Spencer and Linda Knight’s primary residence in a Palm Desert mobile home park sits stationary. Their second home sits on four wheels and travels when hitched to the back of their daily driver.
Affectionately dubbed “Chica,” the couple’s ultra-light HC1 model by Happier Camper features a modular interior made up of versatile 20-by-20-inch units that Linda calls “the IKEA of camping.” The company is set to launch two more modern campers with a vintage look any day now. Meanwhile, HC1 owners like the Knights appear active on the Happier Camper Facebook page, showing off their creative space configurations and establishing a camaraderie that extends to offline meetups in the great outdoors.
“We were pulling into our campsite at June Lake when we caught sight of another HC1,” Spencer recalls. “After we set up camp, we went to find it. They were getting back in their car to come find us!” The couple was traveling with their son and had arranged their camper into a bedroom for three.
“That’s the versatility of the HC1,” Spencer says. “They sleep the long way on a king-size bed, and their son still has his own. We sleep across in a queen. With the flexible interior, if I have guy friends in town, we could go camping and set it up as two single beds.”
The couple uses bunk-bed modules for camping with their grandchildren. The bunks fold into a couch during the day. “I grew up in campers and trailers where you pick the best layout and you live in it,” Spencer says. “You couldn’t move anything around.”
In her youth, Linda’s family took their boat to Lake Shasta and camped with her grandparents, while Spencer loved to backpack and camp in the High Sierras. “We were both brought up as campers,” Spencer says. “It’s always been part of my life.”
About 15 years ago, the two bonded in their mutual love for exploring the globe. “We travel a lot in Europe and internationally, but we also still camp because we love it.”
Paying space rent of $610 a month for their mobile home, the couple can afford to travel up to seven months out of the year. “Our whole life is a vacation,” Spencer says.
Originally favored an aluminum teardrop camper followed by a tent trailer that suited their summer excursions. Once both had retired and could travel year-round, they wanted a structure that would keep them warm when temperatures dipped below freezing. Linda also hoped for a camper they could stand up in — as long as they could tow it behind their Subaru Outback.
A full day spent experimenting with Happier Camper modules at the Los Angeles showroom eventually convinced them that the fiberglass-construction HC1 was their ideal solution.
The Knights customized their camper with a color scheme to match their car. The Formica they chose for the tabletops and cabinet doors became the company’s new HC1 standard.
The wait for their custom trailer with its USB charging stations and solar capabilities paid off. On their first trip, Spencer and Linda towed Chica to Silver Strand State Beach near San Diego. They backed right up to the sand where they could sit at the dining table or lay in bed with the large back door raised and listen to the surf.
From quick trips up Highway 74 to Hemet Lake, where they paddle around in their kayaks and visit with friends who live in Idyllwild, to an 80-day sojourn crossing the Cascade Mountains of Oregon and savoring the Pacific Northwest beaches and mountains, Chica has proved rugged, functional, aesthetically pleasing, and hassle-free.
“The trailer has been a dream,” Spencer affirms. “It’s lightweight and well made, and it tows beautifully. On that [Cascade Mountains] trip, we covered 5,800 miles, averaged 19.1 miles per gallon, and most of the time I didn’t know it was there.”
For Linda, their HC1 offers organizational prowess and the comforts of home. “You have everything you need at your disposal; everything else is stored inside the large cubes,” she says. Within 45 minutes of arrival, they’re ready to relax and enjoy. An awning pulls out above the front cocktail bar, enhanced by carpets, seating, and twinkle lights. “People love seeing us pull in. It’s like the talk of the camp,” Linda says. “Everyone comes by to ask about Chica, so we always carry a brochure. It’s a party every time.”
In the morning, they roll up their bed into pillows on either side of the couch, and the bedding rolls up into one of the cubes. They flip open the back hatch to cook a meal, where a compartment on one side stows cooking essentials and another on the opposite end stores food. Tables pop up down the center, building a seating area where they can eat breakfast and play Scrabble.
“This summer, we’ll take two foldable electric bikes with us,” she says. “It’s a hoot.”