May 12, 2018
"Honey if you loved me, you would buy me one of those for elk hunting," my fiance whispered to me when he spotted a Western Range Camps' Zion trailer at an outdoor and sports expo.
I'm a huge fan of this type of go-anywhere trailer. For many, the appeal of this 21-foot rig is its simple design. The rustic style recalls a time of traditional sheep wagons first used in the 1870s by herders when they tended flocks in the harsh back country of the American West.
Today there are a handful of specialized manufacturers that continue to build contemporary sheep wagons and range camps for agribusiness and customized rigs for buyers seeking a rugged off-road Recreation Vehicle.
"We deal direct with customers and it saves them money," said Heidi Anderson, office manager with Western Range Camps in Mt. Pleasant, Utah. "We have such a niche market that dealers have a hard time selling them. People see one of our range camps and call us. We talk with them and give them exactly what they want."
Western Range Camps' recreational rigs are geared primarily to hunters, outdoor enthusiasts and those looking "to stray off the beaten path," said Anderson. "Our range camps are designed as movable shelters with the basic amenities needed to live remote and survive."
Along with keeping much of the functionality of the original sheep wagon concept, today's camps are constructed of modern, upgraded materials that result in a durable and well-insulated rig.
"We strive to protect occupants from the harsh conditions Mother Nature puts out year round," said Anderson. "We want them to be comfortable during late season camping in colder climates."
The popular Zion model is a sturdy, agile trailer with a compact 16-foot interior floorplan. It incorporates traditional sheep wagon features of the rounded roof to facilitate heat efficiently, a wood-burning stove, ingenious storage, egress windows and a Dutch door. Options can include bunks or trundle bed under the regular bed.
Contemporary features include solar panels, LED lighting, onboard toilet facilities and energy-efficient insulation. It comes with a three-burner propane cook top, forced air furnace and small refrigerator/freezer.
A deck can be added for those who want the extra external space for transporting all-terrain vehicles or additional supplies and camping gear.
"We take our four-wheelers with us wherever we go camping," said Anderson. "Hauling the ATVs on the deck frees up space in the back of our truck. And, after the ATVs are unloaded, we have the perfect front porch that keeps us off the ground where we can eat meals, visit with friends and watch the sunset."
Heavy-duty construction including a high-strength steel frame guarantees that these trailers can travel at highway speed, and, with 15-inch wheels and a frame-ground clearance of 24 inches, they can easily maneuver along forest service roads and most off-road conditions. What you will not find in these rigs are slide-outs.
"People have asked if we would install slides and change up other things," said Anderson. "We think it would be getting away from the point of what our design stands for -- a durable camp that will last you a lifetime.
"Besides," she continued, if people are using the camps for what they are intended, there is plenty of living space without adding all the bells and whistles."
The Andersons' 21-foot Zion is their "base to get outdoors and see the world around us," she said. "Our camp is the means to get us where we want to be. We'll sleep in it and do a little cooking. But, basically we are outside most of the time living in nature."
Along with the Zion, Western Range Camps offers five additional models. The Teton, Heritage, and Survivalist trailers are available in a conventional 25-foot layout and 27-foot XL floorplan.
The durable, no frills 19-foot Frontier and Kodiak are basically work camps that are "stable in sheep and cattle ranching" country for those who "know just what they need to stay warm and secure over the long months of herding."
All of the rigs are "built for men and women who are serious about what happens when the pavement ends," states the builder online. "Come rain or shine, hell or high water, you will be safe, secure and comfortable inside a Western Range Camp."
Depending on size and options, range camp prices start around $25,000 and can run upwards of $50,000 for the "XL" models. Western Range Camps builds and tests their rigs in the mountains and deserts of Utah where elevations go from 2,500 feet to over 11,000 feet and temperatures range from minus 40 to 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
"You can expect all our products to last a lifetime," said Anderson. "Family members are already fighting over who will inherit ours."