In 1999, architect Garrett Finney landed a dream job at NASA. As a habitation module designer, he mocked up rest-eat-sleep spaces for astronauts aboard the International Space Station. Four years later, however, when he realized his capsule would never see the light of day, let alone the dark of space, he left NASA and turned his attention to a new venture.
Combining his small-space expertise and backpacking background, Finney designed the Cricket Trailer, a small, self-contained pop-up camper. It’s his response to bigger-is-better RV cul-ture: "It’s not a house on wheels but a portable adventure living space," he says. Each trailer weighs between 1,000 and 1,500 pounds and costs from $10,000 to just under $18,000 depending on how heavily it’s outfitted. "I fabricate the shell and you make the dozen decisions that make the trailer work for you," Finney says. Although the Cricket is earthbound, the results are out of this world.
1. Roof rack
Toss a pair of skis or a couple of bikes on top and make the Cricket your weekend warrior basecamp.
2. Folded-aluminum panels
Finney fabricates the insect-like folded-aluminum shell in his 5,000-square-foot factory in Houston. "From a manufacturing perspective, folded panels make sense," he says. "If I need to make changes, I just adjust the computer program and the machine cuts the new shape for me."
3. Pop-up top
The Cricket Trailer has a streamlined, aerodynamic silhouette when locked down for driving but pops up to provide six feet two inches of interior headspace when parked.
4. Locking doors
The side and back doors lock, providing security that a tent can’t offer.
5. Trailer hitch
Each Cricket Trailer measures 15 feet long, six and a half feet wide, and six feet ten inches tall in travel mode. Finney designed the camper so that a car as small as a Subaru Outback can haul it around. "The hope is that you already own your towing vehicle," he says.
The 43-quart-capacity refrigerator or freezer hums through the night but keeps your beer and brats cold for the next afternoon.
A 12-gallon freshwater tank feeds the built-in sink, which features a hinged cover that folds down flush with the laminate countertop. Owners can also opt for a built-in two-burner cooktop.
8. Power switches and outlet
On a full charge, the Cricket’s two 12-volt batteries will power the trailer’s fridge and lights for up to five days—longer if you add portable solar panels to your setup. The interior three-prong outlet and
a voltage converter let you charge a phone or laptop.
9. Handheld shower
Intended for rinsing off muddy feet and pets, the handheld shower works best when sprayed out the trailer’s side door (though water will flow into the floor drain if used inside). "You’re supposed to leave your house and its comforts at home," Finney says.
10. Portable toilet
To keep Cricket owners from having to plan trips according to dump station locations, Finney outfits trailers with self-contained portable toilets when a bathroom is requested.
11. Tent enclosure
Mesh-lined window openings bring in daylight and encourage cross ventilation. For this model, Finney used remnant ripstop nylon that was originally made for Mountain Hardwear out-door gear company.
12. Laser-cut aluminum frame
Circular openings in this frame make hanging sleeping bags, pillows, blankets, and luggage as easy as stretching and hooking elastic cords into place.
13. Reading lights
The LED reading lights can be set to white or red. In the dark, red light keeps your pupils from dilating, meaning you can run outside at a moment’s notice and catch a glimpse of a shooting star without waiting for your eyes to adjust.
14. 3-in-1 benches, bed, and storage
The back end of the trailer features benches that hide storage space beneath and, at night, become the sleeping area (large enough for two adults and one child—or more if you add a child loft berth).
15. Multiheight table
The removable multiheight table creates an eating spot at its highest position, extra sleeping room when lowered and covered with a cushion, and more floor space when removed. "The trailer is surprisingly big for how small it is," Finney says. During the design stage, he built a full-scale cardboard model—a practice he picked up at NASA—to see how the spaces would work together.
16. Pop-open back
The back of the trailer opens up to provide easy access to the under-bench storage and bring in a breeze.
The detachable canopy adds shade and a foyer.
When not writing, Miyoko Ohtake can be found cooking, training for her next marathon, and enjoying all that the City by the Bay and the great outdoors have to offer.