Going Off the Grid? Rugged Campers Get You There

Julianne G. Crane
Motor Matters

You will not spot many Mantis campers on the open highway, mainly because most of these rugged, lightweight, pop-up trailers are owned by adventurous travelers who frequently camp remote, down gravel backroads and off grid.

The 19-foot Mantis travel trailer, largest of Taxa’s (taxaoutdoors.com) product line, was launched in 2017 for active RVers who wanted to get into the backcountry and play while having a safe and comfortable base camp.

Taxa Outdoors, a small Recreation Vehicle manufacturer in Houston, Texas, is the brain child of Garrett Finney, a former senior architect NASA where he helped design the International Space Station’s interiors.

A little more than a decade ago Finney, an expert in multi-purpose tiny living spaces, turned his creative mind to conceiving innovative RV designs for the next generation of buyers.

Since 2009, Taxa has specialized in the creation of inventive and tough “portable living spaces” that function both on and off the grid for two to four people and their gear. In descending size, Taxa’s RVs include the Mantis, 15-foot Cricket, 12-foot TigerMoth and 10-foot Woolly Bear.

“The Mantis is incredibly well designed to maximize space and to bring the outdoors in,” said Morgan Maki, business development manager for Taxa dealer Erik’s Bike Shop (eriksbikeshop.com), headquartered Bloomington, Minn.

Erik’s — the Midwest’s leading bike, ski and board retailer — is not a traditional RV dealer. “We are avid outdoor enthusiasts and have a deep understanding for how these camp trailers help facilitate outdoor experiences,” said Maki.

“One of key attributes of the Mantis is its versatility. You can take this camp trailer to the national parks or state recreation areas with full RV hookup or you can get yourself out to more remote areas, off the paved path, for true off-the-grid experiences.”

“Taxa is definitely appealing to a niche market,” said Hugh Green, sales rep with Sutton RV (suttonrv.com) in Eugene, Ore.

“They are absolutely geared to an active group who love getting out there hiking, kayaking and mountain biking.”

To get people safely into the backcountry, Taxa’s rugged construction includes aluminum composite panels with an R-6 value, and aluminum or steel structural skeletons.

Built to venture off paved roads, the trailer features all-terrain tires, a torsion axle suspension, and a 14-inch ground clearance.

The Mantis comes equipped with a roof rack system that allows users to carry their recreational gear, including canoes and bikes, on top of their camper.

While having a streamlined, aerodynamic silhouette in travel mode, the Mantis’ roof pops up in seconds to provide 6 feet 4 inches of headroom in the kitchen and bath areas.

The interior of the Mantis is a tight, functional open living space. The back end of the trailer features a couch with underneath storage that at night turns into a queen size bed. The front end houses two bunk beds, for a total of sleeping space for four adults.

The Mantis Trek can be run on two 12-volt, deep-cycle batteries or shore power with a 110-volt converter. It is plumbed for propane that can be used for the two-burner stove, water heater and furnace.

For those who want to live off-grid for an extended time, it is also pre-wired for solar. The birch wood kitchen has counter space for prepping food and a covered 2-burner stove and flush mounted sink.

Fresh water capacity is 20 gallons, with a 22-gallon gray water tank. There is a wet bath with cassette toilet and when not in use, the bath area has a functional countertop.

“The Mantis is really easy to deploy,” said David Tracy, internet manager for World Wide RV (worldwiderv.com) in Mesa, Ariz. The size and weight is perfect for city-dwellers who “want to go out passed civilization, where no one is normally around.”

With an empty weight of around 3,000 pounds and a GVWR of 3,800, many family vehicles have the horses to pull it.

“It can easily be towed by a Jeep Wrangler or Toyota 4Runner, said Tracy. “Owners often say they forget it is even back there. And, it is narrow enough that those giant side mirrors are not needed.”

Tracy added: “A number of our buyers live in urban neighborhoods where an RV cannot be left outside. With the Mantis’ retractable top, the 6-foot 9-inch folded height can be stored in most residential garages out of sight and where the weather can’t beat on it.”

As for price, a quick check of several RV trading sites online lists the asking price of a 2019 19-foot Mantis Trek between $36,000 and $49,000 depending on amenities.

“They are expensive when you compare them to a conventional travel trailer of the same size,” said Hugh Green of Sutton RV. “But when you look at the materials they use and the build quality, they can definitely back up the price.”

The 19-foot pop-up Mantis Trek trailer, with a dry weight of 3,000 pounds, closes for a towing height of 6 ft 10 in, and can be stored inside a standard garage.