Eleven months ago, TAXA Outdoors, a Houston-based manufacturer of camper trailers appealing to the adventurous, began brainstorming what the company’s 18-foot travel trailer look like – the company’s biggest product yet.
Like many trailer brands with a modern twist, TAXA has a loyal following. Customers that meet in community-led rallies throughout the year around the U.S., like the one at Sylvan Lake in Eagle, Colo.
“Anytime we meet folks that’ve been TAXA owners for a couple years, they’re always thinking ahead as most dedicated, loyal consumers do for a specific brand,” said Antonio Gonzalez, president of TAXA Outdoors. Customers stressed how their kids could no longer fit in the Cricket’s bunk beds. “That was the notion of coming up with something a little bit bigger with more amenities.”
Gonzalez summarizes TAXA in two words: “comfortable camping,” adding that, “That’s where we really differ.” The ability to bring bikes, kayaks, and other adventure gear, and set up camp within minutes is also one of the company’s major highlights.
The new travel trailer venture, though, dips the company’s toes into another category.
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The Mantis (MSRP $32,500 and $35,000) weighs less than 2,300 pounds and sleeps up to four adults in a memory foam, queen-sized bed/couch and two adult-sized bunk beds in the front of the trailer. This while still being able to park the travel trailer into a standard length and height garage.
Both the Camp and Trek model have an optional A/C upgrade, and come with a 12-volt refrigerator, as well as a wet bath with a Dometic cassette toilet featuring an electric flush. Both the fresh water and gray water tank capacities are 30 gallons.
The pricier Trek model is plumbed for propane, primed for a water heater, two-burner stove and propane-powered refrigerator. Outside panels come in either a UV-coated gun-metal gray or brushed aluminum, while the pop-section of the roof in the center comes in burnt red or sand color fabric.
Keeping off-roaders in mind, the Mantis has a 14-inch ground clearance and has 15-inch, all-terrain tires, and features laser-cut aluminum and fiberglass reinforced plastic panels on an all-steel chassis.
Still, given all its amenities, the Mantis stays true to TAXAs roots, appealing to the outdoorsy types – Colorado, after all, comprises 20 percent of TAXA’s sales – and Millennial demographic wanting to, as Gonzalez said, “hang out and cook outside … and interact with all the insects.”
That mindset stems directly from the manufacturer’s roots.
TAXA founder Garrett Finney, a former senior architect for the Habitability Design Center at NASA, designed what would become the Cricket camp trailer in 2010.
“When I was designing the Cricket,” Finney said in a press release, “I thought I was inventing the anti-RV. … The house-on-wheels formula leads to horribly ironic things, such as bringing a vacuum cleaner with you to a national park.”
His wife and two boys took it on the road, and at almost every gas station and campground he stopped, people inquired about it.
A year later, Finney received funding to produce several units. Gonzalez became involved as an advisor and then board member. Serving as TAXA’s president, Gonzalez came from an engineering background with a master in business administration, and after working in the automotive industry, transitioned to Houston to evolve TAXA. Under his management, TAXA has added the TigerMoth and Woolly Bear gear hauler (named after a type of caterpillar).
The company’s name is derived from “taxanomy,” which is a centuries-old system of separating species. Philosophically, TAXA’s designs largely standout from one another while remaining under the same family of species – apropos to its insect branding. (After all, the campers and trailers have a sturdy exoskeleton.) As for its standalone personality, Gonzalez compares the models to Tesla vehicles.
Gonzalez said there’s “no question” TAXA intends to become a big player in the upcoming years, spying expansion to produce at a larger volume, as well as enter the Class B market.
This week at Elkhart Open House, TAXA will be displaying its second Mantis prototype with the intention of rolling units out of the product line in the second week of October.
“We already have anxious dealers and customers that want to get their hands on one,” said Gonzalez.
Next year, TAXA hopes to introduce the Firefly – a truck camper designed to be “a toolbox that you could sleep in.” It’s slated to have attachments on the sides for equipment, gear, holding tanks, etc.
“A few Navy SEALs approached us to build this for DoD applications,” Gonzalez said, and TAXA intends to continue the DoD build, but also release it for the consumer market.
For more information, visit www.TAXAOutdoors.com.