Happier Camper combines our love of nature and passion for the outdoors. This LA-based brand creates retro-modern travel trailers that offer various designs and customizations.
To learn more about Happier Camper, we got to speak with the founder, Derek Michael.
First, let’s get you up-to-speed on Derek’s story –
One could say Derek’s Happier Camper journey started when he was a young boy, as he would watch his dad restore classic trailers. Later on – a few years ago, he borrowed a fiberglass trailer from his dad and began taking the trailer out on weekends and exploring California. The ease and efficiency of this vintage trailer drew him in. Happier Camper was born.
MalenDyer: With your Happier Camper journey beginning when you were a young boy, what has been the most rewarding part of this journey for you?
Derek Michael: The most rewarding part is taking the trailers out on adventures myself. I love that I can do that. The thing I fell in love with [at the beginning] with the little trailers is still the thing I feel best about – waking up in a new place comfortable and calm.
MD: What is a memory or moment you won’t ever forget about those early days when your father would restore classic trailers in your backyard?
DM: Growing up in Windsor, Ontario in Canada, had its perks. My home was about a five minutes drive to downtown Detroit, and Detroit at that time had the BEST radio in the country. My friends and I used to hang out in the little trailer in the driveway, and it was kind of a clubhouse for us. The trailer had a great radio and sound system, and we got all of the best Detroit radio stations at that time. Music was a big thing for me back then, and my best memories are hanging out in the little trailer with friends playing cards and listening to great Detroit music.
“My best memories are hanging out in the little trailer with friends and listening to great Detroit music.”
MD: What have you learned through the process of making this “dream” of yours a reality?
DM: Too much! I can confidently say that if you asked me to build a rocket ship to Mars, I could do it. I’m learning new things every day, but I think it’s the full understanding of the processes and materials and the best bangs for buck in production. Nothing is easy and every little step contains millions of intricate details. You can’t do it on your own, and I’ve been lucky to surround myself with a pretty strong team.
MD: What are some of the “best parts” of vintage trailers you wanted to be sure to retain with Happier Campers?
DM: Honestly, little trailers are a part of being North American, from the first covered wagons to the signs on the roadside. Little trailers are inked in us – small mobile living is who we are. I wanted to maintain the Americana style and feeling, but incorporate tons of modern functionality with the modular interior and power options.
MD: Before selling your trailers, you rented trailers. During this rental only phase of your company, what feedback did you receive from customers that made you re-think a design or feature?
DM: Good question! The rental business 100% influenced the design of the HC1 . It was the customer’s feedback that directed how I approached the build of the trailer. Everything from size and shape, the rear hatch, wider doors and the modular interior. I noticed that in my little rental trailer, folks never used the kitchenette in the trailer – most liked to cook outside or on a picnic table – so I made the kitchenette removable, totally functional outside. Every modular component of the HC1 can be used in or outside of the trailer. I wanted to make something that was usable for all aspects of our customers lives, from business to hauling to a spare room to camping with your family.
MD: Who is the Happier Camper customer?
DM: This varies from entrepreneurs to young families to empty nesters to retirees. It’s a good market with the HC1 due to its limitless functionality. Our customers are looking for something lightweight and small, but packed with modern features and design. Our customers are not necessarily the conventional EV market and more of the tiny home market – folks interested in small efficient living, sustainability, adventure and fun.
“I like to take my motorbike with me when I take trips. I keep it simple.”
MD: How do you like your Happier Camper?
DM: Personally, I like to take my motorbike with me when I take trips. I load just enough cubes in the front of the trailer to make a big queen size bed, and I load my bike in the back (I ride a Ducati Desert Sled). I keep it simple. I don’t cook much, and I like to pack light and move from spot to spot so this works for me. If I’m staying put in one area for awhile, then I like to take the small kitchenette and the new modular closet – this makes for a good set up. I also like the raised suspension and the rear hatch screen to keep the hatch open at night – there’s nothing like sleeping on the beach.
MD: Finally, what are you most looking forward to for Happier Camper in 2018?
DM: We have some new things coming out soon! We have a bigger, more conventional trailer and a stand alone universal version of our Adaptiv™ modular interior system. We are growing our website and including an online store. We have upgraded our showroom in LA to house a café for our customers. We have a sales location in Detroit and have one coming soon to Atlanta and San Francisco. Super exciting things are coming out for us in the next couple of months, and I hope we/I can share more with you soon.