I Explored the Oregon Coast in a Small RV, Here’s Why You Should Too

I Explored the Oregon Coast in a Small RV, Here’s Why You Should Too

Stepping out of my cozy little RV, I could hear the roar of the Pacific Ocean right over the sand dunes at my Nahalem Bay State Park campground on the Oregon coast.

I shivered against the gray chill of the morning and headed to the back of the little teardrop-style RV I’d rented to make a nice cup of coffee. While raising the rear hood, I pulled the camp stove out of its hidden hiding place, hooked up the propane, and boiled water in a metal kettle included in the kitchen.

I rented the little teardrop RV during a road trip in Oregon from Side Yard Farm and Kitchen in Portland, organized by Lil’ Campers. The RV came stocked with a packet of Extracto Coffee, Scrapberry Farm Tea, packets of Side Yard Farm’s homemade banyan wood-smoked s’mores, and a packet of firewood.

Lil' Campers 2022 Aero Teardrop The Steel interior.
“Renting an RV, especially a small teardrop-style RV, is easy, affordable, and can create a comfortable camping experience for exploring areas like the Oregon Wild Coast.”
(Photo credit: Heide Brandes)

As I warmed my hands over a cup of locally roasted coffee and planned a day on the Oregon coast, I couldn’t help but reflect on how comfortable the Lil’ Camper was compared to a tent. I couldn’t help but think how useful it was to transport a small camper instead of a large RV or fifth wheel.

I couldn’t help but appreciate the interior décor and locally sourced bedding inside the RV and the fact that in 2 days, I’d 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 small RV, and here’s why you should too.

Easy little camper

Renting an RV and camping in a smaller travel trailer or teardrop RV can offer a completely different experience than traditional camping or a hotel stay. For one thing, you get the luxuries of home, like a kitchenette, soft beds, and a roof over your head, plus a nice little heater if you have shore power available. You wake up in nature to the sound of the distant roar of the ocean without having to drive to a state park or the coast.

For many adventurers and roadtrippers, buying a motorhome or RV may not be the best decision for a variety of reasons. Whether you’re not sure you want to pay the maintenance costs of owning an RV or just can’t afford one right now, renting gives you the option to spend in the short term and the chance to try it out in “its natural environment,” per se.

Renting an RV, especially a small teardrop style RV, is easy, affordable, and can create a comfortable camping experience for exploring areas like the Oregon Wild Coast.

Lil' Camper, Side Yard Farms & Kitchen.
Stacey Givens, owner and chef of Side Yard Farms & Kitchen, selected items for 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 Lil’ Campers Aero Teardrop The Steel through RV rental site Outdoorsy. Lil’ Campers is a teardrop-shaped trailer rental company from seed to plate at Side Yard Farm in Northeast Portland.

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

After renting a van, I headed over to the Side Yard to hook up the Lil’ Camper and learn about their operations. After a brief “how to” introduction to the RV and an explanation of the various amenities, we set off 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 White Buffalo mother-daughter team. Chef Stacey Givens, owner of Side Yard Farms & Kitchen, designed the kitchen herself, adding little touches like ceramic mugs and bowls handcrafted by artist Dwayne Sackley. It also includes various cookware, a two-burner pop-up stove, a pour-over coffee maker, and even a giant Yeti refrigerator. We opted to add a bowl of pre-cooked chili camp for dinner and Stacey even added a sample of her homemade pesto made with lovage that she grows on her farm.

The cabin itself has a full king-size mattress that was very comfortable, board games, lighting, bluetooth speakers, USB ports, and cup holders, as well as a storage cabinet for clothing and other items.

It really was like a little efficiency apartment on wheels.

Pro tip: Although we rented a huge three-quarter-ton pickup, this little baby is light enough to be towed behind a four-wheel drive SUV or smaller truck. Weighing just 1,700 pounds unpacked, you’ll need to have a vehicle that has a trailer hitch attached.

Author holding an Oregon Dungeness crab on a tour with Big Johnson's Guide Service.
The author attempts to hold one of Oregon’s famous Dungeness crabs during a crabbing excursion with the Big Johnson Guide Service.
(Photo credit: Lyle Kilgore)

Exploring the Oregon Coast

The wind tore through my light raincoat as Jamison Johnson of Big Johnson Guide Service in Tillamook dropped large wire cages into the waters around Garibaldi Harbor. Tall and built like a linebacker, he explained that the Dungeness crabs we would hunt 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 coastal exploration, and if you love crabbing as much as I do, then this excursion should be perfect for you. With 20 years of experience guiding fishing and crabbing trips in Oregon, Jamison knew where all the “honey pots” were for crabbing early in the April season.

Even better, as we headed out for lunch of fried oysters and oyster chowder at The Fish Peddler at Pacific Oyster, Jamison brought our crabby treasures home to clean and cook. After snagging our bag of cooked Dungeness crab, we headed to Netarts Bay to walk the beach and look out over the Three Arch Rocks National Wildlife Refuge.

Three Arch Rocks National Wildlife Refuge in Netarts Bay, Oregon.
In the distance, Three Arch Rocks National Wildlife Refuge looms over Netarts Bay near Tillamook.
(Photo credit: Heide Brandes)

Three Arch Rocks is a series of three small islands located 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 is home to the only Steller sea lion breeding site on the north Oregon coast.

After an easy walk to drop off our hearty oyster lunch, we venture to Cape Meares Scenic Overlook for a light hike through the lush, primeval Oregon forests. We also learned more about the historic lighthouses along the Oregon coast.

Pro tip: If you’re going crabbing with Jamison, you’ll need a one-day fishing license, clothes you don’t mind getting wet and dirty, a raincoat (because it rains all the time), and a hat and gloves. If you don’t want to carry the crab baskets yourself, don’t worry; Jamison will do it for you and you can enjoy a lazy morning out on his boat and learning about the crab industry.

Hiking along the Oregon coast under cloudy skies.
Cloudy skies along the Oregon coast create a magical and 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, thankful for the little ceramic heater that warmed up the small space in a matter of minutes. Although we only had one full day and two nights on the Oregon coast before heading back to Portland, we were both exhausted and excited by the experience and scenery we were able to explore.

After a late dinner and a cold beer (thanks Stacey!), we settled in for the night, ready to head back 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’re not used to towing a trailer, opt for a smaller four-wheel SUV. Having such a large truck with such a small trailer made navigating the windy roads of the Oregon Coastal Mountains a bit stressful at times. You must rent a vehicle with a trailer hitch, but for a short stay, the Lil’ Camper was just perfect.

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

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