RV they tend to be too reliant on the traditional campground environment,” Weathers said. “You plug in, you hook up your water, you hook up your sewage tank and you kind of do everything that you would do at home anyway. The reason I go camping is I want to get away from all that. But, I like to be able to charge my phone.”
Homegrown Trailers, which launched in January and moved into its Woodinville office and production space in February, has initial investors who have provided the seed funding to get started. But the company is currently crowdfunding on Indiegogo in the hopes of testing interest and securing early commitments for sales and rentals of the trailers.
The initial sale price is $28,995. An extended off-grid package with a larger solar array and battery system adds $7,500 to the price. There are also varying prices for renting, including $199 a night for 3-5 consecutive nights, and $169 a night for more than 22 days out on the road.
Design tweaks are still happening as Weathers and his team are looking at improvements to how the main bed space is configured as well as changes to the back wall which could include a sliding window. The pop top’s canvas barrier is also a focus and battery life is a big deal. Weathers is hoping that the Tesla Powerwall becomes a lithium ion option down the road.
Being out on the road in the trailer, even if he just parks it in the city and works from it for the day, has made Weathers realize that the company has something “pretty special” that people are excited about.
“I wanted something that was unique, something that was eye catching and beautiful and not just functional,” Weathers said. “Once people step inside and they see how nice it is, plus it has this added technology that allows them to have a comfortable time while they’re out traveling and camping, then it becomes the full package for them.”
Homegrown Trailers will be at the Travel, Trips and Adventure Expo at the CenturyLink Field Event Center this weekend.