Back in 2015, pro skier and action sports enthusiast Jen Hudak and her now-husband, Chris, needed a convenient way to travel the mountain bike racing circuit. Vans dominated the scene at the time, but Jen and Chris had something nimbler in mind. After tinkering in Jen’s garage, Chris developed the initial prototype for what would ultimately be named the Escapod—a sleek, off-road teardrop camper. The homegrown company, now based in Coalville, has been on a roll ever since.
The secret to Escapod’s success? Comfortable, convenient simplicity.
Forget digging out camping gear and double-checking backcountry supplies. As Jen Hudak puts it, “The Escapod just allows you to hit the road. It’s always ready to go when you are.” Plus, when you arrive at your destination, you can unhitch the teardrop at the site and nip off in your car to a trailhead or grocery store without delay. “It’s a time-saving device,” she says, “and time is our most valuable resource—one we can’t get more of.”
With a starting weight of 1,750 pounds, fully insulated, rugged, and yet easy on the eyes, the Escapod is a hip minimalist’s dream. Everything has its place and purpose, from the galley with a built-in, wind-protected stove and USB ports situated on either side of the memory-foam-topped queen bed to the stargazer window and the proprietary Freeride Suspension System, which allows for smoother off-roading. Though the teardrop’s base cost is $19,750, adventurers typically spend $28,000 on the dialed-in final product—after choosing from a menu of customized add-ons (think rooftop tent, integrated solar panel, 21-gallon water tank, and more).
Officially launched in 2016—albeit as a side hustle, with Chris Hudak hand-building each one himself—Escapod has rapidly grown as a company and significantly evolved as a product. In 2018, the Hudaks brought on two partners: Chris Hudak’s college friend, Chris Eckel, who traveled in a teardrop for six weeks before leaving his design agency job in New York City for Utah, and Eckel’s web-guru friend, Joshie Fishbein.
The multi-hat-wearing foursome brought on their first employee when they moved into a petite former service station in Wanship that same year. But demand quickly outpaced their manufacturing capacity (then, roughly three campers per month). So in 2019, they bought and renovated Escapod’s current home (formerly a Crandall-Ford car dealership), moved in right before the pandemic struck in 2020, and now crank out 20 Escapods per month, while employing a staff of 32—and growing. Aside from the game-changing suspension system, the product itself has undergone a subtle, purposeful evolution, with tweaks in materials and design aligned with a quest for lighter-weight durability, ergonomics, and comfort.
Plan ahead. With campgrounds filling up quickly in the wake of a pandemic, book your site early, and seek out dispersed camping spots in advance.
Leave no trace. Pack it out. Even when traveling to remote areas, follow in previous visitors’ tire tracks, and try not to disturb the land unnecessarily.
Accept that sometimes things don’t go according to plan. The unknown is truly part of the adventure. Embrace it.
In 2021’s embrace-the-outdoors era, customers are not deterred by the 12-month wait time for the hand-built campers—though the partners are hard at work trying to shorten that queue by adding another 10,000 square feet to their manufacturing facility. Currently, 250 people have put down deposits as sales continue to boom; plus, the company’s fleet of rentals are constantly on the road. But it is the innovation side of the business that may launch this homegrown company in new directions.
“R&D, in general, has become a bigger piece of what we’re doing,” says Jen Hudak. Though the partners are tight-lipped regarding specifics, the Freeride Suspension System may prove to be the tip of the innovation iceberg in a business that’s all about getting off the beaten path.