Robert Schmidt’s hand built teardrop camper/trailer is quite a sight as he pulled it with his Harley motorcycle during its inaugural run. SUBMITTED PHOTO
Robert Schmidt’s hand built teardrop camper/trailer is quite a sight as he pulled it with his Harley motorcycle during its inaugural run. SUBMITTED PHOTO

Harmony resident Robert Schmidt had a vision – it was four feet wide and six and a half feet long – and rode so smooth it would bring a teardrop to your eye.

“It all started last winter when I was sitting with my wife, Christina. We were talking about how our passion for biking and our love of camping never really could come together. I thought, well, let's look at campers we can put the bike in like a toy hauler,” Schmidt explained. “The problem with a large camper was that it took all the fun out of the ride to get to your destination. So I decided that we would go small. Something we could pull with the Harley.”

According to Schmidt, the options for motorcycle trailers are limited with the majority being a “cargo box on wheels or pop-up tents.” Since the couple wasn’t feeling excited about either of these choices, Schmidt began to peruse the Internet where he found the iconic teardrop campers.

Named for their unique shape, teardrop campers made their first appearance in the 1930s, but didn’t become popular until after World War II in the 1940s and 1950s. In the 1960s, new camper designs became more relevant and the excitement for the teardrops began to fade.

Thirty years later, the Internet was born and what was lost began to reappear as building plans for the once popular teardrops became accessible to the masses.

“I saw these little campers and thought I could buy one, but the problem was weight versus amenities; what could we do without and what was a must to have while keeping it light enough to pull with a bike?” Schmidt pondered.

Thus began Schmidt’s journey in building his own teardrop camper.

“Everyone told me that it couldn’t be done with a motorcycle,” he said. “If there is one thing you don’t do, it is to tell me I can’t do something because I will prove you wrong. That was the main driving force pushing me to do it.”

Though he looked at many prefabricated plans, they were not what he was searching for so he started sketching his own designs.

Then came the shell, “The frame would only be 75 pounds and the whole unit was supposed to be around 450 pounds with the dimensions of four feet wide by six and a half feet long,” Schmidt described. “I started with an axle, built my own frame and hitch. Then I bought plywood, insulation and wiring until I had a shell.”

He recalled that it wasn’t until he had the frame together that his father, Garry, started to take an interest in helping and supporting him and his project.

“He didn’t have much of a choice as I commandeered his garage (near Wykoff) for what was supposed to be a month, but turned into four,” Schmidt admitted. “I couldn’t have got the job done without the help from him. I also thank my wife for putting up with me being gone all summer while I was building it.”

One of the most difficult and time-consuming portions of the build was bending the plywood into the radius for the ceiling and roof.

“The bending process was slow and took five days to do, but if I would have hurried that step it would have cracked the wood,” Schmidt described.

One challenge came when searching for doors for the teardrop camper.

“Expense was a big factor in building it and the doors alone were $700 and I couldn’t spend that much,” he said. “So, as my dad and I were sitting in the garage wondering what to do about it, I looked up at a picture of one of his old semis and on the sleeper was a perfect size door. It was a real eureka moment!”

After some phone calls to trucking friends, the two were able to track down a door, which they had in hand within a couple of weeks.

“Screwing, gluing, cutting, bending, routing, wiring all turned into weeks and months of blood sweat and tears,” Schmidt revealed. “So after the aluminum skin was put on, doors installed, I thought, might as well give it a test drive.” 
Schmidt hooked it to the bike and had Christina follow him in the car in case something went wrong. He then headed onto the highway. 
“I won't lie; it takes a little getting used to,” he said. “I drove to Wykoff and got a little more confident. So I went to Fountain, then Preston and back home. I had done it. And proved everyone wrong.”

The trailer has numerous amenities including solar power, all LED lighting in the interior and exterior, a 12-volt flat screen TV, air conditioning, a roof vent, shore power, Bluetooth stereo with indoor and outdoor speakers, and 12 volt plug-ins and USB charging ports inside and out.

“The coolest feature, I think, is the solar power. I can camp anywhere and have lights, TV and ventilation.”

He explained, while loading the camper, they have to be careful about how the gear is stored because the weight needs to be concentrated ahead of the axle for better pulling with the bike.

Since completing the project Schmidt and his wife have been able to enjoy this labor of love while camping in Wisconsin, once to Goose Island and once to Fort McCoy.

“People stop to ask questions. They take pictures at gas stations and can't believe it was built in a garage,” Schmidt revealed. “Sleeping in it is so cozy. The air conditioning was one of the must haves and I'm glad I put it in there. If we were to camp in the fall or spring, we do have a small heater that would be more than enough to keep it warm.”
As for the experience of building the camper, Schmidt said, “I had a lot of fun building it. It is so satisfying to see a finished product come to life from an idea and a drawing.”
Since building the camper, Schmidt has joined a lot of Facebook groups with people whom have built teardrops. 
“There are hundreds of people, just like me, who have built their own trailers to suit their needs,” he said. “Some are so well built you would consider them art. I love seeing different ideas and all shapes and sizes of campers.”
In fact, the future may have more building in store for Schmidt.
“Lately I've been kicking around the idea of building another one. I've got a few ideas that could lighten it 100 pounds or more and make it a little more streamlined,” he said. “After building one, I know I could build it in two months instead of four. To do that, though, I'd have to sell mine first. Bittersweet, but it would be great to see someone else enjoy what I took so much pride in building.”