Zyl Vardos Makes a Teardrop - Tiny House Blog

Zyl Vardos Makes a Teardrop


by Abel Zyl Zimmerman

Though I normally build tiny houses, I don’t limit myself to that kind of structure. So, I recently built this teardrop trailer for some really sweet people who live just a few blocks down the hill from me.

It is always so hard to fall in love with a project, and then have to give it away. But the sweet flipside is knowing that someone else is out there enjoying it immensely. Indeed, the day after I delivered it, they departed on a week-long camping trip (in November, no less!)

Anyhow, the Zyl Teardrop is 5 feet wide and 9 feet long. It has a queen-size sleeper, a ‘rumble kitchen’, some nice LED light bars, a marine-type epoxy-varnish wood finish, all stainless steel hardware… and it only weighs 625 lbs. I think a team of dachsunds could pull it.

But if you don’t have a team of dachsunds, your Datsun should have no problem…

Zyl Vardos builds tiny houses and other fantastic structures in Olympia, WA, USA.

teardrop rear view

teardrop side view

door view

teardrop kitchen

teardrop bed

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Mopsa - November 13, 2012 Reply

Wow! How cute is that?

Deek - November 13, 2012 Reply

Abel’s a class act, and a talented dude. This looks great man! What brand epoxy/varnish did you use/layering?- on the exterior? I love the look and need the durability for a project I’m working on now….

    Case - November 13, 2012 Reply


    I’m not sure what Zyl uses, but as a boat builder I can tell you that one of the toughest, maintenance free products is Sikkens Marine Cetol. Its a two step product with a base (comes in several shades, I prefer the “light”) and then a top coat. you do two-three coats of the base and 2-3 coats of the top coat (top coat comes in gloss, semi, and satin). Super tough can touch up the top coat as needed .


      Abel Zyl Zimmerman - November 13, 2012 Reply

      OK, i’m gonna reply to both of you at once!

      I used System Three epoxy. And McCloskeys gloss spar varnish.

      Varnish OVER epoxy is actually pretty low maintenance! Varnish alone is not.

      Cetol IS low maintenance, but it is more orangey and opaque. It wouldn’t have let the wood sparkle through in the same way.

        Deek - November 13, 2012 Reply

        Thanks (both of you)- System Three I’m familiar with, the other I’m not- I’ll look into it though. Appreciate it….

          Abel Zyl Zimmerman - November 13, 2012 Reply

          It is a classic varnish. You put it on, it takes forever to dry, and catches lots of flies in the meantime. It looks good if you pick all the flies out though… heh!

bobhenry - November 13, 2012 Reply

If I may… Those little bolt together trailer frames need the tongues reinforced with at least 2×2 square tube there is just too much flex for my liking. I let mine run under the trailer clear to the end so hitch accesories could be added such as a bike rack or a tote rack. Also the suicide doors opening from the front will explode at speed if they were to work open at speed. I am on my sixth tiny trailer build so I have a bit of experience.

    Abel Zyl Zimmerman - November 13, 2012 Reply

    Designed my doors and latches so they are very unlikely to open on the road. Those are pretty burly slam latches, AND locking the handle immobilizes them.

    The trailer is rated for 2.5x the weight of the finished teardrop.

      Abel Zyl Zimmerman - November 14, 2012 Reply

      Just wanted to mention that, though it IS indeed a bolt together, I always weld key parts during assembly to improve stiffness, and assure a long life.

      This trailer is MUCH stiffer than an H.Freight, if that is what you might be referring to.

Case - November 13, 2012 Reply

Thanks for sharing your teardrop! It looks fantastic! I have been requested by my better half to build one for us. Ours will be slightly modified to carry our kayaks and SUP boards! I have a plans in the works and hope to start on it next fall.

Abel Zyl Zimmerman - November 13, 2012 Reply

FYI: this teardrop just returned to Olympia after a week of touring the California Redwoods, and Sonoma County!


Niall - November 13, 2012 Reply

Beautiful work as always Abel! Your designs are always refreshing 🙂

Elisa - November 13, 2012 Reply

Pray, do you make more such teardrops? And how much would you charge? I simply love it!!!!!

gmh - November 13, 2012 Reply

Wow- such beautiful craftsmanship! (And I’m picturing a team of dachsunds… too funny)

Maggie Natasha Johnson - November 13, 2012 Reply


stpauligirl - November 13, 2012 Reply

I’m laughing out loud at the “team of dachsunds” comment also. The tear drop is beautiful! If tht were my new little camper – I’d camp in November too! In Minnesota!!

    stpauligirl - November 13, 2012 Reply

    oh -and double doors. very, very nice!

Gramma LaDow - November 14, 2012 Reply

I just love you little teardrop. For short outings ( like a week or so ) it is just what the doctor ordered. I hope it is a real success for you.

michelle, hornby island caravans - November 14, 2012 Reply

Congratulations Abel, this teardrop is such a beautiful little gem!

Benjamin - November 14, 2012 Reply

Really nice looking!

Is there any provision (not obvious to me) to keep the doors from banging into the fender or window if someone carelessly opens them too far? It’d be a shame to ding that beautiful finish.

    Abel Zyl - November 15, 2012 Reply


    Yes, there is a small rubber stopper on each fender that stops the doors.

Christina Nellemann - November 15, 2012 Reply

Great job! I am starting a teardrop trailer blog and will be featuring yours! 🙂

dewhit - November 17, 2012 Reply

Nice work Abel.

Is watertight an issue with any of the openings ?

dewhit - November 17, 2012 Reply

Excuse me Abel.

I meant… watertight while in transit ?

    Abel Zyl - November 18, 2012 Reply

    All the openings have stayed dry through some hearty rain showers on the road.

    The doors have a stepped seal, and are stiff enough to keep sealing for a long time into the future. In fact, they sealed so well, i omitted an additional drip cap.

    The rear hatch has an interlocked channel at the sides, and a full drip cap at the top.

    The Pacific NorthWET showed its colors as i was finishing this project’ so i got to test my seals very thoroughly…

    I bed the windows in elastomeric sealant.

Lynne - November 17, 2012 Reply

Oh, wow, I’m so glad I saw this today! We’re looking at options for our oldest daughter, whose current job situation takes her out of town several times a year, and she seems to like the teardrop trailer more than anything she’s seen so far. (Although it would take a while to save up for it, but well worth it.)

Are you located at or near the area of the first photo? We live about half a mile from there, on the other side of State and 4th.

    Abel Zyl - November 18, 2012 Reply


    Yes, i am just up the hill from there.

    Go to my website to find my email or phone to contact. Look forward to hearing from you.

Richard Bryant - November 2, 2013 Reply

Nicely done. I had the same immediate about the door swing direction as one of the earlier posters. While you probably have solved the unexpected pop-open concern and possibly the leaking, my observation is that the door swings towards the projecting window. Seems like a functional conflict that may cause some damage to the nice finish when the door slams into the projecting window header. Since the interior photos show no reason to prefer the door to swing in one direction or the other, it seems that changing the swing-direction would be better over time. Also easier to come an go from the lift-gate.

    Abel Zyl Zimmerman - November 14, 2013 Reply

    I designed doors to clear the windows. And blow open shouldnt be a problem with the type of latches I used. If doors swung from the front, we couldn’t have made them that lovely shape!

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