Trailer Test: Freelance 15D Camper Trailer
Most recreational vehicles are for living in and a few are for living around. The new Freelance 15D trailer, which its manufacturer, True North, calls an Outdoor Support Vehicle, definitely falls into the latter category.
One advantage to the trailer’s smaller size is its easy towing by smaller rigs such as the Toyota Tacoma pickup we used for this evaluation. The Freelance is configured similarly to a vintage teardrop trailer with a dose of steroids.
A pair of large access doors up front lead to the living space with its modest, 5-foot 2-inch headroom. The forward section of the living area consists of open floor space, and is about 6 feet 6 inches wide by 5 feet 6 inches long. It offers no cabinets, but a comfy sofa bed fills the aft space wall-to-wall. There is a storage cubbyhole on the aft wall above the sofa, which we used for pillows and bedding, and another storage space below the sofa.
Rounding out the interior hardware is a trio of 12-volt DC interior lights, a couple of 12-volt DC power ports, six flush-mounted floor D-ring cargo attachment points and strategically located storage nets.
The rear lift-up hatch reveals a kitchenette area that can house a stainless-steel propane stove, a single-bowl sink that features a hand pump draining a 10-gallon freshwater tank, and a working space for meal prep or food storage when traveling.
Surprisingly, this compact trailer has more exterior storage nooks and spaces than many of its larger brethren. A short, wide door below the galley in the rear opens to reveal a large slide-out storage tray. Another slide-out tray behind a right-side door allows access to the same area. Above and ahead of those two is a pass-through compartment with doors on each side. We used it for fishing poles and other long or bulky items.
True North is working with Thule’s well-known line of outdoor sports, camping and RV accessories. The trailer bristles with Thule hardware and accessories that reinforce the rig’s use as an outdoor support vehicle.
In the standard Camp trim level ($9,900 MSRP), the trailer includes four Thule universal attachment points for accessories, assorted Thule cargo nets for the inside, and prep for a Thule Trans Rack for the top. Other option packs available include a Thule awning, folding table, wall organizer, trash bin and table caddy. Our test trailer’s Summit Pack (a $3,050 option) included those items and more.
The long list of optional carriers and attachments means your surfboard, skis, sailboard, kayak, canoe, bicycles and other gear can be hauled by the Freelance. Consult with the manufacturer about option-package details.
Freelance 15D Camper Trailer On the Road
The Tacoma Access Cab we used during this evaluation offered the usual flexibility and convenience of a pickup with four doors and a full-size back seat, but in a more compact package.
Equipped with the 4.0-liter V-6, 236-horsepower engine, the Access Cab is rated to tow 6,500 pounds. Due to the trailer’s design, with the single axle located far back on the chassis, it had a fairly heavy hitch weight. We weighed the trailer empty of personal cargo, but the main living area was loaded with several Thule options typically included with the trailer. It included a 10-foot by 10-foot Easy-Up galley shade, a portable electric chest-type refrigerator/freezer, and a few small items. The trailer only weighed 2,060 pounds overall, but its hitch weight was 440 pounds.
If you have both battery trays occupied (we used just one), a full load of cargo stowed in the tongue-mounted diamond-plate storage box, as well as some personal gear aboard, plus sports equipment mounted on the roof rack and filling the rooftop storage pod, the use of a suitably rated weight-distributing hitch is probably going to be a must.
The “hitch in that git-along” is the tongue cargo box. Its position makes it difficult to install standard clamp-on weight-distributing spring-bar hangers. You may need to have a shop do some welding fabrication to install the hangers as needed. Given that the smaller pickups and SUVs likely to be hauling this trailer will have lower-rated or softer rear suspensions, a weight-distributing hitch will help keep things on an even keel.
We used a dead weight hitch ball for our project and loaded everything heavy as far back as we could in the trailer. The truck sagged a bit, but not excessively, and our steering and handling were first rate.
The technicians at Hitch Pro & Tow in Eugene, Oregon (hitchproandtow.net; 541/434-2403), did the brake control installation. They found that Toyota includes a brake control pigtail and connection in the Tacoma so the job was wrapped up in well under an hour.
The Freelance is a relatively light overall load and the Tacoma did a superb job of towing it. We didn’t have a lot of solo time with the truck, but we recorded about 16 mpg without the trailer. That could be improved upon with more conservative driving. While towing, we ran a respectable 13 mpg. Campsite maneuvering was a snap due to the rig’s small size. The Toyota scooted the trailer into place, and we had the Thule awning deployed in minutes, followed by the removable exterior worktable and its associated Thule table caddy. Our ice chest was positioned, chairs unfolded and the campfire was engaged in no time.
As with most teardrop-style RVs, we found living with this camper trailer is much like tent camping, except we have a really comfortable bed in a lockable, insulated, bug-free location at day’s end. After arrival, we made up the fold-down bed, which was surprisingly comfortable with its foam mattress, tossed our Travasak and pillows in place, and were ready for the night.
In a way, our use of the Freelance was a bit like having a Swiss army knife and only opening its main blade for essential cutting purposes. Our time was somewhat short, and the weather was not so nice, so we didn’t include any of the kayaks, skis, bicycles or other gear that can be readily accommodated by the Freelance. We hauled along some essential camping supplies and used the 15D for a relaxing weekend.
The Easy-Up galley shade is an excellent rain guard out back, but we opted to enjoy the rain and work around the showers. The basic kitchen did the trick for our morning coffee and simple meals, plus we used a cooking tripod over the fire for the serious fare.
Part of successfully using a small trailer is finding places to keep your cargo, and then moving that gear around as needed for mealtimes, bedtime and so on. Duffle bags handled our clothing because there are no wardrobes inside, and our camping hardware was housed in our usual Rubbermaid camp boxes.
By day, we explored the nearby Astoria, Oregon, area including Fort Stevens State Park. The gear we wanted to keep secure was stored in the open floor space in the trailer or on the bed. At night, some extra hardware was locked in the Tacoma or piled on the table in the dry area under the awning. A little practice helps a lot.
The awning is just large enough to let two people sit in camp chairs at the table and dine without getting wet. Later, when the campfire couldn’t keep up with the Oregon coastal drizzle, we bailed inside for an early turn-in. The 12-volt DC lights meant we didn’t strain our eyes while reading, and sleep came easily on the Freelance sofa bed. The temperature wasn’t cold enough to notice we had no heater, as the Travasak did a fine job in the Freelance cabin.
Look at the Freelance as a tool that helps facilitate your outdoor sporting activities. It can haul most any gear you’ll need and provide a great place to end the day after a round of biking, kayaking or whatever. Couple it with a sensible tow rig like the Tacoma and you have a smart combo that works well for the active type who likes to keep an eye on the horizon and the bottom line.
For more information: True North, 800.766.6274, www.truenorth.me