Editor’s Note: The following Q&A conducted by Forbes contributor Everett Potter offers insights from TAXA Outdoors founder Garrett Finney, who formerly worked for NASA.
Of the all displays at the recent New York Times Travel Show, a sensory assault of colorful destination booths, swarming crowds and chatter, one of them really caught my attention. In a far corner, away from the action, was the most beautiful travel trailer I had ever seen. The shape was quirky but the cool looking birch plywood interior and the large windows and pop up screened roof made it feel airy and open. I climbed in for a look and a guy poked his head in and asked if I had any questions. His name was Garrett Finney and he turned out to be the founder and inventor behind TAXA Outdoors.
It was 18 feet long, designed to fit inside a standard length and height garage. It was capable of sleeping four adults, with a wet bath and kitchen, and an orange roof panel that popped up to yield headspace. There’s were simple storage compartments and removable milk-crate style boxes for more storarge, not to mention cargo nets and bungee cords. It pretty much screamed let’s hit the road with our bikes and kayaks.
Given your impressive background, how on earth did you come up with the notion to design travel campers or “adventure equipment you can sleep in,” as you put it?
Well, I am old enough to remember that an Airstream was on the deck of the aircraft carrier that picked up the Apollo astronauts. It was there because no one really knew what diseases the astronauts might be bringing back from the moon. It would have been a shame, after all, to bring back the outer space smallpox. The frogmen were well sealed in masks and wetsuits (at least on the first round of things). The astronauts were hustled directly to the waiting trailer on the deck. When working at NASA, I discovered too that an Airstream still ferried the astronauts out to the launch platform during the shuttle era.
My NASA tenure was about four years full time working on the ISS. Then two years off when I became a traveling design professor. Then another five years or so consulting part time on lunar habitats. The studios I led were about exploring what a 21st century version of a National Park campground ought to be and what the design of a small highly specialized trailer might be. I made each student choose a program, say field biologist or wandering musician or triathlete. This combined planning program plus the design of a tiny space combined for me the expertise and world view I had acquired at NASA complicated interacting systems and people in small spaces. At that time I had in mind finding a way to redesign the campgrounds (and get myself to national parks) and be a part of creating the ‘zoning’ that would force the RV industry to address its excesses.
For the full story click here.