I Explored The Oregon Coast In A Little Camper, Here’s Why You Should Too

Crawling out of my cozy little camper, I could hear the roar of the Pacific Ocean just over the sand dunes at my Nahalem Bay State Park campsite in coastal Oregon. 

I shivered against the gray chill of the morning and made my way to the back of the little teardrop-style camper I had rented to get a hearty cup of coffee ready. As I lifted the back hood, I pulled out the camp stove from its tucked-up hiding place, attached the propane, and boiled water in a metal kettle included in the kitchen.

I rented the little teardrop camper during an Oregon road trip from Side Yard Farm and Kitchen in Portland, hosted by Lil’ Campers. The camper came stocked with a package of Extracto Coffee, Scrapberry Farm Tea, Side Yard Farm’s homemade figwood smoked s’more packs, and a bundle of firewood.

“Renting a camper, especially a small teardrop-style camper, is easy, affordable, and can create a comfortable camping experience to explore areas like Oregon’s wild coast.”

(Photo Credit: Heide Brandes)

As I warmed my hands around the locally-roasted cup of joe and planned a day at the Oregon Coast, I couldn’t help but reflect on just how comfortable the Lil’ Camper was compared to a tent. I couldn’t help but think just how handy it was to haul a small camper instead of a large RV or fifth wheel.

I couldn’t help but appreciate the interior decor and the locally-sourced bedding inside the camper and the fact that in 2 days, I would return it and not have to worry about its upkeep after that.

Sure, there were plenty of hotels and vacation rentals in the area, but I explored the Oregon Coast in a little camper, and here’s why you should too.

Easy Little Camper

Renting a camper and camping in a smaller travel trailer or teardrop camper can offer up a whole different experience than traditional camping or a hotel stay. For one, you get the luxuries of home, like a small kitchen, soft beds, and a roof over your head, plus a nice little heater if you have shoreside electricity available. You wake up in the wilds to the sound of the distant roar of the ocean without having to drive to a state park or coast. 

For many adventurers and roadtrippers, purchasing a camper or RV may not be the best decision for a variety of reasons. Whether you aren’t sure you really want the upkeep costs of having an RV or just simply can’t afford one right now, renting gives you the option for short-term spending and the chance to try it out in “its natural environment,” per se. 

Renting a camper, especially a small teardrop-style camper, is easy, affordable, and can create a comfortable camping experience to explore areas like Oregon’s wild coast.

Stacey Givens, Side Yard Farms & Kitchen’s owner and chef, curated items for the Lil’ Camper from local merchants and artisans, including this bedding set created by White Buffalo.

(Photo Credit: Heide Brandes)

A Farm Stay On Wheels

I was able to secure my 2022 Aero Teardrop The Steel from Lil’ Campers through the RV rental site Outdoorsy. Lil’ Campers is a seed-to-plate teardrop trailer rental company in northeast Portland’s Side Yard Farm.

Side Yard is an urban farm in Portland that feeds upwards of 15,000 people per year through restaurants, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) boxes, donations, catering, and farm events. Because they grow their own food, Side Yard offers an assortment of farm-made provisions and other local treats from Portland to add to your “farm stay” on wheels.

After renting a pickup truck, I headed over to Side Yard to get the Lil’ Camper hooked up and learn about its operations. After a short “how-to” introduction to the camper and explanation of the various amenities, we headed out with our new home on wheels to visit Nahalem Bay State Park near Tillamook.

The Lil’ Camper was beautifully decorated and cozy with bedding created by the mother-and-daughter team of White Buffalo. Chef Stacey Givens, who owns Side Yard Farms & Kitchen, designed the kitchen galley herself, adding little touches like handmade ceramic cups and bowls by artist Dwayne Sackley. It also includes various kitchen utensils, a pop-out two-burner stove, a pour-over coffee set up, and even a giant Yeti cooler. We opted to add a container of pre-cooked camp chili for dinner and Stacey even threw in a sample of her homemade pesto made from lovage that she grows at her farm.

The cabin itself has a full extra-large mattress that was oh-so-comfortable, board games, lighting, bluetooth speakers, USB ports, and cup holders as well as cabinet storage for clothes and other items.

It truly was like a little efficiency apartment on wheels.

Pro Tip: Although we rented a huge three-quarter-ton pickup truck, this little baby is light enough to tow behind an all-wheel-drive SUV or smaller truck. Weighing in at only 1,700 pounds unpacked, you will need to have a vehicle that has a tow hitch attached.

The author takes a stab at holding one of the famous Oregon Dungeness crab while on a crabbing excursion with Big Johnson’s Guide Service.

(Photo Credit: Lyle Kilgore)

Exploring The Oregon Coast

The wind cut through my light rain jacket as Jamison Johnson of Big Johnson Guide Service in Tillamook dropped large wire cages into the waters around the Port of Garibaldi. Tall and built like a linebacker, he explained that the Dungeness crabs we were hunting that day would all have to be males of a certain size.

We had signed up for a crabbing adventure with Jamison as part of our exploration of the coast, and if you love crab as much as I do, then this excursion should be right up your alley. With 20 years experience guiding fishing and crabbing trips in Oregon, Jamison knew where all the “honey pots” were for catching crab early in the April season.

Even better, as we headed out to lunch on fried oysters and oyster chowder at The Fish Peddler at Pacific Oyster, Jamison took our crabby treasures back to his house to clean and cook for us. After snagging our bag of cooked Dungeness crab, we headed out to Netarts Bay to hike along the beach and gaze upon The Three Arch Rocks National Wildlife Refuge.

In the distance, the Three Arch Rocks National Wildlife Refuge looms at Netarts Bay near Tillamook.

(Photo Credit: Heide Brandes)

Three Arch Rocks is a series of three small islands situated just off the coast that make up the 15-acre refuge. In addition to its mysterious “holes,” this refuge is important for breeding seabird colonies and boasts the only pupping site of steller sea lions on the northern Oregon Coast.

After an easy stroll to walk off the hearty oyster lunch, we ventured to Cape Meares Scenic Viewpoint for a light hike through the lush and primeval Oregon forests. We also learned more about the historic lighthouses along the Oregon Coast.

Pro Tip: If you go crabbing with Jamison, you’ll need a day-pass fishing license, clothes you don’t mind getting wet and dirty in, a rain jacket (because it rains off and on all the time), and a hat and gloves. If you don’t want to haul up the crab baskets yourself, don’t worry; Jamison will do that for you and you can enjoy a leisurely morning of tooling around on his boat and learning about the crab industry.

The overcast skies along the Oregon Coast make for a magical, mysterious hike.

(Photo Credit: Lyle Kilgore)

The Short Trip Was Worth It

After a full day of activities, we returned to our Lil’ Camper after dark, grateful for the small ceramic heater that warmed up the little space in a matter of minutes. Although we only had one full day and two nights on the Oregon Coast before returning to Portland, we felt exhausted and exhilarated by the experience and the landscape we were able to explore.

After a late dinner and a cold beer (thanks Stacey!), we settled in for the night, ready to return to our little home-away-from-home the next day in Portland. In the distance, the roar of the Pacific lulled us to sleep.

Pro Tip: If you are not used to hauling a trailer, opt for a smaller all-wheel SUV. Having such a big truck with such a tiny trailer made navigating the windy roads of the Oregon coastal mountains a bit stressful at times. You must rent a vehicle with a tow hitch on it, but for a short stay, the Lil’ Camper was just perfect.

There’s much more to explore in Oregon, including these stories:

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