Traveler's Gear Box: The Atlas 8 From Precision Travel Werx

In these days of high gasoline prices and smaller vehicles, sometimes getting all your gear to the trailhead can be a chore and require creativity. Fortunately, for those of us who struggle with cramming all our gear and luggage into our rigs, there's the Atlas 8 from Precision Travel Werx.

I came across the Atlas 8 at the Outdoor Retailer Show in Salt Lake City early this month, and with a Yellowstone National Park canoe trip on my calendar for the very next week, I had the perfect opportunity to try out this trailer.

Having owned about 10 Subarus during my driving days, getting all my gear and luggage on board has long been a struggle, one that usually winds up with my knees crammed to the dashboard with my seat as far forward as possible, the rear seats down, and gear loaded to the ceiling. And on top of the car.

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The Atlas 8 makes it easy to haul two canoes -- and all the requisite gear -- to your destination, which in in this case was Lewis Lake in Yellowstone. Kurt Repanshek photo.

The Atlas 8 solved that problem by swallowing the gear for four adults for the five-day paddling trip: A packable Ally canoe in its duffle bag; dry bags filled with sleeping bags and clothing; dry boxes with foodstuffs and a two-burner stove; five paddles; a bag with four PFDs, two throw ropes, two kneeling pads, two sponges, and two bailers; a "bug tent" for mealtime; two chairs; two tents; and various miscellaneous items you can't do without.

And there was still room to put some more gear into the 73 cubic feet of storage space, not to mention a Yakima roof rack atop the trailer that came in handy once we had assembled the Ally (more on that project in the days to come).

Was my 2012 Subaru Outback, with its four-cylinder, 6-speed manual transmission generating but 170 horsepower, up to the task? That was a good question, as our route to Yellowstone included a climb over Teton Pass, which tops out at 8,431 feet and offers a few 10 percent grades -- up, and down, the mountain. In the end, it was no great challenge, (although I did resort to 3rd gear more than once).

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The Atlas 8 gobbles up gear, and can leave you with room to spare. Kurt Repanshek photo.

Part of the beauty of this streamlined trailer, in addition to its storage capacity, is its lightness. The trailer weighs 550 pounds empty, and can handle 1,000 pounds on top of that. So smoothly did the trailer run that I had to constantly check my rearview mirror to ensure that it was still behind us.

The trailer has an aluminum frame that carries the fiberglass body. There are two compartments, and both lock.

The one downside we encountered, and which the company continues to tweak, are the latches. There are three on the main compartment, and getting them to engage involved placing most of my 185 pounds on the lid.

We hauled the trailer through a driving thunderstorm and there was one small leak, which we traced to a screw holding the roof rack down. A little epoxy or other sealant would easily solve that problem.

Gas mileage really didn't suffer during our 850-mile trek, dipping 1.5-2 miles per gallon.

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With its stream-lined appearance, the trailer definitely makes a traveling statement next to ponderous RVs. Kurt Repanshek photos.

As a bonus, this trailer has multiple personalities. You can remove the rear tailgate and lids and use it for hauling lumber or firewood or any other large load. You also can order a tent attachment that enables you to sleep in the trailer.

My one hesitation in ordering one ($5,695 for basic white, add $300 to have them match your rig's color to the trailer, and then add between $500 and $950 if you want a full, or partial, graphic wrapped around the body) is that with just two people, it might be a bit of overkill. But for those trips that involve family and friends, or multiple toys (ie, bikes and canoes or kayaks), the Atlas 8 is well-suited to the task.

And it's sharp looking! As I pulled into the parking area behind the Lewis Lake Ranger Station, a ranger spied the trailer and immediately said, "How cute!"