Saturday, October 19, 2019

Taxa Outdoors’ campers and trailers all have a similar look. They’re alien and angular, like a Lego Bionicle action figure. There’s more than a little Chinese-­takeout-container influence there, too. And then, on the inside: pure spaceship.

That last one makes sense when you consider that the company’s founder and designer, Garrett Finney, used to be the senior architect at the NASA Habitability Design Center. He focused on making astronauts comfortable and productive in the cramped confines of the International Space Station. “The ISS engineers made something people could survive in. But we had to think about how you could survive well,” Finney says.

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THERE IS A REAL OPPORTUNITY TO BE THOUGHTFUL ABOUT PEOPLE IN SMALL SPACES.

That meant addressing questions such as where would I put a picture of my family? or how do I change my clothes? without upsetting the tight balance of energy, efficiency, and resource needs that the ISS already had. And it worked. Finney’s insights helped astronauts limit stress, deal with unforeseen issues, and, ultimately, stay more productive—all things that, sure, to a slightly less life-or-death extent, also apply to camping.

When he left NASA after ten years, Finney says, “I kept thinking about interactive systems like air, water, food, and people in motion. I looked at people with really big RVs and thought, Wow, there is a real opportunity to be thoughtful about people in small spaces.” So Finney began designing a fleet of campers and trailers that could incorporate humans in the system as much as the space station did.

His first step was fitting a camper into the lives people already had, so he kept the weight under 3,020 pounds, something towable by a minivan or small RV. And he didn’t want the unexpected cost of renting a space to store it, so he made it no taller or wider than a car so it would fit in the garage. The small size came with another important benefit: “If it’s small enough to fit in a garage,” Finney says, “it’s already 80 percent of the way to being aerodynamic.”

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