Little Guy Lil' Rough Rider Teardrop Camper Trailer - Rough RiderPosted in How To on August 1, 2010
Most of us came to four-wheeling from camping, while others discovered camping through off-roading. My first off-roading camping trip - other than high school in a '40 Buick Roadmaster four-door - was in 1964. Six of us took an MB and my '46 CJ-2A to 8,000-foot Monache Meadows in the Sierra Nevada, and we didn't even take tents (we built a six-person lean-to alongside Fish Creek). My wife and I (and our extended family) have been camping with four-wheelers ever since; only the four wheelers and the RVs have changed (and no more lean-tos).
With apologies to Coleman and Big 5, the older one gets, the harder it becomes to be comfortable in a tent. When I was in the Boy Scouts, I made do with a surplus World War II shelter half (two of us each carried half the tent in our matching rucksacks and then buttoned them together for each night's camp). But after six decades of camping I was more than ready to move on up to a hard-sided camper. However, where can an off-roader find such a camper that can tagalong behind a four-wheeler?
Three years ago I saw a Little Guy Worldwide highway-model teardrop given away on "The Price Is Right." Remembering a teardrop trailer my uncle owned in the '50s, I thought a trailer that size would be ideal for off-road touring and camping - I figured all it would need would be an off-road suspension/tire package. I emailed the Little Guy Worldwide with that suggestion. Two years later I picked up a Lil' Rough Rider test unit and gave it a 2,500-mile on- and off-road test.
The Lil' Rough Rider is available in two sizes (widths, really), which are also the models' names: 5 Wide (5-foot-wide cabin) and 6 Wide. I tested the 2009 Lil' Rough Rider 5 Wide. It has a 2x3-inch welded and powder-coated frame with a full belly pan of 11-gauge steel, which protects everything underneath, including the axle with its rugged suspension (the test unit was also equipped with electric brakes). The Rough Rider (71 inches high at the vent) has 20 inches of ground clearance to the cabin and 13 inches to the axle (with standard 235/75R15 off-road tires) and, according to the factory, offers a minimum of 19 inches of water-fording capability (although I forded deeper water than that during my test without mishap). Obviously, with taller tires, the clearance goes up.
Although the large aluminum straight-line fenders are clearly marked "Not a Step", they are perfectly shaped for jerry-can carriers and will support the weight of 5 gallons of water or fuel (I asked). If you mount taller tires, you may have to modify the fenders somewhat to accommodate them.
My wife suffers from claustrophobia so we were really concerned about her mental comfort while we were sleeping in the trailer - we needn't have worried. On each side of the Rough Rider is a large locking door that is also a full-size window. The lower half of each door is a screened slider window, which when used with the screened top vent provide great ventilation without the gnats and skeeters. I discovered that you'll need to protect the screens from any gear you carry inside the teardrop on the 78x58-inch mattress (almost anything can rub a hole in the screen during a trail ride). Across the center line of the trailer, a really nice cabinet is mounted to the sidewalls and ceiling with two doors on each side and front and back, providing access from either direction. A 12-inch LCD TV and radio are mounted in the center of the cabinet, and a 12V DC fluorescent light is ceiling-mounted above each door. The Rough Rider's carpeted interior sides and floor make this teardrop camper trailer even more comfortable and the vinyl-clad headliner is easy to keep clean.
The Rough Rider also comes with a front-mounted, heavy-duty, expanded-metal screen cargo area, which measures 60x16 inches, making it ideal for carrying all of that extra gear: a generator, a cooler, and/or a couple of bicycles. In the rear a locking hatch provides access to the galley shelf, which is hinged for access to storage below on the foot of the mattress (it is also secured by Velcro to its supports so that it won't bounce around on the trail). Also, you'll find below the galley hatch, a standard-sized (2-inch) square-tube receiver, in which I used a slip-in recovery hook during my test. However, I noticed that 4WD Hardware offers a spare tire carrier that slips into a 2-inch square receiver, so you might consider one of these.
Weighing approximately 1,420 pounds (5 Wide) or 1,550 pounds (6 Wide), the Rough Rider's overall length is just over 12 feet, including the tongue. Also mounted on the tongue are the onboard battery and case (for the interior lights and emergency breakaway electric brakes) and the tilt-down, lockable tongue wheel. The Rough Rider comes from the factory equipped with a lunar ring hitch, which means you'll have to purchase a pintle hook for your Jeep. Since I've towed an off-road tent trailer with a standard 2-inch ball coupler over the Rubicon Trail twice - once with a Scrambler - without mishap, I asked about ordering a Rough Rider with a 2-inch ball coupler. "Not available," was the answer (I was given the same answer when I asked about ordering the Rough Rider with different hubs). The tires are mounted on 8-inch aluminum rims which have the same lug pattern as TJs (5 on 4.5 inches), but I'm not sure of the off-set. On the Mojave Road, I sliced a tire's sidewall and borrowed a TJ spare to get home. I'd strongly suggest that you match the lug pattern to your tow vehicle so that you'll only need one spare.
In closing, I will say that I hated to give up the Lil' Rough Rider, even though I'd towed it through three off-road trails (more than 250 miles total) and tested it on over 2,500 miles of highway. It just felt right and looked right hooked to the back of the JK. I really was hoping to tow the Rough Rider over the Rubicon Trail with my Rubicon Unlimited. The tiny teardrop should be able to slip through the Sluice Boxes, around Loon Lake, and up Cadillac Hill without a problem. Although I wouldn't try towing it through the Rubicon Spring, it's too deep.
Base MSRP: $7,495
Price As Tested: $7,775
Travel Length (lunar ring to receiver): 151 in
Travel Width: 82 in
Interior Height: 74 in
GVWR: 1,450 lbs
Hitch Weight: 150 lbs
Sleeping Capacity: Two persons
Major Standard Features: Expanded metal 60x16-inch tray, 120V AC round inlet, 58x20-inch galley shelf, marine-style 2400 deep-cycle battery with interior outlets, multi-speed FanTastic Vent, 10-inch electric drum brakes, two storage cabinets, fiberglass exterior, queen size tri-fold mattress, insulated to R11, 15-inch aluminum mag wheels, two double incandescent ceiling lights, one fluorescent light, rear receiver, 2x3-inch powder coated tubular steel frame, 11-gauge steel skid plates, and pintle hitch.