According to , there are 30 million Americans who already practice forms of outdoor adventure escapism—whether on mountain bike or kayak, by foot or by horseback, from the Grand Tetons to the Appalachian Trail—all of whom could potentially become future RV buyers.

The future of RV-ing is geared to embrace that sense of adventure, known popularly as “overlanding,” which is a fusion of camping and off-roading. The proverbial recreational vehicle, to the layperson passing one on the highway, may seem like an 18-wheeler lumbering beast. But this year’s , the largest RV trade show in Salt Lake City, demonstrated that the industry is moving towards lightweight, adventure-ready rigs, easily towed behind a midsize pickup truck or even a crossover. So, if you are into either of those things, you might in the very near future become an "RV person."

A modern crop of RVs push efficiency and weight savings as a prime directive. These trailers or camper vans are typically made of composite materials, featuring solar power, high-efficiency appliances, and smart water use.

Saving what you can has always been a tenet of living away from the conveniences of civilization: grey water systems and refrigerators without electricity-draining inverters have been around for a while. But what’s new is the use of sustainable materials. Some RVs now feature birch wood and bamboo construction bonded with non-toxic sealants, and are designed with recyclability in mind for when the adventure ends.

This might seem like a fleeting consumer trend, but sustainability and environmental friendliness go hand-in-hand at the core of RV life. In an RV, keeping the power and the lights running can mean the difference between a nice weeklong trip and a catastrophe. Build a lighter trailer, and it can be towed by the car that’s already in your driveway—thereby piquing the interest of a new group of suburban-dwelling adventure seekers.

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Adam Clark

In 2016, Garrett Finney began building lightweight RV trailers. Finney had for the Habitability Design Center at NASA, consulting on living spaces on the International Space Station. Weary from the excesses of those houses on wheels, and remembering with fondness the Airstream trailers NASA used to quarantine the Apollo astronauts, Finney built a prototype he called the TAXA Cricket. It was small and modular, wired for solar panels and integrated plumbing. It weighed just 1,500 pounds and could sleep two adults on a queen-sized bed.

Fast-forward to the present, and TAXA has expanded to four products, all designed with a similar rugged ethos. The company’s latest model is the Mantis. At 19 feet long and 3,000 pounds, it is TAXA’s largest camper yet. The body is comprised of aluminum panels which have been UV-treated and coated with Kynar, an environmentally-friendly substance that prevents sun damage.

Bonding these panels together are green solvents—not a single drop of formaldehyde anywhere. The foam core insulation surrounding the Mantis is designed to be recycled in 30 years. Panels and cabinetry are made from sustainable birch wood, another move by TAXA to keep its overall weight low.

The result is a camper equipped with a kitchen, propane plumbing, a wet bath and toilet, fresh and grey water tanks, and a queen-size bed—but it is still light enough to be towed by a modern station wagon.

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Adam Clark

Finney wanted to tap into “the Venn diagram overlap of the RV industry and the much larger markets of the outdoor industry,” he said . “There were no better mousetraps being proposed, no real design thoughts for either the next generation of buyers or even really any design answers for the aging markets, or how to keep those folks active and outdoors.”

For RV makers, tapping into this market of eco-friendly explorers is a no-brainer. Manufacturer Forest River touts its use of Azdel, a fiberglass composite for outer shells that is far lighter, quieter, water resistant, and insulating than traditional wood or metal frames. Forest River’s Rockwood Geo Pro line of towable trailers is “designed for the environmentally conscious,” according to the , and that environmental consciousness includes towing with a fuel-efficient crossover instead of a traditional heavy-duty pickup truck that can cost $50,000 and over.

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Solar power is another big part of Forest River’s range of environmental leanings, and the company includes a 1,000-watt converter mounted on the roof, which is both eco-friendly and crucial for driving off the grid.

Finally, we’re catching a glimpse of the future of motorized living. Winnebago, one of the most storied names in RVs, is working on a fully-electric platform to underpin commercial RVs and trailers. In conjunction with Motiv Power Systems and its , Winnebago aims for a single-phase J1772 220-volt charging system, capable of returning 85 to 125 miles on one single 6-8-hour charge from its eight sodium-nickel batteries.

Winnebago has not yet introduced this concept, which it is aptly calling the All-Electric/Zero Emissions project. And yet it has already garnered its fair share of attention: at RVX, it won the Sustainability Award.

Potential commercial users include Red Cross, which needs mobile blood donation vehicles. Already the University of California Los Angeles is planning to use an example to service surgical equipment from its medical center. The American Lung Association is interested in using these platforms for screening—which would be the organization’s first commercial vehicle partnership—under the assumption that a zero-emissions vehicle would be beneficial to those with respiratory issues.

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Adam Clark

But imagine the possibilities of an all-electric RV. One could drive at a whisper’s volume into a campground, truly exemplifying the Leave No Trace ethos that has always been with us, especially former Boy Scouts. Roof-mounted solar arrays are a key component; after all, some electric cars are already equipped with solar roofs to run auxiliary functions.

In the wilderness, time runs at its own pace. What is a 6-8 hour charge except a chance for the human body to recharge itself–spiritually or through an adventure outdoors or physically through a good night’s sleep onboard. Battery technology is always improving, and we are poised to break down and overcome the constraints we face now. Until that happens, lightweight materials and solar energy are a leap in the right direction.

After all, what good is a vehicle that ruins the view you drove out to see? Technology is leading us towards an adventure that does not disrupt and instead allows full enjoyment of the wide universe we seek.