Local manufacturer reaches semifinals of statewide ‘coolest thing’ contest

A local manufacturer of custom camping trailers has made it to the semifinals of a statewide competition to be crowned the “coolest thing made in Indiana.”

Columbus-based Hiker Trailer, 2860 N. National Road, Suite B, is one of four semifinalists in the Indiana Chamber of Commerce’s second annual “Coolest Thing in Indiana” tournament.

The contest, which started earlier this month, included 54 companies representing 43 communities, according to the Indiana Chamber of Commerce. The other semifinalists are Kidstuff Play Systems in Gary, Maple Leaf Farms in Leesburg and Polywood in Syracuse.

Voting for the semifinals runs through Friday at 10 p.m., while voting for the championship matchup will start Monday at 9 a.m.

“I’m hoping to win the whole thing, but, you know, we’ve got some tough competition,” said Robbie Bosar, director of marketing and operations for Hiker Trailer.

Hiker Trailer offers a range of camping trailers models that Bosar described as a “base camp on wheels” that can be customized with features including bunk beds, cargo racks, lighting, air conditioning, among other features.

The trailers are about 5-feet wide and range from 8-feet to 10-feet in length and 5.5-feet to 6.5-feet in height depending on the model. Prices generally range from $5,995 to $13,595 depending on the model, size of the trailer, accessories, among other factors, according to the company.

“Instead of a traditional RV where you have the couch and your living room inside, this is more for folks that want a secure bed to sleep in, have doors that lock, but they’re going to be spending most of their time outdoors at a campsite or hunting fishing, doing a nature trails, whatever it might be,” Bosar said. “It’s really the bed on wheels and a nice place to store some gear and do some cooking.”

Hiker Trailer was formed about 10 years ago by two entrepreneurs in Indiana and Colorado, Bosar said. The company was initially based on the north side of Indianapolis and in the Denver area. At one point, Hiker Trailer started contracting with local manufacturer Sterling Industries Inc. through a metal shop it operates in Edinburgh, Bosar said.

In 2020, Sterling Industries moved to acquire the Indiana portion of the Hiker Trailer business and moved production to Columbus, Bosar said. Last year, Sterling Industries merged with the Colorado portion of the business and now fully owns Hiker Trailer.

Hiker Trailer employs about 35 people at its Columbus production facility. The company also has an office in the Denver area.

Since Sterling Industries took over manufacturing at Hiker Trailer about 2.5 years ago, monthly production has roughly quadrupled from an average of 12 trailers per month to about 50 per month currently, Bosar said. Last year, Hiker Trailer made about 550 trailers and anticipates making its 2,500th unit this spring.

Currently, some of the most common requests customers make for their trailers are solar panels and rooftop tents and awnings, Bosar said. It takes an average of three months for the company to complete a custom build depending on the options and features customers choose.

However, Hiker Trailer also has seen some more unique requests and uses for its products, ranging from being a base camp for wildlife photographers in the Alaska wilderness to a storage trailer for traveling show rabbits.

“We’ve done some odd customizations in the past,” Bosar said. “We had a woman that we met at the state fair about a year ago who was one of the traveling animal show people. We built a slightly modified trailer so she could store all of her show rabbits. …She would just use it to load up the rabbits and, you know, hit the next state fair, the next competition that she was going to. We have some people that live out of these full time while they’re or building a log cabin in the middle of nowhere in Montana. We’ve had a couple people that are taking these up to Alaska because they’re wildlife photographers.”

Bosar, for his part, said being part of Hiker Trailer and making this far into the tournament has been “pretty neat.”

“I don’t think we’ve ever built the same trailer twice,” Bosar said. “…It’s definitely a fun venture for us to be involved in.”