When Glenn Wills and Christine Bree set out to design the camper of their (pretty realistic) dreams, they didn’t realize it might also be the camper of many other people’s dreams, too. The Gidget Retro Teardrop Camper is extremely compact and lightweight, but sacrifices almost none of the typical luxuries found in larger campers or RVs. A charming pod slides out to almost double the size of the cabin space, fitting a queen-sized bed comfortably. That’s only the first of an almost endless list of features that includes 110-Watt solar panel system, skylight, two burner gas cooktop, electric brakes and security alarm system. Born and made in Brisbane, Australia—a country primed for extended road trips and weekend adventures—Gidget has caught the interest of a growing number of people around the world who want to shed the cost, weight and confinement of an RV.
Both Wills and Bree are avid outdoors people, with a joy for bushwalking, kayaking and camping anywhere from national parks to remote areas. “We love the great outdoors and Australia has a lot of it in diversity and scope,” Bree tells CH. “At the end of the day we like to sit around a campfire under the stars, rather than indoors as you do with an RV.” They spent years camping with tents, but the stress and hassle of packing, unpacking, digging through boxes and bags and more started to take its mental toll. “We wanted to find a way to enjoy the great outdoors, but take the most important things with us so we can camp in true comfort and style—which is why the teardrop, already well-known and loved for decades, was almost perfect for us,” she continues. “Our vision was to make a truly aesthetic camper trailer where everything worked quickly and easily and was built to last, that had the important things you need for a comfortable camping holiday—and some luxuries you wouldn’t expect—and it also needed to be environmentally-friendly and fully self sufficient.”
Taking an unusually hands-on approach, Wills designed and built every part of the Gidget prototype in 2013—from the timberwork and fiberglassing to plumbing and even the metal chassis. Growing up, Wills had apprenticed under his father, who was a carpenter, as well as another old school tradesmen—and has spent his time designing, building and restoring not only homes but also classic cars and boats. So the Gidget, as a tiny mobile home, was engineered by an expert who loved camping. Bree and Wills road-tested the prototype for over two years (and more than 55,000 km). “More travel and camping than most people do in a lifetime,” says Bree. “We took Gidget to far North Queensland in the tropical summer, out west to the outback in the dry heat or cold, over mountains through the Atherton Tablelands, around Tasmania in the winter, camping at Cradle Mountain in -1°C weather. As we traveled with our prototype, we were able to re-engineer every aspect and refine and develop the design to the Gidget we are in production with today.” Bree, with decades of experience in graphic design, visual communications and marketing, helped guide the design and aesthetic, and now runs all the branding and marketing. “I get to talk about something I love each day with like-minded people who want the same things from a camping holiday as we do,” she says. It’s heartwarming to see how their project has grown organically since, fueled by an intense passion for what they are doing.
And the camper speaks for itself. The unique (and patented) slideout really takes the teardrop to another level. While the camper itself is aerodynamic and fuel-efficient (Bree notes that, on average, there’s only about 10% more fuel consumption towing versus not towing), in under 30 seconds, Gidget opens and extends to reveal its hidden potential. “So unlike most traditional teardrop designs, where your feet and part of your body are under the kitchen bench, we have a whole queen-size bed (six foot, 10 inches) and a spacious cabin, plus the large slide-out area,” says Bree. A spacious bed was a must, as Wills is six foot, six inches tall—and was disappointed by how many larger RVs still had beds that were too short for him. Also important for the two was a functional, inviting kitchen that could become the heart of the campsite, where cooking and entertaining can take place together. Having an open kitchen with a custom-built glass gas cooktop (with safety devices) and sink, timber finishes, lots of shelving, a pantry and utensil drawers makes travelers look forward to meal prep. There’s also an incredibly detailed FAQ that will answer almost every question imaginable, from why there’s no awning (bringing along a gazebo is much cheaper) to what you can customize on the Gidget (a lot) and if it’s safe enough for solo travelers (yes).
Gidget currently has two teardrop camper models, the Bondi Original and the Noosa Longline (500mm longer for more storage, a roomier kitchen, and space for a shower/portable potty compartment), in full production. Their third model, the Bells, is currently in its design stage. The Compact version of this (approximately 300kg dry) will be geared toward smaller cars and bikes, and there will also be a Super Compact version (just 200kg) for bikes. “This is a huge market for Gidget and an important one,” says Bree. “We have personally a long association with Harley Owners Groups in Australia and are using that knowledge to meet all the needs of this important group of people, not just HOGs but all bike riders.” She also notes that while all of the Gidget models are wheelchair-friendly, they want to further customize the Bells model to make using the kitchen easier for people in wheelchairs.
Gidget campers are built in their factory in Brisbane (under a team of cabinetmakers, wood machinists, fibreglassers, coach builders/metal workers, electronics engineers and more) but are available for worldwide shipping. Visit their website and Facebook to learn more about model pricing and international shipping costs.
Images courtesy of The Gidget