The RV industry may have come a long way in 100 years, but Scott Tuttle says his company, Livin Lite Recreational Vehicles, is proud to say that it is using a design that dates to the industry’s earliest days.
Back to the basics is the theme Tuttle took when he founded his company in Indiana in 2003. He started the business to fill a niche he thought the RV industry was neglecting—people who like tent camping, but no longer want to sleep on the ground, don’t want or can’t afford a well-equipped RV, and don’t have a vehicle to pull a heavy trailer.
Livin Lite builds what it calls automotive campers—small, lightweight trailers that don’t have home entertainment systems, kitchens, or even toilets. They just provide room to carry camping equipment and places to sleep, sit and eat.
The basic design is a tent trailer with two beds that flip out from the center and a living area in the middle. Tuttle said he patterned the design after the Apache tent campers that were popular in the 1960s. But he later discovered that the Zagelmeyer Auto Camp Company of Bay City, Michigan, built similar trailers in the 1920s. (There is an even earlier version of a tent camper, the 1916 Cozy Camper tent trailer, on display at the MH/RV Hall of Fame in Elkhart, Indiana.)
Tuttle said the Zagelmeyer Auto Camp is remarkably similar to the Quicksilver automotive camper that Livin Lite builds today. Both can be towed by ordinary cars. Of course, construction is different—Livin Lite’s vehicles are built with aluminum, which keeps them both light and durable.
Tuttle said that when he started Livin Lite, the idea of a minimalist tent trailer was a tough sell to RV dealers, who couldn’t see a market for it. That changed when gas prices soared in 2008, and when the recession saw people cutting back on expenses. This past year was a tough one for most RV companies, but Tuttle said Livin Lite’s sales were up 500 percent.Research Campgrounds, Plan RV Safe Routes & Turn your phone into an RV GPS.
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