Off-Road Teardrop Trailer
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.